Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard interesting stories which relate to us about water, firstly the vision of the prophet Ezekiel of the heavenly Temple, out of which flowed out great quantity of water that flooded the courtyards, and which overflowed its banks and gave life to all the plants and living things it passes by. Then in the Gospel today we heard about how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been waiting for many years for miraculous healing to come from the water at Bethzatha pool.

In these two readings, we see the clear parallel and similarity, in water depicted as life-giving and nourishing, as the source of healing and life. And this is very symbolic, if we understand better the meaning and the nuances behind the two readings today. The Temple in heaven as seen in the vision of the prophet Ezekiel represent none other than the Holy Presence of God Himself, and the water that gushed forth from the Temple represents God giving life to the world.

In the Gospel passage, as we heard the story of the man who was paralysed for thirty-eight years and had no one to help him to get into the water, we saw that the source of all healing came not from the water, as God sent His Angel to touch the water of the spring, and the people who touched the water were therefore healed by God’s grace. The man who had none to help him for so many years, was truly hoping that he could get healed from his illness, but the Lord heard him and had pity on him.

Jesus touched the paralytic man and almost immediately the man was healed, showing that God once again exercised His power and authority to heal His beloved people, who were sick, both in body and also in soul. Why is this so? That is because Jesus came into this world, ultimately to reconcile all the people of God who have been separated from God because of their sins.

Sin is a terrible affliction upon all of us, caused by our refusal to listen to God and to obey Him, and by our disobedience, sin entered into our hearts, our minds and corrupted everything, eating away on our souls. We may think that we are physically healthy and perfectly in good physical condition. We may think that there is nothing wrong with us, because superficially we look perfectly fine.

However, due to sin, in our beings and existences, we have been spoiled and corrupted, and we have been sickened by these sins which afflicted us. Worse still, many of us are not aware that sin is a great danger on our souls, and that we really need to do something about it, or else, we may end up being punished with eternal damnation because of our sins.

And unlike any physical and worldly illnesses, diseases and infections, which can be cured through various means, or had their effects reduced or halted or postponed, the consequences of sin is not curable by any worldly and human means, no matter how hard we try, because sin is only curable by God, through His forgiveness and mercy, which in fact, He generously offered to all of us, calling us to a renewed existence and new life, no longer living in a state of sin, but filled instead with resolve and commitment to repent and turn away from those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our own lives, surely many of us have been tempted to live our lives in accordance with what we want and what our desires tell us to do. However, if we take a step back and think carefully about it, we will realise that if we are to trust in our own strength, intellect and assumptions, we will not be able to survive as we put our trust in human strength and power that can fail anytime.

And our desires, our ego and pride will only lead us to slide down ever further into the trap of sin, which the devil springs against us all, every single time he could do so, so that we fall from our path towards God’s salvation. Satan does this by feeding our ego, our sense of self-importance and edging on our selfish nature. But certainly God did not remain quiet or ignorant of these vicious attacks constantly targeting us, His people.

That is why through Jesus Christ, His Son, Whom He sent into the world in order to save all of us, God has shown His salvation and healing grace to all mankind. Now, it is up to us whether we are willing to accept this generous and rich offer of mercy and forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. God extends His forgiveness freely to us, but He also requires each one of us to be committed to be forgiven, that is by active repentance and genuine regret for all the sins and faults we have made.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are sinners, but do we want to remain living in sin? If we are willing to commit to change ourselves, even the greatest of sinners can become great saints, as what had exactly happened before. All saints were once sinners too, some with small sins, some with great ones. But all of them share the same conviction and resolve to follow through with their repentance, and as a result, they receive forgiveness for their sins.

Let us all spend the rest of this season of Lent wisely, making use of the opportunity given to us by God to turn ourselves wholeheartedly towards Him. Let us no longer be stubborn in refusing His generous offer of mercy, but instead renew our commitment to live in accordance with His will. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in the path He is leading us through, towards His salvation and the promise of eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 1-16

At that time, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, there is a pool (called Bethzatha in Hebrew) surrounded by five galleries. In these galleries lay a multitude of sick people : blind, lame and paralysed.

(All were waiting for the water to move, for at times an Angel of the Lord would descend into the pool and stir up the water; and the first person to enter the pool, after this movement of the water, would be healed of whatever disease that he had.)

There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him, and because He knew how long this man had been lying there, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so while I am still on my way, another steps down before me.”

Jesus then said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk!” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his mat and walked. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had just been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and the Law does not allow you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The One Who healed me said to me, “Take up your mat and walk!”

They asked him, “Who is the One Who said to you : Take up your mat and walk?” But the sick man had no idea who it was Who had cured him, for Jesus had slipped away among the crowd that filled the place. Afterwards Jesus met him in the Temple court and told him, “Now you are well; do not sin again, lest something worse happen to you.”

And the man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had healed him. So the Jews persecuted Jesus because He performs healings like that on the Sabbath.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9ab

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore, though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of the Lord – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 47 : 1-9, 12

The man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastwards. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing the east and there I saw the stream coming from the south side.

The man had a measuring cord in his hand. As he went towards the east he measured off a thousand cubits and led me across the water which was up to my ankles. He measured off another thousand cubits and made me cross the water which came to my knees. He measured off another thousand cubits and we crossed the water which was up to my waist. When he had again measured a thousand cubits, I could not cross the torrent for it had swollen to a depth which was impossible to cross without swimming.

The man then said to me, “Son of man, did you see?” He led me on further and then brought me back to the bank of the river. There I saw a number of trees on both sides of the river. He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome.”

“Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful and the sea water will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound. Near the river on both banks there will be all kinds of fruit trees with foliage that will not wither and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”