5th Sunday of Easter (Year B) – 2nd April 2021

Theme: IN THE HOLY SPIRIT WE LIVE IN GOD AND GOD LIVES IN US AND WE BEAR FRUIT IN PLENTY.    

  • Acts 9:26-31;
  • Psalm 21 (22):26-28. 30-32. R/ v. 26;
  • 1 John 3:18-24;
  • John 15:1-8.

Today is the 5th Sunday of Easter, Liturgical Year B. We are still in the Easter Season of 50 days! The Easter Season began on Easter Sunday and it will end on Pentecost Sunday, a period of 50 days!

The Gospel of John which we read on the Octave Day of Easter tells us that the Risen Lord gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples on the very day of his resurrection and sent them out to proclaim the good news so that those who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven!

Today the second reading tells us that it is in the Holy Spirit that we live in God and God lives in us and that we believe and love his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another!

The gospel today tells us that if we remain in Jesus and Jesus remains in us we will bear fruit in plenty! But cut off from Jesus we will bear no fruit. Not only will we bear no fruit, but we will die! The gospel today tells us that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in Jesus we will bear fruit, but cut off from Jesus we will die!

The first reading tells that the Risen Lord is alive and active in the early Church in the Apostle Paul in the Holy Spirit! The first reading tells us that Paul a persecutor of Christians became a persecuted Christian! The first reading tells us that Paul preached the good news even in the face of persecution and death!

The Responsorial Psalm tells us to praise God, because the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world are all the work of God! Thus the response of the Responsorial Psalm:

“You, Lord, are my praise in the great assembly.”

The Responsorial Psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza tells the community to praise God! The second stanza tells the nations of the world to praise God! The third stanza tells the future generations to praise God!

Today in the Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and we eat his body and drink his blood and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us live in God and God in us and the Holy Spirit will help us believe and love Jesus Christ and love one another!

The Holy Spirit will help us remain in Jesus and Jesus remain in us, so that we will bear fruit in plenty, especially the fruits of love, peace and joy! The Holy Spirit will help us proclaim the Good News even in the face of persecution and death! And the Holy Spirit will help us praise and worship God and serve him!

A happy Easter Season to all of you! Amen!

4th Sunday of Easter (Year B) – 25th April 2021

Theme: THE GOOD SHEPHERD LOVES AND LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP IN OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMAND OF THE FATHER

Acts 4:8-12;

  • Psalm 117 (118):1. 8-9. 21-23. 26. 28-29. R/ v. 22;
  • 1 John 3:1-2
  • John 10:11-18

1. Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter, Liturgical Year B. Today we also celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday. The themes of “Good Shepherd” and “Vocation” are related. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare” meaning “to call”, particularly the call to the priesthood and religious life! The image of the Good Shepherd is the image of the good priest or good religious!

The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd! The gospel tells us that the Good Shepherd has four characteristics (Jn 10:14-18; CE):

(i) The Good Shepherd knows and loves God his Father and is known and loved by God his Father. (In biblical language, ‘knowledge’ is love. NJBg)

(ii) The Good Shepherd knows and loves his sheep and is known and loved by his sheep. 

(iii) The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep in obedience to the command of God his Father.

(iv) The Good Shepherd unites his sheep into one flock.

2. The good priest or religious also has theses four characteristics:

    (i) A good priest or religious knows and loves God the Father and is known and loved by God the Father. That is, a good priest or religious must be a man or woman of prayer, of the word of God, of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. (Pope’s Message)

(ii) A good priest or religious knows and loves the people of God and is known and loved by the people of God! That is why we have BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities) to share and pray on the word of God in a personal and spiritual way, so that we will know God, love him, serve him and be happy with him; and so that we will know one another, love one another, serve one another and be happy with one another!

(iii) A good priest or religious is one who lays down his or her life for the people of God in obedience to the command of God. A good priest or religious does not only love and serve God and the people of God, but he or she also suffers and sacrifices for God and the people of God, in order to sanctify and save the world! The word “sacrifice”, radically means “to make holy”, that is, to sanctify and save! (CE)    

(iv) A good priest or religious unites the people of God. He or she unites the different communities in the Church and he or she unites the different peoples of the world! Thus the Church becomes a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the world!

3. Today is Vocation Sunday and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has a special message for us. In his message, our Pope also said that vocation to the priesthood or religious life basically means to love and serve God, and to love and serve the people of God! But more importantly, our Pope also said that vocation comes from the love of God. Thus the theme of his message: “Vocations, the Gift of the love of God”! Our love and service of God and the people of God are only a response to the love and call of God which is a free gift of God’s initiative! That is why we have to pray for vocations!

4. Today in our Diocese of Sandakan we have one bishop, seven priests (two in Tawau, two in Lahad Datu, two in Sandakan, and one in Telupid), eleven seminarians and aspirants (six in Kuching, two in “Initiation Year” in Kota Kinabalu, and three in “English Year” in Kota Kinabalu). We have another two seminarians, one for the Franciscan priesthood and one for the Carmelite priesthood. Both of them are from Tawau! Let us pray for our Bishop, our priests and our seminarians and let us pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Pray especially for the two priests in our parish that they may be good priests. Today the first and second collections will be given to our Bishop for the seminary and seminarians, that is, our future priests! Thank you and God bless you.

                                                                                                                        Amen!

2nd Sunday of Easter (Year B) – 11th April 2021

Theme: WE THANK GOD FOR THE RESURRECTION OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, AND OUR RESURRECTION WITH HIM IN BAPTISM, AND WE ASK GOD TO GIVE US THE HOLY SPIRIT, SO THAT WE WILL PROCLAIM HIS RESURRECTION TO THE WHOLE WORLD

  • Acts 4:32-35;
  • Psalm 117 (118): 2-4. 15-18. 22-24. R. v. 1;
  • 1 John 5:1-6
  • John 20: 19-31

1. Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, the Octave Day of Easter. We celebrate Easter in eight days, not in one day! A happy Easter to all of you! The readings today tell us that the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples on the day of his resurrection, and gave them the Holy Spirit, and sent them out into the world to proclaim the good news, so that those who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven, but those who do not believe and are not baptized will not have their sins forgiven!

    The gospel today tells us that on the day of his resurrection the risen Lord appeared to his disciples and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, that is, “shalom”, that is, “salvation”! A peace that the world cannot give! (Jn 14:27) He then showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. A joy that the world cannot take away from them! (Jn 16:22)

    He then said to them again, ‘Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you’. After this he breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit, those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained’, that is, proclaim the good news, those who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven, those who do not believe and are not baptized will not have their sins forgiven! 

    The Council of Trent in the sixteenth century teaches that in this passage, the Lord gave the Church the authority to forgive sins in the sacrament of penance. When we commit sins after Baptism we need to receive the sacrament of penance to have our sins forgiven!  

2. The gospel also tells us that Thomas was not with the other disciples when the Lord appeared. And when he was told that the Lord appeared, he refused to believe and said, ‘unless I see the holes the nails have made in his hands, and put my finger into them, and unless I put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe’. Eight days later the Lord appeared to his disciples again, and he said, ‘peace be with you’. And he said to Thomas, ‘here are my hands, put your finger into them, and put your hand into my side, doubt no longer and believe’. Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God’. Thomas made “the highest confession of faith in all the Gospels”! (R. Brown)

    After that, Jesus said to him, ‘You believe because you have seen me, blessed are those who do not see me, yet believe’, that is, blessed are those who do not see me, yet believe, because of the apostles’ witnessing! (Jn 17:20-23/Ac 1:8/NJB) We believe because of the witnessing of the apostles, and our Pope and Bishops are the direct successors of Peter (the first Pope) and the apostles, respectively. We believe because of Scripture, Church and Tradition!

3. Finally, the third part of the gospel tells us that the gospel was written so that we may believe and in believing have life! The second reading follows the theme of the gospel. The second reading tells us that if we believe in Jesus, we will not only have life, but we will overcome the world. Just as Jesus himself overcame the world! (Jn 16:33)  Thus we read in the second reading: “this is the victory over the world – our faith. Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”. (1 Jn 5:4-5)

    The second reading also tells us that Jesus came not only with water, but with water and blood, and with the Holy Spirit as the third witness, that is, Jesus came not only in Baptism (water), but also in crucifixion (blood); and the Holy Spirit was present at his Baptism, and the Holy Spirit was given to us in his crucifixion, death and resurrection!

4. The first reading tells us that the Risen Lord was in the first Christian community. The first BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community)! That is why the first Christian community shared all they had with one another. That is why the rich helped the poor in the first Christian community. The first reading also tells us that the first Christian community witnessed to the resurrection with great power, that is, with miracles, physical miracles and moral miracles! Physical miracles, that is, the blind see, the lame walk, the sick are healed, etc.! Moral miracles, that is, when our hearts change, when we love and forgive, when we love and serve, when we help the poor, when we stop committing sin, etc.!  

5. Finally, the responsorial psalm is a song of thanksgiving and praise, thanking and praising God for the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, and thanking God for saving us from sin and death. The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza is a call to praise God. The second stanza is a thanksgiving for our salvation from sin and death. And the third stanza praises God for the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone. This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes.”! (Ps 117 (118): 22-23/Mt 21:42) And thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

    “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.” (Ps 117 (118): 1) Or “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”, that is, “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord!”                     

    Today we thank God for the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, and our resurrection with him in Baptism, and we ask God to give us the Holy Spirit, so that we will proclaim the good news of his resurrection to the whole world! Amen

                                                                                                                                   

Easter Sunday – 4th April 2021

Theme:  IN THE RENEWAL OF OUR BAPTISM, WE DIE AND RISE WITH JESUS CHRIST TO THE NEW LIFE OF EASTER

  • Acts 10:34. 37-43;
  • Colossians 3:1-4
  • John 20:1-9

1. A happy Easter to all of you! The word Easter probably comes from the word “east”, the direction from which the sun rises. Just as the sun gives light, life, heat and energy; Jesus Christ gives the light of faith, eternal life, love, joy and peace (shalom)! We celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December in the place of the pagan feast of the “sun god”, because Jesus Christ is the new “Sun God”!

Again, a happy and blessed Easter to all of you! Today we have a huge Easter candle in our sanctuary, because Jesus Christ is our light! Jesus Christ is our light of faith, our light of life and our light of good; as opposed to the darkness of unbelief, the darkness of death and the darkness of evil, respectively!

More importantly, faith, life, and good, are connected, that is, if we have faith in God, we receive life from God and we do good; but if we do not believe in God, we do not receive new life from God, we continue to do evil!

Most importantly, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life will overcome death, and good will overcome evil! Because Jesus Christ has overcome the Devil! And Jesus Christ will overcome the Devil in us by his death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! And we receive his Holy Spirit in his Church and in his sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist! Jesus Christ founded his Church and instituted the sacraments to give us his Holy Spirit!     

2. The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! The gospel tells us that when Mary of Magdala went to the tomb she found that the stone had been rolled away! She ran to tell Peter and the other disciple about it. Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb. Peter entered the tomb first and found that it was empty except for the cloths left in the tomb. The other disciple also entered the tomb and saw that it was empty and he believed! The “other disciple” is no other than John who wrote today’s gospel! John is testifying to you and me today that the Lord has indeed risen and tells us to believe in the Resurrection of the Lord!

3. In the first reading, Peter tells us that he and the other apostles are witnesses to the resurrection, not only that Peter had seen the empty tomb, but also that he and the other apostles have seen the risen Lord. And more than that, they have also eaten and drank with him! And more than that, the Risen Lord has also ordered them to proclaim the good news, so that all who believe will have their sins forgiven. That is, all who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven! (IBC) The first reading does not only tell us about the resurrection of the Lord, but also our resurrection with him in the sacrament of Baptism!

4. The second reading from Colossians also tells us about baptism. Paul tells us in the second reading that we have risen with Jesus Christ to a new life! Therefore, we are to look for the things of heaven and not the things of earth! The things of heaven are the things of God, that is, good, love, forgiveness, peace, joy, etc.! The things of earth are the things of man, that is, money, power, fame, pleasure, sex, etc. And Paul tells us that when Jesus Christ comes a second time in glory we will also share in his glory! (NJB)

5. Today, we will renew our baptism! We will answer six questions, three rejecting the Devil; and three professing our faith in God! We reject the Devil, because the Devil appeared twice in the Bible; once in the Old Testament, tempting Adam not to believe in God and Adam Sinned (“Original Sin”) and death entered the world; once in the New Testament tempting Jesus the New and Second Adam not to believe in God, but Jesus believed in God the Father and resurrection entered the world! After answering “I do” to the six questions, we will be sprinkled with holy water, the waters of Baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit! And we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A blessed Easter to all of you! Amen!

                                                                                                                                   

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 7th March 2021

Theme: IT IS IN FAITH THAT WE ARE BAPTIZED AND IT IS IN BAPTISM THAT WE RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD’S LOVE, LIFE AND HAPPINESS  

  • Exodus 17:3-7;
  • Psalm 94 (95): 1-2. 6-9. R/ v. 8;
  • Romans 5:1-2. 5-8
  • John 4:5-42 (Shorter Form, 4:5-16. 19-26. 39-42)

1. Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil night! It is in faith that we are baptized and it is in baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit of God’s love, life and happiness!

    The readings today tell us about these two most important themes of baptism, namely, faith and the Holy Spirit!

    The readings today tell us about faith. The first reading tells us that the people of Israel lost faith in God because there was no water in the desert. They quarreled (Meribah) with God and they put God to the test (Massah) saying, “Is the Lord with us, or not?”

    The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us not to be like the people of Israel who quarreled with God and tested God. The responsorial psalm tells us to trust in God, to believe in God, and to have faith in God. Thus the third stanza of the psalm from which the response is taken:

    “O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the desert when your fathers put me to the test; when they tried me, though they saw my work.’” (Ps 94 (95): 8-9; SM)    

    The first stanza of the responsorial psalm tells us to praise and worship God because he is our savior. The second stanza tells us to praise and worship God because he is our creator and shepherd/savior. (NJBC) 

    The second reading tells us that it is through Jesus Christ by faith that we are made righteous and at peace with God, and it is by faith and through Jesus Christ that we have entered the state of grace! In short, it is by faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved!

    Finally, the gospel today tells us that the Samaritan woman had faith in Jesus Christ! Like Abraham the father of faith, the Samaritan woman had nothing, but faith. She was a Samaritan (half-Jew), a woman, and a sinner who had five husbands and living with a sixth man (NJBC; IBC), but she had the most important thing, that is, faith in Jesus Christ!

    Not only did the Samaritan woman have faith, but her faith grew as she encountered Jesus. She first saw Jesus as a Jew, then she recognized Jesus to be a prophet, then she believed that Jesus was the Messiah (HCSB), and finally she became a missionary and an apostle and brought other Samaritans to believe in Jesus!      

2. The readings today also tell us about the Holy Spirit. The first reading tells us that the people of Israel were dying of thirst in the desert, but more importantly, the first reading tells us that God gave them water from the rock to quench their thirst and saved them from death! The water symbolizes the Holy Spirit, because only the Holy Spirit can quench our thirst and save us from death!

    More importantly, the gospel today tells us that the Lord will give us living water so that we will not be thirsty anymore, because this living water will turn into a spring inside us welling up to eternal life!

    The Samaritan woman had five husbands and living with a sixth man who was not her husband, but she was still thirsting for the living water of eternal life. She was still thirsting for love, life and happiness. Only the living water of the Holy Spirit (NJB; NJBC; IBC; CCB) which Jesus gives can quench her thirst and give her the love, life and happiness that she was looking for!

    We may not have five husbands or wives, but we may have five million dollars, five houses, five cars, five jobs, five pieces of property, etc. But these cannot give us love, life and happiness. Only the living water of the Holy Spirit can give us the love, life and happiness that we are looking for!

    Indeed, the second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God’s love. The second tells us that what proves that God loves us is that Jesus Christ died for us while we were still sinners. It is hard to die even for a good man, but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners!     

    Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night! Again, it is in faith that we are baptized and it is in baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit of God’s love, life and happiness.  

    Lent is therefore a time for us to renew and strengthen our faith. That is why during this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor. A happy Lent to all of you!

                                                                                                                                    Amen!

7th Sunday of Easter (Year A) – 24th May 2020

Theme: LET US PRAY FOR THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT UPON US

  • Acts 1:12-14
  • Psalm 26:1. 4. 7-8. R. v. 13
  • 1 Peter 4:13-16
  • John 14:18
  • John 17:1-11

Today we celebrate the 7th Sunday of Easter! The 7th Sunday of Easter is sandwiched between “the Ascension of the Lord” which we celebrated last Thursday and “Pentecost Sunday” which we will celebrate next Sunday! That is why the readings today tell us about the Ascension of the Lord and more importantly, about the Descend of the Holy Spirit upon us!

The gospel today is from St. John on the Last Supper discourse of Jesus Christ, the night before he died. It is the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ to his Father, but what concerns us today is the last part of the gospel on the Ascension of Jesus Christ: “I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you” (Jn 17:11).

But more importantly, the “Gospel Acclamation” today tells us that Jesus Christ ascends to heaven not to abandon us nor to rest from his work, but to sit at the right hand of his Father, meaning, in power, to rule the universe, and to send down his Holy Spirit into us, so that he can come back to us and into us and continue his work in us and through us: “I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord; I will come back to you, and your hearts will be full of joy” (Jn 14:18).

That is why the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that after the Promise of the Holy Spirit and the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, the apostles and Mary the Mother of Jesus were praying for the Holy Spirit – the first and original novena for the Holy Spirit: “All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts: 1:11). We have to pray for the Holy Spirit! We cannot receive the Holy Spirit without prayer and praying for the Holy Spirit!

The “responsorial psalm” is a meditation on the “first reading”. It is a psalm of “Trust in the Lord”, but what concerns us today is the “response” of the “responsorial psalm”: “I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living” (Psalm 26:13).

It can be translated or paraphrased thus: ‘I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of life’! The “land of life” is the Jerusalem Temple where the faithful have access to the life-giving presence of God (CSB/NAB)!

Obviously, the Church has chosen this verse for the “response” of the “responsorial psalm” today to tell us that the Holy Spirit in us is the Life-giving presence of God! St. Paul tells us that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit does not dwell in heaven, nor in temples, nor in churches, but in us!

“The Lord’s goodness that we shall see” is consequently the goodness of the Holy Spirit, that is, love, joy, peace, forgiveness, freedom, mercy, salvation, wholeness, holiness, health, healing, etc.!

Finally, the Church has chosen the second reading from “1 Peter” to tell us that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will suffer for being Christians! We will not suffer for doing evil, for murder, for theft, for crime, etc., but we will suffer for doing good, and for bearing the name of Jesus Christ! Be not ashamed, but be happy, we will be blessed; we will give thanks to God, for when we suffer with Jesus Christ, we will also share in his glory, now and forever, in the Resurrection, and in the Ascension into heaven, body and soul, with Jesus Christ, in His Second Coming, at the end of time!

Today in this Mass, let us pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us! A Happy Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost to all of you! In the early Church of the first century, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost were all celebrated as one Mystery in the Sunday Eucharist! It was only in the second century that Easter was celebrated as an annual event, and it was only in the fourth century that Ascension and Pentecost were separated from Easter with a period of forty and fifty days respectively (MCE)! Again, a Happy Easter, Ascension and Pentecost to all of you! Amen!

6th Sunday of Easter (Year A) – 17th May 2020

Theme: JESUS GIVES US THE HOLY SPIRIT SO THAT HE WILL BE WITH US FOREVER

  • Acts 8:5-8. 14-17;
  • Psalm 65:1-7. 16. 20. R/ v. 1;
  • 1 Peter 3:15-18
  • John 14:15-21

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all of you! Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter, Liturgical Year A, and next Sunday will be Ascension Sunday and the Sunday following that will be Pentecost Sunday, that is, the coming of the Holy Spirit! Jesus ascends into heaven not to abandon us, but to send us the Holy Spirit so that he will be with us forever!

The gospel today tells us that Jesus will ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit to be with us forever. The gospel tells us that Jesus will not leave us orphans, but just as Jesus is in the Father, we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us through the Holy Spirit. Finally the gospel tells us that not only Jesus, but Jesus with the Father will dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. These we can read from the Gospel Acclamation (Jn 14:23; CSB) and from the last verse of today’s gospel (Jn 14:21; NJB)!

God is love. God created us out of love, but when we sinned he loved us even more, he became man in Jesus Christ to save us, but when we killed him on the cross, he loved us even more, he rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit does not dwell in heaven, or on earth, but the Holy Spirit dwells in us and within us.

He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, he loves us more than we love ourselves and he knows us more than we know ourselves. He will continue to love us until we love God, love our neighbor and love ourselves! Then will come the end of the world, that is, the end of the evil world and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when all will be saved!

The first reading tells us that those who received the Holy Spirit will proclaim the good news! The first reading of last Sunday tells us that the Twelve apostles chose seven men filled with the Holy Spirit to help them to distribute food so that the apostles can have more time for prayer and for proclaiming the good news!

And among the seven were Stephen and Philip! But not surprisingly, after that we never hear of Stephen or Philip distributing food, but instead we hear of them proclaiming the good news. In fact Stephen proclaimed the good news until he was stoned to death and became the first martyr!

The first reading today tells us that Philip proclaimed the good news in Samaria and the people of Samaria accepted the word of God, because they have heard or have seen for themselves the miracles Philip worked! Those possessed by evil spirits were exorcised and those who were sick were cured and the people were filled with joy!

The first reading also tells us that when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritans had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to pray for them so that they will receive the Holy Spirit! Does it mean that we do not receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism? No! Does it mean that if we are baptized only in the name of Jesus and not in the name of the Trinity we do not receive the Holy Spirit? No! Then what does it mean? It means that we have to be in “communion with the apostles”/Church! (NJBC) Peter and John represent the Twelve apostles. They represent the Church! They represent “the role of the Church in the bestowal of the Spirit”. (CSB)

That is why Christians who are not Catholics have to be confirmed before they are accepted into the Catholic Church and that is why Christians who are baptized only in the name of Jesus have to be baptized again in the name of the Trinity and have to be confirmed before they are accepted into the Catholic Church.

The second reading tells us that the good news that we proclaim is that by his death and resurrection “Christ the righteous one saved the unrighteous”! (CSB) Thus we read in the second reading:

“Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life”. (1 Pt 3:18; SM)

And it is all the work of God! And that is why in the responsorial psalm we give praise and thanks to God for our salvation!

The responsorial psalm is a hymn/prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for our salvation! Thus the response:

“Cry out with joy to God all the earth.” or “Alleluia!”

And thus the third stanza of the responsorial psalm:

“He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the river dry-shod.” (Ps 65:6a; SM)

The third stanza summarizes the whole history of salvation of Israel by referring to the Exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea and the crossing of the river Jordan into the Promised Land! For us it summarizes our salvation by referring to our baptism and our entry into heaven!

God has done everything for us! What do we do? How shall we respond? The psalm tells us to respond by giving praise and thanks to Him, the first reading tells us to respond by proclaiming the good news, the gospel tells us to respond by loving Jesus and by keeping his commandments, especially the greatest commandment of loving God and neighbor, and the second reading tells us to respond by suffering for doing what is right and not by suffering for doing what is wrong. In this way we will proclaim the good news not only with our words, but also with our deeds and our lives! Again, a happy and blessed Easter to all of you! Amen!

4th Sunday of Easter (A) – 3rd May 2020

Theme: JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD HAS COME SO THAT WE MAY HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT TO THE FULL

  • Acts 2:14. 36-41;
  • Psalm 22:1-6. R. v. 1;
  • 1 Peter 2:20-25
  • John 10:1-10

Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter and the readings today tell us that Jesus the Good Shepherd has come so that we may have life and have it to the full.

The gospel today is taken from John 10 on the Good Shepherd. It tells us that Jesus the Good Shepherd has come so that we may have life and have it to the full! To understand the gospel today we must also read John 9! John 10 is a commentary on John 9! (CSB)

John 9 tells us that Jesus cured the man born blind, and gave him faith, and saved him! The Pharisees on the other hand threw the cured blind man out of the synagogue with these words: “You a sinner through and through ever since you were born”! (Jn 9:34/NJB) The Pharisees the “bad shepherd” excommunicated the sinner, but Jesus the Good Shepherd saved the sinner!

Thus Jesus spoke these words in the gospel today: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”! (Jn 10:10) The thief refers to the Pharisees!

The first reading tells us that Jesus gives us life through his death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Indeed, the first reading tells us that on the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed the good news of the resurrection, and three thousand Jews repented, and were baptized, and had their sins forgiven, and received the Holy Spirit, and received new life!

Thus we read in the first reading: “On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd with a loud voice: ‘The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’ Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent,’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. …. They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptized. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”! (Ac 2:14. 36-38. 41)

The responsorial psalm tells us that the Good Shepherd gives us life and happiness! The responsorial psalm has 4 stanzas.

The first stanza tells us that Jesus the Good Shepherd give us life! Thus the first stanza: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.”! (Ps 22:1-3a)

The second stanza tells us that he not only gives us life, but he also protects us from death! Thus the second stanza: “He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.”! (Ps 22:3b-4)

The third and fourth stanzas tell us that he give us happiness! Thus the third and fourth stanzas: “You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.”! (Ps 22:5)

“Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.”! (Ps 22:6)

Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”! (Ps 22:1)

Finally, the second reading tells us that as sheep we must follow the Good Shepherd! The good shepherd did good, and suffered for doing good, and saved us! We must also do good, and suffer for doing good, and save the world!

Thus we read in the second reading: “But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” (1 P 2:20-21/CSB)

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, to help us to do good, and suffer for doing good, and save the world! A Happy Easter Season to all of you! Amen!

 

3rd Sunday of Easter (Year A) – 26th April 2020

Theme: THE RISEN LORD IS PRESENT WITH US IN THE SCRIPTURES, IN THE EUCHARIST, AND IN THE COMMUNITY, EMPOWERING US WITH HIS HOLY SPIRIT TO PROCLAIM HIS RESURRECTION!

  • Acts 2:14. 22-33;
  • Psalm 15:1-2. 5. 7-11. R. v. 11;
  • 1 Peter 1:17-21
  • Luke 24:13-35

Today is the Third Sunday of Easter and the readings today tells us that the Risen Lord is present with us in the Scriptures, in the Eucharist, and in the Community, empowering us with his Holy Spirit to proclaim his Resurrection!

The Gospel today tells us that the Risen Lord is present with us in the Scriptures, in the Eucharist, and in the Community! The Gospel tells us that after his Resurrection the Lord appeared to two of his disciples and they did not recognize him! The body of the Risen Lord is different from the body of the Historical Jesus! It is a risen body, not a resuscitated body! Unlike a resuscitated body, a risen body cannot die anymore! A risen body is a transformed body! St. Paul tells us that it is a spiritual body, not a physical body! (1 Co 15:44 / HCSB) It can enter closed doors (Jn 20:19. 26) and be at any place at anytime! It is not limited by time and space!

But more importantly, the gospel tells us that the Risen Lord explained to the two disciples the passages of the scriptures that were about himself! And their hearts were burning within them as the Risen Lord explained the scriptures to them! The Risen Lord is present with us in the scriptures!

And most importantly, the gospel tells us that the Risen Lord stayed with the disciples, and when he was at table with them; he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to them; and they recognized him at the “breaking of bread”, that is, at the Eucharist! But he vanished from their sight! He vanished into the bread and the bread became his body! When we eat the body of Christ in the Eucharist, we eat the body of the Risen Lord, not the body of the Historical Jesus!

Immediately after that, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to be with the Eleven, that is, to be with the Community, to proclaim the good news of his resurrection! (Faley)

Indeed, the first reading tells us that the Lord has risen from the dead, and has ascended into heaven, and has sent down the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, and the Apostles proclaimed the good news of his resurrection for the forgiveness of sins! Thus we read in the first reading:

“God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.”! (Ac 2:32-33)

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading! The responsorial psalm also tells us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ! In fact the first reading quoted stanzas 2b and stanzas 3 and 4 of the responsorial psalm to tell us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ! In fact in the first reading, Peter quoted the psalm 16:8-11 to tell the Jews that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was prophesied by David in the psalm! Thus we read in the first reading:

“I saw the Lord before me always, for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me. So my heart was glad and my tongue cried out with joy: my body, too, will rest in the hope that you will not abandon my soul to Hades nor allow your holy one to experience corruption. You have made known the way of life to me, you will fill me with gladness through your presence.”! (Ac 2:25-28/Ps 16:8-11)

The responsorial psalm also tells us that we will also rise with Jesus Christ to a new life! Thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“Show us, Lord, the path of life.”! (Ps 16:11)

Finally the second reading tells us that this new life of the resurrection which we receive in Baptism is free, but it is not cheap! It cannot be paid with silver and gold, but it was paid by the blood of Jesus Christ! Thus we read in the second reading:

“Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ.”! (1 P 1:18-19)

We have therefore to “revere” this new life of the resurrection and proclaim it to the whole world!

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, and send us out into the world, to proclaim the good news of his resurrection for the forgiveness of sins! A Happy Easter Season to all of you! Amen!

2nd Sunday of Easter (Year A) – 19th April 2020

Theme: PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS AND BUILD CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES

  • Acts 2:42-47;
  • Psalm 117 (118): 2-4. 13-15. 22-24. R/ v. 1;
  • 1 Peter 1:3-9
  • John 20:19-31

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter. Today we also celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. And today is also the Octave Day of Easter, that is, the eighth day of Easter. We celebrate Easter in eight days because Easter is the biggest feast of the Church!

The gospel today tells us that on the day of his resurrection the Lord appeared to his disciples and said to them: peace be with you. And he showed them his hands and his side and the disciples were filled with joy. Again, he said: peace be with you. As the Father sent me so I am sending you. After saying this he breathed on them and said: receive the Holy Spirit, for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, for those whose sins you retain they are retained.

That is, proclaim the good news of the resurrection, those who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven, but those who do not believe and are not baptized will not have their sins forgiven. (NJBC) The Council of Trent (16th century) teaches that this gospel also tells us about the sacrament of penance, that is, “confession”. The sacrament of penance/reconciliation forgives post-baptismal sins, that is, sins committed after baptism. God is indeed merciful!

The gospel today also tells us that when the Lord appeared to his disciples, Thomas was not with them and when they told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, Thomas refused to believe. Eight days later, that is, on the Octave Day of Easter, the Lord appeared to his disciples again, and this time Thomas was with them.

Again, the Lord said, ‘peace be with you’. And the Lord said to Thomas: put your finger here, here are my hands, give me your hand, put your hand into my side, doubt no longer and believe. And Thomas said: My Lord and my God. And Jesus said: you believe because you have seen me, blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe. That is, blessed are those who have not seen the risen Lord, but believe on the witnesses of the apostles, especially Thomas! (NJB)

The first reading tells us about the first Christian community, the first BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community). The first Christian community has four chief characteristics:
(1) The teaching of the apostles.
(2) The brotherhood.
(3) The breaking of bread.
(4) The prayers. (Ac 2:42)

Today our Basic Ecclesial Communities, BECs also have these four characteristics:
(1) Word of God (teaching of the apostles).
(2) Sharing our possessions with our brothers (the brotherhood).
(3) Eucharist (breaking of bread).
(4) Prayers.

It is very difficult to share our resources with our brothers, because we worship God and money, but with the word of God, the Eucharist, and prayers, the Holy Spirit will help us share our belongings with our brothers and sisters!

The Holy Spirit will help us build communities of love and unity, so that our Church will become a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the whole world!

The responsorial psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from enemies. (HCSB) Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.” (Ps 117 (118): 1; SM)

The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The response and the first stanza tell us to give thanks to God. The second stanza tells us to give thanks to God for delivering us from enemies. And the third stanza tells us to give thanks to God for the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, the corner stone rejected by the builders, for delivering us from our enemies!

The second reading tells us to bless God the Father who in his “great mercy” has given us a new birth as sons and daughters of God by the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. We are sons and daughters of God in the sacrament of baptism solely because of the “great mercy” of God.

Sometime ago an authority of another religion said in the newspaper (“Daily Express”) that we are not the sons and daughters of God, we are not the children of God, but we are only the creatures of God and as creatures of God we must follow God’s laws!

But we Christians believe that God is not only Creator and law, but God is also and especially Savior, love, and Father! We Christians believe that we are the children of God and we are above the law, in the sense that we love, we do more than the law requires of us! The law never says that we must forgive, but we forgive, we are above the law, we love. Love is the fulfillment of the law, love is the only law, the only law is love, love is the greatest commandment of the law (Mt 22:36-40), love and do what you will say St. Augustine!

Today our world needs more than a Creator God and a God of law, today our world needs a Savior God, a loving God and a Father God. Today our world needs more than a God of law, justice and punishment; today our world needs a God of love, mercy and forgiveness! Our late Pope John Paul II said that there can be no peace without justice and there can be no justice without forgiveness.

It was our Pope John Paul II who introduced “Divine Mercy Sunday” into the liturgy and that is why today we celebrate “Divine Mercy Sunday”! The picture of “Divine Mercy” shows two rays of light from the sacred heart of Jesus, one red and one white. The red ray symbolizes the blood of Jesus sacrificed on the cross, and the white ray symbolizes the water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love and mercy! When the side of Christ was pierced on the cross, blood and water came out. (Jn 19:34; NJB) The Fathers of the Church sees the red blood as a symbol of the Eucharist and the white water as a symbol of baptism. Indeed, today the Risen Lord continues to pour out upon us his Holy Spirit of love and mercy in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist!

Today in the Eucharist we celebrate Easter, in fact every Sunday is a small celebration of Easter. We celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us proclaim the good news of the resurrection so that all may believe and be baptized and have their sins forgiven. The Holy Spirit will help us build small Christian communities of love and unity, so that our Church may be a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the whole world! And the Holy Spirit will help us to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful! (Lk 6:36; CSB) Again, a happy Easter to all of you! Amen!