Sunday, 18 April 2021 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the third Sunday in the season of Easter, we are all called to speak of God’s salvation that has come down into our midst through Christ, the Son of God, Who has willingly taken up on Himself all of our sins and all of the punishments due for those sins. He has endured all those sufferings, humiliations and trials for our sake, out of love for us. God has planned everything for our salvation, and we have been blessed because of that.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the Jewish people in Antioch in Pisidia called upon St. Paul to speak to the Jewish diaspora in the synagogue on the Sabbath, to give them encouragement and strength. They were open and willing to listen to what St. Paul was to say to them about the Lord Jesus and His teachings. And thus, St. Paul spoke to them about how God rescued the ancestors of the Israelites from Egypt, how He led them out of the land of Egypt, and brought them to the Promised Land and guided them through the desert against their enemies.

Through this, St. Paul wanted to remind the people of God, the Jewish people of his time and also all of us Christians throughout the generations of the salvation promised by God, the love which He has held for all of us since the very beginning, and which He has faithfully kept as part of the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. And God will never abandon us to the darkness, to sin, evil and death, as He has shown how He broke the bonds of slavery from the Israelites by the Egyptians, and which He later on then showed even more wondrously by breaking the chains of sin and death from all of us.

As we heard our Gospel passage today, which was centred on the Resurrection of the Lord, we heard of how He appeared to the assembled disciples just after He appeared to the two disciples who were on their way to the village of Emmaus. At that time, the disciples hid themselves in fear in Jerusalem, because their Lord and Master had just been condemned and crucified to death by the Sanhedrin and the Romans, and they were left leaderless and lost.

When the Lord appeared before them, in all of His Risen glory, the disciples were astonished and stunned, unable to believe all that they had seen. Many would likely have thought that they had seen a ghost, and they were truly scared, as they could not believe that the Lord had truly returned to life, as death was truly something not only feared but also a certainty, from which no one could escape from. This is the fact, even when the disciples themselves had seen on few occasions how the Lord raised Lazarus and some others, including the daughter of a synagogue official from the dead.

Hence, the Lord showed them all that He was truly alive, returned from the dead, not merely a ghost or a spirit. Truly, He was risen from the dead in the Body and Spirit, having overcome death itself and destroyed the bondage of sin. As He ate before all of them, He proved to them all that He has overcome death, as no spirit or ghost could have done so. Eating is something that only the living could have done, and the Risen Lord was truly alive, in all of His risen glory.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what we believe in, at the very core of our Christian faith, that we call ourselves as Christians because we believe in Jesus Christ, the One Whom God had sent into the world, His own only begotten Son. And through Christ, all of us have received the promise and assurance of eternal life by the Covenant which He has established with us and sealed with His own Precious Blood. We believe that the same Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over death, and through His death and resurrection, He has shown us the proof of the saving power of God.

The Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection are fulfilment of what the prophets had been speaking about in the previous centuries before His coming. However, many of the ones who were supposed to know about the truth, such as the intellectual and wise Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were educated about the Law, the Scriptures and the words of the prophets, refused to believe in the truth and opposed the works of the Lord and His efforts, as they viewed Him as a rival to their power and influence within the community.

What prevented them from believing in God, in His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour? It was their pride and desire, their attachment to the privileges, prestige and power they possessed, and their desire for fame and glory, for praise and acknowledgment that they wanted, and they feared to lose all of those things, and they did not want to be parted from the attachments they had to worldly glory and power. As such, these became great obstacles in their path towards believing in God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are therefore called to live our lives from now on as a true testimony of our faith in Him, learning from the experiences of those who have been held back by their many attachments and distractions in life. We are called to live our lives each day with genuine and sincere faith that in our every actions, words and deeds we shall always live up to what the Lord had called us to do, and embrace fully the path that He has shown us.

If we truly believe in the Lord, then we should indeed make the effort to live our lives according to the way that He has shown us, and dedicate ourselves each day to be true to our respective calling and vocation in life as Christians, as those who believe in Christ and His truth. As St. John made it clear in our second reading today, in the Epistle he wrote to the faithful, that if we truly believe in Him then we ought to walk in His path and be genuine witnesses for the Lord through our lives and actions that become good inspirations for others.

Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we may end up being no better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom outwardly expressed their faith, and yet their faith were rather empty and superficial. Their love and attachments towards their worldly power and fame ruined them and misguided them down the wrong path. That was why the Lord criticised them as hypocrites who were outwardly faithful and yet, as per St. John’s words, were liars as they did not truly have the faith for God in them.

As Christians we are all called to be genuine and true disciples of Our Lord, at all times. And as such, we should truly put our trust and faith in Him, and should not allow fear and doubt to distract us or prevent us from seeking God and doing His will. We have all been entrusted with the most important mission and commandment from the Lord, to be His witnesses in our respective communities, in all of our actions and outreach, in our every interactions with one another.

The Apostles and the disciples have seen the Risen Lord and truly witnessed the truth about His resurrection. They have also received the wisdom and truth through the Holy Spirit that they had been given at Pentecost, which they passed on to their successors and the faithful through the Church. We are inheritors of this truth, and therefore the responsibility is also passed on to us, to be faithful and committed witnesses of our Christian faith and truth, our belief in the Risen Lord and His teachings.

That is why, having received the assurance of freedom and liberation from the bondage of sin and the chains of death, all of us should share the joy of the resurrection with others, by living our lives in a genuine, most Christian manner. For it is by our lives and actions that people shall come to believe in God through us, and not through mere words alone. Worse still if our actions do not compare or even contradict what we say, how can we then expect others to believe in us? We may end up leading people further away from the Lord, and their loss will be weighed down on us on the Day of Judgment.

As we gather together on this Third Sunday of Easter, let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, that we may consider well how we are to live our lives that we may indeed be inspiration and good role models for one another, in testifying for the Christian faith and truth. We cannot be idle or act in manner that is contrary to our faith, as doing so is hypocrisy and we will end up being no better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who once had made the same mistakes.

Instead, especially during the dark and difficult times that the world and many of our communities are enduring these past few months and throughout the past one year, due to the terrible impact of the global pandemic and other associated troubles, we should be the beacons of light and hope in our communities, among our families, our relatives and friends, our co-workers and all those whom we encounter in life, even acquaintances and strangers.

That means, when there is despair and darkness in the midst of our communities, we should bring hope and encouragement, and we should show care, concern and love for those who are needy, suffering and are struggling to make ends meet. After all, the Lord’s most important commandments are to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts and strength, and then also to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that we love God and ourselves.

Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to be charitable, caring and loving, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make our lives truly worthy of God by our contributions and faithful commitments, no matter how small they may seem to be? We are all called to be a holy people, a people filled with the Easter hope and light, the hope and light brought by the Lord’s Resurrection. If we are not able to show that through our life, then how can we expect others to follow our examples to believe in the Lord and in His Resurrection?

Let us all therefore be the beacons of God’s light in the darkness of our world today, that through our every words, actions and deeds, we may bring the light of God into the midst of our communities, restore the hope to the downtrodden and those who are despairing, filling with love those who have been unloved and abandoned, and bringing therefore more and more people ever closer to God and His salvation. May God, our Risen Lord and Saviour, bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, 18 April 2021 : Third Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 24 : 35-48

Then the two disciples told what had happened on the road to Emmaus, and how Jesus had made Himself known, when He broke bread with them. While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood in their midst. (He said to them, “Peace to you.”)

In their panic and fright they thought they were seeing a ghost, but He said to them, “Why are you upset, and how does such an idea cross your minds? Look at My hands and feet, and see that it is I Myself! Touch Me, and see for yourselves, for a ghost has no flesh and bones as I have!” (As He said this, He showed His hands and feet.)

In their joy they did not dare believe, and were still astonished; so He said to them, “Have you anything to eat?” And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish. He took it, and ate it before them. Then Jesus said to them, “Remember the words I spoke to you when I was still with you : Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

And He said, “So it was written : the Messiah had to suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead. Then repentance and forgiveness in His Name would be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.”

Sunday, 18 April 2021 : Third Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 1-5a

My little children, I write to you, that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificial victim, for our sins, and the sins of the whole world. How can we know that we know Him? If we fulfil His commands.

If you say, “I know Him,” but do not fulfil His commands, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. But if you keep His word, God’s love is made complete in you.

Sunday, 18 April 2021 : Third Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 4 : 2, 4, 6b-7, 9

Answer when I call, o God, my Justice! When I was in distress, You gave me solace. Have compassion on me and hear my plea.

But you must know that YHVH has shown His kindness to me. When I call to Him, He hears me.

Put your trust in YHVH, your God. Many ask, “Who will give us a happy time? Would, that His favour shine upon us!”

I lie down and sleep in peace, for You, alone, o YHVH, make me feel safe and secure.

Sunday, 18 April 2021 : Third Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 3 : 13-15, 17-19

From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and came to Perga in Pamphylia. There, John left them and returned to Jerusalem, while they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent this message to them, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the assembly, please speak up.”

Paul spoke to them, “The God of our people Israel chose our ancestors; and after He had made them increase during their stay in Egypt, He led them out by powerful deeds. For forty years He fed them in the desert; and after He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land as an inheritance.”

Saturday, 17 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded to put our trust always in the Lord and not to be worried or easily swayed by the many trials and challenges that we may encounter along the journey of our faith. We must not be afraid to follow the Lord and to commit ourselves to Him, and we should look up to Him, entrusting ourselves to Him as we journey through the storms and the trials of life.

In our Gospel passage today, this is what we have heard as the disciples went to the sea of Galilee on a boat while the Lord was not with them, and then later on, as the sea was getting harsh and stormy, they saw the Lord coming up to them walking on the water. The Lord reassured the frightened disciples on the boat who thought that they had seen a ghost, that it was indeed Him Who was walking towards them, and then as the Lord came to them, the disciples and their boat immediately reached their destination.

In this miraculous and wonderful occasion mentioned by the Gospel today, we heard how the Lord came to His disciples and rescued them at their time of need, and at the same time, guided them to where they were to go, leading them to the shore. Through these things that we have heard, we are reminded that God is indeed our strength and guide, our source of encouragement and our compass, the Light that shows us where we are to go, just as He has led His disciples and others to Himself.

Unfortunately, it is very often that we ourselves do not recognise the Lord especially when we are in the midst of challenges, trials and difficulties in life. When we encounter problems and dilemma in life, very often we panicked and became worried, stressed and filled with fear, and not realising that the Lord is in fact by our side, journeying with us and guiding us throughout the journey. Just as the Lord revealed Himself in the storm to the frightened disciples, He wants us all to know that no matter what, He is always with us, even to the worst things we encounter in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how the early Church faced difficulties when there was division and disagreement between the Jewish and the non-Jewish or Gentiles among the Lord’s followers, as the latter felt that they had not been equally treated in the distribution of goods, likely because of the prevailing bias against the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people by the Jews among the early Christians, even after they had adopted the Christian faith.

The Apostles, through the wisdom and guidance of the Lord in the Holy Spirit decided to choose seven exemplary men among the faithful, to be the first Seven Deacons of the Church, tasked with the works and distributions of the goods, as well as in assisting the Apostles and the elders in the Church and in managing the faithful people of God. Through the holy and inspired Deacons, the Lord had guided His people through a tumultuous times, and helped them to overcome their differences and be reconciled to each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we have heard, again we have been reassured of God’s guidance and providence among His people, in His guidance towards those whom He had called and chosen, in those whom He loves and considers as precious. That is why we should not be afraid to do whatever He has commanded us all to do, to be courageous and faithful as Christians, that in everything we say and do, we will always be exemplary in whatever we do, at all times, as great role models and inspiration for one another.

We are all called to be faithful and to be active in our Christian lives and in how we dedicate our daily efforts, for the greater glory of God. Let us all be inspired by the examples of the Apostles, the works of the Holy Deacons, the courage of St. Stephen, who died defending his faith, and the many other saints and martyrs who had gone before us, each of them truly exemplary in their lives. May God be with us all, and may He strengthen us all in our every endeavours and efforts. May the Lord be with us always, and may He give us the necessary capacity and energy to walk in the Lord’s presence, at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 17 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 16-21

At that time, when evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing.

They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and He was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but He said to them, “It is I! Do not be afraid!” They wanted to take Him into the boat, but immediately the boat was at the shore to which they were going.

Saturday, 17 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 18-19

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

Saturday, 17 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 1-7

In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the so-called Hellenists complained against the so-called Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

So the Twelve summoned the whole body of disciples together and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God to serve at tables. So, friends, choose from among yourselves seven respected men full of Spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them to this task. As for us, we shall give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

The whole community agreed and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and Holy Spirit : Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus of Antioch who was a proselyte. They presented these men to the Apostles who first prayed over them and then laid hands upon them.

The Word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly and even many priests accepted the faith.

Friday, 16 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we continue to be reminded of the wonderful deeds of the Lord, the love by which He has showered upon us as the concrete proof of His dedication and commitment to the Covenant which He has forged with us, that He wants us to be reconciled and to be together with Him as we come closer to Him and receive His truth and love.

In our first reading today, we heard of the intervention by the respected member of the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, a senior member of the Pharisees and one of the chief priests who urged caution and moderation in terms of the Sanhedrin’s opposition to the works and the efforts of the Lord’s Apostles and followers in preaching His truth and doing miracles in His Name, as he cited how the previous attempts by false Messiahs to claim their identity had failed and their followers dispersed and disbanded shortly afterwards.

Therefore, Gamaliel said that they should leave the disciples and the Apostles be as if they and their mission did not come from God, then it would fail in a short while and everything would fall apart just as what had happened to all the other false Messiahs. On the contrary, if the works of the Apostles were truly divine inspired, then the Sanhedrin, no matter what they were doing, would be going against God and thus it would have been futile to try to stop the works of God.

Through those words of wisdom from Gamaliel, we can see how indeed the fact that the Church and the works of the Apostles that had persevered for the past two thousand years, and not only that, but as how the history of the Church had shown us, the works of the Apostles and their successors had expanded the reach of the Lord and countless souls had been saved all throughout these past two millennia, heeding the Lord’s call for repentance and to be reconciled to Him.

The Lord had gathered all of His faithful ones to Himself just as we heard in our Gospel passage today, that just as we heard the well-known account of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of other women and children, we are reminded of how fortunate we are to have God Who is always ever on our side, loving us and wanting to be reconciled with us, and Who selflessly and ever willingly giving Himself to us.

In that moment when the Lord saw over five thousand men and thousands others gathered before Him, He showed pity and love for them, feeding them all miraculously with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. He broke the bread and shared the fishes, feeding them all just as He has fed their ancestors the manna in the desert. And that was only a prelude to an even far greater giving, that in the discourse that would come after this event, He alluded to how He would be the Bread of Life to all, as the Bread broken and shared for all, so that all who partake in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

That is how the Lord offered Himself and sacrificed Himself on the Cross, shedding His own Most Precious Body and Blood, for all of us who believe in Him, so that by sharing in His Precious Body and Blood, freely offered and given for us, we can share in the everlasting life and true joy and happiness which He has promised to all of us. He has showed us all His love and grace all these while, and how do we respond to this love from God, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Are we going to just pretend that His love did not exist? Or are we going to pretend that nothing had happened at all? God so loved the world, all of us that He has given us all His only begotten Son, for our sake that we may live and not perish, and yet, more often than not we have rejected Him, ignored Him, abandoned Him and betrayed Him. Yet, the Lord still patiently tries to reach out to us and help us, and He still wants to be reconciled with us.

Are we willing to embrace God’s love and mercy, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all harden our hearts and minds no more, and do our very best to seek Him at every possible opportunity, that we may come ever closer to Him and be more worthy to share in His glory and love. May God be with us all and may He strengthen us to live our lives with commitment and faith, with each and every passing moments in our lives. May God bless us all and guide us in our journey of faith, now and always. Amen.