Friday, 30 March 2018 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

At that time, when Jesus had finished speaking, He went with His disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there, which Jesus entered with His disciples. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, since Jesus had often met there with His disciples. So Judas took soldiers and some servants from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they went to the garden with lanterns, torches and weapons.

Jesus knew all that was going to happen to Him; He stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, stood there with them. When Jesus said, “I am He,” they moved back and fell to the ground. He then asked a second time, “Who are you looking for?” and they answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus replied, “I told you that I am He. If you are looking for Me, let these others go.” So what Jesus had said came true : “I have not lost one of those you gave Me.”

Simon Peter had a sword; he drew it and struck Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?”

The guards and the soldiers, with their commander, seized Jesus and bound Him; and they took Him first to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year; and it was Caiaphas who had told the Jews, “It is better that one Man should die for the people.”

Simon Peter with another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus, but Peter had to stay outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the High Priest, went out and spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in.

Then this maidservant on duty at the door said to Peter, “So you also are one of His disciples?” But he answered, “I am not.” Now the servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire and were standing and warming themselves, because it was cold. Peter was also with them warming himself.

The High Priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in places where the Jews meet together, either at the assemblies in synagogues or in the Temple. I did not teach secretly. Why then do you question Me? Ask those who heard Me, they know what I said.”

At this reply one of the guards standing there gave Jesus a blow on the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” Jesus said to him, “If I have spoken wrongly, point it out; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?” Then Annas sent Him, bound, to Caiaphas, the High Priest.

Now Simon Peter stood there warming himself. They said to him, “Surely you also are one of His disciples.” He denied it, and answered, “I am not.” One of the High Priest’s servants, a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you with Him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at once the cock crowed.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the headquarters of the Roman governor. It was now morning. The Jews did not go inside, lest they be made unclean by entering the house of a pagan, and therefore not allowed to eat the Passover meal. So Pilate came out and asked, “What charge do you bring against this Man?”

They answered, “If He were not a criminal, we would not be handing Him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your own law.” But they replied, “We ourselves are not allowed to put anyone to death.” It was clear from this what kind of death Jesus was to die, according to what Jesus Himself had foretold.

Pilate then entered the court again, called Jesus and asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a King, like those of this world, My guards would have fought to save Me from being handed over to the Jews. But My Kingship is not of this world.” Pilate asked Him, “So You are a King?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a King. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears My voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?”

Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, “I find no crime in this Man. Now, according to custom, I must release a prisoner to you at the Passover. With your agreement I will release to you the King of the Jews.” But they insisted and cried out, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.”

Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on His head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around His shoulders; and they began coming up to Him and saluting Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him on the face.

Pilate went outside yet another time and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing Him out, and I want you to know that I find no crime in Him.” Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak and Pilate pointed to Him, saying, “Here is the Man!”

On seeing Him the chief priests and the guards cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Take Him yourselves and have Him crucified, for I find no case against Him.” The Jews then said, “We have a Law, and according to the Law this Man must die because He made Himself Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this he was more afraid. And coming back into the court he asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have power to release You, just as I have power to crucify You?”

Jesus replied, “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed Me over to you is more guilty.” From that moment Pilate tried to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes Himself a King is defying Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he had Jesus brought outside to the place called the Stone Floor – in Hebrew Gabbatha – and sat down in the judgment seat. It was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” But they cried out, “Away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your King?” And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. They took charge of Him. Bearing His own cross, Jesus went out of the city to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew Golgotha. There He was crucified, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read : Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews. Many Jewish people saw this title, because the place where Jesus was crucified was very close to the city; and the title was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’; but, ‘This Man claimed to be King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each of them. But as the tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom, they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots to decide who will get it.” This fulfilled the words of Scripture : They divided My clothing among them; they cast lots for My garment. This was what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala, when Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished and, in order to fulfil what was written in Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus.

When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out Blood and water. The one who saw it, has testified to it, and his testimony is true; he knows he speaks the truth, so that you also might believe. All this happened to fulfil the words of Scripture : Not one of His bones shall be broken. Another text says : They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate, for he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. And he asked Pilate to let him remove the Body of Jesus. Pilate agreed, so he came and took away the Body. Nicodemus, the man who at first had come to Jesus by night, also came and brought a jar of myrrh mixed with aloes, about a hundred pounds. They took the Body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, following the burial customs of the Jews.

There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been crucified, and, in the garden, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And therefore, because the sepulchre was nearby, and the Jewish day of preparation was coming to a close, they placed the Body of Jesus there.

Friday, 30 March 2018 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 4 : 14-16 and Hebrews 5 : 7-9

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, Who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning.

Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him Who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the Source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.

Friday, 30 March 2018 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 30 : 2 and 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17 and 25

In You, o Lord, I take refuge, may I never be disgraced; deliver Me in Your justice. Into Your hands I commend My Spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I have become an object of reproach for My foes, a horror for My neighbours, a fear to My friends. Those who see Me in the streets flee from Me. I am like the dead, unremembered; I have become like a broken pot, thrown away, discarded.

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.

Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save Me in Your love. Be strong and take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Friday, 30 March 2018 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 52 : 13 – Isaiah 53 : 12

It is now when My Servant will succeed; He will be exalted and highly praised. Just as many have been horrified at His disfigured appearance : “Is this a Man? He does not look like One.” So will nations be astounded, kings will stand speechless, for they will see something never told, they will witness something never heard of.

Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has YHVH revealed His feat? Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling He grew up before us, with nothing attractive in His appearance, no beauty, no majesty. He was despised and rejected, a Man of sorrows familiar with grief, a Man from Whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account.

Yet ours were the sorrows He bore, ours were the suffering He endured, although we considered Him as One punished by God, stricken and brought low. Destroyed because of our sins, He was crushed for our wickedness. Through His punishment we are made whole; by His wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all gone astray, each following His own way; but YHVH laid upon Him all our guilt.

He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, He humbly submitted. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer He did not open His mouth. He was taken away to detention and judgment – what an unthinkable fate! He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for His people’s sins. They made His tomb with the wicked, they put Him in the graveyard of the oppressors, though He had done no violence nor spoken in deceit.

Yet it was the will of YHVH to crush Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will have a long life and see His descendants. Through Him the will of YHVH is done. For the anguish He suffered, He will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just Servant will justify the multitude; He will bear and take away their guilt.

Therefore I will give Him His portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong. For He surrendered Himself to death and was even counted among the wicked, bearing the sins of the multitude and interceding for sinners.

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin the three most important and solemn days of celebration in the entire liturgical year, that is the Easter Triduum. This is because all the events that are commemorated every year between this Holy Thursday evening until the morning of Easter Sunday are all linked together as one whole event, of the Passion, suffering, death and eventually glorious resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On this day we commemorate together the beginning of the most pivotal moments in our human history and existence, beginning with the Last Supper which the Lord Jesus had with His disciples on the night before He was to suffer and die on the cross, betrayed by one of His own closest disciples, Judas Iscariot. On that night, the Lord Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover, which was mentioned in our first reading passage today, as the celebration of the liberation of the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians.

The Jewish Passover is the most important feast of the entire Jewish calendar, and the most pivotal moment in the history of God’s people, the Israelites. At that time, the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were persecuted and enslaved in Egypt, and faced even extermination by the hands of their slavemasters. The Egyptian king, the Pharaoh even ordered the killing of all newborn male babies of the Israelites to exterminate them.

God saved His beloved people by sending to them deliverance through His servant Moses, and sending ten great plagues against the Egyptians and their king, the Pharaoh. When the Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let the Israelites go, again and again, the ten plagues bore down hard on the Egyptians, that they even begged their king to let the Israelites go free.

Eventually, the Lord sent the last and the greatest of all among the ten plagues, the death of all the firstborn child of the Egyptians, from the Pharaoh’s child to the lowest among the Egyptians, from all the men to all the animals and beasts of the Egyptians alike. It affected everyone and every animals in the land of Egypt, but passing over the houses of the Israelites, hence the term of the celebration as the ‘Passover’.

The Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites because He has instructed Moses, His servant, to tell the people to choose a young and unblemished lamb, to be kept for a certain period of days, before it was slaughtered for the feast of the Passover. The blood of the lamb was collected and then used to mark the doorposts of the houses of the Lord’s people. The Lord saw the mark of the blood of the Passover lamb, and passed over the house. The lamb meat itself was roasted over the fire and eaten during the Passover.

As we remember this very first Passover, which the Lord instructed His people to keep year after year, and at all times, we can see great parallel and rich symbolism with what the Lord has done at that Last Supper He had with His disciples, as that meal is also a Passover meal like that of the old Jewish Passover which commemorated the liberation of God’s people from the slavery they suffered in Egypt.

But in that Last Supper, the Lord did things very differently, though in parallel with the original Jewish Passover. First of all, the Last Supper did not feature any lamb eaten during the meal, unlike the original Passover. Why is this so? That is because Our Lord Himself, the Paschal Lamb, is the Lamb to be sacrificed on the Altar of Calvary. And the shedding of His own Body and Blood, parallel to the use and purpose of the lamb in the original Passover, has become the source of our own salvation.

Thus, whatever we commemorate in the Last Supper, cannot be separated or distinguished from what we commemorate tomorrow on Good Friday, for all the things that happened at the Last Supper is united to the loving sacrifice of the Lord on the cross. Without the cross, then the Last Supper and all that the Lord has said in that event would not have a complete meaning, and vice versa, without the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, then the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross is not complete either.

At the Last Supper, the Lord took up the bread, and blessed it, and then, gave it to His disciples, saying that it is His Body, given up to all of them to eat. Then He also passed around the wine He blessed, which He said that it is His Blood, poured out for all the people as the atonement for their sins. While the people of Israel were enslaved in the body to the Egyptians at that time, but all of us, the Israelites included, have been enslaved to our sins.

That is why, even though the Israelites were freed from their bondage in Egypt, but after that, as they journeyed through the desert, they disobeyed God and sinned against Him, and then they perished. They perished because death is the just consequence and punishment for sin, and all of us have sinned and thus deserving death. Sin is the greatest of all plagues and sicknesses, which claimed everything it touched and corrupted everything it was present in.

But God, through His great love for us, did everything He could in order to save us, by none other than the giving of His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice for us all. As the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites have been marked by the blood of the Passover lamb and death passed over it, so has the Blood of Christ, which we receive into us, marking us as God’s own beloved ones, made death and damnation in hell to pass over us.

This is the Christian Passover, the new and everlasting Covenant God made with each and every one of us. And this can only happen if each one of us truly receive from God, the gift of His own Body and Blood, in the Most Holy Eucharist that we partake in the Mass. That is why on this occasion when we celebrate the Last Supper, we also celebrate the Institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist as well as the Holy Orders of Christian priesthood.

Why is that so? That is because Jesus made it very clear when He said it, that the bread He gave to the disciples, is not a symbol, or a representation, or an image, or a memorial or a mere substitute for His Body, but it is His Body, real in the flesh, though in our eyes it appears as a mere, lowly bread. The bread, by the power of Our Lord Himself, has been made in existence and substance, the essence and material of His own Body, and the same with the wine, made to be the essence and material of His Precious Blood.

And to His disciples, the Lord has given the same authority, to bring unto us His faithful ones, the same Body and Blood that Our Lord has offered as a willing sacrifice on the cross, by transforming in matter and existence, the bread and wine offered in the Holy Mass, to become His Real and Most Holy Presence, that we partake and therefore all of us share in the glory and eternal life He has promised us all His faithful ones.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we proceed on through the Easter Triduum, we are moving on towards the suffering and death of Our Lord on the cross, which will be celebrated tomorrow on Good Friday. Let us all appreciate and understand even more, just how much that God loves us, to the point that He gave us everything He could, and did the best He could, even to the point of death on the cross, just so that we may be saved.

Let us all spend time with the Lord tonight, by remembering what He has said to His disciples, that while the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Let us grow ever more devoted to God, and spend time with Him, so that we may appreciate ever more how God is ever present in our lives, and by receiving Him in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, He now dwells in us, making us His holy Temple. Turn away from sin and be righteous from now on.

May God be with us all, be with His Church, and also especially with our priests and bishops, to whom He has entrusted the governance and guidance over His Church. Let us pray fervently and help one another, together as members of God’s Church, striving to live earnestly and faithfully in all things. May the Lord be with us always and bless us forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.