Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th 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 Lord through the Scriptures which highlighted to us what it truly means for us all to be followers of God, as Christians who believe in the Lord and in His salvation. Through the Scripture passages beginning with the tale of the three friends of Daniel in the first reading today, and then to the confrontation and the strife that existed between the Lord and the Jewish people of Judea, we are reminded yet again that to follow Christ, it requires us to have a sincerity of heart in faith.

In our first reading, we heard about the three friends of Daniel, the exiles of Israel who were in Babylon then, under the rule of king Nebuchadnezzar who conquered the kingdom of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar built for himself a great golden statue in his own image and ordered all of his subjects and people to worship that golden statue under the pain of death. But the three friends of Daniel refused to do so, and when the king confronted them under the pain of death, they stood by their faith in God.

This is the kind of faith that we all need to have. It is however not that we have to be confrontational or suffer in the way that those three friends of Daniel had suffered, or that necessarily we will encounter persecution in any way. Rather, it means that we must have that strong and genuine faith in God, so much so that we will be willing to even choose death over life rather than to betray the Lord and sell our souls to the evil one.

It means that we put God as the focus and the priority over our lives, and we have to be sincere in that faith, genuinely loving God and desiring to follow Him and to walk with Him, and not just giving Him a lip service or treat our faith as a mere formality. That was what the Jews in our Gospel passage had done, as these people were descended from the Israelites of old, especially those who were once part of the kingdom of Judah and they saw themselves as the privileged people and a chosen race, looking down on others.

They took great pride in themselves as the direct descendants of Abraham and the sons and daughters of Israel, but yet, in their hearts, many among them only paid lip service to the Lord and superficially obeyed His laws and commandments rather than keeping true to the spirit of the Law and truly love God with all of their hearts and minds. Especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them always took great pride in their way of observing the laws and commandments, and looked down on others they deemed to be inferior to them.

It was these people whom the Lord rebuked in today’s Gospel passage, all those who were proud of their ancestry and status, and yet, compared to the three friends of Daniel, they did not have true and genuine faith. They were focused much on themselves in how they lived their faith, they turned inwards and became fascinated with their own pride and ego, failing to see and realise how they are in need of healing from their sins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, are we able to change our way of life and heed what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples and the people, that is to be truly faithful to God and to devote more of our time and effort to serve the Lord, to focus our attention on Him more and to dedicate ourselves with greater reverence and commitment? Are we able to overcome the temptations of pride and worldly desires that we may be more Christ-like in our lives from now on?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith so that we may walk in His path and trust in Him more. We must put God as the priority of our lives, and we must put a focus on Him in each and every moments of our lives from now on. Are we able to do that, brethren? Are we able to trust Him with all of our hearts just like how the three friends of Daniel trusted in the Lord so much that they were even willing to endure great sufferings and death, defying a great king for His sake?

May the Lord bless us all and may He be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives more faithfully, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 31-42

At that time, Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in Him, “You will be My true disciples, if you keep My word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do you mean by saying : You will be free?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave does not stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. For My part, I speak of what I have seen in My Father’s presence, but you do what you have learnt from your father.”

They answered Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill Me, the One Who tells you the truth – the truth that I have learnt from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.”

The Jews said to Him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I did not come by My own decision, but it was He Himself Who sent Me.”

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever. Blessed is Your holy and glorious Name, celebrated and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You Who fathom the depths, who are enthroned on the Cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 14-20, 24-25, 28

King Nebuchadnezzar questioned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up? If you hear now the sound of horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you will not, you know the punishment : you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if He will not, we would like you to know, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace.

They walked in the midst of the flames, singing to God and praising the Lord. Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “You have indeed given a just sentence in bringing evil upon us and upon Jerusalem, the Holy City of our fathers. You have acted in accordance with truth and justice, as punishment for our sins.”