Friday, 31 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews then picked up stones to throw at Jesus; so He said, “I have openly done many good works among you, which the Father gave Me to do. For which of these do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered, “We are not stoning You for doing a good work, but for insulting God; You are only a Man, and You make Yourself God.” Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law : I said, you are gods? So those who received this word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true.”

“What then should be said of the One anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in Me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest Him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptised, and there He stayed. Many people came to Jesus, and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about You, and everything he said was true.” And many became believers in that place.

Friday, 31 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

I love You, o Lord, my Strength, the Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

A deadly flood surrounded me, devillish torrents rushed at me; caught by the cords of the grave, I was brought to the snares of death.

But I called upon the Lord in my distress, I cried to my God for help; and from His Temple He heard my voice, my cry of grief reached His ears.

Friday, 31 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 20 : 10-13

I hear many people whispering, “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!” All my friends watch me to see if I will slip : “Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say; “then we can get the better of him and have our revenge.”

But YHVH, a mighty Warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten. YHVH, God of hosts, You test the just and probe the heart and mind.

Let me see Your revenge on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause. Sing to YHVH! Praise YHVH and say : He has rescued the poor from the clutches of the wicked!

Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Lord contained in the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the Covenant that God has established with each and every one of us, the Covenant that He has always kept and renewed with all of our predecessors and ancestors. God never broke His promises and Covenants, and He has always ever been faithful to whatever He has told and revealed to us. It was always us mankind who have disobeyed Him, betrayed and abandoned Him for many worldly temptations and attachments, all sorts of things that kept us away from truly being united with Him. God loves us all nonetheless and He has ever always patiently reached out to us, calling on us to repent from our sinful ways and to return to Him once again with sincere love and devotion.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of Genesis of the story of the moment when God made His Covenant with Abram, His servant, whom He had called from the land of his forefathers. Abram obeyed God and followed Him to wherever He had led him to, leaving those comforts he knew and went to a future that was unknown to him. Yet, he trusted the Lord wholeheartedly and let Him to guide him in all things, and hence, God, Who knows everyone’s hearts and knew of Abraham’s great and enduring faith in Him, chose him to be the one with whom He would make His Covenant with. Through Abram, whom God named Abraham as a mark of the Covenant that they had made between them, God made a great people that He had chosen to be His first called people, the Israelites. There were also many other nations that sprang forth from among the descendants of Abraham, and hence, he was known as the ‘father of nations’.

All of those things were in fact proof that God was indeed truthful to His Covenant, and had kept His words and promises. The Lord has promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, so many people that they will number more than the grains of sand in the shores and more than the stars in the universe. That was made at the time when Abraham was still yet childless and his wife Sarah was barren, and after many years, there had not been any child born from them yet. God would fulfil the promises He made, as Abraham had the promised child and son, and from his bloodline, came forth many people of many nations. Not only that but He still cared and kept His Covenant with all of those descendants, to the people whom He had called and chosen to be His own. He still cared for them and loved them even after they had frequently rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the continuation of the confrontation between the Lord Jesus and the Jewish people in Jerusalem. The Jewish people assembled were angry against the Lord because of what He had done and taught, and revealed before them, especially as He referred to God as His own heavenly Father, which was indeed the truth. They refused to accept the fact that this Man before them, the Son of a mere carpenter from the backwater village of Nazareth, in Galilee at the periphery of the Jewish world could be anyone special, less a Prophet, and even less so as the Son of God, the Messiah and Saviour of the whole world. They took offence at the Lord when He said that He had known Abraham and existed before Abraham ever was. That was the truth, and the Lord has patiently revealed and explained it all to them, but in their pride and arrogance, those people closed their hearts and minds to Him.

Back then, those Jewish people were those who were especially particular about the Law of God and His commandments, as those who kept strictly the various rules, precepts, rites and various customs of their ancestors. They took great pride in their inheritance and the efforts they placed in their piety and observance of the Law of God. That was why they were unhappy and angered by the Lord Jesus and His teachings, His revelation and words which challenged their traditional understanding of the world and way of life, and threatened the influence that the elites among them, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law held. That was why they hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to listen to the truth and wisdom that God had revealed to all of them through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded today of all these things by the Lord, we are all called to remind ourselves of the Covenant that He has made and renewed with us, and which He had renewed for once and for all, for eternity through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour by His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross. It was by His selfless and willing sacrifice on our behalf, in caring for us and loving us that God has extended His ever generous love and grace towards us, in embracing us like a most loving and caring Father. He is always faithful to His Covenant and He remembers all the promises that He had made with us, and wants only our well-being and reconciliation with Him. For without God and separated from Him, there can be no life and true joy within us. We shall have no hope at all without the Lord by our side.

That is why, as we are soon about to enter into the most solemn and important moments of our whole entire liturgical year, the upcoming Holy Week and Easter Triduum, all of us should spend the time well to reflect on our way of life and our actions. We should think of whether our lives and actions have been reflecting well on our Christian faith and identity, and whether we have listened to the Lord and Him calling upon us all to follow Him. Have we placed the Lord as the centre and focus of our lives and existence? If our answer is no then the question is, ‘Why have we not done so yet?’ And if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of worldly glory, fame, attachment to worldly pleasures and desires like how those Jewish people at the time of the Lord’s ministry and what their leaders had done, then I am afraid that we may find it difficult to be truly faithful to God.

Let us all therefore embark on a journey of rediscovering our faith in God and our love for Him, filling our hearts and minds with God’s ever wonderful presence and grace. Let us all be like our father in faith, Abraham, the most faithful servant of God, in how he devoted his life to the Lord and followed Him with great trust in everything that He has promised him. May the Lord continue to bless us in our every efforts and journey, and guide us that we may be strengthened and encouraged amidst the many trials and challenges that we may have to face in our path forward as Christians. May God be with us always and be our Hope, Strength and Inspiration as we continue to follow Him in our lives, walking in the footsteps of Abraham, our father in faith, and our many other holy predecessors. Let us all prepare ourselves well especially for the upcoming Holy Week and Easter Triduum, and strive to be ever closer to the Lord, our most loving God and Father. Amen.

Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.

Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 17 : 3-9

Abram fell face down and God said to him, “This is My covenant with you : you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram, but Abraham, because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you more and more famous; I will multiply your descendants; nations shall spring from you, kings shall be among your descendants.”

“And I will establish a covenant, an everlasting covenant between Myself and you and your descendants after you; from now on I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you, for generations to come. I will give to you and your descendants after you the land you are living in, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be the God of your race.”

God said to Abraham, “For your part, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation.”

Wednesday, 29 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, we are called to remember our calling as Christians to be truly faithful to God and not to be only superficially faithful to Him. This means that in our way of life and dedication to Him, in our every actions and deeds, we have to be truly committed and be truly full of faith in all things, and not doing things merely to fulfil our obligations and faith to the Lord without true and genuine love for Him, and without true desire to seek Him and serve Him. If we do not truly love God then we are no better than hypocrites and all those who have no place in God’s grace and salvation, which He offers freely to those who have true and genuine faith in Him. Our Scripture passages today remind us that being faithful to the Lord entails more than just having a superficial faith.

In fact, just as we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of Daniel, we are brought right into the great challenges and trials that our predecessors had faced in the past just for being faithful to God and for standing up for their faith. We heard the confrontation between the three friends of Daniel and the great King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. As we all may be familiar with, back then, the people of God, the descendants of the Israelites had been scattered and cast out from their homeland by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, who crushed the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah respectively, carrying many of the people into exile in faraway lands. That was how Daniel and his friends, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah ended up in the land of Babylon. They were bereft of homeland, honour and any semblance of worldly anchor, being homeless and without bearing in that ever changing world they lived in.

Then, in that particular occasion, as they were assembled by the King of Babylon, who had just built a great golden statue in his own image, they faced the great quandary and trial of having to obey the king’s order to everyone, for them to worship that golden statue, in the likeness of the king, who was known for his great megalomania and prideful personality, likening himself to a divinity, making himself essentially like a god. All of the people save for the three friends of Daniel bent their knees and bowed down, worshipping the golden statue under the pain of certain suffering and death if they did not obey the orders of the king. But those friends of Daniel refused to obey the king’s order and remained standing, refusing to betray the Lord their God and worship that false golden idol even if that meant endangering their own lives. They did not want to save their lives by turning their backs on the Lord.

They could have chosen to worship superficially and pretended to obey the king’s order, but in doing so, even if they did not intend to worship the idol, but their action could bring scandal to the Lord and to their faith in Him. Others who saw their actions would then see the fickle nature of their faith to God, and how easy it was for them to give up their faith in Him, at least from what was discernible through their actions. That is why, all of us should note how Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah all chose to suffer and die rather than betraying the Lord through their actions, and they chose to remain truly faithful and not just being superficial in their faith and way of life. This is why they remained unshaken in their commitment to God and did not obey the king’s commands, even under the pain of certain suffering and death. The king was angered even more by their answer to his question and demand on them to obey his will, as he threw them into the great furnace made even hotter than before.

Yet God did not abandon them, and kept them from harm, as He sent His Angel to guard them and to protect them from the flames. Thus, the friends of Daniel were spared from the dangers of death and suffering, and that so amazed the proud and haughty King of Babylon, that he tore down the great golden statue that he himself had built. The Lord showed His love for His faithful ones, and protected them, and showed that He is truly the One and only True God worthy of worship. And the faith and commitment which the friends of Daniel, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah should be sources of inspiration and strength for each one of us to follow, so that we may also walk in the path that they had trodden, and that we may also have the courage that they had, in remaining truly faithful to God and in being truthful in how they lived their lives, in obedience to God, in all things.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord being confronted by the Jewish people, many of them adhering to the ways of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who spent a lot of time and effort enforcing a particularly strict version of the Law of God, and yet, in their excessive pursuit of religious purity and in being extra rigid in their way of observing the Law, they ended up forgetting most of the time why they practiced their faith in the manner that they had lived them. They became proud and haughty like that of the King of Babylon, and took great pride in their way of observing the Law, and condemning all those who disagreed with them, or those who did not practice the Law in the way that they had done it. This was them building up their own ‘idols’ in their hearts and lives, namely the ‘idol of pride’, the ‘idol of fame and worldly glory’, among the other ‘idols’ that they had made.

Essentially, their faith had become mostly superficial in nature, and there was barely any space or focus on the Lord in their hearts and minds. They were all too busy with observing the multitudes of precepts and details of the Law, the many fine details and rites, that they forgot about loving God and putting Him as the focus of their lives in the first place. They became proud and arrogant, and self-righteous in nature, condemning instead of helping all those whom God had actually entrusted to them as leaders and guides. They kept these away from the Lord’s grace and love, and from His salvation, instead of bringing them closer to the Lord as God Himself has intended. That was why the Lord chided and rebuked them for their lack of true and genuine faith in God, and He told them that their way of living their faith was truly wrong.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our way of life and ask ourselves if we have been faithful to the Lord as we should have. Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, making good use of the opportunities and the time provided for us in this season of Lent, that we may lead a life that is more attuned to the Lord, and be ever closer to Him, in each and every moments of our lives. May God continue to guide us and inspire us all to live ever more worthily of Him, by doing whatever we can to glorify Him by our lives and actions. May God bless our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.