Thursday, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the story of the conversion of an Ethiopian official or envoy by St. Philip as he was on his way back to his Ethiopian homeland. St. Philip explained the meaning of the Scripture passage which the official was reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, that foretold the suffering of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus crucified.

St. Philip revealed the truth to the official, and his explanation awakened the faith in the heart of the Ethiopian official, who came to believe in the Lord Jesus and in the salvation that He brought into the world. Thus, he opened his heart and mind, and bared his soul before the Lord, requesting the Apostle to baptise him right there and then at a spring along the way. Later on, he would bring the faith to his homeland, and probably, made more converts there.

Thus, that was how God did His marvellous works, calling on people from various nations and from different backgrounds, to become His disciples and followers. The Apostles themselves were called from different origins and backgrounds, as some were sinners, some were fishermen, and still there were tax collector and delinquents counted among them. God called them from their past lives and occupations and made them His servants.

In the Gospel passage today, all of us heard about the Lord Jesus revealing Himself as the Living Bread Who has come down from heaven, sent from God Our Lord, to reveal unto us the truth about Himself. God Himself had sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and as the source of all our hope. Once we have been dejected and without hope, but now because of Christ and all that He had done for us, He has given us a new hope and light to follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to reflect on these words which we have heard and received from the Scriptures. How have we, as Christians, been faithful to God? Have we been like the Apostles and the disciples, who braved suffering, prison, torture, rejection, ridicule, and even death for the sake of the Lord. They remained strong in their conviction and faith despite all that they had to face for His sake.

It was their exemplary faith which had inspired many more people to turn towards the Christian faith, to believe in God Who has guided His disciples and Apostles to preach in His Name and deliver the truth to all mankind. The Holy Spirit guided their actions and helped in their words, that many were turned to the Lord and repented from their sins. They have received the truth from God Himself, and received the Body and Blood which the Lord had given them willingly from the altar of His cross.

Therefore, they were filled with courage and strength, to carry out the mission entrusted to them, to bring the salvation of God to all the peoples, of all the races and all of the nations. Now, all of us Christians are entrusted with the same mission, to continue the good works of the Apostles and the holy saints and martyrs who had gone before us. But, are we able to commit the same commitment as the Apostles had done before?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to a renewed faith and a new life, that if once we have been unfaithful and lacking in our faith, then now, we can renew our commitment to live in accordance to the Lord’s will. Let us all seek to be ever more faithful and be closer to the Lord, day after day. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the story of the works of the Apostles, who went about from places to places, as exemplified by St. Philip, who went to the northern region of Samaria to preach to the people living there about the Lord Jesus Christ and His truth. The Church was still growing rapidly at that time, and more and more people came to believe in God, despite, at the same time, a vigorous persecution was launched against them by Saul, a fanatical Pharisee who was zealously and firmly against Jesus and His teachings.

The Apostles and the disciples of the Lord faced a great persecution and opposition from many of the Pharisees, and from many members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council, many of whose members had once also opposed the Lord Jesus. Nonetheless, despite the challenges they encountered, and all the obstacles they had to go through, if we read on throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we will realise just how devoted they were to the mission entrusted to them.

But why, brothers and sisters in Christ? Why did the followers of the Lord as described in the Acts of the Apostles and in the letters that St. Paul and the other Apostles wrote had been so brave and courageous in their faith, and in how they stood up for their faith? What gave them such a great encouragement and energy, the strength and power to carry out such a mission?

The answer can be found in our Gospel passage today, in the truth which the Lord Jesus revealed to the people in one of His teachings. He said that He is the Bread of Life Who has come down from heaven, and not like any earthly bread or even the bread of manna with which the Lord fed the Israelites in the past, but the true Food and sustenance for all of us, God’s beloved people.

He gave all of those who believe in Him, His own Body and His own Blood, to be our sustenance, that all of those who share in His Body and Blood will never be in want ever again, and they will be truly satisfied and joyful, for the Lord Himself dwells in them and is with them. The Lord has given us everything, and He has given us all His love, poured down from the cross, a perfect and selfless love by which He cared for each and every one of us.

And as He said, those who eat and drink of the Body and Blood He gave, worthily and with faith, He will save and they will not perish. This is a good reminder for us all, especially when it is at a time when we realise what will happen to us should we choose to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way, just as the Apostles and the followers of the Lord had done. The challenges and the tribulations they had to face were numerous, and so will ours be.

But those who place their trust in the Lord will not be disappointed, and those who worthily welcomed the Lord into their lives will have God on their side at all times. He will never abandon them, and they can be assured of His continued support. Those who put their trust in the world and in worldly things are those who are unable to look further beyond their immediate concerns and desires, and hence, they chose poorly for the wrong decision in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, shall we all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, that we do our very best, to spend more and more time with the Lord, and to draw closer to Him? Let us all reorientate our lives, our focus and our attention, that while once we might have been lukewarm in our faith, now we live a renewed existence in God, with a new zeal and with a new conviction, to stand up for our faith just as the Apostles had once done.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen in us our faith, that we may always persevere despite the challenges we may encounter in life, and regardless of the temptations to abandon the Lord, Our loving God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the continuation of the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who died defending his faith in the Lord. He pointed out just how stubborn the people of God had been throughout time, having disobeyed the Lord and refused to listen to the words and reminders He had given them through His messengers and prophets.

In the same manner, therefore, they had also refused to believe in the Lord Jesus, even though the Lord and Saviour of the world had done all that He could to persuade them to believe, including performing numerous wonders and works among them, casting out demons and healing the sick, feats and works that are impossible in the hands of men, but perfectly possible for God.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told the people yet another blatant truth about Himself, which they refused to believe, even though that was what the Lord truly had done for them. In that, we are reminded of the centre tenet of our faith and Christian belief, that we believe in God, Who has willingly given us His own Body and Blood, given to us freely as food and sustenance, just as much as He has fed His people Israel for forty years during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Yet, the people of Israel refused to believe in God, and even though He had shown them much love, by providing all that they needed along the way, and protecting them from their enemies, they still became wayward and rebelled against Him, even to the point of worshipping the pagan idols and false gods abhorrent to Him. God has been so kind to them, and yet, they abused His love and rejected Him.

That was what they had done to the Lord Jesus and to His Apostles as well. And what had happened to St. Stephen, had also happened to numerous other followers of the Lord. They have been persecuted, facing arrest and also torture in order to stand up to their faith, defending what they held to be right against all those who refused to believe in God and in His truth. And all of these were due to the stubbornness in the hearts of men, who refused to submit to God.

Now, are we going to go the same way as those rebellious generations who have disobeyed God and His commandments? Are we going to follow in their footsteps? We have to realise that all of these disobediences are caused by our own inability to resist the temptation to follow our desires, our greedy nature and our pride. We refuse to believe in God because we think that we know it better and we want things to go according to our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on our lives. Thus far, have we been disobedient and deliquent in our ways? Have we been wayward in our dealings and interactions with one another? These are some of the important questions that we need to ask our lives. However, we must also realise that there is a need for us to take action with our lives, by doing our very best to live in accordance to the Lord’s ways, even if that end up meaning that we have to go against the world.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that this world offers us many tempting and pleasurable things, that are indeed very tempting for us to follow through. However, we have to be farsighted, looking beyond what is immediately ahead of us. The path that the Lord offers us is more difficult and challenging, and certainly it is not a most enticing and encouraging one. And we must always be mindful that Satan is always out there, actively trying to sway us from finding our path towards God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep this in mind as we carry on with our respective lives. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly, devoting our time, effort and attention in order to stand up to our faith, just as St. Stephen and all the other holy saints and martyrs of God had done, all those who had gone before us and showed us how to be truly faithful to God.

Let us all therefore, persevere in our faith, that whatever it is that the devil is trying to do, in order to confuse us and to lure us away from God’s salvation, we will be able to resist them, as we look forward to our true inheritance, which God alone can give, that is the true joy and happiness, glorious together with Him. May God be with us all, and may He guide us all in our journey, that we will be able to overcome the world, and turning back on our sins, we may be made worthy of eternal glory in Him Who loves us all. Amen.

Monday, 16 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from our first reading, taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, about what had happened to St. Stephen, one of the seven first deacons to be chosen by the Apostles, who was also the very first martyr of the Church. As he performed his works among the people and teaching about the Lord Jesus and His salvation, those who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings came after St. Stephen and harassed him.

Nonetheless, even though they brought false witnesses against Him, just as much as they have also done against the Lord, St. Stephen spoke with great wisdom and clarity, defending the Lord with zeal and devotion. He pointed out how God had done so many great things and good deeds for His people throughout the ages, right from the beginning of time, towards the time of Abraham, and then Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, and then to the time of the prophets, but the people refused to turn away from their sins and repent.

Instead, they doubled down on their sins, and they rejected the Saviour Whom God had sent into their midst, Jesus Christ, Whose life and works St. Stephen was testifying on at that time before the Sanhedrin. And we saw later on, how these words further angered St. Stephen and made them to seize the holy servant of God, and stoned him to death. Thus, St. Stephen became the first martyr of the Church.

St. Stephen showed us that there will be challenges facing those who keep their faith firmly in God, as he himself had done. St. Stephen reminded us that if we want to follow the Lord and be His true disciples and servants, then we must first of all, believe in God and in all of His teachings, in all of our ways, in all of the words we utter, in all the actions we take and which we do in our daily lives, in how we interact with one another.

And if we truly believe in Him, and not just merely having a superficial faith, then all of us should be ready to defend our faith just as St. Stephen has done. No, it does not mean that we should all purposefully and intentionally seek martyrdom and death in God, but rather, we must be firm in our conviction and desire to live our lives faithfully and in full obedience to God’s will, regardless of what persuasions and temptations we meet in our lives may convince, persuade or even force us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how many of us truly believe in God with all of our heart, our mind and our strength? How many of us are truly convinced that God’s ways are the way forward for us, and not that of our own? If we are true Christians, then we should indeed put God as the clear priority of our lives, turning towards Him in all of our ways and dealings, and turning away from sin.

But, the sad reality is that, many of us are so busy and so preoccupied with worldly concerns, for our needs, wants and desires in this world that we end up being distracted from God. Our priority in life is not God, but instead, the desire and pursuit for money, for success, for worldly prestige and honour, for sexual pleasures and for satisfaction of our ego and greed.

That is why so many of us have distanced ourselves from God, and unless we do something concrete in our lives, now and not delaying any further, we will end up falling into damnation in hell, when it is too late for us to turn back and regret all that we have done wrongly in our lives. Let us all therefore, spend time and effort to be more faithful to God, that each and every one of us, by our words, actions and deeds can be inspiration for one another, and also for all those who have yet to receive God’s salvation, that they too may be saved.

May the Lord bless us all and all of our endeavours, our good works and commitment to Him. May He strengthen us day after day, that we will always be faithful to the commandments and laws of God, and that we will always put God as our first and foremost priority before everything else just as St. Stephen, holy deacon and martyr had done. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 14 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to follow through the story of the Apostles and the first years of the Church, as we heard from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, about the time when it was decided that seven men would be chosen as deacons, to serve the growing needs of the then rapidly growing numbers of Christians, as more and more people chose to turn towards the Lord.

The deacons were instituted as an order of consecrated men within the Church, with the intention of assisting the Apostles and their successors in the administration of the Church, taking care of the worldly affairs such as the distribution of goods and taking care of the poor and the needy, so that the Apostles and their successors, the priests and the bishops can focus on their primary mission to care for the souls of the faithful and for the salvation of all peoples.

And the deacons did not have it easy, and challenges immediately faced them right away. Most prominently, in the later part of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we saw how the most well-known of the seven deacons, St. Stephen, was assaulted by the enemies of the Lord, and as he stood by his faith with a very eloquent defence of God by the courage and wisdom given to him by the Holy Spirit, he was martyred by stoning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us then look at our Gospel passage today, in which we heard about the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, who were in the middle of the lake of Galilee, stranded in a boat battered by heavy winds and storms. The disciples were afraid as the waters were rough and they were concerned that their boat would sink and then they would all perish.

But the Lord Jesus appeared before them on the waters, and the disciples were again afraid, as they thought that they had seen a ghost. He calmed them down and reassured them that He was their Lord and their Master. In another account from the other Gospels, the Lord calmed the seas before them, and the waves and the wind died down, and everything was calm once again.

In all these, we see a very meaningful symbolism linking what we have heard from our Acts of the Apostles passage and the Gospel passage. The boat and the disciples represent the Church of God as together we embark through this journey of life in this world. The storms and the waves represent the challenges and troubles, the oppositions and difficulties we will encounter as those who are faithful to Christ’s ways.

But we should not be fearful or be paralysed by fear, as each and every one of us have also received the Holy Spirit by the virtue of our baptism, and then by the laying of the hands when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, just as the Apostles laid their hands on the seven men chosen as deacons. And therefore, just as these holy men received strength and encouragement from God, we too share the same gift that they had.

Now, what we all need to do is that we need to continue their hard work and persevere in the challenges we are likely to face as those who are faithful to God. Let us all seek to be wholeheartedly committed to God, and let us all strive to do our very best day after day. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us and continue to guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the discussion among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council, at the time when the Apostles began their ministry, speaking about the Lord Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, as told to us by the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The members of the Sanhedrin could not agree on what to do with the Apostles.

Why is that so? That is because, many of the chief priests and the elders who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings, were hard bent to oppose the works of the Apostles as well, regardless of whatever they were preaching to the people. They have closed their ears, their senses, their minds and their hearts from receiving God’s Good News. As a result, that is why they constantly demanded for the severe punishment and even death of the Apostles.

However, there were also quite a few of those who were still open to reason, and some of them in fact were sympathetic to the teachings of the Lord, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who were in fact secret followers of Jesus. These members of the Sanhedrin genuinely considered the miracles performed by the Apostles as the truth, and as signs of God. They accepted their teachings as God’s truth brought unto them by the Apostles.

Then Gamaliel, a respected teacher and elder, and member of the Sanhedrin managed to calm down the situation by explaining how those who were blindly opposing the works of God were unreasonable and unwise, as he related to them the various examples of all those who had claimed to be the Messiah prior to Jesus. All of those false Messiahs failed because ultimately, they were not the true Messiah, and they did not derive their authority from God.

Gamaliel mentioned how if the Apostles have been acting on the base of human authority, they would have eventually failed and they would fade into obscurity and nothingness as all those who followed the false Messiahs had proven in the past. Gamaliel said to the rest of the Sanhedrin that should the Lord Jesus and His Apostles’ teachings truly came from God, and was the truth, then the Sanhedrin would have acted against God and His will.

And ultimately, the works of the Apostles were truly fruitful and blessed, exactly because God was with them, and God was working through them. In the Gospel passage today, again we heard about the miracle that Jesus performed before His disciples and before all the people. He fed a great multitude of five thousand people and more, not counting the women and the children among them.

And He did all these with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. It is indeed impossible in the minds and intellects of man, and no one could have believed that all these could have happened. But what is impossible for man, is perfectly possible for God. And Jesus Himself, is God, and as Son of God, is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, and by that power, He made the food to multiply according to His will, to satisfy everyone gathered at that time.

Because God was with them, and because God was their leader, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Apostles were successful and triumphant, and despite the difficulties they faced and encountered along the way, eventually they would be triumphant and glorious with God, Who promised all those who are faithful to Him, a eternity of true happiness and glory with Him.

Today, we mark the commemoration of a holy martyr and successor of the Apostle, Pope St. Martin, who succeeded the successors of St. Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted His Church. Pope St. Martin was a faithful servant of God and he devoted himself to the care of the flock and the Church entrusted to him. Yet, he was torn between his commitment to the works of the Church and the secular leaders of the Roman Empire at the time, who had fallen into the false teachings of heretics who were opposed to God’s truth.

Pope St. Martin stood firmly in his conviction and in his zealous attempts to oppose the heretics, including against the Emperor and his courtiers and nobles, who tried to pervert the truth. In the end, he was arrested and endured sufferings in prison, and died a martyr of the Church and his faith in God became a great inspiration for many Christians in the numerous generations after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are therefore called to reflect on these things we have just discussed. Are we truly devoted and faithful to the Lord, in all of our ways, and in all of our dealings? Are we able to live faithfully as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done, and as Pope St. Martin I and many other holy saints and martyrs had done?

Let us all devote ourselves, and let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May all of our actions and deeds, all the things we say and do, we always do them for the sake of the Lord and for His greater glory. Let us all seek to love the Lord at all times, ever more day after day. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 12 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse from the Scriptures about the testimony of the faith and the courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, who despite the constant warning, threat and harm promised by the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, and all those who were opposed to Christ and His teachings, they continued to speak up in the Name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and would not stay silent.

They said courageously that the Lord is risen from the dead, and despite the chief priests and the elders having seemingly been successful in silencing Him by putting Him to death on the cross at the hands of the Romans, at that time many witnesses arose, saying that they saw the resurrected Christ, Who walked in their midst, ate with them and spoke to them, touching them and being with them, as signs that He was not a mere spirit or ghost, but truly Risen in Body and in the flesh.

And in St. John’s Gospel today we heard the words of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed that all that comes from God, bring forth the truth that is in them. Those who came from the Lord ultimately tells the people what they have received from God, in all the things revealed to them, the truth which they have been told by God, and which God wanted to reveal to all the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that was what St. John the Baptist and the disciples of the Lord had been saying in their testimonies of faith, before the Pharisees and all those to whom they were sent to, to the people of Israel at first, and later on, to the Gentiles and all the non-Jewish people. They spoke of the truth as revealed by God, and which sinful and proud men have refused to acknowledge or receive.

That is why they hardened their hearts and closed their ears against the Lord’s words and refused to obey their will. As a result, they sink deeper into the quagmire of their sins, and they even resorted to lies and untruths in order to prevent others from coming to believe in the truth that God brought to them. That was why the chief priests, the Pharisees, and all those who were opposed to Jesus, was also opposed to the truth about His resurrection, and tried to silence those who proclaimed it to the people.

But the disciples of the Lord were not deterred by all the threats and challenges, and they continued to speak up, because they knew that they were speaking the truth. They would not allow falsehoods and temptations to speak other than the truth to dissuade them from their mission. God was with them and guided them in their works, and the Church grew, slowly but surely, as more and more people were attracted to the truth and came to believe in God and in His teachings.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the works of the Apostles were not yet completed. As there were still many people who have not yet heard of the Lord’s truth, or in fact have abandoned that truth, all of us, who call ourselves and consider ourselves as Christians, have to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. We are called to be witnesses of the Lord and His truth, His resurrection and His Good News just as the disciples had done before.

All of us are called to live a genuine Christian life, devoting ourselves and our entire lives to the service of God, loving the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths. We are called to carry out our words and actions with God as the primary focus in mind, and we are encouraged to do whatever we can in order to inspire faith to grow among us fellow Christians, and calling many others to accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

Let us all therefore, do our very best to show true discipleship in everything we do, so that by our words, actions and deeds, we inspire one another and help each other that we may grow ever stronger in faith. Let us all seek to be more committed in our faith, and let us all seek to fulfil what we have been commanded to do, as the followers of the Lord. May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to bless us and our endeavours. Amen.