Tuesday, 24 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, we are reminded of the coming of our wonderful reconciliation and healing in the hands of God, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. From the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the vision Ezekiel received of the glorious Temple in heaven, while from the Gospel passage from St. John’s Gospel we heard of the healing of a man by Jesus, who had been sick for thirty-eight years long.

In our first reading today, through the vision which the prophet Ezekiel received from God, we have seen the promise of a wonderful and glorious eternal life and joy that God promised to His people, at that time when the fortunes of the people of God were truly at a very low level. During the life and ministry of the prophet Ezekiel, the last bastion of the Israelites, namely the kingdom Judah and Jerusalem were destroyed and conquered by the Babylonians who brought many of the people into exile, and the Temple of Jerusalem built by king Solomon was also destroyed.

The destruction of that very visible and important centre of the faith and community of the Israelites was indeed a very tragic event that was brought about by the disobedience and the sins of the people themselves, as they distanced themselves from God and disobeyed His commandments and laws, persecuted all the prophets and messengers that had been sent into their midst to remind them to be faithful to God and to repent from their sinful ways. Instead, they continued to dwell in sin and became even worse in their deeds.

But despite all these, and despite the stubbornness constantly showed by God’s people all those while, and for all the wickedness and evil they had committed, God’s love for all of us His people is still far greater than His hatred for our sins. It is our sins and wickedness that He despises, for those things are wicked and corrupt, and have no place in His presence. But all of us sinners, we are all beloved by God and He wants us all to be freed, liberated and purified from the corruptions of our sins.

Thus, through the prophet Ezekiel, God has revealed a glimpse of His plan of salvation and restoration for His people. He showed the prophet the vision of the heavenly Temple, as the restoration of the Temple once lost to the people of Israel, the promise that God would once again dwell amidst His people, and from the Temple, would come the life-giving water and spring of life as seen by Ezekiel. And in truth, this vision of Ezekiel is a prefigurement of Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of us all, Who in our previous Sunday Gospel passage, told the Samaritan woman that He is the source of the life-giving water and in Him is the eternal spring of life.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the sick and diseased people who gathered at the Pool of Siloam near Jerusalem, which was a place renowned for its healing properties. But for a man who had laid there for over thirty-eight years, healing and hope seemed to be truly far off and fleeting. No one helped him to get into the water to be miraculously healed, and he suffered all those years waiting for hope for healing. It was until the Lord Jesus came by him, that he finally received healing, by the hands of the Lord Himself.

The Lord has shown us His mercy and love through Christ, and He wants us all to be healed through our faith in Him. He wants us all to receive once again the fullness of His grace and inheritance, and gathering all of us once again together to worship Him. All of us who have sinned against God have fallen ill with this disease and corruption of sin, and we are all in need of healing, as unless we are forgiven our sins, we may end up being condemned by those same sins and faults we have committed.

God alone can forgive us our sins and heal us from our afflictions, and we are called today to reflect on our own lives and our actions thus far. In this time and season of Lent all of us are called to be more faithful to God, to trust Him more, and to draw closer to Him. God has given us a new hope and that assurance of salvation through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, but it is up to us whether we want to embrace that generous offer of mercy and love He has offered us all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive and do our best to put God once again at the centre of our lives and existence. Let us all turn away from our sinful ways and reject all sorts of sins and wicked behaviours we have committed all these while, and be like that sick man, who sought healing from God and receive it through our faith in Him. Let us all purify ourselves, our thoughts, intentions and all of our actions especially during this great opportunity given to us in this season of Lent.

And last of all, as we know how many people in various places and communities are now suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, let us all also ask God to bring His wonderful grace and healing upon us all, that all those who are afflicted may be healed and comforted, and those who have lost their loved ones may find peace in God. May God bless us always, protect us and be with us at all times, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 1-3, 5-16

At that time, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, there is a pool (called Bethzatha in Hebrew) surrounded by five galleries. In these galleries lay a multitude of sick people : blind, lame and paralysed.

(All were waiting for the water to move, for at times an Angel of the Lord would descend into the pool and stir up the water; and the first person to enter the pool, after this movement of the water, would be healed of whatever disease that he had.)

There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him, and because He knew how long this man had been lying there, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so while I am still on my way, another steps down before me.”

Jesus then said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk!” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his mat and walked. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had just been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and the Law does not allow you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The One Who healed me said to me, “Take up your mat and walk!”

They asked him, “Who is the One Who said to you : Take up your mat and walk?” But the sick man had no idea who it was Who had cured him, for Jesus had slipped away among the crowd that filled the place. Afterwards Jesus met him in the Temple court and told him, “Now you are well; do not sin again, lest something worse happen to you.”

And the man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had healed him. So the Jews persecuted Jesus because He performs healings like that on the Sabbath.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9ab

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore, though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of the Lord – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 47 : 1-9, 12

The man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastwards. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing the east and there I saw the stream coming from the south side.

The man had a measuring cord in his hand. As he went towards the east he measured off a thousand cubits and led me across the water which was up to my ankles. He measured off another thousand cubits and made me cross the water which came to my knees. He measured off another thousand cubits and we crossed the water which was up to my waist. When he had again measured a thousand cubits, I could not cross the torrent for it had swollen to a depth which was impossible to cross without swimming.

The man then said to me, “Son of man, did you see?” He led me on further and then brought me back to the bank of the river. There I saw a number of trees on both sides of the river. He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome.”

“Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful and the sea water will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound. Near the river on both banks there will be all kinds of fruit trees with foliage that will not wither and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”

Monday, 23 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are kindly reminded of God’s love and providence, which He has always given to us, His faithful and beloved ones as we are called to put our trust and faith in Him, to love Him and to be devoted to Him. God has given us all assurance of a new life and existence in Him if we are faithful to Him and are willing to obey Him. Ours will be the eternal glory and true joy if we choose to follow God and trust Him.

In our first reading today, taken from the last chapters of the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the Lord speaking of the coming of a new world that He will bring to all of us, His people. In that same passage is the promise of a new and wonderful life, where our present sufferings and troubles will be no more, something which in the New Testament is also reflected in the Book of Revelations of St. John. St. John speaks of a new Jerusalem and a new earth where God will dwell with His people in fullness of grace and love.

And God kindly showed us all the foreshadowing of what is to come, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we heard in our Gospel passage today of His healing ministry and works among the people. The Lord Jesus healed all the sick who came to Him seeking to be healed and to be made whole. He healed the son of an official, who believed in the Lord and took His word when He told him that his son would be healed at that very moment.

As mentioned in that same Gospel passage, many among the people did not believe or have faith in the Lord Jesus, beginning from the people of His own hometown in Nazareth who rejected Him and cast Him out, and then even among the people of Galilee who welcomed Him, the Lord rebuked many among them because they would not believe or have faith unless they witness the miracles and wonders He was to perform before them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore what we are all called to reflect on is our faith in the Lord and our belief in what He will give us and whether we have firmly grasped this assurance that God has given us all. Many of us instead put our trust and faith in various worldly alternatives, in our own strength and plans, in all sorts of pursuits for pleasures, happiness, joy, fame and worldly glory among other things.

What we have to realise is that none of these will matter in the end, and that none of these will be able to save us or provide for us when it truly matters. Only the Lord has that assurance of eternal happiness and joy, and He alone has the power to grant us true satisfaction and joy. But many of us did not realise this and we are too distracted by the many things and concerns we have, all the temptations and all the various decadence in the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why in this season of Lent we are called to purify ourselves through repentance and by seeking God’s forgiveness, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as through spiritual and corporeal works and acts of mercy. We are called to be more faithful and to be more dedicated in faith, spending more time to serve the Lord and to glorify Him through our words, actions and deeds.

Today, we should also follow in the examples set by our holy predecessor, St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, whose feast day we are celebrating. St. Turibius was renowned for his great faith and dedication to the Lord, appointed as the Archbishop of Lima in Peru in the then New World, baptising around one million people among the natives through his extensive works in their midst. St. Turibius often went all around his Archdiocese even on foot, in bad weather and tough conditions ministering to the people.

St. Turibius also did many things in making the lives of the flock entrusted under his care to be better, such as in the building of roads and hospitals among many others. He worked hard to reform his Archdiocese and return the sanctity to the priesthood, which had by then lapsed in standard and morality. He encountered significant opposition and resentment because of this, but nonetheless he pressed on with his efforts and reforms, and was admired by equally many people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen what a great servant of God St. Turibius de Mogrovejo had been, and we can also follow his examples in our own lives. Can we be inspired to follow in his footsteps and strive to serve the Lord ever more faithfully as he has done? Let us all reflect carefully on this matter, and discern how we can carry on living our lives faithfully as Christians in serving God from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.