Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s scripture readings very clearly highlight the truth, how in our lives in this world, we often forsake the Lord and His ways for the temporary pleasures of the flesh and of the world. We let our emotions and sin to cloud our judgments and to affect our actions and deeds. In that way we preferred the ways of Satan and his rebelliousness rather than the truth and love that is in God.

In today’s first reading, we see how the two most respected people among the entirety of the people of God, the two appointed elders of the people of God, were actually the ones who brought sin and destruction upon the people, by judging as guilty an innocent woman, all because so that they could hide the sin that they had planned to commit with her. If the Spirit of God had not acted through Daniel, the young prophet, an innocent life would have been lost.

And in today’s Gospel reading, we heard the well-known story how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adulterous behaviour, how He did not condemn her for her sins, and in fact called upon the people who wanted her dead, to reflect upon their own sinfulness and not to be judgmental, for they themselves were subjects to the same judgment of God for they all have sinned.

Today we are all called to holiness and new life, that is a life filled with the love of God, and blessed by God’s presence, that we no longer indulge ourselves in our sinful ways and manners of life, and instead commit ourselves to do the will of God and immerse ourselves in the way of the Lord, as Jesus had told the sinful woman, ‘Do not sin anymore.’

The key to salvation is for us all to be able to recognise first that we are sinners, and we are all faulty at one point in our lives, and we are imperfect, and therefore, flawed as we are, we are bound to commit sin and other acts displeasing to God. But it is also equally important that we realise how loving our God is towards us all, the most beloved ones of His creations.

It is indeed true that God hates sin, and He hates all forms of darkness and evils, that were born out of disobedience to His will. Nevertheless, He loves us even more than the hatred He has for our sins. But this love will not manifest itself if we keep ourselves locked and separated from His love, if we refuse to acknowledge that we are sinners, and that we need to repent. Only through the understanding of one’s sinfulness and accepting that we need God’s mercy that we can get closer to God and towards salvation in Him.

Sin keeps us away from the goodness of God and it even deviates us in our path, that we veer off the path towards God and instead we walk on towards doom and destruction. That was what happened to the two elders who tried to commit sin with Susanna, the faithful woman, and ended up sinning even greater by committing themselves ever deeper into their sinfulness.

They sin because they keep themselves in their sinfulness, and instead of acknowledging that they were sinners and committing themselves to repentance and new life, they became fearful and selfish, and they committed even greater sins in the process, condemning the innocent to death, while seeking freedom for themselves who had sinned, at the price of the blood of the innocent.

The same the Pharisees and the chief priests had done to the Holy and Innocent One of God, none other than Jesus, who was condemned to the death because of their jealousy and insecurity. They themselves said that it would be better for one man, that is Jesus, to die rather than the whole nation. In reality, they are concerned not for the nation, but only for themselves, for the wealth and the position that they had enjoyed as the leaders of the people, corrupted by their own power.

This is what we should not do, and we should not be like them. We should not be swayed by the allures of power and we should not give in to our selfishness and pride, that we become like the Pharisees. We have to be humble and be open to the love of God as I have often mentioned. Jesus called us to be loving children of God, and He wanted us to be saved. That is why, He forgave the adulterous woman, not just because He loves us, but because He also sees the hope in us.

Yes, the Lord sees the hope in us, and He desires for us all to be reunited with Him. Even the greatest of sinners have hope of salvation, again providing that they open up themselves to accept the Lord’s infinite mercy. That is the key ingredient of salvation, that we too should be receptive to God’s mercy and love. We cannot harden our hearts and refuse to allow the Lord to enter our hearts.

God offered us His salvation, if we want to accept Him and listen to Him. And today we have a role model whose model we can follow and aspire to, as what he has done in this life is to show us, how to be like Christ and to follow Christ in His ways. Yes, that person is St. John Baptist de la Salle, the missionary priest and patron saint of Christian schools and education.

St. John Baptist de la Salle is particularly dear and known to me, because he is the patron saint of my Alma Mater, and when I was in that school, I learnt a lot about who St. John Baptist de la Salle was. He is the main patron of the Lasallian congregation, consisting of brothers and community of devoted religious called the Brothers of Christian Schools. What is the significance?

This is because St. John Baptist de la Salle dedicated himself to the poor children, the last, the lost and the least of the society. He emulated and followed what Jesus had taught us and His disciples. St. John Baptist de la Salle shows that we have to be merciful and loving to others, especially to those who lack love in them, and to those who have sinned. That was what Jesus had done to the prostitute, forgiving her from what she had done.

St. John Baptist de la Salle shows us that we need to be genuine in loving and giving of ourselves to others if we are to be truly good disciples of the Lord. We cannot be hypocrites who look highly upon ourselves and look down on others when we ourselves too are lowly sinners. Let us not be like the Pharisees who condemned others whom they deem to be unworthy of salvation.

We have to preach love and forgiveness that Jesus had taught His disciples, keeping in mind that it is important for the neglected and the lost ones, including all of us, to be able to get in touch with God and His generous offer of forgiveness. No one is beyond God’s salvation and mercy, and especially to those who are the last, the lost and the least.

Let us therefore help one another and open the path for others to also reach out to God. Let us not be prideful, hate-filled and jealous, but instead love one another genuinely and tenderly. May the Lord bless us all, for all eternity. God bless us all with His love, and that we too may love sincerely and with all of our hearts. Amen.

 

Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 1-11

As for Jesus, He went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak Jesus appeared in the Temple again. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone. “Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but You, what do You say?”

They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against Him. Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. And as they continued to ask Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And He bent down again, writing on the ground.

As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and do not sin again.”

Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.

 

Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 13 : 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62

There lived in Babylon a man named Joakim, who was married to a very beautiful God-fearing woman, Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter, whose pious parents had trained her in the law of Moses. A very rich man and greatly respected by all the Jews, Joakim was frequently visited by the Jews in his house adjoining a garden.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, in whom this word of the Lord became true, “Wickedness has come forth from Babylon, through the elders appointed judges, who were supposed to govern the people.”

These men frequented Joakim’s house, and all who had legal disputes used to come to them. After the people had left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden for a walk. The two old men began to lust for her as they watched her enter the garden every day. Forgetting the demands of justice and virtue, their lust grew all the more as they made no effort to turn their eyes to heaven.

One day, as they were waiting for an opportune time, Susanna entered the garden as usual with only two maids. She decided to bathe, for it was a hot day. Nobody else was there except the two elders watching her from where they had hidden themselves. She said to the maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

When the maids had left, the two elders hurried to her and said, “Look, the garden doors are shut and no one sees us. We desire to possess you. If you refuse to give in, we will testify that you sent your maids away for there was a young man here with you.”

Susanna moaned, “Whatever I do, I am trapped. If I give in to your desire, it will be death for me; if I refuse, I will not escape your persecution. I would rather be persecuted than sin in the eyes of the Lord.” Susanna shrieked, but the old men shouted, putting the blame on her. One of them ran and opened the garden doors.

Hearing the noise in the garden, the household servants rushed in by the side entrance to see what was happening. They were taken aback when they heard the elders’ accusation, for never had anything like this been said of Susanna.

The next day a meeting was held at Joakim’s house. The two elders arrived, vindictively determined to have Susanna sentenced to death. They ordered before all the people, “Send for Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter and Joakim’s wife.” They sent for her, and she came with her parents, children and all her relatives.

Her family and friends and all who saw her wept. The two elders stood up and laid their hands upon her head. Completely trusting in the Lord, she raised her tearful eyes to heaven. The elders started making the accusation, “We were taking a walk in the garden when this woman came in with two maids. She ordered them to shut the garden doors and dismissed them.”

“Then a young man came out of hiding and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and we saw this crime from there. We ran to them, and caught them in the act of embracing. We were unable to take hold of the man. He was too strong for us. He made a dash for the door, opened it and ran off. But we were able to seize this woman. We asked her who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. This is our statement, and we testify to its truth.”

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman?”

Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testified falsely against her.”

Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”

When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.”

Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you.”

“But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”

“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.”

The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them.  They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

Daniel 13 : 41c-62

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman?”

Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testified falsely against her.”

Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”

When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.”

Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you.”

“But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”

“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.”

The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them.  They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.