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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 18 : 18-20

Then, they said, “Come, let us plot against Jeremiah, for even without him, there will be priests to interpret the Teachings of the Law; there will always be wisemen to impart counsel and prophets to proclaim the word. Come, let us accuse him and strike him down instead of listening to what he says.”

Hear me, o YHVH! Listen to what my accusers say. Is evil the reward for good? Why do they dig a grave for me? Remember how I stood before You to speak well on their behalf so that Your anger might subside.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard first of all the Lord’s calling to us, His people, to repent and turn away from our sins. This is in particular appropriate and relevant during this season of Lent, as a time of renewal and spiritual rediscovery for us, as we come to the presence of God with sincere regret and sorrow over our sins and wickedness.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of a warning to those who sinned and disobeyed God, as represented by his reference to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, the two cities that God destroyed because of their wickedness and sinful lifestyle. Yet, at the same time it was also a message of tremendous mercy and unprecedented love, as the prophet continued on by calling on the sinners to repent from their sins and turn away from all of their wicked ways.

‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow.’ This was what God had told His people, which at that time had lived through various sins and disobediences, refusing to obey the commandments of God and following the worship of pagan idols and even slaughtering the prophets and messengers sent to them to remind them to turn away from their waywardness.

This means that God was perfectly capable of turning even the worst of sinners back to His path, and no one was truly beyond God’s saving grace. God after all is omnipotent, and whatever we may think is impossible for us to do, is possible for God. No one should be discouraged and think that they are beyond God’s saving power, for if someone believe that they are beyond God’s salvation and mercy, that is most likely because they themselves refused to accept God’s forgiveness and loving compassion.

And as we listened to the Gospel passage today, we would have noticed how the Lord criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, because of the way they carried themselves and acted before the people, by showcasing their faith externally for the purpose of self-gratification and self-praise, seeking to be honoured and adored for their show of piety and obedience to God. In reality, in their hearts, there was no place for God, as their ego and pride filled all places of honour.

That is exactly how we also refused to listen to God and to accept His forgiveness and mercy, because we are too proud to admit that we are sinners and that we have been wrong in our ways. We hardened our hearts and continued to live in sin, thinking for what is best for ourselves, and aiming to satisfy our own needs and desires before thinking of others, less still, thinking of our obligations to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we progress through this season of Lent, we are all called to throw far, far away this wicked mentality and our predisposition to pride which had become a great obstacle in our journey towards salvation and reconciliation with our loving God and Father. Let us heed what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in the Gospel today, ‘let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For those whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.’

Many of our holy predecessors, saints and martyrs were once great sinners as well. They lived lives of debauchery and sin, which some would have thought as being hopelessly far away from God’s grace and salvation. Yet, in the end, it was their commitment and resolution to turn away from their sins that allowed them to open their hearts to God, and allowing Him to enter into their hearts and minds, they experienced a total conversion.

And thus the same can happen to us, if we humble ourselves and allow ourselves to be transformed by the Lord, by our renewed commitment to live faithfully in accordance with God’s ways, shunning all the sinful past we had, and embracing a new life and existence with God. And let us do that in this season of Lent, by our renewed faith and by our fasting and abstinence, through which we try to deepen our relationship with God while resisting the temptations of our flesh and our ego and desire.

May the Lord be with us throughout this Lenten journey, that we may be filled with a renewed faith and be ever closer to Him. May we make use of this opportunity presented to us, to repent and turn away from our sins, and be once again worthy to be called the beloved children of God. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.