Tuesday, 28 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 28 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.

Tuesday, 28 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Numbers 21 : 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Monday, 27 March 2023 : 5th 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 first of all to be mindful of the dangerous temptations of sin and evil all around us, the allures of worldly desires and the lust for the pleasures of the flesh among other things. Then we are also reminded that each one of us are all sinners and we should not think that any one of us are better than the others and we should not take pride or be haughty because we think that we are somehow superior due to our actions and piety in life. Instead, each one of us as members of God’s Church, all of us are called to be charitable and to be caring for one another, showing genuine love for our fellow brothers and sisters and reaching out to those who have been lost from the Lord, taking part in the Church’s outreach and mission in proclaiming God’s Good News and salvation to those who seek the forgiveness and grace of God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Daniel, of the story of Susanna, a faithful Jewish woman living in the land of exile in Babylon, like that of Daniel and many other descendants of the Israelites. At that time, the community of the Israelite exiles were likely centred on communities they established in those foreign lands, with elders to lead and guide the community of the faithful people of God. Thus, it was then that Susanna, who was married to a Jewish man, both of whom were God-fearing and faithful, was accused falsely by two of the community elders who lusted of her and desired to commit sin with her. As we heard in that long story from the first reading, Susanna refused the advances of the two elders, and when the two elders attempted to silence her to hide their own sins by accusing her of adultery and sin, God sent His intervention and help through Daniel, whom He inspired and guided to rescue the faithful Susanna from threat of certain death.

Those two elders were entrusted with the guidance and leadership over the people of God, and were highly respected for their position and leadership. Yet, they chose to allow themselves to be swayed by the wicked temptations of the world, the temptation of the flesh, the desire for the beautiful Susanna to cloud their judgment and sound mind, that they ended up falling into those temptations and the traps of sin, committing grievous sins against God. Not only that they attempted to violate the honour and purity of Susanna, a faithful servant and fellow child of God, but they then committed even more sins in trying to hide their sins and faults. That is why we should not even let sin to tempt us in the first place, as unless we are vigilant and careful, we can be easily dragged further and deeper into the trap of sin, and end up committing more and more vile things against God and against our fellow brethren.

Those two elders lied and heaped false accusations upon Susanna in order to keep themselves safe and abused their own position and power to gain things for their own benefit. But God would not allow them to have their way, and through Daniel, He broke apart their falsehoods and lies, and by His Wisdom, He saved Susanna from certain death, and justice was imparted well that day. Those who are righteous shall be saved and protected by God, while those who are wicked and evil, unless they repent from their sins and wickedness, they will have to face the consequences and the punishments for those sins that they have committed. That was exactly what happened to them, as they were unrepentant, and continued to commit sin and even endangering the life of another person in their attempt to mask their own faults.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the well-known story of the Lord Jesus and a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The Lord Jesus was tested by a group of Pharisees and teachers of the Law who gathered a crowd with a woman who was caught in the midst of her sinful action, and through that, those people wanted to gauge His reaction and response to the woman, as the Lord had often reached out to those whom these people deemed as sinful and unworthy of God, like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, those who were suffering from various diseases and illnesses, and also those possessed by demons and evil spirits. They wanted to find the opportunity of accusing the Lord of tolerating sins and not following the precepts of the Law of God as revealed through Moses, so that they could persecute Him.

That was why, the Lord was in fact caught in a difficult situation there and then, as if He were to respond that the woman ought to be stoned to death according to the strict interpretation of the Law of Moses, then those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law could then claim that He was following what they themselves had taught, and perhaps discredit Him in some way or form, and if the Lord said that the woman should not be stoned and freed, then they could accuse Him of breaking the Law and disobeying the Lord’s commandments, both of which placed the Lord in a disadvantageous position, as if He had chosen either choices, those would have provided His opponents with ways to strike at Him at the first possible opportunity. But the Lord thoroughly outmanoeuvred them as He told them that those who had no sin ought to be the first to pick up the stone and throw it at the woman.

This answer stunned everyone, as no one could claim that they have never sinned before, and thus, we heard how everyone, beginning from the oldest, who have lived the longest and hence had committed the most sins, to those who were youngest among them, until no one else was left. And this is where it is notable that the Lord Himself was in fact the only ‘Sinless One’ present, untainted by sin in whatever form, and yet, as He Himself said to the woman, ‘Neither do I condemn you’, and telling her to sin no more, change her ways and turn once again towards the Lord. The Lord has not condemned her because He could see the good that was still present within her and the capacity that she had towards reconciliation with Him, and the opportunities that she still had in finding her way back towards God’s most loving and compassionate embrace.

It is therefore an important reminder to all of us that, after hearing everything from our Scripture passages today, that we should always be mindful of the dangers and the allures that sin may have on us, and how we should resist the temptations of those sins so that we will not end up falling into the path towards damnation. That is why we are reminded today to resist the temptations to sin, to control our desires and the many other emotions we have that we do not end up like the two elders, and remind ourselves that we should first and foremost keep our focus on the Lord, His way and His truth, and keep ourselves away from selfish desires and pursuits, be it for worldly pleasures, or for glory and fame, or for material wealth and goods among other things. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted by all these, and instead, as the Lord had told the woman, we should distance ourselves from sin and do our best to be faithful to God in all things.

Let us all also not be judgmental on others, or think that we are better and superior in any way to others around us. After all, each one of us are all sinners and we are all equally in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Instead of looking down on others and condemning them, let us all be kind to one another and help instead of being condemning and harsh on others. Let us all help each other to persevere through the difficulties we may face in life and the challenges and trials that we may have to face as Christians, in each and every moments. May the Lord be with us all and may He empower us all to be always strong and committed in our lives, in everything that we say and do, for His greater glory. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.