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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 148 : 1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Alleluia! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heavenly heights. Praise Him, all His Angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Kings of the earth and nations, princes and all rulers of the world, young men and maidens, old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord. For His Name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has given His people glory; He has a praise to His faithful, to Israel, the people close to Him. Alleluia.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 17 : 15, 22 – Acts 18 : 1

Paul was taken as far as Athens by his escort, who then returned to Beroea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible. Then Paul stood up in the Areopagus hall and said, “Athenian citizens, I note that in every way you are very religious. As I walked around looking at your shrines, I even discovered an altar with this inscription : To an unknown God. Now, what you worship as unknown, I intend to make known to you.”

“God, Who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, being as He is Lord of heaven and earth. Nor does His worship depend on anything made by human hands, as if He were in need. Rather it is He Who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone.”

“From one stock He created the whole human race to live throughout all the earth, and He fixed the time and the boundaries of each nation. He wanted them to seek Him by themselves, even if it were only by groping for Him, succeed in finding Him. Yet He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said : for we too are His offspring.”

“If we are indeed God’s offspring, we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of human art and imagination. But now God prefers to overlook this time of ignorance and He calls on all people to change their ways. He has already set a day on which He will judge the world with justice through a Man He has appointed. And, so that all may believe it, He has just given a sign by raising this Man from the dead.”

When they heard Paul speak of a resurrection from death, some made fun of him, while others said, “We must hear you on this topic some other time.” At that point Paul left. But a few did join him, and believed. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, a woman named Damaris, and some others. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the commandments that God has given to us and which He has revealed to us first of all through His servant Moses, in the form of the laws of the Old Testament, the laws of Moses, and then which He completed and revealed fully through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

The Lord assured all of us as we heard in our Gospel passage today that all those who obey His commandments will not be disappointed, as all of us who are in this world and obey His commandments will receive the promise of eternal glory and eternal life that can be found in God alone. Conversely, there can be no place in God’s presence for all those who refuse to obey the commandments of God.

And in the first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the efforts of St. Paul and St. Barnabas in the town of Lystra, where they performed miracles and signs, which the people misunderstood and misrepresented as the acts of the divine, that is their own divinity, the gods and deities of the Ancient Greco-Roman religion, of Zeus, the god of the sky, his supposed son Hercules and many other deities.

We see in these deities, in fact, the perversion of human desires and their own shortcomings, as is frequent among the polytheistic religions and customs that came before the advent of the Christian faith. For example, in the ancient Greek religion itself, many of the deities behaved no better and if not worse than that of human beings. Yes, they were supposedly powerful and mighty, with supernatural powers and control over the elements, but their behaviours were often debauched, a reflection of the imperfect humans who created them.

And all these were caused by man’s of self-desire to love themselves, to benefit themselves and to gain for themselves as much as can be profitable for them. They saw in their gods and deities a reflection of themselves, in what they hoped to achieve, more worldly power, more money and wealth, more sexual pleasures and many other forms of the indulgence of the flesh and the body and mind, and many other indulgences and pleasures.

That was why, they failed to recognise God’s truth being present in their midst, just as they mistook St. Paul and St. Barnabas as being the gods they coveted and worshipped being present right in their midst. But the Apostles presented to them the truth, that it was not all those false deities or human beings that should be worshipped, but God alone, the One and only True God. They did not allow themselves to be swayed by pride and desire for power, and that was exactly why the people there then must have been dumbfounded.

After all, who does not desire power and glory. If we can put ourselves in the shoes of the Apostles at that time, seeing the population of a whole city coming to you and bowing down before you as if you were gods and divinities surely would make you proud and arrogant, thinking that you are someone special and powerful. But that was where the Apostles clearly made their stand and resisted the temptation.

Instead, they firmly held onto their faith in God, remembering that first and foremost, it is God alone Who deserves such kind of love and adoration, and they put God before themselves and cast aside their pride and desire. They also loved their fellow brethren so dearly that they were willing to spend the time to explain to them the truth so that they would not fall into the wrong path or continue down the path of debauchery and sin.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about we ourselves? How have we lived our lives thus far? Have we been obedient to God’s will and commandments, or have we instead acted and done things according to our own selfish desires and wants? If we have been mostly doing the latter actions, then perhaps now is the time for us to reflect and begin making a change, by not putting ourselves and our own interests ahead of the obligations we have to God and the love which we ought to show our fellow brethren.

It was what St. Bernardine of Siena, who is today’s saint, had done with his own life. He was well known for his preaching against all kinds of immoral conduct, which ultimately stemmed from humanity’s prideful and selfish desires, and did a lot of work in trying to bring as many as possible to God’s redemption. He had many challenges, and not few opposed his work, but regardless, he continued to do the good works of God, loving God and his fellow men.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us all in out journey of life, and give us the courage and strength to be able to resist the temptation of pride and desire, and instead follow the good examples of the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas, and St. Bernardine of Siena in their tireless and loving dedication to God. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 14 : 21-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever keeps My commandments is the one who loves Me. If he loves Me, he will also be loved by My Father; I too shall love him and show Myself clearly to him.”

Judas – not Judas Iscariot – asked Jesus, “Lord, how can it be that You will show Yourself clearly to us and not to the world!” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him; and We will come to him and make a room in his home.”

“But if anyone does not love Me, he will not keep My words; and these words that you hear are not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me. I told you all this while I was still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”

Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 113B : 1-2, 3-4, 15-16

Not to us, o Lord, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory, for the sake of Your love and faithfulness. Why should the pagans say, “Where is their God?”

There in heaven is our God; whatever He wishes, He does. Not so the hand-made idols, crafted in silver and gold.

May you be blessed by the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. Heaven belongs to the Lord, but the earth He has given to humans.

Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 14 : 5-18

A move was made by pagans and Jews, together with their leaders, to harm the Apostles and to stone them. But Paul and Barnabas learnt of this and fled to Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside, where they continued preaching the Good News.

Paul and Barnabas spent a fairly long time at Lystra. There was a crippled man in Lystra who had never been able to stand or walk. One day, as he was listening to the preaching, Paul looked intently at him and saw that he had the faith to be saved. So he spoke to him in a loud voice, “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to stand up on your feet!” And the man stood up and began to walk around.

When the people saw what Paul had done, they cried out in the language of Lycaonia, “The gods have come to us in human likeness!” They named Barnabas Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. Even the priest of the Temple of Zeus, which stood outside the town, brought oxen and garlands to the gate; together with the people, he wanted to offer sacrifice to them.

When Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their garment to show their indignation and rushed into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are human beings with the same weakness you have and we are now telling you to turn away from these useless things to the living God Who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them.”

“In past generations He allowed each nation to go its own way, though He never stopped making Himself known; for He is continually doing good, giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, providing you with food and filling your hearts with gladness.”

Even these words could hardly keep the crowd from offering sacrifice to them.

Saturday, 20 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard a reminder that if we are to remain faithful and true to the Lord, in our faith to Him, we will encounter difficulties and challenges in our path, as there will definitely be those who will be opposed to us and to our faith, namely those who are clinging on to the ways of the world and would not want to see their influence challenged by us.

That means, our lives as Christians, if we truly cling onto our faith in God, and practice wholeheartedly what we believe in, will not be that smooth-going and easy. If we have found our lives to be easy and manageable, without crisis or difficulty, perhaps that is because God had indeed blessed us so, or which we hope that is not the case, that we have not been truly faithful in our ways and in our lives.

Many of us want to be accepted by the world, and to that extent, we conform to the ways and customs of the world, even if that ran contrary to the teachings of our faith. At the same time, we know that the reality in our Church is that there are many who are ‘cafetaria Christians’, which means those who pick and choose what they want to believe in our faith, and refuse to believe or that they are ignoring those tenets which they found to be too difficult to be followed or complied with.

That was what happened to the disciples of Jesus two millennia ago, as Jesus went about preaching about the coming of the kingdom of God to them and speaking about Himself, the truth of what would happen to them should they became His followers, and what they needed to believe in, even when they found the teaching to be difficult to be complied with. Indeed, many left the Lord behind because they were not willing to open their hearts and listen to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not we all should be like, as all of us should be true and devoted to our Lord in all things we do, and believe in Him wholeheartedly, and not conditionally. After all, the Lord had given us all His life and His love unconditionally, by His loving sacrifice on the cross. He has loved us with all of His heart, generously granting us pardon and mercy, forgiveness and grace even when we are all still great sinners and rebels.

If the Lord had not hold back His love for us, then why should we then hold back our love for Him? Why do we have to choose or to select what we want to believe in His message? Why should we set conditions for the Lord? It is not right, if He had already suffered for our sake, bearing the burden for our sins, the burdens which should have been ours, and died on the cross for us, then we should not and indeed cannot treat the Lord with ignorance or apathy.

We must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and learn from the examples of the holy saints, especially St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast day we are celebrating on this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a devout and holy priest, as a Franciscan missionary who lived during the late Medieval era. He was renowned as the ‘Apostle of Italy’ for his tireless works in bringing many people, especially throughout Italy, the heart of Christendom, back to the Lord.

For at that time, many of the people did not live in accordance with the ways of the Lord, living in debauchery and sin, in wickedness and doing what is vile and evil in the sight of God. People are more concerned with money and worldly livelihood rather than serving the Lord and obeying His will. St. Bernardine went around many places, preaching directly to the people in those places, and his words of encouragement and call to repentance have brought many people back to the loving embrace of the Lord.

His sincerity and devotion to the Lord inspired those lost souls who saw the light of God through St. Bernardine of Siena, like that of darkness being pushed back by the light. His examples and his dedication to the salvation of souls should be our inspiration, brothers and sisters in Christ, in how we ought to live our lives faithfully to the Lord. We should be exemplary in our actions and deeds, so that all those who see us will also then come to believe in God through us.

May the Lord awaken in all of us the desire to love Him, and to obey Him in all of His teachings. May we follow in the footsteps of St. Bernardine of Siena, that in all the things we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of the Lord and remain true to His ways. Amen.

Saturday, 20 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”