Thursday, 8 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 14-23

At that time, one day Jesus was driving out a demon, which was mute. When the demon had been driven out, the mute person could speak, and the people were amazed. Yet some of them said, “He drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God, has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters.”

Thursday, 8 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Thursday, 8 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 7 : 23-28

YHVH says, “One thing I did command them : Listen to My voice and I will be your God and you will be My people. Walk in the way I command you and all will be well with you. But they did not listen and paid no attention; they followed the bad habits of their stubborn heart and turned away from Me.”

“From the time I brought their forebearers out of Egypt until this day I have continually sent them My servants, the prophets, but this stiff-necked people did not listen. They paid no attention and were worse than their forebearers. You may say all these things to them but they will not listen; you will call them but they will not answer.”

“This is a nation that did not obey YHVH and refused to be disciplined; truth has perished and is no longer heard from their lips.”

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we listened to the Lord speaking to us about His laws and commandments, which He had given to us His people. In the first reading today, we heard about the Lord speaking through Moses, His servant, teaching His people about the laws and commandments. The people were reminded to follow the Law and to obey God in all that He had taught them to do.

God has blessed them with His commandments and norms which He did not yet reveal to the other people and nations, and He expected them all to obey those laws and commandments. And He showed to them that if they remained true and faithful to His laws and commandments, they would be blessed and honoured, and they would be able to enjoy the graces He gave to them, in the land promised to them, all the prosperity meant for them as He promised their ancestors.

It is also exactly what the Lord Jesus reiterated in the words He said in the Gospel passage today. Yet, we see in those words, the frustration that the Lord showed as He was faced with opposition by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Why is that so? That is because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused the Lord Jesus and His disciples of trying to supplant the Law they carefully and zealously guarded, with a new version of the Law.

But Jesus rebuked them and said that what He brought unto them was the true meaning and obedience to the Law which God had revealed to His people so long ago through Moses. The problem lies in the fact that the laws as preserved and observed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been misunderstood and misapplied in such a way that the people were not able to appreciate why is it that they need to be faithful and obedient to the Law.

At that time, most of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were so focused on their aim to purify the people of Israel from all of their past impurities and sins, that they ended up creating many more rules and regulations which distracted the people of God from the true intention of the Law that is to bring the people closer to God and to love God more in their daily life. They were so caught up in their attempt to live up to their so-called obedience to the laws of Moses that they forgot why they ought to be doing all those actions and to Whom they ought to be doing it.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Lord Jesus had done was merely to redress the errors of the Pharisees and the corruption which had twisted the laws and commandments of God. He revealed to us all the true meaning of the Law, that is love. For all the rules and regulations added in and modified by the elders and the traditions of the Jewish people, the actual Law is truly simple, that is to love God with all of our entire effort, and to love one another with the same kind of love.

That is all that the Lord wanted from His people, a pure and unconditional love, just as He Himself has loved them first with that kind of love, commitment and devotion. Unfortunately, that was not what He received from His people, and when He came into their midst, in Jesus Christ, all that He received was scorn, rejection and refusal to believe in Him and His truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect, is that our attitude as Christians as well? Is that how we have treated the Lord? So far in our respective lives how many of us have truly lived them with true obedience to the Lord, loving Him genuinely in all that we do and say, in every action we take and in every moment? Or have we blindly obeyed or followed the ways and the rules taught to us by the Church without really understanding why we have done so?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, two renowned saints and martyrs of the Church, who lived during difficult years of intense persecution against the Church and the faithful, under the Roman Empire. St. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who resolved to become a Christian convert despite the objection from her father, while St. Felicity was a young slavewoman, who were imprisoned together with St. Perpetua for their faith.

They remained strong in their faith despite the physical sufferings and torture they had to endure, all the ridicule, scorn and anger directed at them, because of their great love for God. They did not mind enduring the same hatred of the world just as the Lord Himself had endured it. They willingly embraced martyrdom rather than to give up their faith in God. Their courage and commitment to the Lord inspired many people even many centuries after their passing from this world.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live the same Christian life as St. Perpetua and St. Felicity have lived theirs? Are we able to love God in the same way that God has loved us, that is with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, with our entire beings? Let us all make use of this time of Lent to prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically to grow deeper in our love and commitment to God.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He awaken in each one of us the same love, dedication and commitment as shown by His saints and martyrs, especially St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, whose memory we remember today. Let us ask for their intercession, that by their prayers God may be moved to call us all to Himself, to be forgiven and redeemed from our sins and unworthiness. St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, pray for us. Amen.