Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the continuation of the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who died defending his faith in the Lord. He pointed out just how stubborn the people of God had been throughout time, having disobeyed the Lord and refused to listen to the words and reminders He had given them through His messengers and prophets.

In the same manner, therefore, they had also refused to believe in the Lord Jesus, even though the Lord and Saviour of the world had done all that He could to persuade them to believe, including performing numerous wonders and works among them, casting out demons and healing the sick, feats and works that are impossible in the hands of men, but perfectly possible for God.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told the people yet another blatant truth about Himself, which they refused to believe, even though that was what the Lord truly had done for them. In that, we are reminded of the centre tenet of our faith and Christian belief, that we believe in God, Who has willingly given us His own Body and Blood, given to us freely as food and sustenance, just as much as He has fed His people Israel for forty years during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Yet, the people of Israel refused to believe in God, and even though He had shown them much love, by providing all that they needed along the way, and protecting them from their enemies, they still became wayward and rebelled against Him, even to the point of worshipping the pagan idols and false gods abhorrent to Him. God has been so kind to them, and yet, they abused His love and rejected Him.

That was what they had done to the Lord Jesus and to His Apostles as well. And what had happened to St. Stephen, had also happened to numerous other followers of the Lord. They have been persecuted, facing arrest and also torture in order to stand up to their faith, defending what they held to be right against all those who refused to believe in God and in His truth. And all of these were due to the stubbornness in the hearts of men, who refused to submit to God.

Now, are we going to go the same way as those rebellious generations who have disobeyed God and His commandments? Are we going to follow in their footsteps? We have to realise that all of these disobediences are caused by our own inability to resist the temptation to follow our desires, our greedy nature and our pride. We refuse to believe in God because we think that we know it better and we want things to go according to our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on our lives. Thus far, have we been disobedient and deliquent in our ways? Have we been wayward in our dealings and interactions with one another? These are some of the important questions that we need to ask our lives. However, we must also realise that there is a need for us to take action with our lives, by doing our very best to live in accordance to the Lord’s ways, even if that end up meaning that we have to go against the world.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that this world offers us many tempting and pleasurable things, that are indeed very tempting for us to follow through. However, we have to be farsighted, looking beyond what is immediately ahead of us. The path that the Lord offers us is more difficult and challenging, and certainly it is not a most enticing and encouraging one. And we must always be mindful that Satan is always out there, actively trying to sway us from finding our path towards God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep this in mind as we carry on with our respective lives. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly, devoting our time, effort and attention in order to stand up to our faith, just as St. Stephen and all the other holy saints and martyrs of God had done, all those who had gone before us and showed us how to be truly faithful to God.

Let us all therefore, persevere in our faith, that whatever it is that the devil is trying to do, in order to confuse us and to lure us away from God’s salvation, we will be able to resist them, as we look forward to our true inheritance, which God alone can give, that is the true joy and happiness, glorious together with Him. May God be with us all, and may He guide us all in our journey, that we will be able to overcome the world, and turning back on our sins, we may be made worthy of eternal glory in Him Who loves us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 30-35

At that time, the Jews said to Jesus, “Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe You. What sign do You perform? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert; as Scripture says : They were given bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven. My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. The Bread God gives is the One Who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.” And they said to Him, “Give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me shall never be thirsty.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 30 : 3cd-4, 6ab and 7b-8a, 17 and 21ab

Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Fortress for my safety. For You are my Rock and my Stronghold, lead me for Your Name’s sake.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit; but I put all my trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in Your love, for You have seen my affliction.

Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your love. In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from human wiles; You keep them in Your dwelling.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 7 : 51 – Acts 8 : 1a

Stephen said to the Council, “But you are a stubborn people, you hardened your hearts and closed your ears. You have always resisted the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did. Was there a prophet whom your ancestors did not persecute? They killed those who announced the coming of the Just One Whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the Law through the Angels but did not fulfil it.”

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Then he knelt down and said in a loud voice : “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he died. Saul was there, approving his murder. This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to reflect on our lives and our actions, whether we have led a true Christian life, especially as we heard from the first reading passage today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, how the first Christian communities lived their lives. In that account, we heard how they cared for each other and loved one another tenderly, with true charity and generosity.

They had no need to worry or be concerned, for they shared what they possessed with one another and lived with virtue, and no one was ever hungry or in need. Those who had more would share what they had excess with those who had less, and everyone therefore had enough to sustain themselves. They would also offer part of their possessions and incomes to the Apostles, who would then distribute them according to what the people needed.

And that was how the first Christian communities lived. They followed the examples of the Lord, their God and Master, Who had shown them the example of perfect, unblemished love that surpassed any other forms of love, by His own example, the love He showed from the cross, by which we have been saved. That was what He mentioned to the Pharisee, Nicodemus, as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

Jesus mentioned to Nicodemus, the truth about Himself, as the One sent by God because He loved us all so much, that He gave us all His own beloved Son, so that through Him, all of us may not perish, but instead have eternal life. And He mentioned to Nicodemus a premonition of how He would exactly do it, by telling him about the comparison with the bronze serpent of Moses.

The story of the bronze serpent of Moses was that at the time when the people of Israel went through the desert during their Exodus from Egypt, they rebelled and sinned against God. As a result of their sins, God sent fiery serpents after the people, and those serpents bit many among the people of Israel and as a result, those who were bitten, they perished in the desert.

The people have sinned greatly against God, and they deserved to be crushed and destroyed for their disobedience. But God heard their pleas for mercy and cries for help. Thus, He informed Moses to craft a bronze serpent and place it on a pole that it might be raised up high before the people. Those who were bitten and saw the bronze serpent were healed and did not perish.

The Lord Jesus compared Himself, the Son of Man, with the bronze serpent of Moses. He said that just as the bronze serpent was raised up high, so was the Son of Man to be raised up high before all, on the cross at Calvary. Through that act of perfect and selfless love, He has redeemed us from our sins, that by gathering to Himself all of our sins, the sting of Satan’s works, and all of the corruption and wickedness that had been with us and in us, He brought us all a new hope of a new life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it was this selfless and perfect love which the Lord Jesus had shown us all His disciples, that has led to many of His followers to imitate and to emulate Him, in the living of their own lives and in their actions, just as the early Christian communities had done. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten to do this, and we have instead been tempted and persuaded by the devil to walk away from God and from the path He has shown us.

We have been tempted to be selfish in our actions, in seeking to satisfy our own personal desires and attain personal glories and achievements first. But this is not what all of us as Christians should be doing. Let us all realise this truth, and turn away from all the selfish and wicked acts we have been doing thus far. Let us instead follow the example of our holy and devout predecessors, loving one another and caring for those who are in need, and therefore, be worthy people of God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us to live faithfully and walk with zeal in the path He has shown us. May He bless us all and all of our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 7b-15

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again from above. The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus asked again, “How can this be?” And Jesus answered, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things! Truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we witness to the things we have seen, but you do not accept Our testimony. If you do not believe when I speak of earthly things, what then, when I speak to you of heavenly things? No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man.”

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Tuesday, 10 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.