Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded constantly of our responsibilities and calling as Christians to love one another, to be ever generous in loving and to be filled with love in all of our actions, words and deeds. As Christians we have to put our brethren and others above ourselves, to be ever ready to commit ourselves for the good of our fellow men and women, and to spend the time, effort and attention to reach out with that love to our fellow brethren. We cannot be idle and be ignorant of this calling to love, for if we are truly God’s people, then we will also love in the same way that He has loved us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the conclusion of the matter highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles regarding the disagreements surrounding the commitments and responsibilities expected of the Christian faithful especially related to the old laws, customs and practices of the Jewish people. There were those who desired and even forced the adoption of the Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision and the strict dietary laws on the Gentiles or the non-Jews who converted to the Christian faith. Against these were those who argued that the Church should be more open in engaging the Gentiles and should not make it difficult for them to embrace the Christian faith.

Contextually, the cultural differences and other misunderstandings and prejudices existing between the Jews and the Gentiles were making it difficult for the new Christians to adopt the entire strict and extensive provisions of the Jewish laws as espoused by some of the Jewish Christians. This is because some of those practices and customs were regarded as undesirable, strange and even barbaric by the Romans, Greeks and some other people who were living then all around the Mediterranean, those to whom the Apostles and the other disciples had been ministering and preaching towards.

Hence, the Apostles having discussed and prayed over the matter with the elders of the Church, all of them agreed to not force the Jewish customs and laws on the entire body of the faithful, as doing so is contrary to the Lord’s commandments to love, and in fact as mentioned, is a distraction to the true way of the Lord. Some of those customs and practices were kept by the Pharisees to the extremes which not only turned people away from the Lord, but also ended up causing the laws themselves becoming more important and became the focus of attention rather than the Lord Himself. Hence, the Church commanded the faithful to follow only what the Lord Himself had told them to do, as according to what has been revealed through Christ.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard once again that commandment of love being spoken to us through Our Lord Himself, Who told His disciples to love generously and wholeheartedly, to love one another just as He has loved all of them. The Lord has showed us all His unconditional love, His compassion and loving mercy, that even when we were still sinners and rebellious against Him, His love for us did not change at all. That love transcends even the disgust He has for our sinful ways, and hence, because of that love which He has unconditionally showed us, He endeavoured to come to our midst that He may show us what His love is all about.

The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, embracing His love and mercy. He wants each and every one of us to throw away our attachments to sin and to the wickedness that once permeated our lives. And if we still live in the way and path of sin, all of us are called to turn away from those sins and embrace God’s love anew. Are we all capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord wholeheartedly and then as He has commanded us to do, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same kind of love as well? Are we able to love one another generously and genuinely?

Today we should be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher and missionary, who spent a lot of time and effort in caring for the spiritual needs of the people. He was remembered as one of the greatest preachers that the Church ever had, preaching directly to the public with zeal and honesty, from his heart, speaking to them and showing them what the genuine love of God looks and feels like. He showed the people how God loved them all, and inspired them to love Him and in loving one another as well, distancing themselves from the path of sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we inspired to be more like St. Bernardine of Siena and many other great saints, holy men and women of God who had gone before us, that by our actions, words and deeds, we may truly proclaim the Lord to all those whom we encounter in life, proclaiming His love and kindness, His great generosity and mercy, by our own loving actions to one another? We are all called and chosen as Christians to be the bearers and witnesses of God’s ever amazing love for His people. We are all reminded that by our love, many more will know about God and they will also know that we are His people.

May God help us to be His great disciples, in revealing Him and His love to more and more people all around the world. May He empower us all to remain always faithful to Him at all times, and bless our good works, for His greater glory, bow and always. Amen.

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 8-9, 10-12

My heart is steadfast, o God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul, awake, o harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn.

I will give thanks to You, o Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to You among the nations. For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Let Your Glory be over all the earth!

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 22-31

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

Thursday, 20 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the time when St. Paul was in Jerusalem, having followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then was accused and attacked by the Jewish leaders from both the members of the Pharisees party and from the Sadducees party. These two groups were very influential and powerful groups of people during the time of the Lord’s ministry and the early Church, both opposing St. Paul in his missionary efforts while at the same time were also bitterly divided against each other.

The Pharisees were the spiritual leaders in the community, those with intellectual knowledge and wisdom, knowledge of the Law and the teachings of the prophets, yet because of their pride and their refusal to admit that someone else could have a greater and more complete truth than them, they failed to recognise the Lord Jesus as the Saviour and the One Whom God had sent into the world, and of Whom the prophets and the Scriptures were all speaking about. They were blinded by their own vanity and their pride, and as a result, they also opposed and persecuted St. Paul for his faith. St. Paul himself was a Pharisee before he converted to the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, the Sadducees were the secular leaders and powerful members of the community whose beliefs were almost diametrically opposite that of the Pharisees. These people did not believe in matters spiritual, in Angels and spirits, or in the Resurrection unlike the Pharisees. They represent the materialistic and worldly segments of the society, and they opposed St. Paul and the Lord because of their beliefs and the belief in the Resurrection, which the Lord Himself had gone through, as these were opposed to their own fundamental beliefs.

As such, while they both opposed St. Paul and wanted to arrest and punish him, they were not united at all in their purpose and intentions. The moment that St. Paul exposed this, when he mentioned how he was once a young Pharisee before his conversion, the whole place went up in great uproar as the Pharisees and the Sadducees went against each other instead of St. Paul, showing in the end just how bitterly divided they were, and this is especially so because neither of them had the fullness of truth, having denied Christ and His teachings, and His Apostle St. Paul.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord in the continuation of His prayer for the sake of His disciples, on the night before He was to be arrested and put to death. The Lord Jesus prayed over His disciples, asking His heavenly Father to guide them and to strengthen them, and to keep them in the perfection of unity and truth, just as He and His Father are One, with the Holy Spirit. The Lord wanted to stress to all of His disciples that through the truth that He has brought into their midst and which He has revealed to them, He would keep them to Himself and that they would remain united and strong so long as they anchored themselves in Him.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called today to embrace the truth of God wholeheartedly. We should not be stubborn like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who clung to their thoughts and way of life so much that they refused to listen to the Lord and His truth even when He Himself has patiently explained and revealed all these to them throughout His ministry, and which is then later on continued by His disciples like by St. Paul and the other Apostles. We should allow the Lord to knock on the doors of our hearts and minds, that we may understand His truth and know Him more so that we may love Him all the more.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a famous missionary priest, whose life was dedicated to the Lord, and whose works brought so many people back to the embrace of the Mother Church and many were converted to the truth. St. Bernardine of Siena was born into a noble family though orphaned at a young age. He then joined the Franciscans and became a priest, ministering to many people throughout Italy, in his various journey of preaching and outreach to them.

St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher, one who is truly convinced of the truth he was preaching, and although he was weak in voice and stature, his preaching and words were so powerful that throughout his more than three decades of ministry, countless people turned to the Lord and the faith was rejuvenated in so many others, leading to a great period of religious revival all over Italy, throughout all the places he has been preaching and ministering in. St. Bernardine followed in the footsteps of St. Paul and the other Apostles, reaching out to those who have not yet known the Lord and making Him known to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples showed by St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Paul and all of our holy predecessors, all those who have gone before us and showed us what it means to be true Christians in actions, deeds and words. Are we all willing to commit ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly as they had done? We have been entrusted with the same truth and are called to commit ourselves to be part of the efforts of the Church in evangelisation and conversion of the whole world.

Let us all therefore be genuine Christians not just in words but also in deeds, and do our best in whatever we do, in even the smallest and the simplest things that we do, to glorify the Lord by our lives. This is what we are all expected to do, and what each and every one of us should be inspired to do at all times, throughout our lives. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed conviction and desire to love Him and serve Him at all times, and let us reach out to our fellow brethren, proclaiming the truth of God at all times.

May God be with us all, and may He strengthen us and encourage us to walk ever more faithfully in His path, following the zeal and piety of St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Paul the Apostle, and all the other courageous and faithful saints and martyrs, our most noble inspirations in faith and life. Amen.

Thursday, 20 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Thursday, 20 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Thursday, 20 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the end of the season of Easter and as we are about to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension tomorrow, each and every one of us are called as Christians to be the witnesses of the truth of Christ, that is to proclaim Him in our lives and in our daily actions, that others may come to believe in the Lord and follow Him into their salvation much as we have received the same offer of salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard the account of how St. Paul went to the renowned forum in the great city of Athens, named Areopagus, where many people often came for philosophical debates and discussions between those who were interested. St. Paul went and joined in the debate as he came forth presenting the words of God and His calling, preaching to many of the pagan philosophers about the one and only true God, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all the whole world.

St. Paul revealed the truth about God, the One Who loved all mankind, regardless of whoever and wherever they are, the One Who created the whole world and the entire universe, to those philosophers, many of whom had probably spent many years, decades and even perhaps their entire lives just to find the meaning and purpose of their lives. Some among the philosophers and pagans were intrigued by what St. Paul had revealed and spoken to them, and were open to listen more to him.

Unfortunately, many among the people ridiculed St. Paul and his revelations and words, laughed at him, ignored him and scorned him. This was to be expected given that the commonly held ideas and thoughts of that time were polytheism in worship, where people believed in many gods and deities, as well as many who worshipped elements and aspects of nature, including the Greeks and Romans, many of whom linked the elements of these paganism into their philosophical thinking.

Nonetheless, St. Paul tried and did his best to explain about God to these people in the place many considered to be the heart of Hellenistic paganism and philosophy, many of which aspect were against the Christian faith. He was patient yet succinct and detailed in his explanation and refute of the false pagan ways and practices. As a result, some of the pagans as mentioned did become intrigued by the revelations made by St. Paul, and it was likely that some among them did become Christians in the end.

St. Paul laboured and worked hard, revealing what he himself has received from the Spirit of Truth as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Holy Spirit has been sent from God to all the Apostles and disciples, who by laying of hands have passed the same Holy Spirit to all Christians, all throughout the ages and up to us all living today. We too have received the same Spirit, the same revelation and truth, as what we believe in our Christian faith and Creed that we believe in the One and only True God Who created all the world and the universe.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, to us have been entrusted the same mission and calling as St. Paul, and the missions and works of the Church are still far from being completed. On the contrary, there are still many areas where we can still contribute more in our own various capacities, to engage our fellow brothers and sisters especially those who have not yet known Christ in meaningful and respectful discourse that they too may come to believe in Him through us.

But if we want others to believe in God through us, then we ourselves must have genuine and strong faith in Him. Otherwise, how can we expect others to believe when we ourselves do not fully believe and practice our faith in our own daily lives and actions? We will be hypocrites and wicked if we do otherwise. That is why we should follow the good examples set by our predecessors. Today, we happen to celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a devout and holy priest, a dedicated servant of God whose examples can definitely inspire us.

St. Bernardine of Siena was renowned for his great piety and revolutionary style of preaching. Just like St. Paul, St. Bernardine of Siena spoke honestly and freely to the people. St. Bernardine of Siena reached out to the people and spoke to them about matters that directly influenced their lives. His efforts led to many people beginning to seek God more earnestly or trying to reevaluate their way of life. Many turned away from excesses of life and reorientate their lives towards God once again.

Of course, this did not mean that St. Bernardine did not encounter troubles during his journeys and works. There were also those that opposed and despised him, and in more than one occasions, people had tried to disturb and sabotage his sermons and works. That was the same rejection and difficulties that St. Paul and the other early Christian missionaries have experienced as well, and which we may experience ourselves during our own lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that we have been called to be faithful witnesses of the Lord in all occasions. Let us all be inspired by the faith of our holy predecessors, St. Paul and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, St. Bernardine of Siena whose memory we celebrate today. Let us strive to be ever more committed to our faith, and dedicate ourselves with ever greater passion with each and every passing moments, giving ourselves to the service of God and our fellow men. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come.”

“He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me. All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”