Saturday, 12 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard today the opposition which the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the elders of the people presented against Jesus, as they tried to convince everyone that Jesus was not the Messiah, that He was a fraud and a heretic, and that He had blasphemed against God by His many teachings that seemingly ran contrary to what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had uphold.

Of course it did not mean that all the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were wicked and without good. It did not mean that all the Pharisees were adamantly against Jesus, as the Gospel passage itself reminded us that Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees who believed in Jesus and accepted His teachings. And Joseph of Arimathea was another one of these Pharisees who also believed in Him.

But this opposition against Jesus came about not so much because of what Jesus had taught, as compared to what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law perceived about Him. They saw Him as a rival and a threat to their influence, because what He taught the people seemed to be different from what they were teaching the people, and He rebuked them in various occasions for their supposed lack of true faith.

The Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law were at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of the society of the people of God at the time, they were the ones who interpreted the Law for the people, and they determined how the people would come and worship, and managed the rites and the celebrations at the Temple, regulating all forms of rules in the society.

In such a privileged position and in such a position of honour, it can be easily seen how they were gathering together heaps upon heaps of praises and honour, and therefore, as what is in our human nature, we tend to gloat in such pleasures, being pleased and satisfied by those adulation, and therefore, we grew in our ego and pride, and the same thing happened to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

And thus, they were not willing to let go of all the honour, the fame, the position of honour they have achieved in the world, to listen to the truth of Jesus speaking to them and all the people. They shut the doors of their heart tight and they refused to listen to the Lord speaking to them. To them, the Lord Jesus was someone Who came to destroy all that they have gained in the world.

And this was why the Lord was so critical on His criticism at them. These people have misused and abused their authority, and they have even misled the people of God into the wrong path. And instead of guiding the people of God to come closer to Him through a greater understanding of God’s laws and commandments, and through a greater desire to love the Lord, they have oppressed the people with numerous obligations that were really unnecessary.

It is a lesson for all of us then, as we progress through this season of Lent, for us to reexamine ourselves and our actions. Have we been truly faithful in God, and have we been walking in His path all along? This is the time for us to realise how that there is still so many things we can do to prove our faith to the Lord. We should not follow the path of the Pharisees who placed themselves first before God, and who sought to satisfy their own needs first before obeying God.

Let us all learn through fasting and abstinence, the habit to resist our own selfishness, our pride, our hubris, our greed and all the things that are pulling at us and tempting us to abandon our path towards the Lord. Let us all put the effort to become ever closer to the Lord and to be more faithful to Him. Let us follow Him with all of our heart and find our way to His grace, the life everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, 12 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 40-53

At that time, many who had been listening to these words of Jesus began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Does the Scripture not say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David?” The crowd was divided over Him. Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

The officers of the Temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this Man.” The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in Him? Only these cursed people, who have no knowledge of the Law!”

Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our Law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.”

And they all went home.

Saturday, 12 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 7 : 2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12

O Lord, my God, in You I take shelter; deliver me and save me from all my pursuers, lest lions tear me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Proclaim, o Lord, my righteousness; You see that I am blameless. Bring to an end the power of the wicked, but affirm the just, o righteous God, Searcher of mind and heart.

You cover me as a shield, o God, for You protect the upright. A righteous judge is God, His anger ever awaiting those who refuse to repent.

Saturday, 12 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 11 : 18-20

YHVH made it known to me and so I know! And You let me see their scheming : “Take care, even your kinsfolk and your own family are false with you and behind your back they freely criticise you. Do not trust them when they approach you in a friendly way.”

“But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me that they were plotting, “Let us feed him with trials and remove him from the land of the living and let his name never be mentioned again.”

“YHVH, God of hosts, You Who judge with justice and know everyone’s heart and intentions, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause.”

Friday, 11 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the plotting of the wicked against the Righteous One, as predicted in the Book of Wisdom written before the time of Jesus, and how all of that which had been written came true in Jesus, when He came into this world bearing His truth upon the world. Jesus came revealing the truth to all mankind, and He came to save us from our own downfall in sin.

And yet, from what we have seen in the Scriptures, mankind, we ourselves are resistant to God’s attempts to rescue us, and instead of wanting to embrace God and to be forgiven from our sins, we tend to persist instead in our wicked and mistaken behaviours, disobeying God in all things, and we continued in our ways and paths of sin and darkness.

This is because we have this natural tendency to love sin and wickedness, simply because these things make use of our desires and our hearts’ corruption by our greed and by our human tendencies to sin. We like to do things that bring us pleasure, happiness and joy, even if these joy and happiness come about at the expense of others. And this is why mankind can at times be very cruel to one another. And this is sin.

And worst of all is our pride, the pride in each one of us, the ego that engulfs us and swallows us whole. It is pride that had brought Satan down from his position once as the greatest and mightiest Angel in heaven, and it is the same pride that will also destroy us and bring us to our downfall. It is the pride of the wicked that we saw in the Book of Wisdom that brought them to plot against the Righteous One.

And thus, just as it had been prophesied, the wicked represented the Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law who throughout the Gospels showed great resistance against the teachings and works of Jesus in this world, plotting at every possible opportunities to thwart His work, to disturb the works of mercy and salvation, and to mock and ridicule all that He had brought into this world, His truth.

They did so because for long they had enjoyed a position of great privilege, and unable to take on the criticism and the rebuke which the Lord had blatantly showed them as He came through Jesus, they continued deeper in their disobedience, and rather than repenting and seeing the truth in Jesus and His words, they found Him as a threat to their own worldly influence and legitimacy, and thus tried hard to destroy Him.

And when they have failed to thwart Him even by condemning Him to death, as He rose into glory and ascended into the glorious Heaven, they tried to persecute His Church and made life difficult for His followers and disciples. All these were caused by their jealousy, their pride and their inability to tear themselves away from all the negativities, from all the desires, and all the corruptions of sin that had eaten away at their hearts.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of all these, all of us should reflect on our own lives. How many times have we disobeyed the Lord as we listen more closely to our own hearts’ desires and to our pride? How many times have we betrayed the Lord, and betrayed our own fellow men just to serve and to satisfy our own selfish needs?

Let us all use this opportunity given to us by God to reflect on our own actions, and see what we can do in order to gain salvation through God. Let us all change our ways and repent for all of our sins, that by turning over a new leaf, we may find ourselves in a new life blessed by God. May the Lord keep us and bless us, and may He bring us all into everlasting life. Amen.

Friday, 11 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 1-2, 10, 25-30

After this Jesus went around Galilee; He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews wanted to kill Him. Now the Jewish feast of the Tents was at hand. But after His brothers had gone to the festival, He also went up, not publicly but in secret.

Some of the people of Jerusalem said, “Is this not the Man they want to kill? And here He is speaking freely, and they do not say a word to Him? Can it be that the rulers know that this is really the Christ? Yet we know where this Man comes from; but when the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from.”

So Jesus announced in a loud voice in the Temple court where He was teaching, “You say that you know Me and know where I come from! I have not come of Myself; I was sent by the One Who is true, and you do not know Him. I know Him for I come from Him and He sent Me.”

They would have arrested Him, but no one laid hands on Him because His time had not yet come.

Friday, 11 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23

But the Lord’s face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. Many are the troubles of the just, but the Lord delivers them from all.

He keeps all their bones intact, and none of them will be broken. But the Lord will redeem the life of His servants; none of those who trust in Him will be doomed.

Friday, 11 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Wisdom 2 : 1a, 12-22

Led by mistaken reasons they think, “Life is short and sad and there is no cure for death. Let us set a trap for the Righteous, for He annoys us and opposes our way of life; He reproaches us for our breaches of the Law and accuses us of being false to our upbringing.”

“He claims knowledge of God and calls Himself Son of the Lord. He has become a reproach to our way of thinking; even to meet Him is burdensome to us. He does not live like others and behaves strangely. According to Him we have low standards, so He keeps aloof from us as if we were unclean. He emphasises the happy end of the righteous and boasts of having God as Father.”

“Let us see the truth of what He says and find out what His end will be. If the Righteous is a Son of God, God will defend Him and deliver Him from His adversaries. Let us humble and torture Him to prove His self-control and test His patience. When we have condemned Him to a shameful death, we may test His words.”

This is the way they reason, but they are mistaken, blinded by their malice. They do not know the mysteries of God nor do they hope for the reward of a holy life; they do not believe that the blameless will be recompensed.

Thursday, 10 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about God Who was angry at His people when they betrayed Him and went for the worship of the pagan idol, in the form of a golden calf, in a story that all of us are surely familiar with, as we must have heard it during our catechism classes. We heard how God became angry and how He punished them for their wrongdoings, by destroying those who have led the people to sin, and those who have refused to repent and follow God.

But many of us would not know or remember the part saying that Moses pleaded with God to spare His people from His anger and from the destruction He intended for them because of their sins. Many of us would not remember how Moses pleaded before God to think of the covenant which He had established with His faithful servants, and to remember of the great love which He had for all of mankind, His beloved creations.

In this story, we see the same narrative of sin and redemption which we often hear during this season of Lent, a time of penitence and repentance, where we are all called to change our wicked and mistaken ways, and to turn away from all these, following once again the path towards God our Lord and Saviour. In the story which we heard today, we hear a very important message for us all, that there is hope for us as long as we are willing to repent and commit ourselves to God.

But it will not be an easy path for us to take, for the path towards redemption and salvation in God is likely to be filled with challenges and obstacles, and Satan who is trying to tempt and lure us away from God, will certainly not remain passive or quiet while we are being drawn into the Lord’s salvation. He is actively trying to pull us away from God and to bring us down into the deepest depths of hell.

Shall we then follow his path or the path of the Lord? Satan’s path is apparently easier for us, more enticing, and more pleasurable, and indeed, more exciting than the path that God offers us, but at the end of that path is a great cliff, from which if we fall, we can never rise back up. On the other hand, God’s path, is a path of challenges, difficulties and also filled with many sufferings, and yet at the end of the journey is our eternal rewards in God.

The people of God in the desert chose the easy way out, when they thought that Moses and God had abandoned them after he ascended for forty days at Mount Horeb. They were too quickly tempted by the temptations of their flesh, and they did not have patience in them. They placed their trust in the gold and in all the wealth that they received when they left Egypt. The love for God was not in their hearts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a reminder to all of us, that through this season of Lent, and indeed throughout our lives, we should endeavour to resist the temptations of our flesh, and abandon the false idols that had kept us away from truly being devoted and faithful servants of the Lord our God. Are these false idols the same as the idols of Israel at that time? Maybe, and maybe not.

If we are talking about idols from stone, wood or anything else carved in the images of animals, beasts, and other worldly things, then we may not have these common in our world today, but if we talk about the false idols and gods of money, of wealth and human desires, then we can see indeed, how these, the pursuits of wealth, the greed of men for more and more, are keeping us away from God.

Let us all therefore learn and strive to keep faithfully God’s laws and commandments, and let us be disciplined in our lives, so that we may resist all the temptations of the devil and all of his seducers, and remain true in love to the Lord our God. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.