Thursday, 30 May 2019 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, remembering the glorious moment when Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended in glory to return triumphantly to His heavenly throne, and from then on no longer physically visible among us in this world. And yet, the Ascension did not mark the moment when God left us behind in this world, for even though He has ascended into heaven, He did so in order to prepare a place for us just as He Himself told His disciples.

The Lord ascended in glory as He has completed His earthly ministry, and He ascended to enter into the heavenly sanctuary as mentioned in today’s Epistle to the Hebrews, our second reading passage. And He is truly our one and Eternal High Priest, in the image of the Jewish High Priest who in the olden days offered sacrifices on behalf of the people to absolve them from their sins. The blood of the animal sacrifices is spilled onto the altar as a sign of the reconciliation and the renewal of the Covenant of the people with God.

Christ, our one and true High Priest has offered not the blood of animal sacrifices, but His own Most Precious Blood and also His Most Precious Body, laid bare on the Altar of the Cross, and by that singular act of perfect and ultimate love, He brought salvation to all of us by establishing a new and eternal Covenant, one that will no longer be destroyed or be dissolved. For it was by His own Blood that He has sealed and offered this new Covenant with us.

And having won for us all a victory over sin and death, and by sealing a new Covenant of love with us through His Blood, He has prefigured for us the moment of our own triumphant glory, as we share in His glorious resurrection through the Sacrament of Baptism we have received, and now through His Ascension, He revealed to us what all of us will also share with Him, when all of us will be fully reunited with Him in His eternal kingdom.

He ascended in glory as He said, in order to prepare the place for us all, in His heavenly kingdom, and as a prefigurement and preparation for our own glorious reunion with God in the time of His choosing. And we are truly so fortunate that God, Who has been so loving and so gracious towards us, gave us so much of His love that even as He ascended in glory to heaven, He did not leave us all alone, but gave us the perfect support and help in the Holy Spirit.

As we draw closer to the end of the season of Easter in about ten days’ time, with the Solemnity of the Pentecost remembering the moment when the Lord sent His Holy Spirit into this world, all of us gather together as we all also remember God’s love for each and every one of us, for His faithfulness and commitment to the Covenant that He had established with us, by the giving of His Holy Spirit.

The Lord has given us this gift of the Holy Spirit and provided for us the strength and the courage through the same Spirit. However, He is also expecting us to bear rich fruits of the Spirit, that is the fruits of love, the fruits of joy, the fruits of peace, the fruits of patience, the fruits of kindness, the fruits of goodness, the fruits of faithfulness and the fruits of gentleness and self-control. And if we do not cultivate the gift of the Holy Spirit in us, how can we then bear rich fruits?

How do we then cultivate our lives so that we can bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit from now on? It is by dedicating ourselves and our whole lives to follow the way of the Lord in our every words and actions, by spending time, effort and attention to be sincere in how we live our lives, by putting God at the very centre of our whole actions and in every interactions we have with each other.

Let us all be filled with the Holy Spirit, and be filled with hope to carry on our lives from now on with a new purpose and energy that we will draw ever closer to God, and be more committed to our Christian living from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 May 2019 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 24 : 46-53

At that time, Jesus said, “So it was written : the Messiah had to suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead. Then repentance and forgiveness in His Name would be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. And that is why I will send you what My Father promised. So remain in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

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

Thursday, 30 May 2019 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 30 May 2019 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 30 May 2019 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 1-11

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, on which day we remember the day when the Lord Jesus ascended in glory into heaven, marking the end of His earthly ministry and work among His people, but not the end of His good works for us. He indeed ascended in Body and Spirit towards heaven, but He is still always ever present among us, for after all, He is God, ever-omnipresent.

And He has not left us all alone in this world, but rather, He promised and indeed gave us the Holy Spirit, to be our Guide and Helper in our journey of faith and in our struggle for a faithful life in God. This He sent to His Apostles and disciples at the occasion of the Pentecost, just days after He ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit reinvigorated them and gave them great strength and courage, and while before that, they were fearful of the repercussions from the enemies of their faith, after receiving the Holy Spirit, their actions and faith were transformed.

He promised us all as well, that He will come again in His glory, as His Second Coming, when He would deal a final defeat on Satan and all of His enemies. In fact, He clearly stated to His disciples, that He ascended to the side of His Father, that He may prepare a place for all of those who have been faithful to Him. Then, in the meanwhile, He gave all of us a mission, that is the most important mission which He has entrusted to each one of us, also known as the Great Commission.

The Great Commission is the command that Christ gave to all of His disciples, to be His witnesses among all the nations, to go forth to various places and to many different groups of peoples, preaching the Good News and the truth which He Himself had revealed to the Apostles. And from the Apostles, who had witnessed for their faith in God, this same faith has been passed down to their successors and the faithful who came after them, and from them, all the way through the ages and years, right down to all of us living today.

That is how each and every one of us became Christians, which means that we become members of God’s Church. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus mentioned that God has given us all various gifts, and to each different people were given different unique gifts as how God wished us to use them in our own unique ways, to serve His greater glory as part of His one Church.

What does this mean? It means that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church must make use of our talents and God-given abilities in order to serve God’s will, and to fulfil our part and our obligation as part of the Great Commission which I have just mentioned. And we will do it in our own distinct and unique way, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach in being a Christian and living a faithful and devout Christian life.

That means, each and every one of us are called to be devoted in our own way, making use of the gifts which God has given us, and serve Him in that way. To those among us whom God has called to be His servants, to surrender ourselves to His will and to give ourselves completely into His service, as priests and those living holy and devoted life consecrated to Him, God has given us all the gift of faith, and He calls upon us to answer to that call and respond to Him calling deep in our hearts.

Similarly, to those among us who are called to a life dedicated to our families, as fathers, mothers and as caretakers of our children, in holy matrimony and as part of our Christian families, we are called to live a good and faithful Christian life, through which we show our deep love for God, for our families and our fellow men, and by the appreciation of the love God has shown us, we too may show the same love in our own actions and dealings with each other.

Unfortunately, as surely we all know quite well, many of us have not been able to commit ourselves in our respective tasks and callings, and in fact, many of us have wandered off from God’s path, failing to obey what God had commanded us to do, and instead of listening to His will, we prefer to follow our own desires, our own considerations and thoughts of what we think is better for us.

That is why so many of us are lukewarm in our faith, and we do not realise just how we can contribute as true Christians and members of the Church. We carry on with our lives, thinking that as long as we are Christians in name and have been baptised, then everything will be fine with us without the need for us to do any more for the Lord and His Church. But this is exactly why today, we have so many Christians who are truly most un-Christian like in their actions and in their lives!

There are many among us as mentioned, whom God had called to the priesthood and other vocations dedicated to the service of God and His people, but many were too busy with their lives to respond, or that they were tempted easily by many things in this world, and therefore, failed to realise what it is that they need to do with their lives, in order to be better Christians and more faithful to God’s will for them.

And many among the laity have also not supported wholeheartedly the good works of the Church, thinking that the priests and those who serve God are all those who suppose to be working for God’s sake, and not them. No, that is also a very wrong mentality, as in fact, being members of the laity, and as people who have chosen to carry on their lives with marriage and family as their vocations, should also be actively supporting the Church together, as one family and as part of one Church.

As St. Paul mentioned, that we are all part of this one Body of Christ, that is the Church. And because of this, it is important that we are united as one in our actions, in our deeds and good works, so that we help each other and support one another, in carrying out what God has commanded us to do, that is to proclaim His Good News and His truth among the nations, and no part of the Church, be it laity or the priests, can do it alone on their own.

It is worse still when we as Christians do what we should consider abominable, that is, backstabbing, gossiping and all sorts of nasty and vile actions towards each other. This is when we act in the most uncharitable way towards one another, being angry or jealous at others, and that is indeed, most un-Christian in nature. Do we realise this, and do we understand just how much in our own lives, we have not been truly faithful to God?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to celebrate the moment of Christ’s glorious Ascension into heaven, let us all remember that while God ascended into heaven, He is not gone from our midst. On the contrary, He is always there with us, and He has given us many blessings, graces and gifts. And as Christians, meaning as those who have accepted Him as our Lord and Saviour, and having believed in His truth, we have the obligation and duty to do our part, to be witnesses for our faith in Him.

Therefore, if we have not done our part, or indeed, if we feel that we have not done enough to contribute our abilities, our skills, in our own way, be it as a father, as a mother, as a child, as a teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer, in our own profession and work, or as a religious brother or sister, as a priest or as bishops, as those entrusted with the spiritual well-being of the faithful, each and every one of us have the responsibility to do our part, as the members of God’s one Church in this world.

Let us all therefore now pray, that God will grant us the strength, through His Holy Spirit, that each and every one of us will be able to discern well our role in the Church and in this world, and may He grant each one of us, the courage and the desire to love Him more, love our brethren and one another more, and be ever more devout and committed Christians each and every day of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.