Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday, which from its name marks the fiftieth day after the occasion of the Passover in the original Jewish tradition, and later on, gain the much more important meaning as the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord and the day when the Holy Spirit of God descended on the disciples of Christ as has been promised to them. On this day we recall that moment when the Holy Spirit descended and began the sequence of events that has impacted the world so much through the Church.

Why is that so? That is because on this day we mark the very beginning of the Church that we know of, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is One because through the Lord, He has established His one and only Church in this world on the Apostles’ as the pillars of the foundation of the Church, and the foundation was on St. Peter, the ‘Rock’ as the Lord Himself said that, ‘You are Peter, and on this ‘Rock’ I will build My Church’, and the Church is Holy, because the Holy Spirit itself has sanctified the Church and the Church has divine origins.

And the Church is Catholic because it is Universal, embracing all peoples and all the children of God, uniting through itself all the scattered people of God, who have been scattered because of their sins and disobedience against God. The Church teachings are also Universal, embracing all peoples without exception, and lastly, it is Apostolic, because through the Holy Spirit, the Church has become missionary and is reaching out to the world, to bring forth the truth of God and to make disciples of all peoples of all the nations.

On that day, on the very first Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit come down descending on the Apostles, the Church was born and became tangible, as the Apostles, inflamed and encouraged by the strength, courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit went out from their hiding place and went before the whole people gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Pentecost, and preached before them the truth about God and His salvation through Jesus, the Saviour of all the whole world.

That is why we refer to the Pentecost as the birthday of the Church because looking back in time through the history of the Church we can find the pivotal moment of the first Pentecost when the Apostles began their evangelising mission and works in earnest, casting aside their fears and doubts, and began working among the people, gaining their trust and baptising the very first converts, more than three thousand people on that Pentecost day alone, which marked the beginning of the Church and the first Christian community.

Through the Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, many people found a new life and existence in God, and they received a new life, no longer of darkness and sin. They received the Holy Spirit from the hands of the Apostles, who themselves had received the same Spirit from the Lord. By the gift and reception of the Holy Spirit, they have embraced God’s love in its fullness, and began to bear the wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit, inspiring one another to live righteously at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our own baptism we have also received the same Holy Spirit, passed down to us from the successors of the Apostles through the ages, namely the many bishops and priests who have faithfully served the Church. And those among us who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation have been deemed worthy and mature enough in the faith, that we have the fullness of the gifts and the wonders of the Holy Spirit, and therefore are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the missionaries of the Lord.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be active in living up to our faith as dedicated Christians, as the members of this one Church of God that was founded on Pentecost. We must bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, bountiful produce of what we have been given, all the gifts and wonders, the wisdom and knowledge that the Holy Spirit had granted us. But too often we have ignored these gifts, and we are often too busy and preoccupied with various worldly matters and concerns that we failed to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, today let us all go through all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, of which there are nine of them, nine being the number that is both holy and associated with perfection, completeness and the goodness of God. These seven fruits of the Holy Spirit are, according to St. Paul, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All these are the signs and concrete markers of how our Christian communities live in the way of the Lord. If we bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, then it means that we have been good and faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we go through the fruits of the Holy Spirit together, let us all begin with the most important of all of them, that is love. For love is the most important of the fruits of the Holy Spirit just as it is also the most important of all the Christian virtues. Without love, St. Paul said, all the good things, talents and deeds we have mean nothing, as with all of our abilities and talents, with all the great things we can and have accomplished, without love, it means nothing.

How do we then practice love so as to bear this fruit of the Holy Spirit richly? It is by putting our brothers and sisters always foremost in our minds, caring for them, thinking about them and be compassionate towards them. There are many people out there who have not experienced real love, and many in our world today are too distracted by various worldly concerns and their selfishness that they ended up hurting each other and causing suffering to one another. Let our actions then bear the love of God to our fellow men, by showing genuine care and concern, and the desire to see others happy and joyful, glad and be filled with God’s grace.

Now, then, let us all go to the second fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is joy. Joy is something that all of us Christians must have with us, as we are truly the children of God, and first of all, God has shown us the path to eternal life, joy and happiness through Him, and He has reassured us again and again that all these will be ours if we are faithful to Him. Yet, many of us have not felt this real joy or are even stressed and saddened, because once again, we have been too distracted by the false pleasures and joys of the world.

Too many of us are looking for satisfaction of the world, to gain more money and properties, wealth and income, to gain more fame and recognition among the many other things we mankind commonly desire for. We live in a world filled with materialistic lifestyle and the pressure to follow this way of life are all around us. How can we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Again, it is by putting God at the very centre of our existence, that everything we do, we do for His sake, knowing that in Him, we have everything we need, and true joy is ours to have. And particularly, these days, when the whole world and so many people are sorrowful and even despairing, having lost their loved ones or are suffering from the effects of the pandemic, we can share our joy with them, consoling them and being with them in their time of great need.

Then, we go now into the third fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is peace. Peace is something that all of us mankind are always looking out for, wanting to have either a peace of mind, peace in our lives and in our families, peace with our friends and everyone else, and peace with those who hated us and persecuted us. Yet, peace is often elusive and illusory, because again, we are often too preoccupied with our desires, our conflicting aims, goals and targets, that we end up being in conflict with each other all the time.

We rarely find peace because we often always have aspirations, desires, wants, and all these often overlap and we find conflict and divisions among us all because of these. We disagree and are angry against each other because we cannot let go of all these temptations and the pull of our desires and ego. How do we then as Christians bear the rich fruits of peace of the Holy Spirit? How do we practice peace and attain peace in our daily living?

It is by first having peace with ourselves, as we often are too proud to admit our weakness and vulnerability, and we are often too engrossed with all the tempting offers of the world that we forget what we live our lives in this world for. It is to glorify God by our lives and to help one another in our journey towards Him, and not to bring each other down by jealousy and pride. As Christians, whenever we see others in conflict, we should be peacemakers and not agitators, be open to dialogue and be good listeners, and that too, will eventually help us to find true peace in God.

The fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, something that many of us often lack, and this is in itself related to peace and joy, the earlier fruits we have just discussed. We are not patient because we have that urge and desire in us to get things done the way we wanted it, and if things are not going according to what we like or desire, then we become angry and impulsive in our actions. And unfortunately, we live in a world where instant gratification is something that is ever-present all around us.

Without patience, it is likely that we will have neither peace or joy as well. Our lives will be miserable as every day will just pass by us as we worry and are concerned over trivial matters of life, all sorts of desires and temptations around us. How do we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the fruit of the patience of the Holy Spirit? We should temper our desires and impatience with prayer, and with deeper relationship with God, to see that all the pursuits of worldly glory and power are in the end, futile and meaningless. Instead, let us be thankful for what God has blessed us with, and thank Him and enjoy every single moment we have in our lives.

The fifth and sixth fruits of the Holy Spirit are kindness and goodness respectively, and both of them are related because to be kind to others is to show our good intentions and to act in the good and benefit of our fellow brethren. We may think that it is easy to be kind and good, but reality has often shown us otherwise. We must realise that kindness and goodness must come from within us, from our hearts sincerely to others, and not just a mere facade or act.

To be filled with kindness and goodness require us to have an altruistic heart modelled after the Lord’s own loving Heart, in His love and compassionate care for each and every one of us. If we love just as how the Lord Himself had genuinely and sincerely loved each and every one of us, naturally we will show kindness in our actions towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and we will be filled with goodness at every step we take in our lives, in our every words, actions and deeds.

The seventh fruit of the Holy Spirit is faithfulness, which actually means for us to have genuine faith and trust in God, to keep God at the centre of our lives as I have mentioned earlier on. It is not easy for us to have this genuine faith, for when things go bad for us, and we encounter difficult times, challenges and persecutions, who is it that we are going to turn to first? Is it God that is the anchor and foundation of our lives? Our predecessors were able to persevere through the harsh persecutions against them because of this faithfulness they had in God.

The eighth of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is gentleness, to be gentle in heart and in our actions. Gentleness itself is related to love and kindness, as well as peace and joy among others. If we are filled with love and kindness, and if we are at peace with God, with ourselves and with our fellow brothers and sisters, having true joy in us, then naturally we will be acting with gentleness as well. Let us all not be filled with harshness, anger or hatred towards one another.

And this is where self-control, the ninth and last of the fruits of the Holy Spirit come in, as without self-control, it is easy for us to wander off and end up getting lost and swayed by the demands of the world, the temptations of our desires and various other things that will lead us to sin and darkness. As Christians, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must temper our desires and discipline ourselves, or otherwise, it is very easy for us to end up being controlled by those desires.

God has given us His wisdom, and He has also showed us the way going forward, guiding us through His Holy Spirit. As such, if we find it difficult to persevere and control ourselves through the temptations and challenges, then once again, I want to highlight the importance for us to be connected and attuned with God, and in order to do this, we must have that strong and good relationship with Him, and that is why as Christians, we must be active in living up our faith, and we cannot be lukewarm in our faith life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have just heard and discussed the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Now, what are we going to do then? Are we going to ignore the Lord’s call to follow Him and walk in His path? Or do we want to follow the examples of our courageous predecessors, the Holy Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, whose lives have become great sources of inspirations for how we ourselves should live our lives? Let us all spend some time to carefully discern what path we are to take going forward in our lives.

Let us all realise that as the members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through baptism, and our adoption as God’s own beloved sons and daughters, each and every one of us share in the same ministry and calling, the mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, to go forth to the nations and proclaim His Good News, calling on all to be reconciled with God and to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we can do this best by making use of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, our many talents, abilities and the various opportunities we encounter.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord, God and Saviour bless each and every one of us, and may He continue to strengthen us through the Holy Spirit He has bestowed on each one of us. Come, o Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of Your faithful ones, that we may be strong, courageous and be filled with the deep love for God and for our fellow brethren, that we may bear very rich and bountiful fruits of the Holy Spirit by our lives, the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Amen.

Saturday, 30 May 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this night we celebrate the Vigil of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, as we are about to celebrate the great Feast of the Pentecost which marked the conclusion of the fifty days of Easter. On this night we begin the celebration of this great Solemnity, which had been celebrated since the ancient days by the Israelites and their descendants as the celebration of the fifty days after the Passover. But what happened then transformed the meaning of this celebration into a new beginning for the Church and all Christians.

For on this day, we commemorate the descent and coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of the Lord, just as He had promised them all on several occasions before He was crucified and after He had risen from the dead. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples who were then afraid and fearful, locking themselves in their place in fear of the Jewish authorities. And the coming of the Holy Spirit marked a new beginning for all of them because as I said earlier, this day truly marked the birth of the Church.

That is because on this day, the Church was no longer just a concept but had become a reality with what the Apostles, inflamed by the courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit did on that day. They went out of their hiding place and courageously went before the large crowds gathered from many places for the Festival of the Pentecost, proclaiming the Good News and the truth of God to all of them. Many people believed in the Apostles and followed them, and over three thousand people gave themselves to be baptised, forming the very first community of Christians and bringing about the first tangible existence of the Church of God.

In our first reading today, in the reading from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the story of the Tower of Babel. Many of us are surely familiar with this story of how our first ancestors began to build an ambitious project to build a tower that reached to the heavens, aspiring to aim to be greater than God. In their pride and arrogance, they have overstepped their bounds, and as a result, God scattered all of them and confused their languages, spreading them to the many nations, a division caused by the sins of mankind and their pride.

Then from another alternative reading for our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the moment when the prophet saw a vision of a valley filled with enormous quantities of dried bones of the dead, symbolic of the dead Israelites and the people of God who had perished because of their sins and disobedience against God. And God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, asking him to command those bones to be restored to life.

And then we heard how the bones began to come together again and be restored in the flesh and appearance of men, but they were not yet alive, as there were no Spirit in them. And God asked the prophet again to speak on His behalf, commanding them to return to life through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God Himself descended on the bodies of the people, and as a result what was once a great valley filled with dried bones and death, became a great valley filled with enormous numbers of the living.

All of these are great symbolisms to remind each and every one of us, that God truly has played a great role in our lives and He has given us such a great gift in the Holy Spirit Whom He had sent down to us to be our Helper, our Advocate and our Guide. As we all know that on the first Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit that strengthened them and gave them wisdom and the ability to speak in many languages to the people gathered in Jerusalem, making them all to hear the truth of God in their own languages.

As we can see here, while disobedience and sin led to the divisions and the conflicts and diversity in languages and thoughts as the Tower of Babel incident told us, the Holy Spirit came down unto us to restore our unity, to redeem us from our divisions and heal our fractured and divided existences. The Holy Spirit has come unto us bearing God’s love and truth, gathering all of the scattered people of God back together again, and as we remember what happened at Pentecost, all those people who were baptised that day marked a new beginning, a new Church through which all of God’s people are reunited again with God.

Therefore, those whom the Lord had gathered through His Holy Spirit and by the works of His Apostles have been called into a new life and to receive a new life through the Holy Spirit, much like the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, in which the prophet saw the vast numbers of dry bones transformed into the living people of God, and the Church welcoming all the people into a new life in God through baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit is the fulfilment of what God had shown the prophet Ezekiel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we all realise just how significant Pentecost Sunday is for us all in our faith? It is indeed the birthday of the Church, the moment marking that very important time and event when the Church and the Apostles no longer looked inward but outwards, going forth and fulfilling the Great Commission which the Lord Jesus had given to them before He ascended into Heaven, and that is to go forth to the nations and to all the peoples, calling on all to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

All of us have shared in this same common baptism, through which all of us have become God’s beloved children and as members of His Church. And now, having received the Holy Spirit of God through our baptism and also strengthened for those of us who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, the same Holy Spirit we have received as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had received on the very first Pentecost. Therefore we all share their mission and are called to the same calling to be witnesses of the Lord in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it then that we need to do? We are all called to make good use of the gifts that the Lord had given to us and be courageous in proclaiming His Good News and truth in our respective communities and to all those whom we encounter in life. And often we do not even need to say or preach out anything. Rather, it is by our authentic and genuine lives lived in good Christian faith that others will come to see the truth of God. And that is what true Christian discipleship is all about, to live our lives faithfully and to follow the Lord with all of our hearts.

Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all touch the lives of many other people and bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of goodness and love, the fruits of joy and peace, the fruits of patience, kindness and faithfulness. And by our own genuine faith and good Christian life, is how we truly bear forth the fullness of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, and make a difference in our world today. That is our Christian calling and what we need to embrace from now on if we have not done so yet.

May the Lord continue to strengthen us through His Holy Spirit, and may this Pentecost Sunday be truly a meaningful and great celebration to all of us, that we all may realise how as Christians, each and every one of us have important roles to play, in bringing the love of God to all men, and to restore the unity and to reconcile all to the Lord, to bring back to God all the scattered flock of His in this world, His beloved ones. May God help us and strengthen us, now and always. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful with Your Wisdom and Love. Amen!

Sunday, 9 June 2019 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great occasion of the Pentecost Sunday, marking the end of the fifty glorious days of Easter. On this day we mark the time when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord just as He has promised to them, giving them the courage and the strength to be witnesses to their faith in God. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit strengthening their heart and mind, body and soul.

The great celebration of Pentecost therefore also marks the beginning of the Church, as the tangible Body of Christ in this world that He Himself had established and founded upon the secure foundation and support of the Apostles. That was because the moment the Holy Spirit entered into their hearts, the Holy Spirit strengthened them and they spoke up freely of their faith and convinced many to become believers.

Three thousand people were baptised on that day alone, and that became the beginning of the Church community, which from then on began to grow and spread throughout all over Judea, and not just Judea but gradually throughout the entire Roman Empire itself and beyond. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very important that all of us to know that Easter does not truly end with Pentecost, but in fact continues further beyond Pentecost.

The Pentecost marks a new beginning for the faithful, the continuation of the Easter joy of the Lord’s Resurrection which now becomes the expectation and the joy of looking forward to our own glorious Resurrection to come. And what is known as the Ordinary Time after this celebration of the Pentecost is in fact nothing ordinary at all, for it is the time for the work of the Church to be carried out, continuing the joy of Easter as the Lord has commanded us all.

And in the Gospel passage today, the Lord gave us all clearly His commandments through His disciples. He has once revealed His laws and commandments through Moses, in what was known as the Ten Commandments. And then, He explained and revealed more completely and fully the true meaning of the commandments by what the Lord Jesus stated to His disciples, that is the commandments of love.

It was love that the Lord showed to His people, all of us when He gave us His own Son to be our Saviour and Deliverance from our sins and death. It was love that allowed Him to bear the full weight of the Cross, the incomparably heavy and massive burden of all of our sins, enduring immense pain and suffering for the sake of our salvation. It was love that allowed Him to go through all of that, and through His love, our salvation was made whole and complete.

Yet, He continued to love us even more, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our source of strength and power, amidst the difficulties and challenges we may have to face in this world, the opposition from all those who refused to believe in God, from those who oppressed the Church and persecuted the Lord’s faithful ones. The Holy Spirit brought with Him the power of God’s own love into our midst, into our hearts, allowing the seeds of faith, hope and love in us to grow and germinate.

Yes, to all of us God has given His gifts of faith, hope and love, and the most important of these three is love. For there can be no true faith without love, and there can be no true hope without love. We believe in the love which God has for each and every one of us, and we love Him that we have faith in Him, and we hope in Him because of the love which He has evidently shown us, we can be confident that He is always by our side and will never abandon us.

And for us to grow in God’s grace and favour, we need to have love in each and every one of us. It is love for God, first and foremost before all else, which is the essence of the Commandments of God. If God has loved us all so much and gave us everything we need, life being the foremost of all gifts He has given, then how can we not love God in the same way? God ought to be at the very centre of our very lives and in everything we do.

If we love God then naturally we should also show the same love to our fellow brethren. If we do not love our fellow brothers and sisters then we cannot truly call ourselves as people who love God, because God loves each and every single one of us without exception, from the least to the greatest amongst us, from the most wicked and greatest sinners to the most pious and holy persons. Everyone is equally loved by God.

It is only through love that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will bear fruits in us, the good fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If our every words, actions and deeds, our interactions with one another and indeed, our every breaths and moments are filled with love, not selfish love for ourselves but genuine love for God and for others, then naturally all those fruits of the Holy Spirit will flourish in us.

That was what the Apostles themselves had done. Their love and dedication for God, inflamed into a strong fire by the Holy Spirit has allowed them to do what was seemingly impossible and unlikely just before the moment the Holy Spirit came to them. Where there was fear and doubt in the hearts and minds of the Apostles before, so much so that they hid fearfully from the Jewish authorities, they went forth courageously afterwards filled with love for both God and for their fellow men.

That was the love which inflamed them and helped them to endure many bitter sufferings and persecutions which they and the faithful people of God had to endure, the many martyrs and saints of the Church. The same Holy Spirit was also given to the faithful by the laying of the hands, and as a result, the Holy Spirit of God has always been in the midst of the wonderful works of the Church from the very beginning until this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, it is our turn to continue the good works which God has begun in the Apostles, and we are called to follow in their footsteps, for the same Holy Spirit has been given to us at Baptism, and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation for all of us who have received that Sacrament. And having received the Holy Spirit and God’s presence in us, are we able and willing to commit ourselves to love God and our fellow men as the Apostles had done?

Let us all contribute our effort, our time and our abilities to be part of the good works of the Church that is still ongoing in fulfilling the mission which God has entrusted to His Church, the conversion and of all of His beloved people, all of us sons and daughters of man. Let us all by our own faith, love and devotion to God become inspiration and examples for each other, and become shining models of God’s love through us, that all who see us and what we say and do, will believe in God as well.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your people, that we will be filled with courage and strength to carry out our mission with faith and conviction. Come, Holy Spirit, inflame us all with Your love and strength. Let us all go forth and continue to proclaim the joy of Easter, of Christ’s Resurrection and salvation to all the peoples, from now on and forevermore. Amen.

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, 4 June 2017 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us celebrate the great Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, the day when it was told that the Holy Spirit of God came down from heaven, and descended upon each and every one of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. And filled with the Holy Spirit, they went forth out of their hiding place, and openly proclaimed the truth of God and His Good News.

That is why, this occasion is a very important one in the history of the Church, for indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that today we mark the time of the beginning and birthday of the Church. For before the Pentecost, if we read through the Gospels and the first part of the Acts of the Apostles, all the disciples of the Lord met in hiding places, hidden from view, because they feared the oppression by the Jewish authorities. But after the Pentecost, all of them courageously set forth, to do what the Lord had commanded them to do.

And on that day, three thousand people were also made new disciples of the Lord, by the baptism which the Apostles administered to them, whose hearts have been touched by the Holy Spirit of God. It was from that moment, that the Church began to grow and flourish, with more and more people turning to the Lord day after day, the sign of the work of the Holy Spirit, as the Scripture says, ‘Send for Your Spirit, o Lord, and renew the face of the earth.’

Indeed, as the passage said, the descent and bestowal of the Holy Spirit from God transformed the disciples of the Lord so completely that all who saw and heard them must have been completely amazed. Here were people who had once hidden themselves and ran away from the Lord, abandoning Him when He was arrested during His Passion, and yet, after the Holy Spirit was given to them, they were willing to even shed their blood and lay down their lives for the sake of the Lord.

They have devoted their whole lives thereafter to serve the Lord, preaching the Good News with zeal and commitment, even though they were mostly uneducated and illiterate. Yet, the Holy Spirit guided them and gave them the wisdom and knowledge, such that even the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were amazed by their great wisdom and by the authority with which they preached about the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the same Holy Spirit which God had given to them, had been passed on through generations after generations of the disciples of the Lord, through His Church, as it grew and developed, and more and more people came to know of the Lord and followed Him. The Holy Spirit does its work through the Church, and it gave courage and strength to many followers of the Lord in times of difficulty and challenges, and comfort in times of sorrow and sadness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Holy Spirit is often portrayed either as a white dove, or tongues of flame, as in the Gospels, the moment when Jesus our Lord was baptised, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended as a Dove over Jesus, as the Father spoke to all about His Son, His Beloved One. And then, at the time of the Pentecost, the tongues of flame, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and inflamed their hearts with zeal, just as the Lord Jesus inflamed the hearts of the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life, which God has given to give a new life to His people, a new and blessed life, as seen by the prophet Ezekiel. In the Pentecost Vigil readings, one of them spoke about the vision which the prophet Ezekiel saw of a vast valley filled with dry bones, which the breath of God filled them with new life, and the bones became new people, a vast throng of the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we all receive the Holy Spirit, we shall receive this new life from God, a new life that is no longer bound and chained by sin, but one that is free, as the life of those who have lived in the Spirit. We are no longer people of the flesh, living by the desires of our flesh and bodily existence, but instead, we have become people of the Spirit of God.

And the Holy Spirit, as our faith and the Church taught us, has seven gifts which It has bestowed us, the gift of wisdom, the gift of understanding, the gift of counsel, the gift of fortitude, the gift of knowledge, the gift of piety and the gift of the fear of the Lord. These are the gifts which had been given to us, as the Holy Spirit descended upon us who have been received the Sacrament of Baptism, and reaffirmed in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

However, these gifts are just like seeds sowed in the field, which will not germinate, blossom or bear fruits if they are not taken care of properly. That is also what the Lord Jesus spoke of in His parable of the sower, when He spoke of how the seeds of faith are sowed, but only in a fertile and good soil, that they will grow properly and bear rich fruits, in many multiples, hundredfolds and more from what have been sowed.

In the same manner, without proper action, all of the gifts which the Holy Spirit has given us will not materialise if we do not do anything, worse still if we do what is contrary to what the Lord had taught and told us to do. That is what the Lord mentioned as the fate of all those seeds which fell away from the fertile soil, be it that temptations choke away the faith we have, or that we become ignorant of the truth which the Lord Himself brought us.

Therefore, it is important that all of us Christians understand fully what it means to become a Christian, that is as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Lord, Master and Saviour. And it is important for us that we do as Christians ought to do, or else, we will scandalise our Lord, our faith and His Church. And then instead of bearing good fruits of the Holy Spirit, we will only bring about condemnation upon ourselves.

How do we then lead our lives? It is by looking at the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit and have them as our inspiration. First of all, we must have the gift of wisdom, the wisdom to discern the things good from bad, to choose what is right from what is wrong, and of course, secondly, the understanding that if we do what is right and just in the sight of the Lord, we will never falter and fall into damnation, for it is by doing what is wrong and evil that have brought us further away from God and His salvation.

Third of all, we need to have the gift of counsel, and nurture it, and what does it mean? It means that now that we have the wisdom and understanding of what is right and wrong, what is just and wicked, now we need to be examples for others and encourage others to do what is right and just, and avoid all sorts of wickedness and evil in our respective lives. We must give good counsel and guidance to each other, and help one another to avoid the temptations and false promises of the devil, which he designed to bring us to destruction.

And then, fourth, we must have the gift of fortitude, the ability to remain strong amidst the temptations and challenges that we are sure to face in the midst of staying faithful to God. There will be pressure and persuasion for us to divert ourselves from the way towards the Lord. However, if we remain firmly faithful to the Lord, we will not be disappointed, for God Himself will bless us and give us His eternal grace.

There will be persecutions and difficulties, but which one do we want to choose, brethren? A temporary false happiness that result in an eternity of damnation and suffering, or a temporary suffering and pain that lead into an eternity of true joy and happiness with God? That is why fifth of all, the gift of knowledge is important, that we know what lies ahead of us. We have to know what the Lord wants us to do with our lives, and what He is leading us to, that is the path towards salvation.

And sixth of all, the gift of piety and the last, the gift of the fear of the Lord is important, for it is indeed easy for us to lose our way in life, and lose focus on what we are to do in this life, but if we remember first of all, that the Lord is our Master, and the One Whom we ought to love for His love and kindness, and yet at the same time, fear because of His anger against our sins and wickedness, then we will definitely think twice before we are to commit any sorts of actions that bring about sin into our hearts.

And last of all, in all these gifts, the greatest gift the Holy Spirit has given us all, is the gift of love. For it is the love of God that had made everything possible, that He has given us life and created us, from nothingness He made us all, because He loves each and every one of us and cares for us wholeheartedly. He gave us His Spirit so that we may have life in us, and not just any life, but true life that He blessed and made perfect.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice today in remembrance of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Church, let us all remember that the same Holy Spirit has been given to each and every one of us, with all the gifts and blessings that has been granted to us. It is now then time for us to do whatever we can, through our righteous and just actions in life, to provide the best conditions for ourselves, so that the fruits of the Holy Spirit may be brought up from us, and we may be bountiful in graces before the Lord.

May the Holy Spirit be with us, inflame our hearts with zeal, love and devotion, so that we may grow to love the Lord with ever greater effort and commitment. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage to continue our good works, in loving and caring for our fellow brethren, and may the Holy Spirit transform us all completely as what had happened to the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, that we who were once timid and ignorant of our faith, may now become brave and courageous workers of the faith.

May God bless us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, and may He continue to watch over us and keep us in His love at all times. Let us all be the modern day Apostles and disciples of the Lord, bearing His light and salvation to more people of all the nations, by our actions and by our deeds. Come, Holy Spirit, come and inflame us with Your light. Amen.