Sunday, 16 May 2021 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Seventh Sunday of Easter we mark also the occasion of the World Communications Sunday, through which our Scripture passages today highlight to us the need for us to be involved in the outreach and evangelisation mission and efforts of the Church, and we also keep in mind at the same time all those who are involved in the field of communications especially those who are in the work of communication on behalf and as part of the Church. Communication is truly a very important aspect of our faith, and all of us need to understand its significance.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles about the discussion which the Apostles had in deciding what to do with the seat vacated by Judas Iscariot, after the traitor chose to betray the Lord that led to the Lord’s arrest, and eventually killed himself in regret for what he had done. As such, one of the seats of the Twelve Apostles had been vacated, and in order to make the Twelve once again complete, they discerned and discussed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to choose from among the disciples, who was to be the one fit to be the twelfth Apostle.

Eventually, St. Matthias was chosen to be the twelfth Apostle, and therefore, the number of the Twelve Apostles was once again complete. If we are wondering why it is so important that the Twelve Apostles ought to be complete, then we must understand that the Twelve Apostles were those whom the Lord had chosen to be His own most trusted ones, to be the pillars of the Church that He has established in this world, of which St. Peter then also served as the foundation, the ‘Rock’ of the Church, on which Christ has built His Church.

The Lord has also showed His love for them and prayed for them as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when we heard how before the Lord was about to embark on His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross, He prayed for all of His disciples, that they would be kept together and as one people, one Church, one body of disciples, and not to be lost from God. He prayed for them that they may be consecrated in the truth, to be holy and dedicated to the mission which they had been entrusted with, that they would be the ones to steer the Church through the challenging and difficult times that the faithful would encounter.

And this prayer that the Lord Jesus made to His Father for the sake of the disciples, just as the Apostles during their decision to add St. Matthias to the ranks of the Twelve, are examples of how communication is such an important aspect and part of our faith. We cannot be a true Christian unless we open ourselves to the Lord first and foremost, to communicate with Him regularly and to know His will, and to communicate with Him genuinely, listening to one another, the best method of which is through prayer, for prayer is the most intimate communication we have with God, our loving Father and Creator.

The Apostles prayed before they made any decisions, during the time when the made the decision to replace the seat vacated by Judas Iscariot, during the time when they discerned regarding other important matters pertaining to the Church, as well as when they sent out the Apostles and disciples such as when they prayed over St. Paul and St. Barnabas and sent them to minister to the Gentiles. They prayed for the Lord’s guidance and for the Holy Spirit to come down upon those whom the Lord has chosen and sent to be His missionaries and workers.

Whenever the Church does things, they always pray before anything, and prayer is truly a very integral part of our faith, that in all things, we have to stay connected and united with God, staying in touch and communicating with Him. And we also pray and ask for the intercessions of the saints, from Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, her Spouse and the Apostles, saints and martyrs. Each and every one of these saints intercede and pray for us, and they still stay in communion with us, communicating with us and never forgetting about us who are still in this world, and as they are nearer to God than us, they pray with even greater efficacy and contact with the Lord, on our behalf.

That is why, it is important that each and every one of us as Christians stay connected to the Lord through prayer and through love. Through various means we should build and sustain our relationship with Him, just as we should also build and sustain our relationships with one another, with our fellow brothers and sisters. A genuine relationship takes time and effort to be built and maintained, and we need to learn how to be good communicators, not just in words but also in various other means. A good communicator does not necessarily have to speak a lot, and what matters is how well we deliver our thoughts clearly as much as possible.

That is why the most effective prayer is often not the longest and the best phrased or verbose ones. On the contrary, the best prayers came from the heart, from deep within our heart and soul filled with true love for the Lord, and with deep longing for His truth. That is the true way of communication between us and God, one between our hearts and His most loving Heart, and not with our brains and mouth only as many had often mistakenly done with their prayers. Prayer is not a litany of requests or worse still, demands that we make of the Lord, thinking that God is One Who can solve all of our problems.

And within the Church, there is also much need for great communication as well, as mentioned by St. John in his Epistle, which is our second reading today, in which the Apostle spoke about how the Lord and His love has been given to us most generously and wonderfully, manifesting through none other than by the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son, adopting the flesh and essence of Man, entering into this world to make the love of God no longer something intangible and invisible, but now having become visible in full through His sacrifice on the Cross.

God communicated His love to all of us through His appearing in our midst, the Love of God made Flesh, and by His actions, He has truly communicated His love and true intention towards us, that while He is our Lord and Master, He is also our loving Father, and while He chastises us for our sins and wickedness, He also shows mercy and compassion, and the desire to be reconciled with us. That He is God Who is not distant and unapproachable, but instead a loving and most caring God Who is always approachable and filled with genuine love and care towards us, at all times.

Having revealed all these through Christ, He made Himself visible, that we may witness Him, know Him, understand Him, touch Him, and get close to Him. And even when He has ascended into Heaven, He reassured all of us that we are never alone, for He is always with us, as He sent us the Holy Spirit to be our strength and guide, to lead us to the right path in life. And through His giving of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, in the Most Holy Eucharist, that we receive at the celebration of the Holy Mass, we share in His Presence, that exists within each and every one of us.

And now that we should have realised just how God had communicated His love and intentions very clearly to us, all these while, then all of us are called and challenged to show the same kind of love, care and concern for our fellow brothers and sisters. And this is exactly what He has commanded and taught us as Christians to do, to love Him first and foremost, and then to love one another in the same way. That is the essence of what being a Christian is all about. And yet, there are many Christians who are still acting in ways contrary to the faith, and there are many who scandalised the faith by showing selfishness and hatred instead of love as they should.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Seventh Sunday of Easter and the World Communications Sunday, we are all called to be genuine communicators, be it in our relationship with God or in our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should begin from ourselves and from within our own small circle of family and friends, and from those whom we interact with and encounter in life. Let us ask ourselves and think if we have shown them the love as expected of us, or whether we have instead ignored them or even hate them, all this time.

Being Christians means that we are called to follow in the examples and in the footsteps of the Lord in how He has cared for us, showed His love so genuinely and communicated all these to us clearly. We should therefore also build up our relationship with Him, leading a better, more prayerful life, and at the same time, show more love towards our fellow men. If we have held grudges or hatred, or any other negative emotions in our hearts, let us learn to forgive and to communicate our desire to love and forgive those who have hurt us and made our lives difficult clearly.

Let us be genuine and good witnesses of our Christian faith, by showing more love in our actions in life, and in how we interact with our fellow brethren. It is by our actions that people will truly know that we belong to the Lord and not by mere empty faith alone. And through us and our actions, we can inspire ever more and more people to come and follow the Lord as well, to believe in Him and His truth, and it is our mission as Christians to proclaim the Lord and His truth, and the best way is by leading a good and exemplary Christian life as best as we are able to, and to communicate our faith through real, concrete and genuine actions.

That means, we should not be hypocrites who profess to believe in the Lord and yet act in a different manner, so as to contradict or scandalise our faith. And neither should we also be ignorant or passive in how we live our lives as Christians. We should step up to the opportunities that the Lord has given us to reach out to more and more people. This is how we fulfil our Christian obligations, and the mission God has entrusted to each and every one of us. Let us challenge ourselves to seek the Lord ever more wholeheartedly with each and every passing moments.

Let us lastly also remember to pray for those who have devoted themselves in the field of communication, especially those working hard to establish the reach of the Church through various forms of the media, including the social media. May the Lord be with them, and may He also strengthen and encourage us all to walk faithfully, and to be good witnesses of our faith in the Lord and be ever more prayerful and better in our relationship with Him, now and always. May God bless us all and our every endeavours and efforts, for His greater glory. Amen.

Saturday, 15 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all told that the Lord has revealed His truth to us through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. Through Him, the Lord has revealed what His desire is for all of us, the promise of eternal life and happiness with Him, through which He has called on all of us to be turned into a people of the Light, to be saved and freed from the chains of sin and evil that had bound us all these while.

The Lord said to His disciples in our Gospel passage today that He shall reveal everything to them, and in due time the truth would all be revealed, and all would know everything that He has brought into our midst, the whole truth of God’s love and wonderful grace. He also said how He would go to the Father and ascending to Him, referring to His Ascension after He has risen from the dead. Thus, all these then has been fulfilled when He ascended into Heaven at the fortieth day after His glorious Resurrection.

And while He has ascended into Heaven, He did not leave all of His faithful ones behind without any guidance or help. On the contrary, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord has not just revealed the fullness of His truth, but also gave great wisdom and guidance to all of His disciples and followers, encouraging and strengthening them all at the time of a great trial and a most challenging and crucial moment, as the faithful were facing great opposition from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council and its members of authority.

Through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the many other disciples began to establish a firm foundation of the Church as they went from many places to places, spreading the words of truth and the Good News of God to more and more people, to the Jews and the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people alike. More and more became convinced to follow the Lord and to entrust themselves to Him, and as we heard in our first reading today, the Church expanded greatly due to the efforts of St. Paul and others like the charismatic Jewish preacher named Apollos.

Apollos was likely one of the followers or even a disciple of St. John the Baptist, as it was mentioned that he was only familiar with the teachings and the baptism of St. John. He was eloquent and very charismatic, and made a large following among the Jewish diaspora throughout many parts of the Mediterranean. As mentioned in today’s first reading, some of the women among the believers, Priscilla and Aquila, both of whom were Roman names and were therefore Romans, noticed that Apollos did not have the fullness of truth that they themselves had received from the Apostles.

As a result then, we heard the very curious and interesting encounter, how two Gentile women, Priscilla and Aquila, revealed the fullness of truth to Apollos, a Jew, which was quite unusual in those early days of the Church, as the Apostles and most of the earliest disciples of the Lord were Jewish, and initially there were only few disciples from among the Gentiles. However, thanks to the efforts of St. Paul and other disciples who went on missionary journeys with him, as well as the efforts from others, many Gentiles came to accept the faith and the Holy Spirit descended on all of them as well.

We see here the great beauty of the Church, how its members help one another to seek the truth of God, sharing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who have not yet known the Lord and His truth, just as Priscilla and Aquila revealed the truth to Apollos, whom having received the truth and enlightenment, then went on to proclaim the truth as most courageous missionary of the Christian faith to more and more people, bringing even more souls back to the Lord and His salvation.

Through all these we have heard today from the Scriptures, we are therefore reminded as those who have received the truth of the Lord, His love and salvation through the Church, that each and every one of us have also been called to be evangelising and missionary disciples of the Lord, that is to proclaim His truth and Good News at every possible opportunity. It does not mean that we need to go to foreign and faraway places as the Apostles had done all those years ago, or that we have to do amazing and wonderful actions.

Instead, it is at our every little and small actions that we glorify the Lord, through our sincere and most genuine efforts, in showing our faith by our actions, committed to the Lord, in walking down through His path and obeying His commandments, in showing love for Him above all other things, and in showing the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, especially to those who are in need for love and compassion, mercy and help. We are all called to do our best at even the smallest opportunity, working together so that through all of our actions, we may come to glorify the Lord all the more.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the courage and the guidance, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which we have received, and share as the members of the same one Church of God. Let us all devote ourselves, our efforts and attention, to serve the Lord at all times, to be good Christians not just in name only but also in our words, actions and deeds, at all times. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 14 May 2021 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of one of the Lord’s great Apostles, namely St. Matthias, the one who was chosen as Apostle and as member of the Twelve Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, who was the one that betrayed the Lord to the chief priests, and subsequently killed himself in grief, as noted in the Acts of the Apostles passage today in our first reading. The other Apostles had also abandoned the Lord and fled in fear when the Lord Jesus was arrested, and St. Peter also denied Him not once but three times.

However, what made the actions of Judas Iscariot to be different is that while the other Apostles returned to Him and were reconciled to Him, as especially illustrated by the encounter between Jesus and His Apostles and disciples at the Lake of Galilee after He has risen from the dead. St. Peter was called by the Lord, Who then asked him, ‘Peter, do you love Me?’, not only once but three times, at which each time, St. Peter reaffirmed his love and dedication to his Lord and Master, ‘Lord, You know that I love You.’ And through these words, the Lord did not only forgive St. Peter and the other Apostles, but also then entrusted them with the care of His faithful people.

Judas Iscariot did not have the faith in the Lord, and instead gave in to despair and regret, to fear and doubt, and he took his own life as a result. He did not trust in the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, and allowed Satan to make him in the first place, the instrument of betrayal by which the Son of Man would be betrayed and handed over to the chief priests and the Pharisees. He had the free will to choose his course of actions, but he chose to follow his desires and temptations, and to side with his fears and despair, rather than to trust in the Lord.

Hence, as the Apostles decided in the first reading today, chaired by St. Peter, the place once occupied by Judas Iscariot had to be replaced, as their number of twelve was not just a mere number. For twelve is a truly significant number, representing the number of the sons of Israel and henceforth later on, the twelve tribes of Israel. And as seen in the vision of St. John in the Book of Revelations, the Twelve Apostles will sit on the twelve seats of judgment representing these twelve tribes, as a symbol of the unity of God’s people, with the Apostles as its pillars, for the Church is indeed the new Israel, the new chosen people of God, formed from all peoples from all the nations.

St. Matthias was chosen from among those who had followed the Lord from the beginning, to fill the seat vacated by Judas Iscariot, and hence he became the twelfth Apostle, who then was instrumental in the efforts of the early Church in expanding and establishing the firm foundations of the faith in various places, as all the Apostles went on journeys and trips to the many countries and places to proclaim the faith to more and more people who had not yet known the Lord and His truth. St. Matthias went to the region of Asia Minor, to Cappadocia and areas around the Caspian Sea, and then as far as Ethiopia.

According to some Apostolic traditions, St. Matthias was martyred in either Ethiopia, where he was stoned to death for his works and efforts by the pagans, or in Jerusalem itself by the local populace, who stoned him and then beheaded him for his commitment to the Lord and for his fearless preaching of the truth of God. Nonetheless, regardless of the details of his martyrdom, what is certain about St. Matthias is that he is truly a devoted servant of God, a great Apostle who had laid the firm foundation of the Church and the Christian faith in many places, and became the source of inspiration for many people.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate today this great feast in honour of one of Our Lord’s great Apostles, we are called to remember St. Matthias’ great commitment and love for the Lord, his passion in spreading the truth of the Gospel and all that he had done for the sake of all the faithful. And all of us should be inspired by his courageous example and faith, and doing the very best in our own lives to glorify the Lord by our lives and by our faith.

As Christians, all of us are the ones who have been entrusted to continue the great works and efforts which have been begun by the Apostles, to reach out to more and more people, and to lead more and more to the salvation in God. This is the same mission which our Lord has entrusted to His Apostles, including St. Matthias, and this mission is still far from being done, and on the contrary, it is still ever ongoing, with more and more people are in need of the Lord’s truth and light, and how many still do not yet truly know the Lord.

It is up to us then to be the bearers of this truth, and we can do this by being good role models of our faith in our own respective communities, in our own families and among our own relatives, within our own circles of friends and among those who are acquainted to us, lastly even to the strangers whom we meet and encounter in each and every moments of our lives. Even in the small and little actions, words and things we do in our lives, in what may seem to be insignificant, in truth, we all are being witnesses to the Lord among all those whose lives we have touched and even influenced, often without us realising it.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what are we then going to do in order to fulfil the mission and the commandments that the Lord has entrusted to us? Are we going to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him and to His cause? Or are we going to pretend that we have no responsibility or anything to do with our faith? As Christians, we are all called to be active in living up our faith, and we should therefore discern very carefully how we are going to live our lives from now on in accordance to God’s will. This is what we should do, brethren, and what we are all called to be as part of our baptism.

Let us all therefore be inspired by the faith and examples of the Holy Apostles, especially that of St. Matthias, in entrusting ourselves to God and in following His will and commandments, wholeheartedly devoting ourselves to serve Him each and every moments of our lives. Let us all be inspired by the zeal and courage of all of our holy predecessors, the innumerable saints and martyrs through which we may also follow in their footsteps in glorifying the Lord and in revealing His truth and light more and more in our darkened world today.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, giving us the courage and will to persevere in our own vocations and calling in life, to be faithful in our lives that through us many more people may find their way to the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all in our many good works and endeavours, in our efforts for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 13 May 2021 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the fortieth day of the season of Easter, on which day we mark the glorious Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven, the moment when He rose up to Heaven before all of His assembled disciples, who saw Him ascending and rising to Heaven returning to His Father and claiming His Throne and rightful place at the end of His earthly ministry. From then onwards the Lord was no longer seen in the flesh, and yet, He is still with us and by our side, for He is always ever present, and His Presence remains with us in the Eucharist.

But what is most important is that, while the Lord ascended in glory to Heaven, He also reassured His disciples and followers that not only He would still be by their side, but He would also send the Holy Spirit as the Advocate and Helper, to give them the wisdom and strength, the courage and power to do what He has entrusted to all of them to do. And at that same time, the Lord sent out His disciples and reaffirmed them in their mission, to preach and pass on the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth among the nations.

As Christians, all of us have been called to the same mission entrusted by God to His disciples, and He has also given us the same Holy Spirit to encourage us and strengthen us in our own lives and in our own actions and dealings with one another. And the Lord would not forget us and He is always be by our side, just as we heard in our Gospel passage today. Those who serve the Lord and walk in His presence will not be harmed, and this has the meaning that, in the end, if we remain firmly faithful to the Lord, then we shall be safeguarded and we shall not be disappointed, for no matter what challenges and difficulties we may face, in the end, the Lord will triumph and we shall also be triumphant with Him.

In his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, St. Paul elaborated how all of us who are faithful in God are one Body and one Spirit in Christ, as members of the same Body of Christ, the Church, and with the same Holy Spirit having come down upon us to inspire and strengthen us all. And through the Holy Spirit, God has given us many gifts, St. Paul mentioned how each and every one of us are given particular gifts, to serve the Lord faithfully in each of our own way, that in all things we may always glorify Him by our lives, and many will also come to believe in Him through us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is our calling and mission as Christians, to be the witnesses of Our Lord’s truth and to proclaim His love to all. This is not just the work of missionaries or the responsibility of priests and bishops, or any other ordained and lay ministers of the Church. Yes, these people are involved and some are very passionate and greatly involved in the works of the Church and in proclaiming God’s truth, but it does not mean then that we have no obligation or responsibility as Christians, as members of the Church.

On the contrary, each and every one of us share in this same mission to evangelise to the peoples of many nations as part of our common baptism, which we have received and shared together at the moment when we become members of the Church, be it as infants or as adults. We cannot pretend as if we do not have any responsibility or anything to do with the efforts of the Church in reaching out to more and more people. Instead, we have to be active parts of the Church’s evangelising and missionary efforts and works, at all times.

And we all have a part to play in the efforts to lead more and more people to the truth of God, and that is why we have to be active, in living our lives faithfully and becoming good role models and inspirations to one another in how we carry out ourselves in life and in how we interact with each other. That is how we can become genuine witnesses of the Lord and our faith in our respective communities. This is not just something for the members of the ordained ministry or any other lay ministers to do.

First of all, we need to support our priests and bishops, and all the deacons and others who have given themselves and their lives for the good of the Church and for the people of God they are ministering to. We also need to support those who have given themselves to the Lord as religious brothers and sisters, praying constantly for us all and through their own works daily. All of these have given themselves to the Lord wholeheartedly, in their own way, fulfilling what He has called them to, in their own vocation and way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Lord ascended in glory to Heaven, He is preparing for us all a place there, and He has shown us all the way forward. Now it is really up to us to do as He has commanded us to do. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves, our time and effort to do whatever we can to fulfil the mission God entrusted to us? If we think that we are not able to do this, or that we have no ability to do so, or thinking that we need to do great and amazing things then we are unable to do it, then we must realise that what the Lord is calling on us to do, is to make good use of the gifts He has given us in each and every moments of our lives.

That means, even in the smallest of actions and in the seemingly most insignificant of interactions, we should be exemplary and show God’s love through our actions, and really show how we are truly His people by our faith, by standing up for His truth at every possible opportunities. And we should work together with everyone, as members of the same Church, same Body of Christ, in glorifying the Lord through our actions and our lives. We are not alone in this journey, and together we can accomplish so much more than we ourselves alone.

That is why, let us from now onwards dedicate ourselves to the cause of the Lord, our Master and our King, ascended into Heaven, to prepare for us the place of eternal glory. Let us in our own way then fulfil all that He has entrusted to us, the mission to preach His truth and Good News to all the peoples of all the nations. Let us touch the lives and hearts of more and more people, so that through us and our genuine faith, we may inspire more and more people, even in small ways, to walk in the path of Christ, and together we may share in His glory, and receive the true and eternal joy in Him. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles and through the Holy Spirit by Whom He willingly taught us about Himself and all that He wants us to know, this same truth which He has passed on to the Apostles to His Church. He revealed all these to us because He wants us to put our trust in Him and turn away from our sinful ways so that we may be worthy of Him and be forgiven from our many sins and faults.

In our first reading today, we heard the accounts of St. Paul and his visit to Athens, in what is now Greece. Athens was a truly great and magnificent city, which influence and prestige was even more remarkable at the time of St. Paul. Although it was no longer as dominant and great as it was a few centuries earlier when it dominated much of Greece and the Aegean and Mediterranean region, Athens was still a great city and a major centre of learning and philosophy, having been renowned for its many thinkers and philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle among others.

And Athens was also one of the main centres of Greek pagan beliefs, as one of its main cultural centre. At that time, when St. Paul visited Athens, it was truly a pagan city, with statues and idols of the Greco-Roman gods everywhere, and with most of its people believing strongly in their beliefs. It is with this context that St. Paul stood up in Areopagus, in the main venue where Athenians and others would come to discuss and debate matters as they had done so for centuries. He spoke courageously about the Lord, the One and only True God in that occasion.

St. Paul revealed before all the people that God was indeed truly the One true God, Who created all things and Who made all things happen. The Greco-Roman belief worshipped nature and its wonders, with gods corresponding to different parts of the natural world, such as the well known Zeus or Jupiter as the king of the gods and the ruler of the skies, of thunder and lightning, and Poseidon or Neptune as the god of the seas and horses, Hades or Pluto as the god of the dead and the underworld, Hera or Juno as the queen of the gods and the goddess of the family, Demeter or Ceres as the goddess of agriculture, and many others, too many to be discussed here.

And all these things, according to St. Paul, was not real gods as they were mankind’s representation of the natural world, of wonders and things that they could not comprehend and did not know. But all those things, be it the sun, the moon, the thunder, storms, and even death, all these are nothing more than just objects created by God. Hence, St. Paul pointed out to the Athenians that as they kept on wondering and debating on the truth of life, and worship those pagan gods and idols, there is the One true God Who would reveal to them the truth.

St. Paul therefore revealed that salvation has come from the Lord, Who sent His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as the Divine Word Incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as the true manifestation of divinity, revealing His truth to all. And that is why everyone has been called to the same truth, to know God Whom the Athenians ascribed as to the unknown God. St. Paul was making the Lord known to all those people who had not yet known Him. And we then heard the response from the people, many of whom made fun of him and refused to listen to the truth. Yet, there were some who were intrigued and interested by what St. Paul had said, and wanted him to speak to them more about the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord sent St. Paul to be one of His ministers in revealing the truth to His people, just as the other Apostles also went to various places to speak about the truth of God and the message of His salvation. St. Paul followed the Lord’s commands guided by the same Holy Spirit that the Lord promised His disciples as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Lord also gave us all the same Holy Spirit, and do you know that the same mission He has entrusted to His Apostles back then still apply to us as well? We are all called to continue the good works that the Apostles had begun.

In this present day world, all of us are called to be witnesses of the Lord in our respective communities, to reveal Him among all those whom we encounter in life through our own exemplary life and actions. By our commitment and dedication, we have a lot of potential and opportunities to reach out to many more people and let them know about the Lord and His truth, as what St. Paul had done in Athens and in various other places, revealing the truth about God with great courage. Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, who were martyrs of the faith during the time of the early Roman Empire, who were either soldiers who converted to the faith and then martyred for courageously standing by their faith, or as servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor, who herself was a convert to the Christian faith. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian at that time, Christians went through a period of harsh persecution, and many including St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were martyred, both of them by beheading.

Then today we also mark the feast of St. Pancras, another martyr of the faith who was only a young boy at the time when he was martyred. Born to Roman citizens in the region of Phrygia in Asia Minor, his parents passed on early and he was taken care of by a relative. And then during the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, as everyone were forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, St. Pancras resisted and refused to do as ordered with determination. The Emperor, impressed with the young man’s determination, attempted to persuade him with wealth and power, but these were refused and thus St. Pancras was martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the inspiring lives of those faithful saints, our holy predecessors, then we should ask ourselves, what are we doing then in proclaiming the truth of God? Have we been genuine in our faith and have we dedicated ourselves to the Lord and His ways, even if we have to suffer persecution and trials for our commitment? If we have not lived our lives in the way we should according to our faith, then perhaps we should keep what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages in mind, as we discern how each and every one of us as Christians can live our lives more faithfully and be good role models and examples for those around us.

Let us all be inspired by St. Paul, the other saints and martyrs, especially St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and St. Pancras. Let us seek the Lord with renewed vigour and be genuine disciples of His, following Him wholeheartedly and truly living our lives as He has taught and shown us how we should live our lives. May God be with us always and may He guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded of the stubbornness of the world and its people in refusing to follow the Lord and believe in Him, despite all that the Lord had done for our sake, and despite all the guidance and patience with which He has given to us, in sending us prophets and messengers, leaders and guides to help us find our way. Instead of listening to Him, many of us and our predecessors persecuted His holy ones, His messengers and prophets, and made it difficult for them to carry out their mission.

It is what we heard in our first reading today in the Acts of the Apostles, the account of what happened when St. Paul and his companion, Silas was met with trouble in the city of Philippi in Greece, where the slave owners of the city rose up against them and got them to be arrested and thrown into prison. If you are wondering why is it that the slave owners rose up against the two servants of God, it was likely because both of them had such a great success in the city that the slave owners feared that the Christian faith would gain such a foothold there that the slaves would rise up against their owners.

That is because unlike the other pagan religions and beliefs, the Christian faith advocated justice and equality to all, that all are equally beloved by God, whether they are Jews, Greeks, Romans or people of any other origins or nationalities, and God does not distinguish between the rich and the poor, or the strong and the weak, and definitely neither whether they are free or enslaved. This is something that was against the social norms at the time, and was against the norms of slavery that was very common during that time throughout the Roman Empire.

That was the time when slaves were running large part of the economy, through their work in various segments of the community, treated with disdain and disregard, manipulated, exploited and humiliated, considered and deemed as less than human beings by many, shunned and rejected despite all that they had done for the greater community. Hence, the Christian message of love and hope certainly has a great hold on those people who have been marginalised and treated unequally, and this was something feared by those slave owners.

This is why St. Paul and Silas faced such difficulty, persecution and trouble, that they had to endure prison and suffering for the sake of the Lord. The greed and fears of man led to the refusal of those slave owners from listening to God’s truth and from obeying His laws and commandments. The Lord has patiently sought them, but many hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to accept that truth and the love which God’s servants had been bringing upon them. Yet, He still reached out to them and called on them to turn away from their sins and repent from their past mistakes.

The Lord mentioned in the Gospel passage today how the sin of the world is disbelief, the lack of faith in Him and the lack of trust, and often the inability to free oneself from the temptations of worldly pleasures, the allures of glory and power, the attraction of human desires and pride. And this is shown in the account of what happened to St. Paul and Silas. But yet, even through that suffering, as we heard, something good still came up, as when God rescued His servants, by causing a great earthquake to shatter the prison and free them, not only that He freed His disciples, but through that, more souls were saved, when the jailor and his whole family became believers through the efforts of St. Paul.

Through what we have heard, we have indeed seen a very symbolic occurrence, when the Lord freed His people, St. Paul and Silas from the prison and from their chains, while the jailor and his whole family, accepting the Lord as their Saviour, they have been released and freed from the chains and bondage of their sins. Ironically, it was those slave owners and slave masters who remained bonded to their sins due to their stubborn refusal to listen to the Lord and His truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard all of these things today, we are all reminded that in our own lives, we also should not be like those who have hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord. We have to reflect on our own lives and deeds, on our actions and interactions with one another, on whether we have been truly faithful to the Lord, or whether we have closed ourselves and rejected God, even if we do not actually realise it. These days, there are many people who are faithful in the Lord in name only, and not truly genuine in committing themselves to Him.

How do we know that we are truly faithful to God? It is when we allow God to lead us down the path, and to show us the way forward. Yet, are willing to spend the time and effort to get to know Him more and to listen to Him when He calls on us to follow Him? As long as we allow Him to enter into our hearts and are open to Him, then the path forward will remain open for us, and like the jailor, we too may turn away from our sins, and be saved together with all of our holy predecessors who have gone before us.

Today, we are all reminded to cooperate with the Lord, and learn to resist the temptations of the world, that we may remain faithful and that we may walk with Him courageously, guided through the gift of His Holy Spirit. We have been given the strength and courage through the Holy Spirit, and therefore are called to bear rich fruits in life by living our lives full of love for God and for our fellow brothers and sisters, and doing our best at every possible opportunities, to glorify the Lord through our lives. We should not allow sin and the temptations to sin to chain us and keep us in bondage.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He help lead us all to be free from the chains of temptations and sin, and may He lead us all to His light and truth, and may He also inspire each and every one of us to be the good witnesses of our faith, at all times. Let us all seek the Lord with all of our strength, with all of our heart, and let us all glorify His Name by our lives, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 10 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to be evangelising disciples and missionaries of the faith to more and more people, to reach out to others around us who have not yet known the Lord or have lapsed from the faith that through us we may bear forth God’s truth and love and touch the lives of many people, and lead ever more souls to the salvation in God. This is our calling as Christians, and which we all need to embrace and which we need to respond to in our lives.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples reassuring them and promising to them that He would send them the great Helper, the Advocate, namely the Holy Spirit. This promise would later on then be fulfilled on the day of the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and the other disciples assembled in Jerusalem after the Lord ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit strengthened the Apostles and the other disciples, giving them all the courage and the wisdom to reach out to all the peoples to whom the Lord was sending them to, in preaching the truth of the Good News of the Gospels.

The Lord then also be told His disciples fo be fruitful and productive in how we live our lives and faith. He called on all of them to be genuine in the way we carry out ourselves so that we may inspire one another to be willing to take action to spread the Good News of God, His truth and love in our respective communities, within our own families, circle of friends and acquaintances, among others whom we encounter in life. He sent them out to bear witness to this truth and call on more and more people to come to the salvation through Him.

This is what we then heard in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, telling us about what St. Paul and the other disciples had been doing, in their missionary work and outreach, as St. Paul visited the communities of the faithful all throughout the Mediterranean region. He went from place to place, preaching the Good News and strengthening the faith among the people who were in those places, and many were converted because they believed in St. Paul and in all that he has spoken about.

These are the efforts of those who have witnessed and seen the truth of God, and having received the truth, they passed it on from one to another, that more and more people might come to know about the truth, and find out about the salvation in God. Through the Holy Spirit, they had been encouraged and strengthened, that despite the challenges and trials, the difficulties and obstacles they encountered, all these never prevented them from remaining firmly committed to the same mission that God has entrusted to them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have also been called to live our lives with faith, loving the Lord wholeheartedly and to commit ourselves to the Lord and His cause, with the same mission as that which had been entrusted to the Apostles and their successors. In our present day today, the works of the Church are still far from done, and there are still many areas where there are still many opportunities for us to take part in the works of evangelisation and outreach, in order to reach out more and more people.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. John of Avila, a great saint whose life may become a source of inspiration in how we ought to live our lives in obedience to God and His will. He was a Spanish priest and missionary, who was always aspiring in his early years and priesthood to go forth as a missionary in distant lands. However, the great piety of St. John of Avila was noted by another local priest who then recommended him to the Archbishop of Seville, who then encouraged him to stay on in Spain and minister to the people there.

St. John of Avila since then ministered to the faithful in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain, ministering to the needs of the faithful and to many diverse groups of people, calling for the faithful to turn away from their sins and to renounce their sinful ways. He established various faith communities and inspired many to follow in his examples and to continue the works that he had started. Through his writings and many works, St. John of Avila inspired many people throughout many regions, and not few were converted to the true faith.

St. John of Avila showed great piety and devotion to God in all of his actions, and he served the Lord unconditionally, with total devotion and this inspired so many others to follow the Lord and to change their ways of life for the better as well as in the reforming of the Church, and therefore countless souls have been saved, as those whom St. John of Avila had influenced and touched, they themselves would reach out and inspire many more people to return to the Lord and embrace their faith.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of St. John of Avila, that all of us may be inspired to be good role models and inspirations in faith for one another, and through our lives, through our commitment and love for God, we may inspire others to follow in our footsteps, and enter into the kingdom of God and be saved as well. Let us all be inspired as Christians, to live our lives most virtuously and in accordance to the way that the Lord has shown us.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He guide us through His Holy Spirit, that we can be exemplary in life, and be missionary in spirit, that we may glorify His Name through our every actions in life. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, all of us are called to remember the generous and most wonderful love by which God has loved us, throughout all these time, and then of our obligation as Christians, as the people whom God has called and chosen, loved and blessed, to be the bearers of this same love in our own lives, to be His witnesses and His disciples in our world today, showing His truth and love through our own actions, deeds and interactions in our lives.

In our Scripture readings today, we are all constantly reminded of God’s love that is ever present all around us, and that God Himself is Love. And as God is our Lord and Master, then we should also follow in His examples and do as He Himself has done and follow in whatever He has shown us and taught us to do, to be loving in all of our actions and interactions, to be sincere and committed in love towards one another, just as we have also loved Him and how He loved us first before all else.

In our first reading, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the account of St. Peter and his visit to the family of a Roman centurion and citizen, Cornelius, who was willing to listen to him and the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, and hearing that St. Peter was there, Cornelius invited St. Peter to his household to speak about the Lord and His salvation. Before this visit, St. Peter had been hesitant as he was about to enter into the house of a Gentile or non-Jew, which in the old Jewish custom, was considered as some sort of taboo as doing so would make them unclean.

That was also why the Jewish elders and chief priests did not enter into the Praetorium at the time when the Lord was condemned to death in Jerusalem, as doing so would have rendered them unclean, a fact stated clearly in the Gospel accounts on the Passion of the Lord, and they remained outside to keep themselves clean for the celebration of the Passover. In the same manner therefore, St. Peter initially was hesitant in responding to Cornelius’ invitation, but God then showed him a vision, of a great sheet lowered down from Heaven, with all sorts of beasts and animals considered unclean by the old Jewish laws and customs.

St. Peter was hesitant and refused to eat of those animals in the vision, when the voice of God commanded him to eat of those animals deemed to be unclean by the Law. And then, three times the Lord reminded him again and again, that he should not consider unclean what the Lord has considered to be clean and purified. Through that vision, the Lord wanted St. Peter and also all of us by extension, to know that for Him, there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, Jew or Roman or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, rich or poor, strong or weak. Instead, everyone is equally beloved by Him and He considers each and every one of us as His beloved children, without exception.

Hence, as St. Peter came to Cornelius’ house, he himself saw how great the faith that he had in the Lord, and how willing he and his whole household were in listening to the truth that he was about to reveal to them, and it was there then St. Peter realised fully the meaning of the vision I mentioned earlier, that God is calling on all the whole world to be His disciples and followers, and that there should be no more distinctions between Jews or Gentiles, or any other distinctions that we usually encounter in the world, in any forms. God loves all equally and wants all to be saved.

And the Lord again gave a very clear sign of His love and favour to the Gentiles and the faithful among them, by sending them the very same Holy Spirit that He Himself has given to the Apostles at Pentecost. The whole household of Cornelius received the Holy Spirit and began glorifying God in joy and speaking in tongues and different languages, the same spirit of wisdom and courage that the Apostles themselves had received. This is yet another proof that God wants all to be His disciples, and not just the Jews alone, or just those who follow the strict tradition of Jewish laws and customs.

This is important because in the later chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, there would be disagreements and divisions in the early Church, which we might have heard in the previous days Scripture readings for those of us who attended the weekday Mass, where it was elaborated how the converts from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were trying to impose on the whole faithful the strict observances of the Jewish laws and customs, such as circumcision, the dietary restrictions on unclean foods that were forbidden, many other customs and practices that would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to be Christians as many of the Jewish practices and customs were seen as aberration and even disgusting by the non-Jewish people, particularly by the Greeks and the Romans.

Hence, through that passage today from the Acts of the Apostles and the life and work of St. Peter, in his interactions with Cornelius, later known as St. Cornelius the Centurion, all of us are called to be loving to one another, not be judgmental and territorial in our behaviour and attitudes in the Church, and we are all reminded that the Church is indeed Catholic, which means ‘Universal’ from the Greek Katholikos, just as it is also ‘One’, means united as one in God, ‘Holy’ as it is sanctified by God and the Holy Spirit that He has sent to us, and ‘Apostolic’ in the evangelising and missionary nature of the Church, in reaching out to all the faithful of all the nations and all the people.

That is why today, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter and rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection and glory, all of us as one Church, the members of the same Body of Christ, the Living Church in this world, we are all reminded that we all share in the generous and ever wonderful love of God, and through Christ, Our Lord’s only begotten Son, as St. John elaborated in his Epistle in our second reading today, God has shown His love in the flesh, coming to dwell within us and among us, that His love remains with us, always and at all times.

We know the love of God because He has come to us and showed us all what it truly means to love unconditionally, and to love generously, the way that the Lord has loved us, that He gave us His only begotten Son, to be given up as the sacrifice for the atonement for our sins, the most loving sacrifice on the Cross. Whenever we look at Christ Crucified on the Cross, we should remember that it was for love that God’s own Son has suffered and died for us, that through His suffering and death, all of us may have life through Him. He put Himself between us and death, that He may gather us all in, into His loving embrace and save us from certain destruction due to our sins.

Therefore, as we then heard in our Gospel passage today, having known of God’s great love, and indeed how blessed we are to be so beloved, then, we all need to love as well, and obey the commandments that God has given us, to remain in His love and to love Him first and foremost before anything else, to give Him our whole heart and love, attention and focus, and to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters, sharing the same love that we ourselves have received, and loving one another just as much as we love ourselves.

These two commandments summarised the whole Law as revealed to Moses, and which then was perfected by the Lord, as He showed that the whole Law, all the teachings and words of the prophets were all about love, the love that all of us, God’s people ought to have for Him, because He has loved us first and constantly loving us as well, and which we also ought to love one another in the same way. If we are being prejudiced and harsh towards others, and if we are looking down on anyone because of their race, background, upbringing or any others, then how can we call ourselves as Christians, since all equally beloved by God, and if we do all those we are going against God?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall what we have just heard from our Scripture readings and all that we have discussed together just earlier on, let us discern carefully how we are going to move forward in life from now on. And let us look deep into ourselves and see how we have lived our lives so far, and ask ourselves whether we have been loving in our way of living our lives. We should ask ourselves whether we have loved God first and foremost, having Him as the centre and focus of our existence, or whether we have often forgotten Him for other attachments and temptations of worldly glory and pleasures?

And we should also ask ourselves and reflect whether in how we interact with our fellow brothers and sisters around us, with our own spouses, children, parents, our family members and relatives, and with our friends and acquaintances, and even with all those whom we encounter, with the strangers whom we met in each and every one of our daily activities, have we shown genuine love in our actions? Have we instead sown discord, bitterness and hatred among each other by our words and interactions with each other?

It is much easier for us to love ourselves than to love others, and it is much easier for us to be selfish rather than to be selfless and caring. And that is why all of us are challenged today to learn to love others more and to show more empathy, care and concern for those who are in need of love, for those who are marginalised and ostracised, rejected and despised by the society. Do not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord Himself has shown us the example. When we are still sinners, wicked and terrible, sinful and corrupted, unworthy and broken by those sins, the Lord still loved us and reached out to us with love.

That is why, today on this Sunday and from here onwards, we are all called and challenged to walk in the path that the Lord has set before us, as He calls on all of us to be His witnesses and disciples in this world, to be the ones to proclaim His truth and love, that through our lives, our actions and genuine care and concern for one another, through our enduring and great love, our commitment to God, we may be the shining beacons of faith and examples of Christian charity and love in our world today. And that is how we reveal the Lord to ever more people who desire to know Him, and bring ever more souls to salvation in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be part of this missionary and evangelising mission of the Church, to proclaim the Lord’s truth and love through our own lives, through our own actions and words, our deeds and works in life. We are all called to do our best in our own lives, to be people of love, to be filled with love for God, first and foremost, and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, for all those whom we meet and encounter in life, be it strangers or those whom we know. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to this cause, brothers and sisters? This is what we have been called to do, and we should respond to the Lord’s call, in showing how the Lord and His love is truly Universal and all-encompassing.

In this present world, where there are so many bitterness and hatred, let us all bring love and forgiveness, compassion and mercy. And where there is selfishness and jealousy, let us bring humility, understanding and true, selfless love for our fellow men. And as we know that there are still so many who are suffering these days from the ongoing impact of the pandemic and other troubles facing our world today, let us all do our best, in whichever way we can, to be good influence to others, to be more loving as best as we can, to show more care and empathy towards others, especially those who are suffering and sorrowful. The world has enough pain and suffering as it is, and it is up to us to show out genuine love, which is a reflection of God’s love, to all who need it.

Let us all be the shining beacons of God’s light and love, and be good role models for one another, and may God be with us all that we may continue to persevere in our journey, and remain committed to the mission He has entrusted to us, to make His love and truth known in all the whole world, as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, a truly Universal Church in which every children of God belongs to. May God bless all of us and our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 8 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that while the Church and all of us the faithful people of God will continue to encounter trials and challenges, but we must never lose faith in God and we have to keep on trusting in His providence as He will always be by our side and be our Guide, at all times, all because of the great love that He has always had for each and every one of us. Nothing can change the love that He has for us, and He will always be with us through His Presence in our midst and by the Holy Spirit He has given us to lead us to the right path and to strengthen us.

In our first reading today we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the account of the travels of St. Paul as he continued his missionary journey after having settled the dispute regarding the imposition of Jewish customs and traditions on the converts among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. The Apostles sent St. Paul out to continue his mission in evangelising to the many peoples he visited during his missionary works, especially the Gentiles, many of whom became believers of Christ after they had heard St. Paul and witnessed his work and efforts.

St. Paul went from place to place, from town to town, speaking up about the truth of God which he proclaimed to all those whom he visited, in their synagogues, in their public places and places of assembly, in their houses and other locations. Some were willing to listen to him and open their hearts and minds to God’s truth and love, and that was how the seeds of faith were sown among so many people, many of whom eventually accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and sought to be baptised as members of the Church, as God’s own beloved children.

Yet, there were also so many others who rejected St. Paul and also the other Apostles, and more often than not, they had to suffer trials and persecutions, ridicule and attacks even on their own persons for their courageous efforts in speaking the truth and in defending their Christian faith. Many of them had to endure prison and even torture, with quite a few dying as martyrs in the defence of their faith. All of the Apostles themselves save for St. John the Evangelist suffered and died as martyrs at the various stages in the early decades of the Church.

Nonetheless, all of them exhibited great courage and commitment to the mission that has been entrusted to them, to be the faithful witnesses of Christ, His truth and Resurrection among the many people of the world that they had been sent to, and they remained faithful and firmly set on the path that the Lord has set before them. They went forth, fearlessly, with God by their side, speaking the truth and not allowing themselves to be silenced by the opposition they encountered throughout their journey. Instead, they inspired one another and helped the Church to grow as it was, and many people were saved thanks to the courage of these faithful servants of God, our holy predecessors.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul and all these inspiring examples of our faith should become our own inspiration in how we live our own faith, as we dedicate ourselves in our own way to serve the Lord in our present world today. We are all called to be His faithful disciples and to be His beloved people, exemplary in our faith and actions, that everyone who sees us, hears us, witnesses our actions and interacts with us will know that we are indeed His people, and that through us, God’s Name will always ever be glorified, and all will come to know Him through us.

Are we all willing to commit ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to seek Him with all of our hearts and minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our desires? Are we all ready to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those who have gone before us, to be His witnesses and to be His spokespersons before all, not just by our words, but also through our lives and actions, and in everything we say and do, we have to be good role models through which all can see the truth and love of God in all things. And we need to have that courage in us to live faithfully each and every moments of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us always remember that God is always with us, by our side, and He will always be there for us, guiding us, just as He has always been with His servants throughout all the time. And even when we have to suffer and endure bitterness and humiliation, remember that the Lord Himself has suffered the very same suffering, bitterness and pain, He has endured the Cross for us, and it is with Him that we suffer now, and in fact, we should rejoice as the Apostles and the martyrs had done, in sharing in the suffering and death of the Lord through their own faithful witness and actions.

Let us all be evangelising and missionary disciples, in our own communities and in whatever the Lord has called us to do. Let us all reach out to our fellow brethren, and bring the light of God’s truth and His ever most wonderful and tender love and compassion to all those whom we encounter daily in life. May God be with us always, and may He remain with us, and bless us in everything we say and do, at all times. Amen.

Friday, 7 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of the need for all of us to be constantly filled with God’s love and grace, to be genuine in our faith and devotion to God, and to be sincere in following Him that we all may reflect the fullness of God’s love and compassion in our own lives. God has loved us all so much that He has given us His generous love which He has shown through His Church and by which He has called on all of us to be His disciples so that, as we turn towards Him and enter into His love, we may be saved from everlasting death.

In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the conclusion of the First Council of Jerusalem in which the Apostles, led by St. Peter made an important decision on behalf of the entire Church with regards to the issue on whether the Church need to follow and obey the Jewish laws and customs, and whether those laws ought to be imposed on the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles or not. These matters divided the Church and the faithful back then quite bitterly, and the factions were in heated argument between each other.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among the early converts to the Christian faith were on one side, arguing that all the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people must also follow the entire Jewish laws and customs, such as circumcision and many other rules as established by the Jewish tradition. This would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to convert and become Christians as some of those regulations and customs were abhorred and found as incompatible by the societies in which the Gentiles came from, such as the Greeks and the Romans among others.

On the other side, St. Paul, St. Barnabas and all others who had ministered to the Gentiles spoke up on their behalf, in insisting that the Jewish laws and customs should not be imposed on all the faithful and the Gentiles should not be forced to do what was really difficult and unnecessary for them to do. After all, the Lord Himself has always criticised the excesses with which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced their version of the law and the commandments, imposing very heavy demands that the Jews themselves were unable to comply with, and even while followed, but those who followed them did not genuinely believe in God.

That was why, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the Council decided that all the faithful had no obligation to obey the full laws, rules and regulations as stipulated in the old laws and rules handed down from Moses and which since then had been heavily modified and expanded, and in the way they were practiced, they had lost their true meaning and purpose. Instead, the Apostles, represented by St. Peter, declared that what was truly necessary for all Christians, be it Jews or Gentiles alike, is to adhere to the core tenets of the faith, that is to act justly, avoid fornication and sinful ways, and to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

The Lord sent forth His disciples to call all the people therefore to His presence, to turn away from their sins and wicked ways, and embrace wholeheartedly henceforth His ways, His commandments and laws. Just as all had been called to love the Lord, we all have been called to be bearers of this love, to make Him the focus and the centre of our whole life and existence. And we have to live our lives in this way, just as the Lord in our Gospel passage today spoke of the commandment He has entrusted to us, that we all love one another in the same way that we ought to love Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Unless we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ, then our faith is empty and meaningless, and no different from the faith of hypocrites. If we love only ourselves and not all our fellow brethren around us, then we should not call ourselves as Christians, because to be Christians means that we believe in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour wholeheartedly and entirely, that we embody His teachings, truth and ways in our every day living. This is what it truly means for us to be Christians, and that just as the Lord loves everyone, every single one of His children without exception, then we should also aspire to love all to the best of our abilities too.

In this season and time of Easter, all of us are called to be courageous in faith, as well as to renew our commitments to the Lord. We are all called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, in being good role models and guides of our faith, that we may become inspirations for one another, and that we can help strengthen each other in the daily struggles in life we face. This is why we are reminded and called to be good Christians, not just as mere formality only. We must have that strong and ardent desire to seek the Lord and to love Him from now on.

Let us all therefore reach out to our fellow brethren, especially those who need much love, and those who have been ostracised and forgotten, marginalised and oppressed. Let us all bring God’s love, hope and light into their midst, and be the concrete proof of God’s love in our respective communities, that this world will become an ever better place for all of us. Let us all commit the effort, time and attention for this, brothers and sisters, responding to the Lord’s call as best as we can.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us through life, that all of us may grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and that in all things, we may continue to love Him and also our fellow brothers and sisters, as genuine and dedicated Christians, now and always. Amen.