Wednesday, 2 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 4 : 1, 5-9

And now, Israel, listen to the norms and laws which I teach that you may put them into practice. And you will live and enter and take possession of the land which YHVH, the God of your fathers, gives you.

See, as YHVH, my God, ordered me, I am teaching you the norms and the laws that you may put them into practice in the land you are going to enter and have as your own. If you observe and practice them, other peoples will regard you as wise and intelligent. When they come to know of all these laws, they will say, “There is no people as wise and as intelligent as this great nation.”

For in truth, is there a nation as great as ours, whose gods are as near to it as YHVH, our God, is to us whenever we call upon Him? And is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are just as this Law which I give you today? But be careful and be on your guard. Do not forget these things which your own eyes have seen nor let them depart from your heart as long as you live. But on the contrary, teach them to your children and to your children’s children.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the passage from the Holy Scriptures, which message is very clear, asking us all to practice mercy and forgiveness in all things, as well as humility and sincerity in seeking to purify ourselves and free ourselves from our chains and bonds of sinfulness. We should not judge others unjustly and thinking that we are in the position to place ourselves as better than others, as we too were once sinners like them.

We heard Jesus speaking to Peter and to His other disciples, when he asked Him about forgiveness of those who have slighted or offended them. When we look at how mankind normally deal with this, our human nature would have made us to be angry against those who have slighted us, and we would have sought to make a revenge against them, and inflict on them the same pain that they have caused to us.

But Jesus reacted otherwise and told us to do things differently. He told Peter and the other disciples to forgive those who have wronged them, many, many times. Jesus told Peter not just to forgive seven times, but seventy-seven times. Did Jesus tell Peter and the other disciples to literally forgive their enemies seventy-seven times precisely? No, it is not what Jesus meant.

What Jesus wanted from them, and thus from all of us is that we all should learn to forgive one another our sins, so that we may always learn to let go of our anger, our jealousy and all of our hatred on others, and learn to forgive those who have caused us harm and those who have ill-intent on us. That means, we must have the heart to forgive others, and must have the heart filled with love that will love and care for all our brethren regardless of what they have done to us.

It is important for us to learn to love as our God has loved us, and to learn to forgive as God has loved us. We are all called to follow our Lord and Father in all the things that He has done. Just as children learn from their fathers and therefore gain good things that their fathers had done, thus, we too imitate our Lord in all the things that He had done, and take them up as our own.

This is because we cannot be hypocrites, those who profess faith in the Lord and yet our actions and words speak otherwise. This will instead bring scandal to our faith. How can people believe in us when we preach to them about the Lord, if our actions by themselves have made us all liars and hypocrites? How will people then listen to the Lord and His truth, if they see how wicked our actions have been?

If God has forgiven us all many, many times, even though we are sinners through and through, then we too must forgive one another, and seek to be forgiven ourselves. We have to learn to forgive those who have hurt us, just as we have to remember that we ourselves are sinners too. If we condemn others, then we ourselves will be condemned, and if we do not forgive others, then we too should not deserve to be forgiven. No one is truly beyond redemption.

It is not up to us to decide the fate of others around us, in the matters of sin and forgiveness of those sins. But we can do our part to do what our Lord had told us to do, that is to forgive others their faults, just as we heard in our Lord’s Prayer, that we ask God to forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

Let us in this season of Lent be model for one another in faith and in our lives. Let us commit ourselves anew to God and love Him and His creations, that means loving one another with all of our hearts, and devoting ourselves in love to the less fortunate ones among us. May God bless us in our endeavours, and may He awaken in our hearts the charity, care and concern for each other, that through our loving actions, we may be absolved from our sins and be brought into the life everlasting in God. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 18 : 21-35

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants.”

“Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt.”

“When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt.”

“Now his fellow servants saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?'”

“The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.” Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “Do not abandon us forever, do not reject Your covenant for Your Name’s sake. Do not withdraw Your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, Your friend, of Isaac, Your servant, of Israel, Your holy one, to whom You promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea.”

“Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer You holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense. We have no place to present to You the first fruits of our crops, and so obtain Your favour.”

“But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to You, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us Your favour for we know that those who trust in You shall never be disappointed.”

“And now, we serve You with our whole heart, we fear You and we seek Your face. Do not leave us on our humiliation, but treat us according to Your kindness and Your great mercy. Free us in keeping with Your wonders, and give us the glory of Your Name, Lord.”

Monday, 29 February 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the famous and well-known story of how God healed Naaman, the Syrian general through the prophet Elisha, from his disease of leprosy when he sought for help and healing in God. Naaman was made whole and had his leprosy healed, when he obeyed the commands of Elisha to wash himself seven times in the River Jordan.

However, that did not come about easily, as initially Naaman refused to do as the prophet Elisha commanded him to do, thinking that he was above doing the seemingly simple chore that Elisha had asked him to do. In his anger, he almost left and went away without being healed, if not for his servants who tamed down his anger and then persuaded him to be humble and to listen to the will of God spoken through His prophet Elisha.

And in the Gospel today Jesus our Lord made it clear to the people of His time, how God at that time, chose not the people of Israel but someone from Syria, from the neighbouring kingdom of Aram, a stranger, a foreigner and even an enemy of Israel, to heal him from his afflictions of leprosy. And it was also reiterated how God chose the suffering widow of Zarephath in Sidon, also an outsider and foreigner to Israel, to bring His help and mercy.

The people of Israel at the time thought that because they were the chosen race, the chosen people of God, then they were favoured and could do things as they liked, and they would still receive the favour from God, and shunned the other peoples of the other nations as pagans and barbaric, unworthy of God’s favour and forgiveness. And yet, they were proven wrong, as God showed that His love is given freely to all.

It was not about one’s background, birth, upbringing, descent or any other parameters that decided our faith, but rather, it is our actions, our words and deeds that lead us to either do things that are in accordance with the will of God, or things that are abhorrent and wicked in the sight of God. And all of us have been given freedom to choose by God, our free will, to decide what we are to do with our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the story of Naaman, and also the widow of Zarephath is a reminder to all of us that God is trying to reach out to us, and He wants us to be reconciled with Him. It is contrary to what many of us must be thinking, if we thought that God is an angry God Who punished all those who have sinned against Him without any chance of redemption. It was we ourselves and our refusal to accept His mercy that had condemned us to destruction.

In this season of Lent, we are called like Naaman to be freed of our own affliction, the leprosy of our souls, that is sin. Sin is the disease that had been corrupting us and causing us all to be sick, and the cure can only be found in God, in our obedience to God and to His will. We must not be proudful or be filled with hubris and with selfishness, or else we might be like Naaman before he submitted to God’s will, or be like the Israelites who have sinned against God.

Therefore, let us all in this season of Lent commit ourselves to do things and works that bring good to others around us, helping one another and sharing the love which we ought to have inside each one of us, and therefore through what we have done in obedience to God, we may be found righteous and worthy, and He will bestow upon us all that He had promised on us. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 29 February 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 4 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people of Nazareth in the synagogue, “No prophet is honoured in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land.”

“Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Monday, 29 February 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 41 : 2, 3 and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, o God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre and harp. O God, my God.

Monday, 29 February 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Kings 5 : 1-15a

Naaman was the army commander of the king of Aram. This man was highly regarded and enjoyed the king’s favour, for YHVH had helped him lead the army of the Arameans to victory. But this valiant man was sick with leprosy.

One day some Aramean soldiers raided the land of Israel and took a young girl captive who became a servant to the wife of Naaman. She said to her mistress, “If my master would only present himself to the prophet in Samaria, he would surely cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to tell the king what the young Israelite maidservant had said. The king of Aram said to him, “Go to the prophet, and I shall also send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman went and took with him ten gold bars, six thousand pieces of silver and ten festal garments.

On his arrival, he delivered the letter to the king of Israel. It said, “I present my servant Naaman to you that you may heal him of his leprosy.” When the king had read the letter, he tore his clothes to show his indignation, “I am not God to give life or death. And the king of Aram sends me this man to be healed! You see he is just looking for an excuse for war.”

Elisha, the man of God, came to know that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, so he sent this message to him : “Why have you torn your clothes? Let the man come to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and stopped before the house of Elisha. Elisha then sent a messenger to tell him, “Go to the river Jordan and wash seven times, and your flesh shall be as it was before, and you shall be cleansed.”

Naaman was angry, so he went away. He thought : “On my arrival, he should have personally come out, and then paused and called on the Name of YHVH, his God. And he should have touched with his hand the infected part, and I would have been healed. Are the rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharpar not better than all the rivers of the land of Israel? Could I not wash there to be healed?”

His servants approached him and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had ordered you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? But how much easier when he said : Take a bath and you will be cleansed.” So Naaman went down to the Jordan where he washed himself seven times as Elisha had ordered. His skin became soft like that of a child and he was cleansed.

Then Naaman returned to the man of God with all his men.

Sunday, 28 February 2016 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings, we see the encounter that happened between mankind and God, between sinners and their Creator Who loved them, and Who desired to save them and bring them from the slavery of sin into the liberty and freedom that He wants to bring to them, and we see how we are also part of this great works of the Lord to bring salvation to all mankind.

God does not abandon us to die or to be destroyed, even though our sins and wickedness can indeed be very great. Many of us, just like the people of Israel whom God Himself had saved from their enslavement in Egypt, had been rebellious, disobedient and unwilling to listen or to commit ourselves to the ways of our Lord. And thus, as a result, our sins grew and we grew more distant from our Lord.

The Scripture readings today from the Book of Deuteronomy spoke of the uncertainty, the doubt and the lack of faith in the hearts of the people of God, who questioned His love and dedication for them, and who refused to see the light and refused to accept and understand that God had given them so much, so many things and blessings, and yet they were still not satisfied.

God gave them freedom from the scourge and yoke of slavery, lifting up from them the yoke and chains of the Pharaohs, that they would no longer suffer in the lands of Egypt, and that they would no longer toil in harsh labour, but be freed and He led them to the lands which He Himself had promised to their ancestors, and which promise He also renewed with them Himself, as He renewed the covenant He had with them.

And He destroyed their enemies and pursuers, their oppressors and all things wicked before them. He crushed the Pharaoh and his chariots, drowning them in the Red Sea, and He destroyed the Amalekites and the other enemies of the people of God, giving them victory and triumph. He guided them through the desert for many long years, leading them on the way and providing for them with none other than the food from heaven.

He blessed them with the manna, the bread of the Angels, and gave them many large birds and other foods to eat in the midst of the lifeless desert. He gave them clear and sweet spring water from the rocks in the middle of a very dry and parched desert, that all of them would have their fill and be satisfied. They all had what they needed, and no one lacked anything.

But they were not content and neither were they satisfied. They grumbled and complained against God for having brought them into the desert while they could have enjoyed a ‘better’ life in Egypt even though they would be enslaved. They rebelled against God, because they had no true love or commitment for their Lord, and their stomachs and hearts’ desires got the better of them.

How is this relevant to us, brethren? It is just as we ourselves also prefer sin to doing the will of God. We refuse to listen to God and do what He has asked us to do. Instead, we preferred to walk on our own path, because we see them as better, more enticing and less troublesome or risky. But this is all because it was the intention of the devil and all of his wicked forces, trying to lure us all into damnation by tempting us to do all those vile things.

And yet, even though we often failed to follow His will and even though we have committed so much wickedness throughout our lives, not listening to God and His words, but the love which He had for us was truly very great indeed, for He still offered us His salvation, His mercy and His love despite the fact that we were still sinners. St. Paul pointed out this fact for us, so that we may realise this and come to sincere and genuine repentance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, we have all been called to cease our rebelliousness and to cast aside our pride, our hubris, greed and desire, all of which had led us deeper and deeper into disobedience and sin against the Lord our God. This is the perfect time to begin our lives anew, to turn our backs against the past, that is our past sins and vile deeds.

All of us have been called to the mercy and forgiveness of God, and God had made it clear that those who are willing to repent shall be accepted and received in God’s eternal kingdom. But we first have to learn to restrain ourselves and to die to our pride and hubris, our greed and desires, and this is why we fast and abstain during this period of Lent. Thus, when we fast and abstain, let us all do them with proper understanding of their purpose, so that they may benefit us ever more for our salvation.

Let us all recommit ourselves anew to the Lord, that by our words, deeds and actions, we may show Him and the world all the same, that we are willing to live in accordance to our faith, and no longer adhering or being corrupted by this world’s desires and sins, but instead are committed to be good disciples and followers of our Lord from now on.

May Almighty God guide our paths, and may He strengthen the resolve in our hearts, so that we may strive always to live faithfully in accordance with His will and thus be worthy of the salvation and eternal life which He had promised us all. God bless us all. Amen.