Tuesday, 3 March 2020 : 1st 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 speaking to us about the Word of God, sent by the Father into this world, fulfilling His will and doing all that He has tasked the Word to do, as described in our first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. And all these were part of the prophecies surrounding the coming of God’s Saviour, the Chosen One, Whom God promised His people that the Saviour would deliver them from their troubles and bring them into God’s eternal glory.

All these were then fulfilled completely in the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of us all. For although He appeared to us in the manner and appearance of a Man, and indeed fully Man He is, but the truth of His nature has been prophesied to us as we heard from the prophet Isaiah, the Word of God Himself, sent into the world, the Divine Word Who is with the Father and Who is One with God the Father, sent into the world to execute God’s divine will amongst us all. He is the Son of God, the Divine Word Incarnate.

The Son of God has come into this world in order to heal us from our afflictions and to redeem us from our sins, and He also taught us more about God, our heavenly Father and Creator, and revealed the truth about Him to us all. And that is why, He taught us all to pray in our Gospel passage today, the prayer now known as the Lord’s Prayer as it was made and taught to us by Jesus Himself, or as the Pater Noster that is the Latin for Our Father, for it is a prayer address to God, our heavenly Father.

And therefore, we are called today to reflect on this matter of prayer as we progress through this season of Lent. Prayer is an essential part of our faith as we all should know, and it is important that especially during this period of Lent, prayer is something that we should do with greater devotion and sincerity, if we especially have not prayed often and regularly before. For it is through prayer that we grow in our relationship with God, and we may be more connected to Him and know more of His will and ways.

If we have not been able to discern God’s will and we have not had that close relationship with God, then perhaps we should consider whether our prayer life has been good and proper, and whether we have been praying in the right way or if we have been mistaken in our understanding of prayer thus far. As I said, prayer is very important for us and especially during this time of Lent to help us to reconnect with God and to strengthen our relationship with Him.

Many of us Christians treat prayer wrongly in the way that we see prayer as a means to achieve what we desired and wanted, and we wanted God to help us to get them. That is why some of us prayed and prayed with this kind of intention, while not entirely wrong, but we ended up being obsessed with our desire and in the end, we forgot what prayer is truly all about. Some of us prayed following the formulas and set prayers of the Church, which is again while a good practice, but we ended up spending lots of time reciting the prayers and yet we did not mean what we say.

What is a prayer, brothers and sisters in Christ? Prayer is a means of communication between us and God. And a prayer can indeed either be communal or private in nature, just as we address God and communicate with Him either as a community together or personally. And what is communication, brothers and sisters? Is communication about us speaking all the time while the other party is just listening to all of our words and speeches?

Certainly not, as we all know that in communication, both parties involved must be engaged actively in the conversation, or else it cannot be called communication but rather as ‘information’ or ‘instruction’. How can we then instruct God to do something? And yet that is what many of us often did with our prayers, as we ended up demanding God to do something for us, and we even often become angry when we do not get what we wanted.

This season of Lent, are we able to change our perspective and way of doing our prayers? Are we able to spend even just a little bit more time in prayer and connecting with God through the time we spent with Him? Let our prayers also be meaningful and be genuine from our hearts. If we pray just to achieve our goals of saying or reciting certain number of prayers or that we want to gain something with God’s help, then I am afraid that we still have a long way to go in improving the quality of our prayer life.

Let us look at Christ Himself, Who always prayed to His heavenly Father at every possible opportunities He had. And He always sought quiet and secluded places to pray. This is what we can also do with our own prayer life and practices, as if we find a good and conducive place, then the chance that we are distracted during our prayer time will be lesser, and we will have a better quality time spent with God. This is one way how we can improve our prayer and spiritual life, especially in this season of Lent.

And as I said earlier, let our prayers not be one of selfish desires for ourselves, but as Jesus did, let us begin by glorifying and thanking God for everything He had done for us, and open our hearts and minds that we may be attuned to Him and that we may be better able to listen to Him speaking in the depth of our hearts and minds. Brothers and sisters in Christ, ultimately we also have to know that God already knew all that are inside our hearts and minds, and we do not have to say it all out to Him. Instead of demanding Him to do what we desired and wanted, let us instead pray for the grace of wisdom, that we may proceed in life in the manner as faithful and true to our faith, and make our lives a shining example of our dedication and faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make our Lenten season fruitful and meaningful especially through prayer. And as far as possible, let us all share our good practices in praying to one another so that as many people as possible may draw closer to God in this special time of grace, that in this season of Lent, many more will repent from their sins and come to find God and make Him as the centre and focus of their lives once again. May God be with us always, and may He bless us in all of our good works and endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Tuesday, 3 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

The eyes of YHVH are fixed on the righteous; His ears are inclined to their cries. But His face is set against the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.

YHVH hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles. YHVH is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 55 : 10-11

As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : it will not return to Me idle, but it shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.

Monday, 2 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we all continue to proceed through the season of Lent, let us all begin with the end or the goal in mind, as we recall what we have just heard from today’s Scripture readings. I am especially referring to what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, in what we usually know as the Last Judgement narrative when the Lord Jesus told His disciples what would happen at the end of time.

In summary, at the end of time there will be a great judgment for all mankind who have ever lived, from the times of the past, from our current present and from the future times. All mankind will rise again and be present before God, Who will then judge all of them by their deeds and actions throughout their respective lives. Then they all will be separated into two groups, one that are worthy of God and the eternal life of joy they have been promised, and the other one are those who have rejected God and consequently are also going to be rejected and cast out into eternal darkness.

And the Lord spoke to all of them, one group by one group, welcoming those who have been considered worthy of God, and rebuking those who have been found unworthy and wanting in their faith. Using this, the Lord also then showed what are the way for each one of us mankind to end up in either one of the groups. Those who are welcomed and praised by God, are those who love others, cared for the need of the hungry and the oppressed, the orphans and those who have been rejected by others, essentially showing love for those who are less fortunate than them. All these support them on the Day of Judgement.

Meanwhile, those who have been rejected and cast out are those who on the contrary, failed to extend a helping hand to those who are in need, who turn a blind eye to the needs of those who are unloved, poor and weak, those who are oppressed and downtrodden. They have put themselves and their own selfishness above the need to love and care for others, or worse still, benefit in the face of the sufferings of others. All these weigh down on them on the Day of Judgement.

If all of these sound quite familiar to us, that is because today we have heard it yet another time earlier on the first reading passage from the Book of Leviticus. In that occasion, as God laid before His people, the Israelites through Moses and Aaron, His laws and commandments, He has already told and taught them how to live their lives as good, virtuous and faithful followers of God’s path and what it means to be the chosen people of God.

And it means that His people ought to act righteously at all times, shunning hatred and injustice, showing care and concern for their fellow brothers and sisters in their midst. This is the same exhortation and precepts that all of us as Christians, God’s chosen people must also take heed of. Why is this so? That is because whatever God has taught and revealed to us, has been affirmed again and again, and finalised by Christ, in His account of the Last Judgement today. Through that account, we are blessed to find out from the Lord Himself, what will be the ultimate outcome of our choices in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are essentially presented with the choice between following and obeying God’s ways, as I have just described in great length, or whether we prefer to follow our own path, that is more likely than not, centred on ourselves and on our own self-preservation, thinking only about ourselves and causing hurt on others in the process, or being ignorant on the plight of those who are suffering all around us. I am certain that I do not have to elaborate again on what the final outcomes of our choices will be, as the Lord had explained and revealed them all so clearly.

Today, as we continue to progress through this blessed penitential season of Lent, let us all ask ourselves, whether we want to live our lives in the manner of those whom God will reject in the end, or whether we want to embrace the ways that God has presented before us. And indeed, our challenge is that we have been called to take up this way of life if we have not done so, and continue walking through it, if we have walked it earlier. It will not be an easy path, as we will definitely encounter many trials and oppositions along the way.

Nonetheless, if we remain faithful to the end, despite the trials and challenges, we will enjoy the fullness of God’s grace and love, as we have been assured by Christ Himself. Let us now therefore pray for one another and help each other in remaining faithful to God throughout our lives. Let us make our season of Lent this year be a fruitful and beneficial one, by deepening our relationship with God through prayer, and by practicing charity in our lives daily. May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith, as we continue to struggle and persevere through life. Amen.

Monday, 2 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 25 : 31-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His Angels, He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be brought before Him; and, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will He do with them, placing the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left.”

“The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, blessed of My Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me. I was in prison, and you came to see Me.’”

“Then the righteous will ask Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and give You food; thirsty, and give You something to drink; or a stranger, and welcome You; or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and go to see You?’ The King will answer, ‘Truly I say to you : just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it to Me.’”

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Go, cursed people, out of My sight, into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry, and you did not give Me anything to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome Me into your house; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’”

“They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ The King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you : just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for Me.’ And these will go into eternal punishments; but the just, to eternal life.”

Monday, 2 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o YHVH – my Redeemer, my Rock!