Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us reminding us not to dwell in our worldly desires, temptations and the many other things that may distract us and keep us away from the path of God and His salvation, from His righteousness and justice, just as our predecessors had done, in their failure to resist those temptations and instead, allowing those things to cloud their judgment and made them to commit grievous errors and sins.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Genesis in which we were told of what happened to the sons of Jacob, also known as Israel, the ones who would become the progenitors of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. Jacob had a total of twelve sons, born from different wives and from the servants of his wives. The most beloved among all those sons were naturally Joseph and Benjamin, who were born to Jacob through his most beloved wife Rachel.

This led to the preferential treatments that Joseph enjoyed over that of his brothers, which made them to be angry against their younger brother, and all these despite each of them still enjoying the great bounty of the riches of Jacob and his family. They became even angrier when Joseph, who received many visions and dreams began speaking of how his own brothers and even father would come to bow down before him. All these were in fact premonitions of what would happen in the future, but no one, including Joseph knew what they were all about.

Despite the urgings of some of the brothers from restraint, the older brothers of Joseph plotted against him, and planned to have him killed. But at the coming of a Midianite caravan on the way to Egypt, the more moderate brothers managed to persuade all of them to spare his life and sell him to the merchants instead. And that was how Joseph would end up in slavery and then sent up to Egypt, as part of his mission to prepare the path for his family, though no one then knew of this yet.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord spoke using the parable of the evil tenants before the people and the Pharisees who have often made His works difficult, placing a lot of obstacles and barriers in His path. Through that parable, the Lord related a story to all that the greed and wicked desires of the evil and ungrateful tenants had led them to persecute, oppress and even kill the servants of the owner of the vineyard who had every right to remind those tenants to pay their due to him.

In the end, this even led to them killing the son of the owner himself who was sent at long last to remind them. This was in fact a veiled criticism and rebuke by the Lord at the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all those ‘tenants’ whom God, represented by the owner of the vineyard, had entrusted with the care of His ‘vineyard’, namely His people, His flock, the people of Israel. They and their ancestors had not been truly faithful to God and instead, they often served their own interests, persecuting those whom God had sent into their midst, and up to and including the Lord Himself.

It was also a premonition of what would happen to the Lord at His Passion, His suffering and death, when by the actions of the same leaders and elders of the people, the Lord would face rejection, condemnation, forced to endure the most humiliating and painful punishment on behalf of all of us, His beloved ones. All that happened because those who condemned the Lord, were all swayed and tempted by their worldly desires, pride, ego and ambition among other things.

That is why, through the examples of Joseph and his brothers, what they had done, and what the Lord had reminded all of us through the example of the parable of the evil tenants, we are all called to remember the importance to resist the many temptations of the world, and to remain true to Him in faith. We must not easily give in to the temptations of the evil ones, and we must not give in to the pressure for us to follow the whims of our desires and the want for pleasure and temporary satisfaction.

Instead, as we continue to walk through this journey of life with faith, particularly through this season of Lent, we are all reminded to follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, one of whom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose feast we celebrate today, ought to inspire us with his enduring faith and dedication to the Lord. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem who was remembered for his great love for both the Lord and the people entrusted under his care, as well as his dedication to the truth and the well-being of the whole entire Universal Church then threatened by various heresies and divisions.

He resisted the many oppositions, attacks and pressure from the Arian heretics and all those who supported them, including even the powerful nobles and the Roman Emperors themselves, suffering multiple exiles and persecutions, having to endure many false accusations among other hardships during his ministry. Yet, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remained steadfast in faith and did not give in to those who sought to undermine the unity and identity of the Church, holding his flock firm in his hands, leading them towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all walk in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and the innumerable other saints who had walked faithfully before us towards the Lord. Let us follow them and be inspired by their good examples in how we should live our own lives with faith as well. May God be with us always, and may He continue to watch over us and strengthen us, that we may always be vigilant, and be ready to guard ourselves against any temptations of evil. Amen.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Thursday, 17 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of how our actions in this life in this world can have great consequences for us in the future, a consequence that can last for eternity. As we continue to progress through this season of Lent, today’s readings therefore aptly reminded us of this reality, so that we can make a conscious effort to choose the right path for us before it is too late for us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the fates of the righteous man and the wicked man were put plainly before everyone. The ones who have faith in the Lord and believed in Him shall always have the blessings and grace of God, with God as their firm foundation and assurance, with Him as their source of strength and hope. Meanwhile, the wicked shall never find their true happiness and satisfaction, unless they seek the Lord and turn towards Him wholeheartedly.

This is a reminder to all of us that following the Lord requires us to distance ourselves from the path of evil and wickedness, of evil and selfishness, distancing ourselves from all the desires and temptations of the world. We have to resist our desire to enjoy the pleasures of worldly life and happiness, and depending on all those wealth, glory, power, and any other worldly means to achieve our personal satisfaction, or else, we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the well-known story in the Lord’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man, in which, Lazarus, the poor man and a rich man whose house Lazarus was often begging at, both died at the same time. The Lord highlighted in that story just how different their fates ended up, as Lazarus enjoyed a great new life in Heaven, in the presence of Abraham and the saints, while the rich man suffers for eternity in the eternal fires of hell, suffering for all the sins he had committed.

This is a reminder of how we can easily ignore the needs and the plight of the needy in our midst, especially when we are too busy and preoccupied by ourselves, our desires, greed and the many temptations surrounding us. The rich man might not have directly hurt or persecuted Lazarus, the poor man sitting by his gates. However, when he could have at least shared even the scraps of bread and food from the excesses that he had, he did not do so, and allowed Lazarus to perish out there.

That is what we as Christians should guard ourselves against, as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, we have to remind ourselves not only just to avoid committing sins and wicked deeds, that are the sins of action, we also have to avoid committing the sins of omission, that is to do nothing and to consciously ignore our obligations and our chance to help, when the Lord presented the opportunity before us. There are a lot of people out there who still need our help, and we have to reach out to them.

Otherwise, as we all heard and knew well, the fate of the rich man may very well be ours as well. If we allow ourselves to be blinded and swayed by worldly temptations, of the riches and power, of glory and fame, of all the pleasures and satisfactions, all that can distract us from the path of the Lord’s righteousness and justice, then we may end up really falling into that path towards eternal damnation. We are reminded that the fate that awaits us after death is one that is everlasting.

Today, we should model ourselves based on the very popular and renowned saint whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Patrick, the well-known Patron Saint of Ireland, the one who first brought the faith to Ireland and worked to build the foundation of the Church and the Christian faith to that island. Countless peoples were converted by his works and efforts, and thanks to his faith and dedication, many people even to this day can trace their faith and that of their ancestors’ to him.

St. Patrick had an early brush with Ireland when in his youth he was actually captured and enslaved by Irish pirates, and after having been enslaved for several years, he finally managed to escape and returned to his family. However, this did not stop him to return to Ireland later on after he had taken up the clerical life and became a priest. He was sent back as a missionary to Ireland, sent to establish the Church and the influence of the faith in that still pagan island. St. Patrick laboured hard for many years, risking his life at times, to spread the word and truth of God to the Irish.

Through his great and tireless efforts, his patience and clarity in teachings and through the wisdom and guidance from God, St. Patrick managed to bring countless people in Ireland into the faith, and he established the first hierarchy and structure of the Church in Ireland, himself being one of the first bishops in Ireland. He baptised many people and influenced the life of so many people, and his faith inspired many even long after his passing from this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that great faith which St. Patrick had shown is what all of us have been called to have as well. The Lord has given us the same mission and the gifts and means to carry out His will. Are we going to follow the examples of St. Patrick in being faithful and obedient to God? Or are we instead going to be like the rich man in the Lord’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man? Let us consider and discern these things carefully in our hearts and minds, brothers and sisters in Christ.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless and guide us in our journey of faith, that we may always ever be committed to Him, to the very end. May God bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 17 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Thursday, 17 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.