Wednesday, 17 April 2019 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the Wednesday of the blessed Holy Week, we focus on the betrayal of our Lord Jesus by one of His own disciples, the infamous Judas Iscariot. As such, traditionally today is also known as ‘Spy Wednesday’ for it was told that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and the elders to sell out his own Lord and Master on this day, which was done in utter secrecy that none of the other disciples knew about his betrayal until the very end.

We heard of how Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and the elders asking them for an offer of money in exchange for the betrayal that he himself put on the discussion table. And they agreed on a sum of thirty pieces of silver. This may seem to be a lot, but in fact, as compared to the value of other things, this is a merely very small amount, and in fact, historical research and records showed that the price was the rough average price of a slave in the market.

And this is a very significant and meaningful thing to think about, that the Lord, God and King, Master of the entire Universe, was betrayed and sold to His enemies at the price of a mere slave, a most worthless and indeed, a mere commodity to be traded at the time, when slaves were not even treated as a human being should have been treated. And that was exactly what the Lord willingly accepted, the role of a faithful Servant and a suffering slave to all of us mankind.

As written in the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God sent His Saviour into this world, a Servant Who would obediently fulfilled the mission which has been entrusted to Him, even though it would require Him to go through enormous suffering, persecution, rejection, ridicule and humiliation, to endure all that the worst of the world could raise up against Him. And that was exactly what the Lord Jesus had to suffer from.

He was willing to endure all of that sufferings, because of nothing less than His pure, selfless and enduring desire to love each and every one of us sinners, all those whom He loved from the beginning of time, but because of our sins, we have been sundered and separated from His love. Without the love of God, there would have been no hope for us all. And that is precisely because of the love that He has for us, that He was willing to forgive us our sins and be reconciled with us.

God could have destroyed us outright with His will alone. Our sins are despicable to Him, and our refusal to obey Him and our continued sinful actions are truly hurtful to Him. And yet, He was ever patient and forgiving, knowing that there are still good in us, as He created us all good and perfect before sin came and corrupted us. He wants to be reconciled with us, and that desire and compassion in Him allowed Him to do what He has willingly undertook for our sake.

And that is to humble Himself and empty Himself, humbling Himself before God and man alike, to obey the will of the Father so perfectly and be filled with so much love for Him and for His fellow men, that He bore that cross upon His shoulders, as the perfect Man, the New Adam, by which God made a new Covenant with the whole race of man. The first Adam had sinned because he chose to side with the devil and believe in the devil’s lies, and submitted to his greed and pride, and Christ as the New Adam showed us all how each and every one of us ought to be like in our own lives.

Judas fell into sin because he was selfish, and so did the chief priests and all those who plotted with Judas against the Lord. The former cared about his own desire for money, which he had done earlier as he helped himself corruptly to the group’s own treasure money, a wicked act to serve his own greed, while the latter wanted to preserve their own status, prestige and standing in the society, and could not bear to have the opposition from the Lord Jesus, His authority and His teachings.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how should we choose to proceed with our lives from now on? Do we follow the example of Judas Iscariot, the chief priests and the elders in their prideful and haughty attitudes, in their greed and desires for power, glory and worldly satisfactions? Or should we instead follow the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His humility before all, and His love for His heavenly Father and for us all, as the perfect example for all of us to follow?

Let us all reflect on all these things as we prepare ourselves to enter the most sacred Paschal Triduum beginning tomorrow on Holy Thursday, that we may truly reflect and ponder on our own lives, our every words and actions, so that in everything we say and do, we will grow ever more devoted to the Lord, and shunning behind all of our past wicked ways, that we do not follow the path of sin any longer, and be true disciples of the Lord from now on.

Let us all have a wonderful time celebrating together the sacred Paschal Triduum, and allow the Lord to enter into our lives, that He may transform each and every one of us to be true children of light and to be worthy recipients of God’s everlasting inheritance and wonders. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 26 : 14-25

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says : My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with My disciples in your house.'”

The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you : one of you will betray Me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who dips his bread with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scripture says He will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man : better for him not to have been born.” Judas, who was betraying Him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do You?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Wednesday, 17 April 2019 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 68 : 8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34

Since I am held in contempt for Your sake, and shame has covered My face. I have become a stranger to My kindred, an alien to My mother’s sons. Zeal for Your house consumes Me as fire and those who insult You insult Me as well.

I looked for sympathy and there was none, for comforters and there was no one. They gave me poison for food and vinegar to drink.

I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving. Let the lowly witness this and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise those in captivity.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019 : Wednesday of Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 50 : 4-9a

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

He Who avenges Me is near. Who then will accuse Me? Let us confront each other. Who is now My accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord YHVH is my Help, who will condemn Me?

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this blessed Tuesday of the Holy Week, we listened to the coming of God’s salvation as promised to His people, in our first reading which was taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. The Lord sent His deliverance to all of us through the Lord Jesus Christ, His own Son, as prophesied by the prophets, the One Who would deliver us from our troubles and liberate us from our sins.

He was the One promised to be the salvation to all the people of God, to reconcile all of the people to God Himself. And yet, many of the people did not even believe in Him and refused to follow Him, and in today’s Gospel passage, we heard the moment when the Lord was having the meal with His disciples at the Last Supper, just before He was to be betrayed by one of His own and handed over to His enemies.

In that occasion, we heard how even many among the disciples of the Lord did not have a strong faith in Him. First, the Lord Himself mentioned openly how one among the disciples themselves would betray Him to His enemies, and they all wondered who among them would be the one to do such a thing. And Judas Iscariot was the one revealed to be the betrayer, as the Lord Himself already knew what he was about to do. Yet, the other disciples at that time still did not know that Judas was about to betray their Lord.

And then the Lord mentioned to St. Peter and the other disciples, when he said that he would readily give his life for Him, that before the cock crowed the next morning, St. Peter would have denied Him three times, a reference to the moment when St. Peter was asked by the bystanders at the time of the Lord’s trial, and he denied ever knowing Him three times, most likely out of fear of being arrested and suffer the same fate as the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these passages from the Scripture ought to remind each and every one of us that we are all sinners before God, and all of us, like the disciples, are weak creatures who are often afflicted and tempted by sin, with the various temptations and pressures present in our lives, which made it difficult for us to live a life that is truly faithful to the Lord. But this is where we need to seek God’s help, for we are not able to free ourselves from our sins. Only God is capable of forgiving us our sins.

Just as St. Peter was afflicted with fear and doubt, and how Judas Iscariot was swayed with greed for money and perhaps other desires, we too have often experienced the many temptations often present in our daily lives that brought us into disobedience and therefore sin against God. The Lord indeed did not call perfect people to become His disciples, and all of them had shortcomings and weaknesses, just as we are.

Neither was it that saints had no weakness or exposure to the temptations to sim. But the most important difference between them and those sinners who have been condemned is that they willingly turned their back to sin and abandon their wicked ways behind them. They were sinners who sought the Lord for forgiveness, and they allowed the Lord to guide them in their path of life, their words, actions and deeds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we continue to progress through this blessed Holy Week, let us all rediscover our faith for God, and commit ourselves anew, to make ourselves once again to be righteous, just and good in all of our actions and deeds in life. Let us all turn to God from now on, with all of our hearts and with all of our might, that He, the Perfect One, may enter into our lives and transform our imperfections and weaknesses into strength and courage through His love and mercy. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 13 : 21-33, 36-38

At that time, after He said a discourse to His disciples after He washed their feet, Jesus was distressed in Spirit, and said plainly, “Truly, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples then looked at one another, wondering whom He meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining near Jesus; so Simon Peter signalled him to ask Jesus whom He meant.

And the disciple, who was reclining near Jesus, asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.” So Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And as Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

None of the others, reclining at the table, understood why Jesus said this to Judas. As Judas had the common purse, they may have thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or “Give something to the poor.” Judas left as soon as he had eaten the bread. It was night.

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while; you will look for Me, but as I already told the Jews, so now I tell you : where I am going you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but afterwards you will.” Peter said, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I am ready to give my life for You.”

“To give your life for Me?” Jesus asked Peter, “Truly I tell you, the cock will not crow, before you have denied Me three times.”

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge, a Stronghold to give me safety, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my Hope, my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day, little though it is what I can understand. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 : Tuesday of Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 49 : 1-6

Listen to me, o islands, pay attention, peoples from distant lands. YHVH called me from my mother’s womb; He pronounced my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in His quiver.

He said to me, “You are Israel, my servant, through you I will be known.” “I have laboured in vain,” I thought, “and spent my strength for nothing.” Yet what is due me was in the hand of YHVH, and my reward was with my God. I am important in the sight of YHVH, and my God is my Strength.

And now YHVH has spoken, He Who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that you be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Monday, 15 April 2019 : Monday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into the Holy Week, on this blessed Monday, we are presented with God Who is loving and forgiving, filled with mercy and compassion, Who wants to forgive us from our sins and shortcomings, from our disobedience and rebelliousness. And this is important because the whole reason for the celebration of this Holy Week is based on God’s love for each and every one of us.

For as we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading today, the Lord has sent us His salvation in the Messiah and Servant He has brought into this world, and this One He has sent, was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God and Son of Man, the One Who revealed God’s infinite and boundless love for all of us, and Who sought sinners and those who have fallen into sin, to heal them and liberate them from their bondage to sin.

That was what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, when we heard of the moment when the Lord Jesus was with His disciples and Mary, likely Mary Magdalene, whom in many accounts was a former prostitute that the Lord had redeemed and saved from the possession of demons and evil spirits. Mary took out an alabaster jar filled with expensive pure nard perfume, and anointed the feet of the Lord with it.

And not only that she anointed the Lord’s feet with the rich and fragrant perfume, but she also wiped the Lord’s feet dry with her own hair. And if we understand the gestures and the importance of one’s actions and appearances at the time, we should appreciate even better how significant this event is for each and every one of us. What Mary had done, was a representation and symbol of her total love, surrender, humility and commitment to the Lord.

A woman’s hair is her glory and her crown, and the beauty of a woman is often linked to her hair. And even more so during Jesus’ time, a woman’s hair is so precious, that it is ought to be covered with veil, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistles, that a woman ought to cover her glory in the presence of the Lord. Yet, Mary used those very hair, her own glory, to do what seemed to be the most humiliating of tasks, that is to wipe another person’s feet, which in contrast to the hair, is associated with filth, humiliation and dishonour.

Mary therefore gave her best to the Lord, not just in using the expensive pure nard perfume, which was a really expensive aromatic matter at the time, but in using her own pride and glory to humble herself before the Lord such, not just in front of a few but many who witnessed what she has done. And some misunderstood her intentions, such as Judas Iscariot, the one who was about to betray the Lord, because he was already then having dishonest and wicked intentions in his heart.

That was why he was quick in criticising Mary before everyone who was present and rightfully was immediately rebuked by the Lord for that unjust and completely improper criticism. By contrasting the actions and words of Mary and Judas Iscariot, we can see how while the former was filled with faith and humility before God, recognising her own sinfulness and unworthiness before God, she gave her best to serve Him and to seek Him for His love, mercy and forgiveness.

And in contrast, Judas Iscariot, whom in some accounts was one of the most brilliant and most qualified among the disciples of the Lord, on account of his role as some sort of treasurer of the Lord’s company, which definitely required some intelligence and skills in accounting and the handling of finances, this one was not filled with love and faith for God, but instead with selfishness, greed and pride. And that eventually led to his downfall in his betrayal of the Lord.

And if we look through the first reading again and reflect on the whole events of this Holy Week, we will realise that the Lord Himself did what Mary had done. The Lord, Who is King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of all the Universe certainly had no need to humble Himself, and yet, He assumed the flesh of Man, and humbled Himself such that, He took up even the condition of a slave, and burdened Himself with the punishment for our sins, so that, each and every one of us may be reconciled with God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to journey through this blessed time of the Holy Week, let us all deepen our relationship with God, and reflect more on the Lord’s love for each and every one of us, His loving heart and compassionate mercy, by which He has willingly humbled Himself, and gave Himself the burden of the cross, that is all of our sins and unworthiness, our shortcomings and rebelliousness, so that by His suffering and death on the cross, He brings us all together to share in His resurrection, so that we all receive a new life, one that is no longer bound and enslaved to sin.

May the Lord continue to guide us and may He strengthen our faith and our commitment to serve Him and to love Him each and every days of our life. May He also inspire us all to live our lives following the good examples of the humility of Mary, who gave her all in her service to God, in her humility and dedication to Our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Monday, 15 April 2019 : Monday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 12 : 1-11

At that time, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where He had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for Him, and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus.

Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume, made from genuine spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Judas Iscariot – the disciple who was to betray Jesus – remarked, “This perfume could have been sold for three hundred silver coins, and the money given to the poor.” Judas, indeed, had no concern for the poor; he was a thief, and as he held the common purse, he used to help himself to the funds.

But Jesus spoke up, “Leave her alone. Was she not keeping it for the day of My burial? (The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have Me.)” Many Jews heard that Jesus was there and they came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead.

So the chief priests thought about killing Lazarus as well, for many of the Jews were drifting away because of him, and believing in Jesus.