Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 80 : 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, I relieved your shoulder from burden; I freed your hands. You called in distress, and I saved you.

Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, My people, as I admonish you. If only you would listen, o Israel!

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I the Lord am your God, who led you forth from the land of Egypt.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Thursday, 8 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the clear frustrations of the Lord in two cases. The first one, from the Old Testament was the Lord voicing out His displeasure of His people through His prophet Jeremiah, about their constant disobedience and refusal to listen to His reminders and teachings as He made it clear to them through His prophets.

They continued to sin and disobey the Lord, and they did not follow the examples of their ancestors who obeyed the Law meticulously and genuinely. They persecuted the prophets and messengers sent to them to remind them and to call them to repentance. Instead of turning towards the Lord, they hardened their hearts and sinned further before the Lord.

In the Gospel today, we heard yet another example of this stubbornness, as the Lord Jesus met lots of resistance from the Pharisees who accused Him wrongly and maliciously of using the power of the devil in order to perform all of His miraculous deeds, healings and wonders. They were the ones who were highly educated and were knowledgeable about the Scriptures, and yet they failed to recognise God and His works when He came to their midst.

Why is that so? That is because of their stubbornness and refusal to believe in the Lord’s words as they were so set in their ways and thoughts that they refused to listen to an alternative opinion, even if their thoughts and ways were wrong. They stubbornly clung on to their false beliefs because of their pride and arrogance. They even went to the extent of doubting God’s presence and works in their midst in doing so.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on these Scripture passages, looking at all the sinful ways and actions we have done in the past, and which we may still be doing at the moment. Have these prevented us from seeking God’s grace and forgiveness, because of our pride and our stubbornness, thinking that everything is fine and good for us? Have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by our desires and ambitions that we forget that we are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness?

In this time of Lent, we are called to reexamine our lives and our actions, and see what we can do in order to bring ourselves closer to God. God has called us to be His disciples, and to follow Him in the path that He will show us, but we must have the commitment to follow in His footsteps, and to walk in His path, which will not be easy and will be full of challenges and difficulties.

We will be tempted in various ways to leave the way of the Lord, and we will be tempted to return once again to our old, sinful way of life. That was why the Israelites fell again and again into sin, because they did not remain true to their faith in God and make little effort to resist the temptation of the devil. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law similarly allowed the devil to enter their hearts and sway them with hubris and arrogance, that closed their hearts and minds from understanding God’s words and truth as revealed by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what we must not do with our lives. On the contrary, we must open our hearts and minds, allowing the Lord to enter and transform us completely, from beings filled with darkness and sin, into beings filled with light and grace of God. Let us heed the example set by our holy predecessor, St. John of God, in his dedication and commitment to live his life filled with faith and devotion to God, through his actions and deeds.

St. John of God was orphaned in his young age, and later became a soldier in his early adulthood, and because of injustice and false accusation, he was wrongly blamed for a crime that he did not commit. Turning away from all worldly ways and concerns because of these turn of events, he began to turn towards God and trying to seek Him in his life, as he felt a strong spiritual longing due to the emptiness he felt in his soul.

He saw a vision of the Infant Jesus, Who bestowed on him the name, John of God, the name he was to be known by henceforth. When listening to a sermon of St. John of Avila, another great saint of the Church, St. John of God felt the calling to serve the Lord with more commitment. He began to work among the poor and the needy, caring for them and providing for their material and spiritual needs.

Later on in his life, he established a religious congregation gathering all like minded people and devoted servants of God, dedicated to the care of the sick and the poor. These dedications to the weakest and the least among God’s people should be inspiration for all of us, in how we should carry on our lives from now on, in how we ought to devote ourselves to God in a better way.

May the Lord help us through our faith journey in this season of Lent, that we may grow ever closer to the Lord, devoting ourselves, our time, effort and attention to care for the needy around us, to be humble in all that we do, and remember that we must not be proud or arrogant in mind. We must not follow in the footsteps of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in their stubbornness and refusal to believe in God.

Let us instead imitate the humility of Our Lord Himself, Who came into this world as a servant for all, loving and caring to all those who have been entrusted to Him. Let us all make our Lenten observation more meaningful and fruitful, by doing acts of charity and grace to others around us, doing our very best to help those who are in need, that through us, God may perform more of His wonderful works among us. May God bless us all. Amen.