Sunday, 16 May 2021 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Seventh Sunday of Easter we mark also the occasion of the World Communications Sunday, through which our Scripture passages today highlight to us the need for us to be involved in the outreach and evangelisation mission and efforts of the Church, and we also keep in mind at the same time all those who are involved in the field of communications especially those who are in the work of communication on behalf and as part of the Church. Communication is truly a very important aspect of our faith, and all of us need to understand its significance.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles about the discussion which the Apostles had in deciding what to do with the seat vacated by Judas Iscariot, after the traitor chose to betray the Lord that led to the Lord’s arrest, and eventually killed himself in regret for what he had done. As such, one of the seats of the Twelve Apostles had been vacated, and in order to make the Twelve once again complete, they discerned and discussed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to choose from among the disciples, who was to be the one fit to be the twelfth Apostle.

Eventually, St. Matthias was chosen to be the twelfth Apostle, and therefore, the number of the Twelve Apostles was once again complete. If we are wondering why it is so important that the Twelve Apostles ought to be complete, then we must understand that the Twelve Apostles were those whom the Lord had chosen to be His own most trusted ones, to be the pillars of the Church that He has established in this world, of which St. Peter then also served as the foundation, the ‘Rock’ of the Church, on which Christ has built His Church.

The Lord has also showed His love for them and prayed for them as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when we heard how before the Lord was about to embark on His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross, He prayed for all of His disciples, that they would be kept together and as one people, one Church, one body of disciples, and not to be lost from God. He prayed for them that they may be consecrated in the truth, to be holy and dedicated to the mission which they had been entrusted with, that they would be the ones to steer the Church through the challenging and difficult times that the faithful would encounter.

And this prayer that the Lord Jesus made to His Father for the sake of the disciples, just as the Apostles during their decision to add St. Matthias to the ranks of the Twelve, are examples of how communication is such an important aspect and part of our faith. We cannot be a true Christian unless we open ourselves to the Lord first and foremost, to communicate with Him regularly and to know His will, and to communicate with Him genuinely, listening to one another, the best method of which is through prayer, for prayer is the most intimate communication we have with God, our loving Father and Creator.

The Apostles prayed before they made any decisions, during the time when the made the decision to replace the seat vacated by Judas Iscariot, during the time when they discerned regarding other important matters pertaining to the Church, as well as when they sent out the Apostles and disciples such as when they prayed over St. Paul and St. Barnabas and sent them to minister to the Gentiles. They prayed for the Lord’s guidance and for the Holy Spirit to come down upon those whom the Lord has chosen and sent to be His missionaries and workers.

Whenever the Church does things, they always pray before anything, and prayer is truly a very integral part of our faith, that in all things, we have to stay connected and united with God, staying in touch and communicating with Him. And we also pray and ask for the intercessions of the saints, from Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, her Spouse and the Apostles, saints and martyrs. Each and every one of these saints intercede and pray for us, and they still stay in communion with us, communicating with us and never forgetting about us who are still in this world, and as they are nearer to God than us, they pray with even greater efficacy and contact with the Lord, on our behalf.

That is why, it is important that each and every one of us as Christians stay connected to the Lord through prayer and through love. Through various means we should build and sustain our relationship with Him, just as we should also build and sustain our relationships with one another, with our fellow brothers and sisters. A genuine relationship takes time and effort to be built and maintained, and we need to learn how to be good communicators, not just in words but also in various other means. A good communicator does not necessarily have to speak a lot, and what matters is how well we deliver our thoughts clearly as much as possible.

That is why the most effective prayer is often not the longest and the best phrased or verbose ones. On the contrary, the best prayers came from the heart, from deep within our heart and soul filled with true love for the Lord, and with deep longing for His truth. That is the true way of communication between us and God, one between our hearts and His most loving Heart, and not with our brains and mouth only as many had often mistakenly done with their prayers. Prayer is not a litany of requests or worse still, demands that we make of the Lord, thinking that God is One Who can solve all of our problems.

And within the Church, there is also much need for great communication as well, as mentioned by St. John in his Epistle, which is our second reading today, in which the Apostle spoke about how the Lord and His love has been given to us most generously and wonderfully, manifesting through none other than by the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son, adopting the flesh and essence of Man, entering into this world to make the love of God no longer something intangible and invisible, but now having become visible in full through His sacrifice on the Cross.

God communicated His love to all of us through His appearing in our midst, the Love of God made Flesh, and by His actions, He has truly communicated His love and true intention towards us, that while He is our Lord and Master, He is also our loving Father, and while He chastises us for our sins and wickedness, He also shows mercy and compassion, and the desire to be reconciled with us. That He is God Who is not distant and unapproachable, but instead a loving and most caring God Who is always approachable and filled with genuine love and care towards us, at all times.

Having revealed all these through Christ, He made Himself visible, that we may witness Him, know Him, understand Him, touch Him, and get close to Him. And even when He has ascended into Heaven, He reassured all of us that we are never alone, for He is always with us, as He sent us the Holy Spirit to be our strength and guide, to lead us to the right path in life. And through His giving of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, in the Most Holy Eucharist, that we receive at the celebration of the Holy Mass, we share in His Presence, that exists within each and every one of us.

And now that we should have realised just how God had communicated His love and intentions very clearly to us, all these while, then all of us are called and challenged to show the same kind of love, care and concern for our fellow brothers and sisters. And this is exactly what He has commanded and taught us as Christians to do, to love Him first and foremost, and then to love one another in the same way. That is the essence of what being a Christian is all about. And yet, there are many Christians who are still acting in ways contrary to the faith, and there are many who scandalised the faith by showing selfishness and hatred instead of love as they should.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Seventh Sunday of Easter and the World Communications Sunday, we are all called to be genuine communicators, be it in our relationship with God or in our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should begin from ourselves and from within our own small circle of family and friends, and from those whom we interact with and encounter in life. Let us ask ourselves and think if we have shown them the love as expected of us, or whether we have instead ignored them or even hate them, all this time.

Being Christians means that we are called to follow in the examples and in the footsteps of the Lord in how He has cared for us, showed His love so genuinely and communicated all these to us clearly. We should therefore also build up our relationship with Him, leading a better, more prayerful life, and at the same time, show more love towards our fellow men. If we have held grudges or hatred, or any other negative emotions in our hearts, let us learn to forgive and to communicate our desire to love and forgive those who have hurt us and made our lives difficult clearly.

Let us be genuine and good witnesses of our Christian faith, by showing more love in our actions in life, and in how we interact with our fellow brethren. It is by our actions that people will truly know that we belong to the Lord and not by mere empty faith alone. And through us and our actions, we can inspire ever more and more people to come and follow the Lord as well, to believe in Him and His truth, and it is our mission as Christians to proclaim the Lord and His truth, and the best way is by leading a good and exemplary Christian life as best as we are able to, and to communicate our faith through real, concrete and genuine actions.

That means, we should not be hypocrites who profess to believe in the Lord and yet act in a different manner, so as to contradict or scandalise our faith. And neither should we also be ignorant or passive in how we live our lives as Christians. We should step up to the opportunities that the Lord has given us to reach out to more and more people. This is how we fulfil our Christian obligations, and the mission God has entrusted to each and every one of us. Let us challenge ourselves to seek the Lord ever more wholeheartedly with each and every passing moments.

Let us lastly also remember to pray for those who have devoted themselves in the field of communication, especially those working hard to establish the reach of the Church through various forms of the media, including the social media. May the Lord be with them, and may He also strengthen and encourage us all to walk faithfully, and to be good witnesses of our faith in the Lord and be ever more prayerful and better in our relationship with Him, now and always. May God bless us all and our every endeavours and efforts, for His greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, 16 May 2021 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 11b-19

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “Holy Father, keep those You have given Me in Your Name, so that they may be one, as we also are. When I was with them, I kept them safe in Your Name; and not one was lost, except the one who was already lost, and in this, the Scripture was fulfilled. And now I come to You; in the world I speak these things, so that those whom You gave Me, might have joy – all My joy within themselves.”

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world, I do not ask You to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.”

“I have sent them into the world as You sent Me into the world; and for their sake, I go to the sacrifice by which I am consecrated, so that they too may be consecrated in truth.”

Sunday, 16 May 2021 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 11-16

Dear friends, if such has been the love of God, we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love comes to its perfection in us.

How may we know that we live in God and He in us? Because God has given us His Spirit. We ourselves have seen, and declare, that the Father sent His Son to save the world. Those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in them, and they in God.

We have known the love of God and have believed in it. God is love. The one who lives in love, lives in God and God in him.

Sunday, 16 May 2021 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

YHVH has set His throne in heaven; He rules; He has power everywhere. Praise YHVH, all you His Angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding.

Sunday, 16 May 2021 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 15-17, 20a, 20c-26

It was during this time that Peter stood up in the midst of the community – about one hundred and twenty in all – and he said, “Brothers, it was necessary that the Scriptures referring to Judas be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit had spoken through David about the one who would lead the crowd coming to arrest Jesus. He was one of our number and had been called to share our common ministry.”

“In the Book of Psalms it is written : ‘May another take his office.’ Therefore, we must choose someone from among those who were with us during all the time that the Lord Jesus moved about with us, beginning with John’s baptism until the day when Jesus was taken away from us. One of these has to become, with us, a witness to His resurrection.”

Then they proposed two : Joseph, called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias. They prayed : “You know, Lord, what is in the hearts of all. Show us, therefore, which of the two You have chosen to replace Judas in this Apostolic ministry which he deserted to go to the place he deserved.”

Then they drew lots between the two and the choice fell on Matthias who was added to the eleven Apostles.

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.