Wednesday, 24 April 2019 : Wednesday within Easter Octave (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the salvation that God has given to all of us His faithful and beloved people, as we listened to the story of how God brought about His salvation among His people, healing them from their sickness and freeing them from their troubles. In the first reading today we heard of how St. Peter and St. John healed a crippled beggar, while in the Gospel we heard of the moment when the Lord appeared to two of His disciples who were on their way to Emmaus.

In both stories, God brought about a change to each of the lives of the people He encountered, and if we discern more carefully on those passages we have just heard, we will be able to see how God transformed the lives and the experiences of those whom He has blessed. In the first reading, we heard of a person who had been crippled from birth, who has always begged at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and how he sought the two Apostles, St. Peter and St. John for some money as he has always done.

However, he did not expect to receive something totally different, as instead of getting money from the pity of the passing people, instead, he received healing and complete freedom from the trouble he has suffered from the moment of his birth, by the power of the Lord Jesus, when the two Apostles proclaimed God’s power in His Name, and made him whole again. The crippled person was able to walk normally again, and we see in this case, the Lord Who healed His people from their physical and bodily problems.

But the Lord did even more than just that, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, how He appeared to the two disciples who were on their way to the town of Emmaus just outside of Jerusalem, right after the Lord has been crucified and then rose from the dead. The two of them were among those who have not yet believed in the Lord and the truth of what He had taught and proclaimed to them.

The Lord walked with them and spoke with them at length along the way, explaining the truth about Himself, as the One Whom God sent into the world and how everything had gone according to the Lord’s plans, including His own suffering and death on the cross, and later on, His glorious resurrection from the dead. And He inflamed their hearts and minds with hope and with the knowledge of the truth, before revealing Himself in their presence at the dining table as He broke the bread for them.

God so inflamed and strengthened their hearts that they gathered all the strength they had, even after a long journey from Jerusalem to the place where Jesus revealed Himself, and went back all the way to Jerusalem in joy and exultation just so that they might proclaim what they have just witnessed to the Apostles, a truly happy and joyous occasion, as what they had once thought to be lost to them and hopeless, God had turned to be a wonderful occasion.

And in that case, God healed the two disciples from the disease that has inflicted their spirits, their hearts and minds inside them. He inflamed in them a new hope and gave them a new strength, the strength to be witnesses to His own Resurrection and the truth of His salvation. And therefore, we have seen how God brought about renewal to His people, in body and spirit, making us all whole again through His own works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to live out this joy of being Christians, as all those whom God had called and gathered from all over the whole world, to follow Him and to embrace the truth which He has brought into this world. All of us are called to embrace the healing which God has presented before us, in His desire to free us from our affliction because of sin. Sin has corrupted us and made us to be broken and unworthy, and God wants to heal us from that brokenness.

Now, let us all renew our commitment to follow the Lord and to love Him from now on, with all of our strength and with all of our abilities. Let us all truly embrace the spirit and joy of Easter, in proclaiming the glory of our Risen Lord, the One through Whom all of us have been saved from death and destruction. May the Risen Lord be with us always, and may His grace, mercy and compassion be with us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 : Tuesday within Easter Octave (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding each and every one of us to believe in the Lord and to put our trust in Him, Our Risen Lord, Who has triumphed against sin and death, and Who has offered us all a new life blessed by Him, if only we would embrace Him and accept Him as Our Lord and Saviour. It is by putting our faith in Him that we will be able to go down the path towards the salvation in Him and eternal life.

As we heard in our Scripture passages today, we often despair and lose hope just because we think that God is not there for us, as shown how St. Mary Magdalene despaired and was filled with sorrow, not only because she has herself witnessed the death of the Lord on the cross, but even His Body buried in the tomb had apparently been stolen away. It is at this moment of despair and hopelessness that we are at our weakest.

The people at the time of the Apostles as shown in our first reading today also felt very despicable, remorseful and sad because of the sinful things that they have committed. This was especially because many of them were among those who have also had a part in the condemnation of the Lord Jesus, of Whom those Apostles then spoke of with courage and faith, filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

St. Peter spoke to them and reassured them, that all was not lost for them. Just because they have sinned does not mean that they had lost forever the chance to be forgiven and to be redeemed from their sins. In fact, if we remember well, the Lord Himself had forgiven His enemies, persecutors and condemners from the Cross, asking His heavenly Father not to account their sins against them all.

Therefore, in the same way, God will also extend the same mercy, compassion and love that He has willingly given us, to all of us regardless of whether we have committed small or great sin. God will not abandon us all despite of our sinfulness, as long as we still have that desire within us to embrace God’s offer of mercy and compassion. God is ever patient and ever loving, and He will not reject us when we desire to seek Him.

In fact, many among us have been condemned not because God did so, but rather, our own sins and our own stubbornness, our refusal and prideful rejection of God’s mercy, forgiveness and compassionate love has led us to be condemned by the very sins we have committed in our lives. And as long as the taint of those sins remain in us, we can have no part in God at all. If we choose this path for ourselves, then we need to remember that it is by our own choice that we shut ourselves out of God’s mercy and love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on this as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, and especially as this coming Sunday we will celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday, that we will focus our gaze and attention to the Lord, seeking Him and sincerely asking for His forgiveness and love, His mercy and redemption. And we recall the great compassion He has for every single one of us, even the most wicked and unworthy one among us.

On this day, let us all renew our commitment to live our Christian faith with devotion and with true and genuine love for God. Let us all be the bearers of the Lord’s mercy to others as well, through our own actions, which should be filled with love and with compassion. Let us all turn towards the Lord together, and bring His mercy and love to all those who need them. May the Lord, the Risen Christ, continue to be with us and to guide us through all the journey of our life. Amen.

Monday, 22 April 2019 : Monday within Easter Octave (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture as we progress through the Octave of Easter, rejoicing together in the Easter joy of Our Lord. And we are constantly being reminded that as Christians filled with the joy of Easter, we are to be role models for one another, and to be the bearers of this same joy in our evangelising mission towards all those who have yet to know of Christ and His salvation.

The Lord has truly risen from the dead, and His resurrection brought about a great new hope for all of His disciples, especially because they were filled with fear by the sudden loss of their Lord and Master in such a humiliating and terrible way. They were fearful of the repercussions from the Jewish authorities, all those who have arrested the Lord and sentenced Him to death, sending Him over to the Romans to be crucified, a punishment reserved to the worst of criminals.

As we heard in the Gospel passage today, there were many who witnessed firsthand the resurrection of the Lord, both at the tomb as we heard in today’s Gospel, as well as in the subsequent apparitions of the Risen Lord to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. Yet, the Sanhedrin or the Council of the elders of the Jewish people bribed the guards who also witnessed the resurrection of the Lord, to tell a false story that the disciples had stolen the Lord’s Body and hid Him in order to cover up the truth.

They opposed the Lord and His disciples such that they put a very harsh opposition and even oppression on all those who taught and preached in the Name of Jesus. They forbade all people from mentioning or teaching in His Name, and all these efforts to eradicate the truth of the Lord made many among the disciples to be fearful. They already fled and were scattered right at the moment when the Lord was arrested, and did not dare to stand by Him at the moments of His distress.

Yet, in the first reading today, we heard the great, courageous and wonderful testimony made by St. Peter the Apostle. This is the same St.

Peter who had denied the Lord three times at the night of His agony and suffering, despite his earlier promise that he would even die for the sake of the Lord. But as we heard, St. Peter has been totally transformed by the Holy Spirit, as he and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord received the promised Spirit of God at the Pentecost.

We saw how St. Peter spoke openly and plainly on the truth that has happened and which Christ has spoken before them all, even when the Sanhedrin, the chief priests, the Pharisees and the opponents of the Lord threatened to take severe actions against them. In various occasions throughout the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we can see how those same disciples of the Lord who had once fled in fear, had become courageous servants, who even willingly embraced martyrdom for their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, we must remind ourselves that we have to follow the examples and the courage of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. We have received the same Holy Spirit as they have received, at the time of our Baptism, and for those among us, who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us have been affirmed and strengthened.

And we have been called to continue the same mission which the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord have received, and that is to bring forth the truth of God and to bear witness to Him, Our Risen Lord and Saviour, before the people of various nations and origins, that we may truly show, not only by words, but even more importantly, through our every actions and by the sincerity of our attitudes in life, that each and every one of us may inspire many others to also follow us in our journey towards God.

May the Risen Lord Jesus, Our Saviour be with us always, and may He strengthen in us our faith and dedication to Him, that we may endure more patiently the challenges in our lives and that we may do our very best to live our lives in the most Christian way, so that more may come to believe in God, Our Risen Saviour, through us and our exemplary lives. May God bless us always. Amen.

Sunday, 21 April 2019 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord Jesus has risen in glory! As the time of Easter finally comes, we celebrate after the long wait and expectation during the season of Lent, because we have had true joy in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour by all that He has done for us. He has released us from the tyranny of sin and the bondage of death, and showed us all the path to eternal life.

On this day Christ showed His power and might, revealing His victory over even sin and death, two things that have kept us under their dominion all these while. He has fulfilled completely all that the Lord has promised His people from the beginning of time, their liberation and reconciliation, which He has done by His loving sacrifice on the cross, and bringing the souls of the faithful to God, their loving Father and Creator.

On this day, the despair of man gives way to hope, as the veil of darkness that have blinded and surrounded us all these while has been pierced by the Light that Christ has brought into our midst. He renewed us and made our existence meaningful again by His Passion, His suffering, death on the cross and ultimately, His resurrection from the dead. He is in fact showing all of us the glory that is to come, if we remain steadfast in our faith and love for Him.

As we enter into this holy and blessed season of Easter, it is therefore important that we understand its significance and also what is expected of us all as Christians, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. We must remember that the celebration of Easter does not last just for this day only, as the liturgical celebration of the Easter season lasts for a total of fifty days until the Solemnity of the Pentecost.

But even more importantly, we must also realise that the celebration of Easter does not also last just until Pentecost Sunday, but also through the rest of the days of our life. It means that the spirit and celebration of Easter must extend so completely and pervades so well into our lives that we exhibit that spirit of Easter, that joy and passion to live out our calling as Christians at every moments of our respective lives.

The most important aspect of Easter that we must realise is one of transformation of our lives. Through Easter, by Our Lord’s resurrection, and earlier on through His suffering and death, God has united us all to Himself, and we have been called to share in His suffering and death, to endure the pain and suffering, the challenges and difficulties of denying our own selves, our prideful, our egoistic, our greedy, our lustful and our sinful selves, and embrace the new existence in Christ.

It is not easy to change ourselves, and to resist the many temptations of this world that are ever present and ever pervasive around us. And we will indeed face many opposition, hurdles and obstacles, rejection and refusal even from those whom we deem to be close to us and dear to us. And it will be difficult and challenging for us to endure the physical, mental and even spiritual sufferings of committing ourselves to the way of the Lord.

It is because Satan, that is the devil and all of his allies, the forces of darkness, are unwilling to let us go away into our freedom. They will do whatever is within their power, in order to tempt us, to persuade us, and even to force and pressure us into bowing once again to sin. They were once our slavemasters, as they enslaved us through sin, and they wanted nothing less than our own ruin and downfall.

But the Lord is always with us, even when we do not realise it. Even in the moments of our greatest sufferings and pain, we must remember that Christ, Who Himself has endured suffering and pain far greater than any one of us have ever suffered, as He bore down the enormous weight of the cross of our sins, is by our side and He will not abandon us to those who seek our destruction and annihilation.

In the Gospel passage often used for the Evening Mass of Easter Sunday today, we heard the famous story of the encounter between the Lord and the two disciples who were on their way to the neighbouring town of Emmaus showed us, that the Lord is always there to encourage us and to give us strength, and a lot of times we did not even know that He was there, just as the two disciples did not recognise Jesus even as He was walking with them. They only recognised Him when He broke the bread before them and their eyes and minds were opened.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these and having spent some time discussing about what Easter truly means and how it is filled with joy that each and every one of us must carry on in our own lives, now we should reflect on how we can follow the examples of the Apostles and the followers of the Lord, who carried with them the knowledge and witness of the Lord’s truth, His Passion, death and resurrection.

We heard how in our first reading today, St. Peter the Apostle was very passionate and spirited in his testimony of faith before the people, and this was made when he went to the house of Cornelius, a Roman who became a believer of Jesus and His truth, and by the testimony of faith which St. Peter spoke before him and his family, they all became firmer in their conviction of faith, and the Holy Spirit Himself came down upon all of them, encouraging them and strengthening them in their commitment and faith.

And this represents what we all need to do as Christians, in how we live out our lives with faith, in how we dedicate ourselves as the witnesses and as the bearers of God’s truth as presented in the wholeness of our Christian faith and teachings. Each and every one of us must be bearers of God’s truth and dedicate ourselves to live up to our faith in our daily living, so that all of those who see us and all that we do, will recognise the presence of God in our midst, for through our actions, filled with faith and love for God, God Himself will be present in our midst through them.

What does that mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? And how do we then carry on with our lives from now on as Christians? It means that first of all, we must have the resolve to live our lives with righteousness and dedication to God, we must keep away from ourselves all actions and thoughts, all things that lead us to sin and disobedience against God. We must be role models of faith for our fellow brethren, and show in us, the Light of God as He has revealed to us this Easter.

And then, we should also have that firm hope in the Lord and strong trust in Him, knowing that He is always there with us, even when at times it may be difficult for us to feel and to know of His presence. That is why we often need to spend more time with God, as many of us are frequently distracted by numerous worldly temptations and pressures, that prevented us from truly being able to know God’s presence in our midst.

We need to deepen our relationship with God, by spending more time with God in prayer. And when we pray, we are actually opening up our minds, hearts and senses to be more attuned with God, and that is when, we will be better able to sense God’s presence in our midst, and thus, we will remain close to Him no matter whatever troubles and challenges we may face in life. And by our faith, many more will come to believe in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this joyous and blessed season of Easter, let us all no longer despair or be doubtful, for God Himself has shown His faithfulness through the cross, and by His resurrection He has shown us the path forward towards eternal life. Let us all be ever closer to God and realise that He is always with us, guiding us along the journey of our lives.

Let us all turn wholeheartedly towards Him from now on, and be truly filled with the spirit of Easter joy, that we may be committed to share this joy with one another, especially with those who are doubting, those who are unsure about their faith, and those who are faltering in their dedication to God. And let us also bring the light of Christ to more people, to all those who are still enslaved by sin and by the darkness of this world. May the Risen Lord bless us and all of our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 20 April 2019 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! On this most blessed night, the greatest of all nights and the greatest of all days in the entire liturgical year, we celebrate the long awaited moment of when the Lord Jesus Christ has been risen from the dead, the coming of Easter after the long wait during our Lenten observance for more than forty days including the sacred Holy Week observances. On this day we mark the great culmination of the work of the Lord’s salvation, the triumph of the Cross and the Resurrection of Our Lord in glory.

The Resurrection completed the Passion of Our Lord, the suffering, pain and trials He had suffered as He endured the pain of the Cross, which would have all been meaningless and fruitless had He not risen from the dead, and therefore remained dead as all other men were. He rose from the dead by His own glorious might and power, to show that not even death had the power and dominion over Him, as He is truly the Master over life and death.

On this night, we celebrate that very moment when Christ overcome the tyranny of death, which is caused by sin. Death is the sting of sin, and all of us have been freed from its power by the Lord’s own action, His selfless offering on the Cross, by which He united us all to His death, in dying to our own sinful selves, and through which He then united us all to His resurrection, as we enter into the new life blessed and filled with God’s grace.

In the many Scripture passages and readings we heard on this blessed Easter Vigil, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament, we are constantly reminded of the Lord’s many good works, providence and love for each and every one of us mankind, throughout the history of our world, from the beginning of time and creation, and leading through the ages to the culmination of God’s saving works in the glorious resurrection.

We are reminded first of all, of the creation of the world, when God imposed order on chaos that existed before then, and the first thing that God did, was to bring forth Light into the world, into a world that was once filled with darkness. And then, He created all things, all creatures that were all made good and perfect, just as their Creator Himself is all good and perfect. And in the same manner, all of us mankind, were made as the culmination of God’s work of creation, created in His own image and likeness.

Thus, that was how God created the whole world, and all of us mankind, created good and perfect in all that God had intended. But unfortunately, through our disobedience and by our refusal to obey the Lord’s commands, and by our choice to side with the devil and follow his tempting words, we have been made unclean and unworthy, sundered from God’s grace and separated from His love. That was how we have fallen into sin and into our unfortunate state.

Yet, the Lord continued to love each and every one of us regardless of the sins we have committed. Indeed He despised all of the sins we have committed in life, but He did not despise us all, those whom He Himself had created with His hands, made out of His love for each and every one of us. If God has not loved us so dearly, He would have destroyed us outright the very moment we chose to abandon Him and to commit abominable sins in our lives, and cast us immediately into hell.

It was God’s enduring love for all of us that we have come to celebrate throughout the entirety of this Holy Week and Paschal Triduum, as we recall the love that He has for every one of us, so great that He willingly emptied Himself of all glory and honour, and humbled Himself to bring about the salvation of all the world, of all mankind. And He did all these by assuming the flesh of Man, that He might share with us our humanity, and therefore, uniting ourselves to His suffering and death, He might bring us through the journey to embrace the fullness of His redemption and mercy, and receive from Him, the fullness of grace and eternal life.

And through the mysteries celebrated this Holy Week and Paschal Triduum, we saw how God restored to us all, the graces He has intended for us all mankind since the beginning of time. We may have been deterred temporarily through sin, and we probably had faced this obstacle in our journey due to the many temptations present in our respective lives, but God is calling on us to embrace the new life that He is now calling us into, a new life and existence in Him.

We heard from the second reading today, how God established His Covenant with Abraham, promising him that his descendants would be numerous and would form many nations, and Abraham promised to be faithful to God and to His Covenant, and that his descendants would do so as well. This is the Covenant that the people of Israel upheld, and which they carried with them as they went through what we heard in our third reading passage today, of the time of the salvation of Israel from the hands of their oppressors.

And on this day, on the occasion of the Easter Vigil, the third reading from the Book of Exodus invites us to reflect on the moment of our own baptism, and on those who are going to be baptised in the Rite of the Christian Initiation later on in today’s liturgy. We heard how the Israelites were fleeing from their former masters and oppressors, the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, who hardened their hearts and changed their minds about letting the Israelites to go free to the land promised to them by God.

The Egyptians chased them to the edge of the Red Sea, when the Israelites despaired having seen themselves pressed between the sea and their enemies. But God reassured them and stood between them and death, and through Moses, opened the sea itself before their eyes. They walked through the dry seabed, and crossed to the other side safely, while their oppressors were destroyed by the same waters, when the Lord crushed them all with the rushing waves as they tried to pursue God’s people.

And this is a reminder to each and every one of us, how God has brought us through the water of baptism, as we have all been sealed by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, in the Name of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and for those who are about to be baptised tonight, this moment was just about to come, like the Israelites who were once frightened and fearful for their lives at the edge of the Red Sea, and yet, God made them to walk safely through the water.

Water is capable of both destruction and of nurturing lives. Water in its destructiveness can cause such harm that led to the loss of much property and human lives, and how it destroyed the armies and chariots of Pharaoh was ample proof of how water was capable of destruction. Yet, water is also capable of bringing life to us, for without water, nothing can live and survive, and water nourishes and nurtures life.

Therefore, by reflecting on the salvation of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea, we recall our own baptism, and prepare ourselves to witness our brethren who are going to have theirs this very night. Through baptism, we have been united to the Lord’s own Passion, suffering, death and most important of all, His glorious resurrection. By the water of baptism, we have entered into death, just as Christ truly died on the cross, and we die to our past, sinful and unworthy lives.

But we did not remain in death, just as the Lord did not remain in death, but rose in glory, the glory of His Easter Resurrection. And thus, just as the Israelites emerged from the Red Sea unharmed, into a new life of freedom from slavery, we too have left behind our old slavery to sin, and enter into a new life, resurrected from our sinful selves, and become sharers in the new Covenant that the Lord Himself had made with each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as mentioned in the beginning of this homily, the occasion of Easter Vigil celebrates the culmination of our Lord’s Passion and work of salvation, completing perfectly what He had begun, by the offering of His own Body and Blood, which He shared with His disciples on the Last Supper, as we share in His own Real Presence in us. Through our sharing of His Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we enter into the New, True and Everlasting Covenant that He Himself established with us, the children of Abraham, our father in faith.

And this Covenant is the restoration of the grace and the goodness that are ours at the beginning of time, as God Himself has become the bridge by which all of us pass through safely through the danger of death. Between us and God, there had been a chasm that separated us all because of our sins, but Jesus Christ, Our Lord, through His sacrifice on the Cross, has offered His own Precious Body and Blood, to be the atonement for our sins, and by that sacrifice, restored to us the grace that we have lost through sin.

On this day, the day of most wonderful Easter joy, we rejoice because we have been freed from sin, and through the water of baptism, either as the newly baptised or as those who have been baptised earlier on, we have received the promise of eternal life and glory from God. And we have also received the wonderful Light of Christ, reminding us of the moment of Creation, when God brought order to all chaos and created everything good and perfect. The Light of Christ has penetrated through the darkness that surrounded us, casting out from us the sins and all things that have kept us enslaved, that is our sins and wickedness.

On this day, we recall the promises which we made at baptism, when we resoundingly and resolutely reject Satan’s false promises and shows, all of his temptations, and abandon all the darkness of this world, and instead, embrace wholeheartedly the Light of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. On this day, Light has triumphed over darkness, Christ has triumphed over sin and death, our enemies and all those who sought our downfall and destruction.

On this day, we rejoice together as the whole entire Universal Church, as God has renewed in us again and again, the hope of His salvation, reminding us of the love which He has given us through the Passion of His own Beloved Son, Who suffered so grievously all of the persecutions and pains He had received, but which He endured willingly, out of His love for us. It was this enduring love and His liberation of each and every one of us from our sins that we rejoice for today.

Let us all now carry on this Easter joy in our own respective lives, and have that courage and faith in us, to bring forth the Light of Christ to the whole world. And this is our calling and responsibility as baptised Christians, to be the witnesses for the Lord, and proclaim His Risen glory to all, through our own lives, by living the message of the Good News of the Lord, by practicing in our own lives, fundamentally the love for God and the love for our fellow men.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, that all of us will grow ever closer to God and be more attuned to His ways and be more obedient to His commandments and laws. Let us all bear the joy of Easter to all of our brethren, especially all those who are probably unable to rejoice in the same way as we do because of various reasons, either because of persecutions or because of the many distractions of the world. And let us also bear this joy of Easter to encourage all those who have not yet received or seen the light of Christ, by showing that Light in our own lives and actions.

Let us all be joyful bearers of Christ’s truth, and let us all share this Easter joy, living fully our lives with faith from now on, being role models to one another, inspiring each other to be closer to God and to be more faithful to Him. May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Risen Lord and Saviour be with us always. Amen.

Sunday, 20 May 2018 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great occasion we celebrate together as one united and one Universal Church, the Solemnity of the Pentecost, marking the moment when the Church was born and began to make its mark in this world, through the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and the Apostles of the Lord. The Holy Spirit was promised by the Lord Jesus, as the Advocate and Guide, that would be with His disciples, and would empower them for the missions they had been entrusted with.

The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed all the disciples who received this great gift from God, for they were initially afraid and in fact, paranoid over the threats from the Pharisees and the chief priests who sternly warned all those who believe and preach in the Lord’s Name. They locked themselves up in the room, just as we heard from the accounts of the Lord’s appearances to them after His resurrection. They were plagued with fear and lack of faith.

But God reassured them that He would not leave them or abandon them. Not only that He would always with be them, at their side, all the time, but He would also send the Holy Spirit Who would reveal to them the entirety of the truth which He had taught and delivered unto this world. And indeed, that was what happened. The tongues of flame that descended upon the disciples gave them the truth, as well as the courage needed to speak up that truth and deliver the truth to others around them.

That was how they went out to speak courageously among the people who were gathered in Jerusalem for the festival, each hearing the disciples spoke in his or her own language. This is truly significant in symbolism, as the first reading from the Vigil Mass spoke about the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis. The Tower of Babel represented mankind’s failed attempt to claim greatness and glory, as they attempted to surpass God by building up a tower reaching up to the heavens itself.

God scattered them all by confusing their languages, and no one could understand what the others were talking about. As such, the division prevented the great Tower of Babel from being completed. Then, in the end, God countered this, by sending His Holy Spirit, that granted those who believe in Him, the spirit of true comprehension and understanding of the truth, and the gift of tongues, of speaking in various languages, the exact opposite of what had happened at the Tower of Babel.

Mankind have detached themselves from God, by their disobedience that led to sin. Sin, just as the wickedness shown by the people who were building the Tower of Babel showed that by doing what is haughty, arrogant and unbecoming of God’s people, we have deserved the consequence of division and separation, and as a result, that is why there are still so many souls out there, because God’s light and truth have not materialised in these people, and many of them have not yet received or accepted that truth.

This means that the Holy Spirit is not just the bearer of truth, but also unity. For it was through the Holy Spirit that the fullness of truth had been revealed to us, and those who put their faith and commit themselves to this fullness of truth, belong to the one and only Church of God, that is, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one and united Body of Christ, under the leadership of Christ’s Vicar, the Pope, successor of St. Peter the Apostle.

And today, as I mentioned at the very start of today’s discourse, we celebrate the anniversary of the birthday of the Church, for the Church which Christ established on this world, became tangible and real at the Pentecost, as the disciples went forth from their hiding place, and courageously spoke in front of the multitudes of people, and converted not less than three thousand among them, and those together with the disciples and the Apostles, formed the first foundation and beginning of the Church.

It was this event, which highlighted to us the most important and fundamental mission of the Church, that is the missionary and evangelistic calling to all Christians, as members of God’s Church, to proclaim the truth we have received and kept, to all the peoples, of all the nations, just as He commanded the disciples at the moment just before He ascended to heaven, the Great Commission that He gave to all of us, and which He entrusted all of us to do.

Unfortunately, many of us have not realised this fact, and this obligation which we have as Christians. Instead, the sad reality is that, many of us are still lukewarm about our faith, and we do not truly understand what our faith is about. And that is how many of us ended up falling back into our old ways, into wickedness and sin, and we end up like the people building the Tower of Babel once again, sundered and separated, this time from the unity with God in His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am speaking to you about the real crisis facing many of us Christians living in today’s world. There are many among us, who leave the Church and become Christians on paper and in formality only, after we completed our faith formation and catechism, the turning point often quoted being the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is at the reception of this holy Sacrament of Confirmation that we are confirmed in our faith by the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many of us considered that, both the confirmands and the family members, as a mere rite of passage, that is once done, is done and nothing else need to be done. That is simply not true, brothers and sisters in Christ. The Holy Spirit that God has given us, has given us the principal gifts of love, hope and faith, as well as the well-known seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, that is Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

But all these will remain dormant and will be meaningless unless we truly practice our faith and live our lives in accordance with our faith. And this is where I want to remind us all about a parable that Christ had shared with His disciples, that is the parable of the sower. In that parable, which I am sure many of us are quite familiar with, the Lord Jesus shared with us about the seeds that the sower planted, which fell on different types of soil, and how only in the rich and fertile soil, that the seeds grew into crop-bearing plants with much produce.

In that parable, we heard how the Lord spoke of those whose seeds fell into barren soil, or place where brambles and thorns grew, or on the roadside and picked up by birds, which all spoke of the obstacles and challenges, and all the temptations and hurdles awaiting all of us as Christians in our attempt and journey to live a faithful life accentuated by living and genuine Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us spend some time to reflect on our own individual lives, and in how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we have interacted with one another, as well as in our relationship with God. How many times has it been that we are jealous at one another, or become angry at one another, just because we refuse to back down from our pride and ego?

And how many of us truly reflect a genuine and authentic Christian faith in our respective lives? How many of us have instead been so preoccupied with our busy schedules and worldly pursuits, of power, of wealth, of fame and affluence, of pleasures of the body and the flesh, and many other tempting things, that we forgot to act as good and committed Christians? I am sure that many of us have fallen into these traps of the devil before.

Therefore, now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek a thorough and complete transformation of ourselves, in our whole being, that while once we were separated from God and living in ignorance and darkness, now through the Holy Spirit, we have received the fullness of truth and faith, and we ought to make use of those wonderful gifts God had given us, or else, our faith is shallow, dead and empty.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our respective lives, and let us pray to God, that through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we may be transformed completely, and changed profoundly, to be true disciples and beloved children of God, who are worthy partakers of God’s everlasting Covenant. May the Lord be with us always, and may the Holy Spirit guide our path always. Come, Holy Spirit and fill our hearts with God truth and love. Amen.

Saturday, 19 May 2018 : 7th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we enter into the conclusion of the Season of Easter, we also end the readings and discourses from the Acts of the Apostles. We have heard of the many works of the Apostles in ministering to the people of God and in testifying for their faith, saving many souls through their actions and dedication.

In today’s first reading, we heard about the story of St. Paul in Rome, at the last legs of his earthly ministry. St. Paul continued to work and dedicate himself to the faithful in the city of Rome, and spoke to the Jewish community living there. He has done many good works for the Lord’s sake, and even at that time, he still performed one last great work for God, in helping to establish the foundation of the Church at the heart of the Empire in Rome.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard the Lord’s words to His Apostles, at the time after He had risen from the dead. What we have heard was basically normal human emotions and reaction, for the Apostles themselves were still humans as well. It was the jealousy and rivalry that still existed in their hearts at that time, stemming from the fact that St. John, the youngest one among the Twelve, was the Lord’s favourite.

In fact, St. John, together with St. James, his brother and St. Peter himself, was counted among the three of the closest confidants of the Lord, whom He always brought with Him to the important events of His life, such as the Transfiguration and the moment just before His Passion at the night after the Last Supper. But sometimes, as humans, we may be tempted by power, and by the seduction of glory and praise.

St. John and St. James had their mother to come to the Lord together, asking Him whether they could be granted special position among the Apostles, by conferring on them positions on His left and right when He entered into His kingdom. But the Lord chastised and rebuked them, saying to them, that true discipleship is not about worldly glory and prestige, and not about honour and position, but rather, about dedication and even sacrifice.

Later on, the Apostles themselves would realise this truth, and they no longer sought for worldly glory and honour as they had before. In truth, just as St. Paul had shown us, they were willing to give it all for their service to God. It is what they had to endure for their faith in the Lord Jesus, and they persevered through all those challenges and difficulties with commitment, zeal and love for God and for their fellow men alike.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, all of us are called to follow the examples of these holy Apostles and servants of the Lord. We are called to be faithful and to be devoted to Him, in all of our ways and actions. However, as what we may have realised and seen, many of us Christians are not doing what we should have done as expected of us as disciples and followers of the Lord.

Instead, we often bicker among ourselves and are bitterly divided and we are jealous of each other’s achievements and possessions. Why is this so? This is because we are unable to resist the temptation of worldly pleasures, glory, honour, wealth and all sorts of things that Satan and his allies are using in order to distract us and to pull us away from God’s path, and into our downfall.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us resist the temptation for all these transient and impermanent glories, for all those pleasures that do not last forever. Let us all instead seek the true joy and happiness, the satisfaction and eternal glory that we can gain in God alone. And as Christians, we do not need to worry about all of them, as God Who is always with us, will reward us for our faith and commitment to Him.

Let us all therefore, as we come to celebrate the Solemnity of the Pentecost tomorrow, remember that each and every one of us have received the Holy Spirit and His many gifts. Let us remember that all of us ought to make use of these gifts for the greater glory of God, and for the good of our fellow men. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our path. May God bless us all. Amen.