Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Ascension, which is the seventh Sunday in the season of Easter, we celebrate the occasion of World Communications Sunday, and as we celebrate this day, I would like to focus our attention on the topic of communication, especially how we communicate as Christians, first of all in how we communicate with our God, and also how we communicate with our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men.

In our Scripture passages today, all of us heard how the Apostles were strengthened by what they have witnessed in the Ascension as described in the Acts of the Apostles, and in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard the Apostle encouraging the faithful people of God to remain steadfast in their faith amidst persecution and challenges that they faced, and said that they ought to remain strong in their struggle of the faith, as they endured the sufferings for the glory of the Lord.

This is one form of communication, the communication through written means, which the Apostles and their fellow disciples made use to strengthen the faith of the Christian faithful. The Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke the Evangelist, while St. Peter wrote the Epistle in our second reading today. Those words were meant to encourage the faithful by showing them all that they would always be guided by God and would not be abandoned, and linking to the occurrence of the Ascension, we are all also reminded that while God has ascended into His heavenly Glory, but He did not leave us all alone.

On the contrary, the Lord has promised to remain with all of His followers and faithful ones, as He showed on many occasions and which were recorded in the various parts of the Acts of the Apostles. Some of the Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul were freed from their troubles, on particular occasions when both were imprisoned, and God sent an Angel to free St. Peter from his chains, and a great earthquake destroyed the prison in which St. Paul was in and rescued him from his imprisonment.

All of these and many other testimonies of faith, when recorded and passed on in the Books and manuscripts that after approximately three centuries were codified into the final and approved Scriptures as we know it, together with the Books of the Jewish Torah and the sayings of the prophets served as a great foundation of faith for many among the faithful, as the source of their faith and belief, as the inspiration and encouragement for them as the reminders for God’s words and promises for His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received this same truth that the Apostles have received through these ways that our faith had been communicated to us. And we have to thank all those who have done their best to write the Books of the Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as well as those who have been involved in the long process in the vetting and deciding which books ought to be part of the official canon of the Scripture, as there were many books that were not written with accurate faith, some others were even heretical and filled with aberrations and mistakes.

That was why we have to appreciate the efforts of our predecessors in faith, beginning from the time of the Apostles, those who laboured hard to preach about the Lord and His salvation, those who laboured to compile the writings of the Apostles and the Church fathers. This is because on top of the Scriptures mentioned earlier, our Church has another very important pillar and this pillar is the Apostolic Tradition of the Church, the teachings of the early Church fathers, who have various ways of communicating the faith to the people, be it written or verbal.

And of course we also have to thank all those who have been involved in the propagation of the faith, all the priests and bishops, all the missionaries and those involved in the teaching of the faith, catechists, all those who have made the faith available to us, to Christians throughout the ages. Without their hard work and dedication, so many more people would not have known about God and so many more souls would have been lost to damnation, and that could have very well include us all.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, now having heard of all these, we should remind ourselves that we as part of the Universal Church are also therefore responsible and are part of the Church’s effort to reach out and evangelise to the world. Of course there are all those who have dedicated themselves to this particular mission of communicating the faith to the whole world, especially those who are ordained as priests, the deacons and the bishops, as well as those who dedicated themselves as Christian educators and catechists. But that does not mean then that we can sit back and enjoy, and ignore our responsibility in reaching out through effective and genuine communication.

We do not need to do great and marvellous actions or deeds, or preach using big and difficult words. On the contrary, it is our small actions that matter, our daily lives and our daily actions, how we live our lives and also how we interact with one another, both within our Christian communities, within our families, and also with our friends and acquaintances. If we have not been practicing our faith, leading a life filled with sin and disobedience against God, how can we then persuade or convince others to believe in God too? Would we not be hypocrites who say one thing and yet act in a different manner?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, I also want us to go deeper into the second emphasis of today’s readings, in our Gospel, where we heard the Lord Jesus praying to His Father in heaven, praying for the sake of His disciples, part of which we have heard in our Gospel passage this Sunday. As we all should know, prayer is a form of communication between us and God, and being a form of communication, between us and someone Whom we should love dearly, then it should be genuine and intimate.

What do I mean by that, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means just as we have to communicate regularly with our loved ones, our friends, our family members and relatives, our spouses and others dear to us, then above all these, we must have the same genuine communication with God, and the best way to do this is through prayer. And prayer being a form of communication is a two-way interaction between us and God, a very important fact that some of us may easily overlook and forget.

If we think that prayer is useless, or that it is boring, then perhaps we may want to relook into what our prayer life is like and also how we conduct our prayers. Maybe we have not been praying right and we have had misconceptions about what prayer is in reality. Prayer is not a quick solution for our problems, unlike what some among us may think, and prayer is not about asking God to solve our problems in the way we want it solved, or worse still, it is not something that gives us the right to demand God to act for us.

It is alright for us to deliver our petitions to God through our prayers, as after all, a child often has some things and requests to be asked of his parent, and we ourselves often have things we would like our counterpart in the conversation, be it our friends, or family or relatives, do for our sake. But we must not treat prayer as something we can exploit God as a wonderworker to solve all of our issues and matters. We must instead form a genuine and strong relationship with God.

If we are not sure how to do that, let us all look at the examples showed by Christ Himself, as He prayed to His heavenly Father, as the Son, representing all of us mankind as our High Priest, lifting up the prayers of the faithful to God. He thanked God and blessed His Name for all He had done, and then He asked through prayers, blessings and strength not for Himself, but rather for His own disciples, that all of His disciples might be strengthened in their faith and be able to endure challenges and trials they would come to face.

And that is what prayer should be, brothers and sisters, that it should be free from selfishness, desire and pride. Prayer is a form of the connection we make with God because we love Him and want to spend precious time with Him. And in prayer, we also need to listen, to listen to the words of God speaking to us in the depth of our hearts. For if we say that prayer is a two-way communication, then we should be able to listen just as God is listening to us. By establishing a healthier and better relationship with God, we will be better able to lead a more Christian way of life.

And as a result, if we are gradually able to live better in a more Christian-like manner, surely more and more people will see in us that true Christian behaviour and way of life, and as a result, our very own lives and actions become effective witnesses for Christ’s truth, and a very effective method of communicating our Christian faith to all those who have not yet known Christ. Often times, we do not need to talk loudly or speak eloquently to convince others. Rather, it is by our action that we can draw more people to be closer to God and to reveal His truth to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today we are all challenged to deepen once again our relationship with God and seek to renew our prayer life, that if once our prayer life have not been effective and active, then we should pray from now on with the desire to listen to God and to know His will, just as we also speak our hearts and our minds before Him. We are challenged to be better communicators in our communication and relationship with God, and thereafter, our communication and relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters as well.

And today, we also happen to celebrate the Feast of Mary, Our Lady the Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan, and a Day therefore for Universal Prayer for our fellow brethren of the Church in China. On this day, let us all keep in mind our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ in China, who have suffered and endured various forms of persecutions and challenges in the past many years and decades. We pray for all of them and hope that God will help them all, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, the Help of all Christians.

Let us all unite our prayers and intentions therefore, and from now on, as one united Church, be ever more united and vibrant in how we pray, in how we desire to seek the Lord and love Him, and also in our love and compassionate care for our fellow brethren, especially to those who need our help, those who are oppressed and are facing difficulties, such as our brethren of the Church in China among many others out there as well. May God be with them and help them, and may He help us all and guide us all in our own journey as well. Amen.

Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 1-11a

At that time, after Jesus said all that He had said to His disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.”

“I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word. And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You.”

“I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory.”

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.”

Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 4 : 13-16

Instead, you should be glad to share in the sufferings of Christ because, on the day His Glory is revealed, you will also fully rejoice. You are fortunate if you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, for the Spirit of glory rests on you.

I suppose that none of you should suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone suffers on account of being a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace; rather let this Name bring glory to God.

Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 7-8a

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

Hear my voice when I call, o Lord, have mercy on me and answer. My heart says to You, “I seek Your face, o Lord.”

Sunday, 24 May 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshen (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen minute walk away. On entering the city they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. Present there were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus; Simon the Zealot and Judas son of James.

All of these, together, gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women, and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

Sunday, 2 June 2019 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the seventh one in the season of Easter, we also celebrate the occasion of the World Communications Sunday, and this is important because as Christians, all of us are called to communicate first of all, to God our heavenly Father, and then to one another, engaging each other in meaningful and Christ-centric conversations and dialogues.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus praying before His disciples to His Father in heaven, highlighting the very reason we celebrate this World Communications Sunday. Prayer is a form of communication, and when it is done right, prayer can be a very intimate and a form of a very close contact between us and God. In prayer, we do not just talk or speak what we want or ask God to grant us our desires, but instead, we open ourselves, our heart, our mind and our whole being to God.

And this is what the essence of prayer is all about. The Lord Jesus prayed frequently and regularly to His Father, speaking with Him and being fully attuned to His will. He showed us all what it means to be having true and genuine communication with God, which all of us should also be having, a genuine and active communication with our Lord, Father and Creator. Without prayer and communication with God, how can we know what it is that God wants us to do with our lives?

That lack of genuine connection and communication with God was the very reason why many of us mankind living in this world have not been attuned to God and His ways. If we have been attuned to God’s will and thoughts, then what happened in our first reading today would not have happened in the first place. In that occasion, we heard of how the faithful servant of God, St. Stephen suffered at the hands of his persecutors, who struck at him and refused to listen to the truth he has preached to them.

At that time, the Church was still at its very beginning stage, and there were many of the people who had misconceptions and misinterpretations on what the Church and its teachings were all about. The Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, many of the priestly class and the Pharisees opposed the works of the Lord and His Apostles, refusing to listen to what they have passionately spoken about, and insisting on their own ideas and thoughts.

And why all these happened? It is because of mankind’s own pride and ego, their refusal to let go of their selfishness and their own sense of superiority, the pride and ego which affected their way of thinking and their thoughts. They maintained that they were right and did things according to the way that they thought was right, even though the Lord had tried to open up their minds and reach out to them, through His many messengers and servants.

That was why when St. Stephen preached to them filled with the Holy Spirit, revealing before them the truth of God and how God had prepared everything and provided everything for His people from the very beginning, they took offence at his words and became very angry, because they were stirred in their pride and ego. They refused to admit that they could have been wrong and mistaken, or that there could be another truth besides what they have always held to be right.

Many of them were outwardly pious, praying and showing their devotions in public. But the Lord Himself criticised these people earlier on, saying how many of them were hypocrites in faith, as they did not have true and genuine faith in God. They did what they have done because they wanted to be seen and therefore praised by the people for their piety and actions. The Lord did not have a central place in their hearts and minds.

That was why they were not attuned to God’s truth, and their thoughts and ways were discordant and wayward. They did not have a good communication and connection with God, and as a result, they were not attuned and aligned with the truth of God and His will. And that is why even among us Christians, there are many of us who do not have a good and healthy communication and relationship with God.

Many of us take our faith for granted, and taking for granted the love and compassion that God has for each and every one of us. We do not pray in the right way, as we pray like the Pharisees, with ulterior motives and desires, in wanting to gain something, focusing on ourselves and our selfish desires and our pride instead of on God. The true essence of prayer is one of genuine communication with God, where instead of us being someone who demand of God taking action in doing something for us, we become active communicators with God.

And this means for us to open our hearts, minds and our entire being to the Lord so that not only that we can speak our hearts and minds to God, Who knows everything that are in them, but also that God may speak in the depth and in the silence of our own hearts and minds, that He may stir in us the knowledge of His truth, and grant us wisdom and understanding of His ways. This is in essence what each and every one of us as Christians must do.

But that is not all, as first of all, of course we must be attuned to God, through a good and living relationship with God, but then we must also live our faith through good communication with our fellow brethren, by being authentic witnesses of our faith. Our Christian faith is one of evangelisation and exemplary actions, as all of us have been commanded and sent forth by God, in the last commandment He gave to us all, the Great Commission He has entrusted to us, His Church.

And that Great Commission is that all of us are sent into the world, to call all the people, of all races and origins, of all backgrounds and ways, to be true believers in God, the loving Father and Creator of all things. And the best way to communicate is often not through words, as we may think that in order to be witnesses to our faith we must be very good speakers and be inspirational and charismatic in all the things we do. No, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we need to do is in fact simple things, our everyday actions and all the things we do in our dealings with one another.

That means, in how we interact with each other, with our fellow brethren, we must always keep in mind what it means for us to be Christians. God must be at the centre and be the focus of all the things we say and do. And if God is at the centre of our lives and our relationship with Him is good, through genuine prayers as we mentioned and discussed earlier, then we will grow more attuned to Him in our lives and actions. And naturally, we will gradually become more and more reflective of God’s love and wonders in our own lives and actions.

Let us all therefore be great communicators in our own ways, as how God wants us to be, in what He has blessed us with, our abilities and respective talents. Let us all be exemplary in our lives, so that by our every words and actions we may become true and genuine witnesses of the Lord. May God bless us all in our efforts and in everything we say and do. Amen.

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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 22 : 12-14, 16-17, 20

I am coming soon, bringing with Me the recompense I will pay to each one, according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who wash their robes, for they will have free access to the tree of life, and enter the city through the gates.

I, Jesus, sent My Angel, to make known to you these revelations concerning the churches. I am the Shoot, and Offspring of David, the radiant Morning Star. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” Whoever hears, let him say, “Come!” Whoever thirsts, let him approach, and whoever desires, let him freely take the water of life.

He Who has declared all this says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1 and 2b, 6 and 7c, 9

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Justice and right, are His throne.

The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory. Let all spirits bow before Him.

For You are the Master of the universe, exalted far above all gods.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 7 : 55-60

But Stephen, 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.