Friday, 20 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we draw ever closer to the most important time in the entire year, that is the celebration of the Passion of the Lord in the Holy Week and His Resurrection in Easter, all of us are called to embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, as He is truly merciful and kind, compassionate and loving. He wants us all to be reconciled to Him, but this requires us to make the effort to seek Him and to change ourselves to embrace His mercy.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, is that classic reading for this season of Lent, calling all of us God’s people to repentance and to seek forgiveness for our faults and sins. Through that passage we hear the strong reassurance from God through His prophet Hosea, of the Lord’s desire to be reconciled with us, of His kindness and willingness to welcome us back to His presence and to make us worthy once again of Him.

At that time, the prophet Hosea lived through the final years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which had been battered hard by their enemies and all those seeking to conquer them. And all of that were caused by their disobedience against God, generations after generations of following the false prophets and worshipping the false, pagan idols and refusing to follow the Law and the commandments of the Lord that their ancestors had once followed. But despite all of these things, God still loved His people as He revealed to them through Hosea.

Indeed, that is why love is a fundamental reason for our creation and our relationship with God, Who is always ever loving and filled with compassion towards each and every one of us. Without God’s love, there would have been no reason for Him to spare us all when we disobeyed Him, just as the Israelites of old disobeyed Him and chose to worship the pagan idols and commit all sorts of wicked actions and deeds throughout their lives. God could have easily willed them all to destruction and annihilation, but He did not do so because of His great love.

This ties in well with what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in the encounter between the Lord Jesus and a teacher of the Law who asked Him of what is the most important Law of all the commandments and Law God has given to His people, probably to test Him and see His answer. The Lord then answered that the most important Law and truly, the essence of the Law and the commandments can be summarised into two main commandments, that is first of all, to love God with all of our strength and might, and to show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters.

As we can see, love is the foundation of the Law and also the foundation of what we all need to do as God’s people, in being faithful to Him. Unless we have this love within us, sincere and genuine, no matter how many things we do, no matter what piety and pious actions we commit, all the commandments, rules and laws, all these will mean nothing because instead of bringing us closer to God and making us grow deeper and stronger in our love and devotion towards Him, we may end up like many among the Pharisees who were hypocrites in faith, seeking to advance their own personal agenda and desires in their observances of the Law.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to have this love for God and also for our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and fellow men, even strangers and also even those who hated us and had wronged us. This is the challenge that God is giving us this Lent, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the upcoming time of the Holy Week and Easter. Are we able and willing to show genuine, sincere and selfless love in our actions and interactions with our neighbours and all we encounter?

We are all challenged to spend more quality time with God, to love Him and to serve Him with ever greater devotion from now on, that we deepen our relationship with Him through prayer, through regular and meaningful participation at the Holy Mass, through our obedience to the laws and commandments He has entrusted to His Church, and which we ought to follow and obey with understanding and desire to purify ourselves of our sins and faults.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reject sin firmly and endeavour to turn ourselves to the love and mercy of God. Let us all devote more time and attention to be closer to God and to distance ourselves from the many temptations present all around us, being firm in our desire to be reconciled and saved by God’s grace and love. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in our faith, and continue to love us all throughout our lives. Amen.

Friday, 20 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Friday, 20 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 80 : 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, I relieved your shoulder from burden; I freed your hands. You called in distress, and I saved you.

Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, My people, as I admonish you. If only you would listen, o Israel!

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I the Lord am your God, who led you forth from the land of Egypt.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Friday, 20 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.