Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the Feast of Mary, the Mother of the Church that is celebrated on the day following the Solemnity of the Pentecost. The Feast of Mary Mother of the Church is a reminder to all of us that Mary is indeed the Mother of all of us, God’s beloved people, whom God had entrusted to us to be our own loving Mother, and to whom we have also been entrusted as her own beloved adopted sons and daughters, through Christ, her Son, Who shared with us His humanity, and His death on the Cross.

Since the very beginning, Mary had been with the Church, and she has always been with the Apostles and the other prominent leaders of the Church, and according to Apostolic tradition, Mary herself as depicted in numerous artworks of faith, has received the Holy Spirit like the other Apostles and disciples, and she, being full of grace and Mother of God, occupies an even more important position being the one who had borne the Lord Himself within her, and because Christ Himself is the Head of the Church, that is His Body, thus it is indeed fitting that Mary is honoured as the Mother of the Church, or Mater Ecclesiae.

It was Mary who fulfilled the Lord’s own prophecy at the very beginning, as we heard in our first reading from the Book of Genesis, how the Lord proclaimed that Satan’s defeat would come from among the descendants of mankind, whom he would oppress and persecute, tempt and tried to lure away into their downfall through sin. And while he had been successful with Adam and Eve, the first of our ancestors, who fell for Satan’s ruse and sweet lies, and succumbed to the temptations of their desires, but Mary as the New Eve would resist those same temptations and remained completely faithful to the Lord, even as she followed her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as the New Adam, to the foot of the Cross.

Yes, as we can see, there are also obvious parallels between the moment of mankind’s fall and the moment of mankind’s salvation. When mankind fell into sin, Satan tempted and made them to eat of the fruits of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, tempting Eve who then persuaded Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree, disobeying God’s specific commands that they were not to eat from the tree, as they wanted to become like God, to know all things good and evil. Their desire and pride became their undoing.

Meanwhile, at the crucifixion, the moment of our salvation, Mary, as the New Eve, stood by the ‘Tree’ of the Cross, made from the wood of the tree, as her Son, Christ, the New Adam, was hanging on it, pierced and bared before all, stripped of all glory and power, humiliated and made to endure the most painful and bitter of all punishments for the sake of all of us, obeying completely and perfectly the will of His heavenly Father, to the point of accepting death, a most loving death on the Cross, borne out of love for each and every one of us. Though He is God, He emptied Himself and humbled Himself for us, in an obvious contrast with mankind’s fall.

It was therefore Mary’s obedience and faith, as the New Eve, which allowed her to partake in the Lord’s great mission, in accepting wholly her role as the Mother of God, as the one to bear the Saviour of the world in her womb, and to remain free from sin throughout her life, full of grace, and resisting the temptations of Satan, that unlike Eve who fell to those temptations, her steadfast faith and obedience brought salvation and liberation to all of us, indeed the Woman prophesied to crush the head of Satan, and to destroy all of his wicked plans and deeds.

And, as mentioned earlier and in our Gospel today, Mary has been entrusted to us as our Mother, as symbolically presented by the Lord in our Gospel today, as He entrusted His mother Mary to His disciple, St. John the Apostle, who was then similarly entrusted to Mary as her own adopted son. St. John the Apostle represents all of us Christians, the members of God’s Church, who therefore become the children of Mary, God’s own beloved Mother, and she is indeed, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all Christians, all who believe in the Lord.

Today, we also celebrate the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, and in particular with respect to China, the Church in that great country and its faithful, who are still being persecuted daily and oppressed, we also celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, and the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. For many decades, the Church and the faithful in China had been constantly under oppression and pressure from the government and other authoritative figures, that many of the faithful and the bishops and priests had to go into hiding, and persevered in maintaining the faith against the corrupting influence of the government and its intervention in the affairs and matters of the faith.

That is why today indeed, as we remember Mary, the Mother of God as our Mother, the Mother of the Church and the Help of all Christians, we put into our particular intentions, our brothers and sisters in China, as well as any other Christians all around the world who are suffering from persecution and challenges, trials and difficulties daily, having to hide themselves and hide their Christian faith, at times, in order to remain faithful and yet survive through the turbulent times and challenges. There are still so many of our brethren out there who are suffering and even dying, as modern day martyrs for their faith.

We must never take our faith for granted, and if we find it difficult going for the Holy Mass or any other celebrations of our faith just because we are lazy or even too busy with our work, then let us realise and spare some thoughts for all our brothers and sisters who desire to be with the Lord and celebrate the sacraments, receive the Eucharist and yet, are unable to do so, much like the early Church martyrs and saints, all the faithful who had to celebrate in the catacombs hidden from view in secret. There are also so many workers of the faith, priests and bishops who are persecuted daily for their ministry and works, especially in China, but also in many other parts of the world.

Therefore, today, let us all ask for the intercession of our beloved Mother Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of All Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, that she will extend her wonderful and loving protection to all of our brethren who are suffering for their faith in her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Let us also spend our time to pray for the sake of all these brothers and sisters of ours who are not as fortunate as we are, and do not have the relative freedom that we have in being Christians, and in celebrating the Holy Mass and the Sacraments.

Let us all ask the Lord to be merciful and kind, and to help our brethren who are suffering, and through His mother, that we pray asking her to intercede before her Son, the case of our own brothers and sisters, that they may be helped and protected, and brought out of their troubles, and most importantly, that they all will remain faithful and strong in faith despite all the sufferings and trials that they are experiencing now. And let us all also grow to appreciate our faith and the blessings that we ourselves have received, and not to take our faith for granted ever again.

May God be with all of us, and in particular with His Church and all those who are suffering just because they are Christians, as followers of the Lord. May God be with them and protect them, and may His mother Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of all Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, continue to intercede for their sake, and watch over them, all the time. Amen.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 19 : 25-34

At that time, near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished and, in order to fulfil what was written in Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus.

When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out Blood and water.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 86 : 1-2, 3 and 5, 6-7

He Himself has built it in His holy mountain; YHVH prefers the gates of Zion to all of Jacob’s towns.

Great things have been foretold of you, o city of God. But of Zion, it shall be said, “More and more are being born in her.” For the Most High Himself has founded her.

And YHVH notes in the people’s register : “All these were also born in Zion.” And all will dance and sing joyfully for you.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Alternative reading

Acts 1 : 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen minute walk away. On entering the city they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. Present there were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus; Simon the Zealot and Judas son of James.

All of these, together, gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women, and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.