Friday, 3 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 18 : 21-28

If the sinner turns from his sin, observes My decrees and practices what is right and just, he will live, he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be charged against him, he will live as a consequence of his righteous deeds. Do I want the death of the sinner? – word of YHVH. Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live?

But if the righteous man turns away from what is good and commits sins as the wicked do, will he live? His righteous deeds will no longer be credited to him, but he will die because of his infidelity and his sins. But you say : YHVH’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is My position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong?”

“If the righteous man dies after turning from his righteous deeds and sinning, he dies because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes and turned from the sins he had committed.”

Thursday, 2 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 called and reminded to turn towards the Lord our God whenever we are in dire straits and in need of help and consolation. Each and every one of us are reminded that the Lord is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He had made with us, and He is always loving and caring towards us, ever always showing us His patient and kind love despite the stubbornness and rebellious attitudes that we had shown towards Him. God is truly our loving Father and Creator, Who has created us out of love and hence, continues to watch over us and shows us His loving kindness at all times, but there are moments and times when we, as His children, need to seek for Him and ask for His help.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Esther the story of the Queen of Persia, Esther, who belonged to the Jewish people, that is the descendants of the people of Israel and Judah, and hence, was among God’s first called and chosen people. Back then, the remnants of Israel had been emancipated by the first Persian King of Kings, Cyrus the Great, who allowed them to return to their homeland and to rebuild their destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. They had endured many decades of persecutions and challenges, ever since they were uprooted from their homeland, forced to endure in humiliation being homeless and exiled, because of the disobedience and sins that they and their ancestors had committed in refusing to listen to the Lord or obey His will.

It was then that the enemies of the Lord and His people tried to rise up and gang up against the people of God, as highlighted in the Book of Esther as the role of a particular Haman the Agagite, a descendant of the King of Amalek, Agag, who was crushed and killed by God’s servant, Samuel, during the war between Israel and Amalek a few centuries prior, in the early days of the kingdom of Israel. The conflict hence led to the longstanding feud between the Israelites and their descendants with the descendants of Amalek. During the time of Esther, this came to a great culmination in the attempt by Haman to destroy the whole entire people of God by using his position and authority as a great right hand man of the King and regent over the whole Persian domain.

Haman managed to get the King to order the eradication of the entire Jewish people, all the descendants of God’s people, and it was there that Queen Esther was caught in a great quandary, as she wanted to help her people, but the law of the realm stated that she was not to come and approach the King unless he requested or called for her appearance, and to do otherwise would likely have led to her being deposed, as it was exactly how her predecessor as the Persian Queen, Vashti, lost her position and was exiled. Worse still, she could have also suffered even death for her attempt to help her people. Yet, encouraged by her uncle, Mordechai, who struggled in his own way against Haman and his wickedness, and ever having strong faith in the Lord, Queen Esther entrusted her life and everything in the hands of the Lord.

And that was exactly what we have heard in our first reading today, as Queen Esther prayed to the Lord, seeking for His guidance, help and strength, in leading her through whatever she would be doing for the sake of God’s own people, who was about to face destruction and damnation. She entrusted everything to the Lord, knowing that God would not abandon those whom He loved, and she asked Him for the courage and strength to face the King and all those forces seeking to destroy the people of Israel, so that God might indeed lead them out from the darkness, and save them in their hour of greatest need. Indeed, God intervened and helped, and not only that the people of God were saved, by the actions of Queen Esther, but Haman himself, the great enemy, faced the just consequences of his evils, and he suffered the same fate that he had wickedly planned for Mordechai and the Israelites.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard a related passage in which the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples that they ought to ask, seek and approach the Lord, their God and their Father, as unless they come and ask, seek and find the Lord, and try to reach out to the Lord, then they would not be able to gain anything, and the Lord will open the door and help all those who have shown the willingness to reach out to Him. God truly helps only all those who are able and willing to help themselves first, strengthening and guiding them in the manner of how He has helped, blessed, protected and guided Esther in her effort to save her own people from utter destruction and annihilation. All of us are therefore also reminded in the same way that we should always focus our attention on the Lord, and do whatever we can to serve Him faithfully, following and obeying His Law and commandments.

This season of Lent is a particularly good and appropriate time for us to come and seek the Lord with renewed vigour and effort, especially if we have been separated and sundered from Him due to our many sins and evils. If we have been estranged from God because we did not truly know Him and did not spend enough time on Him, or in trying to find out and know more about Him, then this is indeed the time for us to repent from our many sins, stop disobeying the Lord, resist the many temptations all around us and embrace once again God’s ever generous mercy, compassion, kindness and love. Each and every one of us must indeed realise just how fortunate we are to have such a loving God and Father, Who has always watched over us and protected us, and Who has always called on us to return to Him, only to be faced with stubborn rejection from us.

May the Lord, our loving Father and Creator, continue to bless us and love us in each and every moments, and may all of us draw ever closer to Him, deepening our relationship and understanding of His love, through our Lenten practices, by our genuine and devout prayers, spending more precious and quality time with Him, communicating with Him and walking ever closely in His path and grace, and also by restraining our temptations and wickedness through fasting and abstinence, and by our practice of showing the same love and kindness that God has shown us, by our generous almsgiving and care for all those who are in need. May God be with us always, and may He empower each one of us to be His ever more faithful disciples, and good role models and inspirations to one another. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and the door will be opened to him who knocks.”

“Would any of you give a stone to your son, when he asks for bread? Or give him a snake, when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there you have the Law and the Prophets.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 137 : 1-2a, 2bcd-3, 7c-8

I thank You, o Lord, with all my heart, for You have heard the word of my lips. I sing Your praise in the presence of the gods. I bow down towards Your holy Temple and give thanks to Your Name.

For Your love and faithfulness, for Your word which exceeds everything. You answered me when I called; You restored my soul and made me strong.

With Your right hand You deliver me. How the Lord cares for me! Your kindness, o Lord, endures forever. Forsake not the work of Your hands.