Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian official by the Apostle St. Philip when the Apostle encountered the official who was on his way back to his homeland after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. At that time, it had been a thousand years since the coming of Queen of Sheba, who was told to be the ruler of the country at the region later known as Ethiopia, when she visited Jerusalem and paid homage to king Solomon of Israel.

As a result, the relations between the lands of Israel and Ethiopia had been established for many centuries since then, as they were definitely involved in trade and economic cooperation, as well as even religious encounter and exchanges. That was why the Ethiopian official was reading the passage from the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies and records, as it was likely that there were also some Jews and descendants of the Israelites who settled in Ethiopia and based on the history of relations between the two countries, it is likely that the Hebrew Scriptures have been widespread and read by many.

This was where then that St. Philip the Apostle came in, as he came up to the Ethiopian official who was reading the particular passage from the prophet Isaiah regarding the Suffering Servant or the Suffering Messiah. No doubt during that time, as he visited Jerusalem during those days, it was quite likely that he had also witnessed or at least heard about the events that had been happening in and around Jerusalem regarding Jesus the Messiah, Who had been condemned to death and crucified, and yet was told to have been resurrected from the dead.

Thus, St. Philip explained to the official what the passages of the Scriptures and the prophecies of Isaiah truly meant, explaining with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the revelations of God’s truth and also the personal experiences he had when he was travelling and journeying along with the Lord. And thus the Ethiopian official allowed himself to be persuaded and believed in the truth of Christ. He asked to be baptised at a nearby water source, and once he had been baptised by St. Philip, the Apostle was spirited away from him, and the official joyfully went back to his country, likely to be the first Christian among the Ethiopians, and establishing the seeds of the faith in that land that are to remain till to this day.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to the people that He is truly the Bread of Life Who has come down from Heaven itself, the very One Whom the prophets had spoken and prophesied about. And He spoke of His relationship with the Father, how all can only know the Father through Him as He was the only One Who had come down from Heaven, revealing the truth of God into this world and among us all, God’s beloved people. He has come into this world to save us all from certain destruction.

Through what we have read in our Gospel today, we are therefore brought to pay attention to our faith in God, just as Christ has spoken to us all as a reminder that no one can come to the Father except through Him. And all of us have been called by Christ to be His followers as we received His truth through His Church. Like that of the Ethiopian official and many other people of all the various nations and races, all have been called by God to follow Him and to be His people.

Are we appreciative of what the Lord had done for us? Are we able to recognise just how much the Lord had loved us all these while, that even when we are all still sinners, rebellious and indignant in our attitudes, we are all still beloved by Him and God still did all He could to save us, that is by His selfless sacrifice on the Cross. God has called us all to follow Him, and we are all called to be witnesses of His truth, to proclaim this truth to our fellow brethren, through our lives and actions.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by our faithful witness through virtue and love, through real dedication and trust in the Lord. And we should also have a great zeal for the Lord, like that of the Apostle St. Philip, whose conviction and faith, wisdom and devotion persuaded the Ethiopian official to believe in God. The Lord will always be by our side, guiding us and helping us, but we need to trust in Him and open ourselves to His providence, guidance and strength.

Today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Pius V, one of the great Popes and leaders of the Church. At that time, with the Church and Christendom under great threat from both within and without, Pope St. Pius V helped to lead the Church and the Christian faithful through those difficult times. His personal piety, dedication to the reform of the Church and the faith, as well as his leadership and commitment to the Lord allowed the Church and the faithful to endure the worst years successfully.

When the Christian world was threatened by the forces of the infidels and unbelievers under the Ottoman Empire, Pope St. Pius V helped to raise a great alliance of the faithful forces and handed the enemies of the Church and the Lord a great defeat at the Battle of Lepanto. And facing the great challenges of the heresies of Protestantism in much of Christendom, Pope St. Pius V helped to bring the instrumental Council of Trent to a successful conclusion, and helped to enforce the much needed reforms that reinvigorated the Church and the faithful, in a strong Counter Reformation effort that reversed much of the damages in the past decades.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see in the great dedication and efforts put in by Pope St. Pius V, let us all as Christians be ourselves inspired to follow in his footsteps, as well as in the footsteps of the Apostles, to be cheerful and courageous bearers of Christ’s truth and light to all the peoples of all the nations. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us and bless our many good endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 44-51

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “No one can come to Me unless he is drawn by the Father Who sent Me; and I will raise Him up on the last day. It has been written in the Prophets : They shall all be taught by God. So whoever listens and learns from the Father comes to Me.”

“For no one has seen the Father except the One Who comes from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Though your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, they died. But here you have the Bread which comes from heaven, so that you may eat of it, and not die.”

“I am the Living Bread which as come from heaven; whoever eats of this Bread will live forever. The Bread I shall give is My flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.”

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 65 : 8-9, 16-17, 20

Praise our God, o nations, let the sound of His praise be heard, for He has preserved us among the living and kept our feet from stumbling.

All you who fear God, come and listen; let me tell you what He has done. I cried aloud to Him, extolling Him with my tongue.

May God be blessed! He has not rejected my prayer; nor withheld His love from me.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 26-40

An Angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south towards the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert road.” So he set out and it happened that an Ethiopian was passing along that way. He was an official in charge of the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians; he had come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was on his way home. He was sitting in his carriage and reading the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and catch up with that carriage.” So Philip ran up and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah; and he asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He then invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

This was the passage of Scripture he was reading : He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered; like a lamb that is dumb before the shearer, He did not open His mouth. He was humbled and deprived of His rights. Who can speak of His descendants? For He was uprooted from the earth.

The official asked Philip, “Tell me, please, does the prophet speak of himself or of Someone else?” Then Philip began to tell him the Good News of Jesus, using this text of Scripture as his starting point. As they travelled down the road they came to a place where there was some water. Then the Ethiopian official said, “Look, here is water; what is to keep me from being baptised?”

And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the carriage to stop; both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water and Philip baptised him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The Ethiopian saw him no more, but he continued on his way full of joy.

Philip found himself at Azotus, and he went about announcing the Good News in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages reminding each and every one of us of the things that all of us have to do in our respective lives as Christians, that is as members of our one Church community, the community of the Body of Christ. All of us share this same faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Whom has revealed before Nicodemus the faithful Pharisee, what He would do for the sake of all mankind, in our Gospel passage today.

The Lord revealed the all powerful and all enduring love of God for us all mankind, that although each and every one of us have sinned and rebelled against Him, but God still ‘so loved the world’, that He sent us all a Saviour, in the form of His own Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Himself, so that through Him all may have the new hope of eternal life and redemption via the salvation He has brought into this world.

And He also revealed how He would do this by being lifted up high like that of the moment when the bronze serpent of Moses was lifted up in the desert. In that instance, the people of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt and the journey towards the Promised Land refused to believe in God and rebelled against Him. As a result, God sent fiery serpents that bit many among them and many died because of those serpents.

When the people repented and begged God for forgiveness, God showed His love, compassion and mercy by asking Moses to make an image of the serpent in bronze and mounting it up on a tall staff, so that everyone who has been bitten by the serpents and saw the bronze serpent would not die but live. God did this as a prefigurement of what He would Himself do, for the salvation of all mankind, through Jesus, Our Lord.

For the Lord was also lifted up high on the Cross, bearing all of our sins and faults which should have been our undoing and destruction. He gathered all of them upon Himself and suffered for our sake, so that by His suffering and death, He may release us and free us from the bondage to sin and therefore from our fated death and destruction. And He has willingly borne all of these, all the agony, pain and suffering out of His love for each and every one of us.

It is exactly this love which the Apostles and the other followers of the Lord imitated in their own lives, which is also in accordance with what He Himself commanded His disciples to do, that is to love one another as they love themselves, and to love each other and to serve one another, just in the same way as the Lord has loved them and served them. That is why in our first reading today, we heard of how the very earliest Christian communities lived, loving and caring for the needs of others, and sharing the blessings that God has given them.

But unfortunately many of us Christians today do not live in this manner. In fact, we are often so busy and so distracted by the many temptations of the world, of the temptations of money, of worldly pleasures, power, ambition and desire, that we often acted selfishly towards one another, caring only about ourselves and our own selfish desires, often even causing hurt and pain, suffering and unhappiness among us in our Christian communities.

That is why, today all of us are called to take a step back and reflect on our own lives and in particular, how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we truly been faithful to God and been good Christians in our words, actions or deeds? Or are we like those hypocrites who profess to have faith in God and yet have no love for God and love for our fellow men in us? And we should also look upon the good examples shown by our holy predecessors, especially our saint today, Pope St. Pius V.

Pope St. Pius V was remembered for his piety and dedication to the Lord, especially in his great leadership of the Church that was then battered with many challenges and oppositions both from outside and from inside the Church, with the reformation heresies and falsehoods tearing the unity of the Church apart and external enemies threatening to destroy the entire Christendom. He successfully concluded the great Council of Trent, which reformed the Church practices and enforced discipline.

The holy Pope and saint devoted his life and ministry to purify the excesses and wickedness that have crept into the Church at the time, while labouring hard to overcome the many issues and challenges that the Church had to endure at the time. Pope St. Pius V dedicated himself to love the people of God just as how God Himself loved us so much, that He went through all the troubles and pains, all the sufferings and the agony just so that He can bring to us His salvation and the eternal life He promised us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, following the examples of this holy saint and servant of God, and also imitating the good examples of the early Christian communities, let us all be more faithful and loving towards God and to our fellow men. Let us all be inspiration and examples for each other, so that many more people may come to believe through us and our examples in life. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all in our good works for His sake. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 7b-15

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again from above. The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus asked again, “How can this be?” And Jesus answered, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things! Truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we witness to the things we have seen, but you do not accept Our testimony. If you do not believe when I speak of earthly things, what then, when I speak to you of heavenly things? No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man.”

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Tuesday, 30 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.