Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Wisdom 2 : 1a, 12-22

Led by mistaken reasons they think, “Let us set a trap for the Righteous, for He annoys us and opposes our way of life; He reproaches us for our breaches of the Law and accuses us of being false to our upbringing. He claims knowledge of God and calls Himself Son of the Lord. He has become a reproach to our way of thinking; even to meet Him is burdensome to us. He does not live like others and behaves strangely.”

“According to Him we have low standards, so He keeps aloof from us as if we were unclean. He emphasises the happy end of the righteous and boasts of having God as Father. Let us see the truth of what He says and find out what His end will be. If the Righteous is a Son of God, God will defend Him and deliver Him from His adversaries.”

“Let us humble and torture Him to prove His self-control and test His patience. When we have condemned Him to a shameful death, we may test His words.” This is the way they reason, but they are mistaken, blinded by their malice. They do not know the mysteries of God nor do they hope for the reward of a holy life; they do not believe that the blameless will be recompensed.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of just how merciful God has been to us, how patient He had been with our stubbornness and constant disobedience, our sinful ways and our rebelliousness all these while, as He has continually forgiven us when we seek His forgiveness and mercy. God has always loved us so much even when we have disobeyed Him and did so much evil before Him.

But at the same time, we must also not forget that God still despises our sins and wickedness, and His anger remains against all of our sins and disobedience. He loves us all the sinners but despises our sins, as sin is corruption on us, and no corruption and wickedness may remain in His presence. If we remain in our sinful ways and stubbornly hold on to our wickedness, then we will be judged according to those standards, and we will not be spared on the day of judgment.

Moses pleaded with God as described in our first reading today from the Book of Exodus, as at that time the Israelites rebelled against God in a very terrible manner, because they made for themselves a golden idol, shaped like a calf, as a god and idol for them to worship, while God had just earlier on delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. It was just very recently then that God opened the sea before the people of Israel that they might pass safely on the dry seabed, while destroying all the chariots and armies sent after them.

God made a Covenant with His people and renewed the Covenant and promise which He had made much earlier on with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the ancestors of the Israelites. He gave them His laws and commandments, centred on the Ten Commandments that He Himself wrote on two slabs of stone, which He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Mountain of God. On that mountain, Moses spent forty days and forty nights with God, receiving the many commandments God had set before His people to help and guide them in their lives.

But the people, probably being impatient and restless, and weak in their faith, chose to take the drastic action of forcing Aaron, the brother of Moses to make for themselves a golden calf idol as god over them, as they thought that Moses had died on the mountain after spending forty days up there away from the people. They committed all sorts of debauchery and terrible sinful deeds with the golden idol, and God was very angry against them as we can clearly heard in our first reading passage today.

God could have destroyed the people, but He listened to Moses who pleaded on their behalf, for Him to show mercy and to forgive them for their lapses and mistakes. God spared the people but some of those worst offenders and the leaders of the rebellion were indeed not spared by the wrath of God, for it was by their instigation that the whole people of Israel ended up disobeying God and sinned against Him. From then on nonetheless, God continued to love His people and was still patient with them despite their infidelity and wickedness from time to time.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord Jesus in the midst of His rebuke of the people of His time, particularly those who opposed Him stubbornly such as the many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Jesus spoke of St. John the Baptist in that same occasion, pointing out how that messenger of God himself was also rejected and ignored by the people, the same ones who was rejecting and ignoring the message that Christ was bringing to them.

Those people disobeyed the Lord much like their predecessors disobeyed and hardened their hearts by making idol for themselves to be worshipped as their god. While the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law proudly claimed themselves as the sole and crucial guardians of the faith, they ended up idolising their way of observing the laws of Moses to the point that they forgot why they have the Law in the first place and why they need to listen to the Lord and His truth.

The Lord rebuked and reminded the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular that they need to get rid of their pride and the desire to be praised and honoured by others. The Lord said that all these were preventing them from being able to be truly faithful as they were fixated on their pride and ego, their desire to maintain their prestige and honour, which they ended up idolising and caused them to fall into sin. This is why today, all of us are also then reminded through all these past examples that we should be more humble and be careful with the many temptations around us that are keeping us from being faithful to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make good use of the opportunities we have received in this season of Lent, that we approach the throne of God’s mercy and love, with the desire to be forgiven from our many sins and faults. Let us all be humble before God and strive to repent from our mistakes and sins, knowing that God is always ready to forgive us if we ourselves are willing to accept His mercy, and accepting God’s mercy require us to make that profound change in our way of life, devoting ourselves to God with a renewed faith and commitment.

May God be with us in our journey of faith, and may He continue to guide us in the midst of this current challenging moments, as the world is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. May God bless all those who have given their lives and their efforts to care for the sick and the dying. Let us pray for all of them, and let us also put our faith in God, knowing that He will provide for us all, no matter what. Amen.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 31-47

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “If I bore witness to Myself, My testimony would be worthless. But Another One is bearing witness to Me, and I know that His testimony is true when He bears witness to Me. John also bore witness to the truth when you sent messengers to him, but I do not seek such human testimony; I recall this for you, so that you may be saved.”

“John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were willing to enjoy his light. But I have greater evidence than that of John – the works which the Father entrusted to Me to carry out. The very works I do bear witness : The Father has sent Me. Thus He Who bears witness to Me is the Father Who sent Me. You have never heard His voice and have never seen His likeness; therefore, as long as you do not believe His messenger, His word is not in you.”

“You search in the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find life; yet Scripture bears witness to Me. But you refuse to come to Me, that you may live. I am not seeking human praise; but I have known that love of God is not within you, for I have come in My Father’s Name and you do not accept Me. If another comes in his own name, you will accept him. As long as you seek praise from one another, instead of seeking the glory which comes from the only God, how can you believe?”

“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father. Moses himself, in whom you placed your hope, accuses you. If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Thursday, 26 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Exodus 32 : 7-14

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them and have made for themselves a molten calf; they have bowed down before it and sacrificed to it and said : ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.'”

And YHVH said to Moses, “I see that these people are a stiff-necked people. Now just leave Me that My anger may blaze against them. I will destroy them, but of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses calmed the anger of YHVH, his God, and said, “Why, o YHVH, should Your anger burst against Your people whom You brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with a mighty hand?”

“Let not the Egyptians say : ‘YHVH brought them out with evil intent, for He wanted to kill them in the mountains and wipe them from the face of the earth.’ Turn away from the heat of Your anger and do not bring disaster on Your people. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the promise You Yourself swore : I will multiply Your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land I spoke about I will give to them as an everlasting inheritance.”

YHVH then changed His mind and would not yet harm His people.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, at the moment exactly nine months before the date of Christmas, as this date commemorates the very moment when Our Lord and Saviour was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary, when she responded to the revelation of God’s Good News through the Archangel Gabriel which marked this moment of the Annunciation, when God finally revealed the arrival of His long awaited Saviour into the world.

On this day we rejoice greatly because of this event which heralded the beginning of the whole process of the story of salvation, as the long awaited salvation promised by God has finally come, through a humble and young Virgin in the small and backwater village of Nazareth in Galilee. The Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of the Saviour, and since He is also the Son of God Most High, she would also become the Mother of God.

Such a news brought by a great Angel to that young woman would have surprised and rocked anyone’s lives tremendously, and evidently Mary was also surprised and did not expect to hear such a revelation. Yet, it is her response to the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel that we need to pay close attention to, as she humbly listened to the Archangel and obeyed the Lord’s words and will, with her now famous words of acceptance and total submission to God’s will, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me as you have said’.

It is indeed interesting to see how God chose to come into this world in such a way. But this is because He wants to share in our humanity, by His incarnation in the flesh, assuming our fullness of humanity in Jesus Christ, born of Mary, His mother, to bring forth the fullness of God’s salvation to all of His people. And we focus our attention today to this wonderful occasion and especially on the amazing woman whose faith in the Lord can truly inspire us all in how we live our own lives.

We compare the response of Mary to the response of Ahaz, the king of Judah that we heard in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. At that time, the king Ahaz also received revelation from God through Isaiah, of the coming of God’s salvation to His people. But Ahaz refused to accept the sign, saying that he would not put God to the test even when the prophet Isaiah had specifically said that God had asked Ahaz to ask Him of anything. This shows a lack of faith and obedience on king Ahaz’s side, and contrasted him to Mary.

King Ahaz of Judah led the people of Judah further into sin, as according to the Chronicles and the Book of Kings, he did not follow or obey God’s laws and ways unlike some among his forefathers. Thus, his lack of faith can indeed be contrasted to Mary’s total submission to God, his pride and false humility contrasted against Mary’s humility and devotion to God. Mary is the role model for all of us, as her obedience and willingness to accept her role as the Mother of God and Saviour is something that all of us as Christians should also emulate in our own lives.

In this season of Lent, which the Solemnity of the Annunciation’s date often falls within, all of us go through this time of renewal and purification as we prepare ourselves for the celebrations during the joyous season of Easter. And especially this year, our Lenten season have been filled with lots of uncertainty, sorrow and grief, challenges and trials, obstacles and difficulties as most of the world has, and is now still currently suffering from the current coronavirus pandemic and the disease it caused, COVID-19.

More than ten thousand people had died over the past few months and hundreds of thousands are suffering from this sickness, with millions and tens of millions more being affected in various ways, many have lost their jobs and means of living, many have been affected because of the impact this pandemic had on the economy and much of global movement and dynamics of peoples. Many people suffered, and suffering, and will suffer because of this current plague that is claiming more and more victims with every passing moment.

However, despite the darkness and sorrow that surrounded us, despite all the seemingly difficult and tough challenges that are suffocating us with their tight grip, we must realise that we must have faith in God and put our trust in Him while obeying His will and entrust our lives and our whole existence to His care. On this day of the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we are reminded once again that despite the darkness and all the uncertainties in our world, God’s promise of salvation is a reality, and He will always fulfil what He has promised to us.

On this day we celebrate God Who willingly assumed our human existence and chose to be incarnate in the flesh, dwelling in the womb of Mary, His mother, that through Him, Our Lord Jesus Christ, a new Light of hope may be born into this world, dispelling the darkness and all the evils that have been surrounding us, affecting us and enslaving us under their power. We are called today to look upon this Hope and Light we have in Christ, and put our trust in Him even in these difficult and darkened times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, amidst this difficult crisis and this terrible pandemic, let us all entrust ourselves to God just as Mary had done, and humble ourselves before God, seeking His forgiveness and mercy, and also forgiving each other our faults and shortcomings to one another. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and in our love and devotion to God, and let us all have no fear of what is to come, knowing that God is always by our side. Let us all take good care of one another and pray for each other in this turbulent times, that the darkness will soon pass and everything will be fine again.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all and our families, and may He be with all those who are currently sick and dying, and be with those whose loved ones have been afflicted, that He will comfort them, console them, guide them and heal those who are sick. May God bless our world and His Church, and dispel the darkness and evils from our lives. Amen.