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.