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.

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.

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.

Thursday, 15 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 Scriptures, once again we are brought to focus on the mission that God has entrusted to us all as Christians, as those whom He has chosen and called to be His own, that each and every one of us be part of the same mission He has entrusted to His Church, that is to all of us who are also members of His Church, the One Body of Christ, the faithful people of God.

We have all been called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, the same Apostles whom as described in our first reading today, stood before the whole Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council facing opposition and bitter resentment from most of its members. The Sanhedrin clearly made known what they wanted, that they all ceased their works and efforts to preach in the Name of the Lord Jesus, recently crucified by the Sanhedrin’s works, and risen from the dead.

St. Peter and the other Apostles firmly rejected and resisted the commands of the Sanhedrin, and stated with great determination and conviction that they would rather obey God and His commandments rather than to obey and follow the commands of fallible men, those who failed to understand the truth of God and those who stubbornly refused to believe in Him because of their pride and arrogance, their desire for fame and power.

Then, in the Gospel today, we heard of the testimony of truth that both the Lord Jesus Himself and St. John the Baptist, His herald had revealed and spoken of, revealing the fullness of the long planned salvation of mankind, that only the One Who had come down from Heaven would have known of. St. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah and called the people to repentance and to abandon their sinful ways that they may come to accept the Lord and His truth when He came.

For all of that, he had to suffer, and the Pharisees and the chief priests doubted him, just as they would later on also refused to believe in the Lord when He came, and he would suffer martyrdom at the hands of king Herod and his unlawful wife, Herodias when he spoke courageously against the immoral behaviour and adultery between the two. And the Lord Himself also suffered as He spoke the truth and was rejected by many among the Sanhedrin, who handed Him over to the Romans to be condemned to death and crucified.

Thus, as we can see here, often, to walk in the path of the Lord is to endure the opposition, challenges and sufferings that are likely to be in that path, and which we have to endure as we walk in His path. The Lord calls us to follow Him nonetheless, and as we embark on this journey of faith, and are we willing to commit ourselves to His cause? Rest assured that the Lord will be with us just as He has been with His Apostles, guiding them and giving them the strength to persevere over their challenges and trials.

Today, in this world there are still many who have not yet known God and who have not witnessed His love and His truth. And we are all as Christians are the ones who have been called to be those who shall bring the Good News of God, His love and presence into the midst of those who have not yet known God and are still in darkness and in ignorance of God’s truth. We are all called to be faithful witnesses of our Christian faith and we should not just be idle or be Christians in name only.

That is why, thus far, as we rejoice during this season of Easter, we are constantly being reminded again and again that the Lord is calling on us to be active and devout Christians, to be genuine in our beliefs and faith, and to be zealous and dedicated in how we live our lives, so that we can become good role models for one another, as we reach out towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and speaking the truth about the Lord, His truth and love, and the salvation He has promised all of us.

Let us all discern carefully therefore what we should be doing, as we move forward in life. Let us make good use of the time and opportunities which we have been given, and be fruitful in all of our good efforts and endeavours, in what we do in each and every moments of our lives to glorify the Lord and to be ray of hope for our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering especially during this and the past year, that through us, they may also come to know of God and His love. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded of the Lord’s providence and guidance towards us. He has given to us His protection and set His Angels before us, defending us in the constant struggle against those who oppose us and persecute us. He will never abandon us or let us all go unaided and unguided, and He has always extended freely His love and care, His concern and compassion towards us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how the Apostles again got into trouble with the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin and the chief priests who sent the guards to arrest them as they continued to preach in the Name of the Lord and worked miracles among the people even after having been told not to continue such works and actions anymore. The Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord deemed it right for them to obey the Lord’s commands rather than man’s commands.

Thus they persevered through those oppositions and the efforts to stop them and their works. They did not allow the threats and even arrest and imprisonment to hinder them or to make them afraid to do what the Lord had commanded them to do. Instead, they shouldered on and pushed on, and prayed frequently together, asking for the Lord’s guidance and strength. And the Lord sent His Angel to free the Apostles, leading them out of the prison unharmed as we heard in our first reading passage today.

The chief priests were all astonished and amazed at what happened and wondered how the disciples could have escaped from their imprisonment, because they still refused to believe that the Lord Jesus was indeed truly the Messiah and that the Apostles and the disciples were guided by God and strengthened by His Holy Spirit throughout their ministry and service, their efforts in reaching out and evangelisation to the people of God.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself had made the same assurance to Nicodemus, one of the few supporters of the Lord among the members of the Sanhedrin. The Lord uttered the famous phrase in the third chapter of the Gospel of St. John, that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that all those who believe in Him shall not perish and die, but shall receive eternal life’, as a proof that God truly loved His people and cared for them.

And that was why He sent us Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be our Lord and Saviour, as He revealed to Nicodemus, and the truth which the Apostles and the disciples had been working on so hard to deliver to the people. And more and more people came to believe in God because of the works and the efforts of these faithful servants of the Lord, and the Church grew rapidly even amidst challenges and often intense persecution and opposition.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? As the disciples of the Lord in this present day world, we still have the same duty and obligation, the calling and the mission to reach out to our fellow men and women, to more and more people, as though many had been saved, but there are many more out there who have not yet believed in God, and there are many more people still who have not yet known Him and heard about Him.

This is where we, all of us as Christians, should commit ourselves, our efforts, time and attention to continue the good works that were started by the Apostles and the disciples, in being role models and good examples of our Christian faith and living, so that all those who see us, hear us and witness our works and ways of life, will come to believe in us, and be touched by the Lord and be willing to follow Him in faith, that more may come to embrace the Lord and His salvation through us.

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all just as He has strengthened and protected the disciples and the Apostles. May the Holy Spirit give us the courage and wisdom to be good and exemplary role models of the Christian faith in our communities, and may God bless us all in our every good works, efforts and endeavours, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the great love that God has shown us, and through which, leading by His own examples, He has shown us what we all must do as Christians in loving God and loving one another, as the beacons of God’s light and love in this world. We are all called to be God’s true disciples and followers, not just in name only but also in our every actions, words and deeds throughout life.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles of the continuation of the account how the earliest Christian communities lived, in communal living and genuine care for one another. As mentioned, no one had to suffer or be in lacking of anything because those who had been blessed with more cared for those who had less and they shared God’s blessings and love among them, so that everyone who then saw them, truly knew they were God’s people.

This was because they set themselves distinct and unique from others, that by challenging the usual norms of the world and its ways, they truly brought forth a new way of life into this world, that is the Way of the Lord. They testified for their faith through their own way of interacting and living with one another, where instead of seeking for personal glory, fame and satisfaction, they instead sought for the glory of God and for the betterment of others, their fellow brethren in their midst.

And these are the ones born of the Spirit as mentioned by the Lord, namely those who have accepted God, as their Lord and Saviour, and internalised His ways, His truth and teachings. They have listened to the Lord and embraced His way faithfully, and committed themselves to live out their way of life in the world as those whom the Lord had called and chosen to be His beloved people. This is the example of what Christian faith and charity is all about, and what we are all also called to do in our lives.

The Lord Himself has shown us His love, by His most loving sacrifice on the Cross, which the Lord Jesus Himself had revealed and predicted to Nicodemus the Pharisee, as He spoke of the bronze serpent of Moses lifted up in the desert during the time when the Israelites faced fiery serpents as a consequence of their rebelliousness and wickedness in sin against God, their constant complaints and displeasure against God even with all that the Lord had done for their sake.

He showed them His mercy, by giving them reprieve and salvation from their predicament, through the bronze serpent, the prefigurement of Christ Himself, Who, having been lifted up on the Cross, became the salvation of all mankind. By His suffering and death, Christ has endured the worst of punishments and humiliations so that we all may live and not perish through sin and death. All of these He had done out of love for us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord wants us to realise that there are so many things that we should be doing as Christians as those who believe in Him, to follow in His examples and all that He had done for our sake. The Lord has shown us His examples, His actions and His love, and it is really up to us to follow Him, and to be like the early Christians who have emulated this love in their community, in their interactions, care and concern for one another.

Today, we all should be inspired by the examples set by Pope St. Martin I, a courageous servant of God and worthy successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ and leader of the Universal Church. Pope St. Martin I was remembered for his strong faith and love for God, his adherence to the true faith at a time when there were those who advocated false teachings and aberrant ways, in which he had to struggle against even the powerful, and no less than the Roman Emperor himself.

Pope St. Martin I had to endure tough challenges and trials, going even against even the secular powers and authorities who openly supported the heretics. As a result, he was arrested, exiled and made to suffer, and eventually died a martyr’s death. Yet, till the very end, Pope St. Martin I held firmly to the faith, and dedicated himself to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care, not wanting them to fall into the falsehoods of heresy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our commitment and faith in the Lord, and strive to do our best for the sake of God and our fellow men, in embracing our Christian calling, to be men and women for others, and to show God’s love and truth in the midst of our communities, in our families, among our circle of friends and to all those whom we encounter in life daily. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 12 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 Scripture, we are reminded of the power of God guiding each one of us, as He led His disciples through their missions and works, providing for them and helping them as they navigated through the many challenges and trials, and embarking on the many opportunities they had in evangelisation to the people about God and His saving works.

In our first reading today, we heard of the prayers of the Apostles and the disciples, just after St. Peter and St. John were released from the custody and inquiry by the members of the Sanhedrin. They thanked God for His protection over them and prayed for guidance and strength that they might continue to serve Him faithfully at all times, and they sought Him for His continued love and grace.

They were indeed those who had been reborn in the Spirit as mentioned by the Lord Himself to Nicodemus, when they were conversing about the works that the Lord Jesus had done, and the identity of the Lord, as the One Who had come from the Father into the world in order to save it. The Lord had revealed to Nicodemus, one of the few faithful among the Pharisees, Who He really is.

And He told Nicodemus that unless one is reborn again in the Spirit, they will not be able to recognise Him and His works. And all are called to be reborn again in the Spirit, through the baptism of water and the Holy Spirit that the Lord brought unto us, His Church. The Apostles and the disciples had received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and they had been renewed in faith and strengthened, with great courage to carry out the mission that God had entrusted to them.

The Holy Spirit transformed them all from people who were fearful, as they were just after the Lord had been crucified, and then later on, as they feared the persecution by the Jewish authorities. They were transformed into courageous and willing participants in the works of the Lord, as St. Peter and St. John had done, in testifying their faith before the assembled people in Jerusalem, and before the Sanhedrin itself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on what we have received and heard through the Scriptures, on what we ourselves have been called to do as Christians in our respective lives. Each and every one of us have the share in the same baptism, and received the same Holy Spirit that the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord then had received.

However, are we all willing to let the Lord guide us through His Spirit as the Apostles had done? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the mission that the Lord had entrusted to us, dedicating our efforts, time and attention to serve Him and to glorify Him by our actions, through our every outreach to our fellow brethren, our every little deeds by which we show God’s love and truth to more and more people whom we encounter in this world?

Let us all do our very best therefore to do what the Lord had commanded us to do, to be exemplary in our lives as Christians, to be good and worthy disciples of Our Lord in all things, that by our efforts and works, more and more people may see the light of God’s salvation through us, and therefore, be saved and may enter into the glory of the kingdom of God with us. May God bless us all, and may He guide us in all of our good works and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 11 April 2021 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today marks the last day of the Easter Octave and also the Second Sunday in the season of Easter. According to the declaration of Pope St. John Paul II at the canonisation of St. Faustina Kowalska in the Jubilee Year of 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter ever since has also been known as the Divine Mercy Sunday. The devotion to the Divine Mercy continues to spread in popularity ever since it was made known by St. Faustina Kowalska herself, in the visions she received of the Lord in His Aspect as the Divine Mercy.

On this Sunday, as we celebrate this Feast of the Divine Mercy of God and the Second Sunday of Easter, we are brought to attention through the Scripture readings of the wonderful graces that God has given us through His Church, all that He had done for us and what it is we then ought to do as Christians, as those who truly believe in God, in Him as Our Lord and Saviour. We have seen the Light of God’s salvation through Christ, Our Saviour, and through Him we have received the assurance of eternal life and glory, if we held on to our faith firmly in Him.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the way that the early Christian communities had lived, in how they showed great care and concern for one another, in how they lived in communal living, sharing their blessings and possessions with one another, in being selfless in their actions and in helping sincerely those who were in need within their communities. Through those examples, we are shown that indeed it is possible for us to live our lives entrusting ourselves to the Lord and resisting the temptations of worldly desires.

And all of them believed in the Lord, their Saviour, Whom St. John in his Epistle to the faithful today spoke of, as the One Who had conquered death and triumphed over the darkness and evil. Christ has overcome death through His Resurrection and by His love for us, for each and every one of us He has endured the worst of punishments and humiliations for the sake of our salvation, our liberation from the tyranny and bondage of evil and death. Through Him, we have received the assurance of a blessed new existence, if we are to seek Him with all of our hearts and strength.

But as we heard in our Gospel passage today, many of us still hesitate to believe in the Lord wholeheartedly or to entrust ourselves to His love and care, and we still have doubts in our hearts, like what St. Thomas the Apostle showed us. We all know what happened as described in today’s Gospel, as St. Thomas publicly doubted the Resurrection and refused to believe that the Lord has risen from the dead. He has always been the most skeptical among the disciples, and happened to be absent during the time when the Lord appeared before His disciples for the first time after His resurrection.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord and said that he would only believe if he could prove that the Lord was indeed risen from the dead, only to be humbled when the Lord Himself appeared right before him and told him to prove everything just as he had said. St. Thomas believed and said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord and my God’. He and all the other Apostles and many of the disciples of the Lord witnessed the Risen Lord in person, and from then on, became courageous and faithful witnesses of His truth.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we may be thinking that St. Thomas was lacking in faith and was a doubtful person, but before we make any judgment on his actions, we ought to remember very well that it is perhaps and likely what we ourselves had done as well. Have we not doubted the Lord at some point in time in our lives? Have we not placed Him to the sidelines and forgotten about Him, prioritising more on other things in life, or treating Him as One Who is not significant and does not really exist?

St. Thomas in fact represent all of us, the people of God. There are many of us with different experiences and varying levels of faith and devotion. And at some point, we may have grown weak in our commitment to the Lord and begin to doubt Him, based on our own experiences, or when we were distracted and tempted by the many worldly temptations and concerns that we turned away from the Lord and began to idolise other things like money and material possessions, fame and prestige. At times, we have fallen in our path and lose our way like St. Thomas had experienced.

As we can see, the Lord did not choose perfect people to be His disciples, and rather, He called and chosen people who would have otherwise be overlooked by the society. He called the uneducated, those who were deemed as sinners and unworthy, people of no renown and those who were ordinary, to be His disciples and followers. But what was amazing is that He transformed them all from their ordinary existence into a new extraordinary existence through faith. That was how all the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord could courageously stand up for their faith and endure the bitter persecutions of those days.

And the words of St. Thomas as he came to witness the Lord, Risen and alive in the flesh, is the same words that we also utter at the moment of the Transubstantiation, when the bread and wine offered in the Holy Mass, by the power of God through His priests are transformed in reality, matter and essence to the very Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself. And when we see Him lifted up before us, we say, ‘My Lord and My God’ just as St. Thomas did. It is of us that the Lord had spoken, that even though we have not seen Him in person, but we believe, and we are blessed because of that.

We believe that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, really present in His Body and Blood, and which we receive and partake together as one Church. And we believe that He has given us all these so that through His sacrifice on the Cross, we may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin. In the words of St. Faustina Kowalska, the visionary of the Divine Mercy, and which is mentioned in every recitation of the Divine Mercy prayer, ‘Eternal Father, I offer you, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Your only beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the atonement of our sins and those of the whole world’

In tandem with what we heard from St. John, this is our Christian faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, in God Who is so loving and merciful towards us, that even as we have sinned and disobeyed Him, and doubted Him again and again as St. Thomas had done, and abandoned Him like the other disciples, denied Him like St. Peter, not once but thrice, but God’s love and mercy are still greater than all those, and if He forgave all of them, and made them to be worthy disciples and Apostles, then certainly He will forgive us all our sins as well.

This is the power of forgiveness from Our Lord, the Divine Mercy of God, the healing and reconciliation that have come through the loving sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross at Calvary. This is the power of God’s compassionate mercy through which He assured us of victory and triumph over sin and death, over the chains that had kept us trapped and enslaved all these while. However, are we willing to embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, brothers and sisters? Are we willing to be reconciled with Him?

We often do not realise what God’s mercy and forgiveness really mean. And many of us think wrongly that the Lord in His mercy and as the Divine Mercy will forgive us all of our sins and allow us to continue committing those sims again and again, essentially condoning our sinful way of life and our state of sin. No, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord indeed forgives us freely and generously, but if we are to be fully forgiven, then we have to embrace His forgiveness, and this requires for us to repent, turn away from our sins and seek to walk in the path of the Lord.

Do we all remember the Lord speaking to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, that He did not condemn her, but also telling her at the same time, ‘Go and sin no more’? This is what the Lord wants from us, a heart that yearns for Him, that is filled with the desire to love Him, and full of faith and believing wholeheartedly in His Resurrection and the salvation which He has therefore brought unto us, through His Passion, suffering and death, and glorious Resurrection.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all entrust ourselves to the Divine Mercy of God, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us all put our trust in Him, knowing that He has loved us so dearly and so patiently, and let us be filled with genuine regret and the desire to repent from our many sins, the sins which have been purchased and forgiven through the shedding of the Body and Blood of Our Lord on the Cross, the perfect sign of His eternal love for us.

Let us all not be stubborn and doubtful anymore, but acknowledge the Lord just as St. Thomas had once done, and humble ourselves before Him, allowing Him to lead us in our way, so that we may truly serve Him faithfully as Christians, and contribute in whatever way we can, to move forward with the many works of the Church of God in our world today, for the greater glory of His Name. May God be with us all, and may He, the Divine Mercy, forgive us all our sins, and embrace us all sinners, who desire to return to Him and be reconciled with Him. Amen.

Saturday, 10 April 2021 : Saturday within Easter Octave (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are called to be courageous in proclaiming our faith and the truth about the Lord and His Resurrection, His salvation and glory in the midst of our communities, among the communities and the peoples we are living with in this world, to be genuine Christians in all of our words, actions and deeds. We have to be faithful in the mission which God has entrusted to us all, His Church.

In our first reading today we heard the consternation and disbelief among the members of the Sanhedrin during the time when they took in the Apostles St. Peter and St. John for questioning, when they were interrogated for their activities. The Sanhedrin were surprised and amazed that the Lord Jesus and His works continued even after His death, as they likely believed that they had gotten rid of Him once and for all. And the great wisdom and courage showed by the two Apostles greatly unsettled them.

That the Apostles spoke courageously of the salvation of God that had come through Christ, recently crucified and handed over by the Sanhedrin to the Romans, and proclaimed as risen from the dead angered quite a few of the Sanhedrin members who were more hardline in their beliefs and opposition against the Lord, but the more moderate members cautioned violence and hardhanded actions against the followers of the Lord.

As such, the Apostles were released with just a stern warning that they were not to continue preaching in the Name of the Lord or continue their mission. But certainly, as we have seen, the Apostles refused to obey such a human order, and instead, continued to preach the truth of the Lord, proclaim His Resurrection and way to all the people, the Jews and the Gentiles alike without fear. They persevered through the challenges and trials, the persecutions and oppositions they faced, and remained true to the mission entrusted to them by God.

It is that same mission which we have heard in our Gospel passage today that the disciples and followers of the Lord had dedicated themselves to, following God with all of their strength to proclaim His Good News to the nations, as the Lord Himself commanded them all to “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.” Through this commandment, the Lord has sent all of His followers to be missionaries of the faith, and the witnesses to His truth to all the people, calling more and more to Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is the same mission that we have been entrusted with, as members of the Church and through our common baptism, by which we have been made sharers in the same mission of the Lord, to reach out and evangelise the many peoples of the world, of all the nations, and to be witnesses of the Lord’s truth and Resurrection. And the works of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord were far from done, as there are indeed still so many opportunities and avenues through which more and more can be saved.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to contribute to this calling and mission we have? Are we willing to spend the time and effort to be true disciples of the Lord, that is not just in name or formality only, but also through real action and works? This is what we have been constantly reminded through this Easter season thus far, to be the living Church, continuing the works of the Apostles in our present day world and communities. As Christians, we have to be active in living our faith and be good role models and examples for our fellow brethren.

Let us all therefore do whatever we can, in whatever little and small things we can do each day, to reach out to our fellow brethren and be ever more committed to serve the Lord through our actions, through our charitable deeds and real, genuine concern for our fellow brothers and sisters. We are all called to be generous in our love and in our outreach, that more and more may come to know of God and His love through us, so that many more souls may come to repentance and reconciliation with Him, and thus be worthy to enter into eternal life and glory.

May God bless all of our efforts and endeavours, and may He, Our Risen Lord and Saviour, help us all to remain firm in faith and to be strong and courageous just as He has strengthened His Apostles and disciples to speak up and stand up for their faith before the Sanhedrin and those who doubted and oppressed them. Be with us, Lord, always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 9 April 2021 : Friday within Easter Octave (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the continuation of the accounts of the Lord’s Resurrection and the early activities of the Apostles in spreading the faith in Jerusalem. In our first reading we heard how the members of the Sanhedrin brought St. Peter and St. John for questioning after they healed a paralytic man at the Temple gate and preached to the people who were gathered. Meanwhile, in our Gospel today we heard the appearance of the Risen Lord to His disciples at the Lake of Galilee not long after His resurrection from the dead.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, the influential and powerful members of the community questioning St. Peter and St. John for what they had done in healing the paralytic man. Based on what they were asking the Apostles, essentially they were surprised and amazed that the two Apostles could have done what was deemed impossible. Certainly those Sanhedrin members would have recognised the paralysed man who had been by the Temple gate for so many decades.

Yet, they were dumbfounded because they must have thought that since they managed to kill Jesus by condemning Him to death through the Romans, that they had eliminated this rival to their power, influence and authority. They could not believe that His Name was still being spoken and preached around, and even more so, that miracles could happen through His Name and power. That was because they sincerely believed that Jesus was a false Messiah.

And they were even more dumbfounded because they knew many of the disciples and followers of the Lord were mere ordinary people who were mostly uneducated except for a few, and St. Peter and St. John being formerly fishermen from Galilee were among the uneducated ones. Yet, they were able to speak with such eloquence, wisdom and passion, and perform such miracles, that the Sanhedrin were stunned by what they had done in the Lord’s Name.

They were all doing what the Lord had called them to do, as they obeyed His commandments and calling to reach out to the peoples of the nations, and proclaim to them all the Good News of His salvation, and call all of them to be reconciled with Him and to embrace His truth. That was what we heard in our Gospel today as well, symbolically presented in the occasion when the Lord appeared to His disciples in Galilee for the first time.

Today, in the Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus appearing to the disciples just as they were fishing in the lake of Galilee, having followed His instructions to go to Galilee where they would meet Him. They went to fish and could not gain anything over the entire night. Then, when the Lord came before them on the shore, He told them to cast their nets and immediately there were so many fishes that the boats were almost sunk by the amount of fishes that they managed to catch. It was then that they recognised the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in that story, we heard a very symbolic representation of what the Lord called His disciples to do. First of all, Galilee itself at that time was at the periphery and edge of the Jewish world and community, a place very distant from Jerusalem and Judea, and which was dismissed by the Sanhedrin who said that no one worth of note, nor the Messiah would have come from there. There were many Gentiles living there together with the Jewish populations in Galilee.

Therefore, by being called to Galilee by the Lord, it was representative of the Lord sending out His disciples to go forth to not just the Jewish people but also to the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people, and to spread the truth and salvation in Christ to all of them, without exception. The symbolism of the boat and the fishes is also very powerful, as the boat where the disciples were on, is the Church of God, often represented as a ship or boat, in which the many fishes, each of them represent the peoples of the various nations.

It was at that same place that the Lord Himself called the disciples, to be the fishers of men. It was thus that the Lord reiterated that calling and mission which He then entrusted to all of His disciples and followers, sending them all to reach out into the deep waters, and to cast their nets so that more and more people may come to know the Lord and be saved, and this is the same mission which He has entrusted to all of us as Christians, as parts and members of the Church, sharing in the same mission He has commanded on all of us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be courageous in faith and in carrying out the ministry entrusted to each and every one of us as parts of God’s living Church. Let us all turn towards God with faith and commit ourselves to Him with renewed zeal that we may be ever more committed to live our lives from now on with sincere desire to serve Him in our respective communities, reaching out to those who are in need of us and our help, and showing them the love of God, that they too may come to believe in Him.

Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord’s calling, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all do this, and let us all contribute in whatever little ways we can, in our own ways, among our communities, families and relatives, circles of friends and others we encounter in life. May God, our Risen Lord and Saviour be with all of us, and may He bless us all and our every good works and endeavours. Amen.