Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded to be righteous and good in all of our words, deeds and actions, for if we wander away from this path of righteousness, we will end up venturing into disobedience and eventually sin against God. All of us mankind are ultimately vulnerable to sin, and it is our sins that will be judged by God at the time of reckoning. Our righteousness and our wickedness will be judged by God at the time of His judgment.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard about the discourse that no sinner is too far away or too unworthy of God’s forgiveness, for if the sinner is to repent sincerely from his or her sins and turn wholeheartedly back towards the Lord with love and commitment to live a righteous life from then on, then God will forgive that sinner and judge the sinner based on the desire to love Him and to turn away from the sinful past.

Then, we also heard how those who were righteous and yet committed sins will also be judged by those same sins they committed. God will not let those who were righteous and yet willingly fell into sin and do not repent from those sins to be judged as worthy of His glory and inheritance. It is by their disobedience and refusal to obey the Lord that they will be judged despite of their past righteousness.

This is a constant reminder to each one of us that we are always in danger of falling into sin through temptations and through the seductions that Satan and all of his wicked forces are placing before us all the time. Satan is always out and about trying to strike us down by various means, to prevent us from attaining salvation in God, and to drag us down to be condemned with him and all the other fallen angels in hellfire.

And the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today added on this by telling His disciples and therefore all of us, that we must be truly genuine in doing our good deeds, so that in everything we say and do, we will truly say them and do them with the intention to be righteous and truly good before God, to glorify God and not to satisfy our own selfish desires and intentions. This is what the Lord said when He pointed out to them the wickedness of the Pharisees, in their piousness and yet, an empty piousness and faith.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although their external actions and works seemed to be pious and good, but many of them did not do these because of the love they had for God, but rather because of the selfish desire for glory, for self-praise and self-glorification, out of hunger and greed for worldly fame and human appraisal, for the satisfaction of the body and the mind. Therefore, although they may seem to be righteous, but through these perversion of faith and righteousness, they have in fact sinned against God.

And many among the Pharisees often looked down on those whom they deemed to be unworthy of God’s love and mercy, such as the tax collectors and the prostitutes, whom they condemned as those who were wicked and hopeless, out of God’s saving grace, when in fact, those were the ones who sought the Lord willingly and with sincere devotion and commitment. The tax collectors and the prostitutes turned towards the Lord, and they were forgiven. Some among them, including Levi, became one of the Twelve Apostles, now a glorious saint of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded through these that none of us are beyond God’s mercy and love. He has always been ever generous with His mercy and compassion, and not even the greatest among us sinners are beyond His mercy. Some of the greatest saints of this world came from the rank of the greatest of sinners. Some of them were murderers, while others lived a debauched and wicked life. But they all turned away from their past sinful life, and dedicated themselves to a new life in God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow the footsteps of the Apostles and the saints, many of whom were once great sinners as well, just like us. But are we able and are we willing to commit ourselves as they themselves had done? Are we able to resist the temptations to sin, and commit ourselves to follow a righteous path in life instead of following the path of vice and evil? Let us all turn towards the Lord with faith anew and dedicate ourselves to live according to His way from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to live well in accordance to His will, and persevere through the temptations and challenges that may come our way. Let us all pray for courage and strength, especially during this blessed season of Lent, that we will be able to turn our lives into a new one, with God’s grace and strength. Amen.

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness.

For that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 18 : 21-28

If the sinner turns from his sin, observes My decrees and practices what is right and just, he will live, he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be charged against him, he will live as a consequence of his righteous deeds. Do I want the death of the sinner? – word of YHVH. Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live?

But if the righteous man turns away from what is good and commits sins as the wicked do, will he live? His righteous deeds will no longer be credited to him, but he will die because of his infidelity and his sins. But you say : YHVH’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is My position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong?”

“If the righteous man dies after turning from his righteous deeds and sinning, he dies because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes and turned from the sins he had committed.”

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the vastness and the wonders of God’s love for each and every one of us, especially when we ask for His favours and for His care. He is not One Who does not care about us, His loved ones, but instead He shows concern for us at all times, as a loving Father to all of us. But often we do not realise just how great is the love that He has for each one of us.

Today we heard the first reading passage taken from the Book of Esther, in which the Queen Esther of Persia, who came from among the people of Israel, prayed to the Lord just before she was about to go before the King, with the intention of pleading for the sake of her own people who at that time was faced with certain annihilation at the hands of those who plotted against them. The order of the king to destroy the Israelites have been written into law, and the destruction of Israel seemed to be certain.

But against all odds, Esther was persuaded by Mordechai, her uncle, who knew of the plot against the Israelites, to make use of her position as queen to persuade the king to change his mind. Mordechai himself even said that perhaps God has placed Esther to be in that exact position for this very reason, that at the moment of doom and hopelessness, God would work His wonders through Esther, the one whom God had chosen to be the path of salvation for His people.

But for Esther, she faced a great and troubling prospect, for it was forbidden that the queen should come before the king without being summoned. She could have suffered imprisonment and even death for doing such an action. That was why, Esther prayed to the Lord, in the words she spoke in our first reading passage today, placing her complete trust in God, her Lord and Master, that He would guide her and protect her in all that she was going to do.

She beseeched the Lord to show mercy and love for the sake of her people, the beloved children of God, who were about to be massacred and destroyed without the means to protect themselves. God listened to her pleas and call for mercy, and He put forth into motion His plan of salvation for His people. He softened the heart of the king of Persia when Esther came before him, and he listened to the council of the Lord spoken through Esther.

In the end, the people of Israel were saved and they were allowed to defend themselves against their enemies. The Israelites were saved by the love of God, and because they prayed and asked the Lord for His mercy and compassion, through His servants Mordechai and Esther. He truly is a loving Father and Master to His beloved children and people, and He listened to them and knew what they needed.

This is exactly what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that if only we ask, it shall be given to us, knock, and the door will be opened to us. God will not abandon us in our time of need, and He is always by our side, caring for us and protecting us, each and every days of our life. When we do not realise this, and think that God is not there with us, that is because we are often too preoccupied and distracted by our worldly concerns and desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is ever so loving and merciful towards us, and He is always willing to forgive us and to help us. Now, we were all again at the brink of destruction, because of sin. Sin is caused by our disobedience against God, and we should have been annihilated just as the Israelites were to be destroyed by their enemies in the days of Esther. But God intervened, because Jesus, His Son, has been sent into this world to be our Saviour.

Jesus became our High Priest, Who offered His prayers and petitions for our sake, just as Esther prayed for God to be merciful to His people. And just as Esther came before the king of Persia, risking her own life, thus Christ came between us and our eternal death, baring His own life on the cross, to become our Hope and our Salvation. And God showed His mercy to us through the triumph of the cross, for His Son has triumphed against sin, just as Esther triumphed against the enemy of Israel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, we are all called to rediscover once again the love of God, the merciful gaze of His eyes which is always upon us. We have often ignored His love and refused to listen to His call in our hearts, calling us to be forgiven from our sins. Let us now no longer do what we have always done, and stop being so stubborn, and allow God to enter into our lives and be forgiven, by our sincere repentance.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love each and every one of us, and may His mercy come down upon us when we ask Him for that mercy, that He will extend His grace and love once again upon us. May God bless us all and all of our actions, from now on, that we may glorify God in everything we say and do. Amen.

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and the door will be opened to him who knocks.”

“Would any of you give a stone to your son, when he asks for bread? Or give him a snake, when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there you have the Law and the Prophets.”

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 137 : 1-2a, 2bcd-3, 7c-8

I thank You, o Lord, with all my heart, for You have heard the word of my lips. I sing Your praise in the presence of the gods. I bow down towards Your holy Temple and give thanks to Your Name.

For Your love and faithfulness, for Your word which exceeds everything. You answered me when I called; You restored my soul and made me strong.

With Your right hand You deliver me. How the Lord cares for me! Your kindness, o Lord, endures forever. Forsake not the work of Your hands.

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Esther 4 : 17n, p-r, aa-bb, gg-hh (Latin Vulgate version – Esther 14 : 1, 3-5, 12-14)

Seized with anguish in her fear of death, Queen Esther likewise had recourse to the Lord. Then she prayed to the Lord God of Israel : “My Lord, You Who stand alone, came to my help; I am alone and have no help but You. Through my own choice I am endangering my life.”

“As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forebears that You, o Lord, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among their ancestors to be Your lasting heritage; that You did for them, all that You have promised.”

“Remember us, Lord; reveal Yourself in the time of our calamity. Give me courage, King of gods and Master of all power. Make my words persuasive when I face the lion; turn his heart against our enemy, that the latter and his like may be brought to their end.”

“Save us by Your hand; help me who am alone and have none but You, o Lord.”

Wednesday, 13 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent, Sixth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us about the need for us to listen to the words of the Lord and repent from our sinful ways. He has called us through His many messengers and prophets, and finally, through His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, He has revealed to us what it means for us to be Christians, to abandon our past way of sin and embracing the new wisdom and truth in God.

Today’s readings are centred on repentance of sins and the forgiveness that God will give to all those who have willingly abandoned their past waywardness and sincerely desiring to be forgiven. God did not desire our destruction but our salvation, not our suffering and pain, but rather our reconciliation with Him. That is why, in our first reading today we heard of the story of the redemption of Nineveh.

At that time, the prophet Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The prophet Jonah initially refused to obey the Lord’s commands and tried to flee away from Him. But the Lord made it such that Jonah encountered a great storm on his way in a boat, and he had to ask to be thrown into the sea, and swallowed by a large whale. The whale brought him safely back to land, and the prophet obeyed the Lord’s commands to bring His message to the people of Nineveh.

Nineveh was a great city, as the capital city of the great Empire of the Assyrians, which covered most of the known world at that time. It is also the embodiment of what is evil and wicked, as the Assyrians were known to be a warlike nation, and how the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and brought its people into exile. One of its kings, Sennacherib even attempted to conquer and destroy Jerusalem, and boasted that he has destroyed many idols of the people conquered by Assyria’s armies, and how God’s people would be no different.

Therefore, Assyria and especially Nineveh, where its kings and nobles lived, was the embodiment of evil and wickedness, in the sight and thoughts of the people of God. That was what the prophet Jonah must also have had in mind, when he came to Nineveh bearing God’s warning of destruction and annihilation. Then, unexpectedly, the king, the nobles and the entire people of Nineveh repented from their sins and humbled themselves before God.

They mourned before the Lord, humbled themselves, wearing sackcloth and showing sincere regret for the wicked deeds that they have committed. And God saw their sincere desire to be forgiven, and they were forgiven from their sins. God held back the destruction that He had planned to bring upon them, as ultimately, God loves every single one of His children, without exception, even the greatest of sinners.

The prophet Jonah became angry, and was fuming over the Lord’s decision to spare the people of Nineveh. But God explained to Jonah, how His mercy and love is extended freely to all, even to the worst among sinners, as long as they desire to be forgiven and has the sincere desire to turn away from their sins. God despises not the sinners, but the sins they have committed, and their stubbornness in pursuing that path of sin.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded of this generous mercy and love that God has given to each and every one of us. In this season of Lent in particular, we are called to reflect on our own sinfulness, our own wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God. God wants us to turn away from those sins, and to be reconciled to Himself. And we should not be wasting this opportunity that God has provided to us.

Are we willing to make that commitment to embrace a new life, not of sin but of righteousness and justice? Are we willing to put the effort to renew our lives, that while once we may have acted out of selfishness and wicked desires in our hearts and minds, now we are able to turn away from those sins and enter into a new existence of faith with God? This requires a lot of effort and commitment from us, but if we are able to put our effort into it, and with God’s guidance nothing is impossible.

Today, we also commemorate the sixth anniversary of the election of our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis as the leader of the entire Universal Church. Let us all spend some time to pray for our Pope, that God will always guide and protect His Vicar, in all the work and the leadership he has shown in the management of the entire universal Church of God. Let us all pray together, and work together, with the intention of our Holy Father the Pope, for the salvation of all of God’s people. Amen.