Tuesday, 9 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Numbers 21 : 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Monday, 8 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into the fifth week in the season of Lent, we are all reminded that sin is truly something that is very dangerous and sinister, and we are certainly familiar with the many forms of sin, born out of refusal to obey God and the failure to follow God’s will. And there are the seven deadly sins, referring to the seven forms of sin we frequently encounter in life, from pride, to sloth and greed, to wrath and envy, and to lust and gluttony.

In today’s readings from the Scripture we are presented with two stories, one from the Book of the prophet Daniel and one from the Gospel written by St. John. In both stories, there are many parallels, in both of which a woman was accused of improper conduct under two different circumstances. In the Book of the prophet Daniel, we listened to the story of Susanna, an innocent and pious woman who was accused by two elders who tried to hide their own wicked sins, while in the Gospel passage, we heard of a woman who committed adultery and was condemned to death by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

In the case presented in the Book of the prophet Daniel, we heard how two respected elders of the people fell into sin, because of the lust that affected their judgment of action, which made them to sin in their hearts and minds. That such respected and senior member of the community could have fallen into such wickedness is a reminder for us all that we should not take our chances with sin and the temptations to sin.

The lust and also greed in wanting to have the beautiful Susanna made them to desire and to be selfish, and in the end, as Susanna refused to be party to their immoral action, they were overcome by their sins, and instead of repenting and turning away from their sinfulness, they doubled down instead on sin, and ended up making false witnesses and accusations before the people against an innocent person.

That is just how dangerous sin is, and how we should not allow it to have power and control over us. The two elders were swayed by the temptation of worldly concerns, for the security of their positions, for their own selfish gains and advantage, even if that means causing hurt and sufferings for others, as what they almost managed to do with Susanna, causing the loss of life of an innocent, had God not intervened through Daniel.

Then in the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord was confronted with the difficult situation when His opponents brought to Him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, and asked Him what should be done towards her. The Lord knew that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were like those who accused Susanna in the past, as those people resented the authority and popularity that He enjoyed among the people, and their pride, greed and desires overcame them with jealousy and anger.

That was why they hoped to trap the Lord with a seemingly impossible situation, that if the Lord either sided with the adulterous woman or if He punished her, either way it would cause Him to lose credibility and following among the people, and they could even use the occasion as evidence to arrest Him and to condemn Him. Again therefore, we see how sin is so dangerous, that it can cause us to do things that are even contrary to God’s good works and will.

But we also see how the Lord acted in that instance, in calling the ones who had no sin to cast the first stone at the adulterous woman. Instantly, the crowd began to leave one by one, beginning with the oldest, for those who lived the longest were likely to have more sins with them, and ending with the youngest among them. None of them threw a single stone at her, because ultimately, all of them were sinners, just like the adulterous woman.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, there are three important things that the Lord wants us all to realise through today’s Scripture passages. First of all, it is the fact that each and every one of us are sinners, and it does not matter how many sins we have committed, but sin has us in its snare, and it is a great threat towards us. And then, secondly, as mentioned, sin is something that is very dangerous, as if we allow ourselves to be tempted and sin, we will likely fall deeper and deeper into sin.

And last of all, we are reminded that it does not matter how powerful sin and its temptations may be, but God’s mercy and forgiveness are even more powerful. Even God forgave a woman who committed adultery, but that forgiveness came with a stern provision, that she should repent and sin no more. This is a call for each and every one of us to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness for our own sins, and for us to commit ourselves to repentance and sin no more as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, let us all make the commitment from now on, to live our lives with a renewed purpose, and turn ourselves away from all the sins we have committed thus far, with a firm desire to sin no more, and not indulge even a moment further on those sins. Remember how dangerous sins have been to those whom we have just discussed earlier. Do we want the same fate to happen to us, to perish as the two elders and to sin like the enemies of the Lord?

Instead, we should follow the examples of the Lord, Who forgave even His enemies, and loving everyone, regardless of their status or past experiences or any societal prejudices. Let us all be more loving and forgiving in our own lives, and let us from now on, be true disciples of the Lord in everything we do in life. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 8 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 1-11

At that time, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak He appeared in the Temple again. All the people came to Jesus, and He sat down and began to teach them. Then the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone.

“Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but You, what do You say?” They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against Him. Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. And as they continued to ask Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And He bent down again, writing on the ground.

As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and do not sin again.”

Monday, 8 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Monday, 8 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 13 : 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62

There lived in Babylon a man named Joakim, who was married to a very beautiful God-fearing woman, Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter, whose pious parents had trained her in the law of Moses. A very rich man and greatly respected by all the Jews, Joakim was frequently visited by the Jews in his house adjoining a garden.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, in whom this word of the Lord became true, “Wickedness has come forth from Babylon, through the elders appointed judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” These men frequented Joakim’s house, and all who had legal disputes used to come to them.

After the people had left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden for a walk. The two old men began to lust for her as they watched her enter the garden every day. Forgetting the demands of justice and virtue, their lust grew all the more as they made no effort to turn their eyes to heaven.

One day, as they were waiting for an opportune time, Susanna entered the garden as usual with only two maids. She decided to bathe, for it was a hot day. Nobody else was there except the two elders watching her from where they had hidden themselves. She said to the maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

When the maids had left, the two elders hurried to her and said, “Look, the garden doors are shut and no one sees us. We desire to posses you. If you refuse to give in, we will testify that you sent your maids away for there was a young man here with you.” Susanna moaned, “Whatever I do, I am trapped. If I give in to your desire, it will be death for me; if I refuse, I will not escape your persecution. I would rather be persecuted than sin in the eyes of the Lord.”

Susanna shrieked, but the old men shouted, putting the blame on her. One of them ran and opened the garden doors. Hearing the noise in the garden, the household servants rushed in by the side entrance to see what was happening. They were taken aback when they heard the elders’ accusation, for never had anything like this been said of Susanna.

The next day a meeting was held at Joakim’s house. The two elders arrived, vindictively determined to have Susanna sentenced to death. They ordered before all the people, “Send for Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter and Joakim’s wife.” They sent for her, and she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. Her family and all who saw her wept.

The two elders stood up and laid their hands upon her head. Completely trusting in the Lord, she raised her tearful eyes to heaven. The elders started making their accusation, “We were taking a walk in the garden when this woman came in with two maids. She ordered them to shut the garden doors and dismissed them. Then a young man came out of hiding and lay with her. We were in a corner in the garden, and we saw this crime from there.”

“We ran to them, and caught them in the act of embracing. We were unable to take hold of the man. He was too strong for us. He made a dash for the door, opened it and ran off. But we were able to seize this woman. We asked her who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. This is our statement, and we testify to its truth.”

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman!” Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked.

Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have falsely testified against her.” Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.”

Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two men from one another and I will examine each of them.” When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said, ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s Angel receives your sentence from God.” Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust.”

“This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you. But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?”

The answer came, “Under an oak.” “Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s Angel waits to cut you both in two.” The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them. They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Daniel 13 : 41c-62

Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman!” Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked.

Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have falsely testified against her.” Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.”

Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two men from one another and I will examine each of them.” When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said, ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s Angel receives your sentence from God.” Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust.”

“This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you. But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?”

The answer came, “Under an oak.” “Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s Angel waits to cut you both in two.” The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them. They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.