Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian official by the Apostle St. Philip when the Apostle encountered the official who was on his way back to his homeland after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. At that time, it had been a thousand years since the coming of Queen of Sheba, who was told to be the ruler of the country at the region later known as Ethiopia, when she visited Jerusalem and paid homage to king Solomon of Israel.

As a result, the relations between the lands of Israel and Ethiopia had been established for many centuries since then, as they were definitely involved in trade and economic cooperation, as well as even religious encounter and exchanges. That was why the Ethiopian official was reading the passage from the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies and records, as it was likely that there were also some Jews and descendants of the Israelites who settled in Ethiopia and based on the history of relations between the two countries, it is likely that the Hebrew Scriptures have been widespread and read by many.

This was where then that St. Philip the Apostle came in, as he came up to the Ethiopian official who was reading the particular passage from the prophet Isaiah regarding the Suffering Servant or the Suffering Messiah. No doubt during that time, as he visited Jerusalem during those days, it was quite likely that he had also witnessed or at least heard about the events that had been happening in and around Jerusalem regarding Jesus the Messiah, Who had been condemned to death and crucified, and yet was told to have been resurrected from the dead.

Thus, St. Philip explained to the official what the passages of the Scriptures and the prophecies of Isaiah truly meant, explaining with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the revelations of God’s truth and also the personal experiences he had when he was travelling and journeying along with the Lord. And thus the Ethiopian official allowed himself to be persuaded and believed in the truth of Christ. He asked to be baptised at a nearby water source, and once he had been baptised by St. Philip, the Apostle was spirited away from him, and the official joyfully went back to his country, likely to be the first Christian among the Ethiopians, and establishing the seeds of the faith in that land that are to remain till to this day.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to the people that He is truly the Bread of Life Who has come down from Heaven itself, the very One Whom the prophets had spoken and prophesied about. And He spoke of His relationship with the Father, how all can only know the Father through Him as He was the only One Who had come down from Heaven, revealing the truth of God into this world and among us all, God’s beloved people. He has come into this world to save us all from certain destruction.

Through what we have read in our Gospel today, we are therefore brought to pay attention to our faith in God, just as Christ has spoken to us all as a reminder that no one can come to the Father except through Him. And all of us have been called by Christ to be His followers as we received His truth through His Church. Like that of the Ethiopian official and many other people of all the various nations and races, all have been called by God to follow Him and to be His people.

Are we appreciative of what the Lord had done for us? Are we able to recognise just how much the Lord had loved us all these while, that even when we are all still sinners, rebellious and indignant in our attitudes, we are all still beloved by Him and God still did all He could to save us, that is by His selfless sacrifice on the Cross. God has called us all to follow Him, and we are all called to be witnesses of His truth, to proclaim this truth to our fellow brethren, through our lives and actions.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by our faithful witness through virtue and love, through real dedication and trust in the Lord. And we should also have a great zeal for the Lord, like that of the Apostle St. Philip, whose conviction and faith, wisdom and devotion persuaded the Ethiopian official to believe in God. The Lord will always be by our side, guiding us and helping us, but we need to trust in Him and open ourselves to His providence, guidance and strength.

Today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Pius V, one of the great Popes and leaders of the Church. At that time, with the Church and Christendom under great threat from both within and without, Pope St. Pius V helped to lead the Church and the Christian faithful through those difficult times. His personal piety, dedication to the reform of the Church and the faith, as well as his leadership and commitment to the Lord allowed the Church and the faithful to endure the worst years successfully.

When the Christian world was threatened by the forces of the infidels and unbelievers under the Ottoman Empire, Pope St. Pius V helped to raise a great alliance of the faithful forces and handed the enemies of the Church and the Lord a great defeat at the Battle of Lepanto. And facing the great challenges of the heresies of Protestantism in much of Christendom, Pope St. Pius V helped to bring the instrumental Council of Trent to a successful conclusion, and helped to enforce the much needed reforms that reinvigorated the Church and the faithful, in a strong Counter Reformation effort that reversed much of the damages in the past decades.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see in the great dedication and efforts put in by Pope St. Pius V, let us all as Christians be ourselves inspired to follow in his footsteps, as well as in the footsteps of the Apostles, to be cheerful and courageous bearers of Christ’s truth and light to all the peoples of all the nations. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us and bless our many good endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 44-51

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “No one can come to Me unless he is drawn by the Father Who sent Me; and I will raise Him up on the last day. It has been written in the Prophets : They shall all be taught by God. So whoever listens and learns from the Father comes to Me.”

“For no one has seen the Father except the One Who comes from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Though your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, they died. But here you have the Bread which comes from heaven, so that you may eat of it, and not die.”

“I am the Living Bread which as come from heaven; whoever eats of this Bread will live forever. The Bread I shall give is My flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.”

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 65 : 8-9, 16-17, 20

Praise our God, o nations, let the sound of His praise be heard, for He has preserved us among the living and kept our feet from stumbling.

All you who fear God, come and listen; let me tell you what He has done. I cried aloud to Him, extolling Him with my tongue.

May God be blessed! He has not rejected my prayer; nor withheld His love from me.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 26-40

An Angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south towards the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert road.” So he set out and it happened that an Ethiopian was passing along that way. He was an official in charge of the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians; he had come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was on his way home. He was sitting in his carriage and reading the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and catch up with that carriage.” So Philip ran up and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah; and he asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He then invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

This was the passage of Scripture he was reading : He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered; like a lamb that is dumb before the shearer, He did not open His mouth. He was humbled and deprived of His rights. Who can speak of His descendants? For He was uprooted from the earth.

The official asked Philip, “Tell me, please, does the prophet speak of himself or of Someone else?” Then Philip began to tell him the Good News of Jesus, using this text of Scripture as his starting point. As they travelled down the road they came to a place where there was some water. Then the Ethiopian official said, “Look, here is water; what is to keep me from being baptised?”

And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the carriage to stop; both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water and Philip baptised him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The Ethiopian saw him no more, but he continued on his way full of joy.

Philip found himself at Azotus, and he went about announcing the Good News in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Saturday, 30 April 2016 : Fifth Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard first about the works of St. Paul who went about many cities and towns across regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. He went preaching the word of God and the Good News, telling many people of the need to repent from their old, sinful ways and to follow the Lord our God from then on. And he encouraged the faith of the many communities of the faithful whom he visited along the way.

If we read more of the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles as a whole, we would realise just how difficult his works were, and how dangerous they were. Indeed, many of the faithful welcomed him along his journeys and they listened to him. But in many of those places, he also encountered those who opposed his works, those who opposed the faith and the Church, and refused to believe in God.

The Jews, especially the hardliners among the priestly clans and the Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus and made life difficult for St. Paul and the Apostles. In a few occasion they even harassed them and incited the whole city to go against them. Their works were disturbed and they were even stoned and assaulted. But with the grace of God, they were able to persevere amidst the persecution.

And some of the Greeks and the pagans who refused to believe in God also made their case against St. Paul and the Apostles, thinking of his teachings and the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as threats to their traditional way of life, their culture and as insult and affront to their traditional gods. And thus, many people and groups ganged up against St. Paul, the Apostles and the faithful.

This is a fulfilment of what Jesus Himself had told His disciples at the Last Supper, about how the world would hate them for what they had done for the sake of the Lord, and because they belong to the Lord and no longer belonging to the world. They would suffer rejection, challenges and persecution because of their dedication to the Holy Name of God, and for the salvation of God’s people.

But God reassured them at the same time, for He told them that it was indeed a great privilege to be able to suffer for the sake and for the cause of the Name of the Lord. And they suffered because they refused to bend to accommodate the demands of this world, and they therefore gained glory and righteousness through what they have done in good faith in the Lord Jesus.

This is especially important for all of us today, as we have to realise and we have to constantly remember that the works of the Church and thus the same works of the Apostles have not been completed, but instead, it is still in progress, and we are the ones who have been entrusted with the same works as what the Apostles had been entrusted with.

Now we have to ask ourselves, are we up to the challenge? Are we able to give of ourselves just as the Apostles have given themselves for the sake of evangelisation and preaching the Good News to those who have yet to hear of it, or to sinners awaiting for the redemption and salvation in God? We have to make a conscious choice and effort to put ourselves at the forefront of the works of the Church, to bring more and more souls to salvation in our God.

Now, let us today remember the example of this pious saint whose feast day is celebrated today, Pope St. Pius V, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, and the leader of the entire Universal Church approximately five centuries ago. Pope St. Pius V lived through a time of great difficulty for the Church, and he led the Church through those very turbulent and trying times, where people were also martyred for their faith, and many false prophets were lying around seeking prey from among the people of God.

At that time, the Church and the faithful people of God were under siege and under constant threat from the inside and from the outside. The pagan and godless Ottoman Turks were rising and became mighty, seizing territories after territories, enslaving more and more people under their iron rule, and the whole Christendom was under great fear of this great rising power.

And besides that external threat, from the inside, the Church was assailed by the heretics and the people who called themselves as Protestants, following false teachings and the heretical thoughts of men planted by the devil himself to destroy the Church and its unity. Many souls were lost to heresy, and many people fell along the way, as they were tempted by the temptations of those heretical teachings and left the truth of God behind.

During that very trying and turbulent times, Pope St. Pius V led and steered the Church with great patience and effort, keeping control of the faithful and ensuring that works were done to prevent more and more souls from being lost to the damnation of hell. And thus, he helped conclude the very important Council of Trent, a gathering of the leaders of the Church designed to rejuvenate and purify the faith, so that the Church would be far better able to resist the attacks of the heretics.

Through his efforts, many of the lost souls and heretics repented their sins, and by the hard works of the various missionaries sent to reclaim these lost souls, many were restored to the grace and salvation in God. And Pope St. Pius V was also instrumental in his role in encouraging and organising a great defence of Christendom, culminating in a total and crushing victory of the forces of Christ against the heathen Ottomans at the battle of Lepanto.

Inspired by Pope St. Pius V and his tireless dedication to the faithful, his hard works amidst the difficulties and challenges, just as St. Paul and the Apostles had encountered, for the sake of the salvation of as many souls as possible, therefore all of us should also follow in their footsteps and help to bring one another, all the lost sheep in this world to return together to our Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us all vow and renew our efforts to become each and every one of us, as good and ever better Christians, not just by mere words, but also through real and concrete action. Let us all commit ourselves to the Lord through His Church and bring all the peoples to salvation and grace in the Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 30 April 2016 : Fifth Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”

Saturday, 30 April 2016 : Fifth Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 30 April 2016 : Fifth Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers of Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day. They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia.

When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”

When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.