Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we celebrate together the occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday, known as such because of the Gospel passage of the Fourth Sunday of Easter that is about the Lord as the Good Shepherd, as well as the occasion of the Vocation Sunday, where all of us pray together for the vocations to the priesthood and life dedicated to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is a very important one to us all in the Church, as all those who are priests and consecrated to God are the lifeblood of the Church, and an important part of God’s Church together with the laity. Without these courageous men who listened to God’s call and answered Him with concrete action, there would have been no Church to speak of today.

Why is that so? That is because they are called to follow in the example of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, Who loves us all His people. It was God’s love for us that had allowed His Church to exist and flourish, and it was God’s love, that He did not destroy us outright for our sins, but instead He gave us the opportunity to be forgiven and to be reconciled with Him.

All of the readings from the Scripture today speak of God’s love for us, which is great and its extent unimaginable. And He has often alluded to us, the love of a shepherd for the sheep, especially that of a good shepherd, the shepherd of the flock, and not of the hired men. The hired men would only care for the sheep for the money they received, and as soon as they had to do something beyond their obligations, or when they had to face danger to protect the sheep, they would flee.

On the other hand, the good shepherd would do all he could to protect the sheep, to go all the way to search for a lost sheep and to do all he could to make sure that the sheep is safe and sound. And as the Lord Himself mentioned, that a true and good shepherd knows all of his sheep, and the sheep know him. And that is exactly Who the Lord is, our Good Shepherd Who loves each and every one of us.

Obviously God loves each and every one of us, for it was He Who created us from nothingness and gave us life, for each one of us. God did not create us without a good reason, and that reason is that He wants to share with us His perfect love. God has no need for our love, as He Himself is already perfect in love and having perfect love in His Trinity, between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, united in perfect love to each other.

Yet, He wants to love us, and to show His care upon us, to all He has created, and foremost of all, mankind, whom He created in His very own image, and who are the pinnacle of His creation. God is ever loving upon us, whom He considers to be His own children. And why is that so? That is all the more because Christ, His begotten Son, has willingly taken up our existence as Man, that just as He is Son, we too are sons and daughters of God.

The relationship between sheep and shepherd is a very close one, like that of parent and child. Hence, God as our Good Shepherd is yet another reinforcement of the fact of just how great His love for us is. He is our loving Father, our Guardian, our Protector, our Shepherd and our King. And because of that, He is always concerned about us, and worried about us, just as shepherds are always wary of the threats facing their sheep.

And like all sheep, which sometimes like to wander off on its own, all of us, God’s sheep also like to wander off the path that God has shown us. We have disobeyed the commands and laws that God has given us, and preferring to follow our own path. This is where the devil tries to come in, to prey upon us, just like wolves preying on sheep. And he is always ready to snatch those who are lost and separated from the rest of the flock, leading us to our downfall.

That is why the devil is never at rest, constantly trying to get his hands on us, especially those who are most vulnerable to his tricks and lies, to the temptations and persuasions with which he had swayed countless souls from their way to heaven, into the path leading towards hell. The devil is ever active, sending out his agents, demons and evil spirits, to harass us and to drag us into the depths of hell with them.

Of course, the Lord in all these does not stay silent or inactive. If we think that He has done nothing to help us, then let us remind ourselves by looking upon He Who was crucified on the cross. He, our Good Shepherd, above all else, laid down His very life for us, enduring the worst sufferings and pains, far beyond what we mankind can ever imagine or comprehend, so that by those sufferings and by His death, He could save us from a certainty of death and damnation.

He has become the fulfilment of His own words, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” A good and committed shepherd would do everything in order to protect his sheep, and if necessary, they might even put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the sheep from danger. That is what a true and good shepherd would have done, as he loved the sheep as much as himself.

God, Who is our Good Shepherd, has done exactly the same thing, and as all of us are His beloved sheep, who have been scattered and cast away from Him because of our sins, He came between us and damnation itself, by accepting the punishment for our sins, that though He died, all of us may live because of His ultimate sacrifice. And that is not the end, but instead, a new beginning, because He conquered death and sin, by His glorious resurrection.

Now Christ, our Good Shepherd and Risen Lord has shown us the way forward, and He appointed His disciples, from the Apostles to their successors, all the way to the priests and bishops of our present time, to be shepherds of His flock. And these shepherds model themselves after the Good Shepherd Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of them have worked tirelessly, all throughout the ages, to serve the people of God and the Church, caring for the needs of God’s people, the flock entrusted under their care, as shepherds.

And it is important that today, we remember to pray for our priests and bishops, all those who are our shepherds, that they will remain strong in their faith, conviction and commitment to the vocation into which God had called and confirmed them. And not just that, we should also help them and take part in the activities of the Church together, as our shepherds cannot do their works alone. And there are many threats facing them that we need to be aware of.

Just as the Lord, our Good Shepherd, gave His life to protect us and to bring salvation unto us, many of our priests and bishops had to devote themselves, even to the point of suffering and laying down their lives as martyrs, just so that more and more souls of man may be saved from eternal damnation. That is why we need to pray for them and assist them in whatever way we can.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, Satan knows that if he wants to gain access at us, God’s flock, he must first strike at the shepherds. That was exactly what he has been trying to do, and what he will continue to do. Assaults after assaults, temptations after temptations await our priests and bishops, all those whom God had called and chosen. Now, let us all help them, and help each other, united as one Church, that we strive and persevere through these challenges together.

May the Lord continue to watch over His servants, especially those whom He had made shepherds over His people, our priests and bishops. And may He call even more young men who are destined for a life of service and shepherdhood, that they may discern well and take up the cross, to continue the good works which the Apostles and their successors had done, in shepherding God’s flock and finding their way to Him. May God be with all of our priests, our bishops, and with all of us. Amen.

Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 11-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. Not so the hired hand, or any other person who is not the shepherd, and to whom the sheep do not belong. They abandon the sheep as soon as they see the wolf coming; then the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep. This is because the hired hand works for pay and cares nothing for the sheep.”

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father. Because of this, I give My life for My sheep. I have other sheep which are not of this fold. These I have to lead as well, and they shall listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, since there is one Shepherd.”

“The Father loves Me, because I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down freely. It is Mine to lay down and to take up again : this mission I received from My Father.”

Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-2

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is.

Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 117 : 1 and 8-9, 21-23, 26 and 28-29

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the help of humans. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the might of princes.

I thank You for having answered me, for having rescued me. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was YHVH’s doing and we marvel at it.

Blessed is He Who comes in YHVH’s Name! We praise You from the house of YHVH. You are my God, and I give You thanks. You are my God, and I give You praise. Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good; His steadfast love endures forever!

Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 4 : 8-12

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke up, “Leaders of the people! Elders! It is a fact, that we are being examined today for a good deed done to a cripple. How was he healed? You and all the people of Israel, must know, that this man stands before you cured, through the Name of Jesus Christ, the Nazorean.”

“You had Him crucified. But God raised Him from the dead. Jesus is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other Name given to humankind, all over the world, by which we may be saved.”

Sunday, 15 April 2018 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, we recall God’s great deeds by which He has brought us from the brink of destruction, into a new life where we are in safe condition under good hands, as God Himself took care of us, His people, and would not let harm to come upon our way.

The Apostle St. Paul, as he visited the faithful in the city of Antioch in Pisidia during his apostolic ministry, encouraged the faithful and the Jewish community living in that city, by relating to them how God had done great deeds for them, beginning with the time of the Exodus, a time when the people of Israel was oppressed and made to suffer great humiliation in the land of Egypt, and God brought them out by His great power, guiding them through the desert, and finally made them to dwell in the Promised Land given to them and promised to their ancestors.

St. Paul preached about the salvation of God, which came into this world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. He is God’s only begotten Son, Who has willingly taken up our human existence, that He has dwelled among us and walked among us, entering the history of man. In the Gospel passage today, we heard again of the tale of the resurrected Christ, Who after His resurrection has appeared to His disciples.

In that same Gospel passage, the Lord mentioned that everything that the Laws and the Prophets have mentioned, the promises God had made and everything He had uttered from the beginning of time have to be fulfilled, and indeed, He has fulfilled them all to perfection in Jesus Christ, by His works, and most importantly, by His Passion on the cross, His suffering and death, and His glorious resurrection into life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what all of us as Christians need to do today, is that we need to remember how God has done so much in order to save us, and to bring good to all of us. He has bore all of our sins, and all the punishments due for our sins, and all the consequences and the sufferings intended for the shortcomings and mistakes we have committed. He has willingly taken up all these upon Himself, so that, all of us may live and not perish.

Yet, many of us do not realise or appreciate this great love which He has for us. And in reality, many Christians are not aware or appreciative of this great boon which they have all received. For many of us Christians, our faith can even be said as merely a formality, as merely on paper alone, and not one that is truly built upon the solid foundation of love and zeal for God.

For example, how many of us say or think that we believe in God, and yet, in our words, we cause harm to others, or even profane God and His Name? How many of us, by our words and by our actions, we scandalise our Christian faith, and ultimately, the good Name of God? How many of us, because of our words and actions, we make people to shun our Christian faith and refuse to be saved?

Then, how many of us said that we are God’s people, and yet, we barely even have the time to think about Him, and less still, spending quality time with Him? Surely, there are even many among us Christians, who think that coming for the Mass on Sundays, or even for many others, on Christmas and, or Easter alone is enough. And still, for many of us, when we come to the Mass, we cannot wait for the Mass to end, as we cannot wait to continue whatever business we have outside of the church, and go back to our daily habits.

And, even in our churches, in our parishes and in our Christian communities, many of us call ourselves as Christians, and yet, we do not behave as what Christians ought to be. We are jealous when others get something that we do not have, and we squabble over positions in the Church, or for things to go according to our way. When someone else does things in ways different from our own, or not meeting our expectation, we become angry or displeased at that person.

The worst of all, is how we often behave as Christians, in our gossiping and in our slanders, and this is not limited to the laity alone, but even towards our priests. We bicker among ourselves for the most trivial of things, but in all of these, are we not forgetting what we are truly supposed to be doing as Christians? Have we forgotten what it means for us to be followers and disciples of Christ?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at our baptism, we have made the solemn promise to reject Satan and all of his evil teachings and ways, and we renew this promise every year at Easter. But are we truly meaning what we are saying, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or are we only making empty promises and meaningless words? Our actions and words, our deeds and interaction with one another are often filled with the works of the devil, and sometimes not just that we do not shun them, but in fact we even embrace them.

Hence, from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord? Are we able to really mean what we say, when we promise Him that we are faithful to Him and that we reject Satan and all of his false promises and persuasions? Therefore, let us all seek to be more devoted to the Lord in all of our ways, in all of our words, actions and deeds.

Let us all lead a new life, no longer filled with arrogance, jealousy, slanderous attitudes and hatred, but instead, be filled with love, with compassion and tenderness that God has shown us. If we are Christians, then we are truly obliged to replicate and follow the examples that Christ has set for us. He Himself has loved us when we hated Him, He forgave us when we sinned against Him and wronged Him, He showed us compassion and mercy when we are suffering.

And because God has shown us so much love and been so kind to us, then we, as His people, should be doing the same as well with our lives. Remember, brethren, that the works of the Apostles, in preaching the Good News and testifying their faith in the Lord are still work in progress, and now it is our obligation to continue their works. And the best way that we can take part in these works, is by living a true and genuine Christian life for each and every one of us.

Why is that so? That is because if we ourselves do not act in the way that God has taught us to do, then would that not make us hypocrites? Then, who will believe in hypocrites? No one will. So, if we want others to follow us and be saved, as is our obligation, then we must first be good and faithful Christians in the first place. Let this be our Easter resolution, that from now on, we will try our best to do what God has commanded us to do.

May the Risen Lord be with us always, and may He bless all of our endeavours and works. May He continue to guide us in our path, that we will always be faithful to Him, throughout our whole lives. May all of us do our very best to serve Him, and to dedicate ourselves to Him, from now and unto forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 15 April 2018 : Third Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 24 : 35-48

Then the two disciples told what had happened on the road to Emmaus, and how Jesus had made Himself known, when He broke bread with them. While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood in their midst. (He said to them, “Peace to you.”)

In their panic and fright they thought they were seeing a ghost, but He said to them, “Why are you upset, and how does such an idea cross your minds? Look at My hands and feet, and see that it is I Myself! Touch Me, and see for yourselves, for a ghost has no flesh and bones as I have!” (As He said this, He showed His hands and feet.)

In their joy they did not dare believe, and were still astonished; so He said to them, “Have you anything to eat?” And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish. He took it, and ate it before them. Then Jesus said to them, “Remember the words I spoke to you when I was still with you : Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

And He said, “So it was written : the Messiah had to suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead. Then repentance and forgiveness in His Name would be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.”