Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded of the need for us to return to the Lord and to remember His love and mercy, particularly during this blessed penitential time and season of Lent, when we prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Holy Week and Easter. We are all called to remember our responsibility and obligations as Christians, to be exemplary in our way of life and to obey the Law and commandments of God in all things. We are reminded to love God and our neighbours above all else, and even perhaps more than how we love ourselves. Definitely we should not allow our own selfishness and self-love to end up causing us to forget about our duties and responsibilities as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own.

In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord made to His people through His prophet Hosea, calling on them to repent from their wicked and sinful ways, embracing His love and mercy, and returning to His loving grace and compassion. The prophet Hosea back then lived and ministered to the people of God during the final decades and years of the northern kingdom of Israel, which were made of much of the ten of the twelve tribes of the Israelites that broke off from the rule of the House of David. That northern kingdom had spent most of its history and time in rebellion and disobedience against God, as their kings did not obey God and His Law, refusing to follow His commandments and words, and as such led the people down the path of sin and evil. They had been misled by their own wicked desires and the inability to resist the temptations of the world.

That was why the Lord was angry at those people who had repeatedly rejected His kindness and love, hardened their hearts and minds and refused to listen to Him. Not only that, but they also even persecuted those prophets and messengers that God had sent into their midst to help and guide them down the right path. They had no regard for God and His truth, and preferred to live their lives in their own terms and ways. That led them further and further into the path of sin, and into their downfall. They were punished for their delinquence and stubbornness, and their enemies fell upon them one after another, as God pronounced His judgment over them, telling them how they would be scattered and having their homeland and kingdom destroyed by their own actions. But then, the Lord also told them that in the end, despite all that, God still loved them and cared for them.

God did not want them all to end up being cast out into the utter darkness and destruction, as after all, He loves each and every single one of us, without exception, even to the worst of sinners among us. However, what He truly despises is our many sins and wickedness, and our refusal to listen to His words and reminders, our stubbornness and arrogance among other things. Those are the things that have often led many among us to continue to walk down the path of rebellion and evil, and hence, He calls on every one of us through what we have heard from the prophet Hosea, to turn away from all sorts of wickedness and evils, all the things that can often lead us down the path of sin and destruction. He wants us all to remember His Law and commandments, which He has presented before us so that they may become our guide and help in our journey towards His salvation and grace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the conversation between a teacher of the Law and the Lord Jesus in which the former asked the Lord what among the commandments of God is the most important commandment in the Law of God. Whether the intention was to test the Lord or out of pure curiosity is open to interpretation, but essentially, the Lord told the teacher of the Law that the whole entire Law of God, its commandments and precepts, all of them can be summarised completely into two main Law, that is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and with all of our might, and to love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, in the same manner as well. The whole entire Ten Commandments indeed describe these two Law perfectly, and also the many other commandments and precepts of God’s Law, as revealed through Moses and the prophets.

Unfortunately, as time went on, the knowledge and understanding of the Law of God, its true intention and purpose had become warped and altered, as the Law of God no longer became the means by which the people of God came to be closer to Him, and instead, the people became focused more on how the Law was to be practiced and enforced, the rituals and the practices, the details and the intricacies of those rites became paramount and more important than the meaning and the intention of the Law. This was why so many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were criticised by the Lord for their irrational and particularly strict interpretation of the Law, which was also warped by the many additions and alterations done throughout the centuries which did not always remain faithful to the original intent and purpose of the Law as God taught and revealed it to His people.

The Law was meant to teach the people to remember God first and foremost in their lives, and to place Him as the main centre of attention and focus of their lives. It is a reminder that first of all, God loves us all, and He wants us all to be with Him, and to be with Him, Who is full of love, we too must be filled with the same kind of love, love that is unconditional and selfless, which brings us to love God Himself first, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, just as the Lord wanted us to do in our lives. Unfortunately, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees made the Law to be such an oppressive and rigid set of rules, that it even drove people away from the path of the Lord, as many found it hard to follow such a way, and many others still were even openly discriminated against by those same people whom the Lord had entrusted with the care of His Law, commandments, precepts and teachings.

That was why the Lord came into our midst to reveal before us the true intention of His actions, His Law and commandments, and remind us yet again of His desire to be reconciled with each and every one of us. As mentioned earlier, that while we may have indeed greatly sinned against God, but God wants us to seek Him and to be reconciled with Him, to be forgiven from our many faults and sins. He wants us to learn again how to love Him and how to love one another, distancing ourselves from the kind of selfishness and pride, the greed and jealousy, lust and all the attachments we had to worldly desires and things which often became great obstacles in our path towards Him and His salvation. That is why today we should remind ourselves that we should get rid from our midst all those things that kept us away from God, and follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and a great saint, whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Patrick was a well-known missionary of the faith, who was born in the area of Britain in the fifth century, and it was told that he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates in his youth, before he managed to flee and eventually made his way back to his homeland, where he studied to become a missionary and a priest. He went to the mainland Europe and was then appointed as a priest and missionary, sent to the region of Ireland, and became the first bishop of the land, where there were still mainly pagan populations throughout the whole island. St. Patrick ministered faithfully and patiently to the people of Ireland, spending many years reaching out to them, to the kings, the nobles and the commoners alike, and managed to touch many hearts and many lives, convincing quite a lot of people to turn away from sins and their old idols, and became followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take the good examples of the life and the works of St. Patrick to inspire us in how we should live our own lives as Christians, loving God first and foremost, and dedicating ourselves to Him and His cause, and also loving one another in the same manner, remembering the patient love that both God and St. Patrick had shown to those who were beloved to them. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and grace that we may follow Him with great faith and commitment, from now on, and walk always ever in His path. May God continue to guide us and bless us in our journey of faith throughout this life. May God bless us always, in all of our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we are all reminded both of the dangers and the threats of sin and evil present all around us, and at the same time we are also reassured through what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, of the guidance, help and providence which God has given us, just as the examples highlighted of the past, our predecessors should inspire and strengthen our faith and resolve to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and faithfully, entrusting ourselves completely and wholeheartedly to the cause of the Lord, and to be ever righteous, good and worthy of Him in all of our lives.

In our first reading today, we heard of the well-known story of the time when God sent a Great Flood to wipe out almost the entire race of mankind and other living things, due to the great wickedness of many of them who refused to believe in Him, and their continued disobedience and rebellion against the Lord and His Law. All of these great wickedness had come into the world due to the disobedience of man against God’s will and commandments, and then as we have just heard earlier in yesterday’s readings, on the murder of Abel by Cain, his own brother, the temptations of pride, ego, worldly sins and wickedness, all of these had led mankind further and further down the path towards evil and damnation.

As we heard in that passage from the Book of Genesis today, God was determined to save the only ones among the people who were still righteous and obedient to the will of the Lord, namely Noah and his family. That was how Noah was instructed by God to construct the immense Ark by which he would save not only his own family but also the living things all over the world, which God had chosen to spare amidst the destruction that He would bring to cleanse the world from all the wickedness, sins and evils. God showed how He treasured those whom He loves and cares for, those who are faithful to Him, while those who refused to obey Him and continued to live in sin, will suffer the just consequences for their wickedness.

We heard how the Ark saved Noah and his family amidst all the destruction of the Great Flood. The other people laughed at Noah when he built the Ark and refused to listen to his warnings and heedings, and hence, no one else save from Noah and his family were saved from the Flood. The whole world was covered with the wrath of God’s Flood, and was cleansed from all the wickedness that had afflicted it throughout. Noah was saved in the Ark, and when the Flood receded, we heard how God promised Noah and his descendants, that is all of us, that He would never again destroy the world and us with the water, with the rainbow as the sign of this promise. That is the story how rainbow appears after the rain, as reminders to both God and us of what had happened once.

This does not mean however that sin has no more consequences afterwards. Sin is still afflicting us, and through disobedience and sin, many more people since the days of Noah would fall into sin, right up to the present day. The Lord however did not give up on us and continued to love us and care for us, as He sent us His promised salvation in Jesus Christ, His own beloved and begotten Son, Who gave Himself to us, walking in our midst and reaching out to us, encouraging and strengthening us with the concrete show of God’s love and compassionate mercy. Through Him, we have seen yet again the proof of God’s ever enduring and persistent love for all of us. He has shown us His love as mentioned the Gospel passage today, by His feeding of the multitudes and many thousands of people.

At the same time, He also warned His disciples of the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ and the ‘yeast of Herod’, which were actually reminders to them and also all of us to be ever vigilant against the temptations and allures of sin which are always present all around us. If we are not careful, we may end up falling into the same pride, ego and ambitions which became the downfall of many of the Pharisees, who refused to believe in the Lord because they hardened their hearts and minds, and remained in their stubborn refusal to believe. Meanwhile, the ‘yeast of Herod’ is a reminder for all of us not to allow the vices of worldly pleasures, the corruption of the sins of the flesh to mislead and corrupt us down the wrong path in life. We have to resist those temptations to sin and remain virtuous, good and worthy of God all the time, remembering all the good things and the love that God has lavished on us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence today let us all discern our path in life very carefully, minding the examples shown to us from the time of Noah and the Great Flood, to the sins of the Pharisees and Herod which the Lord warned His disciples against, and all the loving actions that God had done for us. Let us all also heed upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, namely the great saints and brothers, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the Patron Saints of Europe and great missionaries of the Christian faith, renowned for their great commitment to the spreading and proclamation of the Good News of God amidst the Slavic peoples, who were still mostly pagan back then, and by whose works, many of them eventually turned to the Christian faith and embracing the Lord as their Saviour and God.

They spent a lot of time and effort to evangelise in various places, and at the same time also developing the alphabets for the Slavic peoples that will eventually be known as the Glagolitic and the Cyrillic alphabets, and they also spent a lot of energy in reaching out to many people, both the rulers and the commoners alike, in introducing God and His truth to all of them. God has truly done His many great and wonderful works amongst His people through St. Cyril and St. Methodius. He has led them all to do His great deeds, and He has strengthened us all through their great inspiration and actions as our great role models. Can we all follow the Lord faithfully in the same way that St. Cyril and St. Methodius had done, brothers and sisters?

Let us all hence draw ever closer to the Lord, and let us continue to dedicate our time, our lives, actions and efforts to glorify the Lord by our lives, by our every words, actions and works in every time and in every opportunities provided to us. Let us all continue to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, distancing ourselves from sin and from the temptations to sin and to disobey the Lord, reminding ourselves and one another each time, to continue to walk the path of God’s righteousness and love, at all times. May God be with us always, and may He bless us in our every good works and endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9-10

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.

The God of glory thunders, the Lord strips the forests bare, and in His Temple all cry, “Glory!” Over the flood the Lord was sitting; the Lord is King and He reigns forever.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 6 : 5-8 and Genesis 7 : 1-5, 10

YHVH saw how great was the wickedness of man on the earth and that evil was always the only thought of his heart. YHVH regretted having created man on the earth and His heart grieved. He said, “I will destroy man whom I created and blot him out from the face of the earth, as well as the beasts, creeping creatures and birds, for I am sorry I made them.” But Noah was pleasing to God.

YHVH said to Noah, “Go into the Ark, you and all your household, for I see that you are just in this generation. Of all the clean animals, you are to take with you seven of each kind, male and female, and a pair of unclean animals, a male and a female. In the same way for the birds of the air, take seven and seven, male and female, to keep their kind alive over all the earth, for in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. I will blot out from the face of the earth all the living creatures I have created.”

Noah did all as YHVH had commanded. And after seven days the waters of the flood were over the earth.