Sunday, 23 April 2017 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate together the Second Sunday of Easter, also known in the recent years as the Divine Mercy Sunday, based on the popular devotion to the Divine Mercy by the Polish nun and visionary St. Faustina Kowalska. Today therefore, we remember and glorify the great mercy of God, His most merciful heart, through which He has shown His desire to forgive us sinners from our sins.

We mankind have sinned from the time when we first entered into this world, from the time of our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, whom God created and placed in the beautiful garden of Eden, intended to live in bliss and joy for eternity. And yet, we have disobeyed the Lord and did what was abhorrent in His sight, and thus, we had to endure the fate of suffering and pain in this world, and also death had come to rule over us. All of us would have perished in the end. But God did not intend this to happen to us, as He wanted to show us all His mercy.

And how does God show His mercy to all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is none other than by the generous giving of His only Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate symbol of God’s love and mercy. Remember that in the famous verse from the Gospel of St. John, Jesus said to Nicodemus, that “God so loved the world, that He sent into the world His only Son, that through Him, all will not perish but find eternal life and redemption.”

Jesus had come into this world bearing His truth and His love. The love and mercy of God had been made manifest through Christ and all that He had done. He had shown mercy on sinners and all those who had once been sundered from God’s love, calling them to repentance and forgiveness. He had turned sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes, criminals and delinquents into the path of the Lord’s salvation. He showed them that there is hope beyond the darkness of their sins.

For He has done the ultimate act of love, by His willing and loving sacrifice on the cross. During the Holy Week, which had just passed on not long ago, we remembered the memory of the Lord’s Passion and suffering, how He endured the last week of His earthly life in Jerusalem, and eventually giving Himself up for the sake of the salvation of all mankind, God’s people, by laying down His life on the cross, for our sake, and for the absolution of our sins.

But if Christ had remained dead, then there would have been no proof of God’s mercy. For then He would just be like any other men who have died because of their sins. It was His glorious resurrection from the dead which made God’s mercy available for all of us, as He proved that death does not have the final say to us, and by His resurrection from the dead, He showed us all that there is hope in life through Him.

Yet we often acted as St. Thomas the Apostle had done. We knew how St. Thomas often had doubts in his heart about the Lord, and he also doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead. He did not want to believe before he was able to prove it himself, by seeing for himself that the Lord is risen, and physically present in his presence, that he was able to tangibly sense and recognise His presence, by putting his fingers into the wounds on the hands, feet and the side of the Lord’s Body.

We often try to find excuses and justification for our way of life, by acting in the same manner as St. Thomas had done. We are too easily swayed by our senses, by what we see, what we hear and what we feel around us. And that is how we ended up falling into sin. We sin because we are not careful enough with how we live our lives, as we are tempted by the temptations of this world, be it the temptation of desire, of pride, of recognition, of wealth, possessions, fame and many others.

We are easily tempted, and we are prone to fall into sin again and again. Yet, that is what our crosses in life are. We must persevere and remain true and faithful to God to the very end. Remember how Christ bore His heavy cross for our sake, and despite falling three times, He always stood up again. This is a reminder for us that, even when we fall into sin, we must not let despair to take over us, but we must keep instead the strong hope for our salvation, by keeping our focus on the Lord, and having the strong conviction not to commit sin again in our respective lives.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, we will surely encounter moments of weakness and doubt as St. Thomas had encountered, but we cannot give up, for what is at stake is none other than the fate of our souls. Do we want to give up to sin, and therefore endure forever the eternal damnation that is the just reward for all those who have not turned away from sin and perished? Or do we rather repent and turn away from those sins, as best as we can, and therefore enter into God’s merciful love and grace?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where it is important for each one of us Christians to show God’s mercy to one another, to promote His everlasting mercy for each one of us. But we must be careful lest we end up promoting false mercy, which God does not show to us sinners. God is indeed merciful and forgiving, and He is willing to wipe away our sins, but all of these depend on whether we ourselves want to be forgiven.

Yes, this is the reality, which all of us must carefully keep in mind. We must not and cannot offer false mercy, by allowing sinners to continue to live in sin and say to them that God understands their sinful actions, as if He condoned such actions and sins. We have to keep in mind that God despises sins and wickedness, just as much as He is loving and kind towards us. He loves each and every one of us, and desires us to be forgiven, but He does not condone our sins.

God loves sinners, but not sin. This is the reality about God’s mercy. We as Christians have received the promise of God’s salvation, but we must remain vigilant and ready, lest we fall again into sin. It is said in the Gospels, that if the righteous falls into sin, then he or she shall perish, because of the sin committed. And similarly, if a sinner turns away from sin and do what is righteous and just in the eyes of God, the sinner will be saved because of the righteousness he or she had committed.

That means, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to show real mercy in our actions and interactions with others, especially with those who have lapsed away from God’s grace. We must not judge them in a way that we are ourselves also sinners, and if we judge them in this manner, then we too will be liable to be judged in the same way.

Rather, what we all need to do is to welcome them, and help them, to turn away from their sinful ways, just as we ourselves must keep ourselves from doing what is sinful in the sight of God and men alike. We must follow what the Lord said to the woman condemned for adultery, that is to ‘sin no more’. Jesus did not condemn the woman, but what we often forget is that, He also asked her to abandon her sinful ways, and turn herself completely to the way of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we remember God’s most Divine Mercy on this Sunday, let us all therefore, first of all, remember how we are sinners and how we have sinned in various ways in our life, be it venial or small sin, or serious sin. And thus, let us all make the commitment to reject all of our sinful past way of life, and seek to be changed by the grace of God, opening ourselves to receive God’s forgiveness. Let us help one another to attain this forgiveness, by encouraging one another to lead a righteous life in accordance to God’s will.

May the Lord, Whose most Divine Mercy wants us to be forgiven and to be reconciled to Him, grant us the strength to persevere through the temptations and challenges in this life, so that we may always be able to resist the temptation and pressure to sin, that by turning our back to sin and sinning no more, we may be worthy to enter into the heavenly inheritance which the Lord has promised to all those who are faithful to Him. O Most Divine Mercy, have mercy on us all sinners. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : White
John 20 : 19-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : White
1 Peter 1 : 3-9

Let us praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His great mercy. In raising Jesus Christ from the dead He has given us new life and a living hope. The inheritance that does not corrupt nor goes bad nor passes away was reserved to you in heavens, since God’s power shall keep you faithful until salvation is revealed in the last days.

There is cause for joy, then, even though you may, for a time, have to suffer many trials. Thus will your faith be tested, like gold in a furnace. Gold, however, passes away but faith, worth so much more, will bring you in the end praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ appears.

You have not yet seen Him and yet you love Him; even without seeing Him, you believe in Him and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith : the salvation of your souls.

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

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 117 : 2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His loving kindness endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

I was pushed hard and about to fall, but the Lord came to my help. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Joyful shouts of victory are heard in the tents of the just : “The right hand of the Lord strikes mightily.”

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it. This is the day the Lord has made; so let us rejoice and be glad.

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

Liturgical Colour : White
Acts 2 : 42-47

The people were faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, the common life of sharing, the breaking of bread and the prayers. A holy fear came upon all the people, for many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles.

Now all the believers lived together and shared all their belongings. They would sell their property and all they had and distribute the proceeds to others according to their need. Each day they met together in the Temple area; they broke bread in their homes; they shared their food with great joy and simplicity of heart; they praised God and won the people’s favour.

And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

(Holy Week) Sunday, 16 April 2017 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Vigil and Easter Day (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Alleluia! The Lord is risen! He is indeed risen from the dead, and darkness has been dispelled, and sin has lost its sting, for death no longer hold any dominion over all those who believe in the Risen Lord, our Saviour and Master. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we rejoice greatly because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was indeed witnessed and proved to be triumphant against death, that not even the gates of hell were able to hold Him back.

We have gone through the entire celebrations of the Holy Week, beginning with Jesus our Lord’s triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, in order to begin His Passion and complete the mission for which He had been sent into this world, for the salvation of all mankind. We have gone through how the Lord had His Last Supper with His disciples, giving His own Precious Body and Blood to them, establishing a new Covenant which will never be broken again, for on the next day, He took up the cross and died for the sake of all mankind, sealing the new Covenant with His Blood.

But all of these would have been meaningless, and our faith would indeed be nothing if Jesus just died on the cross, and then stayed dead. What made our faith so remarkable is that we believed in the One Who had suffered and died for our sake, and yet, on the third day counting from the day of His death, He reappeared in this world in glory, no longer dead, but filled with life, as the Risen Lord and Triumphant Saviour.

Without Easter, our whole faith and belief would be meaningless, and without the resurrection from the dead, all that we believe in and all that we do are without any purpose. For if Jesus died on the cross and stayed dead, what good would that do for us? Does not other men and women also encounter death at the end of their life on earth, and then death claimed us? But Jesus had shown us that death will not have the final say over us.

All of us mankind, whom God had created out of His great love for us were never meant to perish and die. We were all created to share the love which God had in Himself. He created us so that we can love Him and He can love us, and by sharing together the love we have, we may live forever in bliss and harmony, instead of suffering and die. But because we have disobeyed God and sinned against Him, then because of those sins we have received our just punishment, and sin took hold over us and had dominion over us.

Yes, sin enslaved each and every one of us ever since our first forefathers disobeyed the Lord and His will. Sin chained us and death dominated over us, just as much as the people of Israel was enslaved by the Egyptians and came under the domination of the Pharaohs, the king of Egypt. And we suffered grievously, just as the people of Israel had once suffered from persecution and oppression. Yet, while the Pharaoh and the Egyptians could only inflict bodily and physical harm over the Israelites, sin is an even more dangerous as it inflicts harm on our souls.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during the Easter Vigil, we heard the long series of readings, seven in total, from the Old Testament, revealing to all of us throughout history, just how God had endeavoured to bring His people back to Him, that is all of us, by His wonderful works and grace. We heard how He had again and again brought respite and help for His people, and promised that He would bring them salvation and liberation, through the Messiah or Saviour He told them about, the One Who would save all of them from their sins.

We heard how God also brought His people out of the land of Egypt, walking through the Red Sea, which He opened before them, so that they could walk through them on dry land. He crushed their enemies, their oppressors, the Egyptians and their chariots. That was the old Passover. Now, we all no longer celebrate the old Passover but a new one, which God had brought upon all of mankind, through Easter.

For all of us who have received our baptism, we have been washed with the holy water in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We have passed through the water just as the Israelites have walked through the Red Sea by the grace of God. And if we looked back a bit, we remembered how the Israelites were saved from a great disaster and catastrophe, by the blood of the lamb they slaughtered, and put as a mark on their houses, and we remember now, how Christ our Lord, the Lamb of God had been sacrificed for our sake.

Through baptism, all of us have received a share in the death of Christ, and we have become partakers in His salvation and in His loving works. Through baptism, we have received the reassurance and the promise that will never, ever be broken, the promise of life everlasting with God, in grace and eternal joy. And just as Christ had died and then rose again in glory, defeating death, therefore all of us who believe will also triumph together against death and evil, and rose in glory as our Lord had risen.

This is the true meaning of Easter, and why we rejoice so greatly in this season. It is a joy so great that it is truly indescribable. We should indeed be joyful and be thankful of God’s great love for us, that He was willing to do so much for our sake, and on our behalf, just so that all of us may be saved. This is our Easter joy, far surpassing even the joy of the Israelites when they were rescued from the tyranny and slavery of Egypt.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what are we all then ought to do from now on, even as we share together this Easter joy? We now need to truly be children of the Light that we are, and act as those whom God had chosen from the world to be His disciples. And how do we do this? It is by abandoning our past way of life, our sins and our wickedness. In Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses we celebrate, we all make our renewal of the baptismal promises, for all those who had been baptised, and a new vow of baptism for those who are just baptised.

Through these vows and promises, we all renewed our commitment to reject Satan and all of his wicked lies. We are all called to abandon those sinfulness, and embrace a new life blessed by God. Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what all of us Christians need to do, as all those whom God had blessed and called to be His sons and daughters. Yes, by baptism we have been adopted as God’s own children, and therefore, as God is good and just, all of us are called to righteousness too.

Let us all love one another, giving our love, care and concern, especially to all those who have no one else to love them, those who are homeless, those who are ostracised and dejected, all those who are sorrowful and in pain and suffering, all those who are persecuted and troubled. Let us bring love and comfort to these brethren of ours, and help them to see that despite all of their sorrows and difficulties, God will always be with them, through us.

May the Lord awaken in us all a strong faith and heart filled with love in this Easter season and beyond. May the love and joy of Easter continue to burn strongly in our hearts, as we continue to go on with our lives. May the Lord empower us all to become His good disciples, persevering day by day to live out our faith with zeal and through real and genuine actions, to be worthy people and disciples of the Lord, our Risen Lord. Let us all be witnesses of His resurrection and of His love for each and every one of us, and make disciples of all the nations! God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

(Holy Week) Sunday, 16 April 2017 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Day Mass (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 20 : 1-9

At that time, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat.

The napkin, which had been around his head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. Scripture clearly said that He must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that.

Alternative reading
Matthew 28 : 1-10

At that time, after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake : an Angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came to the stone, rolled it from the entrance of the tomb, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his garment white as snow. The guards trembled in fear and became like dead man when they saw the Angel.

The Angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen as He said. Come, see the place where they laid Him; then go at once and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. This is my message for you.

They left the tomb at once in fear, yet with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to His disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way and said, “Rejoice!” The woman approached Him, embraced His feet and worshipped Him. But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell My brothers to set out for Galilee; there they will see Me.”

Alternative reading (Evening Mass)
Luke 24 : 13-35

At that time, on the same day Jesus rose from the dead, two followers of Jesus were going to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem, and they talked about what had happened. While they were talking and arguing about what had happened, Jesus came up and walked with them. But their eyes were not able to recognise Him.

He asked, “What is it you are talking about?” The two stood still, looking sad. Then the one named Cleophas answered, “Why, it seems You are the only traveller to Jerusalem who does not know what haw happened there these past few days.” And He asked, “What is it?”

They replied, “It is about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a Prophet, You know, mighty in word and deed before God and the people. But the chief priests and our rulers sentenced Him to death. They handed Him over to be crucified. We had hoped that He would redeem Israel. It is now the third day since all this took place.”

“It is also true that some women of our group have disturbed us. When they went to the tomb at dawn, they did not find His Body; and they came and told us that they had had a vision of Angels, who said that Jesus was alive. Some of our people went to the tomb and found everything just as the women had said, but they did not find a Body in the tomb.”

He said to them, “How dull you are, how slow of understanding! Is the message of the prophets too difficult for you to understand? Is it not written that the Christ should suffer all this, and then enter His glory?” Then starting with Moses, and going through the prophets, He explained to them everything in the Scriptures concerning Himself.

As they drew near the village they were heading for, Jesus made as if to go farther. But they prevailed upon Him, “Stay with us, for night comes quickly. The day is now almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. When they were at table, He took the bread, said a blessing, broke it, and gave each a piece.

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised Him; but He vanished out of their sight. And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts filled with ardent yearning when He was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures?” They immediately set out and returned to Jerusalem.

There they found the Eleven and their companions gathered together. They were greeted by these words : “Yes, it is true, the Lord is risen! He has appeared to Simon!” Then the two told what had happened on the road to Emmaus, and how Jesus had made Himself known, when He broke bread with them.