Sunday, 6 March 2016 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we come together for the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, we celebrate this Sunday which is also called the Laetare Sunday, where the liturgical colour is rose, similar to that of Gaudete Sunday in Advent, where the same theme is celebrated. Laetare, similar to Gaudete means ‘joy’ in Latin. It is a time for us to take a break in our sombre mood of the Lenten season, and to find and anticipate the joy that is to come as we celebrate Easter.

In the Scripture readings today we heard the joyful occasions when in the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard about the Israelites finally reaching the Promised Land after travelling for more than forty years, in the reparation and repentance for their sins and the sins of their forefathers, who refused to listen to God and disobeyed Him, that the Lord punished them to wander in the desert for forty years. Those who disobeyed God had all perished by the time the people of Israel reached the holy land, save for Joshua the faithful servant of God and Caleb, his compatriot.

In this we see how God purified His people through trials and tribulations, through pain and suffering in this world, that those who have not been able to stay faithful to the Lord and who have not been able to remain obedient, fell aside on the path to salvation and were cast out from the salvation in God. In this season of Lent, we too are purifying ourselves from the corruptions of the flesh, and the wickedness that remained in us, through our fasting and abstinences.

But the focus on this day remains on the outcome of all of our efforts to seek out the Lord our God through sincere and genuine penitential works. The celebratory nature of the Laetare Sunday in the midst of Lent is truly meant to help us and to encourage us in our path by showing us and allowing us to reflect on the future, on the outcome of our faith and of all our efforts, that all the difficulties we encountered for the sake of the Lord shall be rewarded wonderfully in the end.

In the Gospel we heard about the story of the prodigal son, which all of us should be very familiar with, that is the story told by Jesus about the younger son of a wealthy man and landowner, who went on to take his share of the inheritance and went to a foreign country, spending all of them on sinful living and wicked acts, and he only realised his folly when he had spent the last of his money, and he was left all alone in that foreign land.

And in his suffering, he came to realise the love which his father had for him, and decided with great courage to come back to his father, being greatly humbled and indeed, humiliated for his condition and situation. And he would not so much go home as to beg his father to forgive him and to treat him henceforth as a mere slave or servant, for he had greatly disappointed his father by his actions, and he was sure that his father would be angry with him.

And yet we knew how his father forgave him and welcomed him back with open arms, with great love and great joy. This story is a perfect representation of us mankind, and of our own attempt in reaching out to the Lord and in seeking His mercy when we have sinned against Him and disobeyed Him, and then how the Lord, our loving Father wants to welcome us back into His embrace. In that our Lord also mentioned the reality, that for every sinner that repents and changes his or her path and be saved, there is indeed a great joy and celebration in heaven.

All in all, everything we have heard and discussed thus far are about God’s loving and tender care for us, His mercy and forgiveness that He will give us mankind, forgiving us our sins and healing us from all of our troubles. In the Gospel passage used for the alternative reading in the case of preparation of the catechumens for the Sacrament of Baptism this Easter, taken from the Gospel of St. John, we heard yet another example, of how Jesus our Lord healed the blind man and restored to him his sight.

But we have to pay attention to a very important point that many people would easily overlook if they are not careful enough. And this is very important because especially in our time today, and even as many within the Church mistakenly believed, that while the Lord offered His mercy, forgiveness and salvation freely to all people without exception and without condition, but we often missed out the fine details of the truth, that no forgiveness, salvation or redemption can come about unless we accept it first, and devote ourselves fully to it.

This is why, in this season of Lent, it is important for all of us to understand its true purpose, and why we practice fasting, abstinence and all other observances, and why good deeds such as almsgiving and caring for the poor are encouraged. That is because, mercy and forgiveness from God only exercise their full function once we mankind, who accepted the mercy of God, internalised that mercy in us through real action, showing our regret, our sincere repentance, and the desire to turn away from all of our past sins, not just by mere words, but also through action.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, sin is like a disease, and it is indeed a disease, not of the flesh, but of the soul. But from the soul, sin can corrupt everything, including our minds, our hearts and our flesh too, our whole being. And it is this corruption that keep us away from truly being able to be reunited with our God, our loving Father.

If we look at the story of the prodigal son, it was not the part where he was reunited with his father that we have to focus our attention on. That part is just the conclusion of the long path that was initiated earlier on, namely at the moment when the prodigal younger son in the foreign land was suffering from the great famine and hunger, and he made that crucial decision to return to his father and beg for his mercy rather than to remain in his current state.

Similarly therefore, for sinners like us mankind, it is our conscious choice to accept God’s loving mercy and forgiveness, and then also our desire to be forgiven, shown by our rejection of the past sins and wickedness we used to embrace and enjoy, that bring us closer to the salvation in God. It is our commitment to lead a new life filled with faith in God that brings about our justification and redemption.

Therefore, in this great season of Lent, a great and perfect opportunity for us, let us all help one another in finding our path to the Lord. Let us all encourage each other to live a life no longer bound by sin and wickedness, but instead giving ourselves to the tender mercy of our Lord, and committing ourselves to a new life filled with hope, with faith and with love.

May our every actions bring us closer to God, and may we speak with one voice, and act with one determination, showing that we are all truly disciples and children of our Lord, our loving Father, that all justified in Him, we may receive our just rewards and the eternal life promised to all of His faithful ones. Let us look forward to the true joy that is to come, not the false joy of the world, but the joy found in the Lord alone. May God bless us all, and strengthen us in all of our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 6 March 2016 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

Meanwhile, at that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me a share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ He said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

John 9 : 1-41

At that time, 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 is it 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 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 of Readings from Year A)

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

At that time, 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, 6 March 2016 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Second Reading)

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

2 Corinthians 5 : 17-21

For that same reason, the one who is in Christ is a new creature. For him the old things have passed away; a new world has come. All this is the work of God Who in Christ reconciled us to Himself, and Who entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. Because in Christ God reconciled the world with Himself, no longer taking into account their trespasses and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

So we present ourselves as ambassadors in the Name of Christ, as if God Himself makes an appeal to you through us. Let God reconcile you; this we ask you in the Name of Christ. He had no sin, but God made Him bear our sin, so that in Him we might share the holiness of God.

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

Ephesians 5 : 8-14

You were once darkness, but you are now 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, 6 March 2016 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Psalm)

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

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

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, 6 March 2016 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (First Reading)

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

Joshua 5 : 9a, 10-12

Then YHVH said to Joshua, “Today I have removed from you the shame of Egypt.”

The Israelites encamped in Gilgal where they celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the following day, they ate the produce of the land : unleavened bread and roasted grain on that very day.

And from that day on when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. There was no more manna for the Israelites, and that year they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan.

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

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

YHVH said to Samuel, “How long will you be grieving over Saul whom I have rejected as king of Israel? 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 annointed.” 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 sons 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.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (I Classis) – Sunday, 6 March 2016 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Preface, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Offertory

Psalm 134 : 3, 6

Laudate Dominum, quia benignus est : psallite Nomini Ejus, quoniam suavis est : omnia, quaecumque voluit, fecit in caelo et in terra.

English translation

Praise all of you the Lord, for He is good. Sing all of you to His Name, for He is sweet. Whatsoever He pleased, He had done in heaven and in earth.

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Sacrificiis praesentibus, Domine, quaesumus, intende placatus : ut et devotioni nostrae proficiant et saluti. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

We beseech You, o Lord, look favourably upon the sacrifices here before You, that they may profit us both for devotion and for salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Preface of Lent

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos Tibi semper et ubique gratias agere : Domine, Sancte Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus : Qui corporali jejunio vitia comprimis, mentem elevas, virtutem largiris et praemia : per Christum, Dominum nostrum.

Per quem majestatem Tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Caeli caelorumque Virtutes ac beata Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes :

English translation

It is truly meet and just, right and profitable, for us, at all times, and in all places, to give thanks to You, o Lord, the Holy One, the Father Almighty, the Everlasting God, Who on those who chastise their bodies by fasting had bestowed the restraining of evil passions, uplifting of heart, and the enjoying of virtue with its reward. Through Christ our Lord.

Through Whom the Angels praise, the Dominations adore, the Powers, trembling with awe, worship Your majesty, which the heavens, and the forces of heaven, together with the blessed Seraphim, joyfully magnify. And may You command that it be permitted to our lowliness to join with them in confessing You and unceasingly to repeat :

Communion

Psalm 121 : 3-4

Jerusalem, quae aedificatur ut civitas, cujus participatio ejus in idipsum : illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini, ad confitendum Nomini Tuo, Domine.

English translation

Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together, for thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise Your Name, o Lord.

Post-Communion Prayer

Da nobis, quaesumus, misericors Deus : ut sancta Tua, quibus incessanter explemur, sinceris tractemus obsequiis, et fideli semper mente sumamus. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Grant us, we beseech You, o merciful God, that we may treat with unfeigned veneration and ever receive with heartfelt faith Your holy rites which we constantly celebrate. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (I Classis) – Sunday, 6 March 2016 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem – Continuation from the Holy Gospel according to St. John

John 6 : 1-15

In illo tempore : Abiit Jesus trans mare Galilaeae, quod est Tiberiadis : et sequebatur eum multitudo magna, quia videbant signa, quae faciebat super his, qui infirmabantur. Subiit ergo in montem Jesus : et ibi sedebat cum discipulis Suis.

Erat autem proximum Pascha, dies festus Judaeorum. Cum sublevasset ergo oculos Jesus et vidisset, quia multitudo maxima venit ad eum, dixit ad Philippum : Unde ememus panes, et manducat hi? Hoc autem dicebat tentans eum : ipse enim sciebat, quid esset facturus.

Respondit ei Philippus : Ducentorum denariorum panes non sufficiunt eis, et unusquisque modicum quid accipiat. Dicit ei unus ex discipulis Ejus, Andreas, frater Simonis Petri : Est puer unus hic, qui habet quinque panes hordeaceos et duos pisces : sed haec quid sunt inter tantos?

Dixit ergo Jesus : Facite homines discumbere. Erat autem foenum multum in loco. Discubuerunt ergo viri, numero quasi quinque milia. Accepit ergo Jesus panes, et cum gratias egisset distribuit discumbentibus : similiter et ex piscibus, quantum volebant.

Ut autem impleti sunt, dixit discipulis Suis : Colligite quae superaverunt fragmenta, ne pereant. Collegerunt ergo, et impleverunt duodecim cophinos fragmentorum ex quinque panibus hordeaceis, quae superfuerunt his, qui manducaverant.

Illi ergo homines cum vidissent, quod Jesus fecerat signum, dicebant : Quia hic est vere Propheta, qui venturus est in mundum. Jesus ergo cum cognovisset, quia venturi essent, ut raperent eum et facerent eum regem, fugit iterum in montem ipse solus.

English translation

At that time, Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias, and a great multitude followed Him, because they saw the miracles which He did on those who were diseased. Jesus therefore went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

Now the Pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand. When Jesus therefore had lifted up His eyes, and saw that a very great multitude came to Him, He said to Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” And this He said to try him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

Philip answered, “Two hundred denarius worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, “There is a boy here who had five barley loaves and two fishes, but what are these among so many?”

Then Jesus said, “Make the men sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to those who sat down. In the same manner also of the fishes, as much as they would.

And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost.” They gathered up therefore, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the twelve barley loaves, which remained over and above to those who had eaten.

Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said, “This is of a truth the Prophet Who is to come into the world.” Jesus therefore, when He knew that they would come to take Him by force and make Him King, fled again into the mountain by Himself alone.