Wednesday, 27 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (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 of the Law which God has given to us, as the precepts and guides for us all to follow, in how we ought to live our lives, with faith and obedience to God. And through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Our Saviour, God has revealed to us all what His Law is truly about, and how the Law can guide each and every one of us to righteousness.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard about the moment when Moses gathered the people of Israel before him as they journeyed through the desert after their Exodus from Egypt, and just before they entered the Promised Land. Moses reminded the people of the special privilege that they have received, for being God’s chosen ones, those to whom God has revealed His Law and commandments.

Moses had brought the Law of God to the people, in the Ten Commandments and in the many other precepts and commandments of the Law as passed on from God to the Israelites through Moses. And Moses also reminded the Israelites of the special relationship that they all had with God, as God was with them and guided them, such that they were able to persevere through the hardships of the forty years of journey through the desert.

God provided His people with everything that they needed, feeding them with manna daily, the bread of heaven itself, as well as clear and sweet water flowing from the rocks. It was even told that a rock was following the Israelites, as a sign of God’s providence, that He would always provide for the needs of His loved ones. He even drove away and destroyed all those who sought to bring ruin to the Israelites, their enemies and all those who did not welcome God’s chosen people.

God was so close to His chosen people, and this was in fact a foretaste of what each and every one of us, who are called and chosen, will enjoy through God’s love and providence. God is leading us all to Himself, and it is His will that each and every one of us be closer to Him, but unfortunately, God’s people did not fully understand what His Law truly meant. That was why they constantly disobeyed and rebelled, as they thought of God as an angry and exacting God, Who oppressed them with the Law.

That is why it was up to Christ to come and reveal the fullness of the truth of God’s Law before all of His people, to reveal fully why God gave the Law to His people, to the generations of people who have failed to understand the true purpose and intention why God gave the Law to His people. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law at the time of Jesus accused Him of disobeying and trying to discredit the Law by His actions, and hounded and persecuted Him and His disciples endlessly because of this.

That is why the Lord made it clear to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as all those who have heard of His message, that He came into this world bearing the fullness of God’s truth and wisdom, and not to override what God has given to mankind. He was in fact going to purify the Law and the practices of the Law rather than to override or abandon it. For many ages and centuries, the Law had been corrupted in its understanding and purpose by human desires and corruption.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God Himself revealed to us that His Law is the Law of love, not of oppression and fear. His Law was intended to teach us the way of love, and the Lord did not just impose those ways on us. On the contrary, He Himself showed by example through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For Jesus Himself summarised the Law into two main categories, that is first of all, loving God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, and then secondly, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same love.

The Lord Jesus loved His Father dearly, spending a lot of time to pray in secluded area to talk to Him in prayer. He obeyed the Father’s will to the very end, when He willingly accepted death, death on the cross for His love of His heavenly Father, as well as for all of us. He also loved each and every one of us because of His compassion for those among us who are the last, the lost and the least. He reached out to those who are sick in body and in spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now we are all challenged to follow what the Lord Himself has done, in fulfilling the Law so perfectly and in the examples that He has shown us all. Are we able to commit ourselves from now on to live faithfully according to the Law of God? And this means for us to abandon pride and ego, human greed and desire in all of our actions. But this is not something that can easily be done.

Temptations and challenges will be in our midst at all times, and unless we restrain ourselves and try our best to do what pleases the Lord, by loving Him and our fellow brethren, we will fall again and again into sin. But, remember, brothers and sisters, that the Lord is ever patient, ever forgiving and ever loving. God will guide us and lead us to the right path if only we allow Him to do so. Too often we are too distracted and busy to seek Him or to understand just how much He loves each and every one of us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make a new commitment to the Lord from now on, beginning this Lent, that we will be ever more generous in love, first of all for God, spending our time and prioritising Him above everything else, and then, loving our fellow men, reaching out to those who are around us. Let us all grow ever more in faith and love for God, and obey the Lord in His laws and commandments, in its true purpose and intention, for us to love God and to be closer to Him always. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 17-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.”

Wednesday, 27 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 15-16, 19-20

Exalt the Lord, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word. He spreads snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes.

It is He Who tells Jacob His words, His laws and decrees to Israel. This He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Wednesday, 27 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 4 : 1, 5-9

And now, Israel, listen to the norms and laws which I teach that you may put them into practice. And you will live and enter and take possession of the land which YHVH, the God of your fathers, gives you.

See, as YHVH, my God, ordered me, I am teaching you the norms and the laws that you may put them into practice in the land you are going to enter and have as your own. If you observe and practice them, other peoples will regard you as wise and intelligent. When they come to know of all these laws, they will say, ‘There is no people as wise and as intelligent as this great nation.’

For in truth, is there a nation as great as ours, whose gods are as near to it as YHVH, our God, is to us whenever we call upon Him? And is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are as just as this Law which I give you today?

But be careful and be on your guard. Do not forget these things which your own eyes have seen or let them depart from your heart as long as you live. But on the contrary, teach them to your children and to your children’s children.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture that remind us the importance of mercy and forgiveness in our lives. First of all, in the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Daniel, we heard of the prayer of Azariah, who was one of the three friends and compatriots of Daniel. And then in the Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus telling the people of the parable of the unforgiving servant.

These two readings are related, in how God wanted us to see how He has shown us His rich mercy and forgiveness, all these while, despite of all of our refusal to obey Him, our stubbornness and obstinate attitude, in continuing to live our lives in defiance of His will, and in continuing to do what is wicked and evil in our daily lives, in our every actions, words and deeds. This is why God is so gracious and generous in extending His merciful love to us, that despite all of these, He is still so forgiving and loving.

In the first reading today, as mentioned, Azariah prayed to God together with his other two friends, who were together condemned with him to perish in the great furnace that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had commissioned to burn to death all those who refused to worship the great golden statue that the king had commissioned in his own image. While everyone else submitted to the king’s will and worshipped the golden statue, Azariah and his two friends refused to betray their faith in God by worshipping the golden idol.

King Nebuchadnezzar became angry and threw them into the fire after hearing their confession of faith, but Azariah and his friends remained firm in their faith in God. Not even the threat of pain, suffering or death could cause them to abandon or betray their Lord and Master, He Who is far above all worldly kings and their false aspirations of majesty and glory. Thus they prayed to the Lord as we heard in our first reading passage today, asking for His intervention, providence and mercy.

They humbled themselves before God, presenting themselves as the remnants as they were, of a nation and country humbled and scattered because of the sins and wickedness they have committed, in the days of their ancestors and predecessors. They showed the contrition of their people, and asking God to have mercy on them, for otherwise they would have been wiped out, all those who still remained faithful to God.

And God saved them from the fire, as the fire did not harm them at all. The king of Babylon was amazed at what he has witnessed, and was so impressed that he immediately tore down the golden statue of his own image that he has built in shame. This is just one of the many proofs of God’s wonderful love and rich mercy for His people, that He will not abandon them to destruction even when they have sinned against Him.

What we all often overlook is the fact that God does not despise us sinners. He loves each and every one of us because after all, He created us because of the love He has for each one of us. If not for His love, He would not have created us in the first place, or that He would have immediately struck us down and destroyed us the moment we disobeyed or sinned against Him. He did not do that, and in fact, He gave us opportunities, again and again, to be reconciled to Him and to be forgiven our sins.

That is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus used a parable to bring forth this important point on forgiveness and mercy, in telling the story of a servant who was forgiven by his master for a large amount of debt he owed the master, and yet, refused to forgive a fellow servant who just owed him a much smaller amount of debt. At that time, ten thousand pieces of gold meant a lot of money, and was far more valuable than the hundred pieces of silver that the other servant owed the unforgiving servant.

The master became very angry at the unforgiving servant, and threw him into jail and revoked the pardon he had given to the servant earlier for his large amount of debt, simply because, he had not done as what the master had done for him. The unforgiving servant refused to forgive a small amount of debt owed to him when the master had forgiven him a far larger amount of debt earlier on.

This is an important reminder to each and every one of us especially in this penitential season of Lent, when we are called to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, reconciliation by the forgiveness of our sins and true repentance. The master in Jesus’ parable represents the Lord, Our God Himself, while the servants represent each and every one of us. And the debts owed by the servants represent our sins. Sins came about because of the disobedience and evil acts we have done, or good things we have not done, both towards God and towards our fellow men.

And as mentioned earlier, God was so loving and merciful towards us, that even though we have disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him, and despite of our great and unimaginable amount of sins, He ultimately still loves each and every one of us, for He despised our sins, and not us the sinners. This was why in the parable, the master, representing God, has pity and showed mercy even to the servant who had a lot of debt to him. This shows us all that God will forgive us all, whether our sins be great or small.

No one is out of the range and reach of God’s ever available mercy, as long as we are sincere in our repentance and desire to turn away from those sins. But this is where today, through what we have heard in the parable, we are all reminded of the need for us to forgive just as we have been forgiven. It is often difficult for us to forgive, as hatred, jealousy and anger often find their way into our weak and vulnerable minds and hearts.

But unless we forgive the sins of those who have caused us hurt and to suffer, we cannot be truly forgiven, as the parable of the Lord showed us. The unforgiving servant was ultimately not forgiven from his debts, because he refused to forgive another servant who owed him much less than what he himself owed his master. We must remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that no matter how painful is the suffering and pains that others have done to us, all these are truly nothing compared to the pain and suffering we have caused the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect then on the Passion and suffering of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He willingly bore the unimaginably heavy burden of our sins, the combined weight of sin of all mankind, with Him as He bore the cross down the path of suffering to Calvary. In all of this, He bore it willingly and out of love for each one of us. As He look down upon us from the cross, He has only mercy in His loving Heart, intended for us, His wayward children.

If God is willing and able of endure such pains and sufferings to remove from us our sins, then why is it that we cannot let go of even small slights and insults, pains and sufferings that our fellow brethren had done to us? Every single wounds on the body of Christ, after all, are every single sins we have committed, whether it be small or significant sin. Sin is still sin, and God is willing and capable of forgiving us from our every sins. Now, are we able to forgive those who have sinned against us?

Let us make this our Lenten commitment, and in fact not just during Lent, but from this moment onwards, to forgive one another our sins and mistakes, our deeds and words that have brought about hurt and injury on those whom we have encountered in our lives. May the Lord forgive us all our sins, we unworthy sinners, just as we have forgiven our brothers and sisters, our sins and trespasses against each other. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 18 : 21-35

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants.”

“Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.'”

“The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When the servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now his fellow servants saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : Do not abandon us forever, do not reject Your covenant for Your Name’s sake. Do not withdraw Your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, Your friend, of Isaac, Your servant, of Israel, Your holy one, to whom You promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea.

Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer You holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense. We have no place to present to You the first-fruits of our crops, and so obtain Your favour.

But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to You, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us Your favour for we know that those who trust in You shall never be disappointed.

And now, we serve You with our whole heart, we fear You and we seek Your face. Do not leave us in our humiliation, but treat us according to Your kindness and Your great mercy. Free us in keeping with Your wonders, and give us the glory of Your Name, Lord.