Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday, which from its name marks the fiftieth day after the occasion of the Passover in the original Jewish tradition, and later on, gain the much more important meaning as the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord and the day when the Holy Spirit of God descended on the disciples of Christ as has been promised to them. On this day we recall that moment when the Holy Spirit descended and began the sequence of events that has impacted the world so much through the Church.

Why is that so? That is because on this day we mark the very beginning of the Church that we know of, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is One because through the Lord, He has established His one and only Church in this world on the Apostles’ as the pillars of the foundation of the Church, and the foundation was on St. Peter, the ‘Rock’ as the Lord Himself said that, ‘You are Peter, and on this ‘Rock’ I will build My Church’, and the Church is Holy, because the Holy Spirit itself has sanctified the Church and the Church has divine origins.

And the Church is Catholic because it is Universal, embracing all peoples and all the children of God, uniting through itself all the scattered people of God, who have been scattered because of their sins and disobedience against God. The Church teachings are also Universal, embracing all peoples without exception, and lastly, it is Apostolic, because through the Holy Spirit, the Church has become missionary and is reaching out to the world, to bring forth the truth of God and to make disciples of all peoples of all the nations.

On that day, on the very first Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit come down descending on the Apostles, the Church was born and became tangible, as the Apostles, inflamed and encouraged by the strength, courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit went out from their hiding place and went before the whole people gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Pentecost, and preached before them the truth about God and His salvation through Jesus, the Saviour of all the whole world.

That is why we refer to the Pentecost as the birthday of the Church because looking back in time through the history of the Church we can find the pivotal moment of the first Pentecost when the Apostles began their evangelising mission and works in earnest, casting aside their fears and doubts, and began working among the people, gaining their trust and baptising the very first converts, more than three thousand people on that Pentecost day alone, which marked the beginning of the Church and the first Christian community.

Through the Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, many people found a new life and existence in God, and they received a new life, no longer of darkness and sin. They received the Holy Spirit from the hands of the Apostles, who themselves had received the same Spirit from the Lord. By the gift and reception of the Holy Spirit, they have embraced God’s love in its fullness, and began to bear the wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit, inspiring one another to live righteously at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our own baptism we have also received the same Holy Spirit, passed down to us from the successors of the Apostles through the ages, namely the many bishops and priests who have faithfully served the Church. And those among us who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation have been deemed worthy and mature enough in the faith, that we have the fullness of the gifts and the wonders of the Holy Spirit, and therefore are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the missionaries of the Lord.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be active in living up to our faith as dedicated Christians, as the members of this one Church of God that was founded on Pentecost. We must bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, bountiful produce of what we have been given, all the gifts and wonders, the wisdom and knowledge that the Holy Spirit had granted us. But too often we have ignored these gifts, and we are often too busy and preoccupied with various worldly matters and concerns that we failed to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, today let us all go through all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, of which there are nine of them, nine being the number that is both holy and associated with perfection, completeness and the goodness of God. These seven fruits of the Holy Spirit are, according to St. Paul, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All these are the signs and concrete markers of how our Christian communities live in the way of the Lord. If we bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, then it means that we have been good and faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we go through the fruits of the Holy Spirit together, let us all begin with the most important of all of them, that is love. For love is the most important of the fruits of the Holy Spirit just as it is also the most important of all the Christian virtues. Without love, St. Paul said, all the good things, talents and deeds we have mean nothing, as with all of our abilities and talents, with all the great things we can and have accomplished, without love, it means nothing.

How do we then practice love so as to bear this fruit of the Holy Spirit richly? It is by putting our brothers and sisters always foremost in our minds, caring for them, thinking about them and be compassionate towards them. There are many people out there who have not experienced real love, and many in our world today are too distracted by various worldly concerns and their selfishness that they ended up hurting each other and causing suffering to one another. Let our actions then bear the love of God to our fellow men, by showing genuine care and concern, and the desire to see others happy and joyful, glad and be filled with God’s grace.

Now, then, let us all go to the second fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is joy. Joy is something that all of us Christians must have with us, as we are truly the children of God, and first of all, God has shown us the path to eternal life, joy and happiness through Him, and He has reassured us again and again that all these will be ours if we are faithful to Him. Yet, many of us have not felt this real joy or are even stressed and saddened, because once again, we have been too distracted by the false pleasures and joys of the world.

Too many of us are looking for satisfaction of the world, to gain more money and properties, wealth and income, to gain more fame and recognition among the many other things we mankind commonly desire for. We live in a world filled with materialistic lifestyle and the pressure to follow this way of life are all around us. How can we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Again, it is by putting God at the very centre of our existence, that everything we do, we do for His sake, knowing that in Him, we have everything we need, and true joy is ours to have. And particularly, these days, when the whole world and so many people are sorrowful and even despairing, having lost their loved ones or are suffering from the effects of the pandemic, we can share our joy with them, consoling them and being with them in their time of great need.

Then, we go now into the third fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is peace. Peace is something that all of us mankind are always looking out for, wanting to have either a peace of mind, peace in our lives and in our families, peace with our friends and everyone else, and peace with those who hated us and persecuted us. Yet, peace is often elusive and illusory, because again, we are often too preoccupied with our desires, our conflicting aims, goals and targets, that we end up being in conflict with each other all the time.

We rarely find peace because we often always have aspirations, desires, wants, and all these often overlap and we find conflict and divisions among us all because of these. We disagree and are angry against each other because we cannot let go of all these temptations and the pull of our desires and ego. How do we then as Christians bear the rich fruits of peace of the Holy Spirit? How do we practice peace and attain peace in our daily living?

It is by first having peace with ourselves, as we often are too proud to admit our weakness and vulnerability, and we are often too engrossed with all the tempting offers of the world that we forget what we live our lives in this world for. It is to glorify God by our lives and to help one another in our journey towards Him, and not to bring each other down by jealousy and pride. As Christians, whenever we see others in conflict, we should be peacemakers and not agitators, be open to dialogue and be good listeners, and that too, will eventually help us to find true peace in God.

The fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, something that many of us often lack, and this is in itself related to peace and joy, the earlier fruits we have just discussed. We are not patient because we have that urge and desire in us to get things done the way we wanted it, and if things are not going according to what we like or desire, then we become angry and impulsive in our actions. And unfortunately, we live in a world where instant gratification is something that is ever-present all around us.

Without patience, it is likely that we will have neither peace or joy as well. Our lives will be miserable as every day will just pass by us as we worry and are concerned over trivial matters of life, all sorts of desires and temptations around us. How do we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the fruit of the patience of the Holy Spirit? We should temper our desires and impatience with prayer, and with deeper relationship with God, to see that all the pursuits of worldly glory and power are in the end, futile and meaningless. Instead, let us be thankful for what God has blessed us with, and thank Him and enjoy every single moment we have in our lives.

The fifth and sixth fruits of the Holy Spirit are kindness and goodness respectively, and both of them are related because to be kind to others is to show our good intentions and to act in the good and benefit of our fellow brethren. We may think that it is easy to be kind and good, but reality has often shown us otherwise. We must realise that kindness and goodness must come from within us, from our hearts sincerely to others, and not just a mere facade or act.

To be filled with kindness and goodness require us to have an altruistic heart modelled after the Lord’s own loving Heart, in His love and compassionate care for each and every one of us. If we love just as how the Lord Himself had genuinely and sincerely loved each and every one of us, naturally we will show kindness in our actions towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and we will be filled with goodness at every step we take in our lives, in our every words, actions and deeds.

The seventh fruit of the Holy Spirit is faithfulness, which actually means for us to have genuine faith and trust in God, to keep God at the centre of our lives as I have mentioned earlier on. It is not easy for us to have this genuine faith, for when things go bad for us, and we encounter difficult times, challenges and persecutions, who is it that we are going to turn to first? Is it God that is the anchor and foundation of our lives? Our predecessors were able to persevere through the harsh persecutions against them because of this faithfulness they had in God.

The eighth of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is gentleness, to be gentle in heart and in our actions. Gentleness itself is related to love and kindness, as well as peace and joy among others. If we are filled with love and kindness, and if we are at peace with God, with ourselves and with our fellow brothers and sisters, having true joy in us, then naturally we will be acting with gentleness as well. Let us all not be filled with harshness, anger or hatred towards one another.

And this is where self-control, the ninth and last of the fruits of the Holy Spirit come in, as without self-control, it is easy for us to wander off and end up getting lost and swayed by the demands of the world, the temptations of our desires and various other things that will lead us to sin and darkness. As Christians, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must temper our desires and discipline ourselves, or otherwise, it is very easy for us to end up being controlled by those desires.

God has given us His wisdom, and He has also showed us the way going forward, guiding us through His Holy Spirit. As such, if we find it difficult to persevere and control ourselves through the temptations and challenges, then once again, I want to highlight the importance for us to be connected and attuned with God, and in order to do this, we must have that strong and good relationship with Him, and that is why as Christians, we must be active in living up our faith, and we cannot be lukewarm in our faith life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have just heard and discussed the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Now, what are we going to do then? Are we going to ignore the Lord’s call to follow Him and walk in His path? Or do we want to follow the examples of our courageous predecessors, the Holy Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, whose lives have become great sources of inspirations for how we ourselves should live our lives? Let us all spend some time to carefully discern what path we are to take going forward in our lives.

Let us all realise that as the members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through baptism, and our adoption as God’s own beloved sons and daughters, each and every one of us share in the same ministry and calling, the mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, to go forth to the nations and proclaim His Good News, calling on all to be reconciled with God and to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we can do this best by making use of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, our many talents, abilities and the various opportunities we encounter.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord, God and Saviour bless each and every one of us, and may He continue to strengthen us through the Holy Spirit He has bestowed on each one of us. Come, o Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of Your faithful ones, that we may be strong, courageous and be filled with the deep love for God and for our fellow brethren, that we may bear very rich and bountiful fruits of the Holy Spirit by our lives, the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Amen.

Saturday, 30 May 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this night we celebrate the Vigil of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, as we are about to celebrate the great Feast of the Pentecost which marked the conclusion of the fifty days of Easter. On this night we begin the celebration of this great Solemnity, which had been celebrated since the ancient days by the Israelites and their descendants as the celebration of the fifty days after the Passover. But what happened then transformed the meaning of this celebration into a new beginning for the Church and all Christians.

For on this day, we commemorate the descent and coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of the Lord, just as He had promised them all on several occasions before He was crucified and after He had risen from the dead. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples who were then afraid and fearful, locking themselves in their place in fear of the Jewish authorities. And the coming of the Holy Spirit marked a new beginning for all of them because as I said earlier, this day truly marked the birth of the Church.

That is because on this day, the Church was no longer just a concept but had become a reality with what the Apostles, inflamed by the courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit did on that day. They went out of their hiding place and courageously went before the large crowds gathered from many places for the Festival of the Pentecost, proclaiming the Good News and the truth of God to all of them. Many people believed in the Apostles and followed them, and over three thousand people gave themselves to be baptised, forming the very first community of Christians and bringing about the first tangible existence of the Church of God.

In our first reading today, in the reading from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the story of the Tower of Babel. Many of us are surely familiar with this story of how our first ancestors began to build an ambitious project to build a tower that reached to the heavens, aspiring to aim to be greater than God. In their pride and arrogance, they have overstepped their bounds, and as a result, God scattered all of them and confused their languages, spreading them to the many nations, a division caused by the sins of mankind and their pride.

Then from another alternative reading for our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the moment when the prophet saw a vision of a valley filled with enormous quantities of dried bones of the dead, symbolic of the dead Israelites and the people of God who had perished because of their sins and disobedience against God. And God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, asking him to command those bones to be restored to life.

And then we heard how the bones began to come together again and be restored in the flesh and appearance of men, but they were not yet alive, as there were no Spirit in them. And God asked the prophet again to speak on His behalf, commanding them to return to life through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God Himself descended on the bodies of the people, and as a result what was once a great valley filled with dried bones and death, became a great valley filled with enormous numbers of the living.

All of these are great symbolisms to remind each and every one of us, that God truly has played a great role in our lives and He has given us such a great gift in the Holy Spirit Whom He had sent down to us to be our Helper, our Advocate and our Guide. As we all know that on the first Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit that strengthened them and gave them wisdom and the ability to speak in many languages to the people gathered in Jerusalem, making them all to hear the truth of God in their own languages.

As we can see here, while disobedience and sin led to the divisions and the conflicts and diversity in languages and thoughts as the Tower of Babel incident told us, the Holy Spirit came down unto us to restore our unity, to redeem us from our divisions and heal our fractured and divided existences. The Holy Spirit has come unto us bearing God’s love and truth, gathering all of the scattered people of God back together again, and as we remember what happened at Pentecost, all those people who were baptised that day marked a new beginning, a new Church through which all of God’s people are reunited again with God.

Therefore, those whom the Lord had gathered through His Holy Spirit and by the works of His Apostles have been called into a new life and to receive a new life through the Holy Spirit, much like the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, in which the prophet saw the vast numbers of dry bones transformed into the living people of God, and the Church welcoming all the people into a new life in God through baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit is the fulfilment of what God had shown the prophet Ezekiel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we all realise just how significant Pentecost Sunday is for us all in our faith? It is indeed the birthday of the Church, the moment marking that very important time and event when the Church and the Apostles no longer looked inward but outwards, going forth and fulfilling the Great Commission which the Lord Jesus had given to them before He ascended into Heaven, and that is to go forth to the nations and to all the peoples, calling on all to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

All of us have shared in this same common baptism, through which all of us have become God’s beloved children and as members of His Church. And now, having received the Holy Spirit of God through our baptism and also strengthened for those of us who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, the same Holy Spirit we have received as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had received on the very first Pentecost. Therefore we all share their mission and are called to the same calling to be witnesses of the Lord in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it then that we need to do? We are all called to make good use of the gifts that the Lord had given to us and be courageous in proclaiming His Good News and truth in our respective communities and to all those whom we encounter in life. And often we do not even need to say or preach out anything. Rather, it is by our authentic and genuine lives lived in good Christian faith that others will come to see the truth of God. And that is what true Christian discipleship is all about, to live our lives faithfully and to follow the Lord with all of our hearts.

Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all touch the lives of many other people and bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of goodness and love, the fruits of joy and peace, the fruits of patience, kindness and faithfulness. And by our own genuine faith and good Christian life, is how we truly bear forth the fullness of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, and make a difference in our world today. That is our Christian calling and what we need to embrace from now on if we have not done so yet.

May the Lord continue to strengthen us through His Holy Spirit, and may this Pentecost Sunday be truly a meaningful and great celebration to all of us, that we all may realise how as Christians, each and every one of us have important roles to play, in bringing the love of God to all men, and to restore the unity and to reconcile all to the Lord, to bring back to God all the scattered flock of His in this world, His beloved ones. May God help us and strengthen us, now and always. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful with Your Wisdom and Love. Amen!

Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Ascension, which is the seventh Sunday in the season of Easter, we celebrate the occasion of World Communications Sunday, and as we celebrate this day, I would like to focus our attention on the topic of communication, especially how we communicate as Christians, first of all in how we communicate with our God, and also how we communicate with our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men.

In our Scripture passages today, all of us heard how the Apostles were strengthened by what they have witnessed in the Ascension as described in the Acts of the Apostles, and in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard the Apostle encouraging the faithful people of God to remain steadfast in their faith amidst persecution and challenges that they faced, and said that they ought to remain strong in their struggle of the faith, as they endured the sufferings for the glory of the Lord.

This is one form of communication, the communication through written means, which the Apostles and their fellow disciples made use to strengthen the faith of the Christian faithful. The Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke the Evangelist, while St. Peter wrote the Epistle in our second reading today. Those words were meant to encourage the faithful by showing them all that they would always be guided by God and would not be abandoned, and linking to the occurrence of the Ascension, we are all also reminded that while God has ascended into His heavenly Glory, but He did not leave us all alone.

On the contrary, the Lord has promised to remain with all of His followers and faithful ones, as He showed on many occasions and which were recorded in the various parts of the Acts of the Apostles. Some of the Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul were freed from their troubles, on particular occasions when both were imprisoned, and God sent an Angel to free St. Peter from his chains, and a great earthquake destroyed the prison in which St. Paul was in and rescued him from his imprisonment.

All of these and many other testimonies of faith, when recorded and passed on in the Books and manuscripts that after approximately three centuries were codified into the final and approved Scriptures as we know it, together with the Books of the Jewish Torah and the sayings of the prophets served as a great foundation of faith for many among the faithful, as the source of their faith and belief, as the inspiration and encouragement for them as the reminders for God’s words and promises for His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received this same truth that the Apostles have received through these ways that our faith had been communicated to us. And we have to thank all those who have done their best to write the Books of the Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as well as those who have been involved in the long process in the vetting and deciding which books ought to be part of the official canon of the Scripture, as there were many books that were not written with accurate faith, some others were even heretical and filled with aberrations and mistakes.

That was why we have to appreciate the efforts of our predecessors in faith, beginning from the time of the Apostles, those who laboured hard to preach about the Lord and His salvation, those who laboured to compile the writings of the Apostles and the Church fathers. This is because on top of the Scriptures mentioned earlier, our Church has another very important pillar and this pillar is the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, the teachings of the early Church fathers, who have various ways of communicating the faith to the people, be it written or verbal.

And of course we also have to thank all those who have been involved in the propagation of the faith, all the priests and bishops, all the missionaries and those involved in the teaching of the faith, catechists, all those who have made the faith available to us, to Christians throughout the ages. Without their hard work and dedication, so many more people would not have known about God and so many more souls would have been lost to damnation, and that could have very well include us all.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, now having heard of all these, we should remind ourselves that we as part of the Universal Church are also therefore responsible and are part of the Church’s effort to reach out and evangelise to the world. Of course there are all those who have dedicated themselves to this particular mission of communicating the faith to the whole world, especially those who are ordained as priests, the deacons and the bishops, as well as those who dedicated themselves as Christian educators and catechists. But that does not mean then that we can sit back and enjoy, and ignore our responsibility in reaching out through effective and genuine communication.

We do not need to do great and marvellous actions or deeds, or preach using big and difficult words. On the contrary, it is our small actions that matter, our daily lives and our daily actions, how we live our lives and also how we interact with one another, both within our Christian communities, within our families, and also with our friends and acquaintances. If we have not been practicing our faith, leading a life filled with sin and disobedience against God, how can we then persuade or convince others to believe in God too? Would we not be hypocrites who say one thing and yet act in a different manner?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, I also want us to go deeper into the second emphasis of today’s readings, in our Gospel, where we heard the Lord Jesus praying to His Father in heaven, praying for the sake of His disciples, part of which we have heard in our Gospel passage this Sunday. As we all should know, prayer is a form of communication between us and God, and being a form of communication, between us and someone Whom we should love dearly, then it should be genuine and intimate.

What do I mean by that, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means just as we have to communicate regularly with our loved ones, our friends, our family members and relatives, our spouses and others dear to us, then above all these, we must have the same genuine communication with God, and the best way to do this is through prayer. And prayer being a form of communication is a two-way interaction between us and God, a very important fact that some of us may easily overlook and forget.

If we think that prayer is useless, or that it is boring, then perhaps we may want to relook into what our prayer life is like and also how we conduct our prayers. Maybe we have not been praying right and we have had misconceptions about what prayer is in reality. Prayer is not a quick solution for our problems, unlike what some among us may think, and prayer is not about asking God to solve our problems in the way we want it solved, or worse still, it is not something that gives us the right to demand God to act for us.

It is alright for us to deliver our petitions to God through our prayers, as after all, a child often has some things and requests to be asked of his parent, and we ourselves often have things we would like our counterpart in the conversation, be it our friends, or family or relatives, do for our sake. But we must not treat prayer as something we can exploit God as a wonderworker to solve all of our issues and matters. We must instead form a genuine and strong relationship with God.

If we are not sure how to do that, let us all look at the examples showed by Christ Himself, as He prayed to His heavenly Father, as the Son, representing all of us mankind as our High Priest, lifting up the prayers of the faithful to God. He thanked God and blessed His Name for all He had done, and then He asked through prayers, blessings and strength not for Himself, but rather for His own disciples, that all of His disciples might be strengthened in their faith and be able to endure challenges and trials they would come to face.

And that is what prayer should be, brothers and sisters, that it should be free from selfishness, desire and pride. Prayer is a form of the connection we make with God because we love Him and want to spend precious time with Him. And in prayer, we also need to listen, to listen to the words of God speaking to us in the depth of our hearts. For if we say that prayer is a two-way communication, then we should be able to listen just as God is listening to us. By establishing a healthier and better relationship with God, we will be better able to lead a more Christian way of life.

And as a result, if we are gradually able to live better in a more Christian-like manner, surely more and more people will see in us that true Christian behaviour and way of life, and as a result, our very own lives and actions become effective witnesses for Christ’s truth, and a very effective method of communicating our Christian faith to all those who have not yet known Christ. Often times, we do not need to talk loudly or speak eloquently to convince others. Rather, it is by our action that we can draw more people to be closer to God and to reveal His truth to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today we are all challenged to deepen once again our relationship with God and seek to renew our prayer life, that if once our prayer life have not been effective and active, then we should pray from now on with the desire to listen to God and to know His will, just as we also speak our hearts and our minds before Him. We are challenged to be better communicators in our communication and relationship with God, and thereafter, our communication and relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters as well.

And today, we also happen to celebrate the Feast of Mary, Our Lady the Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan, and a Day therefore for Universal Prayer for our fellow brethren of the Church in China. On this day, let us all keep in mind our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ in China, who have suffered and endured various forms of persecutions and challenges in the past many years and decades. We pray for all of them and hope that God will help them all, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, the Help of all Christians.

Let us all unite our prayers and intentions therefore, and from now on, as one united Church, be ever more united and vibrant in how we pray, in how we desire to seek the Lord and love Him, and also in our love and compassionate care for our fellow brethren, especially to those who need our help, those who are oppressed and are facing difficulties, such as our brethren of the Church in China among many others out there as well. May God be with them and help them, and may He help us all and guide us all in our own journey as well. Amen.

Sunday, 17 May 2020 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the sixth Sunday in the Season of Easter, as we quickly approach the end of this blessed season and time, with the Solemnity of the Ascension coming up within the week, and the Solemnity of the Pentecost coming very soon as well. On this Sunday therefore our attention is brought to the promise of God’s Holy Spirit that He has made to His disciples and which we have therefore received through the same Apostles and disciples of the Lord, passed down through God’s Church.

In our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the work of St. Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles who went to the land and region of Samaria in between Judea and Galilee, and preached there about the truth and salvation in Jesus Christ, and many came to believe in the Lord. And as described, when the Apostles in Jerusalem heard about the conversions of the Samaritans, some of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John went over there to pray over the newly converted Samaritans and laid their hands on them, giving them the same gift of the Holy Spirit they have received at Pentecost.

The same Holy Spirit has therefore been passed down from the hands of the Apostles to all the faithful people of God, and from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops and priests of the Church who then in turn pass down the same Holy Spirit to the faithful down the many generations since the early days of the Church to this very day. We have received the same Holy Spirit through our Sacrament of Baptism, when we were baptised like that of the Samaritans, in the Name of the Blessed Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and then sealed by the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard of the Apostle exhorting the faithful to remain true to their faith in God, to keep the tenets of their faith and to be strong amidst the pressure to leave behind their faith and the temptation to abandon their God. The Apostle exhorted the faithful to be genuine in their faith, to be virtuous and righteous in their words, actions and deeds so that all those who slandered and oppressed them would be ashamed and humiliated by their own wickedness and evil.

St. Peter therefore called on all of us as Christians to be active in living up to our faith, to be faithful in all things and deeds that everyone who hear us, witness us and interact with us may know that we are Christians, that we belong to God and are His people, and that we are who we say we are, faithful and dedicated to do the will of God at all times. Otherwise, how can we then call ourselves as Christians? And if we do not sincerely practice our faith, we will end up scandalising it, as others will then then be able to point our faithlessness and lukewarm attitude.

The Lord Jesus put it plainly before all of us in our Gospel passage today, that if we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments and do the will of His Father, and that is to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our might and with all of our efforts and attention. If we truly love God, then we will also love our brothers and sisters, regardless of who they are and how close they are to us, and we will love them through all our actions, caring for them and showing them the same love and compassion that God has shown us all.

This is what is meant for us to be Christians, and to be faithful in our calling as God’s own beloved people. If we are not able to do this, or unwilling to do what the Lord has called us to do, then we cannot call ourselves as Christians. Unfortunately, this is what many among us who call ourselves as Christians are doing in our lives. We carry on our lives treating our Christian faith as merely a formality, just as a badge or name on paper only, and not living with sincere desire and love for God.

Many of us even had to drag ourselves to go to Mass every Sunday, and many more even attended Mass only on Easter and Christmas, and some did not even attend any Mass or faith activities at all! This is the sad state and reality about our faith, which had been happening in the past many years and decades. However, the good news is that in recent years, there had been a surge of hope as more and more Christians, especially the younger generation, began to take their faith much more seriously again. They began to attend the Holy Mass with regularity and genuine desire to know more of the Lord and to love Him.

More and more people are beginning to wake up from their slumber in their faith lives, as they began to take a more active and dedicated approach in their lives to follow the Lord. More and more people begin to seek for God, desire for His love and love Him again with greater sincerity of heart. This is what all of us must embrace too, brothers and sisters in Christ. God has called us to Himself, and He has shown us the path and He has also bestowed upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help and guide, to lead us down the path of truth and hope.

Are we willing to follow this path shown to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives from now on with Christian sincerity and dedication? The choice is ours alone, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can choose whether we want to continue to be lukewarm with our faith, to be unfaithful and treating our faith as no more than a nuisance and chore, or whether we want to embrace our faith with zeal and sincere commitment, to walk down the path that God has shown us?

In our current time and day, we are still enduring the painful effects of the various tragedies we have been encountering all these past few weeks and months, particularly the still dangerous threat of the coronavirus pandemic. As of today, over four million people had contracted the disease, and while over one and a half million had recovered, but almost three hundred thousand people had lost their lives, and millions more are still hospitalised and some among them fighting for their lives.

And many tens of millions of people if not more are threatened in their income and employment. Many had lost their precious work and many had to endure significant difficulties in searching for new job, while others had to work extra hard because they are in the frontline and healthcare efforts to combat this pandemic. Others had to endure significant pay cuts or suspension in their pay, and thus worry about how they will feed and take care of their loved ones.

Now, what are we going to do then? How do we live our lives as Christians and indeed, genuine Christians during these difficult and dark moments? It is by showing genuine love for our fellow brothers and sisters, to share hope and encouragement with one another, rather than to act selfishly or to stoke hatred for certain groups of people or individuals. We have heard and read of quite a few sad story of how the current crises led to increase in incidents of racism and attacks against certain group of people, certain acts of ostracising and unfair treatments and judgments of our fellow men, among others.

We have also heard how people acted irresponsibly and selfishly, hoarding essential goods and materials, just so that they could save themselves and get what they wanted, but with disregard for the need of others. And it is the sad truth that not few Christians were among those who have committed all these irresponsible, unjust, and indeed, most un-Christian behaviour. And this is therefore a reminder for each and every one of us that we must not adopt this kind of attitude ourselves.

Rather than spreading hatred, injustice and bitterness, we are called and indeed challenged to spread love, justice and compassion instead. When our hearts and minds are tempted to be selfish in our actions, to be angry at other people and to fear for our safety and our livelihood, to despise and to be filled with despair, let us all remember that God is always there for us, by our side, as our Hope and our Strength, as our Anchor in this most uncertain and darkest moment of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us bring with us this Hope we have in God, the trust we have in His love and providence, and let us share it with everyone around us. Let us be the beacons of God’s light and hope, brightening the lives of others around us, helping our brothers and sisters to overcome their fears and despair. Let us all be true Christians at all times and bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. May the Lord be with us always and bless our every good endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 10 May 2020 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in the season of Easter, all of us are called as Christians to turn our focus on Christ, our Lord and Saviour, to put our faith and trust fully in Him as our Master and to entrust ourselves in His providence, for the love and mercy He has shown each and every one of us. The Lord has shown us His ultimate proof of love and commitment, through the gift of His Son to be our Saviour. By His suffering, crucifixion and death, Jesus has delivered us all from the certainty of death and destruction.

Everything has been revealed to us through Christ and His disciples, as He Himself revealed it all before His Apostles and disciples throughout His ministry, and therefore from them, the truth has been passed on through the Church and the faithful for countless generations and finally the same truth has also been handed down to us, as the faith we all now believe in. We all believe in the same faith that the Apostles themselves believed, that Jesus Christ is the Messiah or the Saviour Whom God has sent into the world, and that He is also the Divine Son of God, incarnate in the flesh as the Son of Man.

But as we can see, the disciples themselves were not able to fully comprehend at first all that they have heard and witnessed from the Lord and His actions, and as shown by St. Philip the Apostle, many among the disciples did not yet fully comprehend and appreciate the fact that the One Who had been with them all the while, was none other than One of the Holy Trinity Himself, God incarnate in the flesh. That was why St. Philip, who was in fact one of the most intelligent and educated among the Apostles asked the Lord to ‘show them the Father’, to the Lord’s dismay.

St. Thomas, ever the doubter and the last to believe, also showed his lack of faith, even saying things like ‘we do not know even where You are going’, as a clear sign that he did not really have a strong faith in his heart, and he was not committed to the Lord. And we also should remember how the same Apostles also abandoned the Lord in fear when He was arrested, even after all of them had just promised Him in the Last Supper of their faith and fidelity, with St. Peter even saying that he would readily give his life for Him.

Yet, this was before they were given the help from the Advocate, as the Lord promised His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, Who would give them wisdom, courage and strength, as well as the guidance in what they ought to do in carrying out His commandments and His will. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and the disciples on the day of the Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord and ten days after He had ascended into Heaven.

With the gift and help of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the disciples carried out and fulfilled what the Lord Himself had told them, that they would do works even far greater than what He had done in His brief earthly ministry. He has commanded all of them with His Great Commission to go forth to the nations and baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, before He ascended to Heaven, that while He ascended and they could not see Him anymore, but He would always still be with them, and He would guide them to do whatever He has commanded them to do.

The Lord helped and strengthened them, and they began the foundation of the Church, with more than three thousand people being baptised on the Pentecost alone, and many more came to believe in the Lord through whatever the Apostles had done, in their courageous preaching and testimony of faith, in the miracles they have done in the Name of the Lord, among many others. And as the community of Christians across Judea, Jerusalem and other places grew, so did the Church and its supporting structures.

That was why in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the institution of the Holy Order of the Diaconate, as the Apostles appointed seven holy and devout men to be the first Seven Holy Deacons of the Church. And the most renowned among them was St. Stephen, who would later on became the very first martyr of the Church, as described in detail in the same Acts of the Apostles. St. Stephen defended his faith vigorously and with devotion when he was faced with bitter opposition and false accusation by the enemies of the Church, and died a martyr.

The Holy Spirit gave St. Stephen great wisdom and courage that stunned even his most ardent and stubborn enemies, as they could probably not believe the courage that this deacon had shown when he was alone facing all of those who were crying out for his death. And the same happened to the other Apostles as well, as they carried out their missions with great joy and dedication, suffering and dying in martyrdom in distant lands in various occasions. The only Apostle to die of old age, St. John the Apostle himself endured many trials, sufferings and prisons all throughout his years of ministry.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to remember the great courage of the Apostles, as well as that of St. Stephen and the many other saints and martyrs of the Church. Many of them were simple, regular people, and many among the Apostles were poor people, uneducated and unknown, ordinary and as we have discussed earlier, had lots of fear and doubt, and unable to commit themselves. But they turned to the Lord, put their faith in Him and chose to follow Him wholeheartedly even though at first they were unsure, doubtful and afraid.

In turn, the Lord strengthened them, gave them great wisdom and courage, helping them to persevere through the challenges each of them had to face. When we heard all the amazing stories of faith and the dedication of the many martyrs of the Church, they all showed courage and fearlessness even in the midst of suffering and death, and many among them still did what they could to do the will of God and show their faith to convince others to also believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these were possible because they all trusted God and put Him at the centre of their lives and existence, trusting Him to guide their lives and their path, and they had therefore that genuine faith which all of us Christians should also have in our own lives. However, the sad truth and reality is that so many of us have been lukewarm in our faith, and many of us have treated the Lord as One Who is distant and to be sidelined. We only remember God when we are in great need, and when we do not need Him, we leave Him behind and continue with our own worldly concerns and works.

We have become too preoccupied with many worldly and materialistic concerns and thoughts, and we have no time or attention to be spared for the Lord as we should have. When we need Him is the only time we actually remember Him, and we demand Him to quickly come and intervene for our sake and benefit, and when we do not get what we want, we often become angry with God and abandon Him ever the more. This is not what we should be doing, brothers and sisters in Christ.

On this day, we are all thus called to remember the examples of the early Christians, as well as the many holy saints and martyrs who had given their all to the Lord, who have put their trust in God and dedicated themselves to God. We are called to see how the Apostles and those whom the Lord had called to be His followers, had been transformed from a people filled with fear and uncertainties, with doubts and infidelities, with sin and darkness in them, into people who are truly belonging to the Light of Christ, virtuous and exemplary in their piety and courage.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that God can transform each and every one of us in the same manner, and indeed, we are called to walk in the same path that the Apostles and the saints and martyrs of the Lord had walked on, and we are called to continue the mission which He has entrusted to us all, His beloved people and Church. He has sent us all to go forth to the people of all the nations, to proclaim His truth and salvation to everyone, that more and more may come to believe in Him and have eternal life.

Let us all pray to the Lord today, that He will continue to guide us and strengthen us with the Holy Spirit, that with His wisdom and encouragement, we will be drawn ever closer to His presence and that we will be able to dedicate ourselves to do whatever we can in our capacity and respective areas of responsibilities, in our communities and in our families and among our friends, to be the bearers of the Good News of God and the witnesses of His truth and resurrection by our own good examples and faithful life.

Let us all be the beacons of light and hope for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ especially during these few weeks and months when there are so many people out there who are troubled and without hope, who are in difficulties and who have encountered even personal tragedies and troubles. Let us bear God’s light and hope to them and share our hope, faitu and joy with one another, that we will endure these together with God. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 3 May 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Vocation Sunday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in the season of Easter we are approximately halfway through the season of Easter, and on this day we also celebrate the Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday as today’s Gospel is solely dedicated to the reading of the Good Shepherd from the Gospel of St. John. The Lord Himself is our Good Shepherd, the One Who has guided us all, the flock of the Lord, into the path that He has prepared for us.

And it is also a celebration of the Vocation Sunday because the Lord has also called some among us to follow Him to be shepherds in His image, to be shepherds like the Good Shepherd Himself. The shepherds are our priests, our bishops and all those who are called to serve the Lord to reach out to the people out there who need guidance, help and assistance. They are called to follow the examples of the Good Shepherd Himself in giving themselves to the people, the flock of the Lord.

That is why on this day traditionally priests, especially in the Diocese of Rome, are ordained to the priesthood. It is indeed symbolic of how all priests and therefore bishops are by extension, the shepherds of the Lord’s flock, given the responsibilities to take care of all these souls and all who may be struggling through their lives. That is why on this day, on Vocation Sunday, we pray firstly for our priests, for all of our bishops and all those who have given themselves through sacred ordination to be shepherds of the faithful, that God may strengthen and inspire them to be more like Himself, the Good Shepherd.

But we must also not forget to pray for vocations to the priesthood itself, as without new vocations to the priesthood, of the courageous and faithful men who want to give their lives in the service of God, then we will not have these courageous and faithful priests or even bishops in the end. That is why it is very important that on this day we also spend some time to pray for the vocation to priesthood that there will be bountiful harvest of vocations, that there will be many more holy priests, bishops and servants of God in the many more years to come.

Of course then we must also pray for all those who are discerning their calling to priesthood, for God has indeed called those whom He deems to be worthy and whom He has chosen from among the peoples and the nations. There are many people who are still not sure whether they want to pursue that calling to the sacred priesthood, while some others are still facing challenges and opposition from their families, relatives and from the communities, as well as facing many temptations that keep them away from their vocations in life.

Indeed, it is not easy for those who have been called by God to the sacred priesthood and to consider the life dedicated and consecrated to God. Often they will have to abandon the many comforts and achievements, the glories and the good things in life, in order to serve the Lord and His people with all their strength and might. There will be plenty of challenges for them all and many will be tempted to give up on their vocations, just as how we have heard sad stories even among the priests who had given up their calling and priesthood ministry.

And we also know of how some small minority of priests, very small minority in fact, had ended up in very high publicity for all sorts of wrong reasons, as they betrayed the responsibilities and also the trust and opportunities given to them. These were those priests who have been convicted and also suspected of improper behaviours and conduct, of various kinds of misconducts that are improper and have been strongly condemned by the Church. These were false shepherds who have not walked in the path of the Good Shepherd, but instead, allowed themselves to be tempted by the sins of this world.

Nonetheless, although the vast majority of the priests and bishops had been faithful and perhaps even more than just faithful, but also fully dedicated to the mission entrusted to them and their respective calling, they had certainly been affected by those who have been deviant and misguided, aberrant and irresponsible in the exercise of their ministry and in creating various scandals of the Church and the faith that affected the credibility and reputation of our most sacred priesthood and holy orders.

That is why today, all of us have to focus our attention and give our prayers for the benefit of all of our priests and bishops, our seminarians studying in various seminaries and preparation courses, as well as all the men called by God and are discerning the call to priesthood, all of them in their various stages of their vocation journey. And even more importantly, they also need our support, the support of the whole Church community. It is sad to note how in the reality of our Church life today, gossips and attacks against the priests are quite common in our community, and also various actions which showed our lack of appreciation and support for the important roles that our men in holy orders are doing.

As long as we hinder vocations within our own community, and even more so within our own families and relatives, we are not doing what we should be doing as Christians. I am sure that many among us will say that we must support vocations to priesthood and even participate actively in the prayers for vocations and other efforts, and yet, it was a sad reality when some of the same people wanted only others to be embracing their calling to the priesthood, and when one of their own family members want to follow this path, they oppose these with much hostility and bitterness.

This is therefore a reminder that we all need to unite our efforts together with sincere and genuine faith, and not with empty words and meaningless actions. In fact, although indeed we put a lot of focus today on the vocation to the holy orders and the sacred priesthood, that the priests and bishops carry on the same mission that has been entrusted to them from the time of the Apostles, but we must also not forget that all of us as Christians, by our common baptism, have also received the same mission and also partake in the same effort and work of the Church.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we cannot say and think that just because the priests, bishops and all in holy orders and priesthood had been charged and entrusted with those important works as shepherds then all the rest of us can then just slack and enjoy ourselves and our lives. All of us are also called to different vocations in life, and vocation does not just mean the vocation to priesthood, but rather it means the calling for each and every one of us to live our lives in the manner as Christian-like as possible in our own various occupations and sectors of life.

That is why while some had been called to the priesthood, many others had been called instead to a married life and existence, and to give glory to God and to be shining beacons of the light and truth of God in our world today. If each and every one of us play our part and do what we can to support one another, then definitely the paths that our priests and all those in holy orders had to go through will be significantly easier, since they will then be travelling through them and enduring them together with all the whole Church rather than by themselves.

And I have also mentioned how several ‘bad seeds’ among the clergy had caused great scandal and damage to the Church. But let us not then forget that if any one of the laity or indeed any members of the Church were to commit sin or lead a sinful life, then it will be scandalous and cause damage to the Church and the faithful as bad as the scandals and damages caused by those errant and unfaithful members of the clergy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore on this Vocation or Good Shepherd Sunday pray for one another, first of all of course for all of our priests and all in the holy orders, but then also pray for ourselves and for each other that we may truly be able to find meaning in our respective vocations in life, and for those among us who are still discerning the path to our vocations, may the Lord help us and guide us to our true vocations, whatever they may be, and allow us to give our best to fulfil our vocations as best as we are able to do so.

May the Lord, our Good Shepherd, continue to be with His Church and with all of us His people, that we may truly be more united in purpose, that in everything we do, we may contribute meaningfully and positively to the works and efforts of the Church and to God’s greater glory. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours and works, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 26 April 2020 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Easter, as we enter deeper into the glorious season of Easter, we are brought to focus our attention once again on Christ, our Risen Lord and Saviour. From our first reading passage today, we heard of the testimony of the faith by St. Peter the Apostle, who proclaimed courageously about the Lord Jesus before the assembled people in Jerusalem on the celebration of Pentecost. Then we heard of the same St. Peter reminding us in the Epistle he wrote, part of which is our second reading today, of God’s love and all He had done to save us. And lastly, from the Gospel we heard of the story of the encounter between the Resurrected Christ with two of His disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

In our first reading today we heard St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking before the many people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of the Pentecost that takes place fifty days after the Passover. There were many people from various origins and places, many of them Jews who had been scattered across the world, and many among them had been in Jerusalem earlier for the Passover and had witnessed all that happened in the Passion, suffering and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.

They have all seen how this great Man and Teacher of the faith came to Jerusalem, welcomed by many of the people, some of whom were definitely also there before St. Peter as he spoke about this same Jesus. St. Peter spoke of how the Lord had been betrayed and handed over to be killed by the Romans, given the burden of the Cross and the massive suffering He had to endure, that He suffered before many people who saw His Passion and how He suffered and died on the Cross. Many saw Him dead there on the Cross at Calvary.

But St. Peter and the other Apostles stood up and proclaimed their faith in the Resurrected Christ, the same Christ Who had died on the Cross did not remain dead and in the tomb, but He had risen from the dead and showed Himself to the Apostles themselves and to some other people. There were in fact quite a few people who had witnessed the Risen Lord appearing in the flesh before all of them. And this included the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus as described earlier.

As the two disciples had shown us, many of these people may have witnessed or heard about the resurrection of the Lord, and yet in their hearts and minds, they were still filled with doubts, fears and uncertainties. They could not bring it to bear to believe that the Lord had overcome their greatest enemy, that is death. Death has always been something that everyone who have lived feared, from the very beginning since death is the end of our life and worldly existence as we know it.

Many of us have also feared death because it means separation from all that we have known and loved, and we certainly do not like this at all. Yet, at the same time, we are all resigned to having death as our fate, as we know that death is a certainty to all of us, and people from time to time die even at the most unexpected time and circumstances, even those who were healthy, young and in the prime of their years. Many tried to extend their lives and to keep themselves living and young, but every single efforts had failed and none of us could stop death even if we really wanted to.

That is why so many were skeptical that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, and this, coupled with the efforts from the Sanhedrin to hide the facts by spreading the alternative story that the disciples had stolen the Body of Jesus from His tomb made it truly challenging for many at the time to believe in the Resurrection fully, and even many of those who had witnessed the Risen Lord or heard about Him had their doubts and had not yet fully believed in this truth.

This was where then the Holy Spirit of God came upon the Apostles on Pentecost and gave them all the courage and the strength to believe and to proclaim with great zeal and dedication, the truth of the Resurrection and the Lord’s salvation which had come through the suffering and the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which had been extended to all the people and everyone, the forgiveness of our many sins and faults, and the promise of reconciliation and new life.

The Lord had saved us all through His death, but many of us remained in the fear of death because we do not yet have that fullness of faith in Him. We still look at other, alternative sources of comfort in our world rather than putting our trust in God. And this is why today all of us are being reminded that in God is our sure salvation and hope, and if we put our trust in Him, we shall never be disappointed. God will be with His faithful ones, and He will provide for all those who trust in Him.

In our second reading, this is what St. Peter had also written on, reminding the faithful that God, our loving Father has given us such a wonderful gift and Saviour in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that He has brought us a new hope and a new life by the suffering and death of Christ, the Paschal Lamb, Lamb of God Who had sacrificed Himself and put forth His own Precious Body and poured His own Precious Blood for our sake. By His Blood we have been cleansed and absolved of our sins.

In our world today we are filled with plenty of darkness all around us, and many had fallen into hard times, losing hope and despairing amidst all the various challenges that they had to endure, for they feared all the uncertainties that are to come, all the possibilities of losing employments and sources of income as our whole world is now battling the harsh effects of this current pandemic and its associated complications, and of course, many feared the death that can just come and claim us at any time, as many had succumbed to this disease, and many more are still suffering from it.

What are we to do, then, as Christians? It is our calling as Christians and also our missions to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters, even those who are strangers around us, those who are suffering and are in need, that we help them and care for them and their needs. There are many people out there who have been deprived of hope and are in despair, living in darkness and also in sin. It is now then our turn to follow the examples of St. Peter and the Apostles, to bring God’s truth and hope to the world.

Let us all bring hope and strength, faith and trust in God in the hearts and minds of our fellow brethren, just as the Lord Himself strengthened the faith of His two disciples on their way to the town of Emmaus. Those two disciples had been wavering in faith, unsure and reluctant to believe that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead. The Lord appeared to them and reassured them, and strengthened, they became courageous witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection, reenergised and full of zeal.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote our energy and effort to be the faithful bearers of God’s light and truth, to bring the joy of Easter and the strength and hope to our brethren in distress. May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey and in our efforts, that we may truly be successful in bringing the hope and joy in the Risen Christ to all the whole world, in our own respective communities and to all peoples. May God bless us all and our many endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 19 April 2020 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the Second Sunday in the season of Easter we celebrate what is known as the Divine Mercy Sunday as instituted by Pope St. John Paul II in the Jubilee Year of 2000 AD. This Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted according to the visions of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who saw the vision of the Lord in His aspect of the Divine Mercy a few times and wrote about her experiences, which took a few decades before they were officially approved and accepted by the Church.

In those visions of the Divine Mercy, St. Faustina Kowalska saw the Lord appearing to her and showing her His infinite and great mercy, His love and compassion for all of us mankind. The Divine Mercy of God manifested to her in His divinity, pouring forth from His heart two bright rays of red and white shining forth showing the outpouring of the love of God to us mankind, His divinity and humanity mingled into one, and by His Most Precious Blood we have received, we have been healed from our sins.

The Lord called for this devotion to this Divine Mercy to be made popular and spread among His people, dedicating the second Sunday in the season of Easter to be the Divine Mercy Sunday, as a kind reminder that this joyful and wonderful Easter season is a time for us to appreciate just how fortunate we have been that the Lord had gone through the worst of sufferings and humiliations that He bore in His Passion and death, that through Him and His Resurrection, we now receive the assurance of life eternal.

The Divine Mercy devotion calls on us all mankind to focus our attention once again on the Lord, to ask Him for His mercy on us and the whole world through His wondrous saving work, in the shedding of His Body and Blood, as a perfect offering for the redemption of our sins. That is why the Divine Mercy devotion has in particular become very popular and widespread as the world and many people seek healing from the Lord for their many ailments, the sickness of sin and the corruption of evil in our lives.

Through the Divine Mercy of God, all of us are brought to remember that Christ our Lord is our Eternal High Priest Who has offered Himself for the atonement for our sins, as we recall this whenever we recite the Divine Mercy chaplet and prayers with the words, ‘Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world,’ and the other one ‘For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and the whole world.’

Through all of these, and linking with what we have just heard in our Scripture passages today, we will realise that we have to have faith in the Lord and believe that through Him there is a hope for us and for our salvation. That is why we heard of the story of the doubt which St. Thomas the Apostle had in our Gospel today, when he, usually the most doubtful and cynical of the Apostles, refused to believe that the Lord had risen from the dead, and wanted tangible proof before he was to believe that the Lord had indeed been resurrected.

It was only when the Lord Himself had appeared before him and the other disciples that St. Thomas came to believe in the Lord and in His Resurrection. St. Thomas from then on became a firm believer, and since then he laboured hard for the sake of God and His people, ministering to the various communities and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to many others, founding the community of Christians in the southern parts of India, known as St. Thomas Christians who endured for many centuries and beyond after until this very day. St. Thomas himself was martyred in the defence of his faith in God.

What we have heard thus far is a reminder for each and every one of us to have more faith in God, to believe in His ever generous and wonderful mercy. God has always been merciful to us, loving and ready to forgive us, and He extends this rich offer of mercy without any hesitation at all. But it is us mankind who have hesitated, took our time, being stubborn and resisted the efforts of the Lord Who has tried to be reconciled with us. We are like St. Thomas who doubted the Lord, who refused to believe fully and unconditionally, or worse still, like many of the Pharisees who hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to believe in God’s truth.

Many of us carry on living in the state of sin, living our lives as we have lived them so far, indulging in all sorts of evils and wickedness. But we must realise that sin is truly dangerous and unless we get rid of ourselves these sins and wickedness, we are in great danger of falling into eternal damnation because of those sins. This is because death and hell are the consequences for our sins, and unless we repent from them and are forgiven and reconciled with God, we may end up in an eternity of regret and despair.

It is God alone Who is capable of healing us from our sins, making us good and whole again. No one else has the power to forgive our sins, and that is why we need to have this forgiveness and healing by the Divine Mercy of God. In this Sunday, we are all called to focus our attention on the Divine Mercy, His loving face and countenance directed towards us, His ever present care and compassion towards our fallen state and our wretched situation. This is why we need to focus our attention to the Lord and embrace His mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all called to be the disciples of the Lord in all things, to be His followers and to bring forth His mercy, His light and love to all the people of God. We are all called to share this faith which we have, to embrace this love and mercy and show them in the same manner to our brethren out there who are still living in the darkness, to those who are still ignorant of the truth of God, those who have yet to know of God’s infinite love and mercy.

The Lord wants us all to bring forth this light of hope, the hope for the Divine Mercy to our fellow brethren, just as how St. Faustina Kowalska tried for many years to bring forth the attention to the devotion to the Divine Mercy according to the visions that she had received. And this is important especially in our troubled and darkened times, during this particularly difficult year when the whole world is facing so many challenges, from the pandemic that occupied the minds of most people and made many suffer, to the other forms of natural disasters and also political instabilities suffered by several communities.

During this time, many people do not know where they ought to turn to for help, and many people has lost their path. They sought consolation in other things, either to distract themselves from the sorrow, or to find temporary happiness or pleasures, which would not last. This is why we should be the witnesses of Christ our Lord, the Divine Mercy in our communities and in our families, among every brothers and sisters whom we encounter in our daily lives and whom we interact with, and even with the strangers and other people we encounter as well.

Let us all, through our words and actions bring forth the exemplary Christian faith and life that shine brightly as beacons for others to follow, to inspire others and to guide many in their path of life, that they may find true consolation, happiness, joy and peace in God, the Divine Mercy, Who is ever ready to forgive us and to be reconciled with us, and Who is always ever filled with love, in each and every moments of our lives. May God continue to guide us all in life, and may He grant us the courage and strength to be ever more faithful, now and always. O Divine Mercy, we trust in You. Amen.

Sunday, 12 April 2020 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we finally enter into the glorious season of Easter after all the preparations we have gone through during the season of Lent, the forty days of penitential and sorrowful preparation of our minds, hearts and souls to welcome the Lord, to be with Him and to glorify Him this Easter. On this Sunday we celebrate the great moment of our Lord’s resurrection, when He rose gloriously from the tomb, showing us all that death and therefore sin has no more power and hold over us.

As we enter into this great season of Easter, we are all called to get rid of ourselves all sorts of earthly worries and concerns, and yearn for the things that are above and beyond, which God has promised to us. In our second reading today, this is exactly what St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Colossae, as he exhorted all of them to seek heavenly things through Christ and set their sights on these, as we have shared in His death and will also share in His glorious resurrection.

It is this very important core tenet of our faith that St. Peter spoke about in his words to the family of the Roman centurion Cornelius, who desired to know the truth of the Lord Jesus, the Risen Lord and Saviour. St. Peter spoke with the zeal of faith and with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit revealing before them all the Risen Lord, Who had suffered and died, and yet rose in glory and brought the same hope of salvation and liberation to all of us mankind who are still ensnared and enslaved by the power of sin.

That is why today we are all called to focus our attention on the Risen Lord, and to put our complete faith and trust in Him. We should no longer be fearful or be filled with despair, as it is exactly the devil’s plan that he made us to fear and to be filled with despair and uncertainty that we end up being unable to comprehend, realise and appreciate God’s wonderful mercy and love towards us. He wants us to be irrational and to fall deeper into our sinful ways, and therefore fail to achieve redemption from God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the Evening Mass of the Easter Sunday today we also heard the account of the Lord with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, a village near Jerusalem. Those two disciples went to Emmaus debating and being unsure of what to make of the events they had just witnessed in Jerusalem, with their Lord and Master Jesus having been condemned to death by the chief priests and the elders, and was crucified to death. But they have also heard about the Resurrection and they were still not sure and could not believe of such a thing.

The Lord appeared before them but they did not recognise Him for they still did not have faith in the Resurrection and they still had their doubts, and the Lord walked with them, revealing and teaching to them His truth. He encouraged them and gave them strength by explaining to them the truth of the Scriptures, telling them all that everything has happened as how the prophets had revealed it in the years past, and that Jesus indeed was the Saviour that they all had waited for, and they must have faith in Him.

Subsequently, when those two disciples eventually recognised Jesus they became courageous witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection, telling everyone passionately about how they had seen the Risen Lord, and how He had not died but risen from the dead, and they made everyone who heard them convinced that the Lord had indeed triumphed and conquered death. That was what St. Peter had also done in our first reading as we discussed it earlier on.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, more importantly for us all as we enter into this season of Easter, all of us must be ready to accept what the Lord had called us to do, and that is to follow Him and to trust in Him, and to carry out the mission which He has entrusted to us, to go forth into the world and to proclaim the salvation of God, by being witnesses of His Resurrection like what St. Peter the Apostle and what the two disciples whom the Lord met on the way to Emmaus had done.

It is also very important that all of us take this seriously and embark on what we have been called to do, especially because we know just how dark and dire the situation had been this year, and how many of us had had a particularly difficult year this time round. We have definitely been preoccupied much by the current pandemic and many other troubles all around us, all the economic instabilities, socio-economic problems and other challenges and difficulties we may be encountering.

However, we must not give in to fear, and we must still strive and do our best because we ought to have faith in God. As we celebrate His Resurrection and triumph over sin and death today, we have to bring forth this joy and optimism, faith and trust in the Lord’s providence with us in our own lives and within our own communities. That is why all of us have to be the bearers of God’s hope and light within our own communities, that we bring this Easter joy to all those who are despairing and in darkness.

Are we able to commit ourselves to this great work of evangelisation and also to witness to our faith through our actions towards our fellow brothers and sisters? Let us bring hope to this world when there is despair and hopelessness, and let us bring love and kindness when there is hatred and animosity among us. Let us show compassion towards those who are suffering, caring for those who are in need of love and attention. Let us brighten the days of those who have lost their way and hope amidst these dark and terrible times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all truly be filled with Easter joy and commit ourselves to be better Christians in all things. Let us live through this season of Easter and do our very best to make it truly a most meaningful time, growing in faith and become ever deeper in our own devotion towards God. May the Risen Lord Jesus bless us with the strength and courage to live our faith as good and most faithful Christians. Amen.

Sunday, 12 April 2020 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! After the forty days of Lent and a long time of preparation and expectation, on this very night of the Easter Vigil, we finally enter into the glorious season of Easter. On this night of the Vigil of Easter, also known as the Mother of All the Holy Vigils, we commemorate that great moment of triumph and victory, of light over darkness, of God’s grace and love over evil and sin, and Christ of His victory over death, for He has conquered death itself by His glorious Resurrection from the dead.

Darkness that has reigned over this world because of sin and death have been defeated by our Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross, and also through His triumphant victory by rising from the realm of the dead, showing us that God’s Light and power are supreme over all things. Not even death has the final say anymore, and death is not the end of all things, unlike what we may have thought. Death is no longer the absolute end, but rather, for the faithful, marking the end of our current despicable state and the beginning of a new, eternal and blessed life and existence in God.

This Easter Vigil tonight is indeed the holiest of all nights and moments in the entire liturgical year, for our very faith and our existence, the whole Church are all centred on this very moment. On that night almost two millennia ago at the tomb just outside of Jerusalem, just before the dawn was to break, the Lord showed us all this new hope and revealed His triumph, as He gloriously rose up from death and broke free from the hold of the tomb. At that moment, the salvation that had been long awaited for came to be, as all those who have patiently waited for the Lord’s coming received the assurance of salvation.

That is why the whole Church and the entire world, all the faithful people of God rejoice this day because we remember how God’s salvation has brought us this new hope that dispelled our fears and the darkness all around us. God has brought us this hope and light by showing us that there is life and existence beyond death, one that is filled with God’s grace and love. Through His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has shared with us in dying to our sins, and by His resurrection, He brought us all into this assurance of new life.

Without this Resurrection, our entire faith would have been rendered meaningless and false, as then the Lord Jesus would have just been a Man, condemned to die on false, trumped-up charges against Him, dying a humiliating death on the Cross and laid in the tomb. Had the resurrection of the Lord had not happened, then the works and ministry of the Lord would have ended right there and then, and His disciples would have eventually scattered, like the other false Messiahs that rose up during approximately that same time.

But because Christ has risen from the dead, His truth and works remain and has been passed on through His disciples and His Church to all of us. The Lord’s glorious Resurrection has opened for us all a new path. This new path is the way which the Lord has led us into, the way of His truth. All those who believe in Him and walk in His path will be blessed forever and will rise together with Christ, and will be freed from the tyranny of sin and death forever. Death has no more say or power over us because we share in the deathlessness of Christ.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, this year we know how it has been a particularly difficult year for many if not most of us all around the world. Various communities and peoples from different countries have suffered because of the many disasters and unfortunate events that happened just within the past few months this year alone. Certainly we know of the terrible coronavirus pandemic that has claimed many lives and made many others suffer so far, but there are also many other diseases that claimed lives this year.

On top of this, there had been the terrible bushfires in Australia this year, the eruption of Mount Taal in the Philippines and some other volcanoes around the world, instabilities and tensions in some areas like the Middle East earlier in the year that had also caused much concern, fears and sufferings for many people. Truly, many may call this year a year of misfortune, a terrible year, a year of terror among many others. But we must not lose hope, for it is exactly why tonight’s celebration is so important.

This Easter celebration is a celebration of the Christian Passover, modelled after the original Jewish Passover, when the Israelites in Egypt, enslaved by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, were saved by the Lord their God. At the original Jewish Passover as described in our third reading today we heard of how the Israelites were protected by God, Who sent a total of ten great plagues to the whole of Egypt, causing all the Egyptians to suffer for their refusal to let the Israelites go free. And last of all, the final plague was the worst of all.

The last plague was the death of all the firstborn children of the Egyptians, from the Pharaoh to the lowest slaves, to the lowest of all animals. But the Israelites were spared from all these, as when the Angel of God went about Egypt exercising the judgment of the plague, they were ‘passed-over’ as they had marked their houses with the blood of the Passover lamb as instructed by Moses. They all ate of the Passover lamb that night and were led free out of Egypt to the Land of Promise.

And on this new, Christian Passover, that we celebrate in full throughout this Easter or Paschal Triduum beginning from the evening of Holy Thursday with the Last Supper, we have another moment of God’s great salvation of His people, and this time this salvation is extended to all of us mankind who have been enslaved by the tyranny of sin and death, and put on hold by the evil one, Satan and all of his wicked fellow demons and fallen angels. Through this Easter, the Christian Passover, God leads us all into a new life and a wonderful blessed existence.

On this night, we heard of how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and from the hands of the Pharaoh and his army by opening the Red Sea before them all, allowing His people to cross safely through the dry seabed. In the same way, all of us have been brought to cross through the water of baptism, as we also celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation tonight on the Easter Vigil beginning with the Sacrament of Baptism where those who are to be received into the Church receive the baptism of the Lord, symbolising this passage through the water into new life of freedom in God.

We all partake in the same Eucharist, the same Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord, the Paschal Lamb that has been sacrificed. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ our Lord is the Paschal Lamb, offered to God His heavenly Father as the perfect offering for the absolution of our sins, and He offered Himself as the High Priest, on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary. He has redeemed us and marked us all the faithful ones by the shedding of His Blood, the Blood of the Paschal Lamb.

We can clearly see that there is a lot of parallel between our Easter joy, the Christian Passover with the original Jewish Passover. And that is why, having went through this Easter Triduum, which is not just a series of separate celebrations but instead a great and united celebration of our salvation by God, on this very night, we join the whole Church in praising God for His great love and wonders, for saving us from certain destruction.

As mentioned earlier, this year has been particularly dark and difficult for many of us, but we must not lose hope just as the Israelites had also then suffered under the Pharaoh and the Egyptians for many years in slavery. And we have suffered for even much longer under the power and tyranny of sin. We must not forget that while the pandemic and all the other troubles we faced this year caused many to suffer and die, but even worse is the death caused by our sins, for the death caused by unrepented sin leads to everlasting death and suffering.

That is why today, as the glory of God’s light is shown to all of us, let us all direct all of our hope towards Him, and dedicate ourselves anew to Him, with a new faith and devotion. Let us all be a renewed people of faith, filled with the spirit and joy of Easter, and may the light of God shine forth through our lives from now on. Let us all bring forth the light and hope of God to all around us living in despair, fear and darkness, and bring that hope to warm their hearts and return hope to them.

May this upcoming season of Easter be a most wonderful one for us, that our joy will be true joy, not because of all of our worldly celebrations, but rather because we have found once again the source of our true joy and our hope, in Christ Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, the Paschal Lamb of God by Whose Blood and by Whose Sacrifice all of us have been saved and be assured of eternal life in God, forever and ever. May God bless us always, and may He give us all the strength to live with this wonderful Easter joy always. Amen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!