Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday beginning with the celebration of this Vigil Mass of the Pentecost. On this Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the coming and descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of the Lord, fifty days after the Lord’s glorious Resurrection and ten days after His Ascension into Heaven. That is why we call this celebration as the Pentecost, as Pentecost itself has the meaning of ‘fifty’, a celebration that has roots in the Jewish law and traditions, of the Pentecost festival fifty days after the Passover which was why there were a lot of people assembled in Jerusalem at the time when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles.

And as we listened to the readings from the Scripture, one of the first readings from the Book of Exodus related the moment the first Covenant God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, the mountain of God after they have left Egypt behind and was freed from their slavery. According to tradition, this happened about fifty days after the time of the Exodus, which the Passover commemorated every year, the moment the Israelites were saved from their slavery and passed from Egypt safely through the Red Sea, while the forces and armies of the Egyptians were crushed and destroyed by the raging waves as they tried to pursue the Israelites.

The Passover itself has been made complete and renewed with the true Passover made by Christ Himself, that He, as the Lamb of God, offered Himself for our sake so that by His death, on the Cross, and the outpouring of His Blood, that brought salvation to all of us, while by passing through the waters of baptism, made holy and sanctified by His power and grace, like the Israelites of old passing through the Red Sea, all of us as Christians have passed through death to our old way of life, washed and cleansed away, freed from the slavery to our sins and evils, and beginning the journey towards our ‘Promised Land’, which is Heaven, to be with God forevermore.

Hence, based on what I mentioned earlier, we can see a very clear parallel and link between the old and new Passover, the death and Resurrection of Christ our Lord with the freedom of the Israelites from the Egyptians, and this is exactly how all of us who believe in the Lord and has been baptised, received into the Church, pass through the domains of sin and death, freed from their dominion and through Christ, enter this journey of a new life in which we are all called to a new existence, just as the newly freed Israelites were journeying towards the Promised Land of Canaan. The Lord made a New Covenant with us through His Son, just as He had made a Covenant with the Israelites back then. This time, it is not just the Israelites that were His chosen people, but all of mankind, those willing to answer and embrace His call.

Now, back to the moment the Covenant was made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, there were also parallel between what happened there and what happened at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples of the Lord. At the time of the old Covenant, God gave His Law to His people through Moses, written as the Ten Commandments carved on two slabs of stone, and also other laws unwritten but passed through God’s wisdom to Moses, and from Him to the people of God. At the New Covenant, at Pentecost, God gave His faithful ones, the wisdom to understand His Law which He has revealed and brought into our midst through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who Himself is the embodiment of the Law.

The Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples just as the Lord had promised to them, to be their strength and guidance, to inspire them and to grant them the wisdom and understanding to proclaim His truth and salvation to the whole world. God’s works of saving His people, all of mankind began at that moment, as the Apostles and disciples were previously very afraid to leave their dwelling place, always constantly in hiding after the Lord’s Passion and death, as the Jewish authorities were strictly forbidding anyone from teaching and preaching in the Name of Jesus, openly opposing and persecuting those who were doing so.

But as the Holy Spirit came into them, the disciples gained great courage, strength and wisdom, and all of them went forth out from their hiding place, proclaiming Christ to all the assembled people in Jerusalem, who could all understand what they said even though they came from various places. That was the gift of tongues and language that the Holy Spirit granted to the disciples, a symbolic reversal of what happened if we read the story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis, where in yet another one of our possible first readings today, last time used to be all read for the Pentecost, mankind who used to speak the same language were punished and confused in their language and speech because of their pride, disobedience and sins, in trying to upstage God by building the Tower of Babel pointing towards Heaven itself.

Through what we have heard, God is calling all of us sinners back to Himself, wanting each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. He loves us very dearly and does not want any one of us to be lost to Him. Our disobedience has led us to sin, and sin sundered us from God, separating us from His grace and love. But through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, all of us have been called back from among the nations, all the lost sheep of the Lord gathered back into the same one flock of Christ, our Good Shepherd. Through baptism, we have entered this New Covenant that He had made and sealed with His own Precious Blood on the Cross.

At Pentecost, three thousand people were convinced and received baptism from the disciples, which is interestingly a comparison and contrast to what happened back then at Mount Sinai. As we all should know, the Israelites rebelled against God and disobeyed Him there when they built and raised up a golden calf idol that they treated and worshipped as god over them, and this led the whole people into sin, where according to the later part of the Book of Exodus, three thousand people sided with the idol and were crushed and killed when Moses pronounced the judgment of God against them. The three thousand people saved at Pentecost was a clear reversal of what happened at Mount Sinai.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Pentecost Sunday is also often known as the ‘birthday of the Church’ and it is rightly so because the Church of God is the physical gathering and assembly of the people of God, of all the faithful who have shared in the gift of baptism, to be that One Body of Christ. As Scripture says, we have all been made one body, one spirit, in Christ. That is what the Church is, and as the disciples went forth from hiding to begin in earnest their work of evangelisation, converting the three thousand people and possibly more, that established the very first tangible community of the faithful people of God, the visible Church. Hence, that is why this Pentecost is considered as the birthday of the Church.

Now, having discussed in detail what Pentecost is about, and how it is closely linked to the past events in the history of salvation, let us all then discern what we are to do ourselves going forward from now on. Just as the Israelites did not reach the Promised Land immediately after God made His Covenant with them at Mount Sinai, and how they had to endure a lot of challenges, punishments and hardships along the way, thus as I mentioned earlier, that this Covenant that God made with us all as Christians mark only the beginning of our journey of faith towards Him, towards our hopefully final destination that is Heaven.

That is why we must never think of our baptism as the end of our journey. On the contrary, it is the beginning of our new life with God, beginning a new existence and life in Him, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, that each and every one of us enter into this journey that we are all expected to walk through in our journey and path towards God, and each one of us as Christians are called to live our lives in accordance to the way that God had taught us and expected us to live them. If we do not do so, then we are hypocrites and even in the worse case, we may even scandalise our faith and the Lord just as how some among the faithful had acted wickedly not in accordance to what Christians ought to act and believe in.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate this great rejoicing at this Pentecost Sunday, let us remind ourselves at all times that even though it marks the end of the season of Easter, but it does not mean that the spirit of Easter ends here. On the contrary, as I mentioned earlier, we must remember that our Christian living is a journey towards God, and the struggles and challenges have not yet ended. In fact, as we continue to progress in faith and through this journey of life we may realise that we will encounter more and more challenges and trials along the way, and we may have to persevere through those difficult moments and trials.

But yet, we are not alone, brothers and sisters! The Holy Spirit is with us, as our Advocate and Helper. And just as the Holy Spirit was with the Apostles and disciples of the Lord back then, guiding them, inspiring and strengthening them, the Holy Spirit is also now with us, bestowing on us the gifts that are meant to help us. However, we have to open our hearts and minds, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our path, as we can easily be tempted or shaken by fear that we lose our trust in God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us hence ask the Lord to continue to strengthen us and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in our journey towards the Lord and eternal life that we shall enjoy with Him forevermore. May all of us always ever be righteous and strive to do our best to walk in the path of God, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 7 : 37-39

At that time, on the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me; and let the one who believes in Me drink, for the Scripture says : Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

Jesus was referring to the Spirit, which those who believe in Him were to receive; the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 8 : 22-27

We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pangs of birth. Not creation alone, but even ourselves, although the Spirit was given to us as a foretaste of what we are to receive, we groan in our innermost being, eagerly awaiting the day when God will give us full rights and rescue our bodies as well.

In hope we already have salvation. But if we saw what we hoped for, there would no longer be hope; how can you hope for what is already seen? So we hope for what we do not see and we will receive it through patient hope. We are weak, but the Spirit comes to help us. How to ask? And what shall we ask for?

We do not know, but the Spirit intercedes for us without words, as if with groans. And He Who sees inner secrets knows the desires of the Spirit, for He asks for the holy ones what is pleasing to God.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 24 and 35c, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

How varied o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Bless the Lord, my soul!

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

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.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Genesis 11 : 1-9

The whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved from east, they found a plain in the country of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in fire.” They used brick for stone and bitumen for mortar. They said also, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching heaven; so that we may become a great people and not be scattered over the face of the earth!”

YHVH came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of man were building, and YHVH said, “They are one people and they have one language. If they carry this through, nothing they decide to do from now on will be impossible. Come! Let Us go down and confuse their language so that they will no longer understand each other.”

So YHVH scattered them over all the earth and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there YHVH confused the language of the whole earth and from there YHVH scattered them over the whole face of the earth.

Alternative reading

Exodus 19 : 3-8a, 16-20b

The Israelites camped there in front of the mountain, but Moses went up to God and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say and to explain to the Israelites : You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself.”

“Now if you listen to Me and keep My covenant, you shall be My very own possession among all the nations. For all the earth is Mine, but you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” And He added, “This is what you are to say to the people of Israel.”

So Moses went and summoned all the elders of the people and related to them all that YHVH had commanded him to say. All the people responded with one voice, “All that YHVH has said, we will do.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled. Moses then made the people leave the camp to meet God and stand at the foot of the mountain.

Mount Sinai was completely covered in smoke because YHVH had come down in fire, and the smoke rose as from a furnace. The whole mountain shook violently, while the blast of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke and God replied in thunder. When YHVH had come down to the summit of Mount Sinai, God called Moses who went to the summit.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

The hand of YHVH was upon me. He brought me out and led me in spirit to the middle of the valley which was full of bones. He made me walk to and fro among them and I could see there was a great number of them on the ground all along the valley and that they were very dry.

YHVH said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live again?” I said, “Lord YHVH, only You know that.” He then said, “Speak on My behalf concerning these bones; say to them : Dry bones, hear the word of YHVH! YHVH says : I am going to put spirit in you and make you live. I shall put sinews on you and make flesh grow on you; I shall cover you with skin and give you My Spirit, that you may live. And you will know that I am YHVH.”

“I prophesied as I had been commanded and then there was a noise and commotion; the bones joined together. I looked and saw that they had sinews, that flesh was growing on them and that He was covering them with skin. But there was no spirit in them.”

So YHVH said to me, “Speak on My behalf and call on the Spirit, son of man! Say to the Spirit : This is the word of YHVH : Spirit, come from the four winds. Breathe into these dead bones and let them live!” I prophesied as He had commanded me and breath entered them; they came alive, standing on their feet – a great, immense army!

He then said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all Israel. They keep saying : ‘Our bones are dry, hope has gone, it is the end of us.’ So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel.”

“You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves, when I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”

Alternative reading

Joel 3 : 1-5

In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on every mortal. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even upon My servants and maidens, I will pour out My Spirit on that day.

I will show wonders in the heavens, and on earth blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will darken and the moon turn to blood, at the approach of the great and dreadful day of God.

Then all who call upon the Name of YHVH will be saved. For on Mount Zion there will be a remnant, as YHVH has said; in Jerusalem some will be saved – those whom YHVH will call.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we almost come to the end and conclusion of the season of Easter, with tomorrow being the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, the last day of the fifty glorious days of Easter. Today we are therefore reminded that the works of the Lord and His Apostles are far from being completed, and in fact they are still being done and continuing even to this day, and even beyond to the future. The mission that the Lord has entrusted to each and every one of us still continues through us, the same mission that God told His disciples, to go forth to all the peoples of all the nations, and baptise them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord has called us all to follow Him, to do the same as His disciples had done all those years ago, just as we heard from our first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, of St. Paul the Apostle who went to Rome and continued his ministry even as he was waiting for his appeal to the Roman Emperor for his case. He was free to go anywhere and in that way, he ministered to the faithful Christians in Rome, and the Jewish people as well as the Gentiles there who were interested to know more about the Lord Jesus and His teachings and truth. St. Paul continued to work there until he was martyred during the Great Fire of Rome and the intense persecution of Christians after that.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples after He had risen from the dead and just before He was about to ascend into Heaven in glory. He spoke to them regarding what was to come and what they ought to expect. The disciples asked about St. John, the disciple who was closest to the Lord, and He mentioned that St. John would not die or perish before the end of times, when the Lord comes again. This can be understood in many different ways, but most common opinion is that St. John would see the end comes as he received it in a vision as he related them to us through the Book of Revelations. Alternatively, some believe that St. John, the only Apostle not to die a martyr, was just sleeping and still waiting for the coming of the Lord.

Nonetheless, whatever the case is, the sufferings of the Apostles and the many other disciples and holy people of God highlighted to us that the work of the Church and the ministry that we all share in various different ways in our world today, are far from over. On the other hand, the challenges awaiting the Church and the faithful in the present day are just as hard and difficult for the faithful to endure and overcome. Often times in our world today, we have to struggle and face rejection, hardships and obstacles as we walk down this path that the Lord has set before us, as we follow the guidance of Our Lord and Shepherd.

But those should not then become excuses for us not to follow the Lord faithfully as we must remember how our predecessors have suffered for their faith, and yet they faced those sufferings with great courage and faith. They carried on their crosses in life, and dedicated their time and efforts to walk in the path shown by them through the Holy Spirit. They showed how even if one were to suffer and were persecuted and challenged in their faith, they could not be shaken and they could remain firm in faith even if they had to go through worst of treatments, and they also inspired one another to remain committed and trusting in God as well.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the responsibility is ours to continue the good works that our predecessors had done, and there are indeed still a lot to be done. There are still a lot out there who have not yet been touched by the light and hope of Christ, and many have yet to hear the Good News of His salvation. It is up to us to continue the good works that the Apostles had begun and which their many successors throughout the generations had continued, the Popes, bishops, priests and many others, all those who committed themselves to the spreading of the message of the Gospels, the salvation of God to all mankind.

As I mentioned earlier, we have to stay firm in our faith in the Lord and trust in His guidance and providence. The saints and martyrs, many of our holy predecessors were inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that came onto them from God, giving them the power and courage, the ability and desire to commit themselves to the Lord in ever greater way. They might have been ordinary people, but they allowed God to lead them and guide them, and giving them the strength to do even things that man might have considered impossible. That was how they endured through even the hardest challenges and persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves to a new life inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and as we commemorate Pentecost tomorrow, let us all ask for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us and our path, and give us the courage to step forward and commit ourselves for the benefit and good of all, in obeying the laws and commandments of God, and in being truly faithful and worthy sons and daughters of God, all of us who call ourselves as Christians, who through our common baptism share in the same mission to evangelise the whole world. May God bless us and be with us always, with our every work. Amen.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 20-25

At that time, Peter looked back and saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following as well, the one who had reclined close to Jesus at the supper, and had asked Him, “Lord, who is to betray You?”

On seeing him, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until Income, does that concern you? Follow Me!” Because of this the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, “He will not die,” but, “Suppose I want him to remain until I come.”

It is this disciple who testifies about the things he has written here, and we know that his testimony is true. But Jesus did many other things; if all were written down, I think the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 10 : 4, 5 and 7

The Lord is in His holy place – our God Whose throne is in heaven. He looks down to earth to observe the race of Adam.

The Lord searches both righteous and wicked. He hates those who delight in violence, for the Lord is righteous; He loves justice. The upright will see His face.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 28 : 16-20, 30-31

Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him. After three days, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews.

When they had gathered, he said to them : “Brothers, though I have not done anything against our people or against the traditions of our fathers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to set me free, for they saw nothing in my case that deserved death.”

“But the Jews objected, so I was forced to appeal to Caesar without the least intention of bringing any case against my own people. Therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I bear these chains.”

Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.