Sunday, 9 June 2019 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great occasion of the Pentecost Sunday, marking the end of the fifty glorious days of Easter. On this day we mark the time when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord just as He has promised to them, giving them the courage and the strength to be witnesses to their faith in God. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit strengthening their heart and mind, body and soul.

The great celebration of Pentecost therefore also marks the beginning of the Church, as the tangible Body of Christ in this world that He Himself had established and founded upon the secure foundation and support of the Apostles. That was because the moment the Holy Spirit entered into their hearts, the Holy Spirit strengthened them and they spoke up freely of their faith and convinced many to become believers.

Three thousand people were baptised on that day alone, and that became the beginning of the Church community, which from then on began to grow and spread throughout all over Judea, and not just Judea but gradually throughout the entire Roman Empire itself and beyond. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very important that all of us to know that Easter does not truly end with Pentecost, but in fact continues further beyond Pentecost.

The Pentecost marks a new beginning for the faithful, the continuation of the Easter joy of the Lord’s Resurrection which now becomes the expectation and the joy of looking forward to our own glorious Resurrection to come. And what is known as the Ordinary Time after this celebration of the Pentecost is in fact nothing ordinary at all, for it is the time for the work of the Church to be carried out, continuing the joy of Easter as the Lord has commanded us all.

And in the Gospel passage today, the Lord gave us all clearly His commandments through His disciples. He has once revealed His laws and commandments through Moses, in what was known as the Ten Commandments. And then, He explained and revealed more completely and fully the true meaning of the commandments by what the Lord Jesus stated to His disciples, that is the commandments of love.

It was love that the Lord showed to His people, all of us when He gave us His own Son to be our Saviour and Deliverance from our sins and death. It was love that allowed Him to bear the full weight of the Cross, the incomparably heavy and massive burden of all of our sins, enduring immense pain and suffering for the sake of our salvation. It was love that allowed Him to go through all of that, and through His love, our salvation was made whole and complete.

Yet, He continued to love us even more, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our source of strength and power, amidst the difficulties and challenges we may have to face in this world, the opposition from all those who refused to believe in God, from those who oppressed the Church and persecuted the Lord’s faithful ones. The Holy Spirit brought with Him the power of God’s own love into our midst, into our hearts, allowing the seeds of faith, hope and love in us to grow and germinate.

Yes, to all of us God has given His gifts of faith, hope and love, and the most important of these three is love. For there can be no true faith without love, and there can be no true hope without love. We believe in the love which God has for each and every one of us, and we love Him that we have faith in Him, and we hope in Him because of the love which He has evidently shown us, we can be confident that He is always by our side and will never abandon us.

And for us to grow in God’s grace and favour, we need to have love in each and every one of us. It is love for God, first and foremost before all else, which is the essence of the Commandments of God. If God has loved us all so much and gave us everything we need, life being the foremost of all gifts He has given, then how can we not love God in the same way? God ought to be at the very centre of our very lives and in everything we do.

If we love God then naturally we should also show the same love to our fellow brethren. If we do not love our fellow brothers and sisters then we cannot truly call ourselves as people who love God, because God loves each and every single one of us without exception, from the least to the greatest amongst us, from the most wicked and greatest sinners to the most pious and holy persons. Everyone is equally loved by God.

It is only through love that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will bear fruits in us, the good fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If our every words, actions and deeds, our interactions with one another and indeed, our every breaths and moments are filled with love, not selfish love for ourselves but genuine love for God and for others, then naturally all those fruits of the Holy Spirit will flourish in us.

That was what the Apostles themselves had done. Their love and dedication for God, inflamed into a strong fire by the Holy Spirit has allowed them to do what was seemingly impossible and unlikely just before the moment the Holy Spirit came to them. Where there was fear and doubt in the hearts and minds of the Apostles before, so much so that they hid fearfully from the Jewish authorities, they went forth courageously afterwards filled with love for both God and for their fellow men.

That was the love which inflamed them and helped them to endure many bitter sufferings and persecutions which they and the faithful people of God had to endure, the many martyrs and saints of the Church. The same Holy Spirit was also given to the faithful by the laying of the hands, and as a result, the Holy Spirit of God has always been in the midst of the wonderful works of the Church from the very beginning until this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, it is our turn to continue the good works which God has begun in the Apostles, and we are called to follow in their footsteps, for the same Holy Spirit has been given to us at Baptism, and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation for all of us who have received that Sacrament. And having received the Holy Spirit and God’s presence in us, are we able and willing to commit ourselves to love God and our fellow men as the Apostles had done?

Let us all contribute our effort, our time and our abilities to be part of the good works of the Church that is still ongoing in fulfilling the mission which God has entrusted to His Church, the conversion and of all of His beloved people, all of us sons and daughters of man. Let us all by our own faith, love and devotion to God become inspiration and examples for each other, and become shining models of God’s love through us, that all who see us and what we say and do, will believe in God as well.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your people, that we will be filled with courage and strength to carry out our mission with faith and conviction. Come, Holy Spirit, inflame us all with Your love and strength. Let us all go forth and continue to proclaim the joy of Easter, of Christ’s Resurrection and salvation to all the peoples, from now on and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 9 June 2019 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 15-16, 23b-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments; and I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him; and We will come to him and make a room in his home.”

“But if anyone does not love Me, he will not keep My words; and these words that you hear are not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me. I told you all this while I was still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”

Sunday, 9 June 2019 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 8 : 8-17

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him.

But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit Who dwells within you.

Then, brothers, let us leave the flesh and no longer live according to it. If not, we will die. Rather, walking in the spirit, let us put to death the body’s deeds, so that we may live. All those who walk in the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.

Then, no more fear : you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but the spirit that makes you sons and daughters, and every time, we cry, “Abba! (this means Dad!) Father!” the Spirit assures our spirit, that we are sons and daughters of God. If we are children, we are heirs, too. Ours will be the inheritance of God, and we will share it with Christ; for, if we now suffer with Him, we will also share glory with Him.

Sunday, 9 June 2019 : 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, 9 June 2019 : 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.”

Saturday, 8 June 2019 : 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, 8 June 2019 : 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, 8 June 2019 : 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, 8 June 2019 : 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, 8 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day before the Solemnity of the Pentecost we come to the last weekday of the whole Easter season and therefore consequently the Scripture concludes the passages taken from the Acts of the Apostles, at the end of which was related to us the activities of St. Paul in the city of Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. At that time, St. Paul was still relatively free to move about and perform his works in Rome.

According to the Apostolic traditions, St. Paul later on was martyred when Christians in Rome were persecuted and blamed for the great fire that caused most of the city of Rome to be burnt. St. Paul was beheaded as one of the leaders of the local Christian community while St. Peter, the leader of the Church and the first Bishop of Rome would also suffer martyrdom at about the same period of time through crucifixion.

All of these were the shares of the Apostles who have willingly embraced the way of the Lord and devoted themselves completely and wholeheartedly to His service. And despite knowing that they would suffer persecution, pains and sufferings, they gladly welcomed those nonetheless because they placed their complete trust in God, knowing that God would always be by their side no matter what.

And this is the same courage and commitment which the Lord also expects of us all, His disciples and followers. All of us are the successors of the works of the Apostles and many of these works are still ongoing even as we speak now. The Lord’s mission, entrusted to His Apostles, the evangelisation of the peoples and the propagation of the Good News are things that we still have to do, as there are still many out there who have not yet seen or received God’s salvation.

Tomorrow marks the Solemnity of the Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, the day which marked the conversion and baptism of three thousand people into the faith and therefore marking the beginning point of the Church. And from that moment onwards, the Apostles went forth to work the good works of the Lord and went to many places preaching the Good News of God.

And as mentioned earlier, they did all these despite the many challenges and oppositions that they encountered, from all those who refused to believe in God and from those who were outright hostile against them and their teachings. But the Lord was with them all the way, guiding them and protecting them, giving them the necessary strength and power to carry out the missions entrusted to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on our lives and actions, on how each and every one of us can be good and contributing members of God’s Church, as Christians who truly believe in the Lord and not just on the exterior faith only. Are we able to give our time, effort and dedication in the same way as our holy predecessors have done? Let us all think carefully about this and discern how we can be more committed each and every days of our lives.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He give us the strength and encouragement through His Holy Spirit, that we may grow ever more committed and may fearlessly proclaim His truth and love to all those who encounter us, see us in our actions and witness our deeds. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to watch over us, now and forevermore. Amen.