Saturday, 16 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about the reality of our faith, that while we may encounter many good things and good opportunities in our faith journey, but there will also be challenges, trials and difficulties that we will have to endure throughout our journey of life, because of the opposition and incompatibility with the ways of the world.

In this matter, what the Lord meant was not that we purposely should seek trouble with the world and be confrontational. Rather, it is a reminder for us all not to be swayed by the comforts and pleasures of the world, that the world and its ways are not fully compatible with the ways of the Lord, and if we decide to follow the Lord and respond to His call, we may encounter persecution, oppression, or at least obstacles and challenges in our way.

And the Lord said that this is to happen because the world itself has rejected Him, and refused to listen to Him and His truth. The world here refers to the world of sin, the world under the dominion and control of the evil one, Satan and all of his allies and forces, the demons and all those seeking our destruction. That is why, ‘the world’ will probably try to persuade us and even coerce us to turn away from God’s path and embrace the path of sin and darkness.

This is because the devil and his allies know that the moment we slip away from their hold, they will lose us forever, and they do not want that to happen. Their fates had already been sealed, defeated by God and condemned to suffer forever for their rebellion, but they want to drag us all down together with them into hellfire. They will also try whatever means available to them to pressure us into conforming, to turn away from God and to fall into sin.

But we must not fear them, brothers and sisters in Christ, for the Lord is always by our side, guiding our path and providing us with whatever we needed, and He is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. We have heard of the works of the Apostles, particularly that of St. Paul and his companions throughout this season of Easter from the Acts of the Apostles, and we heard how the Apostles and all the servants of God encountered plenty of difficulties during their journeys and missions.

Yet God was always with them and guiding them through the missions which He has called them to. He walked with them and gave them wisdom and guidance through the Holy Spirit, encouraging and strengthening them along the way. We heard how the Apostles and followers of the Lord, the early Christian communities encouraged each other and prayed for one another. The Spirit of God guided them and showed them all what to do and where to go.

Therefore, today all of us are reminded of the faith that we must have in God even in our most difficult and darkest moments. There will be plenty of challenges we have to face as we carry on living our lives and especially so as Christians. But we must not lose hope or despair because we must remember that the Lord is truly with us, providing for us and protecting us, guiding us to walk faithfully in His path. We have to keep our faith in Him strong, and share this faith and hope with our fellow brothers and sisters.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in these past days, weeks and even months, our societies and communities have been heavily battered and affected by the terrible effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as its various complications and impacts on the global, national and regional economies, on our various livelihoods and aspects of life. I am sure we are aware how many people are losing their hope and even sanity in the midst of these difficult troubles and times, but this is exactly where we can be those beacons of hope for everyone.

Let us all remind one another of the hope that we have to have in God, by showing our genuine faith to God, in our every words, actions and deeds, in our every interactions with each other. Let us all commit ourselves more and more to the Lord, so that everyone who witness us, hear us and interact with us may come to know of God’s providence and love by our every deeds, by our every efforts to bring hope and encourage our fellow brethren in need. May God bless us all and may He strengthen us in our faith, and help us to commit ourselves to His cause and do His will at all times.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our resolve to follow Him and to dedicate ourselves to Him. May the Lord give us the strength and the courage to remain faithful despite the difficulties and challenges we have to face in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 16 May 2020 : 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, 16 May 2020 : 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, 16 May 2020 : 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, 15 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard more about the commandments of love from God. We continue to be reminded of the care and compassion which God has showered us all the while. He has done so much for us, giving us everything that we need, and He has shown us all these wonderful love so that we too may know what it truly means to love. And this is why He commanded us all to also love in the same way that He has loved us, to follow His examples in love, and practice these in our own lives that we may inspire one another.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, the accounts of the first Council of Jerusalem, probably the very first gathering and discussion between the elders and the leaders of the Church in its history, which discussed especially the matters of the treatment of the Gentiles who converted to the Christian faith and how they all ought to be living their faith from then on. At that time, the early Church was in fact bitterly divided between several factions.

There were quite a few of those who wanted all the Christian faithful to adopt wholesale the entirety of the very strict observance and interpretation of the Jewish laws, customs and practices, a list of injunctions, rules and regulations that numbered six hundred and thirteen in some accounts. This was especially pushed for by the hardliner Pharisees and the Jewish converts among the early Christian communities. They wanted to preserve their way of faith as how it was before they converted.

On the other hand, there were those who argued and supported for the relaxation of the rules for the Christian faithful, which ought to apply not just for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, but also including the Jewish converts themselves, that they ought to abandon the excesses and the irrational faith and piety of their predecessors, and return to the true faith and dedication to God. These were espoused by St. Paul, St. Barnabas and some among the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord who had worked extensively among the Gentiles.

In the end, the dispute was brought before the Apostles and all the assembly of the faithful in Jerusalem, and by the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, as well as through the leadership of St. Peter the Apostle as the Lord’s Vicar and leader of the entire Church, the whole Council and Assembly of the faithful agreed to adapt a compromise position that favoured the Gentiles among the Christian converts and population. The decision of the Council put to rest the controversy and conflict among the faithful and agreed that all Christians were to observe the most fundamental aspects of the Law of God, but not the numerous excesses and additions that were irrelevant and oppressive.

All of these echo what the Lord Jesus Himself had told His disciples and also mirrored how He had struggled against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in their numerous encounters and disagreements. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law pursued a very strict and intolerant version of the Law that made it difficult even for the Jews and the Pharisees themselves to carry out and to fulfil the entirety of the commandments and rules of the Law. And if they had managed to impose these to the Gentiles, it would have brought even greater consequences.

Why is that so? That is because some of the practices of the Jews were seen as uncivilised, barbaric and undesirable by the Gentiles, who saw their practices such as circumcision and the dietary restriction laws as being undesirable and uncivilised if not abhorred and disliked. To enforce the full extent of the Jewish customs and practices would be unacceptable for most of the Gentiles and would have made the already difficult and precarious position and situation of the early Christian Gentiles to be far worse.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded therefore that the Lord wants us to love Him just as He has loved us all, and He has given us all His laws and commandments so that we may know of how we ought to proceed forward in life, as a guide to shine light on our path that we may find our way in the darkness of this world. Instead, we misunderstood His intentions and desire, and we end up causing difficulties and troubles for all those who wanted genuinely to love Him and follow Him, like how the excesses of the old Jewish laws and customs almost made it difficult for any non-Jewish people to follow Christ and devote themselves to Him.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we ourselves loved God sincerely and with devotion so far? Or have we instead allowed our ego and our attachments to worldly desires, or our stubbornness to be stumbling blocks in our path towards God? This is why today we are called yet again to remember our calling to be filled with love and to love our fellow brothers and sisters, to be loving and to be genuine with our actions and love towards one another, that we do not just think about ourselves and our own selfish desires and wants, but we must also consider of the needs of our fellow brethren, especially those who are in need.

God has loved us so much, and He has been willing to reach out to us, to touch our lives and to help bring us out of our predicament, sending no less than His own Son to be our Saviour and to deliver us from the scourge of sin and death. His love is precious for us, and by His love, His most willing and painful sacrifice on the Cross, He showed us what it means by true, selfless and divine love, and He wants each and every one of us to learn more of that same love, that we may love God Himself and also one another, to exist once again in the fullness of His grace as He has intended for us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about all of us? Are we willing to go the extra mile to show the love of God to our fellow men and to share His love and joy that more and more people may come to realise of His love and compassion, and therefore come to believe also in God? We have our calling and responsibility as Christians to respond to this call with love and to show love and compassion in our every words, actions and deeds. Let us all do this, brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in our world these days, with so much darkness and despair all around us.

Let us bear the light and love of Christ, His salvation and the hope in His grace to all people, and let us reach out to our fellow brethren with genuine love, that we may truly be recognised as God’s beloved children and people. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives with faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 15 May 2020 : 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, 15 May 2020 : 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!

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Great Apostles of the Lord, one of the Twelve Apostles, although he was not originally counted as one among the Twelve. This was because St. Matthias the Apostle was chosen by God to replace the traitor, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord and then unrepentantly killed himself in regret and grief. As a result, in order to complete the number of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthias, one of the earliest followers of the Lord, was chosen.

St. Matthias then went on to serve the Lord and His Church faithfully, as he went on many missions and travelled to far-off lands, most notably to the land of Ethiopia. He laboured hard to establish the Church and the faith in those places and preached the Good News of the Lord, calling many to conversion and the true faith. And according to the Church tradition and history, the Apostle either died in the city of Sebastopolis in the distant land, or in the city of Jerusalem in his old age, both by martyrdom.

And St. Matthias together with the other Apostles gave their efforts, their works, their dedication and their lives, their whole heart and might to serve God and to follow Him as His disciples, practicing and doing what the Lord Himself had commanded them to do, as described in our Gospel passage today. In that Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord speaking of the true commandments of God, the true meaning of His Law and the true desire of His will. All are centred on the most wonderful love that God has for each and every one of us.

That is why, first and foremost, they all kept their faith in God despite the challenges that they faced, and they were all willing to go the great lengths to serve Him and to carry out His will, all because they knew that God’s love for each and every one of them had been so great, that it was only right that they also loved Him in the same manner, and they loved Him by being faithful and obedient to Him. And out of their love and care for their fellow brothers and sisters, their fellow men, they therefore also reached out to more and more people to bring to them the salvation of God.

And this is also showed through the way they lived their lives, filled with love, compassion and genuine faith for the Lord. The early Christian communities were filled with much love and compassion, where everyone cared for one another, and took care for the other person. Those who had more and were blessed with more than enough shared what they had with those who had less or none, and everyone were well taken care of. This Christian love present within the early Christian communities represent what the Lord has called us all to do with our lives.

Unfortunately, for many of us, we have been swayed and misled by the temptations of life, the many good things and distractions present in our world that we have forgotten or set aside this way of life, and instead we adopt the ways of the world, such that so many among us actually have not been living our lives as faithful Christians. We have allowed greed and desire to cloud our judgments and actions, our pride and hubris to lead us down the path of selfishness and sin.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called today to discern carefully our lives and what we are to do with them going forward from now. The Lord has called us all to follow Him much as the Apostles had been called. In fact, we are the ones to continue the works of the Apostles, which are still plenty and ongoing. Are we able to walk in the footsteps of St. Matthias and the other Apostles, to dedicate ourselves in the way that they and the other servants of God had devoted themselves?

The Lord has called us and He has blessed us with many gifts, abilities and talents. Are we willing to make good use of them and strive to spend our time and effort, in order to serve the Lord with all of our hearts? It is not easy for us to do so, with all the temptations around us, the pressure and allure to do otherwise, and to conform to the much more common norms and ways of the world. But, if we have faith in God and devote ourselves to Him, then we will find it easier for us to commit to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best and remind ourselves of God’s commandments, to love Him above all else and then to have the same love for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men. Let us all live our lives as true Christians from now on, and let us all be genuine with our faith and actions, to proclaim God’s love and truth to all the people, not just by words, but also through our action and sincerity. May God bless us all in our every works and endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 15 : 9-17

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. 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.”

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of YHVH, praise the Name of YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of YHVH be praised! YHVH is exalted over the nations; His glory above the heavens.

Who is like YHVH our God, Who sits enthroned on high, but also bends down to see on earth as in heaven?

He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap. He makes them sit with princes, with rulers of His people.