Sunday, 2 June 2019 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Monday, 25 January 2016 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Church celebrates an important event in our faith, when the great Apostle St. Paul was called by God from his old life and way of sin, and into righteousness and truth in Him, to be His servant and worker, bringing the fruits of the Good News to many nations, that many, countless souls were saved from certain destruction.

Today, we all celebrate the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, he who was once called Saul, a great enemy of the Church and the faithful, who had sworn to destroy the Church and to bring great suffering to all the faithful that he encountered. In his false and misled zeal, he persecuted the Church and brought misery to many of the faithful disciples of Christ.

Naturally, it was easy for many people, many among the faithful, to resent and hate him because of the vile and harsh actions that he had done. But, God had another plan for that young man, as He wanted him to be His mouthpiece and speaker to the many nations. It is indeed mysterious and amazing how God worked in ways incomprehensible to men, that He would make a great enemy of His Church to become its greatest defender and champion.

But that was exactly what had happened, and as God Himself appeared to Saul, He revealed the truth about Himself to him, and told him the path that he was to take. And ever since that fateful moment, Saul was never the same again, and having received the gift of purification by the sacrament of baptism, and by receiving the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit, he turned a new life, a life dedicated completely and entirely to the Lord, his God.

And because of that, many were saved, because Saul had chosen to abandon his easy life, a life approved by the society, the elders and the chief priests because of his opposition to Jesus, and thus accepting for himself, the cross of Christ which he would bear with great faith and commitment. And Saul, who later called himself as Paul, dedicated the rest of his life to help the people of God find their way to the Lord through his many travels, works and writings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, after we have heard all about St. Paul and how he was called by God to His service, surely then we ask ourselves, what is the significance of this event to all of us? Why is it so important that the Church rejoices together and celebrates it as a great feast? That is not just because St. Paul was truly a great Apostle and servant of God, but also because of the example and the inspiration that his conversion has for all of us.

In this matter, those of us who chose to join the Church not during our infancy may be able to relate better to what I am going to share with all of you about how relevant is the conversion of St. Paul to us, but even those among us who are cradle Catholics, or having received the gift of baptism since birth, we too will be able to relate well with it. This is because the story of the conversion of St. Paul, is the story of God’s love and mercy for us.

At the crux of the matter is the desire of our God Who loves all of us to bring us back into His embrace, and thus His desire that all of us should leave behind our sinfulness and wicked past lives, and begin anew in a life in Him, a life that is founded on the foundation of His ways and teachings, just as St. Paul had done. What God wants us to know is that, He wants to show us sinners His mercy, and if we are to accept His mercy, there will be much for us to do.

Yes, what is important is the desire of us sinners to repent from our sins and abandon behind all of our wickedness, that we sin no more and commit ourselves anew to a new life thoroughly dedicated to God. And there are few examples for us better than what St. Paul himself had shown us. He repented sincerely of all the evil things he had done while he persecuted the followers of the Lord, and he showed it through concrete action, by standing up for his faith in God.

Are we all able to do the same as well? It is what we should do too, considering that all of us are in one way or another, sinners and unworthy of God. And yet God has shown us His willingness to forgive us our sins and to love us once again with the fullness of His grace. It is something that we have to ponder and reflect on as we go along through our daily lives, that we would be able to understand better what we need to do from now on.

Saints themselves were once sinners, but what mattered the most was the very fact that they abandoned their past sins and wickedness, and from disobedience, they turned to a good faith and trust in the Lord. This is how they were made great and honoured. God is indeed mercy and love, but without the commitment from the sinner to accept that love and mercy, and act on them, then truly it is all meaningless for them.

Therefore, today, inspired by the examples, the courage and the faith of St. Paul, a great sinner who turned away from all of his sins and wickedness, and decided to follow fully and completely the path of the Lord, becoming a great servant and blessed in the process, we pray that all of us will also be given the strength and the courage to do the same as well.

Let us all renew our commitment and our faith to the Lord, not just in words but also in actions. Let our every deeds be testimony of our faith to the Lord, not fearing the prejudice and ridicule or persecution by the world, but be more concerned about one another, especially those who are under the threat by those who mislead them in life, and thus it is our duty to help each other to persevere in faith. Love one another and show our faith through our actions, brethren. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 25 January 2016 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : In My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Monday, 25 January 2016 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Monday, 25 January 2016 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 3-16

Paul said to the Jews, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in this city where I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our Law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this Way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison.”

“The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus and I set out to arrest those who were there and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But as I was travelling along, nearing Damascus, at about noon a great light from the sky suddenly flashed about me.”

“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me : ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me : ‘I am Jesus the Nazarean Whom you persecute.’ The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the One Who was speaking to me.”

“I asked : ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord replied : ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet the brightness of that Light had blinded me and so I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions.”

“There a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the Law and well spoken by all the Jews who were living there. As he stood by me, he said : ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment I could see and I looked at him. He then said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will, to see the Just One and to hear the words from His mouth.'”

“‘From now on you shall be His witness before all the pagan peoples and tell them all that you have seen and heard. And now, why delay? Get up and be baptised and have your sins washed away by calling upon His Name.'”

Alternative reading

Acts 9 : 1-22

Meanwhile, Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?” And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus Whom you persecute. Now get up and go into the city; there you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless; they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go at once to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, and now he is here with authority from the High Priest to arrest all who call upon Your Name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I Myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may receive your sight and be filled with Holy Spirit.” Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard were astonished and said, “Is this not the one who cast out in Jerusalem all those calling upon this Name? Did he not come here to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

But Saul grew more and more powerful, and he confounded the Jews living in Damascus when he proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

Sunday, 24 January 2016 : Third (3rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour: Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened the message of the Holy Scriptures speaking to us about the mercy and the deliverance which our Lord had brought to us all through Jesus His Son, as He entered into the world and brought us all a new hope, a new hope and light amidst the despair and darkness filling up our world.

In the first reading from the book of the prophet Nehemiah, we heard about how after the people of Israel were allowed to return from the land of their exile in Babylon and beyond to the land promised to their ancestors, they were allowed to rebuild all that had been destroyed, the Temple of God and all of their homes and dwellings, and the priest and prophet Ezra was also among them.

When the people heard about the Law and all of its tenets being read to them, they lamented and became very sorrowful and sorry, as they would have heard what the Lord would do with all those who have disobeyed His commandments, walked away from His laws and teachings, worshipped pagan gods and idols and lived in wickedness. Their portion would have been rejection and condemnation, but God would say otherwise.

Indeed, as the prophet Ezra had said, that as long as the people of God sincerely wanted to repent from their past sins and atone the wrongdoings of their ancestors and of their own, then the path forward for them will be open, as God will show His mercy and love to them, and He will bless them once again, and a people once forsaken by God for their sins will rejoice once again.

Through our sins and disobedience against God, we have indeed been sundered away from God’s love and grace, and we have been cast out of the inheritance promised to the faithful, but through our Lord’s great love for us all, He is giving us a new chance and opportunity for us to be redeemed from our fate of destruction, and give us the hope and the promise and the assurance of the entry into the eternal life found only in Him.

In the second reading we heard a long discourse by St. Paul who wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth of the Church of God which he compared to a body, and how it works as compared to how a body actually works. This is because the Church is the Body of Christ, and it is in union with Christ Who is the true Head of the Church, and by which unity the Church exists in grace and doing the good works which Christ had initiated in this world.

Separated from the Lord, the Church can do nothing, and indeed, therefore, the Church serves the Lord and does His good works, and because of that, all of us are also called to do the same, because each and every one of us who have believed in the Lord and followed Him through baptism, have been made members of God’s Church, His own Body, the Body of Christ.

Yes, just as the limbs, the organs and all parts of the body, our body are all united in our one body in each one of us, then all of us are also part of the Church, and we all should be united and function as one, just as all the parts of the body should work in tandem together. If one part of the body is missing or is taken out, then the whole body itself cannot function properly as a part is missing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us in the Church, as different we are in the background and in our personalities or categories, we are all together in this as one people, and as one functional body together. We should not let our differences or our personal desires and emotions to come in the way, as it is easy for us to succumb to those desires and instead of working together, we undermine the good works and the stability of the Church.

Most of us are the laity, those who continue to live our own worldly lives while we profess our faith in the Lord and doing His good works. Meanwhile, those who have dedicated themselves to the Lord in a life of chastity and commitment, they are the priesthood, our priests, bishops and the Pope who represent Christ the true Head, as the representatives of the Lord in this earth.

Each cannot work on its own, having own agendas or plans that especially came in contrast to each other. If this happens, then just as Jesus had said to the Pharisees in His rebuke of them when they accused Him of using the power of demons against demons, that when a kingdom or nation is divided, then the same will also happen to the Church of God, which when divided, it shall be hampered in its works of grace for the sake of the people of God.

And thus we are all brought to the reality of how divided the Church is today, where since ages past, there had been so many people who thought themselves as better than the Apostles and the Church fathers, coming up with their own teachings and innovations to the faith, leading many into heresy and separation from the Church of God.

As they bicker and fight amongst themselves, refusing to return to the true teachings of the Holy Mother Church, the Catholic Church, they weaken the unity and the good works of the Church in saving the people of God from harm and damnation. In the Gospel, Jesus our Lord had laid out the things that He had promised to bring into this world, which through His hands and continued by those who work through His Church, has made that promise a reality.

How shall we bring mercy and love to the poor and those who have fallen on the path, if we ourselves are bickering amongst ourselves? I am not just referring to the division that existed between the Church and those who have willingly and openly rejected the teachings of the Church, but also even within the Church itself, where factions and peoples are in conflict against each other, disagreeing and grumbling against each other.

That is why, on this day, as we continue to progress through this week of prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray together as one Church, that all the divisions and disagreements may cease, and unity may be restored in good harmony to all those who have been divided and separated from the love of God in the Church, and we pray that those who have willingly and openly rejected and separated themselves from the Church will repent and return to the unity of the Body of Christ in the Church.

May God bless us all in our endeavours, and may He strengthen our resolve to reunite all the divided splinters of the Body of Christ, the Church. Let us all be reunited in the Lord, as one people divided no longer, but in perfect obedience to all the teachings of the Lord as kept in the Catholic Church, that we may together give praise to Him and glorify Him, and bring His good works and salvation to more people throughout the world. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2016 : Third (3rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour: Green

Luke 1 : 1-4 and Luke 4 : 14-21

Several people have set themselves to relate the events that have taken place among us, as they were told by the first witnesses who later became ministers of the Word. After I myself had carefully gone over the whole story from the beginning, it seemed right for me to give you, Theophilus, an orderly account, so that your Excellency may know the truth of all you have been taught.

At that time, Jesus acted with the power of the Spirit; and on His return to Galilee, the news about Him spread throughout all that territory. He began teaching in the synagogues of the Jews and everyone praised Him. When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the Book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

Sunday, 24 January 2016 : Third (3rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour: Green

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-30

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit to form one body and all of us have been given to drink from the one Spirit.

The body has not just one member, but many. If the foot should say, “I do not belong to the body for I am not a hand,” it would be wrong : it is part of the body! Even though the ear says, “I do not belong to the body for I am not an eye,” it is part of the body. If all the body were eye, how would we hear? And if all the body were ear, how would we smell?”

God has arranged all the members, placing each part of the body as He pleased. If all were the same part where would the body be? But there are many members and one body. The eye cannot tell the hand, “I do not need you,” nor the head tell the feet, “I do not need you.”

Still more, the parts of our body that we most need are those that seem to be the weakest; the parts that we consider lower are treated with much care, and we cover them with more modesty because they are less presentable, whereas the others do not need such attention.

God Himself arranged the body in this way, giving more honour to those parts that need it, so that the body may not be divided, but rather each member may care for the others. When one suffers, all of them suffer, and when one receives honour, all rejoice together.

Now, you are the Body of Christ and each of you individually is a member of it. So God has appointed us in the Church. First Apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Then come miracles, then the gift of healing, material help, administration in the Church and the gift of tongues.

Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Can all perform miracles, or cure the sick, or speak in tongues, or explain what was said in tongues?

Alternative reading (shorter version)

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-14, 27

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit to form one body and all of us have been given to drink from the one Spirit. The body has not just one member, but many.

Now, you are the Body of Christ and each of you individually is a member of it.

Sunday, 24 January 2016 : Third (3rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour: Green

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever. The judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o Lord – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Sunday, 24 January 2016 : Third (3rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour: Green

Nehemiah 8 : 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all the children who could understand what was being read. It was the first day of the seventh month. Ezra read the book before all of them from early morning until midday in the square facing the Water Gate; and all who heard were attentive to the Book of the Law.

Ezra, the teacher of the Law, stood on a wooden platform built for that occasion. He opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was in a higher place; and when he opened it, all the people stood. Ezra blessed YHVH, the great God; and all the people lifted up their hands and answered, “Amen! Amen!” And they bowed their heads to the ground.

They read from the Book of the Law of God, clarifying and interpreting the meaning, so that everyone might understand what they were hearing. Then Ezra, the teacher of the Law said to the people, “This day is dedicated to YHVH, your God, so do not be sad or weep.”

He said this because all wept when they heard the reading of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go and eat rich foods, drink sweet wine and share with him who has nothing prepared. This day is dedicated to the Lord, so do not be sad. The joy of YHVH is our strength.”