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.

Friday, 24 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us all of the commandments of God yet again, to love one another as we have loved God and ourselves, to give our love from our hearts and be sincere in the offering and giving of ourselves to our fellow men. And this has been the distinguishing feature of our Christian faith from the very beginning.

In the early Church, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, there was once bitter division and feud between the opposing factions in the Church, between those who wanted to impose the rigours and strict observations and standards of the Jewish customs and laws on the whole community of the faithful and those who wished to relax the draconian and rigorous imposition of such laws on the whole Christian community.

But in all the bickering and conflict, they forgot that the most important thing for all Christians to do is not to be paying attention or putting the focus on these trivial matters that distract them all from doing what they have been called and commanded to do, that is to love. In their hastiness and focus on the external appearances, instead of doing the will of God, those early Christians ended up causing hurt and troubles to the Body of Christ, the Church.

And in all of these, we are all called to the examples shown by none other than Christ Himself, the Lord of all, Who has shown His love so generously and lovingly, that He sacrificed Himself for the good of all His people, bearing the burden of the Cross and endured the bitter humiliation and pain so that we may all live and not perish. If God had not loved us in such a way, all of us would have perished because of our sins.

And today we remember in particular all those who have also suffered with Christ because of the love and dedication that they had for Him, their faith and commitment in Him and their desire to be part of the larger Universal Church, which had been suppressed and prevented by the circumstances that they had to encounter. On this day we remember therefore our brethren of faith of the Church in China suffering persecution in a way how the early Christians had suffered.

Despite the challenges and difficulties they faced, the faithful there still held on fast to the hope in God and to the assurance that Christ had brought into this world that no matter how they had suffered, but God and His faithful ones will be triumphant in the end. God has always been with His people, and through His mother Mary, the Blessed ever Virgin Mary, God has always watched over them and protected them.

That is why today, on which day one of the Marian feasts recognised by the Church, that is of Our Lady of Sheshan, we also remember her as the Help of Christians, as when the troubles, challenges and persecutions of the world come upon the faithful, it is to Mary that many of them turn towards, just as children turn towards their mother seeking for protection, guidance and loving care, so do us the faithful turn to our blessed Mother for help and protection.

Today, let us all keep in our prayers, our brethren in faith in China, as well as many others around the world, who truly love God genuinely and desire to worship Him and to be His followers, and yet, facing intense persecution and challenges at the same time, just because they are Christ’s disciples. And this is where we can truly grow in our love for God, just as these brethren of ours truly love God so deeply and sincerely from their hearts.

If we have thus far taken our faith for granted and not being sincere and true in our love for God, then perhaps now is the time for us to change our mindset, our attitude and our way of living our faith lives. Let us all draw closer to God, thanking Him and loving Him for each and every moment He has loved us so dearly, and love our brethren and keep them in our mind, at every possible moment. Amen.

Friday, 24 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”