Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (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, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (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, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Daniel 3 : 14-20, 24-25, 28

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 to 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.

They walked in the midst of the flames, singing to God and praising the Lord. Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “You have indeed given a just sentence in bringing evil upon us and upon Jerusalem, the Holy City of our fathers. You have acted in accordance with truth and justice, as punishment for our sins.”

Tuesday, 4 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we approach ever closer to the time of the Holy Week, we are reminded of why we do all the fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent. In the first reading today, from the Book of Numbers, we heard what happened to the people of Israel as they journeyed through the desert. They rebelled against God and God sent punishment to them in the form of fiery serpents that killed many of them.

The people of Israel begged for mercy from God through Moses, and Moses implored the Lord to have pity on them. Seeing that they have suffered and that they wanted to end their rebellion against Him, and the sincerity of their repentance, God showed His mercy and instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent placed on a stand so that all those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and saw the bronze serpent would not die but survive and live.

And in the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to all those who followed Him about the upcoming persecution and suffering that He would then soon endure during His Passion and death on the cross. He spoke to them that He would be lifted up for all to see, the Son of Man and Saviour of the world, Who was crucified like a criminal even though He was innocent and did nothing wrong.

Through this, we can see how the event in the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is linked to the time of the salvation of mankind through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. At the time of the Exodus, God brought His people Israel out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. However, they were unfaithful and they were constantly rebelling and disobeying Him, to the point of making for themselves a golden calf to be their deity and god.

As God was angry at them, for their wickedness and sins, the fiery serpents represent the punishment for all those sins and disobedience, much as how the sins that all of us mankind have done, bring about with it punishment and consequences. And many of the people of Israel died bitten by those fiery serpents, reminding all of us that the consequence for sin is death.

When we were created by the Lord, when Adam and Eve were still walking in the gardens of Eden, God did not intend for mankind to suffer and die, for it was not His intention. But, because they have sinned and disobeyed Him, therefore, they were cast out of Eden, and had to wander in this world in suffering, and death reigned over them. Ever since, all mankind, without exception, met the end of their lives in death.

But God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is that love which allows Him to show us His mercy when we His people sincerely desire to be forgiven, through our petition and grievances, through our regretting of our sins and wickedness, by our humble submission to His grace and love. And God Who loves us will indeed forgive us our sins if we are sincere in seeking to be forgiven.

That is just as how He gave a new chance to the Israelites by asking Moses to make the bronze serpent to rescue them from their predicament. And while that applied only to the people of Israel who died in the desert, God made the same thing to happen to all of mankind, by the sending of none other than His own Beloved Son, to be the One through Whom He would exercise His mercy and forgiveness.

And Jesus willingly took up upon Himself the multitudes of our sins, our defilements and all the things that had separated us from God and His love. He bore all those sins on Himself, carrying His cross through the way of suffering from Jerusalem towards the hill of Calvary. It was at Calvary where He was raised up for all to see, as the Sign of God’s salvation, forgiveness and grace, a reminder of the bronze serpent that saved the Israelites.

By the cross of Christ we have been saved, a new hope and light had dawned on us. God has given us a second chance, because He loves each and every one of us. But are we willing to be forgiven our sins? Are we allowing God to enter into our hearts and help us to transform ourselves from the creatures of sin and darkness that we were once, into beings of light worthy to be called the children of God?

That is the question we must ask ourselves, and which we must ponder on as we go through this time of preparation in Lent. We need to spend time to reflect on our lives, our actions and deeds in life thus far. Have we been faithful to the Lord, walking righteously in His ways? Or have we been wayward and disobedient like the people of Israel in the past? Have we ignored God’s laws and commandments, by our hatred, our jealousy, our selfishness and human greed?

Let us look upon the cross of Christ, the body that lies hanging on the crucifixes we have, at our homes, at our churches and wherever we are, and at our personal crosses and crucifixes. Whenever we look at Him Who is crucified, let us first of all remember that we are all sinners and should have perished because of them. Then remember how Christ died for all of us, bearing all the burdens of our sins as His own. Remember how He suffered for our sake, taking the punishment on our behalf, that we will not perish but live.

Let us devote ourselves with new commitment, looking at the example of today’s saint whose feast we are celebrating. St. Isidore of Seville was the Bishop of Seville during the years of the early Medieval era, who was credited with the conversion of the kingdom of the Visigoths in present day Spain from the heresy of Arianism into the orthodox and true Christian faith.

St. Isidore lamented the corruption that permeated the society and the people at that time, as morality became ignored and the faith among the people faltered. St. Isidore therefore laboured hard to bring the people of God back to the faith, by preaching to them the truth of the Gospels, and calling them to repentance. He stood firmly against the false teachings of Arianism and by his works, he managed to bring multitudes of souls to salvation.

Inspired by his examples, all of us Christians should endeavour to do the same as well. We should come closer to the Lord and change our sinful ways, repent from all of our past wrongdoings, realising just how much God loves us and wants us to be reconciled with Him. And we need to help our fellow brethren, especially those who are still struggling with sin and with their wickedness.

Let us endeavour to help one another, that each one of us may learn to draw closer to God, so that we may find our way to reconciliation with our God. May all of us learn to be humble, and beg the Lord for His forgiveness, by committing ourselves to change our sinful ways, and walk in righteousness and grace from now on. May God help us all, and may He bless all of us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “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, 4 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Numbers 21 : 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.