Sunday, 7 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, one week after the Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, or also known as the Trinity Sunday. On this day we celebrate this very important and crucial aspect of the Christian faith, one that distinguishes itself from all the other Abrahamic and monotheistic faith, because we believe in the One and only True God, Who manifested Himself in Three Divine Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Since the very beginning of the Church, that is from the time of the Apostles, the Church had always believed in the Most Holy Trinity, through the truth that the Lord Himself had revealed to them, from the Father Who revealed to all and created all, and the Son, Who has descended into this world and revealed Himself in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, Whom the disciples had lived with, spoken with and interacted with, having seen His suffering and death on the Cross, and then His Resurrection and glorious Ascension into Heaven, and finally, the Holy Spirit Who came down upon them all on Pentecost.

The Church has always believed in the One and only True God in the Three Divine Persons, but for centuries, Church leaders and theologians debated and discussed the details of what this truly mean for the Lord Whom they all served. Unfortunately, there had been quite a view dissenting voices and ideas that came up from these disagreements over the nature of the Holy Trinity, which saw some rejecting the Holy Trinity altogether, or known as Unitarianism, a heresy that existed in different forms even to this very day.

Then there were also those like the Arians, who argued that the relationship between the members of the Most Holy Trinity is an unequal one, with the Father being superior over the Son, and the Son being subservient to the Father, as the Arians believed that the Son did not exist together with the Father from the very beginning, but rather, was merely the first to be created by the Father, and therefore, is inferior in nature to the Father. All of these false teachings came about from misunderstanding in the words of the Scripture which the Arians claimed as support for their argument, without understanding the whole truth.

Then there were also those who claimed that the Holy Spirit was also inferior, or was merely an ‘energy’ and not a Divine Person, essentially limiting the Persona into the duality of the Father and the Son. All of these were also rejected by the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, which prevailed over the heresies mentioned, and the Church fathers, after an often bitter and long struggle, managed to defend the true, orthodox and genuine Christian faith as we have it today, the faith of the Apostles themselves.

St. Athanasius the Great, the Patriarch of Alexandria in the fourth century in particular was renowned for his steadfast defence of the true faith against the encroachment of heresies, especially that of Arianism, which at that time were especially prevalent and had many support from many among the clergy, even many among the bishops. But the impassioned defence of the true faith from the faithful bishops and priests, led by St. Athanasius helped to turn the tide of battle against the heretical ideas.

St. Athanasius himself encountered plenty of difficulties and challenges throughout his ministry, having to go into exile a few times and facing opposition not only from the rebellious and heretical bishops and priests in his See and beyond, but even from the secular nobility, the powerful and at times, even the Emperors at Constantinople themselves. Yet, he remained resolute and firm, dedicated and faithful in his struggle to keep the truth and orthodoxy in the Christian faith, writing one of his famous contributions to the Church, the Athanasian Creed, in full support of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Although some argued that he was not the actual author of the Creed, but the ideas contained within the Creed speak volumes of the ideas of St. Athanasius, which is why he was credited with the origin of this venerable Creed.

I am sure all of us are familiar with the Nicene or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, as well as the Apostles’ Creed. Yet, definitely there are only a few of us who may be aware of what the Athanasian Creed is, less still being able to recite it with faith. For this Athanasian Creed itself is much longer and a lot more detailed even compared to the Nicene Creed, containing the basic essence of the Creed, but with special and really particular emphasis on the Trinitarian nature of our Christian faith, stressing and emphasising the relationship between each members of the Holy Trinity to each other.

As the Athanasian Creed has it, the Holy Trinity is described as, ‘And the Catholic faith is this: that we worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence.’ And this part emphasises how there is only One God, and yet, the same One God exists in the form of Trinity of Unity, where each of the members of the Holy Trinity are distinct from one another, but yet equal to each other, and are perfectly united in Essence that they are at the same time, indivisible, for removing even one will diminish that Oneness of God.

And then it continues with ‘For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all One; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.’ And this part show us yet again the Unity between the Three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, which are also at the same time, easily distinguished one from the other without confusion, each with equal Glory and Majesty, and all Co-Eternal with each other, from before the beginning of time, through all time, to the end of time and forevermore.

The Creed keeps on going, repeating several times with very strong and firm affirmation that each of the members of the Holy Trinity are the same One God, equally God, none superior or inferior over the other, ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God’ and ‘And yet They are not three Gods but One God’. And the relationship between each of the members of the Holy Trinity is explained clearly in that same Creed, as the Son is begotten by the Father, not created and co-eternal with Him, showing how the Son already existed from the very beginning, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son.

That last portion regarding the Holy Spirit had also divided Christianity even until this very day, as our brethren in the Orthodox Communion refused to accept the fact of this ‘proceeding’ of the Holy Spirit through the Son from the Father. This they argued because of the misunderstanding in the language and the fine differences in the literary understanding of the word ‘proceeding’. Historically, in the Greek language, the word ‘proceeding’ showed a clear subordinate relationship between the one that proceeded to the one it is proceeding from. Yet, no such subordination existed in the Latin language.

Thus, we, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has always believed in the Holy Spirit that came to us from the Father, and proceeded through the Son, Jesus Christ, all being co-equal and co-eternal with each other, none being subordinate or superior over the other, the Holy Spirit merely passed through the Son to us, in the same manner the Lord Jesus breathed over His disciples and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, whomever sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whomever sins you retain, they are retained.’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, such was the deep mystery and detail in the very nature of our God, One and yet existing in Three Divine Persons, distinct, co-equal and co-eternal with each other, that there had been many misunderstandings both from within the Church itself, and from those who were outside the Church. There had been many who mistakenly accused Christians as polytheists and worshipping three Gods instead of One, but this is because they did not understand what it means by the Holy Trinity. How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we ourselves understood the meaning and importance of the Most Holy Trinity?

One way to understand the concept of the Holy Trinity, its presence of three easily distinguishable aspects and yet unquestionable unity is by using the example of a burning flame. A burning flame has three important aspects that can be easily distinguished, namely the appearance and state of the flame itself, and then the heat generated by the flame, and finally the light given out by the flame. For all of us, I am sure we know that while each of these stimulates different parts of our senses, but we know that we cannot separate each aspect of the flame from the other.

What does this mean? It means that, if we remove the light of the flame, then we can no longer recognise the flame as it is. Similarly, if we see a flame and we can see its shape and the state of the flame, and yet feel no heat, it is no longer a flame as we know it. And then, if we can feel the state of the flame, that is because of the excited particles of the air heated up and filled with energy, and feel its heat, and yet, if the flame emits no light, then how can we believe that it is flame and not something else?

Another good example to compare this concept of the Holy Trinity, is that of honey, as honey is the product of bees collecting the various flowers’ nectar, which they mixed with their own secretions to create the ever-healthy and good honey, provided that it is naturally obtained and produced. In natural honey, we know that it is honey when we touch it, feel its viscosity and particular texture, and then taste its sweetness and unique, floral taste, and finally, smell its similarly floral and nice, unique smell. Each of these aspects help us to identify that this substance is honey and not something different.

Imagine if we have what is allegedly natural honey, and yet, when we touch, it feels so diluted and runny, so as to look like merely water? Will we believe if people told us that this is natural honey? Certainly not. Similarly, if we have what is allegedly natural honey, correct by feel and touch, having the right viscosity, and yet, tastes very differently or even taste horrible? And honey can also be fermented into alcohol under the right condition, and in that case, it is no longer honey, but mead! Lastly, in a similar way, if we have what is allegedly natural honey, and yet it smells very different, although it feels like honey and tastes like honey, then it is not honey.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, using these examples of the flame and honey, we can see how the concept of the Holy Trinity is not as difficult as it may seem to us to understand. Of course, being one of the most profound mysteries out there, there are still a lot about the Holy Trinity that we may not fully understand, but at least, a basic understanding of its concept is very important for us all as Christians to have strong and genuine faith in God. And often, it does not need to be very complicated and difficult to do so.

Historically, St. Patrick was also well-known for using the iconic three-leaf clover as the symbol of the Holy Trinity, teaching the concept to the pagans there about God, One in Unity and yet existing in Three Divine Persons. The united nature of the three-leaf clover’s three leaves makes it such that separating one of the leaf from the three-leaf clover makes it no longer a three-leaf clover, much like taking out the heat of the flame no longer make it recognisable as flame, or removing the taste from honey which makes it no longer recognisable as honey.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, let us all carefully study and understand the basics of the concept of the Holy Trinity, that we may understand and appreciate better what our Christian faith is all about, and Who our God truly is. Let us all renew our faith and conviction in serving Him, loving Him and when possible, share the truth about His Holy Trinity to others. Whenever there is confusion and misinformation, hopefully we ourselves can stand up for our faith, explaining briefly to dispel the misconception, perhaps by using the example of the ‘flame’, ‘honey’ or even St. Patrick’s three-leaf clover mentioned earlier.

Let us all renew our faith in the Lord, the Most Holy Trinity, in Whom we have been baptised, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let us be thankful and be appreciative of the love of the Father, be inspired and strengthened by the obedience of the Son, and be encouraged and filled with zeal by the power of the Holy Spirit. May all of us be genuine and strong Christians, in all aspects of life, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 7 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 16-18

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

“Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.”

Sunday, 7 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Corinthians 13 : 11-13

Finally, brothers and sisters, be happy, strive to be perfect, have courage, be of one mind and live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of Christ Jesus the Lord, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Sunday, 7 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Daniel 3 : 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever. Blessed is Your holy and glorious Name, celebrated and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You Who fathom the depths, Who are enthroned on the Cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Sunday, 7 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 34 : 4b-6, 8-9

Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai as YHVH had commanded, taking in his hands the two slabs of stone. And YHVH came down in a cloud and stood there with him, and Moses called on the Name of YHVH.

Then YHVH passed in front of him and cried out, “YHVH, YHVH is a God full of pity and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in truth and loving-kindness.”

Moses hastened to bow down to the ground and worshipped. He then said, “If You really look kindly on me, my Lord, please come and walk in our midst and even though we are a stiff-necked people, pardon our wickedness and our sin and make us Yours.”

Saturday, 6 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard that as Christians, for us to love God and to devote ourselves to God, we do not need to seek to do ambitious things and achievements, and we do not need to think of the many things we desire and want, as serving the Lord does not mean that we focus the attention to ourselves. On the contrary, to be Christians mean that we ought to give our whole selves to God and to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly and live our lives with the focus on God in everything that we say and do.

As Christians we ought to reflect carefully on what we have heard in our Gospel passage today as we heard of the account of the Lord Who spoke with regards to the people who came to the Temple of Jerusalem, there were the rich people making lots of offerings probably showing off what they were offering to each other and also to the other people around, while there was a poor, old woman who came by quietly and placed in two small coins to the Temple treasury.

And the Lord also mentioned of the excesses of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, warning His disciples against their behaviour and how they exercised and practiced their faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often prided themselves in their privileged and highly respected position in the community, and showed off their faith, seeking important and privileged positions, basking in the praise and respect from the other people who saw them and their actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, essentially what the Lord had told us all is to be careful and vigilant against the temptations of ego and pride in our lives. We must focus our attention on God and put Him first and foremost in our lives, or else we will be easily swayed and tempted just as many of our ancestors had done in the past. Ever since the time of Adam and Eve in the Gardens of Eden, Satan has tempted us mankind with the temptation of pride, desires of our flesh and with the temptation of knowledge, and our great enemy definitely knows very well our vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we also have to understand that God was not against the rich and neither does He have any bias or prejudice against the rich and those who are wealthy, powerful and the elites of the society, and unlike what some would have argued otherwise, the Lord was not only concerned about the poor, the marginalised and the needy. For the truth is that, every single sons and daughters of mankind are precious to Him, and all of us, regardless of our background and origins, are equal before Him, and are equally beloved by Him.

What the Lord is warning us is rather the fact that we mankind are easily distracted and tempted, and the more attachments we have to worldly things and the more concerns we have, the more vulnerable we become. Instead, he wanted us all to develop more trust and faith in Him. He wants us to be like the old woman who entrusted herself to the Lord and gave from her heart, even if she had only very little to live on with. At this, all of us are called to believe in God in this manner.

We heard in our first reading today on the great courage shown by St. Paul, who recounted to St. Timothy, his protege, of the great sufferings he had endured for the sake of the Lord, all the things he had to go through as many opposed his good works and efforts, rejecting him and his message of God’s truth. St. Paul stood by his faith in the Lord and his famous words, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.’ are reminders to us just how dedicated St. Paul had been throughout his missionary works and efforts to bring the Good News to many peoples, even to all those who have rejected these truths.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Norbert, a renowned German bishop and saint, who was once a nobleman and member of the elite of the then society, but an experience of the faith changed his life forever as he was saved from a near death experience, and he eventually joined the priesthood and led an ascetic, holy and simple lifestyle. He travelled around Christendom and saw the troubles and the lack of discipline as well as the need for reform in the Church.

St. Norbert founded the religious order known as the Canons Regular of Prémontré. Through his efforts and dedicated works, his piety and great, genuine love for God, St. Norbert rapidly expanded the religious order, and when he was appointed by the Pope as the Archbishop of Magdeburg in Germany, he continued the efforts he started in reforms and practiced the same practices he did among the Canons Regular to his diocese and the faithful in that diocese.

Through what the Lord’s followers had done, St. Paul and the other Apostles, the many saints and martyrs, like St. Norbert among many others, all of us have seen how the Lord’s followers have dedicated their lives to God, giving their all to the Lord with their lives and services, many of them giving even their lives in martyrdom in the defence of their faith. Are we able to follow in their footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow their examples and courage, and inspire one another to follow the Lord in the same way?

Let us all devote ourselves anew, each and every days of our lives from now on. Let us give our very best to the Lord from the depths of our heart. May the Lord help us all and give us the strength to follow Him with all of our hearts from now on. St. Norbert, holy saint of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 6 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 12 : 38-44

At that time, as Jesus was teaching, He also said to His disciples, “Beware of those teachers of the Law, who enjoy walking around in long robes and being greeted in the marketplace, and who like to occupy reserved seats in the synagogues, and the first places at feasts. They even devour the widow’s and the orphan’s goods while making a show of long prayers. How severe a sentence they will receive!”

Jesus sat down opposite the Temple treasury, and watched the people dropping money into the treasury box; and many rich people put in large offerings. But a poor widow also cane and dropped in two small coins. Then Jesus called His disciples and said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all those who gave offerings. For all of them gave from their plenty, but she gave from her poverty, and put in everything she had, her very living.”