Friday, 2 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.

Friday, 2 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Friday, 2 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Thursday, 1 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the stories and reminders from the Scriptures, which is an apt reminder to each and every one of us to be careful and indeed be mindful on how we ought to live our lives and on what we depend on in our respective lives. Let us begin first by looking into what we have heard from our Gospel passage today, the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

In that story, we saw the contrast between Lazarus, a poor man who often sat just outside the large mansion belonging to a rich man, hoping that he could eat from whatever scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. It was likely that Lazarus was so poor that he could not even afford anything to eat and satisfy his daily needs, to the point that he had to beg for the food.

Meanwhile, the rich man had everything that he needed, from food, drinks, friends, company of loved ones, possessions, shelter over his head and all other forms of earthly needs. He was good in everything save for the fact that he was unable to see the plight of the poor man who was sitting just outside of his residence. He had everything that he needed, but he kept them all to himself and did not lift a finger to help Lazarus, who was in great need.

In the end, we heard how both eventually met the end of their earthly lives and existence. We all know that everyone will meet and experience death at the end of their lives, and thus the same thing happened to both Lazarus and the rich man. Yet, the fates awaiting the two of them each could not be much more different, one from the other one.

Lazarus went up to heaven and sit beside Abraham, the ancestor of the people of Israel and many other nations, a righteous servant of God, deemed worthy of the glory of heaven promised to those who have been just and faithful to God. Meanwhile the rich man fell into damnation and the sufferings in hell, which is reserved for Satan and all those who have disobeyed God, and had willingly refused to follow the Lord.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, we gained some deeper insight of what had happened to the two of them. It is about how and what we put our trust in, be it in God or be it human beings and worldly matters. The prophet Jeremiah made it very clear that if we trust in worldly things and in our own strength, we will likely end up drawn away from God, and fall into the temptations to sin.

But if we put our trust in God, we will grow ever more in faith, and we will draw closer to Him. It may be a life filled with challenges and difficulties, but we can be sure that God is always on our side. While the wealth and all the goods we have in this world may bring us happiness to a certain extent, but they will not last forever, and eventually they may perish and be destroyed.

Similarly, regardless of all the bountiful riches and goods that the rich man possessed, none of those came to his rescue or were available to him when he fell into the eternal suffering in hell. He was suffering all by himself, and without any hope of rescue and salvation, as he has lost all the opportunities given to him by God, to touch the lives of others, especially the poor Lazarus sitting by his doorstep.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we need to know is that we sin by both doing what is wicked and sinful in the eyes of God, but also by not doing what we can do in order to truly be followers of the Lord. God was not against the rich and those who have more possessions and wealth, as some would try to argue it that way. Instead, God wants us to make good use of what He has blessed us with.

To those of us who have been more blessed than others, we should learn to share our joy and blessings, especially to those among us who have little or none to be joyful. This is why in this season of Lent, we are called to be more generous in giving, be more charitable in our love towards our brothers and sisters. Let us make good use of our time during this Lent to be ever more devoted and committed Christians, loving our fellow brethren more.

Let us not abandon or ignore all the ‘Lazaruses’ we see around us. Let us show mercy, love and compassion to these brethren, who may need our care, attention and other forms of help. May the Lord move our hearts to be ever more loving and dedicated in all the things we do, for the good of our brethren. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 1 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Thursday, 1 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 1 March 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 17 : 5-10

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness.”

“Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.”

“Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, YHVH, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.”

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages telling us about the challenges, difficulties and all the obstacles that we will face as those who follow the way of the Lord, as the reality that we must understand and face, if we are to continue to be faithful to Him. This we have heard from the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading, as well as the Lord Jesus Himself Who made it plain and clear to His disciples of the sufferings He Himself was to face.

The prophet Jeremiah lived during the last days of the kingdom of Judah, at the time when the once glorious kingdom of God’s people have fallen into a sad state, as it fell into bad times and was humiliated by its neighbours, and at that time, it was under danger of falling into the hands of the Babylonians, who would eventually destroy both the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem and its Temple in the year 586 BC.

In those days, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of the impending doom that would come upon the kingdom and the people of Judah. And his words would come true when the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar came to conquer Jerusalem and brought its people to exile in the land of Babylon for many years. But false prophets and the refusal of the people to believe in what the Lord said through Jeremiah, combined with their continued insistence to live in sin, brought about their ultimate downfall.

The prophet Jeremiah did not have it easy, as he had to endure ridicule, persecution, rejection, and imprisonment. He was harassed at many opportunities, by those who refused to believe in him and in the message which he received from God. The prophet Jeremiah had to endure scorn and mockery, the opposition and to endure the anger of his own countrymen, because they steadfastly and stubbornly hardened their hearts against God and His call.

In the Gospel passage today we also heard about what the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples when two of them came up to Him trying to curry favour with Him, with their mother in tow, asking for them to be given the special privileges of being able to sit at the left and the right hand side of the Lord, essentially being given importance greater than that of the other Apostles and disciples.

At that time, the custom was such that in a banquet, whoever sat beside the master of the banquet will be considered the greatest of importance amongst the guests and thus, garner the greatest prestige and honour. In fact, in order for someone to be able to sit at the places of honour, they would often jostle and compete with one another, seeking to outdo each other for the prestige and honour. And that was exactly what the disciples had done.

The other disciples were not happy against the two brothers because of their attempt to get ahead of them in supposed prestige and honour among the disciples. But the Lord rebuked them all and said that the way of a Christian, of those who believe in God, is that of humility, obedience and service. This comes contrary to the ways of the world, which prioritises individuality, selfishness and ambition, as shown by the attitudes of the Apostles towards each other.

In this world, all of us are surely accustomed at how the world values power, glory, wealth and all the things that we have been taught since our youth as those that bring about more pleasure, more happiness, more joy and more satisfaction for ourselves. And when we do not get what we want, we try our best to gain more of what we desire, sometimes even at the cost of others, when we acted like those two brothers, St. James and St. John, seeking for their own personal gain and glory for themselves.

However, let me ask you this question, ‘How does it benefit us to gain all the power, glory and prestige in this world?’ As I have often mentioned during this season of Lent, we mankind are always desiring for more and more, as the devil is ever ready to tempt us with ever more temptations and persuasions to make us to disobey God and sin even more. If we pursue all the power, glory, prestige, lust and all forms of worldly satisfactions, we will never be satisfied and happy.

And it does not matter how much we have in life, but none of these will come with us to the time of judgment in the end of our lives. Everyone, be it rich or poor, powerful or weak, we will be equal then before God. We should build for ourselves our true treasure in God, and not the treasures of this world, and we can do this by being humble and meek, caring for others in our midst, especially those who are unloved, those who are poor and oppressed amongst us.

In order to become a disciple of Christ, we must indeed share the same cup of suffering that Our Lord had taken up. We must follow in the footsteps of the prophet Jeremiah and the Lord Himself, as how both were rejected by the world and all those who refused to listen to God. We are called to endure the same sufferings, challenges and difficulties, and as the Lord Himself said, we need to ‘take up our crosses and follow Him.’ That is the essence of true discipleship.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us renew our commitment to live in faith towards God during this blessed season of Lent. Let us throw far away, our pride, individuality, selfishness, and all the wickedness and sins we have committed in life. May the Lord be with us in our journey, so that we may grow to be ever more faithful, and draw ever closer to His righteousness and justice. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 20 : 17-28

At that time, when Jesus was going to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples and said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem. There the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, who will condemn Him to death. They will hand Him over to the foreigners, who will mock Him, scourge Him and crucify Him. But He will be raised to life on the third day.”

Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here You have my two sons. Grant that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, when You are in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup, but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations act as tyrants over them, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be more important in your community shall make himself your servant.”

“And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man Who has come, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 30 : 5-6, 14, 15-16

Free me from the snare that they have set for me. Indeed You are my Protector. Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I hear whispering among the crowd, rumours that frighten me from every side – their conspiracies, their schemes, their plot to take my life.

But I put my trust in You, o Lord, I said : “You are my God;” my days are in Your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, from those after my skin.