Sunday, 15 May 2016 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a very great occasion of the Pentecost Sunday, celebrating and commemorating that moment when the Lord sent the Helper and Advocate which He had promised to His disciples and servants, the Holy Spirit of God that empowered them and gave them the courage and strength to carry out the mission which have been entrusted to them.

On that day, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit that appeared to them as the tongues of flames coming down from heaven and settled on each of their heads. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised to them, when He said that while John baptised with water, He shall baptise them with fire and the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit dwelled in them, and became in them the source of unquenchable flame, the passion and desire to go forth and courageously testify for the faith that they had in God. And it marked in them, the moment of great and unmistakeable transformation and change, which if we were to scrutinise the whole Gospels and the New Testament, we would be able to see the difference.

Before His death and resurrection, Jesus was always with the Apostles and disciples, and He always guided them and taught them all that He wanted to reveal to them. And like sheep under the guidance of their shepherd, they felt secure and safe while the shepherd was with them. Yet, their faith were still shaky and uncertain, as they did not yet fully believe in the entirety of God’s truth which Jesus had taught them.

And that was why, when the Lord and Master was suddenly taken away from them, they became confused and wandered without guidance. St. Peter even wavered such that although just on that same day he promised the Lord Jesus, that he would lay down his life for Him and follow Him to the death, he refused to recognise his Master out of fear and doubt, when those who tortured Him asked if St. Peter knew him or if he belonged to His group.

If we notice, even after the resurrection, the disciples were still afraid, not understanding fully the meaning of our Lord’s Passion, suffering and death on the cross. They locked themselves in their room, closing all their windows and hide in fear of repression, retaliation and persecution by the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the Pharisees.

When the holy women who followed Jesus saw and witnessed His resurrection on Easter Sunday, and told the disciples of what they saw, still they refused to believe until the Lord Himself appeared to them. Only then they believed fully in Him. Jesus Himself at that time, and at various times prior to His suffering and death chided His disciples for their lack of faith, and rightly so, because these were easily shaken and were not firm.

And now, we should contrast this with how the Apostles acted after the coming of the Holy Spirit, when they fearlessly went forth to the streets and preached God’s truth in all languages. Their hearts have received the Holy Spirit, and God Himself dwelled in them through His Spirit. And that Holy Spirit gave them great strength and the courage to carry out the mission which the Lord had entrusted to them, that is the conversion of the whole mankind to the ends of the earth.

God led them and guided them through His Spirit dwelling in each and every one of them. The Apostles faced persecutions after persecutions, and gradually their own numbers were declining as they met cruel and terrible end in the hands of those who have persecuted them and the Church. And yet, through their tireless and zealous works, they have called many others to follow the Lord and continue the work which they have started.

We are surely familiar with the phrase, “The blood of martyrs is the seeds of Christians.” Truly, this means that even though the Church and the faithful were persecuted for their faith and devotion to God, but those persecutions and challenges were simply means through which the faithful could live their lives even more faithfully and devoutly, and by clinging to the Spirit of God and to the faith which they had in Him, they had brought salvation to more people, who saw what they did and believed in God as well.

The Apostles, for example St. Peter and St. Paul travelled widely across the known world at that time, preaching about Jesus our Lord, His words and His promised salvation to many communities, establishing the Church in those locations. Indeed, the amazing deeds of the Apostles were the deeds of the Lord Himself, Who had made these wonderful servants of God to be great instruments of His salvation of mankind by His Spirit.

And it all began on that moment of the Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after the celebration of Easter Sunday. It was after the Lord Jesus had ascended into Heaven, and in which He had promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent to His disciples soon. And the sending of the Holy Spirit marked a pivotal point in the history of our Church, for truly, it was the birthday of our Church, the moment when it was truly born.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? All of us, although we came from different origins and places, with different histories and backgrounds, we all share in the same God, the same Eucharist which we receive, and in the same Spirit of God which has descended upon all of us. The Lord Himself sent His Spirit to His Apostles and the first disciples, who then went on to preach, teach and bring into conversion many others, who therefore received the same Spirit through the hands of the Apostles and the disciples of Christ.

And from them, the Holy Spirit had been passed down through the generations, and ultimately, to each and every one of us the faithful, who have been baptised, confirmed and received the Holy Communion, completing the three important Sacraments of the Church, having received the fullness of God’s Presence and Spirit in each of us. The Holy Spirit Who dwells in us now is the same Spirit Who had dwelled in the Apostles and those faithful who came before us.

And what we have to take note is that, if the Holy Spirit had made such a tremendous change in the life of the Apostles, from those who feared and doubted, uncertain about their faith and were unable to live out their faith fully, even to the point of abandoning our Lord at the time of His greatest need, to those who are courageous, and willing to carry out the word of God and preach the Good News even though knowing that they would face intense persecution and suffering for doing so, then we must know that it can be and will indeed be the same for us too.

What does this mean, brethren? It means that we who have received the Holy Spirit ought to realise that the Spirit has been given to us as a great gift, and indeed the Holy Spirit gave us many great gifts. He planted in each and every one of us, the seeds of faith, of hope and of love. But remember, that seeds will remain as seeds, and gifts will remain unused and useless, if we do not make use of the opportunity which the Holy Spirit has given to us.

Our faith is one of action, and not of inaction. We cannot profess to be Christians unless we ourselves believe fully and completely that we all have to know what is love and show love in our actions. Remember the most important commandments that the Lord Jesus Himself told a teacher of the Law who asked this of Him? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and strength, and then love one another, our fellow men with the same love which we show to God and to ourselves.

It means that just as the Apostles had done it in the past, we too should act with love, care for the needy and the poor, protect the innocent and the weak who were oppressed and unjustly treated, love those who are ostracised and unloved, and many other acts and opportunities which we can use in order to cultivate and grow the gifts of the Holy Spirit inside each one of us.

And this is very important because, just as in one occasion, our Lord Jesus cursed a fig tree because He passed by it, was hungry and He could find no fruit on it, when He came unannounced and suddenly even when it was not a fig season, but this is the same for us as well. The Lord has promised us all that He will come again, and He will come again at the time of His choosing which is unknown to us. When He comes again, will He find in us a fruitful tree, filled with the rich and vibrant fruits of the Holy Spirit? Or will He find us a barren tree, filled with wickedness and sin instead?

Let us no longer doubt or be fearful, brethren, for the Lord Himself is always faithful and He will always bless and protect those who are faithful to Him. He has given us all His own Spirit to guide us and to lead us to the path of righteousness leading to our salvation. What we need to do now is to walk, and follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, as indeed, they have left us with many responsibilities, and there are still many works of the Lord left undone.

We are the modern day disciples of our Lord, and the mission which the Lord has given to His Apostles is now ours too. Gather people from all over the world, from all the nations and from all the ends of the earth, and baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, with the sole intention that these too, may be saved. And truly, it is often our own actions, our deeds, and not just our words alone that will convince them to listen to the truth of God, discover Him and finally find salvation in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord? And have we kept that zeal and faith which we have for God, burning brightly in our hearts? Can we from now on redouble and reinforce our efforts, to do more for the sake of our brethren? It is us who have the choice, and we have been given the opportunity by our Lord, to make a difference in the life of many through our works and actions.

Let us help those who have yet to receive the truth of God, that they may also hear it, know it and witness it through us, so that they may come to believe and receive the same Holy Spirit that we have received. Let us also pray, that the Holy Spirit of God will always inflame our spirit, that we may no longer fear the darkness, but instead be filled with joy and with courage to preach the Good News to many.

May God help us in our endeavour, and may His Holy Spirit ever strengthen our faith in Him. O Holy Spirit, dwell in us, transform us and make us to be the instruments of Your Divine will. God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 15 May 2016 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 15-16, 23b-26

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments; and I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever.”

“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.”

Alternative reading

John 20 : 19-23

At that time, on the evening of that day, 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, 15 May 2016 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 8 : 8-17

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him. But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the Spirit is life and holiness.

And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit Who dwells within you. Then, brothers, let us leave the flesh and no longer live according to it. If not, we will die. Rather, walking in the Spirit, let us put to death the body’s deeds so that we may live.

All those who walk in the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God. Then, no more fear : you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but the Spirit that makes you sons and daughters and every time we cry, “Abba! (This is Dad!) Father!” the Spirit assures our spirit that we are sons and daughters of God.

If we are children, we are heirs, too. Ours will be the inheritance of God and we will share it with Christ; for if we now suffer with Him, we will also share Glory with Him.

Alternative reading

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, 15 May 2016 : 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, 15 May 2016 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 2 : 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came, they 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. Whey 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.”

Saturday, 14 May 2016 : 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 of the Tent, 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.

Saturday, 14 May 2016 : 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.

Saturday, 14 May 2016 : 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.

Saturday, 14 May 2016 : 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 the, 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.

Saturday, 14 May 2016 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate together the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, namely St. Matthias, who was not counted among the original Twelve Apostles. However, after the betrayal of Judas, who not only betrayed the Lord Jesus to the Pharisees and the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver, but also took his own life in guilt and regret, the Twelve Apostles became incomplete.

And as prophesied in the Scriptures, this had been foretold in the ages past, that someone else more worthy would take up the place vacated by the unworthy betrayer. And that worthy disciple is St. Matthias, who had followed Jesus as the other Eleven Apostles had, and therefore were admitted into their number. The Apostles were the chief and principal disciples of our Lord, through whom the Church were built upon.

And they have been sent by the Lord with the mission, to evangelise the Gospel to the people in the pagan nations who still have yet to hear the Good News of God, and to bring the light of Christ to all of them. And they passed on this mission to the other disciples, who helped them and helped in establishing the Church of God in many places, saving many souls in the process.

It was told that St. Matthias went to many places to preach the Gospel and gained many people for the Lord. Many were baptised and received the Lord as their Master and Saviour. His hard work and efforts contributed to the thriving communities of Christians in several places, including places as far as Ethiopia and Georgia, and helped to establish future works of evangelisation.

It was told that he was martyred in Judea and Jerusalem, where the Jewish authorities had been oppressive against the early Christians. Or another tell mentioned that he met his death in the faraway Ethiopia where he went to evangelise. In the end, he fulfilled the duty and the charge given to him as the Apostle of Jesus Christ, gaining the eternal glory promised to him by our Lord Himself.

St. Matthias was not originally counted among the Twelve Apostles, and yet, because Judas Iscariot was unworthy, he was cast out from their number and damned to perdition, while St. Matthias took the place of glory reserved to the faithful servants of our Lord, and he proved it through his faith and his many works in fulfilling the call of the Lord.

All these are lessons for us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we all have to always work hard and seek to be righteous in all of our actions. It does not mean that we as Christians are guaranteed salvation, as even though Judas Iscariot was chosen among the members of the Twelve, but he betrayed the Lord and failed to do what he was supposed to do, and as a result what he got was instead eternal damnation.

And it is also a reminder for us that God calls us and He wants to make us worthy. He has chosen us all from among the world, and He has shown us His truth by revealing Himself to us through our priests and bishops, who themselves received the same truth from the Apostles, and who therefore received it from the Lord Jesus Himself. We are part of this great mission to save all mankind, and we too have an important role to play in this.

Shall we all also continue the works of the Apostles in delivering the light of Christ into the world? All of us Christians have to really be Christ-like in our words, deeds and actions, that is by loving one another, showing mercy and compassion, and caring for all those who are unloved. We should heed the examples of Christ and practice these in our own lives.

If others see and witness all the things which we have done, surely they will also follow in our footsteps. Who will believe us and follow us if we ourselves did not do what the Lord had asked us to do? We have to lead by example as the Apostles themselves had once done, as St. Matthias showed us through his hard work, labour, hardships and the tribulations he faced.

May God help us on our path, and may He give us courage to walk in the footsteps of His Apostles and saints, that as St. Matthias had done before us, we too may be important tools and instruments of God’s love and mercy in this world. God bless us all. Amen.