Thursday, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the story of the conversion of an Ethiopian official or envoy by St. Philip as he was on his way back to his Ethiopian homeland. St. Philip explained the meaning of the Scripture passage which the official was reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, that foretold the suffering of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus crucified.

St. Philip revealed the truth to the official, and his explanation awakened the faith in the heart of the Ethiopian official, who came to believe in the Lord Jesus and in the salvation that He brought into the world. Thus, he opened his heart and mind, and bared his soul before the Lord, requesting the Apostle to baptise him right there and then at a spring along the way. Later on, he would bring the faith to his homeland, and probably, made more converts there.

Thus, that was how God did His marvellous works, calling on people from various nations and from different backgrounds, to become His disciples and followers. The Apostles themselves were called from different origins and backgrounds, as some were sinners, some were fishermen, and still there were tax collector and delinquents counted among them. God called them from their past lives and occupations and made them His servants.

In the Gospel passage today, all of us heard about the Lord Jesus revealing Himself as the Living Bread Who has come down from heaven, sent from God Our Lord, to reveal unto us the truth about Himself. God Himself had sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and as the source of all our hope. Once we have been dejected and without hope, but now because of Christ and all that He had done for us, He has given us a new hope and light to follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to reflect on these words which we have heard and received from the Scriptures. How have we, as Christians, been faithful to God? Have we been like the Apostles and the disciples, who braved suffering, prison, torture, rejection, ridicule, and even death for the sake of the Lord. They remained strong in their conviction and faith despite all that they had to face for His sake.

It was their exemplary faith which had inspired many more people to turn towards the Christian faith, to believe in God Who has guided His disciples and Apostles to preach in His Name and deliver the truth to all mankind. The Holy Spirit guided their actions and helped in their words, that many were turned to the Lord and repented from their sins. They have received the truth from God Himself, and received the Body and Blood which the Lord had given them willingly from the altar of His cross.

Therefore, they were filled with courage and strength, to carry out the mission entrusted to them, to bring the salvation of God to all the peoples, of all the races and all of the nations. Now, all of us Christians are entrusted with the same mission, to continue the good works of the Apostles and the holy saints and martyrs who had gone before us. But, are we able to commit the same commitment as the Apostles had done before?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to a renewed faith and a new life, that if once we have been unfaithful and lacking in our faith, then now, we can renew our commitment to live in accordance to the Lord’s will. Let us all seek to be ever more faithful and be closer to the Lord, day after day. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (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, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (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, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (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.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard interesting stories which relate to us about water, firstly the vision of the prophet Ezekiel of the heavenly Temple, out of which flowed out great quantity of water that flooded the courtyards, and which overflowed its banks and gave life to all the plants and living things it passes by. Then in the Gospel today we heard about how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been waiting for many years for miraculous healing to come from the water at Bethzatha pool.

In these two readings, we see the clear parallel and similarity, in water depicted as life-giving and nourishing, as the source of healing and life. And this is very symbolic, if we understand better the meaning and the nuances behind the two readings today. The Temple in heaven as seen in the vision of the prophet Ezekiel represent none other than the Holy Presence of God Himself, and the water that gushed forth from the Temple represents God giving life to the world.

In the Gospel passage, as we heard the story of the man who was paralysed for thirty-eight years and had no one to help him to get into the water, we saw that the source of all healing came not from the water, as God sent His Angel to touch the water of the spring, and the people who touched the water were therefore healed by God’s grace. The man who had none to help him for so many years, was truly hoping that he could get healed from his illness, but the Lord heard him and had pity on him.

Jesus touched the paralytic man and almost immediately the man was healed, showing that God once again exercised His power and authority to heal His beloved people, who were sick, both in body and also in soul. Why is this so? That is because Jesus came into this world, ultimately to reconcile all the people of God who have been separated from God because of their sins.

Sin is a terrible affliction upon all of us, caused by our refusal to listen to God and to obey Him, and by our disobedience, sin entered into our hearts, our minds and corrupted everything, eating away on our souls. We may think that we are physically healthy and perfectly in good physical condition. We may think that there is nothing wrong with us, because superficially we look perfectly fine.

However, due to sin, in our beings and existences, we have been spoiled and corrupted, and we have been sickened by these sins which afflicted us. Worse still, many of us are not aware that sin is a great danger on our souls, and that we really need to do something about it, or else, we may end up being punished with eternal damnation because of our sins.

And unlike any physical and worldly illnesses, diseases and infections, which can be cured through various means, or had their effects reduced or halted or postponed, the consequences of sin is not curable by any worldly and human means, no matter how hard we try, because sin is only curable by God, through His forgiveness and mercy, which in fact, He generously offered to all of us, calling us to a renewed existence and new life, no longer living in a state of sin, but filled instead with resolve and commitment to repent and turn away from those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our own lives, surely many of us have been tempted to live our lives in accordance with what we want and what our desires tell us to do. However, if we take a step back and think carefully about it, we will realise that if we are to trust in our own strength, intellect and assumptions, we will not be able to survive as we put our trust in human strength and power that can fail anytime.

And our desires, our ego and pride will only lead us to slide down ever further into the trap of sin, which the devil springs against us all, every single time he could do so, so that we fall from our path towards God’s salvation. Satan does this by feeding our ego, our sense of self-importance and edging on our selfish nature. But certainly God did not remain quiet or ignorant of these vicious attacks constantly targeting us, His people.

That is why through Jesus Christ, His Son, Whom He sent into the world in order to save all of us, God has shown His salvation and healing grace to all mankind. Now, it is up to us whether we are willing to accept this generous and rich offer of mercy and forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. God extends His forgiveness freely to us, but He also requires each one of us to be committed to be forgiven, that is by active repentance and genuine regret for all the sins and faults we have made.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are sinners, but do we want to remain living in sin? If we are willing to commit to change ourselves, even the greatest of sinners can become great saints, as what had exactly happened before. All saints were once sinners too, some with small sins, some with great ones. But all of them share the same conviction and resolve to follow through with their repentance, and as a result, they receive forgiveness for their sins.

Let us all spend the rest of this season of Lent wisely, making use of the opportunity given to us by God to turn ourselves wholeheartedly towards Him. Let us no longer be stubborn in refusing His generous offer of mercy, but instead renew our commitment to live in accordance with His will. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in the path He is leading us through, towards His salvation and the promise of eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 1-16

At that time, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, there is a pool (called Bethzatha in Hebrew) surrounded by five galleries. In these galleries lay a multitude of sick people : blind, lame and paralysed.

(All were waiting for the water to move, for at times an Angel of the Lord would descend into the pool and stir up the water; and the first person to enter the pool, after this movement of the water, would be healed of whatever disease that he had.)

There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him, and because He knew how long this man had been lying there, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so while I am still on my way, another steps down before me.”

Jesus then said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk!” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his mat and walked. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had just been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and the Law does not allow you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The One Who healed me said to me, “Take up your mat and walk!”

They asked him, “Who is the One Who said to you : Take up your mat and walk?” But the sick man had no idea who it was Who had cured him, for Jesus had slipped away among the crowd that filled the place. Afterwards Jesus met him in the Temple court and told him, “Now you are well; do not sin again, lest something worse happen to you.”

And the man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had healed him. So the Jews persecuted Jesus because He performs healings like that on the Sabbath.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9ab

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore, though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of the Lord – the marvellous things He has done in the world.