Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, on the fortieth day of Easter, we mark the occasion of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, commemorating the moment when the Risen Lord Jesus, after having appeared to His disciples, ascended in glory to Heaven, returning to His place at the side of God the Father. On this day we remember the time when the Lord, as He ascended into Heaven, sent out His disciples and followers with the final commandment, also known as the Great Commission, to go forth to the whole world and make the disciples of all the peoples of all the nations.

Today we are all reminded that while God has ascended into Heaven, it was not because He abandoned us or left us behind. Instead, as He Himself had said, that He went before all of us to prepare a place for us, and also as He has said and promised, that He will come again in the end, at His Second Coming, to gather all of His faithful ones and to win a final triumphant victory against the forces of evil, leading all of us, God’s beloved children to the true and fullness of happiness which had been intended and meant for us from the very beginning. The Lord ascended into Heaven to show us that He truly came from there, and by His love for us, He has willingly come to us in order to touch us and to show His most generous and enduring love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Solemnity of the Ascension, we are presented with the full circle of the Lord’s work in bringing His love and salvation into our midst. We have seen the Lord’s love made flesh, the Son of God made Man, Who entered into this world as the Son of Man, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, and made the love of God and His salvation tangible and approachable to us. The Lord has shown Himself to us, and as He came of age and revealed Himself through His Baptism, He began His ministry and work among us, and revealing the truth that He has brought into this world.

And today we mark that moment after He has completed all of that world He had to do in this world, in obeying the will of His heavenly Father. He completed His many works, healing the people, casting out demons and performing countless other miracles and signs, showing everyone that He is truly the One Whom the prophets and messengers of God had spoken and prophesied about. He would then face suffering for our sake, willingly and voluntarily taking up His Cross for our sake, accepting the burden of that Cross on our behalf, bearing on His shoulders the whole burden and the consequences due for our sins. By His Passion, suffering and death, He has united us to Himself and we who share in His death and then later, His Resurrection, have become sharers and partakers of this promise of eternal life.

Hence, after He has completed all of these and made a New Covenant, the new and everlasting Covenant between God and us, sealed and purchased by His own Precious Blood, which He offered for our sake, as our High Priest, on the Altar of His Cross, as mentioned in our second reading today, so that by the offering of the most worthy Precious Body and Blood of the Son of God, the Holy Paschal Lamb of God, then the atonement of our innumerable sins can be made a reality. We are truly so fortunate that we have such a loving God on our side, caring for us and protecting us, and even reaching out to us and loving us when we have often spurned His love and rejected Him and His mercy.

The Lord ascended into Heaven after He has risen from the dead, after His triumphant victory against evil and death. And as He ascended gloriously by His own power and might, it proved to all those who had witnessed Him in His Risen glory and that He did not die but had risen from the dead, that truly Jesus Christ is the Holy One Who had come down from Heaven as prophesied by the prophets and the servants of God of ages past, and the Lord has delivered unto us the unmistakeable proof of His love, by His sacrifice on the Cross. His ascension and return into Heaven then serves as the proof that whatever He had said was true, and the disciples who witnessed it, believed in Him as they had always done.

The Lord also did not leave His disciples alone, as He has promised to send them the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit would continue to guide them henceforth, to do what He commanded them all to do, the Great Commission to go forth to all the people from all the nations, proclaiming the truth of God, the Good News of His salvation and to gather them all to Himself, by baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This has been, is and will always be the primary mission of the Church, as God entrusted this very important mission to His Church, to this very day, so that many more people who had not yet known Him, may come to be saved as well.

That is why, today, as we celebrate this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, it is very important that each and every one of us realise that as parts and members of the Church, each one of us as Christians ought to take up this same mission which God has entrusted to us, to be His witnesses and to evangelise to all the people of all the nations. We are all called to share in the very same mission that God has entrusted to His Apostles, until He comes again at the end of time, at the time of His Second Coming, as shown in the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, when God will come once again to gather all of His faithful and win a final victory against evil.

Now, let us ask ourselves, brothers and sisters. Have we truly lived our lives faithfully as Christians all these while? Or have we instead been idle and ignorant of our calling and mission as Christians, or even worse still, have we instead been acting in ways that brought scandal to our faith and to the Lord, which caused others to distance themselves from the Church and from the Christian faith and truths? These are important questions that we really need to ask ourselves and to serve as good reminders even as we celebrate this Ascension of Our Lord today, so that it will not be merely just another celebration and then life goes on as usual for us, without a profound change in our life attitudes.

If we wonder whether we are worthy or capable of the calling and the mission which the Lord had entrusted to us, then we do not need to look any further from the Apostles themselves, many of whom were illiterate and came from backgrounds and origins that would have made them unlikely, even ineligible to be the followers and champions of the Lord. And yet, that was what exactly had happened, and the Lord called His disciples and followers even from among the unlikeliest of sources, because ultimately what we think as impossible, by our standards, are perfectly possible for God, because everything is possible for Him, Who knows all things and rules over all.

We do not need to do magnificent or wonderful things. Even if we can live our lives righteously, in accordance to the teachings of the Lord and the laws and rules of the Church, in even the smallest things and parts of our lives, then that will already be sufficient for us. What we need to do is to do our best even in the smallest of things, in the every words we utter, every actions and interactions we have done, and in our every works and dealings. We are all called to be good examples, role models and inspirations to one another with our every day living and in all that we say, act and do. That is the best way for us to proclaim the Lord and to evangelise, reaching out to all those who have not yet known the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive to do our best in our every day living, from now on if we have not yet done so, to be good and committed disciples of Our Lord, spreading His Good News, truth and love to all, and continuing His many good works that He has entrusted to His Church. We are all God’s people, and we should do our best to follow Him and obey His will as best as we can. We should reflect on this well as we celebrate this glorious day of the Ascension. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us all and to strengthen us just as He has guided the Apostles and disciples in doing their best for the greater glory of God.

May our Lord, Who ascended in glory and Who has shown us His everlasting love, continue to guide us and be with us, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our path so that we may always ever be ready to embark on the journey of faith and be great witnesses and missionaries of His cause, glorifying Him by our every actions and deeds in life. Amen.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 24 : 46-53

At that time, Jesus said, “So it was written : the Messiah had to suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead. Then repentance and forgiveness in His Name would be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. And that is why I will send you what My Father promised. So remain in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany; then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And as He blessed them, He withdrew, and was taken to heaven. They worshipped Him, and then returned to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple, praising God.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 9 : 24-28 and Hebrews 10 : 19-23

Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the True One, but Heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God, on our behalf. He had not to offer Himself many times, as the High Priest does : he, who, may return every year, because the blood is not his own. Otherwise, He would have suffered many times, from the creation of the world.

But no; He manifested Himself only now, at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once, and afterward are judged, in the same way, Christ sacrificed Himself, once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin, when He comes again, to save those waiting for Him.

So, my friends, we are assured of entering the Sanctuary, by the Blood of Jesus Who opened, for us, this new and living way, passing through the curtain, that is, His Body. Because we have a High Priest in charge of the House of God, let us approach, with a sincere heart, with full faith, interiorly cleansed from a bad conscience, and our bodies washed, with pure water.

Let us hold fast to our hope, without wavering, because He, Who promised, is faithful.

Alternative reading

Ephesians 1 : 17-23

May the God of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Father of Glory, reveal Himself to you and give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know Him. May He enlighten your inner vision, that you may appreciate the things we hope for, since we were called by God.

May you know how great is the inheritance, the glory, God sets apart for His saints; may you understand with what extraordinary power He acts in favour of us who believe. He revealed His Almighty power in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and had Him sit at His right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world but in the world to come as well.

Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set Him above all things, as Head of the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

God is King of all the earth; sing to Him a hymn of praise. For God now rules over the nations, God reigns from His holy throne.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 1-11

In the first part of my work, Theophilus, I wrote of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when He ascended to heaven. But first He had instructed through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles He had chosen. After His passion, He presented Himself to them, giving many signs that He was alive, over a period of forty days He appeared to them and taught them concerning the kingdom of God.

Once when He had been eating with them, He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the fulfilment of the Father’s promise about which I have spoken to you : John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit within a few days.”

When they had come together, they asked Him, “Is it now that You will restore the Kingdom of Israel?” And He answered, “It is not for you to know the time and the steps that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth.”

After Jesus said this, He was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hid Him from their sight. While they were still looking up to heaven where He went, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus Who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen Him go there.”

Wednesday, 25 May 2022 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures, we are presented with the story of how St. Paul evangelise to the pagan people of Athens, proclaiming the truth of the One and only True God to all of them, seeing how the Athenians were all worshipping the pagan gods of the Olympian pantheon, and was even worshipping an unknown God. St. Paul revealed to all of them that what they served and worshipped were merely creations of human hands and minds, and were not the true divinity, which is in fact, the Lord and Creator, Whom St. Paul introduced to them.

St. Paul spoke courageously about the Lord amidst the people of Athens who were renowned for their philosophical thoughts and ideas, and many of whom also held strong devotion to the pagan gods and idols. Hence, his introduction of the totally foreign concept of the one and only God Who created the whole world and the universe, which was very radically different from what the Athenians were used to, is something that is totally courageous and significant for St. Paul to do, and while he did end up having many of the Athenians ridiculing him and rejecting his beliefs and words, there were some among the Athenians who were intrigued by the Christian faith that St. Paul brought unto them.

That was how the seeds of the faith and the foundation of the Church was built in Athens, even in the heart of the Greek paganism and philosophical ideals, which later on would be rivals against the influences of the Christian faith and Church in the later centuries. St. Paul and his hard works and efforts helped to make the Lord known to all those people, and that was thanks to the guidance and strength that God had given to them which allowed them to carry on persevering for the sake of the Lord and His people, for their fellow brethren. Through them, the Church would very soon grow into a large organisation with strong foundations and many believers.

In our Gospel passage today, as we are now getting closer to the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, we are presented with the Lord’s promise for His disciples and followers, that while He would not be with them physically much longer, but He would always be by their side, caring for them and being with them. He would send them the Helper, the Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit, coming down from God the Father Himself, to be with us, to strengthen and encourage us, and inflame us all with hope and power. The Holy Spirit helped and encouraged St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to go forth fearlessly and proclaim the truth of God to the many people of the many nations they had ministered to.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a few saints whose life, calling and ministries can also be sources of inspiration for each one of us, to see how they had been strengthened and inspired by the Holy Spirit, in doing the will of God. St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi all had dedicated their lives in their own ways to serve the Lord and to glorify Him, and each one of us can take note of what they had done so that we may know how we can also act in our lives to glorify the Lord and to proclaim Him to all those whom we encounter in life, in each and every moments of our lives.

St. Bede the Venerable is a renowned monk and prolific writer from the Dark Age England, where he ministered to the people of God and inspired many through his writings and treatises, as he wrote extensively on many matters. St. Bede the Venerable helped to drive the foundation of Christian education in England and beyond, inspiring others to delve deeper into the wisdom of Christian teachings and truths. The Holy Spirit clearly inspired St. Bede the Venerable in his writings and works, through which he himself inspired and strengthened the faith in many of those whose lives he had touched, and all those who have read his works, all the way to our present day and time.

Meanwhile, Pope St. Gregory VII is a great reformer Pope and leader of the Church, who was remembered for his dedication and contributions in reforming the Church very vigorously, implementing many important reforms that rooted out corruptions and wickedness in the Church, driving out worldly matters and corruptions from the Church, from the monasteries and from among the clergy, many of whom had been gradually influenced by worldly practices and concerns, which slowly caused the Church to lose its focus and direction. Pope St. Gregory VII continued to work hard to champion those important reforms, even against powerful secular rulers who sought to make use of the Church and its institutions for their own benefits.

Hence, Pope St. Gregory VII was also well-known for his role in the so-called ‘Investiture Controversy’, as the secular leaders particularly that of the powerful Holy Roman Emperor defended and championed their rights to appoint and invest the bishops in their own land, and the Holy Roman Emperor being the supreme secular leader of Christendom, collided with the Pope, who contended that all spiritual matters, the appointment and ultimately the allegiance of bishops came under the full authority of the Church and the leadership of the Pope alone, and the Emperor had no right to intervene in it. The Holy Spirit strengthened and guided Pope St. Gregory VII in his zeal and dedication to reform the Church and oppose those who sought to corrupt it.

Lastly, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a Carmelite nun and a renowned Church mystic who came from one of the wealthiest noble Italian families during the late Renaissance, who from early on in her life had learnt to dedicate herself to the Lord, practicing self-mortification and meditation which later on would inspire her to join the religious life, initially against the wishes of his father, who eventually relented and allowed her to be part of the Carmelite religious order. St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi became a nun and received a series of visions and revelations through which others came to know more about Christ, an experience that must have indeed be inspired by the Lord and His wisdom, passed on through the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all these great examples of the three saints, St. Paul and many others whose lives we know and are aware of, we can see how the Holy Spirit has inspired many to do the will and work of God in our world. Can we do the same as well with our lives? Can we allow the Lord to guide us through His Holy Spirit, that His wisdom and strength may lead us to walk in this path of faith, and inspire others to come to the Lord as well. May the Lord be with us all and may His Holy Spirit inflame us with His Passion and love, at all times, that we may always glorify Him by our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come.”

“He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me. All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”

Wednesday, 25 May 2022 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 148 : 1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Alleluia! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heavenly heights. Praise Him, all His Angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Kings of the earth and nations, princes and all rulers of the world, young men and maidens, old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord. For His Name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has given His people glory; He has a praise to His faithful, to Israel, the people close to Him. Alleluia.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 17 : 15, 22 – Acts 18 : 1

Paul was taken as far as Athens by his escort, who then returned to Beroea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible. Then Paul stood up in the Areopagus hall and said, “Athenian citizens, I note that in every way you are very religious. As I walked around looking at your shrines, I even discovered an altar with this inscription : To an unknown God. Now, what you worship as unknown, I intend to make known to you.”

“God, Who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, being as He is Lord of heaven and earth. Nor does His worship depend on anything made by human hands, as if He were in need. Rather it is He Who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone.”

“From one stock He created the whole human race to live throughout all the earth, and He fixed the time and the boundaries of each nation. He wanted them to seek Him by themselves, even if it were only by groping for Him, succeed in finding Him. Yet He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said : for we too are His offspring.”

“If we are indeed God’s offspring, we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of human art and imagination. But now God prefers to overlook this time of ignorance and He calls on all people to change their ways. He has already set a day on which He will judge the world with justice through a Man He has appointed. And, so that all may believe it, He has just given a sign by raising this Man from the dead.”

When they heard Paul speak of a resurrection from death, some made fun of him, while others said, “We must hear you on this topic some other time.” At that point Paul left. But a few did join him, and believed. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, a woman named Damaris, and some others. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the sufferings of Christians that had to go through as they went on with their lives and following the path that God had set before them. The Lord will always be with His people and just as He has carried His Cross before for our sake, and called on us to carry on our own crosses in life in order to follow Him, hence, He is carrying His Cross together with us. And just as He has won the ultimate victory by His loving sacrifice on the Cross, we too shall all share in that victory and triumph in the end.

In our first reading today we heard of the story of how St. Paul and his companion, Silas were persecuted in Philippi in what is today part of Greece. They were harassed by the slave owners who were angry at both of them for spreading the Christian message of hope and equality between all men and women, as a threat to their own position as slave owners, because such a message would be a great impetus and encouragement for the slaves which were then quite common throughout the Roman Empire, to hold onto hope and even possibly rise up against their slave masters and owners. Hence, the slave owners incited the whole town and the officials against the faithful servants of God.

Those two were tortured and imprisoned, and it could have been their end, considering the way how they had made many enemies during their time there. But St. Paul and Silas had God by their side, encouraging and strengthening them, such that despite their perils and hardships, they did not give up hope and remained firm in faith. They prayed and stayed firm in faith even in prison, and that inspired many of the other prisoners, and when a great earthquake happened, a miraculous occurrence that could have only from God, freeing the prisoners including St. Paul and Silas, that showed how much God provided for them in their hour of need.

Even in that occasion, God called the jailor who was there to follow Him, as when he wanted to take his own life for that failure to keep the prisoners, St. Paul stopped him and convinced him, and not only just the jailor but his entire family too, to believe in Christ. That was how the Christian faith grew and flourished even amidst often intense persecutions and hardships. Many similar stories of persecutions and trials faced the Church and the faithful during those early days, and there were many instances of very courageous and brave actions by the saints and martyrs who endured with faith, and who inspired many more to follow in their footsteps.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself also highlighted how His disciples and followers would face persecution as well, and how He will not leave them alone even after He has gone from them, and He will send the Holy Spirit to guide them and to be with them, giving them the Wisdom and strength to carry on with their ministry and works, even in the face of much hardships and trials. The Lord gave them the guidance and the strength to carry their crosses with commitment. He promised them the Holy Spirit, Who has indeed come at Pentecost, to strengthen their hearts and minds, and to encourage them to endure the bitterness of the world.

Today, these Scripture readings are just perfect and apt for today being the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan. And today also marks the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which was instituted to get the prayers of the faithful in support of the suffering Church and the people in China, while also remembering the persecution of Christians elsewhere. The Church, especially in China has been facing a lot of systematic persecution for their faith in the Lord, and they had been placed under great pressure by the government to conform to the Communist ideologies and other tenets incompatible with our Christian faith.

This is the day when we are reminded that being Christians do not necessarily mean having an easy, good and happy life. There are many instances out there where the faithful are constantly being persecuted and encounter hardships, and cannot even openly live their lives as followers of Christ. They risk prison, suffering and even martyrdom every single days of their lives, much as how it was during the time of the early Church and the Apostles. What we have listened in our Scriptures today are not merely something that happens just in history, but is something that is real and is happening now even in our present day as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray and ask for the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and our loving Mother, the Help of all Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan, to intercede for us her children, that especially for those who are suffering for their faith in her Son, so that God will be moved to aid them and strengthen them in their time of need. Let us also do our best whenever and wherever we can, to help our suffering brethren, especially when we are able to do so. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may His Holy Spirit continue to inspire us and to give us the courage to proclaim His love and truth all the time. Amen.