Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last day of the glorious and most joyful season of Easter, with this celebration of the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, marking the time when the Holy Spirit came down upon all the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, bestowing upon them the many gifts that God has promised, as well as the Wisdom, guidance and courage that would strengthen many of those disciples in their ministry and works, marking the moment when the Church was truly born. That is why this Pentecost celebration is sometimes also known as the ‘Birthday of the Church’ as prior to the Pentecost moment, all the disciples were filled with fear and uncertainty, hiding from the Jewish authorities and others who opposed the Lord and their works. Through the Holy Spirit, the great Advocate and Helper from the Lord, God has truly given us all the renewal and the encouragement we all needed to embark in our mission as Christians.

In our first reading today, we heard of the traditional account of the moment of the Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles. detailing to us what happened on that day as the great tongues of flame of the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven upon all of the Apostles and the other disciples assembled in the same room, from which they immediately burst forth to proclaim courageously the truth and Good News of God to everyone who were assembled in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival, that happened fifty days after the Passover. The Holy Spirit did not just give them the strength and courage to carry out the mission that they had been entrusted with, overcoming the fears in their hearts and minds, but also gave them the Wisdom and eloquence to speak the truth with great intellect and understanding of the truth, as well as the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues, allowing many people to understand them all at the same time.

The huge number of people who came to Jerusalem came from both the Jewish diaspora and also other foreigners who were interested to know more about the Lord, as were other travellers and people who came to enjoy the festivities, all coming from different parts of the world and speaking different languages, and yet all of them could miraculously comprehend what the disciples of the Lord were preaching to them. That is what the Holy Spirit had done upon us all as well, by bringing unto us the unity and harmony that restored our unity as one flock of the Lord, one Church of God. This unity had once been broken and shattered because of our sins and pride, our disobedience against God, like what one of the Old Testament passages from the Vigil of the Pentecost last night highlighted to us regarding the well-known story of the Tower of Babel, where human pride and arrogance led to them being scattered and their languages confused by God.

The Holy Spirit therefore came down upon us, uniting us and bringing us to once again live in harmony as one people of God, one Church, giving us the gifts to live worthily as Christians, as God’s people and to proclaim His Good News and truth to renew the world. The Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we all may carry on the missions entrusted by the Lord to His Church and disciples, to gather all the scattered people and those whom He loved from all over the whole world. Through the Holy Spirit, the Church was made tangible as the disciples no longer hid themselves but went forth with great courage to call on more and more people to turn back towards the Lord and to repent from their sins. Right from the very first day of the Church’s visible existence at Pentecost, according to the Acts of the Apostles, three thousand people chose to be baptised and therefore laid the foundations for the growing Christian community.

The Lord gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples, who then passed on the same Holy Spirit to the rest of the Church, giving all of its members, including all of us a variety of gifts and blessings, abilities and opportunities as we have heard from our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Through the Holy Spirit, St. Paul mentioned that we have been given diverse and different gifts, graces and blessings, and made to be one people regardless of our origin and background. Thus, there should be no longer be discrimination or attitudes that show elitism or contempt within the Church from one to another just because a certain part or member of the Church felt that he or she is better and more pious compared to others, or more capable and worthy than their fellow brothers and sisters. All of us are equal before the Lord our God and we are equally beloved as well.

The Holy Spirit has given us all many gifts and this is what we should be reflecting on this day as we celebrate this glorious occasion, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the Church and the end of the glorious Easter season. We must first realise that the joy and the spirit of Easter must not end with today’s celebration. Rather, we have to carry on living our Christian lives with zeal and courage, to continue doing what we have done thus far, in doing God’s will and in carrying out whatever missions and opportunities we have been given. It is also an important reminder for each one of us that we have been given different calling and vocations in life, and this means that in whatever areas and in whichever vocation that we have, we should do what we can do to glorify God and to proclaim His Good News, and more often than not, this requires us to live our Christian lives well, to be genuinely and fully faithful in our lives to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence remind ourselves to let the Holy Spirit guide us and strengthen us each day and at every moments, so that we may always be good role models and sources of inspiration for one another in faith, continuing what the Lord has asked us to do, to be missionary and evangelising in our own respective communities. Let our actions, words and deeds, and our every interactions and works inspire more and more people, touch their hearts and minds so that they may come ever closer to God and that they may know the Lord and His truth better. Through all these, many more people and many more souls will come ever closer to God’s salvation, and each one of us have important parts to play in this. All of us are important in the Church’s efforts for the conversion of souls, and each one of our little actions do really matter.

May the Risen Lord be with us and His Church always, and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide and strengthen us, inflame and encourage us that we may always be firm in our faith and actions, and do our best to reach out to others with exemplary and shining faith in God. May the Holy Spirit lead us and help us to serve God ever more courageously and may all of us be strengthened in all things, now and always, forevermore. Come, Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth, and come to bless and strengthen us, give us the courage and desire to continue to do God’s will, at all times. Amen.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 19-23

At that time, on the evening of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 12 : 3b-7, 12-13

No one can say, “Jesus is the Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all.

The Spirit reveals His presence in each one with a gift that is also a service. As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit to form one body and all of us have been given to drink from the one Spirit.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1ab and 24ac, 29bc-30, 31 and 34

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; How varied o Lord, are Your works! The earth full of Your creatures.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works! May my song give Him pleasure, as the Lord gives me delight.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 2 : 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples of Jesus were all together in one place. And suddenly out of the sky came a sound like a strong rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues as if of fire which parted and came to rest upon each one of them. All were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each heard them speaking in his own language. Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them in our own native language?”

“Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Saviour, does.”

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we gather together this evening as one united Church, we all celebrate the Vigil of the Pentecost Sunday, marking the beginning of this great celebration and commemoration of the moment when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church and all the disciples of the Lord assembled back then in Jerusalem, fifty days after the glorious Resurrection of the Lord and ten days after He ascended gloriously to Heaven. This descent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled what the Lord has promised His disciples regarding the coming of the Advocate, or the Helper, Who is God the Holy Spirit, that the Lord Jesus Himself promised that the Father would send upon the disciples in order to strengthen and to guide them even after He was no longer physically with them.

The coming of the Holy Spirit marked a very important moment in the history and development of the Church as it marked the time when the disciples began a new phase in their ministry and work as they responded to the Lord’s call, encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, as they embarked on their missionary work and began proclaiming their faith openly without fear, as contrasted to how they had acted before. The disciples were full of fear and were in hiding from the Jewish authorities prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. But after the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, they became full of fire and zeal, strengthened and encouraged to proclaim the truth and the Good News of Christ without fear and without worry anymore, doing what the Lord has been entrusting to them, and with the Wisdom that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon them.

In our first reading today, there are a few readings used that can be used in this Pentecost Vigil like that of the Easter Vigil, with multiple readings preceding that of the Epistle reading, highlighting the significance of the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday at the end of the glorious season of Easter and mirroring the most joyful celebrations that we have had in the Easter Vigil celebrations, in the Mother of All Holy Vigils. On this Pentecost Vigil, there used to be baptism performed just as commonly done on Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses. The readings used from the Old Testament also highlighted the significance of the actions and the descent of the Holy Spirit, in completing many of the works and plans that the Lord has for us, His beloved people, in bringing us ever closer to Him and in empowering us all in our ever present and challenging struggles of life in this world.

The first one from the Book of Genesis recounted to us the story from the moment when mankind, after the Great Flood of Noah, became proud and began to seek ambitiously to reach out to the heights of Heaven by building up a huge tower, which we know as the Tower of Babel. Back then, all of mankind were still speaking the same language and tongue, and could understand each others’ speeches. They were all working together on a very ambitious and prideful project of building a great tower surpassing all others and reaching even unto Heaven itself. For their pride and arrogance, God punished mankind and confused their language and tongue which caused them to abandon their project as none of them could understand each other or work together anymore. Thus, we saw how the fruits of sin and pride are divisions and confusion, while the fruits of the Holy Spirit are unity and harmony.

How so? That is how the coming of the Holy Spirit can be contrasted to the moment of the divisions due to the Tower of Babel. While the Tower of Babel event led to mankind being separated by linguistic and other barriers, the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord the Wisdom and the ability to comprehend other languages, and also the ability to speak in tongues. The Acts of the Apostles account of the Pentecost Sunday itself highlighted how the people then assembled in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover Feast, from various countries and origins, all with different tongues and languages, all could understand what the Apostles were speaking and preaching about, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we can see how through the coming of the Holy Spirit, God once again brought His divided and scattered people together into one flock, united in His Church.

Then, from the other reading taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the famous vision of the prophet in which he saw a vast valley filled with huge multitudes of human bones, all dry and without life. By God’s will and through the Spirit of God, the Spirit of life coming to dwell in them, the Lord showed Ezekiel how all those dry bones began to reassemble themselves and returned into a living state, as they returned into a more and more human state, and finally, as the Spirit of God returned life unto them, all of them became a massive assembly of a huge number of the people of God assembled all in that valley upon what Ezekiel saw in that vision. This was a prefigurement of the restoration of the people of God, which would be restored to a new life full of grace and love of God, no longer subject to the tyranny of sin and death, that His Son, Our Lord and Saviour would bring to us, and the Holy Spirit would complete through the Church.

Thus just as sin and evil that have entered into our hearts and minds with the temptations of Satan and our failure to resist those temptations, led to suffering and death, the loss of life and the grace of God, thus through His Son and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, God Himself has sent unto us the path of hope and towards eternal life, which He has reassured us, that through Him, all of us shall gain a new life and existence that are no longer under the dominion of sin and evil. Sin no longer has its power over us, and no one shall ever separate us from the love of God again. God has always loved us and He has lovingly reached out to us, desiring to be reconciled and reunited with us. However, it is often always us who reneged on our Covenant and promises to Him, and we have often ignored His love and kindness, choosing to allow ourselves to be swayed by the falsehoods and the temptations of this world.

That is why all of us need to be reminded that today as we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and all of us, the Holy Spirit that we have received through the Sacrament of Baptism, and then strengthened in grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit by the Sacrament of Confirmation, all of us are called to renew the commitment and the dedication which each and every one of us ought to have to the Lord. As the Temples of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Presence of God, all of us should do our best to live our lives as good role models and inspirations, as Christians, so that by our actions, efforts, words, works and interactions all of us may truly embody the gifts of the Holy Spirit within us, and that we may truly bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our every moments and actions, in all the opportunities that we have received.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of Pentecost, let us all realise that each one of us as the members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church all have the same responsibilities and calling, the mission to carry on what the Lord has told us to do, as what His Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, courageous missionaries and faith role models had done before us. All of us should do our very best such that in each and every one of our actions, works, deeds and all the things we do, we always live our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in our journey of faith and in our actions. All of us share in the same Spirit of God the calling to do our part in glorifying the Lord by our lives, and in proclaiming the Good News to more and more of the people out there who have not yet known the Lord and His truth.

May all of us therefore, as part of the one Church of God, one flock of God’s people, united and made whole again, no longer scattered and separated because of sin, and empowered through the gift of the Holy Spirit, continue to do what we can to carry out the missions of the Church and to live our lives truly filled with the Holy Spirit, and continue to pass on the courage and the strength that the Spirit has granted to us. May the Risen Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ, continue to be with us and keep on leading His Church, all of us, to the right path. May all of us remain ever faithful and dedicated as good and inspirational Christians, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 7 : 37-39

At that time, on the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me; and let the one who believes in Me drink, for the Scripture says : Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

Jesus was referring to the Spirit, which those who believe in Him were to receive; the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 8 : 22-27

We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pangs of birth. Not creation alone, but even ourselves, although the Spirit was given to us as a foretaste of what we are to receive, we groan in our innermost being, eagerly awaiting the day when God will give us full rights and rescue our bodies as well.

In hope we already have salvation. But if we saw what we hoped for, there would no longer be hope; how can you hope for what is already seen? So we hope for what we do not see and we will receive it through patient hope. We are weak, but the Spirit comes to help us. How to ask? And what shall we ask for?

We do not know, but the Spirit intercedes for us without words, as if with groans. And He Who sees inner secrets knows the desires of the Spirit, for He asks for the holy ones what is pleasing to God.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 24 and 35c, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

How varied o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Bless the Lord, my soul!

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Genesis 11 : 1-9

The whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved from east, they found a plain in the country of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in fire.” They used brick for stone and bitumen for mortar. They said also, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching heaven; so that we may become a great people and not be scattered over the face of the earth!”

YHVH came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of man were building, and YHVH said, “They are one people and they have one language. If they carry this through, nothing they decide to do from now on will be impossible. Come! Let Us go down and confuse their language so that they will no longer understand each other.”

So YHVH scattered them over all the earth and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there YHVH confused the language of the whole earth and from there YHVH scattered them over the whole face of the earth.

Alternative reading

Exodus 19 : 3-8a, 16-20b

The Israelites camped there in front of the mountain, but Moses went up to God and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say and to explain to the Israelites : You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself.”

“Now if you listen to Me and keep My covenant, you shall be My very own possession among all the nations. For all the earth is Mine, but you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” And He added, “This is what you are to say to the people of Israel.”

So Moses went and summoned all the elders of the people and related to them all that YHVH had commanded him to say. All the people responded with one voice, “All that YHVH has said, we will do.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled. Moses then made the people leave the camp to meet God and stand at the foot of the mountain.

Mount Sinai was completely covered in smoke because YHVH had come down in fire, and the smoke rose as from a furnace. The whole mountain shook violently, while the blast of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke and God replied in thunder. When YHVH had come down to the summit of Mount Sinai, God called Moses who went to the summit.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

The hand of YHVH was upon me. He brought me out and led me in spirit to the middle of the valley which was full of bones. He made me walk to and fro among them and I could see there was a great number of them on the ground all along the valley and that they were very dry.

YHVH said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live again?” I said, “Lord YHVH, only You know that.” He then said, “Speak on My behalf concerning these bones; say to them : Dry bones, hear the word of YHVH! YHVH says : I am going to put spirit in you and make you live. I shall put sinews on you and make flesh grow on you; I shall cover you with skin and give you My Spirit, that you may live. And you will know that I am YHVH.”

“I prophesied as I had been commanded and then there was a noise and commotion; the bones joined together. I looked and saw that they had sinews, that flesh was growing on them and that He was covering them with skin. But there was no spirit in them.”

So YHVH said to me, “Speak on My behalf and call on the Spirit, son of man! Say to the Spirit : This is the word of YHVH : Spirit, come from the four winds. Breathe into these dead bones and let them live!” I prophesied as He had commanded me and breath entered them; they came alive, standing on their feet – a great, immense army!

He then said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all Israel. They keep saying : ‘Our bones are dry, hope has gone, it is the end of us.’ So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel.”

“You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves, when I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”

Alternative reading

Joel 3 : 1-5

In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on every mortal. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even upon My servants and maidens, I will pour out My Spirit on that day.

I will show wonders in the heavens, and on earth blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will darken and the moon turn to blood, at the approach of the great and dreadful day of God.

Then all who call upon the Name of YHVH will be saved. For on Mount Zion there will be a remnant, as YHVH has said; in Jerusalem some will be saved – those whom YHVH will call.