Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday beginning with the celebration of this Vigil Mass of the Pentecost. On this Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the coming and descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of the Lord, fifty days after the Lord’s glorious Resurrection and ten days after His Ascension into Heaven. That is why we call this celebration as the Pentecost, as Pentecost itself has the meaning of ‘fifty’, a celebration that has roots in the Jewish law and traditions, of the Pentecost festival fifty days after the Passover which was why there were a lot of people assembled in Jerusalem at the time when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles.

And as we listened to the readings from the Scripture, one of the first readings from the Book of Exodus related the moment the first Covenant God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, the mountain of God after they have left Egypt behind and was freed from their slavery. According to tradition, this happened about fifty days after the time of the Exodus, which the Passover commemorated every year, the moment the Israelites were saved from their slavery and passed from Egypt safely through the Red Sea, while the forces and armies of the Egyptians were crushed and destroyed by the raging waves as they tried to pursue the Israelites.

The Passover itself has been made complete and renewed with the true Passover made by Christ Himself, that He, as the Lamb of God, offered Himself for our sake so that by His death, on the Cross, and the outpouring of His Blood, that brought salvation to all of us, while by passing through the waters of baptism, made holy and sanctified by His power and grace, like the Israelites of old passing through the Red Sea, all of us as Christians have passed through death to our old way of life, washed and cleansed away, freed from the slavery to our sins and evils, and beginning the journey towards our ‘Promised Land’, which is Heaven, to be with God forevermore.

Hence, based on what I mentioned earlier, we can see a very clear parallel and link between the old and new Passover, the death and Resurrection of Christ our Lord with the freedom of the Israelites from the Egyptians, and this is exactly how all of us who believe in the Lord and has been baptised, received into the Church, pass through the domains of sin and death, freed from their dominion and through Christ, enter this journey of a new life in which we are all called to a new existence, just as the newly freed Israelites were journeying towards the Promised Land of Canaan. The Lord made a New Covenant with us through His Son, just as He had made a Covenant with the Israelites back then. This time, it is not just the Israelites that were His chosen people, but all of mankind, those willing to answer and embrace His call.

Now, back to the moment the Covenant was made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, there were also parallel between what happened there and what happened at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples of the Lord. At the time of the old Covenant, God gave His Law to His people through Moses, written as the Ten Commandments carved on two slabs of stone, and also other laws unwritten but passed through God’s wisdom to Moses, and from Him to the people of God. At the New Covenant, at Pentecost, God gave His faithful ones, the wisdom to understand His Law which He has revealed and brought into our midst through His Son, Jesus Christ, Who Himself is the embodiment of the Law.

The Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples just as the Lord had promised to them, to be their strength and guidance, to inspire them and to grant them the wisdom and understanding to proclaim His truth and salvation to the whole world. God’s works of saving His people, all of mankind began at that moment, as the Apostles and disciples were previously very afraid to leave their dwelling place, always constantly in hiding after the Lord’s Passion and death, as the Jewish authorities were strictly forbidding anyone from teaching and preaching in the Name of Jesus, openly opposing and persecuting those who were doing so.

But as the Holy Spirit came into them, the disciples gained great courage, strength and wisdom, and all of them went forth out from their hiding place, proclaiming Christ to all the assembled people in Jerusalem, who could all understand what they said even though they came from various places. That was the gift of tongues and language that the Holy Spirit granted to the disciples, a symbolic reversal of what happened if we read the story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis, where in yet another one of our possible first readings today, last time used to be all read for the Pentecost, mankind who used to speak the same language were punished and confused in their language and speech because of their pride, disobedience and sins, in trying to upstage God by building the Tower of Babel pointing towards Heaven itself.

Through what we have heard, God is calling all of us sinners back to Himself, wanting each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. He loves us very dearly and does not want any one of us to be lost to Him. Our disobedience has led us to sin, and sin sundered us from God, separating us from His grace and love. But through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, all of us have been called back from among the nations, all the lost sheep of the Lord gathered back into the same one flock of Christ, our Good Shepherd. Through baptism, we have entered this New Covenant that He had made and sealed with His own Precious Blood on the Cross.

At Pentecost, three thousand people were convinced and received baptism from the disciples, which is interestingly a comparison and contrast to what happened back then at Mount Sinai. As we all should know, the Israelites rebelled against God and disobeyed Him there when they built and raised up a golden calf idol that they treated and worshipped as god over them, and this led the whole people into sin, where according to the later part of the Book of Exodus, three thousand people sided with the idol and were crushed and killed when Moses pronounced the judgment of God against them. The three thousand people saved at Pentecost was a clear reversal of what happened at Mount Sinai.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Pentecost Sunday is also often known as the ‘birthday of the Church’ and it is rightly so because the Church of God is the physical gathering and assembly of the people of God, of all the faithful who have shared in the gift of baptism, to be that One Body of Christ. As Scripture says, we have all been made one body, one spirit, in Christ. That is what the Church is, and as the disciples went forth from hiding to begin in earnest their work of evangelisation, converting the three thousand people and possibly more, that established the very first tangible community of the faithful people of God, the visible Church. Hence, that is why this Pentecost is considered as the birthday of the Church.

Now, having discussed in detail what Pentecost is about, and how it is closely linked to the past events in the history of salvation, let us all then discern what we are to do ourselves going forward from now on. Just as the Israelites did not reach the Promised Land immediately after God made His Covenant with them at Mount Sinai, and how they had to endure a lot of challenges, punishments and hardships along the way, thus as I mentioned earlier, that this Covenant that God made with us all as Christians mark only the beginning of our journey of faith towards Him, towards our hopefully final destination that is Heaven.

That is why we must never think of our baptism as the end of our journey. On the contrary, it is the beginning of our new life with God, beginning a new existence and life in Him, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, that each and every one of us enter into this journey that we are all expected to walk through in our journey and path towards God, and each one of us as Christians are called to live our lives in accordance to the way that God had taught us and expected us to live them. If we do not do so, then we are hypocrites and even in the worse case, we may even scandalise our faith and the Lord just as how some among the faithful had acted wickedly not in accordance to what Christians ought to act and believe in.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate this great rejoicing at this Pentecost Sunday, let us remind ourselves at all times that even though it marks the end of the season of Easter, but it does not mean that the spirit of Easter ends here. On the contrary, as I mentioned earlier, we must remember that our Christian living is a journey towards God, and the struggles and challenges have not yet ended. In fact, as we continue to progress in faith and through this journey of life we may realise that we will encounter more and more challenges and trials along the way, and we may have to persevere through those difficult moments and trials.

But yet, we are not alone, brothers and sisters! The Holy Spirit is with us, as our Advocate and Helper. And just as the Holy Spirit was with the Apostles and disciples of the Lord back then, guiding them, inspiring and strengthening them, the Holy Spirit is also now with us, bestowing on us the gifts that are meant to help us. However, we have to open our hearts and minds, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our path, as we can easily be tempted or shaken by fear that we lose our trust in God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us hence ask the Lord to continue to strengthen us and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in our journey towards the Lord and eternal life that we shall enjoy with Him forevermore. May all of us always ever be righteous and strive to do our best to walk in the path of God, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 7 : 37-39

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

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

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 8 : 22-27

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

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

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

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Genesis 11 : 1-9

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

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

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

Alternative reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative reading

Joel 3 : 1-5

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

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

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

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate the feast of our Lady of Sheshan or Sheshen, a major Marian devotion in China, as well as the feast of Mary herself as the Help of all Christians. This is of a particular importance as on this day, we commit ourselves together as the whole Church, to pray for our brethren, the faithful people of God now suffering persecution, whether legally or subtly, because they are faithful to the Lord and to His teachings.

Before we go on with regards to this matter, we have to first understand about the condition and the background of the situation of the Church and the faithful in China itself. The Church and the faithful in China had endured a long and difficult period of persecution and challenges ever since the Communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and took over the control over mainland China.

At first, the officially atheistic and anti-Christian Communist government and officials openly persecuted the Church of God and the faithful people of God. They were harassed, attacked at every turn and opportunity, and their persecution took a nationalistic and political perspective, as the faithful Christians were deemed to have been influenced by the foreign influences, or even worse, by accusing them as traitors to the nation.

In what is similar to persecution of Christians in the earlier ages, even as the early Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire and by the Jewish authorities, many of the faithful suffered greatly for having kept their faith in God alive. Their properties and possessions were seized, their families and children were threatened, tortured or even brought to judgment and were killed unjustly.

Priests and bishops were sent to concentration and reeducation camp, where many suffered for many years. Some died in prison and for some the fact about their suffering was only known much later on. Such grievous things indeed which the faithful people of God in China had suffered for staying true to the Lord and for keeping the faith in their God alive.

The situation may seem to be much better these days as compared to how it was decades ago. And yet, we should not let ourselves be deceived. Persecution still continues upon the Church and upon our brethren the faithful ones in China. The Communists established the so-called ‘official church’ where all the faithful, the priests, the bishops and all must belong to, or else be persecuted.

But in reality, it is a means through which the people in power were trying to control the Church, and by requiring the faithful to obey the imposed rules and regulations, they were trying to sap the power of the Church and to prevent it from rising up against them. And if we have paid attention to the news, recently we have heard about the forced removal of crosses from many church buildings. It is a clear sign of the opposition which the government still accorded to the Christian faith.

And as we all reflect on these occasions today, let us all be mindful of the other persecutions and the sufferings that the faithful people of God are suffering even today in many parts of the world. Christians are persecuted in the Middle East where they even had to lose their lives just because they believe in the one and only true God. And in other places, the faithful are ridiculed because of their faith, and they are enduring ever greater difficulties in this world where God is gradually and increasingly becomes forgotten in the minds of men.

Therefore, let us all today devote our time to pray to God and ask for His help to be given to these brethren of ours, so that they may be given strength and courage to live their lives even under persecution and difficulty, that they will not give up or abandon their God for the sake of their own safety. May God help them and preserve them, particularly our brethren, the faithful people of God in China. May He bless them and keep them, and may He soon end the suffering that the Church in China faces today. God be with them all. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Mark 10 : 28-31

At that time, Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. Do pay attention : many who are now the first will be last, and the last, first.”

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

1 Peter 1 : 10-16

This was the salvation for which the prophets so eagerly looked when, in days past, they foretold the favour of God with regard to you. But they could only investigate when the Spirit of Christ present within them pointed out the time and the circumstances of this – the sufferings of Christ and the glories which would follow.

It was revealed to them that they were working not for themselves but for you. Thus, in these days, after the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, the Gospel’s preachers have taught you these mysteries which even the Angels long to see. So, then, let your spirit be ready. Be alert, with confident trust in the grace you will receive when Jesus Christ appears.

Like obedient children, do not return to your former life given over to ignorance and passions. Imitate the One Who called you. As He is holy, so you, too, be holy in all your conduct, since Scripture says : Be holy for I am holy.

Monday, 23 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the readings from the Holy Scriptures speaking to us about how we ought to act if we are to enter into the kingdom of God and receive the eternal life, glory and the inheritance which our Lord has promised to all of us. Jesus spoke with a man asking Him how to attain eternal life, and He told him that firstly He had to obey the laws and commandments of the Lord.

But as what we heard from what Jesus had told the man, clearly it was not enough that he should just obey the laws and the commandments alone. Many Jews and the people of God at the time also obeyed the laws and rules as stipulated by the chief priests and the Temple, but in truth, how many of them truly love God and how many of them are capable of giving themselves entirely to God without doubt?

From what we heard of Jesus’ speech to the man, it might seem that He was rebuking the rich and the wealthy as those who were wicked, corrupted, as well as being inherently incapable of attaining God’s salvation. Yet, if we look deeper into the matter, Jesus was not condemning the rich because of their wealth, or condemning wealth and possession itself, as some would have believed that Jesus had done so. Instead, what Jesus condemned was the attachment and the unhealthy obsession that mankind often have on their possessions and wealth.

As I have reiterated many times, being wealthy and comfortable in our lives in itself is not inherently wicked, and thus we should not come to the point where we resent the rich and the privileged, so long as they act responsibly and in accordance with the laws of God. It is the desires of men, the desire to seek for more wealth and more things that bring about sin and wickedness.

It is just that, when we have more things and possessions, unfortunately it is our human nature that we desire for even more things, and we will tend to disregard others, even to the point of causing harm and trouble for others just so that we can get good things for ourselves. We have seen this too often throughout our history, where men would exploit other people, and do things in order to benefit themselves. Wars and conflicts have been fought just so that the needs and wants of certain few people could be satisfied, either for ego or for their wealth.

Heeding these examples and learning from our past mistakes, we should remember the words of Jesus, what He had spoken to His disciples about being truly faithful, and striving to have true love for God, surpassing all of our material wishes and desires. What God is asking us to do, is not to literally shun all forms of possession and wealth, or to sell all of them and live like a hermit. Rather, what God wanted us to do is to overcome our attachment to worldly possessions and greed.

What makes many of the rich to be unable to reach the goal of the kingdom of God is that attachment which they were unable to overcome, and it is therefore dragging them down and away from God’s salvation. It is important therefore that we should refrain and resist the temptations of the flesh, which is pulling us away from God and His ways. We have to learn to limit and control our desires, and not to allow it to control us.

There are also many people who are rich, and yet they are generous and are willing to give to help others around them. There are many philanthropists like them, who are willing to help those who are in need, caring for those who have little and none, sharing what blessings they had with them. And thus, if we too, have been blessed by God with good life and sufficient things to carry us through life, let us be mindful of those around us, our neighbours who had little or none, and are suffering because of it.

Let us all show mercy, care and love upon them, and let us not shut our hearts and our ears to their pleas. Let us instead help one another, that each and every one of us will be able to live comfortably, and by learning to let go of what have received, we too may be freed from the slavery to our desires and our wants, and by resisting those may all of us grow ever more righteous and just in the sight of our God. God bless us all. Amen.