Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are reminded of the love that God has for all of us, and how all of us are called to put our faith in Him and to entrust ourselves in His care. And the message from today’s Scripture readings is indeed apt and fitting especially during these days when we are facing so many challenges and trials, hardships and troubles all around us.

All of us have heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Zechariah in our first reading today, in which the Lord promised the coming of salvation when the King Himself would come to Jerusalem and bring forth salvation and new life to all of His beloved people. This is also the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, seated on a humble donkey, which would be fulfilled when Christ came to Jerusalem on the donkey just before His Passion, suffering and death.

In that same passage, we heard of the Lord speaking of how there would no longer be chariots in Ephraim and neither there would be horses in Jerusalem. These spoke of the means of war represented by the chariots and horses, between Ephraim, where the northern kingdom of Israel was centred and Jerusalem, the centre of the southern kingdom of Judah. Both kingdoms had been divided since the time of king Solomon’s death, and feuded for the next few centuries since.

Therefore, the Lord spoke of the coming of the good time when the people would no longer be divided, of the times when they would be restored and strengthened, when the veil of shame and humiliation would be lifted from them, after each kingdoms were subjugated, conquered and their populations exiled and enslaved by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively. The Lord would bring them all out of their misery just as He had once done with them as He delivered them from the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

This was then fulfilled in Christ, when He came into this world and revealed the fulfilment of God’s long planned salvation of His people, as the Gospel passage today had told us, that He, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of all, has brought with Him the truth of God, how He was going to save all of us mankind, and how there is only one path to salvation, that is through Him, by believing in Him and trusting in Him.

He calls on all of us to come to Him, to seek Him and to put our trust in Him as His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and we ought to seek our rest in Him. But are we willing to come to Him and to seek Him? Or have we instead been distracted and swayed to follow the wrong and false paths promoted by the devil and all those seeking to turn us away from God? This is where as Christians we must indeed show good examples, and strive our best to put our strong, living and genuine faith in Him.

From what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, and from what many of our predecessors in faith had experienced, all of us have to realise that being Christians is not meant to be an easy and trivial one. When the Lord mentioned that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He exactly meant what He said, that there will still be yoke and burden for us to shoulder and endure. Some among us had held the misunderstandings and wrong impression that when we follow the Lord then we will have an easy and comfortable life, but this was not what the Lord meant.

What the Lord wants us to realise is that by putting our trust in Him, we gain the assurance of the true glory and joy, the guarantee of eternity of rest and new life, a new existence with Him, free from the shackles and chains of sin, and reconciled completely to Him. We must not instead think in worldly terms and matters, seeking glory and worldly satisfaction, fame and pleasure, and these are not what we are going to get from following God and being faithful to Him.

St. Paul spoke of this as he wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, part of which is our second reading today. He spoke of all of us Christians who have believed in God and received the baptism into the Church as those who no longer live in accordance with the flesh, and instead, we are living by the spirit of God. If we still continue to persist in living in the flesh, it means that we still allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the allures of worldly desires and sin.

St. Paul reminds us that we have all shared in the death of Christ through our baptism, and by His death, all of us have been redeemed by His loving sacrifice on the Cross. And that is not all, for as the Lord triumphed over death and conquered sin, as He rose in glory in Resurrection, all of us have therefore also shared in His Resurrection into a new life, a new Christian way of life that each and every one of us have been called to live up to by the Lord Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures and remember again what we have just heard, and as we look into our own lives thus far, our actions and our faith, let us all ask ourselves now. Have we all been good and faithful as Christians living our lives in this world? Have we spent our time well thus far, in trusting in the Lord? Or have we been living for ourselves, putting trust in all the things the world offer us and which we have spent our lives gathering and desiring for?

During these first few months of this year, we have seen and witnessed for ourselves how the usual order of this world have been completely disturbed and affected. The coronavirus pandemic and its multiple negative effects on the world’s economy, society and various other factors, coupled with societal instabilities and issues, racism and violence, interstate conflicts and more, reasonably heightened due to the fear and the uncertainties brought about by the combination of all these, natural disasters among others, all these had made this year among the worst for us to live in.

Many of us have suffered in one way or another, and many among us had been disturbed in more than one way, some among us losing our work and employment, losing that iron bowl of income that we once thought to be secure and good. People had been losing their savings and income in all the economic recessions and instabilities that occurred. People had been sickened, lost their loved ones to the illness, or be disabled by what had happened, among other things.

Let us all therefore realise that for whatever assurances and strengths we used to think we have in this world, all of those stood for nothing and would be meaningless in the end, as there is nothing in this world, no matter how great or plentiful, that will last forever. Instead, let us all make use of this opportunity to realise again just how fortunate we are to be beloved by God, to have One Who has always cared for us and lavished His love and attention towards us. It is in God alone that we have sure hope and trust. Are we going to take Him and His love for granted?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with faith, renew our faith and commitment in Him and devote ourselves to Him. Let us seek Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Let us all take on the yoke and burden the Lord has given us with faith, entrusting ourselves to God, no matter what we may face in the future. Let us all carry on living our lives as good and genuine Christians, committing ourselves to Him daily, and be inspiration and good examples for one another.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, as we carry on our journey in life with faith. May He help us to persevere through the challenges and trials we encounter, and renew our hope and trust in Him, as we still endure the current effects of this pandemic, our societal problems among others. May the Lord show us the path forward and give us the courage and strength to endure it. Amen.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are yet again reminded of what it means for us to be called as Christians, that is as people who are truly believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Divine Word Incarnate, by Whose deeds and sacrifice on the Cross all of us have been saved and redeemed from certain death. To all of us who have kept our faith in Him, the Lord has given us the reassurance of eternal life and true glory in Him.

Unfortunately, this is what many of us have forgotten in the midst of the hectic life we have in this world, all the experiences we have encountered in life among others. Many of us have forgotten God and ignored Him, and instead of trusting Him and having faith in Him, we worry and focus on the many distractions present in this world. We placed our trust in our own strength and power, and we are therefore bound to fall unless we are able to trust in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Second Book of Kings, about the prophet Elisha who came by the city of Shunem, and a rich woman and her family sheltered him and took good care of him during his stay. First of all, the rich woman recognised Elisha as a holy man of God and treated him nicely, giving him as good as an accommodation possible. At the time when being a follower of God and prophet was truly tough, as many among the people and the king worshipped pagan idols and disobeyed God, such a treatment for the prophet Elisha must have been really rare indeed.

And the Lord knew well what has been done to His faithful servant, and the woman did it without having certain ulterior motive or desire for her own selfish wants or purposes. Not knowing much more from the Scriptural sources, it can safely be assumed that the woman was simply a God-fearing woman and someone who believed in God enough that she respected His prophet Elisha very much, and treated him well. And the result of this was that, as the rich woman and her husband did not have a child of their own, God, through His prophet Elisha, granted them the child of their loving union.

This is related well to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of the matter of following God and becoming His disciples. In the first part, the Lord mentioned how being His followers would require them to give their all, to commit themselves body and soul, and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly, taking up and carrying their crosses together with the Lord, which means that they would face sufferings and difficulties, rejection and challenges just as the Lord Himself had faced these from the world.

But then, in the second part of the Gospel, the Lord said what had been recounted in the first reading, as He spoke of those who welcome the disciples and followers as having welcomed the Lord as well, and those who listened to them and treated them well as having listened and treated the Lord well too. This was clearly related to what had happened to the rich woman who welcomed the prophet Elisha to her home and treated him well, and God blessed her and her whole household because of that.

What then, is the significance of all these passages from the Scriptures today, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is that we must first of all be willing to follow God, and to trust ourselves in His providence and care, not worrying about what will happen to us or what we have to endure during the journey. Whether we will have an easy or difficult time in living up to our Christian calling is not something that we can predict or compare between us. Some of us may have to suffer a lot while others may suffer less or little, but nonetheless, what is important is that we serve God all the same.

Why I mention this is that, there are many of us who are afraid or unsure of following God and His path, and we always tend to delay, postpone and push aside God’s calling for us, and we tend to keep away from those responsibilities and duties we have been called to do as Christians and members of the Church. We are often worried about ourselves and our state in this world, our livelihood and all the things we have. We worry that if we follow the Lord, then we have to abandon whatever we have possessed and whatever we are comfortable with.

But, let us all not forget that, this is first of all, our responsibilities given to us as part of our Christian baptism, which in our second reading today, St. Paul highlighted that through baptism, we share in the death of Christ, that by plunging through the sacred waters of baptism, we go through that passage from death into life, recalling the journey of the ancient Israelites from their slavery in Egypt to their freedom through the Red Sea, and unite us all to the sufferings of Christ, Who took upon Himself all of our sins and the punishments due for those sins.

Through baptism, all of us have been made the members of the Church, and God has made us all His own beloved children, that all of us have become adopted sons and daughters of His, as we share in the death of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and by the common humanity we share with Him. But then, we must not forget, that as we share in the death of Christ, as St. Paul told us, we also share in the new life He has brought us into through His glorious resurrection.

And that is what we need to take note of, as we heard from the closing part of our second reading today, ‘So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus.’ That is exactly why we have to abandon our old fears and uncertainties, and embrace the Lord’s calling for us all with enthusiasm and desire to commit our lives in the service for His greater glory. God has called us all to various purposes in life, and we have received various talents, capabilities, skills and abilities to be used for this purpose.

There is no single calling that is better than the other in the Church and among us the faithful people of God. Some of us might have the misconception and wrong idea thinking that the ordained ministry, priesthood and religious life are better and higher compared to the lay ministry. Some of us glorify the holy orders and those in consecrated life as those who are better and holier than us, and that they are the ones doing all the work and the ministry, and some even misunderstood thinking that we then can be the content, receiving end of all the benefits without contributing much.

But we must forget that the lay ministry is equally as important, and we must dispel from our thoughts any preconceived notion that the lay ministry is anywhere less important. In fact, without active participation from the laity in proclaiming the Gospel in our daily living, then those in the holy orders, and those in religious and consecrated lives will also be affected badly in how they conduct their efforts. They cannot do what they are supposed to do, unless the laity and all work together to achieve the greater aims of the Church in obeying God’s will.

Each and every members of the Church are indivisibly part of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church, and just as how all the organs need to work together to achieve the same purpose of sustaining the body, thus, all of us the faithful people of God must also do our part for the same purpose. Then, at the same time, each and every members of the Church also have their own respective and specific functions, and each can do best in their area of responsibilities, not competing but rather supporting each other.

Just as each organ are best in doing whatever they were designed to work as, thus, each and every one of us in the Church are also bound to do our best in whatever we have been called to, in our respective calling, to be holy priests, deacons and bishops, to be holy religious brothers and sisters, to be good missionaries and friars, prayerful monastics and all dedicating themselves to ascetic lifestyle, and of course to be good as laypeople, as singles or as married couples, as fathers and mothers, as sons and daughters, as members of good Christian families.

As the Lord Himself said, that ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.’, this means that if all of us support one another, and do what we can to serve God in our respective capacities, abilities, talents and opportunities, then just as the rich woman and her husband in our first reading today were blessed by God, then we too will enjoy the wonders of God’s providence and blessings. But we must not desire them or focus ourselves on them, lest we be distracted and fall into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith and conviction to serve God at all times, with all of our strength and with all of our efforts. Let us all be the sources of strength and inspiration for one another, especially all the more important during these days when our world is facing so many troubles and great tragedies. Almost half a million people had lost their lives to the current coronavirus pandemic, and there had been so many acts of violence and divisions in our communities in the past few months alone, and it is our calling as Christians, to do whatever we can, be it as those in holy orders or the laypeople, to show the love and truth of God to all mankind.

Let us all be the light in the darkness for others, and let our words, actions and deeds bring hope and strength, encouragement and renewal for those who have been downtrodden, sorrowful and in despair. May the Lord continue to do His most amazing and wonderful works through our actions in life. May God bless us all in our good endeavours in fulfilling our Christian calling through our baptism, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 21 June 2020 : Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scripture, all of us are reminded yet again and again to put our complete trust and faith in God, and give our best to serve Him for if we are truly faithful to Him, then we have nothing to fear in this world, and we have no need to be worried about. God has always been with us and He will never abandon us to the darkness.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, the part in which he lamented about the treatment he received from many of those who rejected him and refused to listen to him. The prophet Jeremiah laboured hard for many years in the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem, and yet, for all those years as he spoke to the people of God’s words and warned them of their upcoming doom if they continued to disobey God, his words went unheeded and many opposed him and his works.

And they treated him so badly that Jeremiah almost lost his life on few occasions. When his enemies plotted against him and threw him into a drainage sewer to die, it was only by the help of his few friends and the cooperation of the king that prevented him from being killed. There were indeed so many occasions in which Jeremiah had to suffer and endure all sorts of trials and indignities, humiliation and discomfort. Yet, Jeremiah trusted in the Lord and committed himself wholeheartedly in Him, and God protected him and was with him throughout the mission and journey.

In the end, the Lord’s faithful will triumph against the wicked, their enemies and all those who persecuted them. This is what the Lord Himself has said and reassured us as we have heard in our Gospel passage today when He spoke of us needing not to fear those who can destroy the body, but rather fear the One Who can destroy both body and soul. And God assured us all that every single one of us are precious to Him, and each and every one of us will be well taken care of.

That was why, God has sent us His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and to be the source of all hope and strength for each and every one of us. We must not lose sight of this hope and light that we have received from God, and we must trust that God will always protect us and provide us no matter what, and no matter how difficult and challenging the situation may be for us. And St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, our second reading today reassured us in just the same manner. Though sin may have once reigned over us and made us to fear, but through Christ, we have received the path out and liberation from this tyranny of sin and death.

By His most loving, selfless and perfect sacrifice on the Cross, our Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us from certain destruction due to our sins. As mentioned, the disobedience of Adam brought sin into the world, as disobedience against God led to sin, and sin brought about our sundering and separation from God, and separation from God led us to death. Yet, the Lord loved each and every one of us so much that He has given us His Son, to suffer for us and to die for us that by His suffering and death, we may live.

What does this mean for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that reflecting on our own current situation and our world condition today, just as we know how challenging and difficult things are for so many of us these days, we must remain positive and hopeful. We have to be the source of hope and beacons of light in the darkness for one another, and we must not give in to despair, just as even the prophet Jeremiah did not give up despite all that he had to suffer and endure, all the years of trials and persecutions.

We have definitely suffered in one way or another during this difficult and uncertain time, and we must also have known those who have lost their jobs, their sources of income, and worse still, having lost their loved ones, our own loved ones and those who are known to us due to the terrible impact of this still ongoing and raging coronavirus pandemic. Many among us then also worry or fear for our own future when we see our once seemingly secure and stable income collapsed and disappeared without much notice.

And we have seen how all these challenges and trials led to many among us acting and reacting irrationally, irresponsibly and selfishly, with each one of us trying to secure our own security, safety, means of living among other things. We have heard and seen how people hoarded essential goods and even fought over those important commodities and goods, how we become intolerant and easily agitated by what is happening all around us. We see all the instances of civil disturbances, rise in racism and prejudices among us in our communities.

All of these were caused by our own insecurities and desires, our wishes to secure for ourselves the good living we used to enjoy before these difficult days and times. But when we allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted by these, and controlled by our desires, by our fears and insecurities, then it is what will bring us into our downfall, just as Adam fell into the devil’s temptations and sinned against God through disobedience. It was the same traps that the evil one and all the forces of evil have placed and arrayed against us all.

That is why during these difficult and challenging times, all the more that we all need to refocus our attention on God and put Him at the very centre of our lives and existence. Unless we put God at the centre of our lives, it will be easy for us to lose our way, to be swayed and tempted, to be turned into slaves of our own desire and our own fears and insecurities, as the events unfolding in the past few weeks and months had shown us. As Christians therefore we are challenged to be bringers of God’s hope and light into the midst of our communities, to our families and among all those whom we know and encounter in life.

Are we able to commit ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on, and leading a life and existence blessed by God? Let us all embrace our Christian calling, to follow the examples of the Apostles, the prophets and saints, our holy predecessors, all those who have entrusted themselves to God, and those who did not let fear or insecurities, worldly concerns, matters and desires to lead them astray. Let us all be inspiration for one another, learning from the very same inspiration of our holy predecessors in faith, in living our lives centred on God.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in faith, and may He give us the courage and the ability to persevere through whatever challenges and trials we may encounter in life, knowing first and foremost that He is always ever present by our side and that no matter what, He will always be ever faithful to the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us, His beloved ones. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 14 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, also commonly known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which takes place traditionally on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, or in some places, to avail the celebration to more people, on the Sunday after the Trinity Sunday. And this celebration is a very important one for us, as besides the Holy Trinity, the Doctrine of the Real and Holy Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist is one of the key core tenets of our Christian faith.

Unlike the Trinitarian nature of Our God, which is acknowledged and the fundamental part of the faith for most of those who believed in God, the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist has not been accepted and was rejected by quite a few segments of the people who believed in God. However, this clearly did not show the sentiment and the belief of the Church fathers and all the early Christians, all of whom believed in the true, real and living Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that the bread and wine we offer at the celebration of the Holy Mass, and which the priest blesses and offers to God at the Consecration truly become the very Body and Blood of the Lord Himself, the very substance and essence of the Lord, although they may still appear to us in the form of bread and wine. This process is called Transubstantiation, in which ‘Trans’ meaning ‘change’ and ‘Substantiate’ meaning ‘substance or essence’.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the word ‘Transubstantiation’ means ‘the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of His Blood. This change is brought about in the Eucharistic Prayer through the efficacy of the word of Christ and by the action of the Holy Spirit.’ From the Catechism we can see how the Church clearly teaches to us what the Eucharist means to us all.

This means that the very matter of the bread and the wine themselves have been changed, transformed and altered into the very substance, essence and reality of the Most Precious Body, and the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same Christ Who has offered Himself on the Cross at Calvary as a worthy Sacrifice, in atonement for our sins. In this bread and wine transformed into the Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, the Eucharist that we partake, we share in the same sacrifice of the Lord that day on the Cross.

That is why the Mass is more appropriately known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as the priest celebrant acts ‘in persona Christi’ or in the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the authority that He Himself has given to His Apostles, and as the Mass itself is the entire same Sacrifice that the Lord had undergone, as He brought His Cross up to Calvary, be crucified and died up there for us mankind, the whole Mass represents us all living through that very same supreme Act of God’s love in saving us.

As the celebrant speaks the words of Consecration, by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine became the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, and as the celebrant says, in the same words that the Lord Jesus had spoken on the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body, which has been given up for you’, and ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, which has been poured for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins’ and elevate the Sacred Specie, it was the same offering that Christ made on the Cross, offering Himself in His Body, Soul and Divinity for our salvation.

Therefore, in the Holy Communion, we receive not just mere bread and/or wine, and not just merely ‘symbol’ of the Body and the Blood of the Lord as what some have otherwise believed and convinced themselves, but in truth and reality, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Himself, in the Flesh and Blood. We may see them as the appearance of bread and wine, the taste of bread and wine, the smell of bread and wine, but in reality, the essence of it all have been transformed completely into something beyond our human capability of understanding, the Mystery of our Faith.

We believe in the Lord and in the mystery of the Transubstantiation, this most important doctrine of the Church from the very beginning and which was codified and formalised at the Fourth Council of the Lateran in the early thirteenth century, and which our brethren in the Eastern Orthodox Church also formalised on their Synod of Jerusalem five centuries later, believing that God Himself has given His own Precious and Holy Body and Blood for us to partake, to eat and drink as real food and drink, and not as something imaginary or merely symbolic, just as He highlighted it to the people in His discourse on the Bread of Life.

The Lord Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, as the True Bread from Heaven far superior to the heavenly bread manna that had been miraculously given by God to the ancestors of the Jewish people, the Israelites during their forty years journey to the Promised Land. He referred to that occasion, comparing how their ancestors died, but those who receive this new Bread of Life, that is Christ Himself, they would have eternal life through Him.

When the Lord referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, He thus also mentioned to the people that unless they eat of His Body and drink of His Blood then they would have no life and no part in Him. He also specifically mentioned that His Body is real Food, while His Blood is real Drink. He did not say that He was giving them a symbol to have or to celebrate with, but instead, doubled down on His own statement of the truth, to the point that many of His own followers left Him after this particular moment, which is ironically very similar to how some of our brethren in faith chose to abandon this same truth about the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

To those of His disciples that remained, to His Twelve Apostles, the Lord gave the power and authority on the Last Supper when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. His commandment to them to ‘do this in the memory of Me’ is a very important mission, which the Apostles had faithfully carried out and which they passed on to all of their successors, the bishops and the priests of the Church, who have been ordained and received the same power and authority of the Lord to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

By the sharing and partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord therefore we have this Holy and Sacred Communion in the Church, which then makes up the Body of Christ. For in sharing the same Body and Blood of the Lord, we have been united through Christ and made one as a people blessed by God and brought together our common partaking of the Bread of Life, Christ our Saviour, becoming the Mystical Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

And from the earliest days of the Church we have very firm proofs and extensive evidences of the Real Presence from the Church fathers and leaders themselves, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, the second Bishop of Antioch and St. Peter’s successor there, who said that ‘I desire the Bread of God, the Heavenly Bread, the Flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God… and I desire the Drink of God, namely His Blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.’ clearly echoing the Lord’s own words that His Body and Blood were real Food and real Drink.

St. Justin the Martyr and the other early Church fathers and saints also concurred with this truth, speaking of ‘not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ Our Saviour, having been made Flesh by the Word of God, had both Flesh and Blood for our salvation… the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word… is the Flesh and Blood of that Jesus Who was made Flesh.’ And they also warned against heretics specifically mentioning how those heretics denied that the bread and the wine were truly the Body and Blood of the Lord.

St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the Four Original Doctors of the Church and one of the most pre-eminent Church fathers of the Western Christendom also spoke firmly and strongly on this matter, saying that, ‘For that Sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the Word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements?’ against all those who doubted that the bread and wine could have changed in either essence or Presence into the Real Presence of the Lord.

For God, everything is possible, and everything can be done, even turning the matter and essence, the reality of the bread and wine into that of His own Precious Body and Blood, to be given to us and to be partaken worthily for our salvation. And at the Last Supper, which St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Paul the Apostle earlier on mentioned, the Lord said, ‘This is My Body…’ and ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood’, as His own Real, Unchanging, Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, not an imitation, not a symbol, not a representation, not even a spiritual union, but the exact same, real, complete and bloodied Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross at Calvary.

It was a famous occurrence of a doubter of this truth which eventually led to the institution of this great celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The famous Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena in what is today Italy marked one among the many other great miracles of the Eucharist that from time to time reminded us of this sacred truth and reality of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. At that occasion, according to tradition, a priest was celebrating the Eucharist while doubting the Real Presence. Immediately upon Consecration, the bread and wine changed into real Body and Blood of the Lord, with drops of Holy Blood dripping onto the corporal used to contain the Sacred Species.

With the affirmation of these miracles, including earlier miracles at Lanciano and other places, where occurrences of ‘Bleeding Body of Christ in the Eucharistic Host’ happened, the Pope instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi to celebrate and to put ever greater emphasis on this core aspect of our faith and core belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, in the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, where the bread and wine in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are transformed, completely and fully, into the essence, matter and reality of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having deepened our understanding of the rich history of this one of the most important tenets of our faith, how are we then going to truly celebrate this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord? It is not enough that we just celebrate today with a reverent and solemn celebration of the Holy Mass. In fact, all of us need to have a great change in the way we treat the Eucharist and how we have to return the respect and adoration we are to give to the Lord being truly present in the Eucharist.

A prominent person who did not believe in the Real Presence once said that, if we have truly believed in the Lord truly and really being present in the Eucharist, then in the presence of the Lord, he would have bowed down, prostrated and humbled himself in great adoration and worship. Unfortunately, this was not seen among many of us Christians. Many of us treated the Lord’s Real Presence as if He was just merely a bread to be eaten, or worse still, as a burden because we treat going to Mass as a heavy burden of obligation for us to fulfil.

How many of us have received the Lord with faith and worthily receive His Body and Blood into our own bodies, into our hearts and into our very own beings? There is a great need for us to restore the reverence and proper worship and adoration we ought to give to the Lord, His Real Presence in the Eucharist, and it has to begin with us and from us. We must have a great and profound change on how we view the Holy Mass, to make it the most important part of our lives and to centre ourselves and our existence on the Lord.

And having received the Lord Himself unto us, as St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, we have become the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the very Temple of God present in the flesh, in our very own bodies. Here we have the very best and perfect Temples of His Presence, more perfect and better than the Temples built by Solomon and king Herod. But are we then treating our bodies and our beings as worthy dwelling place of Our Lord? Or have we instead defiled them with our disobedience, wickedness and sins?

Today therefore, on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us all renew the zeal and faith which all of us must have in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the Lord’s own Most Holy Body and Blood which He has given us all for our salvation through the hands of His bishops and priests. Let us strive to be worthy to receive His Most Holy Body and Blood into ourselves, and be grateful for the loving Sacrifice He has gone through for us, by living a most virtuous and exemplary Christian life from now on.

O Sacrament most Holy, o Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine! O Christ, the Bread of Life, given freely as real Food for our salvation, Your Most Holy Body and Blood, flowing down from the Cross in atonement for our sins, have mercy on us sinners, and by our worthy partaking in this most Sacred Communion, unite us all as the One Body of Christ, the Church, and lead us all into eternal life. Amen.

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, also commonly known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which takes place traditionally on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, or in some places, to avail the celebration to more people, on the Sunday after the Trinity Sunday. And this celebration is a very important one for us, as besides the Holy Trinity, the Doctrine of the Real and Holy Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist is one of the key core tenets of our Christian faith.

Unlike the Trinitarian nature of Our God, which is acknowledged and the fundamental part of the faith for most of those who believed in God, the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist has not been accepted and was rejected by quite a few segments of the people who believed in God. However, this clearly did not show the sentiment and the belief of the Church fathers and all the early Christians, all of whom believed in the true, real and living Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that the bread and wine we offer at the celebration of the Holy Mass, and which the priest blesses and offers to God at the Consecration truly become the very Body and Blood of the Lord Himself, the very substance and essence of the Lord, although they may still appear to us in the form of bread and wine. This process is called Transubstantiation, in which ‘Trans’ meaning ‘change’ and ‘Substantiate’ meaning ‘substance or essence’.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the word ‘Transubstantiation’ means ‘the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of His Blood. This change is brought about in the Eucharistic Prayer through the efficacy of the word of Christ and by the action of the Holy Spirit.’ From the Catechism we can see how the Church clearly teaches to us what the Eucharist means to us all.

This means that the very matter of the bread and the wine themselves have been changed, transformed and altered into the very substance, essence and reality of the Most Precious Body, and the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same Christ Who has offered Himself on the Cross at Calvary as a worthy Sacrifice, in atonement for our sins. In this bread and wine transformed into the Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, the Eucharist that we partake, we share in the same sacrifice of the Lord that day on the Cross.

That is why the Mass is more appropriately known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as the priest celebrant acts ‘in persona Christi’ or in the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the authority that He Himself has given to His Apostles, and as the Mass itself is the entire same Sacrifice that the Lord had undergone, as He brought His Cross up to Calvary, be crucified and died up there for us mankind, the whole Mass represents us all living through that very same supreme Act of God’s love in saving us.

As the celebrant speaks the words of Consecration, by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine became the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, and as the celebrant says, in the same words that the Lord Jesus had spoken on the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body, which has been given up for you’, and ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, which has been poured for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins’ and elevate the Sacred Specie, it was the same offering that Christ made on the Cross, offering Himself in His Body, Soul and Divinity for our salvation.

Therefore, in the Holy Communion, we receive not just mere bread and/or wine, and not just merely ‘symbol’ of the Body and the Blood of the Lord as what some have otherwise believed and convinced themselves, but in truth and reality, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Himself, in the Flesh and Blood. We may see them as the appearance of bread and wine, the taste of bread and wine, the smell of bread and wine, but in reality, the essence of it all have been transformed completely into something beyond our human capability of understanding, the Mystery of our Faith.

We believe in the Lord and in the mystery of the Transubstantiation, this most important doctrine of the Church from the very beginning and which was codified and formalised at the Fourth Council of the Lateran in the early thirteenth century, and which our brethren in the Eastern Orthodox Church also formalised on their Synod of Jerusalem five centuries later, believing that God Himself has given His own Precious and Holy Body and Blood for us to partake, to eat and drink as real food and drink, and not as something imaginary or merely symbolic, just as He highlighted it to the people in His discourse on the Bread of Life.

The Lord Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, as the True Bread from Heaven far superior to the heavenly bread manna that had been miraculously given by God to the ancestors of the Jewish people, the Israelites during their forty years journey to the Promised Land. He referred to that occasion, comparing how their ancestors died, but those who receive this new Bread of Life, that is Christ Himself, they would have eternal life through Him.

When the Lord referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, He thus also mentioned to the people that unless they eat of His Body and drink of His Blood then they would have no life and no part in Him. He also specifically mentioned that His Body is real Food, while His Blood is real Drink. He did not say that He was giving them a symbol to have or to celebrate with, but instead, doubled down on His own statement of the truth, to the point that many of His own followers left Him after this particular moment, which is ironically very similar to how some of our brethren in faith chose to abandon this same truth about the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

To those of His disciples that remained, to His Twelve Apostles, the Lord gave the power and authority on the Last Supper when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. His commandment to them to ‘do this in the memory of Me’ is a very important mission, which the Apostles had faithfully carried out and which they passed on to all of their successors, the bishops and the priests of the Church, who have been ordained and received the same power and authority of the Lord to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

By the sharing and partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord therefore we have this Holy and Sacred Communion in the Church, which then makes up the Body of Christ. For in sharing the same Body and Blood of the Lord, we have been united through Christ and made one as a people blessed by God and brought together our common partaking of the Bread of Life, Christ our Saviour, becoming the Mystical Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

And from the earliest days of the Church we have very firm proofs and extensive evidences of the Real Presence from the Church fathers and leaders themselves, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, the second Bishop of Antioch and St. Peter’s successor there, who said that ‘I desire the Bread of God, the Heavenly Bread, the Flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God… and I desire the Drink of God, namely His Blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.’ clearly echoing the Lord’s own words that His Body and Blood were real Food and real Drink.

St. Justin the Martyr and the other early Church fathers and saints also concurred with this truth, speaking of ‘not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ Our Saviour, having been made Flesh by the Word of God, had both Flesh and Blood for our salvation… the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word… is the Flesh and Blood of that Jesus Who was made Flesh.’ And they also warned against heretics specifically mentioning how those heretics denied that the bread and the wine were truly the Body and Blood of the Lord.

St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the Four Original Doctors of the Church and one of the most pre-eminent Church fathers of the Western Christendom also spoke firmly and strongly on this matter, saying that, ‘For that Sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the Word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements?’ against all those who doubted that the bread and wine could have changed in either essence or Presence into the Real Presence of the Lord.

For God, everything is possible, and everything can be done, even turning the matter and essence, the reality of the bread and wine into that of His own Precious Body and Blood, to be given to us and to be partaken worthily for our salvation. And at the Last Supper, which St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Paul the Apostle earlier on mentioned, the Lord said, ‘This is My Body…’ and ‘This is the Chalice of My Blood’, as His own Real, Unchanging, Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, not an imitation, not a symbol, not a representation, not even a spiritual union, but the exact same, real, complete and bloodied Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross at Calvary.

It was a famous occurrence of a doubter of this truth which eventually led to the institution of this great celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The famous Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena in what is today Italy marked one among the many other great miracles of the Eucharist that from time to time reminded us of this sacred truth and reality of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. At that occasion, according to tradition, a priest was celebrating the Eucharist while doubting the Real Presence. Immediately upon Consecration, the bread and wine changed into real Body and Blood of the Lord, with drops of Holy Blood dripping onto the corporal used to contain the Sacred Species.

With the affirmation of these miracles, including earlier miracles at Lanciano and other places, where occurrences of ‘Bleeding Body of Christ in the Eucharistic Host’ happened, the Pope instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi to celebrate and to put ever greater emphasis on this core aspect of our faith and core belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, in the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, where the bread and wine in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are transformed, completely and fully, into the essence, matter and reality of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having deepened our understanding of the rich history of this one of the most important tenets of our faith, how are we then going to truly celebrate this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord? It is not enough that we just celebrate today with a reverent and solemn celebration of the Holy Mass. In fact, all of us need to have a great change in the way we treat the Eucharist and how we have to return the respect and adoration we are to give to the Lord being truly present in the Eucharist.

A prominent person who did not believe in the Real Presence once said that, if we have truly believed in the Lord truly and really being present in the Eucharist, then in the presence of the Lord, he would have bowed down, prostrated and humbled himself in great adoration and worship. Unfortunately, this was not seen among many of us Christians. Many of us treated the Lord’s Real Presence as if He was just merely a bread to be eaten, or worse still, as a burden because we treat going to Mass as a heavy burden of obligation for us to fulfil.

How many of us have received the Lord with faith and worthily receive His Body and Blood into our own bodies, into our hearts and into our very own beings? There is a great need for us to restore the reverence and proper worship and adoration we ought to give to the Lord, His Real Presence in the Eucharist, and it has to begin with us and from us. We must have a great and profound change on how we view the Holy Mass, to make it the most important part of our lives and to centre ourselves and our existence on the Lord.

And having received the Lord Himself unto us, as St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, we have become the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the very Temple of God present in the flesh, in our very own bodies. Here we have the very best and perfect Temples of His Presence, more perfect and better than the Temples built by Solomon and king Herod. But are we then treating our bodies and our beings as worthy dwelling place of Our Lord? Or have we instead defiled them with our disobedience, wickedness and sins?

Today therefore, on this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, let us all renew the zeal and faith which all of us must have in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the Lord’s own Most Holy Body and Blood which He has given us all for our salvation through the hands of His bishops and priests. Let us strive to be worthy to receive His Most Holy Body and Blood into ourselves, and be grateful for the loving Sacrifice He has gone through for us, by living a most virtuous and exemplary Christian life from now on.

O Sacrament most Holy, o Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine! O Christ, the Bread of Life, given freely as real Food for our salvation, Your Most Holy Body and Blood, flowing down from the Cross in atonement for our sins, have mercy on us sinners, and by our worthy partaking in this most Sacred Communion, unite us all as the One Body of Christ, the Church, and lead us all into eternal life. Amen.

Sunday, 7 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, one week after the Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, or also known as the Trinity Sunday. On this day we celebrate this very important and crucial aspect of the Christian faith, one that distinguishes itself from all the other Abrahamic and monotheistic faith, because we believe in the One and only True God, Who manifested Himself in Three Divine Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Since the very beginning of the Church, that is from the time of the Apostles, the Church had always believed in the Most Holy Trinity, through the truth that the Lord Himself had revealed to them, from the Father Who revealed to all and created all, and the Son, Who has descended into this world and revealed Himself in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, Whom the disciples had lived with, spoken with and interacted with, having seen His suffering and death on the Cross, and then His Resurrection and glorious Ascension into Heaven, and finally, the Holy Spirit Who came down upon them all on Pentecost.

The Church has always believed in the One and only True God in the Three Divine Persons, but for centuries, Church leaders and theologians debated and discussed the details of what this truly mean for the Lord Whom they all served. Unfortunately, there had been quite a view dissenting voices and ideas that came up from these disagreements over the nature of the Holy Trinity, which saw some rejecting the Holy Trinity altogether, or known as Unitarianism, a heresy that existed in different forms even to this very day.

Then there were also those like the Arians, who argued that the relationship between the members of the Most Holy Trinity is an unequal one, with the Father being superior over the Son, and the Son being subservient to the Father, as the Arians believed that the Son did not exist together with the Father from the very beginning, but rather, was merely the first to be created by the Father, and therefore, is inferior in nature to the Father. All of these false teachings came about from misunderstanding in the words of the Scripture which the Arians claimed as support for their argument, without understanding the whole truth.

Then there were also those who claimed that the Holy Spirit was also inferior, or was merely an ‘energy’ and not a Divine Person, essentially limiting the Persona into the duality of the Father and the Son. All of these were also rejected by the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, which prevailed over the heresies mentioned, and the Church fathers, after an often bitter and long struggle, managed to defend the true, orthodox and genuine Christian faith as we have it today, the faith of the Apostles themselves.

St. Athanasius the Great, the Patriarch of Alexandria in the fourth century in particular was renowned for his steadfast defence of the true faith against the encroachment of heresies, especially that of Arianism, which at that time were especially prevalent and had many support from many among the clergy, even many among the bishops. But the impassioned defence of the true faith from the faithful bishops and priests, led by St. Athanasius helped to turn the tide of battle against the heretical ideas.

St. Athanasius himself encountered plenty of difficulties and challenges throughout his ministry, having to go into exile a few times and facing opposition not only from the rebellious and heretical bishops and priests in his See and beyond, but even from the secular nobility, the powerful and at times, even the Emperors at Constantinople themselves. Yet, he remained resolute and firm, dedicated and faithful in his struggle to keep the truth and orthodoxy in the Christian faith, writing one of his famous contributions to the Church, the Athanasian Creed, in full support of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Although some argued that he was not the actual author of the Creed, but the ideas contained within the Creed speak volumes of the ideas of St. Athanasius, which is why he was credited with the origin of this venerable Creed.

I am sure all of us are familiar with the Nicene or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, as well as the Apostles’ Creed. Yet, definitely there are only a few of us who may be aware of what the Athanasian Creed is, less still being able to recite it with faith. For this Athanasian Creed itself is much longer and a lot more detailed even compared to the Nicene Creed, containing the basic essence of the Creed, but with special and really particular emphasis on the Trinitarian nature of our Christian faith, stressing and emphasising the relationship between each members of the Holy Trinity to each other.

As the Athanasian Creed has it, the Holy Trinity is described as, ‘And the Catholic faith is this: that we worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence.’ And this part emphasises how there is only One God, and yet, the same One God exists in the form of Trinity of Unity, where each of the members of the Holy Trinity are distinct from one another, but yet equal to each other, and are perfectly united in Essence that they are at the same time, indivisible, for removing even one will diminish that Oneness of God.

And then it continues with ‘For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all One; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.’ And this part show us yet again the Unity between the Three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity, which are also at the same time, easily distinguished one from the other without confusion, each with equal Glory and Majesty, and all Co-Eternal with each other, from before the beginning of time, through all time, to the end of time and forevermore.

The Creed keeps on going, repeating several times with very strong and firm affirmation that each of the members of the Holy Trinity are the same One God, equally God, none superior or inferior over the other, ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God’ and ‘And yet They are not three Gods but One God’. And the relationship between each of the members of the Holy Trinity is explained clearly in that same Creed, as the Son is begotten by the Father, not created and co-eternal with Him, showing how the Son already existed from the very beginning, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son.

That last portion regarding the Holy Spirit had also divided Christianity even until this very day, as our brethren in the Orthodox Communion refused to accept the fact of this ‘proceeding’ of the Holy Spirit through the Son from the Father. This they argued because of the misunderstanding in the language and the fine differences in the literary understanding of the word ‘proceeding’. Historically, in the Greek language, the word ‘proceeding’ showed a clear subordinate relationship between the one that proceeded to the one it is proceeding from. Yet, no such subordination existed in the Latin language.

Thus, we, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has always believed in the Holy Spirit that came to us from the Father, and proceeded through the Son, Jesus Christ, all being co-equal and co-eternal with each other, none being subordinate or superior over the other, the Holy Spirit merely passed through the Son to us, in the same manner the Lord Jesus breathed over His disciples and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, whomever sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whomever sins you retain, they are retained.’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, such was the deep mystery and detail in the very nature of our God, One and yet existing in Three Divine Persons, distinct, co-equal and co-eternal with each other, that there had been many misunderstandings both from within the Church itself, and from those who were outside the Church. There had been many who mistakenly accused Christians as polytheists and worshipping three Gods instead of One, but this is because they did not understand what it means by the Holy Trinity. How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we ourselves understood the meaning and importance of the Most Holy Trinity?

One way to understand the concept of the Holy Trinity, its presence of three easily distinguishable aspects and yet unquestionable unity is by using the example of a burning flame. A burning flame has three important aspects that can be easily distinguished, namely the appearance and state of the flame itself, and then the heat generated by the flame, and finally the light given out by the flame. For all of us, I am sure we know that while each of these stimulates different parts of our senses, but we know that we cannot separate each aspect of the flame from the other.

What does this mean? It means that, if we remove the light of the flame, then we can no longer recognise the flame as it is. Similarly, if we see a flame and we can see its shape and the state of the flame, and yet feel no heat, it is no longer a flame as we know it. And then, if we can feel the state of the flame, that is because of the excited particles of the air heated up and filled with energy, and feel its heat, and yet, if the flame emits no light, then how can we believe that it is flame and not something else?

Another good example to compare this concept of the Holy Trinity, is that of honey, as honey is the product of bees collecting the various flowers’ nectar, which they mixed with their own secretions to create the ever-healthy and good honey, provided that it is naturally obtained and produced. In natural honey, we know that it is honey when we touch it, feel its viscosity and particular texture, and then taste its sweetness and unique, floral taste, and finally, smell its similarly floral and nice, unique smell. Each of these aspects help us to identify that this substance is honey and not something different.

Imagine if we have what is allegedly natural honey, and yet, when we touch, it feels so diluted and runny, so as to look like merely water? Will we believe if people told us that this is natural honey? Certainly not. Similarly, if we have what is allegedly natural honey, correct by feel and touch, having the right viscosity, and yet, tastes very differently or even taste horrible? And honey can also be fermented into alcohol under the right condition, and in that case, it is no longer honey, but mead! Lastly, in a similar way, if we have what is allegedly natural honey, and yet it smells very different, although it feels like honey and tastes like honey, then it is not honey.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, using these examples of the flame and honey, we can see how the concept of the Holy Trinity is not as difficult as it may seem to us to understand. Of course, being one of the most profound mysteries out there, there are still a lot about the Holy Trinity that we may not fully understand, but at least, a basic understanding of its concept is very important for us all as Christians to have strong and genuine faith in God. And often, it does not need to be very complicated and difficult to do so.

Historically, St. Patrick was also well-known for using the iconic three-leaf clover as the symbol of the Holy Trinity, teaching the concept to the pagans there about God, One in Unity and yet existing in Three Divine Persons. The united nature of the three-leaf clover’s three leaves makes it such that separating one of the leaf from the three-leaf clover makes it no longer a three-leaf clover, much like taking out the heat of the flame no longer make it recognisable as flame, or removing the taste from honey which makes it no longer recognisable as honey.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, let us all carefully study and understand the basics of the concept of the Holy Trinity, that we may understand and appreciate better what our Christian faith is all about, and Who our God truly is. Let us all renew our faith and conviction in serving Him, loving Him and when possible, share the truth about His Holy Trinity to others. Whenever there is confusion and misinformation, hopefully we ourselves can stand up for our faith, explaining briefly to dispel the misconception, perhaps by using the example of the ‘flame’, ‘honey’ or even St. Patrick’s three-leaf clover mentioned earlier.

Let us all renew our faith in the Lord, the Most Holy Trinity, in Whom we have been baptised, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let us be thankful and be appreciative of the love of the Father, be inspired and strengthened by the obedience of the Son, and be encouraged and filled with zeal by the power of the Holy Spirit. May all of us be genuine and strong Christians, in all aspects of life, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 31 May 2020 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday, which from its name marks the fiftieth day after the occasion of the Passover in the original Jewish tradition, and later on, gain the much more important meaning as the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord and the day when the Holy Spirit of God descended on the disciples of Christ as has been promised to them. On this day we recall that moment when the Holy Spirit descended and began the sequence of events that has impacted the world so much through the Church.

Why is that so? That is because on this day we mark the very beginning of the Church that we know of, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is One because through the Lord, He has established His one and only Church in this world on the Apostles’ as the pillars of the foundation of the Church, and the foundation was on St. Peter, the ‘Rock’ as the Lord Himself said that, ‘You are Peter, and on this ‘Rock’ I will build My Church’, and the Church is Holy, because the Holy Spirit itself has sanctified the Church and the Church has divine origins.

And the Church is Catholic because it is Universal, embracing all peoples and all the children of God, uniting through itself all the scattered people of God, who have been scattered because of their sins and disobedience against God. The Church teachings are also Universal, embracing all peoples without exception, and lastly, it is Apostolic, because through the Holy Spirit, the Church has become missionary and is reaching out to the world, to bring forth the truth of God and to make disciples of all peoples of all the nations.

On that day, on the very first Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit come down descending on the Apostles, the Church was born and became tangible, as the Apostles, inflamed and encouraged by the strength, courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit went out from their hiding place and went before the whole people gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Pentecost, and preached before them the truth about God and His salvation through Jesus, the Saviour of all the whole world.

That is why we refer to the Pentecost as the birthday of the Church because looking back in time through the history of the Church we can find the pivotal moment of the first Pentecost when the Apostles began their evangelising mission and works in earnest, casting aside their fears and doubts, and began working among the people, gaining their trust and baptising the very first converts, more than three thousand people on that Pentecost day alone, which marked the beginning of the Church and the first Christian community.

Through the Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, many people found a new life and existence in God, and they received a new life, no longer of darkness and sin. They received the Holy Spirit from the hands of the Apostles, who themselves had received the same Spirit from the Lord. By the gift and reception of the Holy Spirit, they have embraced God’s love in its fullness, and began to bear the wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit, inspiring one another to live righteously at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our own baptism we have also received the same Holy Spirit, passed down to us from the successors of the Apostles through the ages, namely the many bishops and priests who have faithfully served the Church. And those among us who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation have been deemed worthy and mature enough in the faith, that we have the fullness of the gifts and the wonders of the Holy Spirit, and therefore are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the missionaries of the Lord.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be active in living up to our faith as dedicated Christians, as the members of this one Church of God that was founded on Pentecost. We must bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, bountiful produce of what we have been given, all the gifts and wonders, the wisdom and knowledge that the Holy Spirit had granted us. But too often we have ignored these gifts, and we are often too busy and preoccupied with various worldly matters and concerns that we failed to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, today let us all go through all the fruits of the Holy Spirit, of which there are nine of them, nine being the number that is both holy and associated with perfection, completeness and the goodness of God. These seven fruits of the Holy Spirit are, according to St. Paul, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All these are the signs and concrete markers of how our Christian communities live in the way of the Lord. If we bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, then it means that we have been good and faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we go through the fruits of the Holy Spirit together, let us all begin with the most important of all of them, that is love. For love is the most important of the fruits of the Holy Spirit just as it is also the most important of all the Christian virtues. Without love, St. Paul said, all the good things, talents and deeds we have mean nothing, as with all of our abilities and talents, with all the great things we can and have accomplished, without love, it means nothing.

How do we then practice love so as to bear this fruit of the Holy Spirit richly? It is by putting our brothers and sisters always foremost in our minds, caring for them, thinking about them and be compassionate towards them. There are many people out there who have not experienced real love, and many in our world today are too distracted by various worldly concerns and their selfishness that they ended up hurting each other and causing suffering to one another. Let our actions then bear the love of God to our fellow men, by showing genuine care and concern, and the desire to see others happy and joyful, glad and be filled with God’s grace.

Now, then, let us all go to the second fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is joy. Joy is something that all of us Christians must have with us, as we are truly the children of God, and first of all, God has shown us the path to eternal life, joy and happiness through Him, and He has reassured us again and again that all these will be ours if we are faithful to Him. Yet, many of us have not felt this real joy or are even stressed and saddened, because once again, we have been too distracted by the false pleasures and joys of the world.

Too many of us are looking for satisfaction of the world, to gain more money and properties, wealth and income, to gain more fame and recognition among the many other things we mankind commonly desire for. We live in a world filled with materialistic lifestyle and the pressure to follow this way of life are all around us. How can we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Again, it is by putting God at the very centre of our existence, that everything we do, we do for His sake, knowing that in Him, we have everything we need, and true joy is ours to have. And particularly, these days, when the whole world and so many people are sorrowful and even despairing, having lost their loved ones or are suffering from the effects of the pandemic, we can share our joy with them, consoling them and being with them in their time of great need.

Then, we go now into the third fruit of the Holy Spirit, that is peace. Peace is something that all of us mankind are always looking out for, wanting to have either a peace of mind, peace in our lives and in our families, peace with our friends and everyone else, and peace with those who hated us and persecuted us. Yet, peace is often elusive and illusory, because again, we are often too preoccupied with our desires, our conflicting aims, goals and targets, that we end up being in conflict with each other all the time.

We rarely find peace because we often always have aspirations, desires, wants, and all these often overlap and we find conflict and divisions among us all because of these. We disagree and are angry against each other because we cannot let go of all these temptations and the pull of our desires and ego. How do we then as Christians bear the rich fruits of peace of the Holy Spirit? How do we practice peace and attain peace in our daily living?

It is by first having peace with ourselves, as we often are too proud to admit our weakness and vulnerability, and we are often too engrossed with all the tempting offers of the world that we forget what we live our lives in this world for. It is to glorify God by our lives and to help one another in our journey towards Him, and not to bring each other down by jealousy and pride. As Christians, whenever we see others in conflict, we should be peacemakers and not agitators, be open to dialogue and be good listeners, and that too, will eventually help us to find true peace in God.

The fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience, something that many of us often lack, and this is in itself related to peace and joy, the earlier fruits we have just discussed. We are not patient because we have that urge and desire in us to get things done the way we wanted it, and if things are not going according to what we like or desire, then we become angry and impulsive in our actions. And unfortunately, we live in a world where instant gratification is something that is ever-present all around us.

Without patience, it is likely that we will have neither peace or joy as well. Our lives will be miserable as every day will just pass by us as we worry and are concerned over trivial matters of life, all sorts of desires and temptations around us. How do we then, as Christians, live our lives so as to bear the fruit of the patience of the Holy Spirit? We should temper our desires and impatience with prayer, and with deeper relationship with God, to see that all the pursuits of worldly glory and power are in the end, futile and meaningless. Instead, let us be thankful for what God has blessed us with, and thank Him and enjoy every single moment we have in our lives.

The fifth and sixth fruits of the Holy Spirit are kindness and goodness respectively, and both of them are related because to be kind to others is to show our good intentions and to act in the good and benefit of our fellow brethren. We may think that it is easy to be kind and good, but reality has often shown us otherwise. We must realise that kindness and goodness must come from within us, from our hearts sincerely to others, and not just a mere facade or act.

To be filled with kindness and goodness require us to have an altruistic heart modelled after the Lord’s own loving Heart, in His love and compassionate care for each and every one of us. If we love just as how the Lord Himself had genuinely and sincerely loved each and every one of us, naturally we will show kindness in our actions towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and we will be filled with goodness at every step we take in our lives, in our every words, actions and deeds.

The seventh fruit of the Holy Spirit is faithfulness, which actually means for us to have genuine faith and trust in God, to keep God at the centre of our lives as I have mentioned earlier on. It is not easy for us to have this genuine faith, for when things go bad for us, and we encounter difficult times, challenges and persecutions, who is it that we are going to turn to first? Is it God that is the anchor and foundation of our lives? Our predecessors were able to persevere through the harsh persecutions against them because of this faithfulness they had in God.

The eighth of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is gentleness, to be gentle in heart and in our actions. Gentleness itself is related to love and kindness, as well as peace and joy among others. If we are filled with love and kindness, and if we are at peace with God, with ourselves and with our fellow brothers and sisters, having true joy in us, then naturally we will be acting with gentleness as well. Let us all not be filled with harshness, anger or hatred towards one another.

And this is where self-control, the ninth and last of the fruits of the Holy Spirit come in, as without self-control, it is easy for us to wander off and end up getting lost and swayed by the demands of the world, the temptations of our desires and various other things that will lead us to sin and darkness. As Christians, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must temper our desires and discipline ourselves, or otherwise, it is very easy for us to end up being controlled by those desires.

God has given us His wisdom, and He has also showed us the way going forward, guiding us through His Holy Spirit. As such, if we find it difficult to persevere and control ourselves through the temptations and challenges, then once again, I want to highlight the importance for us to be connected and attuned with God, and in order to do this, we must have that strong and good relationship with Him, and that is why as Christians, we must be active in living up our faith, and we cannot be lukewarm in our faith life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have just heard and discussed the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Now, what are we going to do then? Are we going to ignore the Lord’s call to follow Him and walk in His path? Or do we want to follow the examples of our courageous predecessors, the Holy Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, whose lives have become great sources of inspirations for how we ourselves should live our lives? Let us all spend some time to carefully discern what path we are to take going forward in our lives.

Let us all realise that as the members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through baptism, and our adoption as God’s own beloved sons and daughters, each and every one of us share in the same ministry and calling, the mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, to go forth to the nations and proclaim His Good News, calling on all to be reconciled with God and to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we can do this best by making use of the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, our many talents, abilities and the various opportunities we encounter.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord, God and Saviour bless each and every one of us, and may He continue to strengthen us through the Holy Spirit He has bestowed on each one of us. Come, o Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of Your faithful ones, that we may be strong, courageous and be filled with the deep love for God and for our fellow brethren, that we may bear very rich and bountiful fruits of the Holy Spirit by our lives, the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Amen.

Saturday, 30 May 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this night we celebrate the Vigil of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, as we are about to celebrate the great Feast of the Pentecost which marked the conclusion of the fifty days of Easter. On this night we begin the celebration of this great Solemnity, which had been celebrated since the ancient days by the Israelites and their descendants as the celebration of the fifty days after the Passover. But what happened then transformed the meaning of this celebration into a new beginning for the Church and all Christians.

For on this day, we commemorate the descent and coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of the Lord, just as He had promised them all on several occasions before He was crucified and after He had risen from the dead. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples who were then afraid and fearful, locking themselves in their place in fear of the Jewish authorities. And the coming of the Holy Spirit marked a new beginning for all of them because as I said earlier, this day truly marked the birth of the Church.

That is because on this day, the Church was no longer just a concept but had become a reality with what the Apostles, inflamed by the courage and wisdom of the Holy Spirit did on that day. They went out of their hiding place and courageously went before the large crowds gathered from many places for the Festival of the Pentecost, proclaiming the Good News and the truth of God to all of them. Many people believed in the Apostles and followed them, and over three thousand people gave themselves to be baptised, forming the very first community of Christians and bringing about the first tangible existence of the Church of God.

In our first reading today, in the reading from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the story of the Tower of Babel. Many of us are surely familiar with this story of how our first ancestors began to build an ambitious project to build a tower that reached to the heavens, aspiring to aim to be greater than God. In their pride and arrogance, they have overstepped their bounds, and as a result, God scattered all of them and confused their languages, spreading them to the many nations, a division caused by the sins of mankind and their pride.

Then from another alternative reading for our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the moment when the prophet saw a vision of a valley filled with enormous quantities of dried bones of the dead, symbolic of the dead Israelites and the people of God who had perished because of their sins and disobedience against God. And God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, asking him to command those bones to be restored to life.

And then we heard how the bones began to come together again and be restored in the flesh and appearance of men, but they were not yet alive, as there were no Spirit in them. And God asked the prophet again to speak on His behalf, commanding them to return to life through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God Himself descended on the bodies of the people, and as a result what was once a great valley filled with dried bones and death, became a great valley filled with enormous numbers of the living.

All of these are great symbolisms to remind each and every one of us, that God truly has played a great role in our lives and He has given us such a great gift in the Holy Spirit Whom He had sent down to us to be our Helper, our Advocate and our Guide. As we all know that on the first Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit that strengthened them and gave them wisdom and the ability to speak in many languages to the people gathered in Jerusalem, making them all to hear the truth of God in their own languages.

As we can see here, while disobedience and sin led to the divisions and the conflicts and diversity in languages and thoughts as the Tower of Babel incident told us, the Holy Spirit came down unto us to restore our unity, to redeem us from our divisions and heal our fractured and divided existences. The Holy Spirit has come unto us bearing God’s love and truth, gathering all of the scattered people of God back together again, and as we remember what happened at Pentecost, all those people who were baptised that day marked a new beginning, a new Church through which all of God’s people are reunited again with God.

Therefore, those whom the Lord had gathered through His Holy Spirit and by the works of His Apostles have been called into a new life and to receive a new life through the Holy Spirit, much like the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, in which the prophet saw the vast numbers of dry bones transformed into the living people of God, and the Church welcoming all the people into a new life in God through baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit is the fulfilment of what God had shown the prophet Ezekiel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we all realise just how significant Pentecost Sunday is for us all in our faith? It is indeed the birthday of the Church, the moment marking that very important time and event when the Church and the Apostles no longer looked inward but outwards, going forth and fulfilling the Great Commission which the Lord Jesus had given to them before He ascended into Heaven, and that is to go forth to the nations and to all the peoples, calling on all to be baptised in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

All of us have shared in this same common baptism, through which all of us have become God’s beloved children and as members of His Church. And now, having received the Holy Spirit of God through our baptism and also strengthened for those of us who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, the same Holy Spirit we have received as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had received on the very first Pentecost. Therefore we all share their mission and are called to the same calling to be witnesses of the Lord in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it then that we need to do? We are all called to make good use of the gifts that the Lord had given to us and be courageous in proclaiming His Good News and truth in our respective communities and to all those whom we encounter in life. And often we do not even need to say or preach out anything. Rather, it is by our authentic and genuine lives lived in good Christian faith that others will come to see the truth of God. And that is what true Christian discipleship is all about, to live our lives faithfully and to follow the Lord with all of our hearts.

Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all touch the lives of many other people and bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of goodness and love, the fruits of joy and peace, the fruits of patience, kindness and faithfulness. And by our own genuine faith and good Christian life, is how we truly bear forth the fullness of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, and make a difference in our world today. That is our Christian calling and what we need to embrace from now on if we have not done so yet.

May the Lord continue to strengthen us through His Holy Spirit, and may this Pentecost Sunday be truly a meaningful and great celebration to all of us, that we all may realise how as Christians, each and every one of us have important roles to play, in bringing the love of God to all men, and to restore the unity and to reconcile all to the Lord, to bring back to God all the scattered flock of His in this world, His beloved ones. May God help us and strengthen us, now and always. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful with Your Wisdom and Love. Amen!

Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Ascension, which is the seventh Sunday in the season of Easter, we celebrate the occasion of World Communications Sunday, and as we celebrate this day, I would like to focus our attention on the topic of communication, especially how we communicate as Christians, first of all in how we communicate with our God, and also how we communicate with our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men.

In our Scripture passages today, all of us heard how the Apostles were strengthened by what they have witnessed in the Ascension as described in the Acts of the Apostles, and in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard the Apostle encouraging the faithful people of God to remain steadfast in their faith amidst persecution and challenges that they faced, and said that they ought to remain strong in their struggle of the faith, as they endured the sufferings for the glory of the Lord.

This is one form of communication, the communication through written means, which the Apostles and their fellow disciples made use to strengthen the faith of the Christian faithful. The Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke the Evangelist, while St. Peter wrote the Epistle in our second reading today. Those words were meant to encourage the faithful by showing them all that they would always be guided by God and would not be abandoned, and linking to the occurrence of the Ascension, we are all also reminded that while God has ascended into His heavenly Glory, but He did not leave us all alone.

On the contrary, the Lord has promised to remain with all of His followers and faithful ones, as He showed on many occasions and which were recorded in the various parts of the Acts of the Apostles. Some of the Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul were freed from their troubles, on particular occasions when both were imprisoned, and God sent an Angel to free St. Peter from his chains, and a great earthquake destroyed the prison in which St. Paul was in and rescued him from his imprisonment.

All of these and many other testimonies of faith, when recorded and passed on in the Books and manuscripts that after approximately three centuries were codified into the final and approved Scriptures as we know it, together with the Books of the Jewish Torah and the sayings of the prophets served as a great foundation of faith for many among the faithful, as the source of their faith and belief, as the inspiration and encouragement for them as the reminders for God’s words and promises for His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received this same truth that the Apostles have received through these ways that our faith had been communicated to us. And we have to thank all those who have done their best to write the Books of the Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as well as those who have been involved in the long process in the vetting and deciding which books ought to be part of the official canon of the Scripture, as there were many books that were not written with accurate faith, some others were even heretical and filled with aberrations and mistakes.

That was why we have to appreciate the efforts of our predecessors in faith, beginning from the time of the Apostles, those who laboured hard to preach about the Lord and His salvation, those who laboured to compile the writings of the Apostles and the Church fathers. This is because on top of the Scriptures mentioned earlier, our Church has another very important pillar and this pillar is the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, the teachings of the early Church fathers, who have various ways of communicating the faith to the people, be it written or verbal.

And of course we also have to thank all those who have been involved in the propagation of the faith, all the priests and bishops, all the missionaries and those involved in the teaching of the faith, catechists, all those who have made the faith available to us, to Christians throughout the ages. Without their hard work and dedication, so many more people would not have known about God and so many more souls would have been lost to damnation, and that could have very well include us all.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, now having heard of all these, we should remind ourselves that we as part of the Universal Church are also therefore responsible and are part of the Church’s effort to reach out and evangelise to the world. Of course there are all those who have dedicated themselves to this particular mission of communicating the faith to the whole world, especially those who are ordained as priests, the deacons and the bishops, as well as those who dedicated themselves as Christian educators and catechists. But that does not mean then that we can sit back and enjoy, and ignore our responsibility in reaching out through effective and genuine communication.

We do not need to do great and marvellous actions or deeds, or preach using big and difficult words. On the contrary, it is our small actions that matter, our daily lives and our daily actions, how we live our lives and also how we interact with one another, both within our Christian communities, within our families, and also with our friends and acquaintances. If we have not been practicing our faith, leading a life filled with sin and disobedience against God, how can we then persuade or convince others to believe in God too? Would we not be hypocrites who say one thing and yet act in a different manner?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, I also want us to go deeper into the second emphasis of today’s readings, in our Gospel, where we heard the Lord Jesus praying to His Father in heaven, praying for the sake of His disciples, part of which we have heard in our Gospel passage this Sunday. As we all should know, prayer is a form of communication between us and God, and being a form of communication, between us and someone Whom we should love dearly, then it should be genuine and intimate.

What do I mean by that, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means just as we have to communicate regularly with our loved ones, our friends, our family members and relatives, our spouses and others dear to us, then above all these, we must have the same genuine communication with God, and the best way to do this is through prayer. And prayer being a form of communication is a two-way interaction between us and God, a very important fact that some of us may easily overlook and forget.

If we think that prayer is useless, or that it is boring, then perhaps we may want to relook into what our prayer life is like and also how we conduct our prayers. Maybe we have not been praying right and we have had misconceptions about what prayer is in reality. Prayer is not a quick solution for our problems, unlike what some among us may think, and prayer is not about asking God to solve our problems in the way we want it solved, or worse still, it is not something that gives us the right to demand God to act for us.

It is alright for us to deliver our petitions to God through our prayers, as after all, a child often has some things and requests to be asked of his parent, and we ourselves often have things we would like our counterpart in the conversation, be it our friends, or family or relatives, do for our sake. But we must not treat prayer as something we can exploit God as a wonderworker to solve all of our issues and matters. We must instead form a genuine and strong relationship with God.

If we are not sure how to do that, let us all look at the examples showed by Christ Himself, as He prayed to His heavenly Father, as the Son, representing all of us mankind as our High Priest, lifting up the prayers of the faithful to God. He thanked God and blessed His Name for all He had done, and then He asked through prayers, blessings and strength not for Himself, but rather for His own disciples, that all of His disciples might be strengthened in their faith and be able to endure challenges and trials they would come to face.

And that is what prayer should be, brothers and sisters, that it should be free from selfishness, desire and pride. Prayer is a form of the connection we make with God because we love Him and want to spend precious time with Him. And in prayer, we also need to listen, to listen to the words of God speaking to us in the depth of our hearts. For if we say that prayer is a two-way communication, then we should be able to listen just as God is listening to us. By establishing a healthier and better relationship with God, we will be better able to lead a more Christian way of life.

And as a result, if we are gradually able to live better in a more Christian-like manner, surely more and more people will see in us that true Christian behaviour and way of life, and as a result, our very own lives and actions become effective witnesses for Christ’s truth, and a very effective method of communicating our Christian faith to all those who have not yet known Christ. Often times, we do not need to talk loudly or speak eloquently to convince others. Rather, it is by our action that we can draw more people to be closer to God and to reveal His truth to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today we are all challenged to deepen once again our relationship with God and seek to renew our prayer life, that if once our prayer life have not been effective and active, then we should pray from now on with the desire to listen to God and to know His will, just as we also speak our hearts and our minds before Him. We are challenged to be better communicators in our communication and relationship with God, and thereafter, our communication and relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters as well.

And today, we also happen to celebrate the Feast of Mary, Our Lady the Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan, and a Day therefore for Universal Prayer for our fellow brethren of the Church in China. On this day, let us all keep in mind our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ in China, who have suffered and endured various forms of persecutions and challenges in the past many years and decades. We pray for all of them and hope that God will help them all, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, the Help of all Christians.

Let us all unite our prayers and intentions therefore, and from now on, as one united Church, be ever more united and vibrant in how we pray, in how we desire to seek the Lord and love Him, and also in our love and compassionate care for our fellow brethren, especially to those who need our help, those who are oppressed and are facing difficulties, such as our brethren of the Church in China among many others out there as well. May God be with them and help them, and may He help us all and guide us all in our own journey as well. Amen.

Sunday, 17 May 2020 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the sixth Sunday in the Season of Easter, as we quickly approach the end of this blessed season and time, with the Solemnity of the Ascension coming up within the week, and the Solemnity of the Pentecost coming very soon as well. On this Sunday therefore our attention is brought to the promise of God’s Holy Spirit that He has made to His disciples and which we have therefore received through the same Apostles and disciples of the Lord, passed down through God’s Church.

In our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the work of St. Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles who went to the land and region of Samaria in between Judea and Galilee, and preached there about the truth and salvation in Jesus Christ, and many came to believe in the Lord. And as described, when the Apostles in Jerusalem heard about the conversions of the Samaritans, some of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John went over there to pray over the newly converted Samaritans and laid their hands on them, giving them the same gift of the Holy Spirit they have received at Pentecost.

The same Holy Spirit has therefore been passed down from the hands of the Apostles to all the faithful people of God, and from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops and priests of the Church who then in turn pass down the same Holy Spirit to the faithful down the many generations since the early days of the Church to this very day. We have received the same Holy Spirit through our Sacrament of Baptism, when we were baptised like that of the Samaritans, in the Name of the Blessed Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and then sealed by the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard of the Apostle exhorting the faithful to remain true to their faith in God, to keep the tenets of their faith and to be strong amidst the pressure to leave behind their faith and the temptation to abandon their God. The Apostle exhorted the faithful to be genuine in their faith, to be virtuous and righteous in their words, actions and deeds so that all those who slandered and oppressed them would be ashamed and humiliated by their own wickedness and evil.

St. Peter therefore called on all of us as Christians to be active in living up to our faith, to be faithful in all things and deeds that everyone who hear us, witness us and interact with us may know that we are Christians, that we belong to God and are His people, and that we are who we say we are, faithful and dedicated to do the will of God at all times. Otherwise, how can we then call ourselves as Christians? And if we do not sincerely practice our faith, we will end up scandalising it, as others will then then be able to point our faithlessness and lukewarm attitude.

The Lord Jesus put it plainly before all of us in our Gospel passage today, that if we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments and do the will of His Father, and that is to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our might and with all of our efforts and attention. If we truly love God, then we will also love our brothers and sisters, regardless of who they are and how close they are to us, and we will love them through all our actions, caring for them and showing them the same love and compassion that God has shown us all.

This is what is meant for us to be Christians, and to be faithful in our calling as God’s own beloved people. If we are not able to do this, or unwilling to do what the Lord has called us to do, then we cannot call ourselves as Christians. Unfortunately, this is what many among us who call ourselves as Christians are doing in our lives. We carry on our lives treating our Christian faith as merely a formality, just as a badge or name on paper only, and not living with sincere desire and love for God.

Many of us even had to drag ourselves to go to Mass every Sunday, and many more even attended Mass only on Easter and Christmas, and some did not even attend any Mass or faith activities at all! This is the sad state and reality about our faith, which had been happening in the past many years and decades. However, the good news is that in recent years, there had been a surge of hope as more and more Christians, especially the younger generation, began to take their faith much more seriously again. They began to attend the Holy Mass with regularity and genuine desire to know more of the Lord and to love Him.

More and more people are beginning to wake up from their slumber in their faith lives, as they began to take a more active and dedicated approach in their lives to follow the Lord. More and more people begin to seek for God, desire for His love and love Him again with greater sincerity of heart. This is what all of us must embrace too, brothers and sisters in Christ. God has called us to Himself, and He has shown us the path and He has also bestowed upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help and guide, to lead us down the path of truth and hope.

Are we willing to follow this path shown to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives from now on with Christian sincerity and dedication? The choice is ours alone, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can choose whether we want to continue to be lukewarm with our faith, to be unfaithful and treating our faith as no more than a nuisance and chore, or whether we want to embrace our faith with zeal and sincere commitment, to walk down the path that God has shown us?

In our current time and day, we are still enduring the painful effects of the various tragedies we have been encountering all these past few weeks and months, particularly the still dangerous threat of the coronavirus pandemic. As of today, over four million people had contracted the disease, and while over one and a half million had recovered, but almost three hundred thousand people had lost their lives, and millions more are still hospitalised and some among them fighting for their lives.

And many tens of millions of people if not more are threatened in their income and employment. Many had lost their precious work and many had to endure significant difficulties in searching for new job, while others had to work extra hard because they are in the frontline and healthcare efforts to combat this pandemic. Others had to endure significant pay cuts or suspension in their pay, and thus worry about how they will feed and take care of their loved ones.

Now, what are we going to do then? How do we live our lives as Christians and indeed, genuine Christians during these difficult and dark moments? It is by showing genuine love for our fellow brothers and sisters, to share hope and encouragement with one another, rather than to act selfishly or to stoke hatred for certain groups of people or individuals. We have heard and read of quite a few sad story of how the current crises led to increase in incidents of racism and attacks against certain group of people, certain acts of ostracising and unfair treatments and judgments of our fellow men, among others.

We have also heard how people acted irresponsibly and selfishly, hoarding essential goods and materials, just so that they could save themselves and get what they wanted, but with disregard for the need of others. And it is the sad truth that not few Christians were among those who have committed all these irresponsible, unjust, and indeed, most un-Christian behaviour. And this is therefore a reminder for each and every one of us that we must not adopt this kind of attitude ourselves.

Rather than spreading hatred, injustice and bitterness, we are called and indeed challenged to spread love, justice and compassion instead. When our hearts and minds are tempted to be selfish in our actions, to be angry at other people and to fear for our safety and our livelihood, to despise and to be filled with despair, let us all remember that God is always there for us, by our side, as our Hope and our Strength, as our Anchor in this most uncertain and darkest moment of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us bring with us this Hope we have in God, the trust we have in His love and providence, and let us share it with everyone around us. Let us be the beacons of God’s light and hope, brightening the lives of others around us, helping our brothers and sisters to overcome their fears and despair. Let us all be true Christians at all times and bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. May the Lord be with us always and bless our every good endeavours. Amen.