Thursday, 17 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, He will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One You claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word.”

“As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.” The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.

Thursday, 17 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

Thursday, 17 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 17 : 3-9

Abram fell face down and God said to him, “This is My covenant with you : you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram, but Abraham, because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you more and more famous; I will multiply your descendants; nations shall spring from you, kings shall be among your descendants.”

“And I will establish a covenant, an everlasting covenant between Myself and you and your descendants after you; from now on I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you, for generations to come. I will give to you and your descendants after you the land you are living in, all the lands of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be the God of your race.”

God said to Abraham, “For your part, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation.”

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the case of the compatriots of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were the people of Israel and Judah brought into exile by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah, bringing many of its people to exile in Babylon, where they would again live in foreign lands, as it was during the time of their slavery in Egypt.

And the suffering did not end there, as not only that they suffered material and financial difficulties, with many being slaves and servants to the Babylonians, but they also often had no right on their own, even to believe in and to worship the God that is their God, Who is the One Who have cared for them, nourished them and kept them safe as a people He had chosen and loved.

God has loved them, but they have not been faithful to Him, and they spurned His love. It was only when their cities had been destroyed, their places ransacked, their beloved ones and they themselves carted off to slavery that they repented their sins, and realised what kind of mistake they had made. They have lost their lands promised to them and to their ancestors because of their own wrongdoing.

But as long as they remained faithful to God, God would be with them, for His love for us mankind is truly great indeed, and no sinner who have committed to abandon their sins and wickedness He would turn away. He will embrace all those who have sinned, that is all of us, and returning to Him and accepting His mercy and forgiveness, God will renew with us the covenant He had made and the love and grace He had shown His faithful ones.

Today’s readings show the importance of truly being faithful to the Lord, that even amidst persecution and difficulties we encounter of having been one who kept our faith in God, and disliked and hated by the world, we can still be faithful to the Lord as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had been. They, like Daniel, had been among the chief servants of Nebuchadnezzar due to their great wisdom and intellect, but like all other people and servants of the king, the will of the king is law, and to go against it warranted certain death.

They had clear choices there, either to abandon their God and surely to receive the praise of many, the favour and graces of the king, but condemning their souls to the eternal fire of hell, or to remain resolute and steadfast even in the face of suffering and death, that they remain in good graces of God and remained in His favour? They could have chosen either one, each with their own consequences, but they chose God and stayed true to their faith, and God saved them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a lesson for us all that especially in this time of Lent, as we practice fasting and abstinence, there will be many temptations and things that are trying to lure us away from God and from our salvation, either through trickery or through even persuasion, violence and threat of painful death, but if we give in to this for the sake of gaining the approval of others and the world, know that it may not be very good for us in our prospect of the life that is to come.

Let us all reflect on our lives, our deeds and actions, all the things that we have done so far. Have we kept our faith in God faithfully in all things? Have we done so even though things are not favourable to us if we do so? Or have we been trying to placate the world while we want to remain faithful to our God? Or worse, if we profess ourselves to be His followers, and yet we neither believe in or act in the way favourable to our God?

May God help us to find our way to Him, and to persevere in the face of challenges and temptations that are trying to lure us away from Him. Let us all help one another to reach out to the Lord, and may all of us be blessed and remain in His favour, that one day we will be worthy of the glories of heaven. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 31-42

At that time, Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in Him, “You will be My true disciples, if you keep My word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do You mean by saying : You will be free?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave does not stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. For My part, I speak of what I have seen in My Father’s presence, but you do what you have learnt from your father.”

They answered Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill Me, the One Who tells you the truth – the truth that I have learnt from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.”

The Jews said to Him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I did not come by My own decision, but it was He Himself Who sent Me.”

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever. Blessed is Your Holy and Glorious Name, celebrated and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You Who fathom the depths, Who are enthroned on the Cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 14-20, 91-92, 95

King Nebuchadnezzar questioned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up?”

“If you hear now the sound of horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you will not, you know the punishment : you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if he will not, we would like you to know, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace.

Then king Nebuchadnezzar suddenly rose up in great amazement and asked his counsellors, “Did we not throw three men bound into the fire?” They answered, “Certainly.” The king said, “But I can see four men walking about freely through the fire without suffering any harm, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego Who sent His angel to free His servants who, trusting in Him, disobeyed the king’s order and preferred to give their bodies to the fire rather than serve and worship any other god but their God.”

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard and witnessed the salvation of the Lord, the help and the liberation which He is bringing to all of us mankind, His beloved ones, that He may free us from our afflictions, and that through Him we may have true life in us and do not perish, but instead gaining for ourselves the graces of life eternal.

Today we heard about how the Israelites were punished when they disobeyed the Lord in the desert, as they went through the long journey on the way to the lands promised to them and their ancestors. They grumbled against the Lord and made complaints after complaints against Him, protesting about many things, and not even once giving thanks to God through Whom they have received so many great blessings.

For who else in this world, past, present and future, would ever and will ever see the blessings that God gave His people Israel when He led them through the desert? He gave them clear and sweet water to drink in abundance, springing from the earth itself, when they walked around thirsty and parched in their throats. And when they were hungry, He gave them the bread of the angels itself, sharing in the feast of heaven, and even with large birds He made to fly to them, that they might have enough to eat and be satisfied.

And yet with all that, the people of God did not feel that they have had enough. Instead, they clamoured for more, and allowed themselves to be corrupted by the wickedness of their desires and by the weaknesses of their flesh. And that was how they fell into the temptation of sin and were condemned. But God Who loved all of them did not give up on them.

We saw how even though they have wronged Him, He still gave them a chance, giving them through Moses His servant, the hope of redemption and salvation, with the bronze serpent He let the people saw the hope He promised them, the way out of punishment and suffering, raised up high between the heavens and the earth, as a prelude to the true salvation He was bringing to all through Jesus.

Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins, and in doing so, He bore upon Himself the punishment that should have been intended for us. He gave Himself out of love for us, so that we may not perish but live a new life of hope in Him. This is what He has promised to all those who are faithful to Him, and those who trusts in Him and puts their faith in Him shall not be disappointed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this time and season of Lent, a season of renewal, of forgiveness and reconciliation, let us reorientate ourselves, and let us all refocus our efforts and actions in life, so that we may become ever more righteous followers of our God, not just in words alone, but also in real deeds and actions. Let us turn our back from our sins and stop walking on towards destruction and damnation in hell.

Let us all embrace the love, mercy and forgiveness our Lord offers us, so that we who believe in Christ, and who look upon Him present in our midst and through the Eucharist, let us all be made whole again, pure, blameless and worthy of eternal life in Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, again Jesus said to the people, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.”

They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him, I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.