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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 8-9, 10-12

My heart is steadfast, o God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul, awake, o harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn.

I will give thanks to You, o Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to You among the nations. For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Let Your Glory be over all the earth!

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 22-31

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate the feast of our Lady of Sheshan or Sheshen, a major Marian devotion in China, as well as the feast of Mary herself as the Help of all Christians. This is of a particular importance as on this day, we commit ourselves together as the whole Church, to pray for our brethren, the faithful people of God now suffering persecution, whether legally or subtly, because they are faithful to the Lord and to His teachings.

Before we go on with regards to this matter, we have to first understand about the condition and the background of the situation of the Church and the faithful in China itself. The Church and the faithful in China had endured a long and difficult period of persecution and challenges ever since the Communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and took over the control over mainland China.

At first, the officially atheistic and anti-Christian Communist government and officials openly persecuted the Church of God and the faithful people of God. They were harassed, attacked at every turn and opportunity, and their persecution took a nationalistic and political perspective, as the faithful Christians were deemed to have been influenced by the foreign influences, or even worse, by accusing them as traitors to the nation.

In what is similar to persecution of Christians in the earlier ages, even as the early Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire and by the Jewish authorities, many of the faithful suffered greatly for having kept their faith in God alive. Their properties and possessions were seized, their families and children were threatened, tortured or even brought to judgment and were killed unjustly.

Priests and bishops were sent to concentration and reeducation camp, where many suffered for many years. Some died in prison and for some the fact about their suffering was only known much later on. Such grievous things indeed which the faithful people of God in China had suffered for staying true to the Lord and for keeping the faith in their God alive.

The situation may seem to be much better these days as compared to how it was decades ago. And yet, we should not let ourselves be deceived. Persecution still continues upon the Church and upon our brethren the faithful ones in China. The Communists established the so-called ‘official church’ where all the faithful, the priests, the bishops and all must belong to, or else be persecuted.

But in reality, it is a means through which the people in power were trying to control the Church, and by requiring the faithful to obey the imposed rules and regulations, they were trying to sap the power of the Church and to prevent it from rising up against them. And if we have paid attention to the news, recently we have heard about the forced removal of crosses from many church buildings. It is a clear sign of the opposition which the government still accorded to the Christian faith.

And as we all reflect on these occasions today, let us all be mindful of the other persecutions and the sufferings that the faithful people of God are suffering even today in many parts of the world. Christians are persecuted in the Middle East where they even had to lose their lives just because they believe in the one and only true God. And in other places, the faithful are ridiculed because of their faith, and they are enduring ever greater difficulties in this world where God is gradually and increasingly becomes forgotten in the minds of men.

Therefore, let us all today devote our time to pray to God and ask for His help to be given to these brethren of ours, so that they may be given strength and courage to live their lives even under persecution and difficulty, that they will not give up or abandon their God for the sake of their own safety. May God help them and preserve them, particularly our brethren, the faithful people of God in China. May He bless them and keep them, and may He soon end the suffering that the Church in China faces today. God be with them all. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Mark 10 : 28-31

At that time, Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. Do pay attention : many who are now the first will be last, and the last, first.”

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.