Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memorial of Mary, Our Lady, Help of Christians, and the Lady of Sheshan, named after the famous Sheshan Basilica in Shanghai, China. On this day, in particular, we remember all those brothers and sisters of ours, who are currently facing intense persecution and difficult time, as they struggle to remain true to their faith in God.

That is why, the Church has designated this day, true to the memorial I just mentioned, as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. We are praying on behalf of our brethren in faith, who may be undergoing and are indeed, for many among them, facing persecution and challenges just because they identify themselves as Christians, that is as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and take Him as their Lord and Saviour.

In China today, especially in recent years, there had been increasing intolerance towards Christians in particular, and many of the faithful find it more and more difficult to remain true to their faith. I am sure many of us have heard news of how crosses were forcibly removed from churches, and restrictions put in place on Christian worship, and even, young children were barred from attending the Holy Mass or going to Church.

In all these, we can see how the persecution of Christians that once happened during its early days came back once again, especially in China, but in truth, is happening in many other parts of the world, such as in the Middle East, Africa, in the Western world, the Americas, and even recently in the Philippines, being a Christian, and especially for priests, it can be very challenging and a matter of life or death.

And when I speak about persecution and challenges, it is not just about persecution with lions and gladiators, or with swords and whips and lances, as how it was in the Ancient Roman times. Indeed, such kind of persecutions still exist, but nowadays, persecution exist in many more ways than what we think persecution is truly about. Persecution happened in many areas, in the political world, in the society and the community, through the attacks on Christian values and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we should spend some time, to think about these suffering brethren of ours, and pray for them, that God will protect them and defend them from their enemies, all the forces of darkness assembled against them. And then, we should also realise just how fortunate we may be, if we have not faced a similar kind of persecution and challenge as these brethren of ours had experienced.

Let us all do our best therefore, to live our lives as true Christians, dedicated and devoted to the Lord, that we show love and charity in our actions, towards all those who are around us. However, most importantly, in order to show our true faith, we cannot forget, that the most important virtue is indeed, love, and love that is unconditional and generous, as the Lord Himself had done.

It is easy for us to be angry at our enemies and to all those who hate us and persecute us. However, if we become angry at them, hate them and strike back at them, then are we not just as evil and wicked as our enemies had been wicked? If the Lord Jesus Himself had forgiven those who condemned Him to death and crucified Him from the cross, and prayed for them? Should we not do the same then?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all be exemplary in our faith, that we become inspiration for one another, and also even strength for those who are being persecuted for their faith, by standing up for the Lord’s sake and living our lives with faith. Let us all pray for our brethren, that God will be with them, and also with all of us, that together, we may in the end, enjoy forever the eternal grace and glory of heaven, having suffered for His sake. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Mark 9 : 41-50

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear His Name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.”

“If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell.”

“And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them.”

“Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Psalm 48 : 14-15ab, 15cde-16, 17-18, 19-20

This is the fate of people trusting themselves, the future of those who rely on their strength. Like sheep led to the grave, they have death, as their shepherd and ruler.

Quickly, their form will be consumed in the world of the dead, which is their home. But God will rescue my soul from the grave by receiving me unto Himself.

Fear not, when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great; for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

James 5 : 1-6

So, now, for what concerns the rich, cry and weep, for the misfortunes that are coming upon you. Your riches are rotting, and your clothes, eaten up by the moths. Your silver and gold have rusted, and their rust grows into a witness against you. It will consume your flesh, like fire, for having piled up riches, in these, the last days.

You deceived the workers who harvested your fields, but, now, their wages cry out to the heavens. The reapers’ complaints have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You lived in luxury and pleasure in this world, thus, fattening yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have easily condemned, and killed the innocent since they offered no resistance.

Thursday, 17 May 2018 : 7th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, through what we have heard from the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, in which we heard the great squabble between the Pharisees and the Sadducees during the hearing scheduled in the Jewish High Council regarding the Apostle, St. Paul, who was accused of sedition against the Jewish laws.

St. Paul was alone, facing the opposition from all those who were against him and all that he had preached and taught among the people. The Sadducees were against him and the teachings of the Lord Jesus, as they feared that their esteemed and special position in the society would be seriously threatened, and they were also against the beliefs in the Christian faith, such as the resurrection from the dead among many others.

They had been fiercely against the Lord Jesus, and harassed Him with questions and challenges throughout His ministry. Therefore, the same challenge and difficulty also faced all those who spoke and taught in His Name, as St. Paul had experienced. And in addition to this trouble, St. Paul, just as the Lord had experienced, also faced the opposition from the Pharisees, the other major group holding power in the society, also fiercely against Jesus and His teaching authority.

The Pharisees include many of those who were experts and teachers of the Mosaic law, that is all those who were supposed to safeguard the tenets and the rules found within the law that governed the Jewish people, based on the Law which God had first given His people through Moses, His servant. However, they ended up being too fanatically attached to their interpretation of the Mosaic law, and became too rigid in their enforcement to the point of ignoring and forgetting the true purpose of the Law of God.

Thus, these influential elders and people were also bitterly against the Lord and His Apostles, as they feared that they would lose their influence should the teachings of Jesus spread throughout the people and the towns of Israel. They were afraid that they would lose their esteemed position, just as the Sadducees were afraid of the same thing, and that their authority would no longer be accepted.

But they did not consider and place God in all of their judgments at all. They were instead driven by their greed, pride and desires, which therefore, as we have probably noticed, was why they were divided among themselves, bickering between themselves, when St. Paul put a contentious matter among them. They fought and bickered so greatly that the Roman governor had to rescue St. Paul from their midst lest he was torn apart by the feuding parties.

In this, we see how, even though St. Paul seemed to be alone, but in truth, he was not alone. God was always with him, and all the whole Church was united with him in prayer. And that is what the Lord Jesus had also prayed to His Father, in our Gospel passage today, asking that all those who believe in Him remain as one people, as one united Church, just as He and His Father were one and indivisible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are reminded of the fact that we do not exist for ourselves, but rather, first of all, for God. And then, secondly, we exist for each other, for our fellow brethren and for the Church of God. As Christians, we should not be tempted to satisfy our personal desires and ego, over that of our obligations to God and to our need to love and care for one another.

And it is important that we place God at the centre of our lives, just as we can see clearly, how those who did not place God at the centre or as the focus of their lives, like the Sadducees and Pharisees, are prone to division and conflict. And whenever conflict and division arise, it is actually a perfect opportunity for the devil to come in and manipulate us even further, to divide us and therefore, hopefully to snatch us away from God and His salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be role models in faith, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to God, and committing ourselves to faith in Him, putting our complete trust, knowing that He will be with us along the way, and He will never abandon us in our time of need. May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to watch over us all, that each and every one of us may always be united in Him, as one Church, and as one people of God. Amen.

Thursday, 17 May 2018 : 7th Week of Easter (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.”

Thursday, 17 May 2018 : 7th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.