Saturday, 8 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that while the Church and all of us the faithful people of God will continue to encounter trials and challenges, but we must never lose faith in God and we have to keep on trusting in His providence as He will always be by our side and be our Guide, at all times, all because of the great love that He has always had for each and every one of us. Nothing can change the love that He has for us, and He will always be with us through His Presence in our midst and by the Holy Spirit He has given us to lead us to the right path and to strengthen us.

In our first reading today we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the account of the travels of St. Paul as he continued his missionary journey after having settled the dispute regarding the imposition of Jewish customs and traditions on the converts among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. The Apostles sent St. Paul out to continue his mission in evangelising to the many peoples he visited during his missionary works, especially the Gentiles, many of whom became believers of Christ after they had heard St. Paul and witnessed his work and efforts.

St. Paul went from place to place, from town to town, speaking up about the truth of God which he proclaimed to all those whom he visited, in their synagogues, in their public places and places of assembly, in their houses and other locations. Some were willing to listen to him and open their hearts and minds to God’s truth and love, and that was how the seeds of faith were sown among so many people, many of whom eventually accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and sought to be baptised as members of the Church, as God’s own beloved children.

Yet, there were also so many others who rejected St. Paul and also the other Apostles, and more often than not, they had to suffer trials and persecutions, ridicule and attacks even on their own persons for their courageous efforts in speaking the truth and in defending their Christian faith. Many of them had to endure prison and even torture, with quite a few dying as martyrs in the defence of their faith. All of the Apostles themselves save for St. John the Evangelist suffered and died as martyrs at the various stages in the early decades of the Church.

Nonetheless, all of them exhibited great courage and commitment to the mission that has been entrusted to them, to be the faithful witnesses of Christ, His truth and Resurrection among the many people of the world that they had been sent to, and they remained faithful and firmly set on the path that the Lord has set before them. They went forth, fearlessly, with God by their side, speaking the truth and not allowing themselves to be silenced by the opposition they encountered throughout their journey. Instead, they inspired one another and helped the Church to grow as it was, and many people were saved thanks to the courage of these faithful servants of God, our holy predecessors.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul and all these inspiring examples of our faith should become our own inspiration in how we live our own faith, as we dedicate ourselves in our own way to serve the Lord in our present world today. We are all called to be His faithful disciples and to be His beloved people, exemplary in our faith and actions, that everyone who sees us, hears us, witnesses our actions and interacts with us will know that we are indeed His people, and that through us, God’s Name will always ever be glorified, and all will come to know Him through us.

Are we all willing to commit ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to seek Him with all of our hearts and minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our desires? Are we all ready to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those who have gone before us, to be His witnesses and to be His spokespersons before all, not just by our words, but also through our lives and actions, and in everything we say and do, we have to be good role models through which all can see the truth and love of God in all things. And we need to have that courage in us to live faithfully each and every moments of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us always remember that God is always with us, by our side, and He will always be there for us, guiding us, just as He has always been with His servants throughout all the time. And even when we have to suffer and endure bitterness and humiliation, remember that the Lord Himself has suffered the very same suffering, bitterness and pain, He has endured the Cross for us, and it is with Him that we suffer now, and in fact, we should rejoice as the Apostles and the martyrs had done, in sharing in the suffering and death of the Lord through their own faithful witness and actions.

Let us all be evangelising and missionary disciples, in our own communities and in whatever the Lord has called us to do. Let us all reach out to our fellow brethren, and bring the light of God’s truth and His ever most wonderful and tender love and compassion to all those whom we encounter daily in life. May God be with us always, and may He remain with us, and bless us in everything we say and do, at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 8 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”

Saturday, 8 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 8 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Friday, 7 May 2021 : 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 Scripture, we are all reminded of the need for all of us to be constantly filled with God’s love and grace, to be genuine in our faith and devotion to God, and to be sincere in following Him that we all may reflect the fullness of God’s love and compassion in our own lives. God has loved us all so much that He has given us His generous love which He has shown through His Church and by which He has called on all of us to be His disciples so that, as we turn towards Him and enter into His love, we may be saved from everlasting death.

In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the conclusion of the First Council of Jerusalem in which the Apostles, led by St. Peter made an important decision on behalf of the entire Church with regards to the issue on whether the Church need to follow and obey the Jewish laws and customs, and whether those laws ought to be imposed on the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles or not. These matters divided the Church and the faithful back then quite bitterly, and the factions were in heated argument between each other.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among the early converts to the Christian faith were on one side, arguing that all the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people must also follow the entire Jewish laws and customs, such as circumcision and many other rules as established by the Jewish tradition. This would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to convert and become Christians as some of those regulations and customs were abhorred and found as incompatible by the societies in which the Gentiles came from, such as the Greeks and the Romans among others.

On the other side, St. Paul, St. Barnabas and all others who had ministered to the Gentiles spoke up on their behalf, in insisting that the Jewish laws and customs should not be imposed on all the faithful and the Gentiles should not be forced to do what was really difficult and unnecessary for them to do. After all, the Lord Himself has always criticised the excesses with which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced their version of the law and the commandments, imposing very heavy demands that the Jews themselves were unable to comply with, and even while followed, but those who followed them did not genuinely believe in God.

That was why, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the Council decided that all the faithful had no obligation to obey the full laws, rules and regulations as stipulated in the old laws and rules handed down from Moses and which since then had been heavily modified and expanded, and in the way they were practiced, they had lost their true meaning and purpose. Instead, the Apostles, represented by St. Peter, declared that what was truly necessary for all Christians, be it Jews or Gentiles alike, is to adhere to the core tenets of the faith, that is to act justly, avoid fornication and sinful ways, and to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

The Lord sent forth His disciples to call all the people therefore to His presence, to turn away from their sins and wicked ways, and embrace wholeheartedly henceforth His ways, His commandments and laws. Just as all had been called to love the Lord, we all have been called to be bearers of this love, to make Him the focus and the centre of our whole life and existence. And we have to live our lives in this way, just as the Lord in our Gospel passage today spoke of the commandment He has entrusted to us, that we all love one another in the same way that we ought to love Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Unless we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ, then our faith is empty and meaningless, and no different from the faith of hypocrites. If we love only ourselves and not all our fellow brethren around us, then we should not call ourselves as Christians, because to be Christians means that we believe in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour wholeheartedly and entirely, that we embody His teachings, truth and ways in our every day living. This is what it truly means for us to be Christians, and that just as the Lord loves everyone, every single one of His children without exception, then we should also aspire to love all to the best of our abilities too.

In this season and time of Easter, all of us are called to be courageous in faith, as well as to renew our commitments to the Lord. We are all called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, in being good role models and guides of our faith, that we may become inspirations for one another, and that we can help strengthen each other in the daily struggles in life we face. This is why we are reminded and called to be good Christians, not just as mere formality only. We must have that strong and ardent desire to seek the Lord and to love Him from now on.

Let us all therefore reach out to our fellow brethren, especially those who need much love, and those who have been ostracised and forgotten, marginalised and oppressed. Let us all bring God’s love, hope and light into their midst, and be the concrete proof of God’s love in our respective communities, that this world will become an ever better place for all of us. Let us all commit the effort, time and attention for this, brothers and sisters, responding to the Lord’s call as best as we can.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us through life, that all of us may grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and that in all things, we may continue to love Him and also our fellow brothers and sisters, as genuine and dedicated Christians, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 7 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”

Friday, 7 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 8-9, 10-12

My heart is steadfast, o God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul, awake, o harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn.

I will give thanks to You, o Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to You among the nations. For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Let Your Glory be over all the earth!

Friday, 7 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 22-31

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

Thursday, 6 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Lord in the Scripture, all of us are reminded of God’s love for each and every one of us, and then we are also reminded that because of this love, then we are all also called to be filled with the same love, to love our fellow brothers and sisters, all those whom we encounter in life that we may indeed be the bearers of the love of God in our world today. This is the commandment that the Lord has given us, and the mission which He has entrusted to each one of us.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Church and all the Apostles, as he convened the First Council of Jerusalem, historically the first ever Council of the Church held to discuss the disagreements among the members of the Church, some of whom argued that everyone ought to be following and obeying the Jewish traditions and commandments, the very strict rules in the Jewish customs which they wanted to be imposed on the Gentile or the non-Jewish converts as well.

As St. Paul and St. Barnabas protested such an effort by those who wanted to impose the strict discipline of the Jewish laws and customs on the rest of the Church, the matter came to the attention of the other Apostles who then convened this meeting and Council to address the issue once and for all. They discerned and prayed over the matter, and St. Peter, with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, revealed the decision of the Apostles and the Council, in negating the requirement for the Jewish laws, traditions and customs for the faithful, and instead, reminding everyone of the more important meaning of what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

St. Peter reminded the assembled faithful how they should not be burdened by the great weight of the Jewish laws and customs, the traditions and rules, many of which the Jews themselves were unable and struggling at best to fulfil and follow, and as the Lord Himself has also criticised the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in pursuing those laws and rules to a fault, then that was why the Church did not impose on the faithful those Jewish laws and customs that were deemed excessive and unnecessary.

Instead, everyone was reminded of the most important commandment that the Lord has given to them, and to all of us, that is the commandments of love as we heard it in our Gospel reading today. Those who belong to the Lord ought to love Him and to keep His commandments, the commandments of love, and remain in His love, by their own loving ways and actions. That is the true mark and identity of what being Christian is, and that is what we all should be doing in our lives as well. This means that we should avoid living our lives without genuine love and commitment towards the Lord.

God has called all of us to His salvation, and He has embraced us all with His generous love, and therefore, just as He has called on everyone to be His followers, Jews and Gentiles alike, from all the whole world, all equally beloved by Him, thus we are all called to love Him with all of our strength, to love Him wholeheartedly and from the deepest of our heart, giving our whole being to Him, and appreciating all that He has done for us all these while. He has also taught us to love one another, just as we ought to love Him, and thus this is what we should be doing as well, brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our world today there is often too little love and too much hatred, bitterness and negativity. We easily turn against each other and being focused too much on our own selfish desires, which led to us causing hurt and pain, suffering and difficulties for others. That is not how Christians should behave, and therefore, we should not let ourselves be tempted to act in this manner either. We should instead be the inspirations and examples for others in how we love one another, and how God’s love and truth are visible in us and our actions.

All of us are called to true holiness and faith in the Lord, that everyone who sees us and witnesses our actions, can see that we truly are God’s people, filled with His love and living our lives sincerely with genuine faith. That way, many more people can be touched by God’s love through us, and because of this, many more people can be saved, and join all of us in God’s everlasting kingdom. This is our Christian calling and mission, what each and every one of us have been called to do in our lives. Are we willing to commit ourselves and efforts to do what we can, for the greater glory of God, brothers and sisters?

May the Lord be with us all and may He give us all the strength and courage to live ever more faithfully, that in all things we may follow Him ever more zealously, and that we may give the inspiration to one another to remain true to God, to His love and truth, all the time. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 6 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 9-11

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Remain in My love! You will remain in My love if you keep My commandments, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

I have told you all this, that My own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”