Thursday, 9 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (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 all reminded of the need for us to do what is right and just before the Lord and man alike, and to shun the path of wickedness and evil. All of us as Christians are expected to do what is right and just, worthy and good as our Lord has taught and shown us to do. This season of Lent in particular we are reminded of our weakness and vulnerabilities to sin, our wickedness and evils, all of our failures to do what God wanted us to do, and everything that had kept us away from the fullness of God’s grace and love. If we continue to walk down the path of disobedience and evil, then we ought to know that it will lead us to damnation and ruin, and eternity of regret, when the time comes for us. On the other hand, those who keep their faith in God will not be disappointed, as God is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He had made with us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which God spoke His words to His people through Jeremiah, to the people and the kingdom of Judah that Jeremiah had been sent to minister in, during the final days of the existence of that kingdom. Jeremiah was sent to a people who had lived in sin and often disobeyed God, leaving and abandoning Him for the pagan idols and gods, persecuting the prophets and messengers that God had sent them patiently and constantly in order to remind them and to call them kindly to repent and turn away from their sinful ways. Jeremiah himself was persecuted, hated and often ridiculed, and even treated and considered as a traitor for his words and actions that were considered as treasonous, as he spoke of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, that would happen because of the people’s continued sins against God.

The Lord spoke the truth to them, as He presented the fact of how those who continued to disobey Him and depended on worldly and human strength, would fail and falter, as the people and kingdom of Judah would regret later on, because they chose to depend on the powers of the world, on their idols and politics rather than to depend on God. The then king of Judah, Zedekiah, who would be the last king of Judah, chose to depend on the power of Egypt and its Pharaoh, and rebelled against the Babylonians, who ruled over the land, resulting directly in a punitive expedition that led to the destruction of Jerusalem, its Temple and the destruction of the kingdom of Judah, beginning a painful many decades long period of exile for many of the people living in Judah, cast out and exiled from their ancestral lands.

That was indeed the fate of those who were wicked and those who refused to put their faith in God. Jeremiah and many other prophets had repeatedly reminded them, only to be faced with hard hearted rejection and stubborn attitudes, persecution and even martyrdom. But the Lord still loved His people and continued to send them help and reminder, and when they repented and turned away from their sinful ways, having been humiliated and suffered during their exile, God brought them back to their own land, and moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to allow His people to return to their homeland, and even to reestablish their cities and the Temple of God in Jerusalem. All of those were eventually restored, and that was yet again another proof of how God would provide for all those who are faithful in Him and placed their trust in Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the story that the Lord Jesus told His disciples regarding a poor man named Lazarus and a rich man, both of whom had a very different kind of life, with Lazarus suffering all throughout his life with great poverty and physical suffering, while the rich man enjoyed all the bounties and good things that this world could provide. Lazarus, the poor man, sat by the door of the rich man’s house, and no one lifted a hand to help this poor man, even when he had nothing to eat at all. As we heard in the story, Lazarus hoped to eat even the crumbs and leftovers from the rich man’s table, but even that was denied from him. Eventually we heard how both Lazarus and the rich man died, and how they ended up in truly very different fate, as Lazarus ended up in Heaven with Abraham and the saints, while the rich man fell and damned into hell, to suffer for eternity.

The essence of that story is a reminder for all of us that each and every one of us as Christians are constantly being reminded to be faithful to God and to do what the Lord had told us to do, and this includes not forgetting those around us who are in need. We are all called to do what is good, and when we commit things that are evil, those are considered as sin for us. Yet, if we fail to do what we should have done, that is also sin too. That is what we know as the sin of omission, the failure to do what God had called us to do, just as the rich man could have been moved to help Lazarus, even in the smallest things he could. But he chose to look away and to ignore Lazarus, leaving him to suffer all alone and endure a most painful life in this world while he enjoyed his life amidst all the joy and celebrations.

Linking to what we have spoken and discussed about in our first reading today, regarding the prophet Jeremiah and what God had told His people, all of us are reminded in particular during this season of Lent of the dangers of worldly attachments and temptations. If we allow those things to mislead us, just in the way how the people of Judah, God’s own people had turned away from God and sought to satisfy their own selfish desires, then we may likely end up in the same fate as well, like that of the rich man, who might have been so distracted and tempted by worldly riches and glory that he failed to recognise what the Lord has called him to do with his life, his calling and all the responsibilities he had given the blessings and graces that he had been blessed with. God is not against the rich or us being wealthy, but we must discern how to make good use of our blessings and riches in life, not only for our own good but for everyone.

Today perhaps we should look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. Frances of Rome, a holy woman and servant of God, who had dedicated her life to follow and serve the Lord. St. Frances of Rome was a wife and mother who was known in her role of caring for the poor and the sick in her community. St. Frances spent a lot of time and effort in reaching out to the less fortunate all around her, and when she became a widow, she even made part of her own family’s country estate into a hospital for the poor and the sick. She experienced a lot of hardships, challenges and difficulties throughout her life and ministry, but all those things did not discourage her from continuing to carry out her work and mission, and inspiring many others to follow her examples and doing what they could to care for the good of the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore discern carefully our path in life through this season of Lent, so that we may truly find our way forward, living our lives with faith and commit our time and effort to love God more and to love one another as well, distancing ourselves from sin and turning back once more towards God. Let us all be more generous in giving, in giving our love for others around us, those who need our help, like what St. Frances of Rome had done, and many others. Let us not forget that as Christians, it is our calling and in fact, obligation to do what the Lord had always called on us to do, in serving Him and in loving our fellow men and women. May God bless us always, and may He guide us in our journey, and help us through this blessed season and time of Lent. Amen.

Thursday, 9 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Thursday, 9 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 9 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 17 : 5-10

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness.”

“Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.”

“Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, YHVH, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.”

Wednesday, 8 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord, we are all presented with the reality of what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be followers and disciples of the Lord. To be Christians means that our lives have to be centred on Christ and His truth, and we have to resist the temptations of worldly glory and attachments, which may lead us down the wrong path. To be Christians we also have to be prepared to face disagreements and even sufferings because of the incompatibility of some of our beliefs with that commonly accepted by the world. It is whether we are able to remain rooted in faith and strong in our willingness to follow the Lord, that we can remain firm in the path that God has shown us and led us through, to reach His grace and salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the hardships and challenges faced by Jeremiah during his ministry, as he faced opposition from many of those that disagreed with him and refused to believe in his words, and resisted the attempts by Jeremiah to call them all to repentance. Jeremiah has been sent by God to minister among the kingdom and the people of Judah, who had fallen into evil ways, turning away from God and His path. The Lord has always been patient with His beloved people, reaching out to them and showing them His love, and yet, they stubbornly refused to believe in Him and persecuted the ones whom God had sent to them including that of Jeremiah. Many of the false prophets and the leaders of the people plotted against Jeremiah, and they almost managed to kill Him if not for God’s kind providence.

God showed Jeremiah His help and kindness as He moved the heart of the king of Judah and also the few remaining allies that he still had among the people of Judah, who rescued Jeremiah from his predicament and kept him hidden and safe until the time of the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. Everything turned out to be exactly just as how the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied it to be, and God’s warnings that went unheeded caused the people of God to be scattered and humiliated for their disobedience against Him, losing not just the Temple and House of the Lord that has been the centre and focal point of the people of God, but also the city of Jerusalem itself and the institution of the kingdom of God’s people. Through this, God showed that those who have kept their faith in Him will triumph in the end, and will be remembered by Him, while those who have refused to walk in His path, would suffer the right consequences for their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord to His disciples especially regarding what it truly means to be His disciples and followers, and what it is that they were all called to do in their lives, as the servants of God’s truth and love. We heard of how the brothers, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee and two of the closest among the Lord’s own disciples came up to Him with their own mother, asking for special privileges and favours over that of the other disciples. This led to the ire and jealousy of the other disciples who became angry at the two of them. The Lord rebuked all of them, and told them all that following Him is not about what they might imagine, as it was likely that they were all trying to seek favours from the Lord, to gain position, privileges and rewards that were better than that received by the others.

They were all looking at things from a rather worldly perspective, seeking for things of this world like fame, glory, renown, wealth, greatness among other things. As such, this was why they were unable to realise that the Lord’s coming into this world was not to give them all those worldly satisfactions and pleasures, achievements and glories. Instead, He came into this world to reach out to us all and to be reconciled with us, and also to teach us what it truly means for us to be the followers and disciples of the Lord, to be His faithful and committed people. He told St. James and St. John, that following Him would result in a lot of hardships and challenges, which He metaphorically mentioned as drinking the cup that He Himself was to drink. This was a reference to His upcoming Passion, suffering and death, all of which He endured out of love for us.

Essentially, if the world itself has persecuted the Lord and rejected Him, as what would happen to the Lord Jesus, rejected, betrayed even by one of His own closest disciples, humiliated and made to bear the punishments for sins and mistakes that were not His, then all of us, who are His disciples and followers, will likely face a similar rejection, condemnation, scrutiny, hardships and trials as well. This was what the prophet Jeremiah and many other prophets and servants of the Lord had experienced, as they were persecuted and made to suffer for their devotion and faith in the Lord, for having stood up for their faith, and for tirelessly doing everything that God had commanded them to do. That is why, today, as we continue to journey through this season of Lent, all of us are called to examine our way of life and our direction going forward.

Are we going to continue to walk down the path of sinfulness and evil, and continue to be swayed by the many temptations all around us? Or are we going to commit ourselves to the path of God’s righteousness and holiness? The Lord has given us all the freedom to choose our own path in life, whether we want to follow Him or to walk away from Him. And ideally of course, we should do whatever we can to follow Him, and to do His will. That is why today, all of us ought to remember the holy life and works of one of our great predecessors, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. John of God was a great man and servant of God who was a soldier that turned into a healthcare worker, living about five centuries earlier than our time. He was kidnapped from his family at an early age and was raised to be a soldier, but he became disillusioned with his way of life and turned towards the Lord.

St. John of God spent years on the road seeking for the meaning of life and faced many struggles during those years of hardships and changes. Yet, eventually he encountered the Lord and went through a great conversion of heart, as he heard the sermon of another great saint, that was St. John of Avila. This led him to begin many works of charity and outreach to the poor and the suffering all around him. He ministered to them and became a great and renowned healthcare worker, who inspired many others to follow in his footsteps. This eventually became the foundation of what was to be known as the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God after their patron and founder. Until his passing from this world, he continued to labour for the good of the people of God and for the care of the sick and those who suffer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples and life of St. John of God showed us that becoming a true disciple and follower of our Lord is not something that is easy for us. We may encounter many hardships and trials in our journey, but God will always be there by our side, strengthening and supporting us throughout the way. This is what we should be inspired to do as well, in doing what God has commanded us all to do, to love Him and our fellow brothers and sisters more and more with each and every passing moments. Let us all therefore make good use of this season of Lent to redirect our efforts and attention in life, away from worldly excesses and sin, and instead focus our attention more on God and His Law and precepts, and do whatever we can to walk faithfully in His path, shunning worldly glory and ambition, now and always. May God be with us all and bless our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 20 : 17-28

At that time, when Jesus was going to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples and said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem. There the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, who will condemn Him to death. They will hand Him over to the foreigners, who will mock Him, scourge Him and crucify Him. But He will be raised to life on the third day.”

Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here You have my two sons. Grant that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, when You are in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup, but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations act as tyrants over them, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be more important in your community shall make himself your servant.”

“And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man Who has come, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Wednesday, 8 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 30 : 5-6, 14, 15-16

Free me from the snare that they have set for me. Indeed You are my Protector. Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I hear whispering among the crowd, rumours that frighten me from every side – their conspiracies, their schemes, their plot to take my life.

But I put my trust in You, o Lord, I said : “You are my God;” my days are in Your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, from those after my skin.

Wednesday, 8 March 2023 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 18 : 18-20

Then, they said, “Come, let us plot against Jeremiah, for even without him, there will be priests to interpret the Teachings of the Law; there will always be wisemen to impart counsel and prophets to proclaim the word. Come, let us accuse him and strike him down instead of listening to what he says.”

Hear me, o YHVH! Listen to what my accusers say. Is evil the reward for good? Why do they dig a grave for me? Remember how I stood before You to speak well on their behalf so that Your anger might subside.

Friday, 17 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures that highlighted to us the importance of obedience to God and entrusting ourselves to the Lord and His path, and we have to walk in God’s path while obeying His will and commandments as Christians, or else we cannot truly call or consider ourselves as genuine people of God or His followers, as each one of us will be expected to do what is right and just in our every actions and deeds throughout our lives, in even the smallest and least significant things we may do in our lives, in our every moments, we may always put the Lord at the forefront and centre of our lives and existence, and not to fall into the temptations of evil and sin, which had led our predecessors down into the wrong paths.

In our first reading for example, we heard the well-known story and tale of the building of the Tower of Babel, a great tower that man planned on building and which supposedly would rise to reach the Heaven itself. Back then, probably just a few generations since the Great Flood of Noah, which we have heard in the past few days of Scripture readings, mankind had once again flourished and prospered, and rebuilt the civilisation and the communities that had been completely destroyed and eradicated by the Great Flood, which God sent into the world to cleanse it from all the wickedness of all the sons and daughters of man, which was so great that except for Noah and his family, no one else deserved to be saved.

However, as we evidently can notice from what we heard in our first reading passage today, the descendants of man through Noah did not learn much from the lessons of their ancestors, as they began to commit sin once again, disobeying God and growing proud upon their power and achievements, and they began to plan to ascend even to the heights of Heaven itself, which would indeed mirror and is a parallel of what happened when Satan, our great enemy and the Deceiver, fell from grace and power, as he tried to supplant and overthrow God as the Lord and Master of all the Universe. Back then, Lucifer, as Satan was commonly known before his fall, became full of pride and ambition, and rebelled against God, only to be defeated and thrown down from Heaven.

In a similar manner therefore, we heard how those people at that time tried to build the mighty Tower of Babel and attempted to scale the heights of Heaven itself, going proud and haughty from their powers and accomplishments, and thinking that they had no need for God anymore, and that they could therefore do anything as they liked. God therefore reminded them all of their place, and sent upon them a great punishment and something which was meant to disturb and stop their foolish plan, by confusing their language and ability to understand each other. Hence, ever since then, everyone had been speaking their own languages, and no one in this world could perfectly understand everyone else in their tongues and speeches.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord Jesus telling His disciples and therefore to all of us, what we all need to do as His disciples and followers, that we all need to carry our crosses in life and follow Him faithfully, and not allowing our pride, ego, ambition, worldly desires and all sorts of temptations present all around us to distract us and to draw us away from the salvation and grace in God. The Lord reminded all of His disciples and all of us that we all need to be faithful and committed to God and His path, and resist the wickedness of the world, so that we may truly be found worthy by Him upon His coming once again into the world, and not to end up in the damnation and destruction reserved to those who are proud and haughty, like the devil himself and all others who followed his path.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as Christians, each and every one of us are reminded as always of the need for each and every one of us to align ourselves to God and His path, resisting the many temptations and efforts from the devil and all of his temptations, persuasions and pressures for us to abandon our faith and obedience to God. All of us have to remember that we need to be truly faithful and committed to God, and we have to do our best to glorify Him by our lives, and live our lives daily with faithful and good intentions, with actions that are centred on God’s path and His commandments, so that we may inspire many others on how they all can follow the Lord faithfully as well in every possible opportunities in life.

Today, all of us should follow the good examples set before us by the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, who have been called by God to a great and holy existence, and to a great mission in evangelising and inspiring the members of the Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, in everything that they said and did. These Seven Holy Founders, whose feast we celebrate today, dedicated their lives to answer God’s call through a vision that they all shared and received from God, which encouraged them to leave the wickedness of worldly ways and to dedicate themselves wholly to God, as they endeavoured to build and establish a new community of the faithful people of God, eventually known as the Servites or the Servite Order. Their great personal piety and sanctity and devotion to the Lord, as well as their love for their fellow brethren are great inspiration to all of us.

Let us all hence follow the great examples shown by these saints, so that hopefully each and every one of us may also come ever closer to God and may become good role models and sources of inspiration to each other, in our every moments and opportunities throughout life. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives faithfully in His path. May God bless us all and bless our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 17 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Mark 8 : 34 – Mark 9 : 1

At that time, Jesus called the people and His disciples, and said, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.”

“What good is it to gain the whole world, while destroying your soul? There is nothing more precious than your soul. I tell you : If anyone is ashamed of Me and of My words among this adulterous and sinful people, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the Glory of His Father with the holy Angels.”

And He went on to say, “Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power.”