Monday, 12 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard about God’s love and kindness, which He showed to His people with the promise of the upcoming joy and happiness for eternity, in a new heaven and a new earth as seen by the prophet Isaiah. God promised His people that if they remain faithful to Him, they would no longer suffer and endure the trials of this world, for God will bless them forevermore with His grace.

Many of us are too easy to give up on God, because we were not able to follow in His ways, and when troubles and difficulties come on our way, we easily give up the struggle and give in to the demands of the world, the temptations to sin and to do what is not according to God’s will. We often think of God as some kind of wonder and miracle worker, Who can grant us anything that we want. But when things do not go according to our wishes, we become angry, disillusioned, and we abandon God.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord healed the son of an official and prevented him from dying. The man believed that the Lord could heal his son, and he believed the Lord’s words to him, saying that his son would live. It is this faith which many of us are lacking, that is a genuine and living faith in God. The Lord Himself rebuked those many others who were stubborn in their doubts, and refusing to believe unless they see and witness wonders and miracles.

We are basically by our human tendencies, a superficial people, those who tend to be awed and affected by appearances and by exterior finesse, and yet, inside we have nothing or little of value. We tend to focus on what we can see and what we can experience directly, and we do not value what is hidden from our senses. Yet, this is the exact recipe for our lack of faith, as faith requires more than just appearances and wonders.

We tend to look up for things that can satisfy us in the short run, in terms of the pleasures, or money, or fame, or prestige, or other things that we always seek to accumulate in life. When we do not have them, we crave for these things, and when we already have them, we desire to have even more. It is hard for us to satisfy ourselves, especially when we live in a world filled with materialism and selfishness.

That is why we often seek to preserve our lives, trying to make ourselves looking as good and as youthful as possible, and we always tend to fear getting old, or losing money, or suffering from an illness, and of course, death itself. All these are caused by our unhealthy attachment to the many tempting matters of this world, which prevented us from seeing beyond the short-term fulfilment of our desires, towards the true fulfilment, that God alone can give us.

Ultimately, do we realise that it does not matter how much wealth we have accumulated and attained, and it does not matter how much power, glory and prestige we have gained, all these will not avail us on the day of our judgment? None of these will be with us, and they will not go along with us at the time when we leave our earthly existence. In the end, if we are too fixated on these, in expense of our faith, we will be left with nothing but regret.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why during this season of Lent, all of us are called to reflect on our lives and the choices we have made thus far, in how we have acted and lived our lives. Have we been spending too much focus and attention on attaining worldly and temporary satisfactions for ourselves? Do remember that none of these can give us true and lasting happiness, as only God alone can do that.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, during the remainder of this season of Lent, let us practice more of our charity and generosity towards our brothers and sisters in need. We are called to be more loving towards one another, to refocus our attention from ourselves and from our greed and worldly desires, towards the more noble goal of glorifying and loving God with all of our hearts.

May the Lord continue to be with us in our journey of faith. May He guide us along the right path that we will not fall into temptations and into sin. May we remain true and faithful to Him and devote ourselves ever more, day after day. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 12 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 4 : 43-54

At that time, when the two days Jesus spent with the Samaritans were over, He left for Galilee. Jesus Himself said that no prophet is recognised in his own country. Yet the Galileans welcomed Him when He arrived, because of all the things which He had done in Jerusalem during the Festival, and which they had seen. For they, too, had gone to the feast.

Jesus went back to Cana of Galilee, where He had changed the water into wine. At Capernaum there was an official, whose son was ill, and when he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked Him to come and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus said, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe!” The official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” And Jesus replied, “Go, your son lives!”

The man had faith in the word that Jesus spoke to him, and went his way. As he was approaching his house, his servants met Him, and gave him the good news, “Your son has recovered!” So he asked them at what hour the child began to recover, and they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday, at about one o’clock in the afternoon.”

And the father realised that was the time when Jesus had told him, “Your son lives!” And he became a believer, he and all his family. Jesus performed this second miraculous sign when He returned from Judea to Galilee.”

Monday, 12 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 29 : 2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b

I extol You, o Lord, for You have rescued me; my enemies will not gloat over me. O Lord, You have brought me up from the grave, You gave me life when I was going to the pit.

Sing to the Lord, o you His saints, give thanks and praise to His holy Name. For His anger lasts but a little while, and His kindness all through life. Weeping may tarry for the night, but rejoicing comes with the dawn.

Hear, o Lord, and have mercy on me; o Lord, be my Protector. But now, You have turned my mourning into rejoicing; O Lord, my God, forever will I give You thanks.

Monday, 12 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 65 : 17-21

I now create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind again. Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in My people.

The sound of distress and the voice of weeping will not be heard in it any more. You will no longer know of dead children or of adults who do not live out a lifetime. One who reaches a hundred years will have died a mere youth, but the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.

They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant crops and eat their fruit.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we approach quickly the coming of Holy Week and Easter, we recall with joy the salvation which God had brought upon His people, time and again, throughout the history of our salvation, how He renews with us His promises and the loving relationship we ought to have with Him, through the Covenants He made with us.

That is why today rose vestments are used, as we mark Laetare Sunday, with the word Laetare coming from this Sunday’s Introit, ‘ Laetare Jerusalem, remembering that in the midst of difficulties and challenges, we ought to rejoice because of the salvation and consolation that has come upon us from God. This is the time in Lent when we do not just focus on our sinfulness and our regret for those sins, in penance and almsgiving, but also look forward to the joy which is to come, when we are fully reconciled with God.

In the first reading today, we listened to the tale of destruction of the last remnants of the kingdom of Israel, when the southern kingdom of Judah centred in Jerusalem, ruled by David’s descendants, was destroyed by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. That was because of their lack of faith and commitment to the Lord, even though the Lord had commanded them to obey His laws and commandments.

They have installed foreign and pagan gods and idols in their midst, and even desecrating the sanctity of the House of God, the Temple in Jerusalem on occasions. Thus God punished them for their refusal to obey His will, and for their wickedness and their sins. But what God truly hated was their sins and disobedience, and not their persons. God still loved them all dearly even though their sins were numerous.

It is proven by what God subsequently did for His people. In the same first reading we heard today, even though we heard to a story of despair and humiliation, but the subsequent passage in fact spoke of hope and gladness, relief and happiness, when God called upon Cyrus, the great King of Persia, to let the people of Israel go back to their own land, after he conquered the Babylonians in the year 538 BC.

And that is the reality of God’s love, that even though we mankind have sinned many, many times and refused repeatedly to follow Him, preferring our own sinful ways and habits, but the Lord is equally generous with His mercy, love and forgiveness. He is always ready to forgive us our sins and trespasses, but more often than not, we are unwilling to accept His generous offer of mercy, because we are often too proud, thinking that we are in no need for forgiveness or healing.

And we are often too preoccupied by the many temptations in life which swayed us away from the ways of the Lord, and we end up falling deeper into the trap of sin, which the devil is pulling us into, through his many persuasions and temptations. We often put our priority in our worldly cares and concerns, worrying about money, about having financial security, about our relationships and how we can maintain a good and comfortable lifestyle, about having career advancements, or having a good house to stay in, and many more.

But in the midst of all that, we often ended up forgetting about God, as we become too focused on satisfying our needs and wants, our desires and ambitions. We no longer put God as the priority of our lives, but instead we glorify and idolise money, worldly possessions, fame, prestige and many other worldly glories. We may think that we obey the laws and rules of the Church by coming to Sunday Mass regularly, but are we truly having a genuine faith in God?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we come to the Mass and celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Why do we spend our time to do the devotions and the prayers? Is it because we truly want to be with God and to communicate with Him? Is it because we think that we have to do it because the Church commands us to do it, or because we are afraid of the punishment God will inflict on us if we do not do what the Church asked us to do?

Do we realise that God has done so much for us, trying to call us to Himself and to reconcile us to Him? He has done His very best, even to the point of giving us the best and the ultimate of all gifts, namely the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. That is what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus. St. Paul wrote about God’s rich grace through Christ, by which many people are saved.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Himself made it plain to us, that because of God’s great and everlasting love for us, He gave us His own beloved Son, by Whom and through Whom we are saved, and by Whose sacrifice and death on the cross, all of us are made whole again and be made worthy of His eternal life and the inheritance and glory He has promised to all of us. He came into this world not to condemn us, but to save us, and that is the reality that we must be aware of.

Again, I want to emphasise that God does not hate us and neither is He angry with us in person. Rather, He despises our sins and our disobedience. Those sins and disobedience are the obstacles that prevent us from being able to achieve perfect reconciliation with God. As long as we continue to sin and refuse to repent from those sins, we will continue to be separated from God, and the eventual consequences may be dire, as we may end up falling into eternal damnation in hell.

He has given us very generously the gift of His Son, because of His love for us, that all those who believe in His Son, will receive true joy, happiness and salvation, freed from the sorrows and the sufferings caused by our sins and disobedience against God. But now, it is up to us, whether we want to embrace His loving mercy and compassionate heart, or whether we arrogantly reject His offer of salvation and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, let us rededicate ourselves to live our lives according to God’s will, if we have not done so. Let us develop a strong relationship with God, through our commitment to prayerful life, and also to deepen our efforts in various charitable activities. Let us remember how God has loved us so much, that He should indeed be the centre of our lives, and not all the worldly temptations of power, ambition, glory, wealth and many others.

Let us have a genuine faith in God, shown through our loving devotion, as well as by sharing the love He had shown us and blessed us with, with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor, weak, oppressed, lonely and unloved. May the Lord be with us, that in our Lenten journey, we may draw ever closer to Him and be ever more righteous and just in all the things that we say and do. Let us truly rejoice because of all the wonders that God has done for us. Amen.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

John 3 : 14-21

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.”

“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because He has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.”

“This is how Judgment is made : Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light, and does not come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

John 9 : 1-41

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Master, was he born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither was it for his own sin nor for his parents’ sin. He was born blind so that God’s power might be shown in him. While it is day we must do the work of the One Who sent Me; for the night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

Then they asked him, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” And he answered, “The Man called Jesus made a mud paste, put it on my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and I could see.” They asked, “Where is He?” And the man answered, “I do not know.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, but how is it that he now sees?” The parents answered, “He really is our son and he was born blind; but how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know Who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.”

The parents said this because they feared the Jews, who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled from the synagogue. Because of that his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.” So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Tell us the truth; we know that this Man is a sinner.”

He replied, “I do not know whether He is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.” They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

Then they started to insult him. “Become His disciple yourself! We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses; but as for this Man, we do not know where He comes from.” The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the Man comes from, and yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honours God and does His will, Hod listens to him. Never, since the world began, has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world to carry out a judgment : Those who do not see shall see, and those who see shall become blind.” Some Pharisees stood by and asked Him, “So we are blind?” And Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But you say, ‘We see’; this is the proof of your sin.”

Alternative reading (Shorter version of Reading from Year A)

John 9 : 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth.

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Ephesians 2 : 4-10

But God, Who is rich in mercy, revealed His immense love. As we were dead through our sins, He gave us life, with Christ. By grace, you have been saved! And He raised us to life, with Christ, giving us a place with Him in heaven.

In showing us such kindness, in Christ Jesus, God willed to reveal, and unfold in the coming ages, the extraordinary riches of His grace. By the grace of God, you have been saved, through faith.

This has not come from you : it is God’s gift. This was not the result of your works, so you are not to feel proud. What we are, is God’s work. He has created us, in Christ Jesus, for the good works He has prepared, that we should devote ourselves to them.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Ephesians 5 : 8-14

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Behave as children of light; the fruits of light are kindness, justice and truth in every form. You yourselves search out what pleases the Lord, and take no part in works of darkness that are of no benefit; expose them instead.

Indeed it is a shame even to speak of what those people do in secret, but as soon as it is exposed to the light, everything becomes clear; and what is unmasked, becomes clear through light.

Therefore it is said, “Awake, you who sleep; arise from the dead that the light of Christ may shine on you.”