Sunday, 8 May 2016 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the death and martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church from the Acts of the Apostles, our first reading, and we also heard from the Revelations according to St. John, about the promise of the world to come, and the promise that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, will come again at the end of time to succour His people.

And in the Gospel, we heard about the prayer which Jesus our Lord made to His Father, for the sake of His disciples, all who believe in Him, and ultimately, for the entirety of the whole Church. He prayed for their sake, that God His Father through Him would bless those multitudes of people, and that He would bring them into the salvation and the glory which He had promised the faithful ones.

In all these, what we have heard from the Scripture readings pointed out to us about the nature of our faith in God, on how persecution will be part and parcel of our life, but as mentioned, God will not leave them alone, and He will continue to guide them and show them the path towards eternal life. God will be their strength and their foundation. If they are to keep their hold on Him, they will not be disappointed.

Why does this matter, brethren? Jesus mentioned to us the troubles that is facing the Church, and another had been presented by the tale of St. Stephen and his martyrdom. External pressures and persecution against the Church and the faithful are a reality, and these will not go away. Since the very earliest times of the Church, there had been those who opposed the message and the truth of Christ, from the Romans to the Jews, and then from the heretics and the other unbelievers, the Turks and now we have those who refused to believe in God, the atheists and those who rejected Christ.

And we can still recall quite clearly how in the past century, and in some places even until this very day, persecution of Christians is a reality. The horrors of the persecution especially by the atheist and the hostile Communist regimes in Soviet Union, its satellite regimes in Eastern Europe and beyond, and then the terrible persecutions in China and in North Korea, which for the latter is still continuing even unto this very day, and for the former persecution also still happened from time to time.

In the Middle East and in other parts of the world, Christians are also still persecuted, rejected and ridiculed for their faith in God. They are facing difficulties for keeping their faith, were blocked from being able to live out their faith lives freely, and some were even persecuted and tortured, and martyred for their faith, just as St. Stephen was, for standing up for their faith and for being courageous in not fearing the persecution of the world.

In this matter, with regards to the external persecution of the Church and the faithful, we have to keep praying and hoping. We have to keep in mind what Jesus our Lord had said, and what St. Stephen had shown all of us. Jesus said that once it was such that if someone made another lose an eye, then it is ought to be that the one who made the person to lose an eye, also lose an eye as well. But it should not be so with us Christians.

The principle of justice by revenge no longer applies to us Christians, for that law in the past was given by God as a means to rein in His often rebellious people, who frequently disregarded His laws and commandments, and thus harsh measures as a deterrent was appropriate to keep them in check. Yet, the purpose of the Law remains the same, that is for mankind to be able to discover and to love their Lord.

It is in our human nature to hate and to hold grudge against another. And to those of us who have experienced grudge before, most of us I believe, and including me as well, we know how dangerous and powerful hatred and grudge could be. We tend to keep it inside us, and it causes us to feel anger and indeed, it can make us do dangerous things, even to the point of inflicting harm and pain on others.

This world is running on the principle of reciprocation such that, if someone caused us harm and pain, then we also want to inflict harm and pain upon that person as well. But do we all realise that in doing so, we are merely perpetuating the cycle of hatred, pain, anger and suffering? We inflict pain on someone, and that someone did the same to us in revenge, and then we having been slighted one more time, decide to retaliate, which leads to even more retaliation of even greater degree. It is a painful and endless cycle which only leads to more and more hatred, pain and suffering.

Instead, as Christians, we ought to show love, true love that is unconditional and pure, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had shown to us. The love that Jesus our Lord showed us can be summarised also in the words He had spoken in the same occasion as He condemned those vengeance justice. He told us that we ought to forgive those who have sinned against us, and we ought to pray for those who hated us and persecuted us.

And even in the Lord’s Prayer, when Jesus prayed in another occasion to the Lord God His Father, one key essential element of the Pater Noster is that we pray that God will forgive us our sins just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us. And that was exactly what St. Stephen did just moments before his death. He forgave them and asked the Lord not to hold their sins and faults against them. The same action has also been done by our Lord Himself, as He hung upon the cross, forgiving all those who have called for Him to be crucified.

This means that, as Christians, we have to pray for perseverance and strength, that amidst the persecutions and the challenges presented to us by the world, we may not give up and surrender ourselves to the demands of the devil and the world. And yet, we must also pray for the strength to love and to forgive, that we may forgive those who have persecuted us, and love them even though they have hated us first. Hopefully through that love, they may be healed from the hatred and grudge they had against us, and be able to find repentance and forgiveness for all of their sins by God.

And lastly, just as I have mentioned that great troubles had always come from the outside of the Church, Jesus also mentioned about the coming troubles that would come from within the Church. He always warned His disciples against the false prophets, the wolves dressed in sheep clothing to deceive the faithful and to lure them away from the salvation in God.

And these false prophets and selfish men and women had brought about divisions and disunity within even the Church itself, with peoples making followings among themselves by spreading inaccurate and wrong teachings about the Lord in order to serve their own purposes, desires and ego. Throughout the centuries since the earliest days of the Church, we have been aware of those who have brought about this disunity, from the Gnostics, Arius, Nestorius, and then to Martin Luther, to John Calvin, Zwingli, King Henry VIII of England and many others who have misled the faithful and brought great divisions in the Church.

Jesus prayed to the Father that He will always keep His faithful people in the Church united, and He prayed hard for that unity, repeating again and again and emphasising of the need for the unity, so that the faithful may all be united as one people and one body in the Church, just as He Himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit are perfectly united in one Godhood, the Most Holy Trinity.

Therefore today, and indeed from now on, in addition to praying for the persecuted faithful around the world, and praying for the faith of the Church, we also should pray and work for the complete unity of the Church of God. The Church of God does not just consist of the buildings and the structures, and it does not consist only of the priests, the bishops and all the religious. Instead, it is the one and only body consisting of all, without exception, the faithful people who believe in God, who through the Church are journeying together towards their salvation in God.

And we all should realise that the unity of the Church had been long shattered, and many who claim themselves as faithful are outside the Church. There is no salvation but through God’s only Church alone, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Therefore, while there is hope for all others, our brethren in faith outside the Church, but for them to receive God’s salvation, they must find their way back to the Holy Mother Church, and thus, it is our task and responsibility now to welcome them, to help them and to encourage them to return.

Let us all pray for one another, and for all the faithful, that everyone may return and reside within the embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the Body of Christ, so that together, all of us God’s people may praise and worship Him together as one people, and we may find our way to His salvation. Let us all work together, so that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to God’s love. May God help us, and may He restore the unity to the Church, and may He help all those who are persecuted for their faith. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 8 May 2016 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are one : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me. As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I also may be in them.”

Sunday, 8 May 2016 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 22 : 12-14, 16-17, 20

I am coming soon, bringing with Me the salary I will pay to each one according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who wash their robes for they will have free access to the tree of Life and enter the city through the gates.

I, Jesus, sent My Angel to make known to you these revelations concerning the Churches. I am the Shoot and Offspring of David, the radiant Morning Star. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” Whoever hears let him say, “Come!” Whoever thirsts let him approach, and whoever desires, let him freely take the water of life.

He Who has declared all this says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, 8 May 2016 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1 and 2b, 6 and 7c, 9

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Justice and right are His throne.

The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory. Let all spirits bow before Him.

For You are the Master of the universe, exalted far above all gods.

Sunday, 8 May 2016 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 7 : 55-60

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and said in a loud voice : “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he died.

Saturday, 7 May 2016 : Sixth Week of Easter, Eleventh Anniversary of the Enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the works of St. Paul in continuing his evangelisation of the peoples, spreading the Good News of God, and how an inspirational preacher, Apollos, who although lacking somewhat in the full knowledge of the faith, but he has a great courage and energy, as well as charisma in proclaiming the truth of God, and as a result, many people turned to God because of his works and his inspiring sermons.

He was helped by the other disciples who explained to him in greater detail the fullness of the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and because of that, his works became ever more instrumental in helping to establish the strong foundations of the Church in the cities where he ministered in, especially in Ephesus and Corinth. Many of the people in those places became believers of Christ.

If you think that these people were great men and women who were very capable in all things, you are mistaken. God did not choose the great, the mighty and the powerful to be those whom He had chosen to be the extension of His mighty works on earth, but instead He chose the simple and normal people, just like each and every one of us, and He blesses those whom He had chosen to be His followers.

God will give all that the ones He blesses, granting them the authority over many things, even over sin and death. He will not leave those whom He had blessed alone. But the problem is that, it is so often that we are afraid to ask for help, and we are reluctant to ask our Lord for what we need and for what we want. In our reluctance, we do not gain what we needed, and therefore, we missed the opportunities for us to implement whatever good we have within us.

Sometimes we are afraid because we tend to view God as someone Who is exacting and wanting many things from us, and we do not therefore dare to seek for the Lord when we are in need, and we keep our hearts and minds closed against God. Or it may be that we also do not know that God is able to help us, either because we do not truly believe in Him, or that because we tend to ignore His words speaking in our hearts simply because we are too busy with matters of this world.

Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened to you. Such is the very generous words and terms which our Lord has given us. After all, which other gods or beings would do the same? God Who loves us all wants us to listen to Him, to accept His path and to welcome His ways. And to that extent, He even sent us His own Son, Jesus to be our Saviour and as our Deliverer to free us from the bonds of our sins.

God has blessed us with many gifts and many graces. But it is really up to us how we ought to use them. As Christians we have to realise that we cannot be passive and inactive. It is such inactivity and passivity which has prevented us from seeking the Lord our God and asking Him for the graces and help which He is willing to give to us.

Christians must stand up and be active in making the effort to bring forth the gifts of God, of love, hope and faith, and share these with one another. This means that we should reach out to our brethren and love them through our actions, showing our genuine care and love for them, that through that same love, we may find true love in each other, and help one another in reaching out to God, and having shown love, we may therefore be found worthy by the Lord, and be welcomed into eternal life.

May God help us all in this journey of life, and may He strengthen the faith in each and every one of us. May all of us find the courage and the strength to always walk in the path of righteousness and justice. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 7 May 2016 : Sixth Week of Easter, Eleventh Anniversary of the Enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 23b-28

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. So far you have not asked in My Name; ask, and receive, that your joy may be full. I taught you all this in veiled language, but the time is coming when I shall no longer speak in veiled language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.”

“When that day comes, you will ask in My Name; and it will not be for Me to ask the Father for you, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and you believe that I came from the Father. As I came from the Father, and have come into the world, so I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.”

Saturday, 7 May 2016 : Sixth Week of Easter, Eleventh Anniversary of the Enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 8-9, 10

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 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.

The leaders of the nations rally together with the people of the God of Abraham. For in His hands are the great of the earth. God reigns far above.

Saturday, 7 May 2016 : Sixth Week of Easter, Eleventh Anniversary of the Enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 18 : 23-28

After spending some time at Antioch, Paul left and travelled from place to place through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples.

A certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived at Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and an authority on the Scriptures, and he had some knowledge of the way of the Lord. With great enthusiasm he preached and taught correctly about Jesus, although he knew only of John’s baptism.

As he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila heard him; so they took him home with them and explained to him the way more accurately. As Apollos wished to go to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.

When he arrived, he greatly strengthened those who, by God’s grace, had become believers, for he vigorously refuted the Jews, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

Friday, 6 May 2016 : Sixth Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the encouragements which God has given His Apostles, all those who dedicated themselves to Him and to His works. In the first reading, God encouraged and reassured St. Paul of His protection and providence, even as the Jews and all the enemies of the Church were plotting up sinister fates and ideas for St. Paul and his evangelising works.

And in the Gospel we heard how Jesus at the Last Supper foretold of His own suffering and Passion on the way of the cross, and how those times would be difficult for the Apostles to bear, as they would be tempted to run away and flee from these challenges, as shown by St. Peter and his thrice denial of knowing Jesus, because he was afraid and uncertain at that time, after his Master had been arrested by the Jewish authorities.

There would be troubles and challenges facing the faithful if they continued to remain faithful in God, and He wanted them to understand that the path forward would not be an easy one. After all, we were all under the thrall of sin, and through sin we have been under bondage and the tyranny of the devil, who wanted to gain as many souls of mankind as possible, to join him in the eternal damnation.

He knew that he could not win or triumph against God, and his final defeat has indeed been sealed, but that did not stop him from trying to lure mankind away from salvation and from their liberation of their sins. He is always busy at work trying to tempt us away from the path of righteousness in God, and offered us many other seemingly better alternatives that in fact leads not to God but to damnation.

And when he is unable to tempt us away or to lure us to the path which he has designed to bring us into our downfall, then he uses other methods, such as pressure, from the society, and even from within the family and from those whom we know, so that hopefully we may give up and conform to the ways of the world which the devil had advocated.

We may find this to be very distressing, and hope may dry up for us, when especially we are faced with opposition from even those who even know us well, and whom we know well. But God is reminding us that He is always with us, and He will never abandon us, and we need to know that we can trust in Him with all of our heart. He shall succour us, comfort us and He shall give us all a new hope.

He is the true Joy of the world, Who came into the world to bring light to a people who have long lived in the darkness. And through Him, a new hope and light has blossomed and grown in our hearts, and in all those who believe in Him, and have witnessed and known His glorious resurrection from even death, we know that there is hope, even amidst all the gloom and the darkness that surrounded us.

We should not be disheartened, brothers and sisters in Christ, but instead we should really be encouraged by what we have received from the Lord, and by what hope and grace we have been given. Had the Apostles been fearful as they were when the Jewish authorities arrested Jesus, and had they been passive and hiding from trouble, then the word of God and the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ would have been hidden from the rest of mankind.

Instead, they persevered onwards, and despite the challenges, they tried their best in order to fulfil the mission which God had entrusted them with. And even though they were arrested, put into prison, made to suffer, and some of them even were martyred, but all these did not dampen their spirit. And as a result, many people came to know of the Lord and became believers, and thus as a result, they were saved.

We should ponder on all these, and reflect on how all of us are also called to do the same as what the Apostles had done. Their work is not yet complete, and there are always many more things to be done. It is now up to us whether we continue their work and help more and more of our brethren to draw closer to God, so that all of us may together receive God’s eternal life. May God help us in our endeavours and bless us, and may He strengthen our faith and guide us so we may always remain in His path. Amen.