Sunday, 20 May 2018 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great occasion we celebrate together as one united and one Universal Church, the Solemnity of the Pentecost, marking the moment when the Church was born and began to make its mark in this world, through the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and the Apostles of the Lord. The Holy Spirit was promised by the Lord Jesus, as the Advocate and Guide, that would be with His disciples, and would empower them for the missions they had been entrusted with.

The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed all the disciples who received this great gift from God, for they were initially afraid and in fact, paranoid over the threats from the Pharisees and the chief priests who sternly warned all those who believe and preach in the Lord’s Name. They locked themselves up in the room, just as we heard from the accounts of the Lord’s appearances to them after His resurrection. They were plagued with fear and lack of faith.

But God reassured them that He would not leave them or abandon them. Not only that He would always with be them, at their side, all the time, but He would also send the Holy Spirit Who would reveal to them the entirety of the truth which He had taught and delivered unto this world. And indeed, that was what happened. The tongues of flame that descended upon the disciples gave them the truth, as well as the courage needed to speak up that truth and deliver the truth to others around them.

That was how they went out to speak courageously among the people who were gathered in Jerusalem for the festival, each hearing the disciples spoke in his or her own language. This is truly significant in symbolism, as the first reading from the Vigil Mass spoke about the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis. The Tower of Babel represented mankind’s failed attempt to claim greatness and glory, as they attempted to surpass God by building up a tower reaching up to the heavens itself.

God scattered them all by confusing their languages, and no one could understand what the others were talking about. As such, the division prevented the great Tower of Babel from being completed. Then, in the end, God countered this, by sending His Holy Spirit, that granted those who believe in Him, the spirit of true comprehension and understanding of the truth, and the gift of tongues, of speaking in various languages, the exact opposite of what had happened at the Tower of Babel.

Mankind have detached themselves from God, by their disobedience that led to sin. Sin, just as the wickedness shown by the people who were building the Tower of Babel showed that by doing what is haughty, arrogant and unbecoming of God’s people, we have deserved the consequence of division and separation, and as a result, that is why there are still so many souls out there, because God’s light and truth have not materialised in these people, and many of them have not yet received or accepted that truth.

This means that the Holy Spirit is not just the bearer of truth, but also unity. For it was through the Holy Spirit that the fullness of truth had been revealed to us, and those who put their faith and commit themselves to this fullness of truth, belong to the one and only Church of God, that is, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one and united Body of Christ, under the leadership of Christ’s Vicar, the Pope, successor of St. Peter the Apostle.

And today, as I mentioned at the very start of today’s discourse, we celebrate the anniversary of the birthday of the Church, for the Church which Christ established on this world, became tangible and real at the Pentecost, as the disciples went forth from their hiding place, and courageously spoke in front of the multitudes of people, and converted not less than three thousand among them, and those together with the disciples and the Apostles, formed the first foundation and beginning of the Church.

It was this event, which highlighted to us the most important and fundamental mission of the Church, that is the missionary and evangelistic calling to all Christians, as members of God’s Church, to proclaim the truth we have received and kept, to all the peoples, of all the nations, just as He commanded the disciples at the moment just before He ascended to heaven, the Great Commission that He gave to all of us, and which He entrusted all of us to do.

Unfortunately, many of us have not realised this fact, and this obligation which we have as Christians. Instead, the sad reality is that, many of us are still lukewarm about our faith, and we do not truly understand what our faith is about. And that is how many of us ended up falling back into our old ways, into wickedness and sin, and we end up like the people building the Tower of Babel once again, sundered and separated, this time from the unity with God in His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am speaking to you about the real crisis facing many of us Christians living in today’s world. There are many among us, who leave the Church and become Christians on paper and in formality only, after we completed our faith formation and catechism, the turning point often quoted being the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is at the reception of this holy Sacrament of Confirmation that we are confirmed in our faith by the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many of us considered that, both the confirmands and the family members, as a mere rite of passage, that is once done, is done and nothing else need to be done. That is simply not true, brothers and sisters in Christ. The Holy Spirit that God has given us, has given us the principal gifts of love, hope and faith, as well as the well-known seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, that is Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

But all these will remain dormant and will be meaningless unless we truly practice our faith and live our lives in accordance with our faith. And this is where I want to remind us all about a parable that Christ had shared with His disciples, that is the parable of the sower. In that parable, which I am sure many of us are quite familiar with, the Lord Jesus shared with us about the seeds that the sower planted, which fell on different types of soil, and how only in the rich and fertile soil, that the seeds grew into crop-bearing plants with much produce.

In that parable, we heard how the Lord spoke of those whose seeds fell into barren soil, or place where brambles and thorns grew, or on the roadside and picked up by birds, which all spoke of the obstacles and challenges, and all the temptations and hurdles awaiting all of us as Christians in our attempt and journey to live a faithful life accentuated by living and genuine Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us spend some time to reflect on our own individual lives, and in how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we have interacted with one another, as well as in our relationship with God. How many times has it been that we are jealous at one another, or become angry at one another, just because we refuse to back down from our pride and ego?

And how many of us truly reflect a genuine and authentic Christian faith in our respective lives? How many of us have instead been so preoccupied with our busy schedules and worldly pursuits, of power, of wealth, of fame and affluence, of pleasures of the body and the flesh, and many other tempting things, that we forgot to act as good and committed Christians? I am sure that many of us have fallen into these traps of the devil before.

Therefore, now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek a thorough and complete transformation of ourselves, in our whole being, that while once we were separated from God and living in ignorance and darkness, now through the Holy Spirit, we have received the fullness of truth and faith, and we ought to make use of those wonderful gifts God had given us, or else, our faith is shallow, dead and empty.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our respective lives, and let us pray to God, that through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we may be transformed completely, and changed profoundly, to be true disciples and beloved children of God, who are worthy partakers of God’s everlasting Covenant. May the Lord be with us always, and may the Holy Spirit guide our path always. Come, Holy Spirit and fill our hearts with God truth and love. Amen.

Sunday, 20 May 2018 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 15 : 26-27 and John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “From the Father, I will send you the Spirit of truth. When this Helper has come from the Father, He will be My witness, and you, too, will be My witnesses, for you have been with Me from the beginning. 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.”

“For He will not speak of His own authority, but will speak what He hears, and He will tell you about the things which are 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; for this reason, I told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”

Sunday, 20 May 2018 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Galatians 5 : 16-25

Therefore, I say to you : walk according to the Spirit and do not give way to the desires of the flesh! For the desires of the flesh war against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to the flesh. Both are in conflict with each other, so that you cannot do everything you would like. But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.

You know what comes from the flesh : fornication, impurity and shamelessness, idol worship and sorcery, hatred, jealousy and violence, anger, ambition, division, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I again say to you what I have already said : those who do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy and peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control. For such things there is no law or punishment. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its vices and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us live in a spiritual way.

Sunday, 20 May 2018 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1ab and 24ac, 29bc-30, 31 and 34

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; How varied o Lord, are Your works! The earth full of Your creatures.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works! May my song give Him pleasure, as the Lord gives me delight.

Sunday, 20 May 2018 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 2 : 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came, the disciples of Jesus were all together in one place. And suddenly out of the sky came a sound like a strong rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues as if of fire which parted and came to rest upon each one of them. All were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each heard them speaking in his own language. Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them in our own native language?”

“Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Saviour, does.”

Saturday, 19 May 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 7 : 37-39

At that time, on the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me; and let the one who believes in Me drink, for the Scripture says : Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

Jesus was referring to the Spirit, which those who believe in Him were to receive; the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.

Saturday, 19 May 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 8 : 22-27

We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pangs of birth. Not creation alone, but even ourselves, although the Spirit was given to us as a foretaste of what we are to receive, we groan in our innermost being, eagerly awaiting the day when God will give us full rights and rescue our bodies as well.

In hope we already have salvation. But if we saw what we hoped for, there would no longer be hope; how can you hope for what is already seen? So we hope for what we do not see and we will receive it through patient hope. We are weak, but the Spirit comes to help us. How to ask? And what shall we ask for?

We do not know, but the Spirit intercedes for us without words, as if with groans. And He Who sees inner secrets knows the desires of the Spirit, for He asks for the holy ones what is pleasing to God.

Saturday, 19 May 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 24 and 35c, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

How varied o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Bless the Lord, my soul!

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Saturday, 19 May 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 11 : 1-9

The whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved from east, they found a plain in the country of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in fire.” They used brick for stone and bitumen for mortar. They said also, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching heaven; so that we may become a great people and not be scattered over the face of the earth!”

YHVH came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of man were building, and YHVH said, “They are one people and they have one language. If they carry this through, nothing they decide to do from now on will be impossible. Come! Let Us go down and confuse their language so that they will no longer understand each other.”

So YHVH scattered them over all the earth and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there YHVH confused the language of the whole earth and from there YHVH scattered them over the whole face of the earth.

Alternative reading

Exodus 19 : 3-8a, 16-20b

The Israelites camped there in front of the mountain, but Moses went up to God and YHVH called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say and to explain to the Israelites : You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself.”

“Now if you listen to Me and keep My covenant, you shall be My very own possession among all the nations. For all the earth is Mine, but you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” And He added, “This is what you are to say to the people of Israel.”

So Moses went and summoned all the elders of the people and related to them all that YHVH had commanded him to say. All the people responded with one voice, “All that YHVH has said, we will do.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled. Moses then made the people leave the camp to meet God and stand at the foot of the mountain.

Mount Sinai was completely covered in smoke because YHVH had come down in fire, and the smoke rose as from a furnace. The whole mountain shook violently, while the blast of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke and God replied in thunder. When YHVH had come down to the summit of Mount Sinai, God called Moses who went to the summit.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

The hand of YHVH was upon me. He brought me out and led me in spirit to the middle of the valley which was full of bones. He made me walk to and fro among them and I could see there was a great number of them on the ground all along the valley and that they were very dry.

YHVH said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live again?” I said, “Lord YHVH, only You know that.” He then said, “Speak on My behalf concerning these bones; say to them : Dry bones, hear the word of YHVH! YHVH says : I am going to put spirit in you and make you live. I shall put sinews on you and make flesh grow on you; I shall cover you with skin and give you My Spirit, that you may live. And you will know that I am YHVH.”

“I prophesied as I had been commanded and then there was a noise and commotion; the bones joined together. I looked and saw that they had sinews, that flesh was growing on them and that He was covering them with skin. But there was no spirit in them.”

So YHVH said to me, “Speak on My behalf and call on the Spirit, son of man! Say to the Spirit : This is the word of YHVH : Spirit, come from the four winds. Breathe into these dead bones and let them live!” I prophesied as He had commanded me and breath entered them; they came alive, standing on their feet – a great, immense army!

He then said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all Israel. They keep saying : ‘Our bones are dry, hope has gone, it is the end of us.’ So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel.”

“You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves, when I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”

Alternative reading

Joel 3 : 1-5

In the last days, I will pour out My Spirit on every mortal. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even upon My servants and maidens, I will pour out My Spirit on that day.

I will show wonders in the heavens, and on earth blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will darken and the moon turn to blood, at the approach of the great and dreadful day of God.

Then all who call upon the Name of YHVH will be saved. For on Mount Zion there will be a remnant, as YHVH has said; in Jerusalem some will be saved – those whom YHVH will call.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Social Communications Sunday and Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate the seventh Sunday in the season of Easter. Therefore, in just one week’s time we will come to the celebration of the Solemnity of the Pentecost, and mark the end of this holy season of Easter. I hope that for all of us Christians, each and every one of us have made good use of this particularly blessed season to deepen our faith in God.

On this Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Church also commemorate the occasion of the World Communications Sunday. On this occasion, we remember the important command that the Lord gave to all of us, His disciples and followers, that we are to go forth to the peoples of all the nations, testifying our faith and belief in the Lord, Who has come upon this world to save us, by His death on the cross and by His resurrection.

And in order to be able to do that, of course, each one of us as Christians must know how to communicate. Then, many of us surely wonder, ‘Ah, but I know how to talk well!’ or ‘Ah, it is not a problem for me at all, for I am a good speaker and I can persuade people very well!’. Yet, do we actually know what communication is truly about, brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it all about talking and how well we can speak and talk to others?

No, that is not all, brothers and sisters. Good communicators are also good listeners, just as they are good speakers. And they are also usually good thinkers and contemplators. One cannot communicate properly, if one just speak right off from his or her mouth, without first thinking about it or contemplating what he or she is about to say. Otherwise, very easily the person could have gotten into trouble for what he or she had said, as those words had not been carefully thought of.

And if someone is quick to talk, and yet also refuse to listen, then he or she is also not a good communicator. That is because we will then find ourselves in a situation where we will end up misunderstand the intentions of each other. We will also not be able to communicate well, as if each side of the people in communication insist that they be heard first, and refuse to listen to the other person’s opinion, very quickly it will end up in a struggle and even conflict.

Unfortunately, that is who we often are, and that is how we also often act, and that was how wars have been started, conflicts and destruction of human lives, just because we failed to communicate well. People misunderstood each other’s intentions from time to time, and unless we make the effort to learn from our past mistakes, the same problems and mistakes are likely to arise again and again.

Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we realise that there are many ways we can communicate, more than just by words? Verbal speeches and words are just one way through which we are able to communicate with another person. There are many other ways through which we can convey what we want another person to know, that is through gestures and actions. Unfortunately, the same can also be said of our actions that are in fact contrary to what we are saying.

What do I mean by saying that, brethren? It means that as Christians, just as I have mentioned earlier that we are all called by God to be His witnesses to all the nations, to all the peoples, we cannot just depend on our words alone. It is often that actions carry much greater weight than words, and it is such that words that are not backed by concrete actions are often considered empty and meaningless.

And unfortunately, in our actions and in how we carry out our lives, we often did not do as what our faith said that we should do in our lives. Just as St. John in his Epistle, our second reading today said to the faithful, we are all called to love God and love one another, with all of our hearts, and with all of our efforts. And yet, how many of us actually truly love God with all of our hearts? How many of us actually prioritises God over all the other things we have in life?

The reality is that for many of us Christians, we tend to put God aside in our lives, as we are often too busy and too caught up in our worldly dealings and matters, to the point that we forget about God, and we only remember Him, if we even remember Him, in times when we are in need of His help. And when things start to go better once again for us, we forget to thank Him and we continue in our usual busy lifestyle and push Him aside once again.

And how about our love for our fellow men? Many of us Christians profess to be members of God’s Church, and yet, in our actions and interactions with one another, many of us do things that are anything but showing love for each other. How many of us, in our respective parishes and communities, often fall into the tendency and the bad habit of gossiping against each other, against fellow laity, and even against the priests? And even amongst the priests, sometimes we also see division and unpleasantness between each other.

Now, let me ask you all a question, brothers and sisters in Christ. If we want to communicate to those whom we intend to preach the message of the Good News of God, how can we then, in our own respective lives and actions, do things that are contrary to what we preach and what we believe? How can people believe in us, if we ourselves do not do as we say, and if we do not show that we truly believe in our faith, through action?

If we have done all these, then we are no better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They were hypocrites, just as we are. The Lord Jesus Himself said to the people, ‘Listen to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, but do not imitate them in what they were doing’. Through this, the Lord rebuked those who claim to believe, and yet, their actions show completely different fact altogether.

And why did all these things happen to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is because we are not a good communicator, and we need to learn to be good communicators. We are often people who are easy to talk and give words out of our mouths, but we find it hard to act in the same manner, because we do not truly mean what we say, and we often do not think and discern before we say something.

This is where, we need to reflect on what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, which is the prayer which Our Lord Jesus made, and addressed to His Father in heaven, for the sake of all of His disciples. He prayed for them to His Father, that He would keep them safe and protect them, and guide them, and make them to remain united as one people, as one body together, which St. John in his Epistle also elaborated further, that the love of God has dwelled in us, through His Holy Spirit.

But many of us often do not realise this, as we are often too distracted by the many things and concerns we have in this world. We do not spend enough time in prayer, and prayer is a very important part of our Christian life. The Lord Jesus often spent time in quiet places to pray to His Father, and we saw it in many occasions throughout the Gospels. He maintained a close and loving relationship with His Father, listening to Him and obeying His will.

And by that action, He has also shown us all as Christians, how we ought to devote ourselves to God through prayer. It is also important that we know how to pray in the right manner. Many of us think that our prayers have to follow a certain formula or that by saying longer and more concise prayers, our prayers will then be answered, or we can gain more from what we have prayed for.

However, it is too often that many of us are again not good communicators in this case, as we end up spending all the time talking and making our demands and desires known to the Lord, without allowing ourselves to hear the will of God, and we shut ourselves off from the word of God, speaking softly in the depths of our hearts and within our minds. We end up speaking all the time and not allowing God to speak to us. In this manner, we have failed in our communication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise that each and every one of our prayers are actually meant to be communication between us and God. And as in any proper communication, it should be two-way in nature, allowing both parties involved to speak and to listen at the appropriate time. The problem is, as mentioned, we do not listen enough, and we demand that God listen to our demands, when we do not even open our hearts and minds to listen to His will.

May the Lord therefore, allow our hearts and minds, our senses to be open to God. If we have often been distracted and swayed from the path that God has shown us, then perhaps it is time now for us to turn wholeheartedly and completely towards God, with all of our hearts and with all of our minds. Let us all develop a good and working spiritual relationship with God, that we may come to know His will for us, and He may draw us ever closer to Him, with each and every passing day.

May we grow to be good communicators, that is, with the wisdom which the Holy Spirit has given us, we may be good listeners just as we are good speakers, and through the same wisdom, may we all discern and think carefully through all the things that we want to convey and say to others, that we may say them with grace, truth and charity. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.