Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday, which from its name marks the fiftieth day after the occasion of the Passover in the original Jewish tradition, and later on, gain the much more important meaning as the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord and the day when the Holy Spirit of God descended on the disciples of Christ as has been promised to them. On this day we recall that moment when the Holy Spirit descended and began the sequence of events that has impacted the world so much through the Church.

Why is that so? That is because on this day we mark the very beginning of the Church that we know of, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is One because through the Lord, He has established His one and only Church in this world on the Apostles’ as the pillars of the foundation of the Church, and the foundation was on St. Peter, the ‘Rock’ as the Lord Himself said that, ‘You are Peter, and on this ‘Rock’ I will build My Church’, and the Church is Holy, because the Holy Spirit itself has sanctified the Church and the Church has divine origins.

And the Church is Catholic because it is Universal, embracing all peoples and all the children of God, uniting through itself all the scattered people of God, who have been scattered because of their sins and disobedience against God. The Church teachings are also Universal, embracing all peoples without exception, and lastly, it is Apostolic, because through the Holy Spirit, the Church has become missionary and is reaching out to the world, to bring forth the truth of God and to make disciples of all peoples of all the nations.

On that day, on the very first Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit come down descending on the Apostles, the Church was born and became tangible, as the Apostles, inflamed and encouraged by the strength, courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit went out from their hiding place and went before the whole people gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Pentecost, and preached before them the truth about God and His salvation through Jesus, the Saviour of all the whole world.

That is why we refer to the Pentecost as the birthday of the Church because looking back in time through the history of the Church we can find the pivotal moment of the first Pentecost when the Apostles began their evangelising mission and works in earnest, casting aside their fears and doubts, and began working among the people, gaining their trust and baptising the very first converts, more than three thousand people on that Pentecost day alone, which marked the beginning of the Church and the first Christian community.

Through the Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, many people found a new life and existence in God, and they received a new life, no longer of darkness and sin. They received the Holy Spirit from the hands of the Apostles, who themselves had received the same Spirit from the Lord. By the gift and reception of the Holy Spirit, they have embraced God’s love in its fullness, and began to bear the wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit, inspiring one another to live righteously at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our own baptism we have also received the same Holy Spirit, passed down to us from the successors of the Apostles through the ages, namely the many bishops and priests who have faithfully served the Church. And those among us who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation have been deemed worthy and mature enough in the faith, that we have the fullness of the gifts and the wonders of the Holy Spirit, and therefore are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the missionaries of the Lord.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be active in living up to our faith as dedicated Christians, as the members of this one Church of God that was founded on Pentecost. We must bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, bountiful produce of what we have been given, all the gifts and wonders, the wisdom and knowledge that the Holy Spirit had granted us. But too often we have ignored these gifts, and we are often too busy and preoccupied with various worldly matters and concerns that we failed to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, today let us all go through all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, of which there are nine of them, nine being the number that is both holy and associated with perfection, completeness and the goodness of God. These seven fruits of the Holy Spirit are, according to St. Paul, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All these are the signs and concrete markers of how our Christian communities live in the way of the Lord. If we bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, then it means that we have been good and faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we go through the fruits of the Holy Spirit together, let us all begin with the most important of all of them, that is love. For love is the most important of the fruits of the Holy Spirit just as it is also the most important of all the Christian virtues. Without love, St. Paul said, all the good things, talents and deeds we have mean nothing, as with all of our abilities and talents, with all the great things we can and have accomplished, without love, it means nothing.

How do we then practice love so as to bear this fruit of the Holy Spirit richly? It is by putting our brothers and sisters always foremost in our minds, caring for them, thinking about them and be compassionate towards them. There are many people out there who have not experienced real love, and many in our world today are too distracted by various worldly concerns and their selfishness that they ended up hurting each other and causing suffering to one another. Let our actions then bear the love of God to our fellow men, by showing genuine care and concern, and the desire to see others happy and joyful, glad and be filled with God’s grace.

Now, then, let us all go to the second fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is joy. Joy is something that all of us Christians must have with us, as we are truly the children of God, and first of all, God has shown us the path to eternal life, joy and happiness through Him, and He has reassured us again and again that all these will be ours if we are faithful to Him. Yet, many of us have not felt this real joy or are even stressed and saddened, because once again, we have been too distracted by the false pleasures and joys of the world.

Too many of us are looking for satisfaction of the world, to gain more money and properties, wealth and income, to gain more fame and recognition among the many other things we mankind commonly desire for. We live in a world filled with materialistic lifestyle and the pressure to follow this way of life are all around us. How can we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Again, it is by putting God at the very centre of our existence, that everything we do, we do for His sake, knowing that in Him, we have everything we need, and true joy is ours to have. And particularly, these days, when the whole world and so many people are sorrowful and even despairing, having lost their loved ones or are suffering from the effects of the pandemic, we can share our joy with them, consoling them and being with them in their time of great need.

Then, we go now into the third fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is peace. Peace is something that all of us mankind are always looking out for, wanting to have either a peace of mind, peace in our lives and in our families, peace with our friends and everyone else, and peace with those who hated us and persecuted us. Yet, peace is often elusive and illusory, because again, we are often too preoccupied with our desires, our conflicting aims, goals and targets, that we end up being in conflict with each other all the time.

We rarely find peace because we often always have aspirations, desires, wants, and all these often overlap and we find conflict and divisions among us all because of these. We disagree and are angry against each other because we cannot let go of all these temptations and the pull of our desires and ego. How do we then as Christians bear the rich fruits of peace of the Holy Spirit? How do we practice peace and attain peace in our daily living?

It is by first having peace with ourselves, as we often are too proud to admit our weakness and vulnerability, and we are often too engrossed with all the tempting offers of the world that we forget what we live our lives in this world for. It is to glorify God by our lives and to help one another in our journey towards Him, and not to bring each other down by jealousy and pride. As Christians, whenever we see others in conflict, we should be peacemakers and not agitators, be open to dialogue and be good listeners, and that too, will eventually help us to find true peace in God.

The fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, something that many of us often lack, and this is in itself related to peace and joy, the earlier fruits we have just discussed. We are not patient because we have that urge and desire in us to get things done the way we wanted it, and if things are not going according to what we like or desire, then we become angry and impulsive in our actions. And unfortunately, we live in a world where instant gratification is something that is ever-present all around us.

Without patience, it is likely that we will have neither peace or joy as well. Our lives will be miserable as every day will just pass by us as we worry and are concerned over trivial matters of life, all sorts of desires and temptations around us. How do we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the fruit of the patience of the Holy Spirit? We should temper our desires and impatience with prayer, and with deeper relationship with God, to see that all the pursuits of worldly glory and power are in the end, futile and meaningless. Instead, let us be thankful for what God has blessed us with, and thank Him and enjoy every single moment we have in our lives.

The fifth and sixth fruits of the Holy Spirit are kindness and goodness respectively, and both of them are related because to be kind to others is to show our good intentions and to act in the good and benefit of our fellow brethren. We may think that it is easy to be kind and good, but reality has often shown us otherwise. We must realise that kindness and goodness must come from within us, from our hearts sincerely to others, and not just a mere facade or act.

To be filled with kindness and goodness require us to have an altruistic heart modelled after the Lord’s own loving Heart, in His love and compassionate care for each and every one of us. If we love just as how the Lord Himself had genuinely and sincerely loved each and every one of us, naturally we will show kindness in our actions towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and we will be filled with goodness at every step we take in our lives, in our every words, actions and deeds.

The seventh fruit of the Holy Spirit is faithfulness, which actually means for us to have genuine faith and trust in God, to keep God at the centre of our lives as I have mentioned earlier on. It is not easy for us to have this genuine faith, for when things go bad for us, and we encounter difficult times, challenges and persecutions, who is it that we are going to turn to first? Is it God that is the anchor and foundation of our lives? Our predecessors were able to persevere through the harsh persecutions against them because of this faithfulness they had in God.

The eighth of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is gentleness, to be gentle in heart and in our actions. Gentleness itself is related to love and kindness, as well as peace and joy among others. If we are filled with love and kindness, and if we are at peace with God, with ourselves and with our fellow brothers and sisters, having true joy in us, then naturally we will be acting with gentleness as well. Let us all not be filled with harshness, anger or hatred towards one another.

And this is where self-control, the ninth and last of the fruits of the Holy Spirit come in, as without self-control, it is easy for us to wander off and end up getting lost and swayed by the demands of the world, the temptations of our desires and various other things that will lead us to sin and darkness. As Christians, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must temper our desires and discipline ourselves, or otherwise, it is very easy for us to end up being controlled by those desires.

God has given us His wisdom, and He has also showed us the way going forward, guiding us through His Holy Spirit. As such, if we find it difficult to persevere and control ourselves through the temptations and challenges, then once again, I want to highlight the importance for us to be connected and attuned with God, and in order to do this, we must have that strong and good relationship with Him, and that is why as Christians, we must be active in living up our faith, and we cannot be lukewarm in our faith life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have just heard and discussed the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Now, what are we going to do then? Are we going to ignore the Lord’s call to follow Him and walk in His path? Or do we want to follow the examples of our courageous predecessors, the Holy Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, whose lives have become great sources of inspirations for how we ourselves should live our lives? Let us all spend some time to carefully discern what path we are to take going forward in our lives.

Let us all realise that as the members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through baptism, and our adoption as God’s own beloved sons and daughters, each and every one of us share in the same ministry and calling, the mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, to go forth to the nations and proclaim His Good News, calling on all to be reconciled with God and to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we can do this best by making use of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, our many talents, abilities and the various opportunities we encounter.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord, God and Saviour bless each and every one of us, and may He continue to strengthen us through the Holy Spirit He has bestowed on each one of us. Come, o Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of Your faithful ones, that we may be strong, courageous and be filled with the deep love for God and for our fellow brethren, that we may bear very rich and bountiful fruits of the Holy Spirit by our lives, the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Amen.

Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 19-23

At that time, on the evening of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 12 : 3b-7, 12-13

No one can say, “Jesus is the Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all.

The Spirit reveals His presence in each one with a gift that is also a service. As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit to form one body and all of us have been given to drink from the one Spirit.

Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1ab and 24ac, 29bc-30, 31 and 34

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; How varied o Lord, are Your works! The earth full of Your creatures.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works! May my song give Him pleasure, as the Lord gives me delight.

Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 2 : 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples of Jesus were all together in one place. And suddenly out of the sky came a sound like a strong rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues as if of fire which parted and came to rest upon each one of them. All were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each heard them speaking in his own language. Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them in our own native language?”

“Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Saviour, does.”