Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 18 : 21-35

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants.”

“Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.'”

“The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When the servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now his fellow servants saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : Do not abandon us forever, do not reject Your covenant for Your Name’s sake. Do not withdraw Your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, Your friend, of Isaac, Your servant, of Israel, Your holy one, to whom You promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea.

Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer You holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense. We have no place to present to You the first-fruits of our crops, and so obtain Your favour.

But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to You, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us Your favour for we know that those who trust in You shall never be disappointed.

And now, we serve You with our whole heart, we fear You and we seek Your face. Do not leave us in our humiliation, but treat us according to Your kindness and Your great mercy. Free us in keeping with Your wonders, and give us the glory of Your Name, Lord.

Monday, 8 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard about the healing of the Syrian general Naaman by the prophet Elisha through the power of God, and how the same healing was mentioned by the Lord as He spoke to the people of His own hometown in Nazareth, as He was not trusted and believed by the latter.

In our first reading, Naaman the Syrian was the trusted general and right hand man of the Aramean king, the rival kingdom of Israel, who unfortunately had contracted leprosy, a disease that was much dreaded at that time. Those who contracted leprosy would end up losing their limbs and might even end up in death, as the disease would keep on spreading through the body and inflict more damage unless the person was able to fight off the infection, which was actually quite rare given the then relatively primitive form of healthcare.

That was why the Aramean king was desperate to find cure for Naaman, and hearing that the famous prophet Elisha and his miracles in Israel, the king endeavoured to send Naaman to his rival king and enemy, to seek for healing. Naturally the king of Israel, who was no friend of Elisha, refused to help, and Naaman had to go and visit Elisha on his own.

When he found the prophet Elisha, he was told to go and immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan and he would be healed. Naaman was angry that the prophet did not come and do as what he had expected, that Elisha would touch him and make him whole again in body and healed from his leprosy. He found that the task of immersing himself in the River Jordan to be ridiculous, and that the rivers of his own homeland were no less great.

However, as we heard, Naaman’s servant begged him to listen to reason and just do as the prophet had asked him, as it was just something very simple to be done, to immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan. And almost immediately after Naaman did so, he was healed and was perfectly healthy again. Naaman obeyed and swallowed his pride, and he was healed by God.

This is what the Lord referred to when His own people rejected Him and refused to listen to Him, as He stated how during the time of Elisha, it was the pagans like Naaman who came to be healed by God and who was the one that eventually became a believer, while the Israelites of Elisha’s time remained distant and in open rebellion against God and His ways.

What is the significance of these readings, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, we are all called to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, to be healed of our sins, for indeed our sins are just like leprosy, eating and gnawing at us, the ‘leprosy’ of our souls. And unlike the physical leprosy of the body that can still be healed by medicine and worldly means, the only cure for sin is God’s forgiveness and grace.

God alone can heal us from our sins, and through His forgiveness we are made whole once again. However, it requires from us the desire to be forgiven, and for us to humble ourselves like what Naaman had done. More often than not, it is our pride and ego, our stubbornness and desire that become major obstacles preventing us from gaining forgiveness and mercy from God.

As Naaman’s servant pointed out, it was actually not a difficult thing that the prophet Elisha had asked of Naaman to do in order to be healed, and thus, it is the same for all of us as well. God has abundantly made available His forgiveness and mercy, constantly seeking for us and wanting all of us to be reconciled to Him. However, it is we ourselves who have delayed, postponed, refused to commit to the Lord and was ambivalent in our attitude towards Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this cannot be the case anymore. We must not allow our pride and ego from undermining our path towards reconciliation with God. In this season of Lent, that is why we are all called to embrace God’s ever generous mercy and compassion, and seek to be healed just as God has healed Naaman from his leprosy, that we too can be healed from the sins we have with us.

Today, let us all follow the good examples set by St. John of God, one of our holy predecessors in faith. St. John of God was a soldier and later on farmer, who grew dissatisfied with the way he led his life, as he struggled spiritually with all the hardships he saw in all those whom he encountered. In the end, this led to him going through a period of conversion and became a dedicated servant to the Lord and His people as a religious brother, serving the poor and the sick in particular.

St. John of God was thereafter renowned for his care for the sick and the poor, and he inspired many others to follow his examples, in being charitable and generous in giving, in obeying the Lord’s commandments and being righteous and good in his deeds, and this is what all of us as Christians can also be inspired to do as well. It is by following these faithful examples as shown by St. John of God that we can draw closer to God and find healing and justification through Him.

May the Lord be with us always and may He guide us all through life, and may He help us to remain humble and to desire His forgiveness and mercy so that we may find healing and reconciliation through our humility and sincere desire to seek Him for forgiveness and grace, that we may once again be living worthily in His presence, free from sin and from its corrupting influence and power so that in the end, we may enter into the eternal glory of heaven. Amen.