Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, all of us are called to remember the generous and most wonderful love by which God has loved us, throughout all these time, and then of our obligation as Christians, as the people whom God has called and chosen, loved and blessed, to be the bearers of this same love in our own lives, to be His witnesses and His disciples in our world today, showing His truth and love through our own actions, deeds and interactions in our lives.

In our Scripture readings today, we are all constantly reminded of God’s love that is ever present all around us, and that God Himself is Love. And as God is our Lord and Master, then we should also follow in His examples and do as He Himself has done and follow in whatever He has shown us and taught us to do, to be loving in all of our actions and interactions, to be sincere and committed in love towards one another, just as we have also loved Him and how He loved us first before all else.

In our first reading, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the account of St. Peter and his visit to the family of a Roman centurion and citizen, Cornelius, who was willing to listen to him and the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, and hearing that St. Peter was there, Cornelius invited St. Peter to his household to speak about the Lord and His salvation. Before this visit, St. Peter had been hesitant as he was about to enter into the house of a Gentile or non-Jew, which in the old Jewish custom, was considered as some sort of taboo as doing so would make them unclean.

That was also why the Jewish elders and chief priests did not enter into the Praetorium at the time when the Lord was condemned to death in Jerusalem, as doing so would have rendered them unclean, a fact stated clearly in the Gospel accounts on the Passion of the Lord, and they remained outside to keep themselves clean for the celebration of the Passover. In the same manner therefore, St. Peter initially was hesitant in responding to Cornelius’ invitation, but God then showed him a vision, of a great sheet lowered down from Heaven, with all sorts of beasts and animals considered unclean by the old Jewish laws and customs.

St. Peter was hesitant and refused to eat of those animals in the vision, when the voice of God commanded him to eat of those animals deemed to be unclean by the Law. And then, three times the Lord reminded him again and again, that he should not consider unclean what the Lord has considered to be clean and purified. Through that vision, the Lord wanted St. Peter and also all of us by extension, to know that for Him, there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, Jew or Roman or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, rich or poor, strong or weak. Instead, everyone is equally beloved by Him and He considers each and every one of us as His beloved children, without exception.

Hence, as St. Peter came to Cornelius’ house, he himself saw how great the faith that he had in the Lord, and how willing he and his whole household were in listening to the truth that he was about to reveal to them, and it was there then St. Peter realised fully the meaning of the vision I mentioned earlier, that God is calling on all the whole world to be His disciples and followers, and that there should be no more distinctions between Jews or Gentiles, or any other distinctions that we usually encounter in the world, in any forms. God loves all equally and wants all to be saved.

And the Lord again gave a very clear sign of His love and favour to the Gentiles and the faithful among them, by sending them the very same Holy Spirit that He Himself has given to the Apostles at Pentecost. The whole household of Cornelius received the Holy Spirit and began glorifying God in joy and speaking in tongues and different languages, the same spirit of wisdom and courage that the Apostles themselves had received. This is yet another proof that God wants all to be His disciples, and not just the Jews alone, or just those who follow the strict tradition of Jewish laws and customs.

This is important because in the later chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, there would be disagreements and divisions in the early Church, which we might have heard in the previous days Scripture readings for those of us who attended the weekday Mass, where it was elaborated how the converts from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were trying to impose on the whole faithful the strict observances of the Jewish laws and customs, such as circumcision, the dietary restrictions on unclean foods that were forbidden, many other customs and practices that would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to be Christians as many of the Jewish practices and customs were seen as aberration and even disgusting by the non-Jewish people, particularly by the Greeks and the Romans.

Hence, through that passage today from the Acts of the Apostles and the life and work of St. Peter, in his interactions with Cornelius, later known as St. Cornelius the Centurion, all of us are called to be loving to one another, not be judgmental and territorial in our behaviour and attitudes in the Church, and we are all reminded that the Church is indeed Catholic, which means ‘Universal’ from the Greek Katholikos, just as it is also ‘One’, means united as one in God, ‘Holy’ as it is sanctified by God and the Holy Spirit that He has sent to us, and ‘Apostolic’ in the evangelising and missionary nature of the Church, in reaching out to all the faithful of all the nations and all the people.

That is why today, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter and rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection and glory, all of us as one Church, the members of the same Body of Christ, the Living Church in this world, we are all reminded that we all share in the generous and ever wonderful love of God, and through Christ, Our Lord’s only begotten Son, as St. John elaborated in his Epistle in our second reading today, God has shown His love in the flesh, coming to dwell within us and among us, that His love remains with us, always and at all times.

We know the love of God because He has come to us and showed us all what it truly means to love unconditionally, and to love generously, the way that the Lord has loved us, that He gave us His only begotten Son, to be given up as the sacrifice for the atonement for our sins, the most loving sacrifice on the Cross. Whenever we look at Christ Crucified on the Cross, we should remember that it was for love that God’s own Son has suffered and died for us, that through His suffering and death, all of us may have life through Him. He put Himself between us and death, that He may gather us all in, into His loving embrace and save us from certain destruction due to our sins.

Therefore, as we then heard in our Gospel passage today, having known of God’s great love, and indeed how blessed we are to be so beloved, then, we all need to love as well, and obey the commandments that God has given us, to remain in His love and to love Him first and foremost before anything else, to give Him our whole heart and love, attention and focus, and to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters, sharing the same love that we ourselves have received, and loving one another just as much as we love ourselves.

These two commandments summarised the whole Law as revealed to Moses, and which then was perfected by the Lord, as He showed that the whole Law, all the teachings and words of the prophets were all about love, the love that all of us, God’s people ought to have for Him, because He has loved us first and constantly loving us as well, and which we also ought to love one another in the same way. If we are being prejudiced and harsh towards others, and if we are looking down on anyone because of their race, background, upbringing or any others, then how can we call ourselves as Christians, since all equally beloved by God, and if we do all those we are going against God?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall what we have just heard from our Scripture readings and all that we have discussed together just earlier on, let us discern carefully how we are going to move forward in life from now on. And let us look deep into ourselves and see how we have lived our lives so far, and ask ourselves whether we have been loving in our way of living our lives. We should ask ourselves whether we have loved God first and foremost, having Him as the centre and focus of our existence, or whether we have often forgotten Him for other attachments and temptations of worldly glory and pleasures?

And we should also ask ourselves and reflect whether in how we interact with our fellow brothers and sisters around us, with our own spouses, children, parents, our family members and relatives, and with our friends and acquaintances, and even with all those whom we encounter, with the strangers whom we met in each and every one of our daily activities, have we shown genuine love in our actions? Have we instead sown discord, bitterness and hatred among each other by our words and interactions with each other?

It is much easier for us to love ourselves than to love others, and it is much easier for us to be selfish rather than to be selfless and caring. And that is why all of us are challenged today to learn to love others more and to show more empathy, care and concern for those who are in need of love, for those who are marginalised and ostracised, rejected and despised by the society. Do not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord Himself has shown us the example. When we are still sinners, wicked and terrible, sinful and corrupted, unworthy and broken by those sins, the Lord still loved us and reached out to us with love.

That is why, today on this Sunday and from here onwards, we are all called and challenged to walk in the path that the Lord has set before us, as He calls on all of us to be His witnesses and disciples in this world, to be the ones to proclaim His truth and love, that through our lives, our actions and genuine care and concern for one another, through our enduring and great love, our commitment to God, we may be the shining beacons of faith and examples of Christian charity and love in our world today. And that is how we reveal the Lord to ever more people who desire to know Him, and bring ever more souls to salvation in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be part of this missionary and evangelising mission of the Church, to proclaim the Lord’s truth and love through our own lives, through our own actions and words, our deeds and works in life. We are all called to do our best in our own lives, to be people of love, to be filled with love for God, first and foremost, and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, for all those whom we meet and encounter in life, be it strangers or those whom we know. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to this cause, brothers and sisters? This is what we have been called to do, and we should respond to the Lord’s call, in showing how the Lord and His love is truly Universal and all-encompassing.

In this present world, where there are so many bitterness and hatred, let us all bring love and forgiveness, compassion and mercy. And where there is selfishness and jealousy, let us bring humility, understanding and true, selfless love for our fellow men. And as we know that there are still so many who are suffering these days from the ongoing impact of the pandemic and other troubles facing our world today, let us all do our best, in whichever way we can, to be good influence to others, to be more loving as best as we can, to show more care and empathy towards others, especially those who are suffering and sorrowful. The world has enough pain and suffering as it is, and it is up to us to show out genuine love, which is a reflection of God’s love, to all who need it.

Let us all be the shining beacons of God’s light and love, and be good role models for one another, and may God be with us all that we may continue to persevere in our journey, and remain committed to the mission He has entrusted to us, to make His love and truth known in all the whole world, as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, a truly Universal Church in which every children of God belongs to. May God bless all of us and our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 7-10

My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves, is born of God and knows God. Those who do not love have not known God, for God is love.

How did the love of God appear among us? God sent His only Son into this world, that we might have life, through Him. This is love : not that we loved God, but that, He first loved us and sent His Son, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 25-26, 34-35, 44-48

As Peter was about to enter, Cornelius went to him, fell on his knees and bowed low. But Peter lifted him up saying, “Stand up, for I, too, am a human being.”

Peter then spoke to them, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and does good.”

Peter was still speaking when the Holy Spirit came upon all who listened to the word. And the believers of Jewish origin who had come with Peter were amazed, “Why! God gives and pours the Holy Spirit on foreigners also!” For indeed, this happened : they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter declared, “Can we refuse to baptise with water these people, who have received the Holy Spirit, just as we have?” So he had them baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ. After that, they asked him to remain with them for some days.

Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we are called to renew our commitment and relationship with God, that our Christian faith should not be just superficial and empty, but instead must be strong and vibrant, based on true devotion and love for God. We must base our faith upon this deep love and commitment, a genuine relationship we ought to be building between us and God, or else, we may end up easily losing our faith especially during times of trials and difficulties.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostle, we heard of the beginning of the ministry of St. Paul when he was still using his original name of Saul, and preached in Jerusalem very shortly after his conversion in Damascus. As not long before that Saul had just encountered the Lord, Who called on him to turn away from his mistaken and erroneous path, and instead following Him and His guidance so that he may not lose his path and find the true joy in life in Christ.

St. Paul, then known as Saul, entrusted himself to the Lord and allowed Him to lead his path. His works in Jerusalem met particular challenges because the Christian populations there were rightly surprised, as the very same Saul had been the one most zealous and passionate in trying to destroy the Church and the Christian community, hunting down the ones who believed in Christ, and who was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and Saul himself caused the untold suffering and martyrdom of others, in Jerusalem and other parts of Judea.

And then, he also certainly faced opposition and a lot of difficulties from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the members of the Sanhedrin. For St. Paul himself was a member of the Pharisees and once probably one of the most promising young member of the Pharisee, and had been guaranteed a great and prominent life among the members of the community, had it not been for his abrupt conversion and total change. Imagine the amazement and shock among those people seeing their supposed champion becoming the most ardent champion and defender of what they had tried so hard to stop and extinguish.

St. Paul did his best in everything he had done, in giving his life to the greater glory of God as the witness to the Lord and His truth, preaching the Good News and the words of the Gospel in the midst of many communities, to both the Jews and the Gentiles alike. He persevered on despite the many challenges he encountered, the numerous near death experiences and the sufferings he had to endure throughout his ministry. And all of this is because of his attachment to the Lord, how the Lord is at the centre and as the focus of his life and his entire work and ministry.

All that St. Paul had done, he did because of his great love and dedication to the Lord, and not for his own sake or glory. This is what the Lord spoke of in our Gospel passage today, when He used the parable of the Vine to explain how all those who believe in Him, all of His followers, have to remain attached to Him as the true Vine. That if we are the branches, then in order to remain living and vibrant, we have to be connected to the Vine, or the main stem, that is Our Lord, our foundation in life and the focus of our entire existence, around which all of our efforts and works should be centred on.

The Lord in another parable not mentioned in today’s Gospel also mentioned how the kingdom of God is like a great tree in which the birds of the air made their nests, with its enormous branches, all encompassing and bearing fruits and rich products. But without connection to the main stem, those branches will dry up and die, for it is the connection between the branches and the stem, and therefore to the rest of the plant that those branches prosper and grow wonderfully.

And another part of the same parable that we really ought to take note is as the Lord also mentioned how the grower and owner of the vineyard would trim the branches and remove those that have produced no fruits, so that those branches which do produce fruits may become even more fruitful. This is a reference to our Christian living and actions. If we do not live our lives as genuine and dedicated Christians, then we are like those barren and fruitless branches that will be trimmed away and thrown away into the fire.

What this means is that, as mentioned earlier, we have to follow the examples showed by St. Paul, the other Apostles and disciples, and all the saints and our holy predecessors who have shown us what it truly means to be Christians, as those who profess faith and belief in God. First of all, we have to put God as the centre and the focus of our lives, and we must show this in our every actions, words and deeds. And then, we must also be active and committed to God, that as said, in everything we do, we proclaim the truth of the Lord by our lives.

St. John in his Epistle, our second reading today, spoke of the commandments that God has entrusted to us, the commandments of love that He has revealed before us and which as Christians, we are all expected and obliged to follow and fulfil. We ought to live our lives in a true Christian way, loving God with all of our hearts and putting Him as the centre of our existence, and at the same time, also loving our fellow brothers and sisters with the same love as well. By that love and by our faith then everyone will know that truly we are Christians, those whom God has chosen and called.

And that is how we bear fruits, brothers and sisters, by being good role models for one another and by inspiring all those around us, whether they believe in the Lord or not, that through us and our dedication, many may come to believe in the Lord as well, just as many turned to the Christian faith by the efforts made by St. Paul, his fellow Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord who laboured hard in preaching the Good News and the Gospels to them. That is how we evangelise brothers and sisters, through our lives, and through our sincere and genuine actions, and not only through words, as St. Francis of Assisi famously said, ‘When necessary, use words’.

That is why today we ought to reexamine our way of living our lives. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord, and have we been exemplary in our Christian living? Or have we instead been idle or even ignorant of what we all need to do as Christians even in the smallest things? Do we also realise that if we are not living our faith they way we should, or worse still, live in ways contrary to our faith, we are scandalising the faith and not only that, but the Lord Himself? Many scandals had hurt the Church because of the actions of the members of the Church that do not conform to what the Lord has been calling us to do.

That is why this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, and as time continue to move on, we should spend the time to reexamine our lives and discern carefully on what we all should be doing to be a better role model and inspiration for one another, to be a better Christian and a more dedicated follower of God, not just in name only, but also through our real actions and commitments in life. No one is perfect, and we all have made mistakes and disobeyed the Lord at some point of time in our lives, but we should not continue making the same mistakes and continue in living our lives in disobedience against God.

Instead, God has called us to repent and to change our lives for the better, and He has given us so many opportunities to do so, and better still, as I have elaborated plenty earlier on, there are so many good role models in faith that we can follow, from St. Paul the Apostle, all the saints and holy martyrs of God, and even our own bishops and priests who have exemplified the values and virtues of a true Christian. The question is, are we willing to follow the Lord wholeheartedly as they had done, and be fruitful in our lives, in bearing the good fruits of faith, that our faith is not just empty and meaningless, but rather one that is truly active and vibrant?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are then worried or thinking that we cannot do wonderful and great things in living up to our Christian faith and calling, then we must realise that what matters is all the small, little actions we do each day, in our own communities, and even within our own families and circle of friends. We have to do whatever we can, in our own abilities and capacity to serve the Lord with faith, to be good examples for others that we may not only keep one another in faith but also lead even more souls to the salvation in the Lord.

Let us all today make a resolution to move forward in life from now on, committing ourselves to the Lord with a new faith and with renewed zeal and love for Him. Let us all, in our own little contributions, do our best to glorify the Lord and to proclaim His truth in our community. Let us be true disciples of the Lord from now on, not just merely a formality or in name only, but also in true deeds and work, through our tireless efforts and outreach, to our fellow men, from our own family members and circle of friends, and also to all those whom we meet and encounter in life daily.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen us in faith, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him, and may always be courageous and inspired to glorify His Name daily. May He empower us all through His Holy Spirit, that we may indeed bear rich and wonderful fruits of faith, and remain ever firmly attached to Him, Our true Vine and the Source of our life and all truth. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the True Vine and My Father is the vine grower. If any of My branches does not bear fruit, He breaks it off; and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit.”

“You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in Me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you do not remain in Me. I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in Me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from Me you can do nothing.”

“Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burnt. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit : it is then that you become My disciples.”

Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 18-24

My dear children, let us love, not only with words and with our lips, but in truth and in need. Then, we shall know that we are of the truth, and we may calm our conscience in His presence. Every time it reproaches us, let us say : God is greater than our conscience, and He knows everything.

When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then, whatever we ask, we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and that, we love one another, as He has commanded us.

Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us, that we know He lives in us.

Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 21 : 26b-27, 28, 30ab, 30c-32

I will fulfil my vows before all who revere YHVH. The lowly will eat and be satisfied. Those who seek YHVH will praise Him. May your hearts live forever!

The whole earth will acknowledge and turn to YHVH; the families of nations will worship Him.

Before Him, all those who rest in the earth will bow down, all who go down to the dust.

My soul will live for Him. My descendants will serve Him and proclaim YHVH to coming generations; they will announce His salvation to a people yet unborn, “These are the things that He has done.”

Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 26-31

When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples there, but they were afraid of him, because they could not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles. He recounted to them, how Saul had seen the Lord on his way, and the words the Lord had spoken to him. He told them, also, how Saul had preached boldly in the Name of Jesus.

Then Saul began to live with them. He moved about freely in Jerusalem and preached openly, in the Name of the Lord. He also spoke to the Hellenists; and argued with them. But they wanted to kill him. When the believers learnt of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, with eyes turned to the Lord, and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit.