Thursday, 2 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Esther 4 : 17n, p-r, aa-bb, gg-hh (Latin Vulgate version – Esther 14 : 1, 3-5, 12-14)

Seized with anguish in her fear of death, Queen Esther likewise had recourse to the Lord. Then she prayed to the Lord God of Israel : “My Lord, You Who stand alone, came to my help; I am alone and have no help but You. Through my own choice I am endangering my life.”

“As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forebears that You, o Lord, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among their ancestors to be Your lasting heritage; that You did for them, all that You have promised.”

“Remember us, Lord; reveal Yourself in the time of our calamity. Give me courage, King of gods and Master of all power. Make my words persuasive when I face the lion; turn his heart against our enemy, that the latter and his like may be brought to their end.”

“Save us by Your hand; help me who am alone and have none but You, o Lord.”

Wednesday, 1 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to turn towards God with contrite hearts and minds, to seek His mercy and forgiveness as we remind ourselves of God’s love for each and every one of us. If we only rend our hearts and turn away from our many sins and wickedness, and seek God’s ever generous and wondrous forgiveness, we can gain a lot of graces and goodness from Him, just as He has given to our ancestors and predecessors in the past. The Lord loves each and every one of us, but He despises our sins and wickedness, and it is important for us therefore to turn away from those things which have become great obstacles in our path and journey towards the Lord and His salvation and grace. This Lent is indeed the time for us to realise that each one of us are sinners in need for God’s healing and mercy.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jonah in which God sent Jonah to the great city of Nineveh and its people to proclaim to them their doom and upcoming destruction. Contextually, the city of Nineveh was the great capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire, one of the first in that region to carve a great and vast realm, conquering many smaller states and nations. However the Assyrians were also infamous for their brutality in their wars and conquests, causing many deaths and destruction all across their domains. They were also the ones that destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, the part of the remnants of the once glorious David and Solomon’s old kingdom, and brought many of its people into exile in distant lands, causing much mayhem and destruction in doing so.

In their great conquests and victories, the Assyrians likely had grown proud and haughty, and their sins became even more pronounced. This was when the Lord sent Jonah to them to remind them that in the end, it does not matter what great worldly glory or successes that they had in this world, as the Lord has the final say over all matters. In the times past, history and many evidences can show us that even the greatest of kingdoms and realms can be destroyed, crushed and humbled, decimated and brought down by many reasons including natural disasters, plagues, and other things that no man could have foreseen or predicted. All of those things are truly reminders of the limits of our human power and abilities, and how in the end, all of our pride, ego and haughtiness will lead us nowhere but to our ultimate destruction and downfall.

The people of Nineveh listened to the prophet Jonah’s words and believed in him. As we heard, from the king all the way to the humblest and least of the servants, all repented from their sinful ways and showed publicly their sign of repentance and regret from their many sins, with ashes and sackcloth. The Lord saw their show of repentance, their sincerity in turning their backs against their sinful ways, and showed them His mercy. The Lord showed us through this that ultimately, even the greatest of sinners can be saved, and no one is beyond His love and mercy, unless that person himself or herself refuse to be saved. God’s love, mercy and kindness are always generously shown upon us, at all times. It is often we mankind who refused God’s generosity and love, and as a result, we end up falling further and further away from God and His grace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus referring to the story of the prophet Jonah before the people, some of whom were constantly doubting Him, like some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who questioned His authority and works. The Lord compared the people of Nineveh and their way of responding to the words of the prophet Jonah with how the people of the Lord Jesus’ time responded to His actions and works among them. The Lord highlighted how the Sign of Jonah would be shown to all of them, alluding to the parallel between the moment when Jonah spent three days inside the belly of a whale, with the three days of the Lord’s time in the underworld, between His suffering and death on the Cross, and His glorious Resurrection on the third day. This sign would indeed be shown to them, and many more signs in the face of the stubborn people who continued to resist the Lord.

The Lord essentially highlighted how even the pagans and foreigners were seeking the Lord, His mercy and compassion, guidance and help, as what the people of Nineveh had done, and in what the Queen of the South had done. The Queen of the South was a reference to the Queen of Sheba who came after a long journey from her homeland to seek the wisdom of King Solomon. And therefore, the Lord was referring to the many people, from all the nations who would come to seek God’s mercy and love, His wisdom and truth, through that mention of the ‘Queen of the South’. Contrary to what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law believed in, the Lord highlighted that every people has equal chance and opportunity in coming towards His salvation, and salvation is not reserved only for the elites like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves.

What matters is what can be found within our hearts, and for us, that should be God and our love for Him. Unless we have this genuine and strong love for God in our hearts, it is easy for us to fall into the traps of sin and evil, and it is easy for us to slip into the path towards downfall and destruction. The Lord has always generously extended to us His love and mercy, and what we all need to do is to open our hearts and minds to welcome Him within them, and to humble ourselves that we may come to see just how much we need God in our lives in order to heal us and to bring us from the precipice of darkness all around us. This Lent is the perfect time for us to remove from ourselves, from our hearts and minds any taints of pride, ego and other things that may prevent us from truly finding our path towards the Lord and be saved through Him and His grace.

Let us henceforth do our best to turn back towards the Lord with faith, spending our time and effort to be with Him and to know Him more, deepening our spirituality and faith through prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we carry out during this time and season of Lent. Let us resist the many temptations of sin and let us be good role models and inspiring examples for our fellow brothers and sisters, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Wednesday, 1 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 12-13, 18-19

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jonah 3 : 1-10

The word of YHVH came to Jonah a second time : “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.”

In obedience to the word of YHVH, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Upon hearing the news, the king of Nineveh got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. He issued a proclamation throughout Nineveh :

“By the decree of the king and his nobles, no people or beasts, herd or flock, will taste anything; neither will they eat nor drink. But let people and beasts be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call aloud to God, turn from his evil ways and violence. Who knows? God may yet relent, turn from His fierce anger and spare us.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened upon them.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we all listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, each and every one of us are called to remember that we have a truly great and most loving God by our side, our most loving Father and Creator, the Almighty God, Who has created us all out of His ever generous love. The Lord has never ceased to love us and care for us, despite our frequent stubborn attitudes and rebellions against Him. He has always reached out to us with love, caring for us in each and every possible opportunities, calling upon us to return to Him and to find our way back to Him, all because He does not desire our destruction, but wanting us to be fully reconciled with Him. That is why He even gave us all the best gift of all, the gift of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Who is His own beloved and begotten Son.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we listened to the Lord speaking to His people regarding how He has sent His Word into this world to do His will, and how everything shall be fulfilled, accomplished and perfected through His Word, and this is in fact a prefigurement of the coming of His Saviour and the salvation that He has always promised through this Saviour. The Lord was speaking about His Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God, Who is truly the Word through Whom the world and all of creation has been created. As St. John the Apostle highlighted it in the beginning of his own Gospel, this Word of God, Incarnate in the flesh, is the same Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, Who has given His life for all of mankind, by His suffering and death on the Cross.

And God’s will is truly to bring us all to redemption through His Son, by His perfect obedience and most selfless offering of Himself so that each and every one of us may be saved and gain new life through Him. Not only that, but the Lord Jesus Himself has also shown us by His examples and works, all that He has revealed and taught to us, so that we may come ever closer to the Lord, our most loving Father, including what we are reminded of in our Gospel passage today with the Lord’s Prayer, the Prayer that the Lord Himself has taught to all of His disciples, and which I am sure that we are all well familiar with. The Lord taught His disciples this prayer so that they may know how they should be praying in a proper way, and how they should always spend some time to connect with the Lord, at every possible opportunities.

That most perfect and wonderful prayer that the Lord Himself has taught us is the combination of thanksgiving and gratitude that we ought to express to God, for all the blessings and wonders that He had provided for us, in every opportunities we have. We also hear the great adoration and glorification of God, which prayers should also entail, as we glorify the Lord Who is our great Master and Creator, the One through Whom everything has been made possible for us. The Lord has blessed each one of us wonderfully, and we often ignored this truth and fact, and we often overlooked and forgot about Him, until the time when we have need for Him, and that is when we started looking for Him, seeking His help and guidance, and even, demanding that He must take action to help us and to give us what we wanted or asked for.

This is why many of us are reminded today as we progress through the season of Lent, so that in this time of recollection and reconciliation with God, we may come closer to the Lord through genuine prayer and quality time spent with Him. We should not be like those who only remember the Lord in the time of their need and then forgot about Him whenever they had no more need for Him. The Lord is not One Who we can demand for action, or One Whom we consider as a convenience for our own selfish desires and greed. We must also not be like those hypocrites who outwardly confessed to be faithful to the Lord or profess obedience and faith in Him, and yet, in their hearts, they did not have any true and genuine love for Him.

That was what many of us had done, and many among us lacked that true faith and commitment which we should have for the Lord. This is why, we should first of all begin by reorientating and redirecting our focus in life from ourselves and our own desires back to the Lord. The Lord, our God and Master should always be the focus and emphasis of our whole existence, and we should do whatever we can in order to walk in His path and righteousness, turning away from whatever sinful and wicked things that have often separated us from the wonders of His love and grace. Each one of us have been given this perfect opportunity during this season and time of Lent to rediscover the love we ought to have for God, and the path of righteousness that we should all be following.

We should hence spend more quality time with the Lord, in prayer, fasting and almsgiving during this time of Lent. Through prayer, we all should come ever closer to the Lord and spend the time to communicate with Him, so that we may truly listen to Him speaking in our hearts and minds, knowing His will and His calling for each one of us. Through fasting, each one of us are called to restrain the desires of our flesh, and the many temptations all around us so that we do not end up falling into the wicked ways of this world and becoming ever more entangled in the traps of sin. And lastly, through almsgiving, all of us are called and reminded to be ever always filled with love for one another, remembering that everyone is our own brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our loving Father.

Let us always be generous in giving from our hearts, giving our time, effort and attention to the Lord and to our fellow brethren, spending more time to live our lives with faith and devotion. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey, and may He empower each and every one of us so that we may always persevere and remain strong in our faith and commitment to Him, despite the many challenges in the world that we may have to face, in our journey towards the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.