Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate together the Second Sunday of Easter, also known in the recent years as the Divine Mercy Sunday, based on the popular devotion to the Divine Mercy by the Polish nun and visionary St. Faustina Kowalska. Today therefore, we remember and glorify the great mercy of God, His most merciful heart, through which He has shown His desire to forgive us sinners from our sins.

We mankind have sinned from the time when we first entered into this world, from the time of our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, whom God created and placed in the beautiful garden of Eden, intended to live in bliss and joy for eternity. And yet, we have disobeyed the Lord and did what was abhorrent in His sight, and thus, we had to endure the fate of suffering and pain in this world, and also death had come to rule over us. All of us would have perished in the end. But God did not intend this to happen to us, as He wanted to show us all His mercy.

And how does God show His mercy to all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is none other than by the generous giving of His only Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate symbol of God’s love and mercy. Remember that in the famous verse from the Gospel of St. John, Jesus said to Nicodemus, that “God so loved the world, that He sent into the world His only Son, that through Him, all will not perish but find eternal life and redemption.”

Jesus had come into this world bearing His truth and His love. The love and mercy of God had been made manifest through Christ and all that He had done. He had shown mercy on sinners and all those who had once been sundered from God’s love, calling them to repentance and forgiveness. He had turned sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes, criminals and delinquents into the path of the Lord’s salvation. He showed them that there is hope beyond the darkness of their sins.

For He has done the ultimate act of love, by His willing and loving sacrifice on the cross. During the Holy Week, which had just passed on not long ago, we remembered the memory of the Lord’s Passion and suffering, how He endured the last week of His earthly life in Jerusalem, and eventually giving Himself up for the sake of the salvation of all mankind, God’s people, by laying down His life on the cross, for our sake, and for the absolution of our sins.

But if Christ had remained dead, then there would have been no proof of God’s mercy. For then He would just be like any other men who have died because of their sins. It was His glorious resurrection from the dead which made God’s mercy available for all of us, as He proved that death does not have the final say to us, and by His resurrection from the dead, He showed us all that there is hope in life through Him.

Yet we often acted as St. Thomas the Apostle had done. We knew how St. Thomas often had doubts in his heart about the Lord, and he also doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead. He did not want to believe before he was able to prove it himself, by seeing for himself that the Lord is risen, and physically present in his presence, that he was able to tangibly sense and recognise His presence, by putting his fingers into the wounds on the hands, feet and the side of the Lord’s Body.

We often try to find excuses and justification for our way of life, by acting in the same manner as St. Thomas had done. We are too easily swayed by our senses, by what we see, what we hear and what we feel around us. And that is how we ended up falling into sin. We sin because we are not careful enough with how we live our lives, as we are tempted by the temptations of this world, be it the temptation of desire, of pride, of recognition, of wealth, possessions, fame and many others.

We are easily tempted, and we are prone to fall into sin again and again. Yet, that is what our crosses in life are. We must persevere and remain true and faithful to God to the very end. Remember how Christ bore His heavy cross for our sake, and despite falling three times, He always stood up again. This is a reminder for us that, even when we fall into sin, we must not let despair to take over us, but we must keep instead the strong hope for our salvation, by keeping our focus on the Lord, and having the strong conviction not to commit sin again in our respective lives.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, we will surely encounter moments of weakness and doubt as St. Thomas had encountered, but we cannot give up, for what is at stake is none other than the fate of our souls. Do we want to give up to sin, and therefore endure forever the eternal damnation that is the just reward for all those who have not turned away from sin and perished? Or do we rather repent and turn away from those sins, as best as we can, and therefore enter into God’s merciful love and grace?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where it is important for each one of us Christians to show God’s mercy to one another, to promote His everlasting mercy for each one of us. But we must be careful lest we end up promoting false mercy, which God does not show to us sinners. God is indeed merciful and forgiving, and He is willing to wipe away our sins, but all of these depend on whether we ourselves want to be forgiven.

Yes, this is the reality, which all of us must carefully keep in mind. We must not and cannot offer false mercy, by allowing sinners to continue to live in sin and say to them that God understands their sinful actions, as if He condoned such actions and sins. We have to keep in mind that God despises sins and wickedness, just as much as He is loving and kind towards us. He loves each and every one of us, and desires us to be forgiven, but He does not condone our sins.

God loves sinners, but not sin. This is the reality about God’s mercy. We as Christians have received the promise of God’s salvation, but we must remain vigilant and ready, lest we fall again into sin. It is said in the Gospels, that if the righteous falls into sin, then he or she shall perish, because of the sin committed. And similarly, if a sinner turns away from sin and do what is righteous and just in the eyes of God, the sinner will be saved because of the righteousness he or she had committed.

That means, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to show real mercy in our actions and interactions with others, especially with those who have lapsed away from God’s grace. We must not judge them in a way that we are ourselves also sinners, and if we judge them in this manner, then we too will be liable to be judged in the same way.

Rather, what we all need to do is to welcome them, and help them, to turn away from their sinful ways, just as we ourselves must keep ourselves from doing what is sinful in the sight of God and men alike. We must follow what the Lord said to the woman condemned for adultery, that is to ‘sin no more’. Jesus did not condemn the woman, but what we often forget is that, He also asked her to abandon her sinful ways, and turn herself completely to the way of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we remember God’s most Divine Mercy on this Sunday, let us all therefore, first of all, remember how we are sinners and how we have sinned in various ways in our life, be it venial or small sin, or serious sin. And thus, let us all make the commitment to reject all of our sinful past way of life, and seek to be changed by the grace of God, opening ourselves to receive God’s forgiveness. Let us help one another to attain this forgiveness, by encouraging one another to lead a righteous life in accordance to God’s will.

May the Lord, Whose most Divine Mercy wants us to be forgiven and to be reconciled to Him, grant us the strength to persevere through the temptations and challenges in this life, so that we may always be able to resist the temptation and pressure to sin, that by turning our back to sin and sinning no more, we may be worthy to enter into the heavenly inheritance which the Lord has promised to all those who are faithful to Him. O Most Divine Mercy, have mercy on us all sinners. Amen.

Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 20 : 19-31

At that time, on the evening of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, the disciples were inside again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came and stood in the their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into My side. Do not be an unbeliever! Believe!”

Thomas then said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see Me, do you not? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of His disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believe, and you will have life through His Name!

Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
1 Peter 1 : 3-9

Let us praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His great mercy. In raising Jesus Christ from the dead He has given us new life and a living hope. The inheritance that does not corrupt nor goes bad nor passes away was reserved to you in heavens, since God’s power shall keep you faithful until salvation is revealed in the last days.

There is cause for joy, then, even though you may, for a time, have to suffer many trials. Thus will your faith be tested, like gold in a furnace. Gold, however, passes away but faith, worth so much more, will bring you in the end praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ appears.

You have not yet seen Him and yet you love Him; even without seeing Him, you believe in Him and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith : the salvation of your souls.

Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 117 : 2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His loving kindness endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

I was pushed hard and about to fall, but the Lord came to my help. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Joyful shouts of victory are heard in the tents of the just : “The right hand of the Lord strikes mightily.”

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it. This is the day the Lord has made; so let us rejoice and be glad.

Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Acts 2 : 42-47

The people were faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread and the prayers. A holy fear came upon all the people, for many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles.

Now all the believers lived together and shared all their belongings. They would sell their property and all they had and distribute the proceeds to others according to their need. Each day they met together in the Temple area; they broke bread in their homes; they shared their food with great joy and simplicity of heart; they praised God and won the people’s favour.

And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Saturday, 22 April 2017 : Saturday within Easter Octave (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded again by the Scripture passage on the mission which the Lord our God had entrusted to us at the time when He had risen from the dead. All of us are in fact called to proclaim the Good News of the Lord to all, and not to remain in unbelief and fear that we would be persecuted or rejected if we are to do such good works for the sake of the Lord.

At the time of the Apostles, as we all heard in the Acts of the Apostles, the chief priests and the elders of the people were all trying very hard to stop the works of the Apostles by various means, including arresting them, coercing them and forcing them to stop teaching in the Name of the Lord. They used various means in order to prevent the teachings of the Lord from spreading any further, but without avail. For the Lord was with His servants and His people, and the truth of Christ continued to spread unabated.

The disciples of the Lord were mostly uneducated people, and yet we heard how they spoke with conviction, wisdom and strength, filled with courage and genuine intellect, surprising all those who have heard them, all who attempted to silence them and prevent the spreading of the Lord’s Good News. That was because the Lord was with them, and the Holy Spirit gave them the courage, strength and wisdom to do so.

The chief priests and elders stubbornly opposed the Lord’s good works because they were hindered by their own human intellect, their wisdom and their ways, which to them were their treasures in life. They allowed their pride to come in the way between them and their acceptance of God’s truth. As a result, even though they had seen so many miraculous deeds which Jesus had performed during His ministry, throughout all those times when they harassed Him and made His works difficult, they refused to believe, because they had hardened their hearts.

They opposed the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord, harassing them and attacking them in the same manner just as they had harassed the Lord. They wanted to silence them and stop them from declaring God’s truth, but they would not have it that way. They placed their trust in the Holy Spirit which had been granted to them. They resisted the demands of the chief priests and elders, and spoke out about Christ regardless, even in the face of punishment and persecution.

This is the spirit and commitment which all of us Christians also ought to have in our respective lives. We must not be lukewarm in our faith, and we cannot be ignorant and lacking in action in living through our faith. Our faith must be one that is genuine and true, so that everyone who sees us and hears us may truly recognise the presence and the work of God inside each and every one of us.

This is the true spirit and joy of Easter that each and every one of us should have. We should be glad that the Lord had done such great things for us, giving us hope beyond all other hope, when we were in despair and engulfed with darkness. He has brought us all out of that darkness, and show us the path to His salvation. It is only right that we should share that light which we have received, with one another, with all those who are still living in darkness and in the state of sin.

Let us all show by our conviction and commitment to live out this life we have filled with zeal and devotion to God, through prayer, through faith, through charity and love, especially for the sick and the dying, to those who have no one to comfort them, to even our enemies and all those who have persecuted us. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that even Jesus our Lord forgave His enemies and condemners from the cross.

Let us bring the light of Christ to one another, by our upright and just actions, and by our showing of care and concern to each other, so that many more people will come to believe in us, just as many believed in the words and actions of the Apostles and the saints, who have reflected the glory of the Risen Lord in their lives. Let us all become the beautiful windows through which the truth and glory of our Lord Jesus may be seen by all of mankind, that all will come to God through us and our works. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 22 April 2017 : Saturday within Easter Octave (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Mark 16 : 9-15

At that time, after Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary of Magdala, from whom He had driven out seven demons. She went and reported the news to His followers, who were now mourning and weeping. But when they heard that He lived, and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After this He showed Himself in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. These men also went back and told the others, but they did not believe them. Later Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven while they were at table. He reproached them for their unbelief, and stubbornness, in refusing to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

Then He told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.”