Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the end of the season of Easter and as we are about to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension tomorrow, each and every one of us are called as Christians to be the witnesses of the truth of Christ, that is to proclaim Him in our lives and in our daily actions, that others may come to believe in the Lord and follow Him into their salvation much as we have received the same offer of salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard the account of how St. Paul went to the renowned forum in the great city of Athens, named Areopagus, where many people often came for philosophical debates and discussions between those who were interested. St. Paul went and joined in the debate as he came forth presenting the words of God and His calling, preaching to many of the pagan philosophers about the one and only true God, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all the whole world.

St. Paul revealed the truth about God, the One Who loved all mankind, regardless of whoever and wherever they are, the One Who created the whole world and the entire universe, to those philosophers, many of whom had probably spent many years, decades and even perhaps their entire lives just to find the meaning and purpose of their lives. Some among the philosophers and pagans were intrigued by what St. Paul had revealed and spoken to them, and were open to listen more to him.

Unfortunately, many among the people ridiculed St. Paul and his revelations and words, laughed at him, ignored him and scorned him. This was to be expected given that the commonly held ideas and thoughts of that time were polytheism in worship, where people believed in many gods and deities, as well as many who worshipped elements and aspects of nature, including the Greeks and Romans, many of whom linked the elements of these paganism into their philosophical thinking.

Nonetheless, St. Paul tried and did his best to explain about God to these people in the place many considered to be the heart of Hellenistic paganism and philosophy, many of which aspect were against the Christian faith. He was patient yet succinct and detailed in his explanation and refute of the false pagan ways and practices. As a result, some of the pagans as mentioned did become intrigued by the revelations made by St. Paul, and it was likely that some among them did become Christians in the end.

St. Paul laboured and worked hard, revealing what he himself has received from the Spirit of Truth as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Holy Spirit has been sent from God to all the Apostles and disciples, who by laying of hands have passed the same Holy Spirit to all Christians, all throughout the ages and up to us all living today. We too have received the same Spirit, the same revelation and truth, as what we believe in our Christian faith and Creed that we believe in the One and only True God Who created all the world and the universe.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, to us have been entrusted the same mission and calling as St. Paul, and the missions and works of the Church are still far from being completed. On the contrary, there are still many areas where we can still contribute more in our own various capacities, to engage our fellow brothers and sisters especially those who have not yet known Christ in meaningful and respectful discourse that they too may come to believe in Him through us.

But if we want others to believe in God through us, then we ourselves must have genuine and strong faith in Him. Otherwise, how can we expect others to believe when we ourselves do not fully believe and practice our faith in our own daily lives and actions? We will be hypocrites and wicked if we do otherwise. That is why we should follow the good examples set by our predecessors. Today, we happen to celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a devout and holy priest, a dedicated servant of God whose examples can definitely inspire us.

St. Bernardine of Siena was renowned for his great piety and revolutionary style of preaching. Just like St. Paul, St. Bernardine of Siena spoke honestly and freely to the people. St. Bernardine of Siena reached out to the people and spoke to them about matters that directly influenced their lives. His efforts led to many people beginning to seek God more earnestly or trying to reevaluate their way of life. Many turned away from excesses of life and reorientate their lives towards God once again.

Of course, this did not mean that St. Bernardine did not encounter troubles during his journeys and works. There were also those that opposed and despised him, and in more than one occasions, people had tried to disturb and sabotage his sermons and works. That was the same rejection and difficulties that St. Paul and the other early Christian missionaries have experienced as well, and which we may experience ourselves during our own lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that we have been called to be faithful witnesses of the Lord in all occasions. Let us all be inspired by the faith of our holy predecessors, St. Paul and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, St. Bernardine of Siena whose memory we celebrate today. Let us strive to be ever more committed to our faith, and dedicate ourselves with ever greater passion with each and every passing moments, giving ourselves to the service of God and our fellow men. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come.”

“He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me. All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 148 : 1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Alleluia! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heavenly heights. Praise Him, all His Angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Kings of the earth and nations, princes and all rulers of the world, young men and maidens, old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord. For His Name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has given His people glory; He has a praise to His faithful, to Israel, the people close to Him. Alleluia.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 17 : 15, 22 – Acts 18 : 1

Paul was taken as far as Athens by his escort, who then returned to Beroea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible. Then Paul stood up in the Areopagus hall and said, “Athenian citizens, I note that in every way you are very religious. As I walked around looking at your shrines, I even discovered an altar with this inscription : To an unknown God. Now, what you worship as unknown, I intend to make known to you.”

“God, Who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, being as He is Lord of heaven and earth. Nor does His worship depend on anything made by human hands, as if He were in need. Rather it is He Who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone.”

“From one stock He created the whole human race to live throughout all the earth, and He fixed the time and the boundaries of each nation. He wanted them to seek Him by themselves, even if it were only by groping for Him, succeed in finding Him. Yet He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said : for we too are His offspring.”

“If we are indeed God’s offspring, we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of human art and imagination. But now God prefers to overlook this time of ignorance and He calls on all people to change their ways. He has already set a day on which He will judge the world with justice through a Man He has appointed. And, so that all may believe it, He has just given a sign by raising this Man from the dead.”

When they heard Paul speak of a resurrection from death, some made fun of him, while others said, “We must hear you on this topic some other time.” At that point Paul left. But a few did join him, and believed. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, a woman named Damaris, and some others. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all of the frustrations as shown in the prayers uttered by the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John, who at that time had just healed the sickness of a crippled man and restored him to full health in the Name of the Lord, and yet, they were oppressed, persecuted and treated like criminals, by the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council who wanted to stop them from performing miracles and teaching in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

They voiced out their frustrations at the stubbornness of all those who refused to believe in God and in His truth, and constantly placed obstacles in the path of the disciples of the Lord. But they trusted in the Lord and believed that He would not abandon them to their enemies. They prayed that God would guide and protect them as they embarked on the challenging and dangerous mission that He has commanded them to do.

And God sent them all the Holy Spirit, Who descended on them and filled their hearts and minds with courage and strength, with the desire and conviction to carry out the mission which has been entrusted to them. And as compared to how they were prior to receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples had undergone a great transformation in action and in their way of life. Where they were once fearful, doubtful and easily shaken in their faith, they became courageous defenders of the Lord from then on.

And this is what the Lord Jesus actually meant in our Gospel passage today, when He discussed with Nicodemus the Pharisee, on the matter of being born again in the Spirit. Nicodemus was initially puzzled when the Lord mentioned that for him to be able to see and witness the kingdom of God, he must be born again in God. He thought that to be born again meant that one had to literally go back into his or her mother’s womb, which was not possible.

But the Lord clarified it for him, and through the examples of the Apostles, all of us have also received the truth about what being born again truly means for each and every one of us. It means that each and every one of us must go through that profound change in our lives, that is just so profound and complete, that one must seem to be unrecognisable and transformed by the change, so as to be ‘born again’.

And this happens when we allow the Lord to enter into us, and perform His work through us, by the bestowing of His Holy Spirit and His Real Presence in each and every one of us. The Apostles as we have heard earlier, prayed, and the Holy Spirit was given to the discipled who were gathered with them, so that despite all of the challenges and difficulties that they had to endure, they endured them nonetheless with great courage and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have also received the same gift of the Holy Spirit, and God Himself has entered into our lives, being present in us and with us. However, many among us have not been able to make use of these gifts God has given to us, and we remain aloof and indifferent to the calling and the mission which God has called us to do. This is because of our own inability to recognise God being present in us, and how we have shut ourselves from God and His love.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives, on how we have lived our lives all these while. Are we able to be truly born again in faith, by embracing what the Lord has given to us all in our own respective lives? And this requires us all to be more faithful and to be more committed in our faith in God. And perhaps, we should learn from the experiences and the examples shown to us by our holy predecessors, especially St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day we are celebrating today.

St. Catherine of Siena was a very renowned saint of the Church, who dedicated herself into a life of sanctity and devotion to God from early on in her life. She did these all despite the oppositions from her family and the many challenges she had to encounter throughout her life. Yet, her commitment to God, her sanctity and great wisdom, in her many writings and letters inspired many others to return to their faith in God.

She was in fact so influential that she even had a crucial role in the ending of the great Western Schism, when rival Popes came to power being elected by the opposing factions and groups in the Church. She exhorted the faithful and the Pope to put their faith and obedience to God’s will as the first and foremost focus in their choice of action. And therefore the Lord showed His wonderful works through this faithful saint, by which many were saved.

Let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena, holy woman and servant of God, and also the examples of the Apostles and the many other holy disciples of the Lord. Let us all renew our faith and commitment, just as the disciples and St. Catherine of Siena had done, and live up to the calling which God had called us to, to be good and devoted Christians, all those whom God has called to be His own. Amen.

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 1-8

At that time, among the Pharisees there was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God to teach us, for no one can perform miraculous signs like Yours unless God is with Him.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above.” Nicodemus said, “How can there be rebirth for a grown man? Who could go back to his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you : No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

“Because of this, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-9

Why do the nations conspire? Why do the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth brace themselves and the rulers together take their stand against the Lord and His Anointed. They say, “Let us break their bonds! Let us cast away their chains!”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord looks at them in derision. Then in anger He speaks to them, terrifying them in the fury of His wrath : “Behold the King I have installed, in Zion, upon My holy hill!”

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall rule them with iron sceptre and shatter them as a potter’s vase.”