Tenth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis as Successor of St. Peter, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff

(Taken from Cathedral of the Good Shepherd Sunday Bulletin, the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Singapore)

Wishing our Holy Father, His Holiness Pope Francis, a most blessed tenth anniversary of his election to the Papacy, as the Successor of St. Peter, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church!

Ad multos annos, Your Holiness!

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 80 : 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, I relieved your shoulder from burden; I freed your hands. You called in distress, and I saved you.

Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, My people, as I admonish you. If only you would listen, o Israel!

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I the Lord am your God, who led you forth from the land of Egypt.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Thursday, 16 March 2023 : 3rd 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 not to give in to our pride and ego, our stubbornness and our waywardness in how we and our ancestors had often behaved in the past, in resisting God’s love and compassion, and in rejecting His ever generous kindness and attention, as we preferred to follow our own path and hardened our hearts, unable to resist the temptations being present all around us that pulled us away from the path of God’s righteousness and grace. We often allowed those temptations to mislead and delude us, leading us further and further away from the path towards eternal life and justification in God. And that is why today, all of us are reminded to turn away from sin and from our disobedience, and humble ourselves, so that we may once again walk in the path of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the Lord spoke in lamentation and frustration over the sins of His people to Jeremiah, whom he had sent to the kingdom and the people of Judah, the remnants of the Israelites who have rebelled against God again and again, over the period of time, and despite repeated reminders from the Lord through His prophets, messengers and servants, they still allowed themselves to be swayed by sin and the temptations to disobey the Lord. Their northern neighbours, the kingdom of Israel centred in Samaria had been crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians decades before the time of the prophet Jeremiah, for their continuous sin and disobedience, and they had been scattered and exiled from the lands of their ancestors. It was just a matter of time before the same fate would befall the people of Judah as well.

The Lord had done many good things for His beloved people, and He has reached out to them again and again, guiding and chastising them whenever it was necessary, to help them to remain true to the path that He wanted them all to follow. Unfortunately, more often than not, they chose to listen to the false leads and prophets, to the corrupt guides and all the various temptations all around them, of power, fame, glory, material possessions among other things. All those things had steered them away from what God had told them all to do. Despite God having rescued them from their slavery in Egypt, cared for them and showed them His love and kindness, all throughout the years, but the people of God were often ungrateful and forgot about Him, continuing to follow the path of sin and wickedness and rejecting his love and compassion.

All of those things happened because the people were focused too much on their worldly attachments and desires, all the things that ended up causing them to lose track and control over their lives, and dragged them ever further into the path of damnation and evil. They could not resist the pull and allure of those worldly attachments and desires in their hearts, and as such, they kept on falling again and again into sin. That was also why many among the people refused to listen to the Lord and to believe in Him all throughout the history of salvation, as highlighted in the Scriptures. They were so busy and preoccupied with their worldly pursuits and concerns that they had no place for God in their lives, and they thought in terms of the world and not in terms of what they had been taught and guided with by the prophets and messengers of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard one such occasion when the Lord Jesus was confronted by the people who accused Him of colluding with the prince of demons, Beelzebub as He performed His miracle in healing a man who had been struck dumb by demonic possession. This accusation was truly baseless and did not make sense at all, just as the Lord Himself pointed out the folly of such an argument. The Lord told them all that if the demons and evil spirits were divided against each other, then they could not stand or do anything as they would spend all their time just quarrelling and fighting over each other, just like how it worked and what had happened in our world, when a country, a nation and a people were divided against each other in civil wars and conflicts. And those that are divided against the other is truly unlikely to flourish and prosper.

Hence, accusing the Lord falsely of being complicit and colluding with demonic forces is really nonsensical and vile in nature. This accusation came about because those who accused the Lord hardened their hearts and minds and refused to accept the fact and truth that the Lord’s work had been genuine and authoritative. While it was not mentioned explicitly in the Gospel passage today, but it was likely that those who accused the Lord either belonged to the group of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law or their supporters. Many among those people had often opposed the Lord and were criticial of Him and His disciples, because they could not accept Him as a legitimate source of teaching authority on their faith, and even saw Him as a dangerous rival and threat to their own power and influence in the community.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, they likely opposed the Lord at every turn and opportunity out of jealousy, fear and pride. Many of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests feared that the Lord’s growing influence and popularity in the community of the people of God would destroy whatever power structures, influence and privileges that they had gathered, built up and established among the people at that time. Hence, they refused to accept the truth of God, hardened their hearts and minds, resisting the Lord’s effort to reach out and explain the truth to them. That was why despite having witnessed many of the Lord’s miracles again and again, but they still failed to believe in God and even accused Him vilely of such false accusation as what we heard in our Gospel passage today.

Ironically, they were doing exactly what the Lord had been telling them about the folly of the demons being divided against each other. Yes, essentially, by their actions, those who accused the Lord of colluding with Beelzebub were causing division by their actions and words, and also hindered the good works of the Lord, just as how they had hindered many from coming towards the Lord and His salvation by their self-righteous attitude and imposition of an overly strict interpretation of the Law of God. On the contrary, the fact is that the devil and all those who seek our destruction, those demons and evil spirits are no less united in purpose and intention to bring about our downfall, and are united in their actions to crush us and to make us falter and fail in our path towards God’s salvation and grace. They planted the seeds of pride and arrogance in those who opposed the Lord so that more people would have been prevented from coming to reconciliation and salvation in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all resist the temptations of worldly glory and desire, and learn to be humble and to open our hearts and minds to listen to the Lord, to His Wisdom and truth, and harden our hearts and minds no more, so that we may not act like those who have resisted the Lord. Let us all help one another to come to the Lord by our righteous and faithful attitude, doing whatever we can to follow Him and to inspire others to do the same as well. May the Lord help us in our journey towards reconciliation with Him, especially during this blessed penitential season of Lent. May He empower each one of us to be able to follow Him more earnestly and with greater commitment and zeal. May He bless our every efforts and good endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.