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.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 5-11

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “But now I am going to the One Who sent Me, and none of you asks Me where I am going; instead you are overcome with grief, because of what I have said.”

“Believe Me, it is better for you that I go away, because as long as I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go away, it is to send Him to you, and when He comes, He will vindicate the truth before a sinful world; and He will vindicate the paths of righteousness and justice.”

“What is the world’s sin, in regard to Me? Disbelief. What is the path of righteousness? It is the path I walk, by which I go to the Father; and you shall see Me no more. What is the path of justice? It is the path on which the prince of this world will always stand condemned.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 137 : 1-2a, 2bc-3, 7c-8

I thank You, o Lord with all my heart, for You have heard the word of my lips. I sing Your praise in the presence of the gods. I bow down towards Your holy Temple and give thanks to Your Name.

For Your love and faithfulness, for Your word which exceeds everything. You answered me when I called; You restored my soul and made me strong.

You save me from the wrath of my foes, with Your right hand You deliver me. How the Lord cares for me! Your kindness, o Lord, endures forever. Forsake not the work of Your hands.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 22-34

So the slave owners of Philippi set the crowd against Paul and Silas and the officials tore the clothes of them and ordered them to be flogged. And after inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to guard them safely. Upon receiving these instructions, he threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly a severe earthquake shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations. Immediately all the doors flew open and the chains of all the prisoners fell off.

The jailer woke up to see the prison gates wide open. Thinking that the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself, but Paul shouted to him, “Do not harm yourself! We are all still here.” The jailer asked for a light, then rushed in, and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas. After he had secured the other prisoners, he led them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved.” Then they spoke the word of God to him and to all his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer took care of them and washed their wounds; and he and his whole household were baptised at once. He led them to his house, spread a meal before them and joyfully celebrated with his whole household his newfound faith in God.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the Feast of Mary, the Mother of the Church that is celebrated on the day following the Solemnity of the Pentecost. The Feast of Mary Mother of the Church is a reminder to all of us that Mary is indeed the Mother of all of us, God’s beloved people, whom God had entrusted to us to be our own loving Mother, and to whom we have also been entrusted as her own beloved adopted sons and daughters, through Christ, her Son, Who shared with us His humanity, and His death on the Cross.

Since the very beginning, Mary had been with the Church, and she has always been with the Apostles and the other prominent leaders of the Church, and according to Apostolic tradition, Mary herself as depicted in numerous artworks of faith, has received the Holy Spirit like the other Apostles and disciples, and she, being full of grace and Mother of God, occupies an even more important position being the one who had borne the Lord Himself within her, and because Christ Himself is the Head of the Church, that is His Body, thus it is indeed fitting that Mary is honoured as the Mother of the Church, or Mater Ecclesiae.

It was Mary who fulfilled the Lord’s own prophecy at the very beginning, as we heard in our first reading from the Book of Genesis, how the Lord proclaimed that Satan’s defeat would come from among the descendants of mankind, whom he would oppress and persecute, tempt and tried to lure away into their downfall through sin. And while he had been successful with Adam and Eve, the first of our ancestors, who fell for Satan’s ruse and sweet lies, and succumbed to the temptations of their desires, but Mary as the New Eve would resist those same temptations and remained completely faithful to the Lord, even as she followed her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as the New Adam, to the foot of the Cross.

Yes, as we can see, there are also obvious parallels between the moment of mankind’s fall and the moment of mankind’s salvation. When mankind fell into sin, Satan tempted and made them to eat of the fruits of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, tempting Eve who then persuaded Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree, disobeying God’s specific commands that they were not to eat from the tree, as they wanted to become like God, to know all things good and evil. Their desire and pride became their undoing.

Meanwhile, at the crucifixion, the moment of our salvation, Mary, as the New Eve, stood by the ‘Tree’ of the Cross, made from the wood of the tree, as her Son, Christ, the New Adam, was hanging on it, pierced and bared before all, stripped of all glory and power, humiliated and made to endure the most painful and bitter of all punishments for the sake of all of us, obeying completely and perfectly the will of His heavenly Father, to the point of accepting death, a most loving death on the Cross, borne out of love for each and every one of us. Though He is God, He emptied Himself and humbled Himself for us, in an obvious contrast with mankind’s fall.

It was therefore Mary’s obedience and faith, as the New Eve, which allowed her to partake in the Lord’s great mission, in accepting wholly her role as the Mother of God, as the one to bear the Saviour of the world in her womb, and to remain free from sin throughout her life, full of grace, and resisting the temptations of Satan, that unlike Eve who fell to those temptations, her steadfast faith and obedience brought salvation and liberation to all of us, indeed the Woman prophesied to crush the head of Satan, and to destroy all of his wicked plans and deeds.

And, as mentioned earlier and in our Gospel today, Mary has been entrusted to us as our Mother, as symbolically presented by the Lord in our Gospel today, as He entrusted His mother Mary to His disciple, St. John the Apostle, who was then similarly entrusted to Mary as her own adopted son. St. John the Apostle represents all of us Christians, the members of God’s Church, who therefore become the children of Mary, God’s own beloved Mother, and she is indeed, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all Christians, all who believe in the Lord.

Today, we also celebrate the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, and in particular with respect to China, the Church in that great country and its faithful, who are still being persecuted daily and oppressed, we also celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, and the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. For many decades, the Church and the faithful in China had been constantly under oppression and pressure from the government and other authoritative figures, that many of the faithful and the bishops and priests had to go into hiding, and persevered in maintaining the faith against the corrupting influence of the government and its intervention in the affairs and matters of the faith.

That is why today indeed, as we remember Mary, the Mother of God as our Mother, the Mother of the Church and the Help of all Christians, we put into our particular intentions, our brothers and sisters in China, as well as any other Christians all around the world who are suffering from persecution and challenges, trials and difficulties daily, having to hide themselves and hide their Christian faith, at times, in order to remain faithful and yet survive through the turbulent times and challenges. There are still so many of our brethren out there who are suffering and even dying, as modern day martyrs for their faith.

We must never take our faith for granted, and if we find it difficult going for the Holy Mass or any other celebrations of our faith just because we are lazy or even too busy with our work, then let us realise and spare some thoughts for all our brothers and sisters who desire to be with the Lord and celebrate the sacraments, receive the Eucharist and yet, are unable to do so, much like the early Church martyrs and saints, all the faithful who had to celebrate in the catacombs hidden from view in secret. There are also so many workers of the faith, priests and bishops who are persecuted daily for their ministry and works, especially in China, but also in many other parts of the world.

Therefore, today, let us all ask for the intercession of our beloved Mother Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of All Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, that she will extend her wonderful and loving protection to all of our brethren who are suffering for their faith in her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Let us also spend our time to pray for the sake of all these brothers and sisters of ours who are not as fortunate as we are, and do not have the relative freedom that we have in being Christians, and in celebrating the Holy Mass and the Sacraments.

Let us all ask the Lord to be merciful and kind, and to help our brethren who are suffering, and through His mother, that we pray asking her to intercede before her Son, the case of our own brothers and sisters, that they may be helped and protected, and brought out of their troubles, and most importantly, that they all will remain faithful and strong in faith despite all the sufferings and trials that they are experiencing now. And let us all also grow to appreciate our faith and the blessings that we ourselves have received, and not to take our faith for granted ever again.

May God be with all of us, and in particular with His Church and all those who are suffering just because they are Christians, as followers of the Lord. May God be with them and protect them, and may His mother Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of all Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, continue to intercede for their sake, and watch over them, all the time. Amen.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 19 : 25-34

At that time, near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished and, in order to fulfil what was written in Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus.

When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out Blood and water.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 86 : 1-2, 3 and 5, 6-7

He Himself has built it in His holy mountain; YHVH prefers the gates of Zion to all of Jacob’s towns.

Great things have been foretold of you, o city of God. But of Zion, it shall be said, “More and more are being born in her.” For the Most High Himself has founded her.

And YHVH notes in the people’s register : “All these were also born in Zion.” And all will dance and sing joyfully for you.

Monday, 24 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Alternative reading

Acts 1 : 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen minute walk away. On entering the city they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. Present there were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus; Simon the Zealot and Judas son of James.

All of these, together, gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women, and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.