Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the story of Jesus healing the blind man, and in the first reading story on the Lord’s choosing of David to be His faithful servant. In the series of readings from the Scriptures today, we are reminded today that we must never be selfish nor feel self-righteous and just to the impediment of others. We must never be judgmental nor be prejudiced against others because of who we perceive them to be.

God sees what is inside the heart, and what is truly man’s values and worth. He judges man not by his or her appearance, but by their true values and what are inside their hearts. God judges mankind by their heart not by their face values. Therefore we too should follow His examples and not be prejudiced against our fellow mankind in any way, especially in how they look and act.

It is in our human nature to feel hurt when we are challenged in our pride, or shown that the way that we believe in things is wrong. We easily fall to the temptations of jealousy and greed, and this shows in the way we act and do things. And that was also exactly what the Pharisees had shown, condemning and judging on the healed blind man, alleging that he was a sinner, when they felt that their teaching authority and influence was challenged.

They judged mankind by appearances, disdaining the poor and the disabled, those with diseases and afflictions, and they also set themselves by appearances, preferring to show off their rituals, prayers and observations of the faith so that others may see what they had done and praise them for that. This is the kind of faith the Lord does not want, for it is superficial and temporary, and it is not true and genuine faith to the Lord.

Yes, brethren, for in fact in their observations they gave in to the tempting forces of fulfilling their own ego and desires. They did those acts to gain human praise and worldly glory. They did not truly do them for God. They thought only of themselves and their own righteousness. And they rejected the Saviour sent to them, Jesus Christ, the very One and only Son of God, the Messiah.

That is because they saw Christ and they did not understand Him and what He had done. They were only able to think in terms of human power and glory, and in terms of human minds, which made them unable to comprehend the teachings of Jesus, and in their lack of faith and understanding, they hardened their hearts and sharpened the edges of their hearts’ pride, and made them resolved to resist and oppose Christ at every turns and opportunities.

They condemn the deaf because they were unable to hear, but they themselves were deaf, because they failed to listen and take in the message of Christ which He had spoken repeatedly as He taught, and yet they refused to believe. They condemned the blind ones because they were unable to see and mocked them for that, just as what they had done to the blind man Jesus healed in today’s Gospel.

They condemned tax collectors, prostitutes and many other people they considered as sinners and plagues of the society, thinking that they were beyond any redemption, but yet, they failed to look beyond their prejudices. They were blinded by their own pride and arrogance, thinking that they are the best over any other people. They failed to recognise that in them, an even greater sin was present.

What is this sin? This is the sin of condemnation, the sin of jealousy, the sin of arrogance, and the greatest of all, the sin of pride. Not only that they did not honour God in their pride, rejecting Jesus everywhere He went, but they also brought calamity to many of their fellow mankind, by condemning them, cursing them, and leading them to the false paths that did not lead to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this session however cannot become a bashing session for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They have had their share of faults, but shall we also look into ourselves? Have we ourselves done things in the same way that those Pharisees had done? It is easy for us to quickly judge others and be prejudiced, all because of our human pride and arrogance, thinking that we are better than others.

We sometimes look at the fault in others without realising our own faults and mistakes. We blame others and condemn them, quick to jump into conclusion, often without taking careful considerations of things before we judge.  That was the exact same thing that the Pharisees had done, disregarding their own sinfulness while calling others sinners.

They may look great, and like us, we may look amazing and wonderful, yes, indeed, in the eyes of men. But do we really look great in the eyes of God? Maybe, or maybe not. It all depends on whether we have done what the Lord asked of us to do, and not ignore those who are in need of our love and help. It does not mean that we must look utterly miserable in the eyes of men, but we cannot seek the glory of men and solely that, to the detriment of our brothers and sisters.

Hence, brethren, shall we reflect on our own lives and actions? We have to devote ourselves to complete and total devotion to God, changing our ways to conform to that of the Lord’s way. Loving one another and committing ourselves to that love is what is needed from us. And in order for us to be able to truly love genuinely without any hidden motives, we have to really cast away our prejudices and love our brethren as they are.

May the Lord guide us always in our path, that we will ever walk in His path and not to fall into the temptations of the devil. God be with us all. Amen.

 

Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

John 9 : 1-41

As Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Master, was He born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither was it for his own sin nor for his parents’ sin. He was born blind so that God’s power might be shown in him. While it is day we must do the work of the One who sent Me; for the night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see.

His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

Then they asked him, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” And he answered, “The Man called Jesus made a mud paste, put it on my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and I could see.” They asked, “Where is He?” and the man answered, “I do not know.”

The people brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “That Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, how is it that he now sees?” The parents answered, “He really is our son and he was born blind; but how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.”

The parents said this because they feared the Jews, who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled from the synagogue. Because of that his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.”

So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Tell us the truth; we know that this Man is a sinner.” He replied, “I do not know whether He is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.”

They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

Then they started to insult him. “Become His disciple yourself! We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses; but as for this Man, we do not know where He comes from.”

The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the Man comes from, and yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honours God and does His will, God listens to him. Never, since the world began, has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped Him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world to carry out a judgment : Those who do not see shall see, and those who see shall become blind.” Some Pharisees stood by and asked Him, “So we are blind?” And Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But you say, ‘We see’; this is the proof of your sin.”

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

John 9 : 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

As Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth.

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see.

His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

The people brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “That Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped Him.

 

Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Ephesians 5 : 8-14

You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Behave as children of light; the fruits of light are kindness, justice and truth in every form.

You yourselves search out what pleases the Lord, and take no part in works of darkness that are of no benefit; expose them instead. Indeed it is a shame even to speak of what those people do in secret, but as soon as it is exposed to the light, everything becomes clear; and what is unmasked, becomes clear through light.

Therefore it is said : “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead that the light of Christ may shine on you.”

Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life, I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

 

Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

1 Samuel 16 : 1b, 6-7, 10-13a

Fill your horn with oil and be on your way to Jesse the Bethlehemite for I have chosen My king from among his sons.

As they came, Samuel looked at Eliab the older and thought, “This must be YHVH’s anointed.” But YHVH told Samuel, “Do not judge by his looks or his stature for I have rejected him. YHVH does not judge as man judges; humans see with the eyes; YHVH sees the heart.”

Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel who said, “YHVH has chosen none of them. But are all your children here?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, tending the flock just now.” Samuel said to him, “Send for him and bring him to me; we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

So Jesse sent for his youngest son and brought him to Samuel. He was a handsome lad with ruddy complexion and beautiful eyes. And YHVH spoke, “Go, anoint him for he is the one.”

Samuel then took the horn of oil and anointed him in his brothers’ presence.

 

Saturday, 29 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

The love and mercy of God know no bounds, and there is no limit to His grace for us. He determined that He wants to see us saved and blessed, freed from the chains of sin that had bound us since the time of Adam and Eve, our ancestors. That was why He sent so much help towards our way, that we may find a way to return to His blessing, love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important to remember that God loves us, and despite our transgressions, He is willing to overlook them and welcome us back to His embrace, so that we will not perish in the destruction destined for us because of our sins. But, there is a limit to God’s patience and mercy, and we should not test Him by continuously defying Him.

Yet, sadly many of us are blinded by our own sense of pride and human arrogance that we refuse to listen to God and to His call for us to repent from our sins. We assume that we are able to take charge of our own lives and our destiny, that we disregard His love and reject His care. We immerse ourselves in our stubbornness and carry on with our life, no matter how debauched it is.

Even among us the faithful, we often forget that we ought to be humble before God, for we have sinned. Instead we boasted about our achievements and what we did in the favour of the Lord. We even become judgmental and condemning those whom we deem as less worthy than us for grace and salvation. That was exactly what the Pharisees had done.

Jesus reminded us that the prayer of the proud and haughty worth less than the prayer made by the humble in genuine humility. The humble seeks the Lord with all of their heart and strength, because they know of their fragility and weaknesses, seeking God to help them rectify that issue and reunite them with Him. Brethren, again it is important for us not to judge others and be haughty over others just because of our achievements.

Instead we should assist one another, giving a helping hand to those in need. Particularly those who are lost in sin and darkness are of the greatest priority for us to help with. We cannot ignore or pretend to not see or hear their plight, for this kind of ignorance show the lack of true love and faith within us.

Do not be judgmental and do not think of anyone less than ourselves, just because we think that we are better or more righteous than they are. Let us not praise our own achievements, less still use them to put down others like what the Pharisee had done. We have to be more like the tax collector, understanding the sins we have and committing ourselves to change our own ways.

Never think that we are always worthy of salvation, but we have to continue to work hard and not be complacent. We have to continue to be vigilant and avoid being consumed by our own human insecurities and emotions. Seek the Lord who will definitely help us, and ask Him for His help and protection, that we will always be strong as we walk in His ways.

Let us never be separated from Him, and let us be able to see our own sinfulness, understanding the limitations and fragilities of our own selves, and humbly asking God for forgiveness for all our trespasses, and that we may always remain in God’s grace. God bless us all. Amen.

 

Saturday, 29 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 18 : 9-14

Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others : “Two men went up to the Temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector.”

“The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give the tenth of all my income to the Temple.”

“In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.'”

“I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”