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.

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.

Monday, 23 May 2022 : 6th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the hope that God has given to His disciples, that He will always be by our side, and He will not abandon us in our time of need. He will give us the necessary guidance and strength to face the many challenges present in our world. As Christians we are all called to go forth and to do whatever we can to spread the words of the truth of God, to proclaim His love and works to all the people of God, to the best of our abilities. Each one of us should commit ourselves to bring forth the Lord to many more people whom we encounter throughout life.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the mission of St. Paul the Apostle as he preached the Good News of the Gospels to the people of God, the works that this Apostle had done in proclaiming the Lord’s truth to the people, both to the Jews and the Gentiles alike, all across the Mediterranean region. He went from place to place, sometimes by himself and sometimes with another or two companions, sometimes being rejected while other times being welcomed and accepted by the people. But St. Paul ways encountered help along the way, as what we have heard in our first reading today, where a faithful woman helped him and welcomed him to her place.

This happened throughout his other ministries as well, and there were quite a few disciples and believers who assisted the Apostles with their works, that they truly did not have to worry as the Lord was indeed with them, guiding them and encouraging them along the way. The Apostles entrusted themselves to God and allowed Him to guide them wherever they were told to go to. They knew that they did not have to fear anything as God is always by their side and He will always provide for them, so that in whatever they do, they shall always be fruitful and will be blessed in all things.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord reminded His disciples that He will not abandon them and will send the Helper, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to their midst. Through the Holy Spirit they shall be guided and helped in their path, and as long as they remain true and faithful to Christ and His truth, Him as the True Vine and the Source of all truth, then they would not fall astray from the path that God has shown them. The Lord wants all of them to realise that everything is made possible through Him, and all of us as God’s disciples and workers must always draw our inspiration and strength from Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to reflect on what each and every one of us can and should do as Christians in following the Apostles and walking in their footsteps, in obeying the Law and precepts of the Lord, and in doing God’s will. There are many things that God has entrusted to us through His Church, the mission to reach out to all the people of all the nations, to proclaim the words of His salvation, the Good News that He has delivered to us, and now passed on to us to be proclaimed to all those who have not heard it yet.

The works of the Church, the works of evangelisation and all have not yet been completed. There are still many parts and areas in this world that had not been touched by the light and truth of God, and many people are still unaware of His truth, and are having misunderstandings or misconceptions about Who He really is. And it is up to us to take up our crosses and serve the Lord, to be His witnesses and disciples in our world today, continuing the works that the Apostles and the many other saints, holy men and women of God had initiated and building upon what they had founded.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us have to be more active in living our lives with faith, and we have to commit ourselves ever more to the evangelisation efforts in whatever way we can. The Lord has given us many unique talents, abilities and various opportunities, for us to reach out to those whom we may encounter in life, and who may best come to know the Lord through us and our actions. And we must also remember that just as we can inspire others by our exemplary living as Christians, we can also deter others from coming to the Lord through our wickedness, hypocrisy and other acts that may bring scandal to the Lord, the Church and our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray for the guidance and strength from the Lord, so that through His Holy Spirit, Whom God has bestowed upon us, God may help us to be ever more faithful and committed disciples, ever better role models and inspirations for one another in how we live our faith from now on. Hopefully through our dedication and life, we may inspire more and more people to follow the Lord and to believe in Him, much as how St. Paul, the other Apostles, the saints and martyrs had inspired us by their examples and lives. May God bless us always, in all things, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is already the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and this means that we are approaching the end of the joyous season of Easter soon, and it is a good time for us to take stock on what we have gone through so far in the season of Easter. This season of Easter is a time for us to focus our attention on the Risen Lord and the hope that He has brought upon us all Christians, the hope of everlasting life and true happiness with God. It is a time for us to rediscover our faith in Him and for us to return to our roots in the teachings of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, as we listened to the words of the Acts of the Apostles, we are presented with the controversy and divisions that existed within the Church in its early days when there were disagreements between those who sought to impose the very strict and harsh version of the Jewish laws and customs, as proposed by those converts to the Christian faith from among the Pharisees, and those who wanted to make it easier for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people to follow the Lord, by not requiring any Christian faithful from obeying the full laws and customs of the Jewish people. Both of them represented the different opinions and factions then present within the early Church, showing some of the challenges faced by the Church and its leaders in its earliest days.

It would be difficult for the non-Jewish people like the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Arameans and many others who were touched and called by the truth of God to follow the Lord should they be required to obey the fullness of the Jewish laws and customs. That is because some of the Jewish traditions and requirements such as circumcision and the dietary prohibitions would have caused great difficulties for them to live their lives as Christians as those were seen as strange or even barbaric practices by those Gentiles. It would have made living as Christians doubly difficult for the converts from among the Gentiles.

As such, the Apostles and the whole Church discussed and prayed over the matter, and they considered how they could make it better especially for the Gentiles to follow the Lord. They decided that it was unnecessary for the faithful, be it Jews or Gentiles to follow the fullness of the very restrictive and strict Jewish laws and customs. Those laws had dated from the time of Moses, when the Lord Himself gave those commandments, laws and precepts to His people through Moses. However, many of those were meant to help the people to redirect their attention and way of life to focus on the Lord instead of their many worldly preoccupations and distractions.

Instead, as time went by, there were more and more laws and ordinances, harsher and stricter interpretations due to the desire of the people to purify their way of life after enduring the difficulties and the humiliations caused by the years of the destruction of the old kingdom of Israel, the destruction of their homeland and exile in Babylon, Assyria and elsewhere. Then, later on, much more recent by the time of Jesus, the actions of the Greeks in trying to destroy the Jewish culture and customs, as highlighted in the Book of the Maccabees in the Old Testament, would lead to a bitter war of independence led by the Maccabees which eventually led to the freedom for the Jewish people. This happened just about over a hundred and fifty years before the time of Jesus’ ministry.

However, that noble intention was overshadowed by the overzealous attempts of those who sought to keep the laws pure and sacred, by increasingly emphasising on the intricate details of the rituals and practices of the laws, adding more detailed explanations and parts that ended up overriding the original intention of the Law, and making it difficult and cumbersome for the people to follow it faithfully and wholeheartedly. In fact, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who enforced those laws themselves did not truly and could not fulfil the entire commandments and parts of the Law that they themselves enforced.

Hence, what we have heard in our first reading is a reminder for all of us that, just as the Apostles had done in pointing out to the Church and the faithful that what is important in being Christians is not about the Law itself or how one is to follow the Law in a particular way, for ultimately, the Law is a means through which the faithful could be better able to follow the Lord, and it is meant to bring the people closer to God, to discover His truth and love, and to know how they can live their lives so that they may be better attuned to Him, and eventually be able to find their way to Him through His saving grace.

That was why, the Apostles and the elders of the Church decided that it did not make any sense for the faithful to be subjected to the whole breadth and depth of the Jewish laws and practices as enforced and kept by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, when the Lord Himself frequently, as highlighted throughout the Gospels, criticised the way that those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had carried out and followed the Law. When the Law became the focus of the attention and when everyone ended up becoming self-centred and self-righteous, comparing oneself and thinking of oneself as being better and superior than others just because they obeyed the Law better, that is when the Church as a community of the faithful break down and fail to work.

Instead, the Church of God must remain open and welcoming, filled with the genuine love of God and His truth. The Church of God has to be the beacon of light showing the light of God, His love and truth to all the nations. The message that we heard in our second reading today from the Book of Revelations of St. John showed us the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Heaven and the new Earth that will come in the end, and into which all the people are called to come, regardless of their race and background, and regardless of their affiliations and status. What matters is their faith and genuine love for God.

The Lord welcomes us all, every single sons and daughters of man to follow Him, to be His disciples and followers. He calls us all to walk in His path, and He has taught us how to do so, through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today. In His own words, He said that we ought to keep His words and teachings, and accept His truth wholeheartedly. That is what He expected us to do with our lives, as Christians, as His disciples and followers, and as His beloved people. All of us have to remain firm in following His path and not be easily distracted by the many temptations and pressures of the world, and keep our focus on Him and not on other things.

As what we have heard and discussed regarding the attitudes of those who followed the strict version of the Jewish customs and laws, and attempted to impose them on the whole Church. The Lord wants us, His faithful ones to live according to the Law and not for the Law. The Law of God is the law of love, what God has revealed to us more completely through His Son and the Holy Spirit, a call for us to love God with all of our hearts and might, and to show that same love to all of our fellow brethren, our fellow mankind. That is what Christian love is and all of us are challenged and called to fulfil that, as the cornerstone of our lives and as our focus and attention.

Each and every one of us have to remind ourselves that we are all called to share the love of God with one another, and to inspire others to love Him more and more. And the best way for us to do that is by showing that love in our own way of life. Instead of loving ourselves and acting with pride and arrogance as what many among the Pharisees had done, who looked down on those whom they condemned as sinners and unworthy, we ought to remind ourselves that we are all sinners in God’s eyes, sinners who are in need of God’s love and mercy. We are all equal before God and we should not think that we are better than others, or wanting to impose our way of thinking on others, as highlighted, when those are not in accordance with God’s truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all as we continue with our journey of faith in life, commit ourselves to follow the Lord and to do the best with our lives, with whatever gifts and talents that God has given us. Let us all be exemplary in our lives and actions so that by our lives we may inspire many others to follow our examples, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to us. Let us not worry about how much we do and whether what we had done is enough. Instead, let us encourage ourselves by realising that whatever we have done, even in the smallest things, can impact others in ways beyond what we ever imagined.

Let us do our best to inspire others to follow the Lord and to believe in Him, instead of pushing them away from Him by our arrogance, pride or self-righteousness. Instead, let us show the path to the Lord by sharing His love and compassion, His mercy and grace by our actions, at all times. May God bless us all and our every actions, for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the responsibility and mission that each one of us as Christians had been entrusted with, and how as the followers and disciples of Christ, it is bound that we will encounter challenges and trials in our journey and path, as we continue to proceed down this way, in obeying the Lord and His commandments. Sometimes we may even have to make a stand and choose between remaining faithful to the Lord or to conform to the ways and norms of the world at the cost of abandoning our faith and Christian identity.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke plainly before all of His disciples that they were bound to be hated by the world, as the world itself had hated the Lord and tried to suppress Him and His truth. Just as the Lord had encountered a lot of opposition from the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests throughout His mission in this world, and had His path littered with plenty of disapproval, persecution and ridicule from those who hardened their hearts and refused to believe in His truth, hence, the same things would likely happen to those who walk in the same path that Christ had walked as well.

That was what the disciples would encounter as they went on their mission and works, having been sent by the Lord with the mission to evangelise to the whole entire world. He called on all of them and gave them the mission to go forth to all the nations, and make disciples of all mankind, to baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the many other missionaries and servants of God all laboured throughout the history of the Church, proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth, and both enjoying great successes as well as enduring the persecution that came in quite a few of their missions.

As we heard in our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul continued with his missionary journey, bringing St. Timothy, one of his protege with him, who would become one of the first bishops and successors of the Apostles. It was mentioned and indirectly implied how the Apostles were encountering challenges in their journey, and how the Christian missionaries encountered opposition from both the Jewish diaspora and from others who were not receptive of the truth they were bringing to them. If we read on more from the Acts of the Apostles beyond our reading passage today, then we will realise just how much hardships they had to endure.

Thus, as I mentioned earlier, the Apostles both encountered hardships, trials, prison and even death in martyrdom, as well as great successes in gaining many more people who became believers in the Lord. They established firm foundation for the Church, and many people flocked to seek the truth of God. The Church as we know it today would not have existed if not for all the hard work and efforts showed by the Apostles and all the followers of the Lord. This is why it is very important for us to appreciate and realise the importance of our commitment to the work of evangelisation, as without those who commit themselves to the work of the Gospels, the Church would not have grown.

Today, we remember the great examples set by the faithful servants of God, St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions in faith and martyrdom, as they dedicated themselves to the works of the Lord and in defending their faith against those who sought to force them to abandon and betray their Lord and Master. St. Christopher Magallanes was a priest who ministered to the people of God and carried on his works in Mexico during the time of great persecution against the Christian faith, the Church, and especially against the clergy, priests and religious at a time of great suffering and sorrow for the Church.

At that time, the Mexican government was very hostile against the Church and its clergy, as well as to any expression of Christian faith and the faithful. Many of the clergy and the laity had to suffer a lot of persecution, being arrested and tortured, because of the government’s opposition against the Church, and the antipathy and disagreements they held over the missionaries and servants of God like St. Christopher Magallanes and many others, both the clergy and laity alike, many of whom were arrested and put in prison, and many were eventually martyred for remaining firmly true to their faith.

St. Christopher Magallanes himself was arrested and accused of helping the rebellion of the government, which was a false charge, and he was eventually sentenced to death, enduring martyrdom for his love for God. Many others shared his fate, dying from the persecution of the Church and the faithful which lasted for more than a decade and resulting in the destruction of many of the Church’s structures and the deaths of countless people to the persecution by the authorities. That however did not dampen the spirit and courage of many among the faithful who welcomed suffering and martyrdom in remaining faithful to God, becoming great inspiration even for us today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best to serve the Lord faithfully, commit ourselves to the great works entrusted to us by God. May God empower us to walk with faith and to be great role models and faithful witnesses in the same manner that St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions in faith and martyrdom had inspired us all. May God bless us all, now and forevermore, and bring us all ever closer to His throne of grace. Amen.

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded constantly of our responsibilities and calling as Christians to love one another, to be ever generous in loving and to be filled with love in all of our actions, words and deeds. As Christians we have to put our brethren and others above ourselves, to be ever ready to commit ourselves for the good of our fellow men and women, and to spend the time, effort and attention to reach out with that love to our fellow brethren. We cannot be idle and be ignorant of this calling to love, for if we are truly God’s people, then we will also love in the same way that He has loved us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the conclusion of the matter highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles regarding the disagreements surrounding the commitments and responsibilities expected of the Christian faithful especially related to the old laws, customs and practices of the Jewish people. There were those who desired and even forced the adoption of the Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision and the strict dietary laws on the Gentiles or the non-Jews who converted to the Christian faith. Against these were those who argued that the Church should be more open in engaging the Gentiles and should not make it difficult for them to embrace the Christian faith.

Contextually, the cultural differences and other misunderstandings and prejudices existing between the Jews and the Gentiles were making it difficult for the new Christians to adopt the entire strict and extensive provisions of the Jewish laws as espoused by some of the Jewish Christians. This is because some of those practices and customs were regarded as undesirable, strange and even barbaric by the Romans, Greeks and some other people who were living then all around the Mediterranean, those to whom the Apostles and the other disciples had been ministering and preaching towards.

Hence, the Apostles having discussed and prayed over the matter with the elders of the Church, all of them agreed to not force the Jewish customs and laws on the entire body of the faithful, as doing so is contrary to the Lord’s commandments to love, and in fact as mentioned, is a distraction to the true way of the Lord. Some of those customs and practices were kept by the Pharisees to the extremes which not only turned people away from the Lord, but also ended up causing the laws themselves becoming more important and became the focus of attention rather than the Lord Himself. Hence, the Church commanded the faithful to follow only what the Lord Himself had told them to do, as according to what has been revealed through Christ.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard once again that commandment of love being spoken to us through Our Lord Himself, Who told His disciples to love generously and wholeheartedly, to love one another just as He has loved all of them. The Lord has showed us all His unconditional love, His compassion and loving mercy, that even when we were still sinners and rebellious against Him, His love for us did not change at all. That love transcends even the disgust He has for our sinful ways, and hence, because of that love which He has unconditionally showed us, He endeavoured to come to our midst that He may show us what His love is all about.

The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, embracing His love and mercy. He wants each and every one of us to throw away our attachments to sin and to the wickedness that once permeated our lives. And if we still live in the way and path of sin, all of us are called to turn away from those sins and embrace God’s love anew. Are we all capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord wholeheartedly and then as He has commanded us to do, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same kind of love as well? Are we able to love one another generously and genuinely?

Today we should be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher and missionary, who spent a lot of time and effort in caring for the spiritual needs of the people. He was remembered as one of the greatest preachers that the Church ever had, preaching directly to the public with zeal and honesty, from his heart, speaking to them and showing them what the genuine love of God looks and feels like. He showed the people how God loved them all, and inspired them to love Him and in loving one another as well, distancing themselves from the path of sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we inspired to be more like St. Bernardine of Siena and many other great saints, holy men and women of God who had gone before us, that by our actions, words and deeds, we may truly proclaim the Lord to all those whom we encounter in life, proclaiming His love and kindness, His great generosity and mercy, by our own loving actions to one another? We are all called and chosen as Christians to be the bearers and witnesses of God’s ever amazing love for His people. We are all reminded that by our love, many more will know about God and they will also know that we are His people.

May God help us to be His great disciples, in revealing Him and His love to more and more people all around the world. May He empower us all to remain always faithful to Him at all times, and bless our good works, for His greater glory, bow and always. Amen.

Thursday, 19 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures speaking to us about the call for us to love the Lord wholeheartedly and to remember and keep His commandments of love well in our hearts and minds at all times. As Christians we are always called to love tenderly and generously following the examples of our Lord in His love for us, which He has always shown us despite our many infidelities and wickedness. He has always loved us and wanted to teach us how to love just as He has loved us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles as we heard the continuation of the account of the First Council of Jerusalem, as we heard of the debate that arose in that very first assembly of the Church and the faithful to address the divisions that came up due to the disagreements between those who advocated for the imposition of the much stricter Jewish laws and customs on all the faithful including on the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people, and those who advocated for the relaxation of the requirements and laws binding all the faithful.

The Apostles and the elders of the Church gathered together to discuss the matter, and through the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they decided not to impose the unreasonable strict rules of the Jewish laws and customs on all the faithful, and instead, they all exhorted all the Christians to follow the commandments and laws as explained and made clear by the Lord, the laws and commandments of love, the core essence of what following God is all about. They decided that all the faithful, be it Jews or Gentiles ought to follow the Lord in that way, and not be burdened by the excesses of the way how the Jewish laws and practices had been kept by the Pharisees and the elders.

That was also what the Lord had told His disciples and the people as we heard in our Gospel passage today, as Jesus told them all to love and remain in His Father’s love just as He has loved Him. All those who believe in the Lord ought to love in the same way that God has loved all of them. The old customs and laws as championed and preserved by the Pharisees and their many predecessors distracted the people from this love, and instead of truly loving God, many became ensnared in the path to seek their own self-righteousness and self-promotion, self-loving and ego. That was why the Lord reminded His disciples to turn away from that path and instead return to the Lord with genuine love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these readings from the Sacred Scriptures, we are therefore reminded of our obligation and calling as Christians to follow the Lord with love and devotion, and to love one another just as He has loved us so generously. We are all called to love our fellow brothers and sisters, and even our acquaintances and strangers, as the Lord had told us to do. He even asked us to forgive our enemies, to pray for those who have persecuted us and loving them even if those same people had made our lives truly difficult. That is the essence of Christian love that God Himself has revealed and taught to us through His Son.

And Christ Himself has shown us what true, unconditional love is. Even though He has been condemned and rejected by the chief priests and elders, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, He still forgave them all and prayed for them for His Father to forgive them their sins, as He laid suffering and dying while hanging on the Cross. He chose to suffer and die for all of mankind, for all of us sinners, and even for the sake of those who have arrested, persecuted, condemned and opposed Him. He has loved all of us and patiently showed His compassion and mercy even though we are still sinners and are still rebellious in our ways against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, remembering just how much the Lord has loved each and every one of us, and how He has given us so many opportunities to reach out to Him and embracing His forgiveness and mercy, then all of us have to commit ourselves to the same way of love as God has shown us. We are all called to proclaim the Lord by His love, so that as the Apostles had mentioned, that we are all Christians, and the people know us and know who we are, as God’s beloved ones by our actions, by our generous love for one another, in the same manner as how God has loved us first.

Are we able then in committing ourselves to the path of God’s love? Are we willing and able to live our lives from now on with courage to love each other in the same manner as the Apostles and the saints, our many predecessors in faith had done? Are we capable of living our lives faithfully in the manner that they had done, and love generously and kindly, unconditionally as they and ultimately, our Lord Himself had done? Let us all discern all these carefully and think of what we can do better to serve Him and to proclaim His truth and glory in our world today.

May God be with us always, our most loving Father, our most beloved Master and Creator. May He empower us all and give us the grace and love so that we may continue to love most generously in each and every opportunities that we have in this world. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless all of our wonderful works and labours for His greater glory, all of our love for one another, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John 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 words of the Scriptures, which remind us of the need for us to remain firmly attached to the Lord, to be connected to Him, the True Vine and the One and only True Lord and Saviour. In our Scripture passages today, we are reminded that as Christians we have to be rooted in Christ, the One in Whom we ought to believe in wholeheartedly and put our full trust in. Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we will easily lose our path and way in life, and we may end up falling into the temptations of worldliness and sin.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles regarding the matter of the confrontation that arose between the ones who supported a much more rigid application of the Jewish laws and traditions and wanting to impose them on all the faithful, and those who were supporting a more relaxed and welcoming stance to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. Both of these groups had contrasting views on how the Church should act and respond in evangelisation towards the many non-Jewish peoples as well as the expectations to be placed on each Christians.

The divisions that existed between each factions were threatening to split the Church apart and that might also lead to the alienation of those who would have wanted to follow the Lord, especially from among the Gentiles when they had to follow the Jewish customs and practices. That is because many of the Jewish customs and practices were abhorred by the peoples like Greeks and Romans among others, and those customs were seen as incompatible with their own culture and customs. Hence, it would have been difficult for them to be Christians and followers of the Lord if they had to abandon their own ways and customs.

As such, we heard in that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles, the very first gathering of the whole Church, the First Council of Jerusalem, in which the leaders of the Church and the elders all assembled to pray and discuss together the direction that the Church would take in going forward and following God together, as one people and as one Church. St. Peter the Apostle spoke up before the assembly of the faithful, presenting to them the facts and also the message and vision showed to him from God, which told him that the Lord wished for all the people, Jews or Gentiles, to be His followers all the same, and the restrictions of the old and former laws and how they were interpreted should not hinder or become barriers for the ones who wanted to follow Christ.

At that time, the Jews tended to have a lot of judgmental attitude towards the Gentiles, dismissing them as being pagans and being unworthy of God and His grace and love. That was why the faction of those who wanted to impose the strict and harsh requirements of the Jewish customs wanted to impose the same conditions to the Gentile converts to Christianity, because they conflated their attachment to the particular ways that they observed the Law with devotion and faith in God. The Lord Himself has criticised those who were too attached to their flawed interpretation of the Law and wanted them to break free from that path.

Hence, St. Peter highlighted the need for all the faithful to follow the true path as shown by Jesus, the True Vine and the One in Whom everyone ought to believe in. Instead of believing and holding fast to their own beliefs and ideas, all of the faithful must put their faith and trust, and derive their faith from the Lord Himself. And God has entrusted His Church at the hands of the Apostles like St. Peter and others, as well as their successors, that they may arbitrate judgments and decide through the Holy Spirit, the path and way moving forward for all the faithful people of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we are reminded through the parable of the True Vine as mentioned, highlighting to us that just as the branches have to remain connected to the main stem or vine, hence, we have to remain connected to Christ if we are to grow and prosper in faith. If we instead follow particular ideologies and refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Lord speaking to us in the depths of our hearts and minds, then we will end up easily losing our direction and path in life, falling prey to the temptations of worldly desires and ambitions that had seen the downfall of so many people.

Today, just as we are reminded to remain faithful to the Lord, we are presented with the great examples from Pope St. John I, a holy Pope and Martyr who remained firmly faithful in the Lord despite him being caught squarely in the middle of political and theological conflicts at the time. As Pope, Pope St. John I led the Church in the time of great turbulence as the Church in Rome and Italy were under the state control of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, whose ruler, Theoderic the Great was an Arian, following a heresy that was in opposition to the true Christian belief and faith.

Pope St. John I was sent as a delegate to the court of the Roman Emperor in Constantinople by Theoderic with the aim to resolve the political and religious tensions existing between the Romans and the Ostrogoths. The Emperor treated and respected the Pope well, although the embassy was unsuccessful in pursuing the Ostrogoth king’s demands. Upon Pope St. John’s return to Rome and Ravenna, the Ostrogothic capital, Theoderic ordered his arrest and it was there that the Pope eventually died from neglect and poor health, dying a martyr to the true Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples of Pope St. John I, the many other saints and martyrs, and all those who have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord, all who have kept themselves close to God and remain firm in their full love and dedication to His way. As Christians, let us all be inspiration to one another, and help each other to be committed to God, and not to fall into the path of sin, or to be swayed by other worldly matters. May God be with us always, and may He, the True Vine, keep us all alive with Him in faith, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remain faithful to God and to uphold His peace in our hearts and minds at all times. We are also called to trust in the Lord and not be disheartened by the challenges and trials that we may have to encounter in our path of faith. We have to remain true and firm in our commitment to serve the Lord in each and every actions we do, in all of our dealings and interactions, and be the good role models and inspirations through whom many others may come to believe in God as well.

In our first reading today, we heard of the account from the Acts of the Apostles in which the works of the Apostles especially that of St. Paul and St. Barnabas were highlighted. They had been rejected from Lystra due to the machinations of the Lord’s opponents, and had almost even died because of the persecution afflicted on them. But that did not dampen the spirits of the Apostles. On the contrary, that encouraged them to be even more committed and fervent in carrying out their mission and in preaching the truth of the Gospels and in revealing the love of God. They would not be deterred by the opposition or hardships that they faced.

They continued to travel from town to town throughout Asia Minor and beyond, proclaiming the Christian faith and truth courageously, not afraid of the trials and hardships they faced. St. Paul, St. Barnabas, and the many other Apostles whose various actions and works were too many and varied to be listed and detailed in the Acts of the Apostles, continued to glorify God by their dedication and faith. They inspired many of the faithful to do the same, raising up many missionaries and faithful disciples who have spent a lot of time and effort to do the will of God and bring the teachings and way of Christ to more and more people all around the world.

They all had strong faith and trust in God, believing that God is truly always with them, guiding them and being with them, even through their toughest and hardest moments. They helped and supported each other, and the courage showed by those same Apostles and disciples of the Lord inspired many among the faithful not to give up on their faith in God. They would not allow the temptations and pressures of the world, their community and others to make them abandon the Lord and their faith in Him. Many of them were indeed conflicted and troubled by their experiences, but most remained truly faithful to God, to the very end.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples at the Last Supper, speaking to them to reassure them and to ask them to remain faithful to the path He has shown them despite the trials and challenges that they might have to endure, and despite what He Himself would have to suffer and go through, for the salvation of the whole world. The Lord reminded His disciples that He would always be with them, and His peace would always be with them if they trust in Him, and not to give in to their worries and fears. He would guide them and strengthen them, through the challenging days of their future.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it was that reassurance and the providence that the Lord has constantly given His people that made them to be firm in their faith. They themselves had seen and witnessed how the Lord triumphed over death itself, and rose gloriously from the dead, and all the other wonders and miracles which He had performed before them, which made them to believe in Him and His truth. They passed on this faith through the Church, all that they had seen and witnessed, to all of us, with all of their inspiring life stories and examples, which should be inspiring for us as well, and should empower us to follow the Lord more wholeheartedly as well.

All of us are reminded that we are all called to walk in the same path that the Apostles themselves had walked in, and we are expected to follow their examples, in showing the world what the truth about the Lord, our Christian faith and beliefs are all about. If we do not truly believe in all of these ourselves, then how can we believe in the Lord or make others to believe in Him through us? We have to believe in God and live our lives with faith as well, as is expected to us as Christians. We cannot and should not be idle in living our lives because as Christians, we are called to evangelise and to lead by example.

Now, are we willing and able to commit ourselves, our time and effort to be good role models just like how the Apostles, the saints and martyrs are our good examples and role models? Let us all pass on our faith and transmit this burning flame of love we have for God to others, so that many more may come to be saved through us, and come ever closer to God and His grace. May the Lord be glorified through us and our actions, and may He be with us always and guide us in our lives, from now and henceforth, leading ever more souls to Himself. Amen.

Monday, 16 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that we are God’s people, His beloved ones who are therefore expected to follow Him, and we are expected to walk in His path, doing what He Himself had done for us, to show us love and compassion, kindness and mercy. And therefore each and every one of us as Christians are challenged to live a life filled with love and God’s compassion, that all of those who see us and witness our works and actions may come to realise that we are truly God’s chosen and beloved ones.

In our Gospel passage today, that is the essence of what the Lord has told us, in the conversation that He was having with His disciples at the Last Supper. He was revealing Himself and what He was about to do to all of them, saying to them how He has been sent from the Father to the world, to show them the love of God manifested in the flesh, and to show them the truth that He wants to give to us, so that we may find the way to eternal life through Him. When the disciples asked Him to show them the Father, the Lord was kind of disappointed as they still failed to realise that He and the Father were truly One, and as He Himself said, that knowing Him is already equal to knowing the Father.

Most importantly, the Lord also called on all of His followers and disciples to love one another just as He has loved them. He entrusted to them the commandment of love, the new commandment that He has revealed and brought into our midst, in order to rectify and make perfect the ancient laws and commandments, which at that time had been misunderstood and misinterpreted by many among the people of God. That was why the Lord told them all the truth of what the Law was all about, as He had actually told them many times previously, that the Law was truly all about love.

One ought to love the Lord with all of their strength, with all of their heart and mind, and then the same love ought to be shown as well to the others all around us, which is the essence of what the Ten Commandments and the many laws of Moses were. The Lord told His disciples to do as He has commanded them to do, and showed them by example, what He Himself was about to do for them and all of us, so that they might understand truly what it means to be His followers and disciples. And He would also send His Holy Spirit to guide them and to give them the wisdom to find their path in life, which He has given to all of us through His Church.

The Lord Himself showed us His infinite and most amazing love by His willingness to take up the Cross, to suffer on it and to endure the worst humiliation and pain, so that we may all be saved through Him. Our Lord did all these things because He truly loved us, and He wants to embrace us all back, and be reconciled with us. His love for us is greater than even the combined wickedness of our sins, which He wants to forgive and which He wants to help us to overcome, through His love and by showing us the path to repentance through His Cross. The Lord has loved us all so tenderly, that by His love all of us have received the assurance and hope of eternal life.

That is the message that all of us have received today, as we listened to the words of truth from the Scriptures, reminding us of the great love that God has shown us, and how we as His disciples ought to show Him the same love as well. We have to commit ourselves to the path of God’s love and testify His love to all the people whom we encounter, just as the Apostles and disciples had done, and which served as inspiration for all of us. In our first reading today, we heard how St. Paul and St. Barnabas preached about the Lord in Lystra, to the people who thought that they were their pagan gods when they saw the miraculous signs that the Apostles performed.

St. Paul and St. Barnabas were not swayed or distracted when the people were hailing them and treating them like gods, bringing them offerings and sacrifices, and instead, they courageously and wholeheartedly tried to tell them that what they were doing was wrong. They told the townspeople that they were not gods and that they were proclaiming Christ, as Lord and Saviour of the whole world, and they were merely the messengers of His truth and love. It was their love and compassion for their brethren, which allowed them to share so courageously their faith amidst a people who were not really willing to listen to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore go forth and be courageous like that of the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord, like the saints and martyrs of ages past, in their wholehearted dedication to God, everything that they had done and all that they had endured for the sake of the Lord, their obedience to God and the love which they had shown their fellow men, the compassion, care and concern that they had for those who had not yet known the Lord, and the patience by which they had carried our their ministry and vocation. Each one of us are also called to be the same courageous and faithful disciples, and are we able to do that, brothers and sisters?

Let us all therefore do our best to follow the Lord from now on, in all of our lives, to devote our time, effort and attention to serve the Lord with all of our actions and deeds, to be His faithful witnesses and disciples in our respective communities, showing the love of God to all the people, to all those whom we encounter in life, through our every words, actions and deeds. May God bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.