Saturday, 23 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the readings of the Scriptures we heard of the works of the Apostles particularly that of St. Paul and also the renowned Apollos, mentioned in some parts of the Acts of the Apostles as a charismatic convert to the faith, who preached about the faith to many people and gained quite a few following, although as mentioned he did not have full instruction in the Christian faith and therefore did not teach the most accurate revelations of truth to the people.

Some of the faithful assisted Apollos with his works, explained to him about the faith. And after Apollos had understood better about the faith, he became even better in his works among the people, as he also helped the Apostles in travelling from places to places and building the framework for the Church and establishing the communities of Christian believers in those places. Apollos was very successful because of his eloquence and charism, and even more importantly, his open-mindedness and willingness to listen to advice and inputs from others.

All of these are very important things that need to take note of as we live our own lives as Christians. In our Gospel passage today the Lord Jesus Himself mentioned how He has spoken to them in veiled language and using parables and metaphors to reveal to them part of the truth. He promised them all that the time would come when they would understand the truth much better, as He would send them the Holy Spirit to guide them, reveal them the truth and give them the Wisdom of God.

Just like Apollos who at first did not have the full knowledge of the faith and initially preached using what he knew from the limited truth of his Jewish tradition and upbringing, Apollos initially was unable to deliver the true Christian faith to his listeners, but thanks to his willingness to learn from others and to cooperate with the fellow faithful, a sign of great humility, which all of us Christians must also have with us. The examples set by Apollos as well as the other Apostles are reminders for us that we need to be humble and accept the fact that we are limited and weak without God.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Whatever you ask My Father in My Name, you shall receive” and also, “Ask, and receive, so that your joy may be full.” All of these again remind us of our vulnerable and frail state, as mortals who need God for sustenance and strength, for guidance and wisdom. Too often we are too proud and arrogant, thinking highly of ourselves and refusing to admit that we need help or assistance, guidance or direction.

Very often our works in evangelisation and in being witnesses for our faith failed because we think that we have everything we need with us, our own intellect, our own strength and abilities, our own knowledge and talents, in order to carry out our works and efforts. But we forget that we need to put our trust in God and need to base our efforts on Him, and keep Him as the heart and the focus of our Christian actions and outreach. If we detach ourselves from Him and trust only in our own capabilities, sooner or later we will falter and fail.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in these days, these times and age, when we are faced with ever increasing encroachment from secularism and the lack of faith and respect for God, let us all remember again and again what our faith is all about, and how fortunate we are to have such a loving and wonderful God to be by our side, caring for us, loving us and holding us as precious and important to Him, that He is willing to give us everything and promising us eternal life and glory.

Are we able and willing to trust more in God, to draw ever closer to Him, and to commit ourselves to Him, deepening our relationship with Him? Let us all do our very best to walk with God, to do our works and efforts with Him and through Him from now on, that we may indeed be able to do our best in whatever we do, and in whatever we do, let us all do it all for the greater glory of God rather than for our own selfish desires and wants. May God bless us all and guide us always, in our journey. Amen.

Saturday, 23 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 23b-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. So far you have not asked in My Name; ask, and receive, that your joy may be full.”

“I taught you all this in veiled language, but the time is coming when I shall no longer speak in veiled language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. When that day comes, you will ask in My Name; and it will not be for Me to ask the Father for you, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and you believe that I came from the Father.”

“As I came from the Father, and have come into the world, so I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.”

Saturday, 23 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 8-9, 10

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

God is King of all the earth; sing to Him a hymn of praise. For God now rules over the nations, God reigns from His holy throne.

The leaders of the nations rally together with the people of the God of Abraham. For in His hands are the great of the earth, God reigns far above.

Saturday, 23 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 18 : 23-28

After spending some time at Antioch, Paul left and travelled from place to place through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples. A certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived at Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and an authority on the Scriptures, and he had some knowledge of the way of the Lord.

With great enthusiasm he preached and taught correctly about Jesus, although he knew only of John’s baptism. As he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila heard him; so they took him home with them and explained to him the way more accurately.

As Apollos wished to go to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly strengthened those who, by God’s grace, had become believers, for he vigorously refuted the Jews, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded by God to keep up, to have hope, and to trust in Him, never to worry or to be afraid, but to be faithful because God Himself will help us and provide for us, and He will bring us out of the darkness and evil into the new life of light and joy. This is what the Lord has promised us and what He will grant us through our faith in Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord reassurance to St. Paul as he carried out his mission in the region of Greece as he visited several places carrying out works of evangelisation and preaching the Good News to the people in those places. He had encountered difficulties and challenges from both the pagans who refused to believe in him and ridiculed his revelation to them of the monotheistic faith in the one True God. Some among the pagans were receptive of the truth, but there were many who refused to believe.

In addition, St. Paul also encountered a lot of challenges and problems from the Jewish communities of the Jewish diaspora in many of the cities and towns that he had visited. Some of the Jews, like some among the pagans, were receptive of the Apostle and the message of truth that he brought to them, but many others persecuted the Apostle and the other Christian missionaries as well as the Christian converts in their midst. This was part of the conflicts among the Jewish elites who saw Christianity as an aberration and heresy because of the teachings of Jesus Who had been condemned by the Sanhedrin to death.

Amidst all of these situations, it must have seemed very daunting for St. Paul to continue with his mission, as he was often alone against so many people who were against him, were rude to him, and had his life threatened on not just once, but a few separate occasions. He could have given up and returned to safer places, but God reassured St. Paul and said that He would be with him along his journey and while he might encounter difficulties, but he would not be harmed.

In that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles we heard then the very proof of God’s providence, how God saved St. Paul from trouble when he was faced with all these oppositions and troubles. And when the governor to whom the Jews had complained about St. Paul refused to indict the Apostle based on their complaints against him, they became desperate and even plotted further by trying to incite a riot with the beating of one of the leading man of the synagogue.

Yet, God saved St. Paul and prevented harm from coming to him. The plots and efforts of all those who were against the faithful servants of God could not stop the zeal and the dedication which they showed us through their commitment and devotion. They trusted fully in the Lord because as the Lord Himself reassured them, that their pains, sorrows, sufferings and troubles were merely temporary, and in the end, they would receive the promise of eternal glory and true joy.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord reassuring His disciples using the metaphor and comparison to the woman who was about to give birth, suffering and enduring the bitter pain of the birth process, and yet, once the whole process ended, the woman would be happier and felt more wonderful with the joy that her newborn brought her, helping her to overcome all the pain and sorrow that had come earlier on. In this same way therefore, our faithful predecessors, from the days of the earliest Christians, focused their attention on the reassurances of Christ’s coming glory, enduring the challenges and trials in their path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are now living through a truly unsettling and challenging times, in the midst of great economic crises, societal instability and divisions, brought about mainly by the current pandemic, as well as the conflicts and disagreements between nations and communities among others, it must have been tough for us to remain hopeful and strong amidst all the challenges that we and our families are facing. Some of us have people we know and love who are suffering and sick, and some even had lost our loved ones, or are separated because they are our frontline healthcare workers and other essential workers.

Quite a few people had also lost their means of income and employment, losing what was once stable and certain iron rice bowl of income. Many are still unsure of their future, as although they have retained their employment, but they have faced great pay cuts and reductions, put on no-pay leave for indefinite length among others. We have many people having difficulties in seeking their first-time jobs due to the lack of demand in the job market, and many other problems that may make everything seem to be very bleak.

Yet, we must not lose hope, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must stay faithful in God and give Him our trust, for everything that we are facing now, are indeed truly temporary and will not last forever. We must keep our focus and attention on God and His sure promise of eternal joy and glory with Him, that while we may suffer and face challenges now in this world, all of these troubles and challenges combined cannot compare to the great things we are to receive later.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, one of the saints who had truly difficult life, having married into a difficult family involved in the late Medieval Italian conflicts among feuding families, which led to the murder of her husband. St. Rita of Cascia had a difficult life filled with abuse, insults and humiliation, but before her husband’s murder by a rival family, her steadfastness in faith and efforts to convert her husband bore fruit as her husband had at least become a much better person by the time of his death.

And when her husband’s greater family wanted her sons to take part in revenge action against the rival family for the murder of their father, despite St. Rita of Cascia’s efforts in keeping her sons faithful and away from the wicked activities, eventually, she prayed to God asking Him humbly to take them away from the world. It must have been very hard and painful for a mother to ask God to take her own sons away, but she did so knowing that it would be better for them to be taken away, rather than for them to commit grave sins through revenge and more, and end up in hell for eternity.

After the deaths of both of her sons due to sickness, St. Rita of Cascia became a religious and dedicated the rest of her life in prayerful service to God, living a virtuous and piety-filled life as she had done earlier on in her life. Her great and exemplary life inspired many others, and eventually made her to be venerated as a great saint many years after she has passed on. And now, all of us can also emulate her virtues and good examples in each and every one of our lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to trust in God more and focus ourselves more to Him, entrusting ourselves so completely like St. Paul as well as St. Rita of Cascia had done? There will indeed be lots of trials and pains we may have to endure in our respective journeys of life, but unless we have that firm faith in God, then it will be very easy for us to fall into despair and darkness, to give up on our lives and everything just because we lose sight on God and His love.

Let us all discern on this and spend some time reevaluating our lives, our choices of action and our direction as we progress on in our lives. Let us all be more faithful from now on, trust God more, and every importantly, deepen our relationship with Him, spending more time with Him in prayer, through charity and action, loving our fellow men and understanding more what our role is as Christians in our world today. May the Lord help us all to be strong in our faith, and may He give us the courage to go on and strive harder despite the trials and challenges we may face going forward. Amen.

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 20-23a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy : a human being is born into the world.”

“You feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you. When that day comes you will not ask Me anything.”

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

He brings peoples under our dominion and puts nations under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us – the pride of Jacob whom He loves!

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 18 : 9-18

One night, in a vision, the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but continue speaking and do not be silent, for many people in this city are Mine. I am with you, so no one will harm you.” So Paul stayed a year and a half in that place, teaching the word of God among them.

When Gallio was governor of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the court. And they accused him, “This man tries to persuade us to worship God in ways that are against the Law.”

Paul was about to speak in his own defence when Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of misdeed or vicious crime, I would have to consider your complaint. But since this is a quarrel about teachings and divine names that are proper to your own law, see to it yourselves : I refuse to judge such matters.”

Then the people seized Sosthenes, a leading man of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal; but Gallio paid no attention to it. Paul stayed on with the disciples in Corinth for many days; he then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. And as he was no longer under a vow he had taken, he shaved his head before sailing from Cenchreae.

Thursday, 21 May 2020 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, on the fortieth day of this season, we celebrate together the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, celebrating the moment when forty days after His Resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended in glory into Heaven, to return to His heavenly Throne, triumphant and victorious in the sight of all of His disciples who witnessed the events and testified about it on their missions and passed down the truth to us through the Church.

On this day, we remember that moment when the Lord was no longer physically present among His disciples and followers, when they can no longer directly see Him or touch Him as they had been able to during their approximately three years of following Him throughout His works and ministries. But this did not mean that the Lord abandoned or left His disciples, or ignored them and did not care about them any more. On the contrary, the Lord Himself specifically mentioned that He went to prepare the places for His faithful ones, and that He would also send a great Helper to assist His faithful.

This Helper or the Advocate is the Holy Spirit, Whom God promised to send to all of His faithful ones. The Holy Spirit is the source of strength and hope for all the faithful, the font of wisdom and truth for them during their works and ministries. And the Lord would fulfil this promise as in ten days after His Ascension, the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles as they prayed in a room, an event known as the Pentecost, and which also marked the birth of the Church.

All of these are reminders for each and every one of us that God will always be with us no matter what, and He will always provide for us and care for us at all times. He is always ever faithful to the Covenant He has established with us and we must also not forget that while we can see Him no more than the Apostles no longer could see Him after He ascended, but in truth, He is always close to us because of the most precious gifts He has given to each and every one of us.

The Lord has given us all through the Most Holy and Precious Eucharist, as the Most Precious Body and the Most Precious Blood of His own, that from the bread and wine offered by the priests in each and every Holy Mass, by the power and authority granted to all of them through His Apostles, God Himself, in the person of each of the priests, bishops and the ordained ministers of the sacred priesthood transformed those bread and wine into the real essence and presence, the matter and reality of His own Body and Blood.

This is because we truly believe that each and every celebrations of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are the very same sacrifice that Our Lord Himself had offered at Calvary, when He willingly bore the burden of the Cross and gave Himself to be the sacrificial Victim for the sake of our salvation and to free us from the destruction because of our sins and wickedness. The Lord has gone through all these for our sake because He truly loves each and every one of us, without exceptions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, let us all therefore look up to the Lord and remember His love for us, and this Easter has indeed been a great time for us to recall the hope that we find through our Lord’s triumphant victory against evil and sin, His sacrifice to liberate us from our sins and from the chains of our bondage to these sins and wickedness. The Ascension is a reminder that if we are all faithful to the Lord, as He Himself had mentioned to His disciples, He will prepare for us all the place in the eternal glory and joy with Him.

On this day, we ought to remind ourselves that God has always been faithful and loving, ever fulfilling the part of His Covenant and His promises to us. Therefore we need to have faith in Him that no matter how challenging and difficult our lives’ situation may be like on earth, we must have hope and trust in God that everything will be fine in the end. And we all know how challenging and difficult life must have been for many of us in the past few weeks and months, all the fears and uncertainties we are facing at home and at workplace.

Many among us are enduring plenty of challenges and sufferings, some being sick from the pandemic, while others are economically affected because of the immense disruption this pandemic and other issues happening all around us had caused so far. Many have lost hope and even their loved ones, family members and friends in the past few weeks and months. It is understandable why many people are now despairing and suffering because of all these.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, it is our duty indeed to be the bearers of God’s hope to all of our fellow men, that we may truly proclaim His truth to everyone, that despite the darkness being present all around us, all is not lost because while we all certainly fear death and separation from our loved ones, but Christ by His triumph over evil and death, and by His glorious Ascension into heaven has shown us the path forward, a path of light and hope, free from darkness and despair.

Let us all bear this same hope, and the same light of Christ in our own lives, by sharing them through our words, actions and deeds. Let our words bring hope and encouragement, not hatred, division and scorn. Let our actions bring healing and strength to the downtrodden, and not selfishness and haughtiness, and let our deeds bring others to come to know God, our loving Creator, showing His love, care and compassion for each and every one of us, by showing that same love to our fellow men.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Saviour, Ascended in glory to His heavenly Throne and reigning over all, give us the strength and courage to live our lives according to His ways, and may He empower us all to be true Christians in all words and deeds, at all times and circumstances, that we may remain hopeful and true to our faith and look forward to the time of our own glorification at the end of time, sharing in the glory of His Ascension. May God bless us all and our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 21 May 2020 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 28 : 16-20

At that time, as for the eleven disciples, they went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Jesus, they bowed before Him, although some doubted.

Then Jesus approached them and said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptise them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you always even to the end of the world.”