Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 20 : 19-31

At that time, on the evening of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, the disciples were inside again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came and stood in the their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into My side. Do not be an unbeliever! Believe!”

Thomas then said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see Me, do you not? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of His disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believe, and you will have life through His Name!

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the sending of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom the Lord Himself entrusted the mission to evangelise and to preach the Good News of His salvation. To them the authority had been given to bring peace and the grace of God to mankind, to all the people who are willing to welcome the peace and grace of God.

In the first reading, taken from the last chapters of the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God promised His people with hope and salvation, at a time when many periods of turmoil and suffering had occurred to them for many generations because of their own infidelity and lack of faith in God, following the pagan gods and idols rather than following the Lord their God. The northern kingdom of Israel had also fallen, and most of its people had been brought to slavery and exile in Assyria.

In those darkened and uncertain times, God had promised His mercy and peace, the rest that they would enjoy from all those things that troubled them. But at the same time, as what we heard in the Gospel today, there was a need for those who would come up and bring the word of God to the people and the masses. And only a few of them would dare to come up and to preach to the people of God, the likes of Isaiah himself, and later on Jeremiah.

If we read through the entirety of the book of the prophet Isaiah and especially later on the prophet Jeremiah, we would see how they encountered challenges after challenges in their work, and they certainly did not have it easy most of the time. The kings like Ahaz of Judah rejected Isaiah, and the later kings also rejected Jeremiah. The people refused to listen to them, and false prophets would rise to challenge Jeremiah, spreading lies and untruths, and making Jeremiah’s life very difficult.

That was why Jesus when He spoke to His seventy-two disciples whom He sent ahead of Him, spoke of how He was sending them like sheep among the wolves. They would really be wandering among those who might refuse to listen to the word of God. Some would turn themselves to God, open their hearts and follow Him, but many others would not do so, reject their message and even persecute them.

But God was with them, and He encouraged them, saying that He would be with them, and so long as they remained faithful, their names had been written in heaven, and thus the promise of eternal life and everlasting glory was already theirs. Yet, there is always a lack of faithful servants of the Lord due to various reasons, but especially because of the lack of the ability to commit to a life of suffering and difficulties that would come as a result of our faith in the Lord.

That is why Jesus said that while the harvest was plentiful, but the labourers are few, and those few labourers would not be able to fully engage and capitalise on the rich harvest, and the excess harvest will just be wasted. And this fact cannot be further than the truth today. There is a need for many more labourers and servants of the Lord, those who are willing to give up their time and effort for the sake of the Lord and for His Church.

Today, we celebrate also the feast of one of the Twelve holy Apostles, that is of St. Thomas, the Twin, also known as the doubter and the one who has always been doubtful and lacking in faith in Jesus, and to that end, even doubting that Christ had risen from the dead in His glorious resurrection. He doubted Jesus when He was going forth to Jerusalem, saying that they were all going to die together with Him. And of course all of us are aware that he also asked for a proof that Jesus had risen.

In some ways, the actions and behaviours of St. Thomas represent that of our own actions. We ourselves have not been completely faithful to the Lord, and we have our moments of doubt. There are times I am sure, when we tend to believe more in ourselves and less in God. There are also times when we think that we know it all, and we do not need God. And it is in those moments of vulnerability, when Satan can enter our hearts and sow the seeds of confusion and discord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is also the reason why many of us do not embrace the calling of God. We as Christians have been called to be His servants and to follow His ways in all things, and yet, many of us still commit actions and things that are contrary to the way of the Lord, in being selfish, in being uncaring and unloving towards others, and sometimes even bringing other people into sin through our own actions.

If we ourselves are not capable of fulfilling what is required of us as Christians, then how should we expect that we will be able to convert the whole world to the cause of the Lord? And that is precisely the mission which God had entrusted to all of us, as the members of His Church, to go forth to all the nations and preach the Good News of His salvation, and baptise them all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

We have to start with ourselves, and make a difference from ourselves. Otherwise we will not be able to inspire others if we ourselves have not been faithful to God and righteous in our ways. God Himself will not look kindly upon us if we do not walk faithfully in His ways, if we just call ourselves Christians and yet we act in ways that are totally un-Christian in nature.

There is that challenge for us all Christians, particularly those among us who have been called to serve the Lord. God calls His servants in unique and mysterious ways. He called them through their hearts, prodding them up to take up their crosses and follow Him. He had chosen those whom He deemed to be worthy, and now it is up to those whom God had chosen to choose whether they want to follow Him or not.

But the voice of God is often muffled and silenced by the noise of this world. We are too busy, too distracted by the concerns of the world, by the concerns of power, of wealth and possessions, of the ambitions and human greed, of prestige and many other factors which affect our ability to devote ourselves to God and to His people. And the opposition from the society, even from within our own families will be great too.

Are we all ready to stand up against the challenge? Are we all ready to embrace the roles into which we have been entrusted by God? Let us all embrace our calling, be doubtful no longer but from now on be filled with courage and strength to embark on the way of the Lord. And for those among us whom God has called in His own subtle ways, let us all not be afraid but be fully dedicated and be committed to serve the Lord, carry our crosses and follow Him. St . Thomas himself, who was doubtful, eventually made a turnaround and devoted himself for the Lord with all of his heart and faced death with pride, defending his Lord and Master while bringing many nations to God’s presence.

May God bless us all, and may He put in each and every one of us, a loving heart, fully filled with love for Him and for our fellow men, that in everything we say and do, we will always bring greater glory to the Lord, our God. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 10 : 1-12, 17-20

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest.”

“Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ But in any town where you are not welcome, go to the marketplace and proclaim : ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off and leave with you. But know for a certainty that the kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ I tell you, that on the Day of Judgment it will be better for Sodom than for this town.”

The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on Your Name.” Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you.”

“Nonetheless, do not rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 10 : 1-9

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest.”

“Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.'”

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Galatians 6 : 14-18

For me, I do not wish to take pride in anything except in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord. Through Him the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. Let us no longer speak of the circumcised and of non-Jews, but of a new creation. Let those who live according to this rule receive peace and mercy : they are the Israel of God!

Let no one trouble me any longer : for my part, I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. May the grace of Christ Jesus our Lord be with your spirit brothers and sisters. Amen.

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 65 : 1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a, 16 and 20

Shout with joy to God, all you on earth, sing to the glory of His Name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, “How great are Your deeds!”

All the earth bows down to You, making music in praise of You, singing in honour of Your Name. Come and see God’s wonders, His deeds awesome for humans.

He has turned the sea into dry land, and the river was crossed on foot. Let us, therefore, rejoice in Him. He rules by His might forever.

All you who fear God, come and listen; let me tell you what He has done. May God be blessed! He has not rejected my prayer; nor withheld His love from me.

Sunday, 3 July 2016 : 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 66 : 10-14c

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.

Friday, 3 July 2015 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, namely that of St. Thomas, known also as St. Thomas Didymus or the Twin, whom many of us would know from the Gospels, as the doubting disciple, who did not believe and indeed refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

St. Thomas had always been a doubtful disciple, even before the suffering and death of Jesus. When at one moment Jesus mentioned that He ought to go back to Judea despite opposition and plotting by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, St. Thomas commented that they ought to go forth and follow Him, so they could die together with Him. He made such a comment because of his lack of faith, and the doubt in his heart.

And similarly therefore, he refused to believe when the other disciples told him about the resurrection of Christ from the dead, when he was not there while Christ appeared to them the first time after His resurrection. It was indeed noteworthy what he said in that occasion, that unless he saw with his own eyes and touched with his own hands and fingers the very wounds on the Body of Christ, then he would not believe.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters? It is part of our human nature as well, to demand tangible and real explanation for phenomena and things that we do not understand. We want to touch it first, feel it first, and be able to experience it first with our senses, and then only then we believe in something, and even so, we are still often filled with doubt and uncertainty.

And that comes to the problem which our world is facing today, as more and more people refused to believe in the Lord, because they thought that He does not exist, and that He is not real, just because they were unable to see Him, or touch Him, or interact with Him directly, in a way that we normally interact between one another. So, some of us think that God does not exist, and therefore drift away from His path towards salvation and into the uncertainties of the world.

This is our vulnerability, trying to reason and find proof of the existence of God, without realising that God has always been present with us, and indeed, without Him, there would not have been life in us. If we truly know love, and if we truly have love in us, then we would have known God being present in and around us. For God Himself is love. And the manifestation of that love is none other than by the sending of His Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour.

Jesus came into the world, manifesting the love of God which He had given us. And even at that time, those who saw His miracles and works refused adamantly to believe in Him, including the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who have seen so many of His works and yet continued to oppose Him. Better was the faith of St. Thomas, who at least believed when Jesus finally appeared to him and showed him the truth about Himself and His resurrection.

And as Jesus had told His disciples, indeed, we are all truly blessed, for we have believe in Him, even though we have not seen Him, heard Him or touched Him. We believe in Him, because deep inside, we know that, we live by His grace and love, and His tender love and care is always around us, surrounding us and is with us, and to all those who are faithful to Him, He will bless and give all His promised salvation and entry into the eternal life in bliss prepared for us.

Let us all learn from the examples of St. Thomas the Apostle and the many other faithful disciples of our Lord, who remained true to Him despite all the difficulties and challenges. May this be our destination in life, the goal we ought to look out for. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.