Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, on the fortieth day of Easter, we mark the occasion of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, commemorating the moment when the Risen Lord Jesus, after having appeared to His disciples, ascended in glory to Heaven, returning to His place at the side of God the Father. On this day we remember the time when the Lord, as He ascended into Heaven, sent out His disciples and followers with the final commandment, also known as the Great Commission, to go forth to the whole world and make the disciples of all the peoples of all the nations.

Today we are all reminded that while God has ascended into Heaven, it was not because He abandoned us or left us behind. Instead, as He Himself had said, that He went before all of us to prepare a place for us, and also as He has said and promised, that He will come again in the end, at His Second Coming, to gather all of His faithful ones and to win a final triumphant victory against the forces of evil, leading all of us, God’s beloved children to the true and fullness of happiness which had been intended and meant for us from the very beginning. The Lord ascended into Heaven to show us that He truly came from there, and by His love for us, He has willingly come to us in order to touch us and to show His most generous and enduring love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Solemnity of the Ascension, we are presented with the full circle of the Lord’s work in bringing His love and salvation into our midst. We have seen the Lord’s love made flesh, the Son of God made Man, Who entered into this world as the Son of Man, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, and made the love of God and His salvation tangible and approachable to us. The Lord has shown Himself to us, and as He came of age and revealed Himself through His Baptism, He began His ministry and work among us, and revealing the truth that He has brought into this world.

And today we mark that moment after He has completed all of that world He had to do in this world, in obeying the will of His heavenly Father. He completed His many works, healing the people, casting out demons and performing countless other miracles and signs, showing everyone that He is truly the One Whom the prophets and messengers of God had spoken and prophesied about. He would then face suffering for our sake, willingly and voluntarily taking up His Cross for our sake, accepting the burden of that Cross on our behalf, bearing on His shoulders the whole burden and the consequences due for our sins. By His Passion, suffering and death, He has united us to Himself and we who share in His death and then later, His Resurrection, have become sharers and partakers of this promise of eternal life.

Hence, after He has completed all of these and made a New Covenant, the new and everlasting Covenant between God and us, sealed and purchased by His own Precious Blood, which He offered for our sake, as our High Priest, on the Altar of His Cross, as mentioned in our second reading today, so that by the offering of the most worthy Precious Body and Blood of the Son of God, the Holy Paschal Lamb of God, then the atonement of our innumerable sins can be made a reality. We are truly so fortunate that we have such a loving God on our side, caring for us and protecting us, and even reaching out to us and loving us when we have often spurned His love and rejected Him and His mercy.

The Lord ascended into Heaven after He has risen from the dead, after His triumphant victory against evil and death. And as He ascended gloriously by His own power and might, it proved to all those who had witnessed Him in His Risen glory and that He did not die but had risen from the dead, that truly Jesus Christ is the Holy One Who had come down from Heaven as prophesied by the prophets and the servants of God of ages past, and the Lord has delivered unto us the unmistakeable proof of His love, by His sacrifice on the Cross. His ascension and return into Heaven then serves as the proof that whatever He had said was true, and the disciples who witnessed it, believed in Him as they had always done.

The Lord also did not leave His disciples alone, as He has promised to send them the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit would continue to guide them henceforth, to do what He commanded them all to do, the Great Commission to go forth to all the people from all the nations, proclaiming the truth of God, the Good News of His salvation and to gather them all to Himself, by baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This has been, is and will always be the primary mission of the Church, as God entrusted this very important mission to His Church, to this very day, so that many more people who had not yet known Him, may come to be saved as well.

That is why, today, as we celebrate this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, it is very important that each and every one of us realise that as parts and members of the Church, each one of us as Christians ought to take up this same mission which God has entrusted to us, to be His witnesses and to evangelise to all the people of all the nations. We are all called to share in the very same mission that God has entrusted to His Apostles, until He comes again at the end of time, at the time of His Second Coming, as shown in the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, when God will come once again to gather all of His faithful and win a final victory against evil.

Now, let us ask ourselves, brothers and sisters. Have we truly lived our lives faithfully as Christians all these while? Or have we instead been idle and ignorant of our calling and mission as Christians, or even worse still, have we instead been acting in ways that brought scandal to our faith and to the Lord, which caused others to distance themselves from the Church and from the Christian faith and truths? These are important questions that we really need to ask ourselves and to serve as good reminders even as we celebrate this Ascension of Our Lord today, so that it will not be merely just another celebration and then life goes on as usual for us, without a profound change in our life attitudes.

If we wonder whether we are worthy or capable of the calling and the mission which the Lord had entrusted to us, then we do not need to look any further from the Apostles themselves, many of whom were illiterate and came from backgrounds and origins that would have made them unlikely, even ineligible to be the followers and champions of the Lord. And yet, that was what exactly had happened, and the Lord called His disciples and followers even from among the unlikeliest of sources, because ultimately what we think as impossible, by our standards, are perfectly possible for God, because everything is possible for Him, Who knows all things and rules over all.

We do not need to do magnificent or wonderful things. Even if we can live our lives righteously, in accordance to the teachings of the Lord and the laws and rules of the Church, in even the smallest things and parts of our lives, then that will already be sufficient for us. What we need to do is to do our best even in the smallest of things, in the every words we utter, every actions and interactions we have done, and in our every works and dealings. We are all called to be good examples, role models and inspirations to one another with our every day living and in all that we say, act and do. That is the best way for us to proclaim the Lord and to evangelise, reaching out to all those who have not yet known the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive to do our best in our every day living, from now on if we have not yet done so, to be good and committed disciples of Our Lord, spreading His Good News, truth and love to all, and continuing His many good works that He has entrusted to His Church. We are all God’s people, and we should do our best to follow Him and obey His will as best as we can. We should reflect on this well as we celebrate this glorious day of the Ascension. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us all and to strengthen us just as He has guided the Apostles and disciples in doing their best for the greater glory of God.

May our Lord, Who ascended in glory and Who has shown us His everlasting love, continue to guide us and be with us, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our path so that we may always ever be ready to embark on the journey of faith and be great witnesses and missionaries of His cause, glorifying Him by our every actions and deeds in life. Amen.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 24 : 46-53

At that time, Jesus 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. And that is why I will send you what My Father promised. So remain in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany; then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And as He blessed them, He withdrew, and was taken to heaven. They worshipped Him, and then returned to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple, praising God.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 9 : 24-28 and Hebrews 10 : 19-23

Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the True One, but Heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God, on our behalf. He had not to offer Himself many times, as the High Priest does : he, who, may return every year, because the blood is not his own. Otherwise, He would have suffered many times, from the creation of the world.

But no; He manifested Himself only now, at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once, and afterward are judged, in the same way, Christ sacrificed Himself, once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin, when He comes again, to save those waiting for Him.

So, my friends, we are assured of entering the Sanctuary, by the Blood of Jesus Who opened, for us, this new and living way, passing through the curtain, that is, His Body. Because we have a High Priest in charge of the House of God, let us approach, with a sincere heart, with full faith, interiorly cleansed from a bad conscience, and our bodies washed, with pure water.

Let us hold fast to our hope, without wavering, because He, Who promised, is faithful.

Alternative reading

Ephesians 1 : 17-23

May the God of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Father of Glory, reveal Himself to you and give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know Him. May He enlighten your inner vision, that you may appreciate the things we hope for, since we were called by God.

May you know how great is the inheritance, the glory, God sets apart for His saints; may you understand with what extraordinary power He acts in favour of us who believe. He revealed His Almighty power in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and had Him sit at His right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world but in the world to come as well.

Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set Him above all things, as Head of the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

God is King of all the earth; sing to Him a hymn of praise. For God now rules over the nations, God reigns from His holy throne.

Thursday, 26 May 2022 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 1-11

In the first part of my work, Theophilus, I wrote of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when He ascended to heaven. But first He had instructed through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles He had chosen. After His passion, He presented Himself to them, giving many signs that He was alive, over a period of forty days He appeared to them and taught them concerning the kingdom of God.

Once when He had been eating with them, He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the fulfilment of the Father’s promise about which I have spoken to you : John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit within a few days.”

When they had come together, they asked Him, “Is it now that You will restore the Kingdom of Israel?” And He answered, “It is not for you to know the time and the steps that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth.”

After Jesus said this, He was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hid Him from their sight. While they were still looking up to heaven where He went, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus Who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen Him go there.”

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is already the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and this means that we are approaching the end of the joyous season of Easter soon, and it is a good time for us to take stock on what we have gone through so far in the season of Easter. This season of Easter is a time for us to focus our attention on the Risen Lord and the hope that He has brought upon us all Christians, the hope of everlasting life and true happiness with God. It is a time for us to rediscover our faith in Him and for us to return to our roots in the teachings of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, as we listened to the words of the Acts of the Apostles, we are presented with the controversy and divisions that existed within the Church in its early days when there were disagreements between those who sought to impose the very strict and harsh version of the Jewish laws and customs, as proposed by those converts to the Christian faith from among the Pharisees, and those who wanted to make it easier for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people to follow the Lord, by not requiring any Christian faithful from obeying the full laws and customs of the Jewish people. Both of them represented the different opinions and factions then present within the early Church, showing some of the challenges faced by the Church and its leaders in its earliest days.

It would be difficult for the non-Jewish people like the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Arameans and many others who were touched and called by the truth of God to follow the Lord should they be required to obey the fullness of the Jewish laws and customs. That is because some of the Jewish traditions and requirements such as circumcision and the dietary prohibitions would have caused great difficulties for them to live their lives as Christians as those were seen as strange or even barbaric practices by those Gentiles. It would have made living as Christians doubly difficult for the converts from among the Gentiles.

As such, the Apostles and the whole Church discussed and prayed over the matter, and they considered how they could make it better especially for the Gentiles to follow the Lord. They decided that it was unnecessary for the faithful, be it Jews or Gentiles to follow the fullness of the very restrictive and strict Jewish laws and customs. Those laws had dated from the time of Moses, when the Lord Himself gave those commandments, laws and precepts to His people through Moses. However, many of those were meant to help the people to redirect their attention and way of life to focus on the Lord instead of their many worldly preoccupations and distractions.

Instead, as time went by, there were more and more laws and ordinances, harsher and stricter interpretations due to the desire of the people to purify their way of life after enduring the difficulties and the humiliations caused by the years of the destruction of the old kingdom of Israel, the destruction of their homeland and exile in Babylon, Assyria and elsewhere. Then, later on, much more recent by the time of Jesus, the actions of the Greeks in trying to destroy the Jewish culture and customs, as highlighted in the Book of the Maccabees in the Old Testament, would lead to a bitter war of independence led by the Maccabees which eventually led to the freedom for the Jewish people. This happened just about over a hundred and fifty years before the time of Jesus’ ministry.

However, that noble intention was overshadowed by the overzealous attempts of those who sought to keep the laws pure and sacred, by increasingly emphasising on the intricate details of the rituals and practices of the laws, adding more detailed explanations and parts that ended up overriding the original intention of the Law, and making it difficult and cumbersome for the people to follow it faithfully and wholeheartedly. In fact, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who enforced those laws themselves did not truly and could not fulfil the entire commandments and parts of the Law that they themselves enforced.

Hence, what we have heard in our first reading is a reminder for all of us that, just as the Apostles had done in pointing out to the Church and the faithful that what is important in being Christians is not about the Law itself or how one is to follow the Law in a particular way, for ultimately, the Law is a means through which the faithful could be better able to follow the Lord, and it is meant to bring the people closer to God, to discover His truth and love, and to know how they can live their lives so that they may be better attuned to Him, and eventually be able to find their way to Him through His saving grace.

That was why, the Apostles and the elders of the Church decided that it did not make any sense for the faithful to be subjected to the whole breadth and depth of the Jewish laws and practices as enforced and kept by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, when the Lord Himself frequently, as highlighted throughout the Gospels, criticised the way that those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had carried out and followed the Law. When the Law became the focus of the attention and when everyone ended up becoming self-centred and self-righteous, comparing oneself and thinking of oneself as being better and superior than others just because they obeyed the Law better, that is when the Church as a community of the faithful break down and fail to work.

Instead, the Church of God must remain open and welcoming, filled with the genuine love of God and His truth. The Church of God has to be the beacon of light showing the light of God, His love and truth to all the nations. The message that we heard in our second reading today from the Book of Revelations of St. John showed us the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Heaven and the new Earth that will come in the end, and into which all the people are called to come, regardless of their race and background, and regardless of their affiliations and status. What matters is their faith and genuine love for God.

The Lord welcomes us all, every single sons and daughters of man to follow Him, to be His disciples and followers. He calls us all to walk in His path, and He has taught us how to do so, through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today. In His own words, He said that we ought to keep His words and teachings, and accept His truth wholeheartedly. That is what He expected us to do with our lives, as Christians, as His disciples and followers, and as His beloved people. All of us have to remain firm in following His path and not be easily distracted by the many temptations and pressures of the world, and keep our focus on Him and not on other things.

As what we have heard and discussed regarding the attitudes of those who followed the strict version of the Jewish customs and laws, and attempted to impose them on the whole Church. The Lord wants us, His faithful ones to live according to the Law and not for the Law. The Law of God is the law of love, what God has revealed to us more completely through His Son and the Holy Spirit, a call for us to love God with all of our hearts and might, and to show that same love to all of our fellow brethren, our fellow mankind. That is what Christian love is and all of us are challenged and called to fulfil that, as the cornerstone of our lives and as our focus and attention.

Each and every one of us have to remind ourselves that we are all called to share the love of God with one another, and to inspire others to love Him more and more. And the best way for us to do that is by showing that love in our own way of life. Instead of loving ourselves and acting with pride and arrogance as what many among the Pharisees had done, who looked down on those whom they condemned as sinners and unworthy, we ought to remind ourselves that we are all sinners in God’s eyes, sinners who are in need of God’s love and mercy. We are all equal before God and we should not think that we are better than others, or wanting to impose our way of thinking on others, as highlighted, when those are not in accordance with God’s truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all as we continue with our journey of faith in life, commit ourselves to follow the Lord and to do the best with our lives, with whatever gifts and talents that God has given us. Let us all be exemplary in our lives and actions so that by our lives we may inspire many others to follow our examples, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to us. Let us not worry about how much we do and whether what we had done is enough. Instead, let us encourage ourselves by realising that whatever we have done, even in the smallest things, can impact others in ways beyond what we ever imagined.

Let us do our best to inspire others to follow the Lord and to believe in Him, instead of pushing them away from Him by our arrogance, pride or self-righteousness. Instead, let us show the path to the Lord by sharing His love and compassion, His mercy and grace by our actions, at all times. May God bless us all and our every actions, for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 14 : 23-29

At that time, Jesus answered Judas, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him; and We will come to him and make a room in his home.”

“But if anyone does not love Me, he will not keep My words; and these words that you hear are not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me. I told you all this while I was still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”

“Peace be with you! I give you My peace; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, but I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would be glad that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

“I have told you this now before it takes place, so that when it does happen you may believe.”

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 21 : 10-14, 22-23

One of the seven Angels took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the colour of crystal-clear jasper. Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve Angels.

Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

I saw no Temple in the city, for the Lord God, Master of the Universe, and the Lamb, are themselves its Temple. The city has no need of the light of the sun or the moon, since God’s glory is its light and the Lamb is its lamp.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us, may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the people praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 1-2, 22-29

Some persons, who had come from Judea to Antioch, were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the Law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Because of this, there was trouble; and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were, when they became believers. Finally, those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem, to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

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.”