Sunday, 13 March 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Lent, Third Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings spoke clearly to us the fact, the reality and the truth that in God alone there is hope, there is life, and there is the path to our future, and elsewhere, we can only find death, destruction and eternal desolation away from God and His light. In God alone can we find the help and the rescue from the darkness and the sins that are swallowing us whole and trying to pull us deep into the damnation of hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God does not desire the destruction and damnation of His most beloved creation, that is all of us mankind. He wants all of us to be redeemed from our sins, be freed from all the chains and bonds of sin that separated us from Him and be made righteous and just, worthy once again to be in His presence and to receive from Him the gift of everlasting life with Him forever.

And He does not blame us or condemn us for our sins, as long as we are willing to change ourselves and be freed from those sins that are plaguing us. God is in fact giving us plenty of opportunities for us to turn away from our sinful ways and to reject all forms of wickedness and evil, and follow a new path and a new life founded on faith and love for the Lord.

In the Gospel reading we heard today, we heard how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were working together to trap Jesus and to find blame in Him so that they might arrest Him. And therefore they brought upon Him an adulterous woman who had been caught in the act hoping that Jesus would side with her and thus they would find a reason to frame Him, or if He sided with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law instead, then they could discredit His teachings as an attempt to usurp their authority and as a mere copycat.

But Jesus did not entertain their attempts to trap Him, and He did not budge even though these people stubbornly tried to disturb and undermine His works openly in many occasions. And He plainly and simply mentioned a basic and simple truth, that many of them failed to see themselves, that they are all sinners, big or small, young or old, without exception. And as sinners as they were, they had no right to judge or condemn others for their sins, because then they themselves would be judged according to their own sins.

And this is why when Jesus told the people wanting to stone the adulterous woman, that the one who is without sin may cast the first stone, everyone eventually left the place, beginning from the older one and last to leave were the younger ones. The more years we live in this world, the more sins, unfaithfulness, wickedness and vile things we have committed before God and men alike.

And just as the adulterous woman was condemned to suffering and painful death, certainly the people wanting to stone her to death also felt the pangs and pain in their hearts knowing that for all that they have committed in life, either openly or secretly, they would be judged in the same manner, and thus fear appeared in their minds and they fled, knowing that if they judged her and cast the stone at her, then they would just add even more sins to themselves, and that would make them to be judged even more.

This is an important lesson for all of us, that no matter how wicked someone we know are, we should not be quick to judge and to dismiss that person as hopeless. We should remember that we ourselves were without hope and were certain of damnation before the Lord Jesus came into the world and showed us that there is indeed a path out of the darkness and into the light.

And just as the Lord had shown mercy on all of us, then we too, imperfect and sinful as we are, all the more that we should show mercy on one another too. God had shown mercy on His people, even though they were sinners, dirty, corrupted and unworthy in the presence of He Who is perfect and all good. And He did not give up on us, no matter how far it was that we have fallen into sin.

But are we all realising what we must do in order to accept God’s rich offer of mercy? He has given us so many opportunities and paths through which we may find our way to Him, but many of us have yet to realise the urgency of such a move as is necessary for us to attain salvation and liberation from the fate of destruction that is awaiting all those who are still living in the state of sin.

We cannot be passive or be ignorant about our sins, and we have to do something if we are going to free ourselves from the trap of sin. This means that we have to take heed of what Jesus had said to the adulterous woman, that while He does not condemn her but she must sin no more. If she continues to live in sin and refuse to change her ways, then eventually she has to bear consequences for her sins and be responsible and accountable for it.

That is why in this season of Lent, the Church is helping us to control ourselves and to make ourselves more disciplined in our lives. Through fasting we control the desires of our body, by learning to control our desire for food and for pleasures of the flesh. And through abstinence, we limit and control the urges our bodies, our minds and our hearts have, to do things that are not in accordance with the Lord.

In the Gospel which is read today when there are catechumens or candidates preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, it is about the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, when Jesus our Lord brought him back from death into life, and restored hope to his sisters, Martha and Mary, and brought joy to many others. Jesus showed clearly in this example, how He is the Lord of life, the Source of all living things.

Therefore, if we only put our trust in our own human strength, in our desires and in the strength of our bodies and minds, we will surely fail, for without God, we are truly nothing and without true life. And when we sin, we make ourselves go further away from the Lord, and we distance ourselves from the life that we can only gain in Him. And if we do not turn around, we shall be lost forever, and endure eternal death and suffering in hell.

In this season of Lent, thus, let us all reflect on our own lives, on our actions, words and deeds. Have we been faithful to God in all things? And have we devoted our time to God and obey Him in all of His laws and commandments? This means that have we been truly faithful in our actions, through which we can bring good things or pain and suffering for others? It is the choice that we now have, and the opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

Let us all renew our faith and commit ourselves to God once again, and let us turn ourselves into a new life, that with the approaching celebration of Easter, we may celebrate it with full vigour and with full faith in our Lord, and be made righteous by our faith, and by our actions and deeds that validate that faith we have in God. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 13 March 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Lent, Third Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 1-11

At that time, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak He appeared in the Temple again. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone. “Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but you, what do you say?” They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against Him.

Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. And as they continued to ask Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And He bent down again, writing on the ground.

As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and do not sin again.”

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

John 11 : 1-45

At that time, there was a sick man named Lazarus who was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This is the same Mary, who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was sick.

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” They replied, “Master, recently the Jews wanted to stone You. Are You going there again?”

Jesus said to them, “Are not twelve working hours needed to complete a day? Those who walk in the daytime shall not stumble, for they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, for there is no light in them.” After that Jesus said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him.” The disciples replied, “Lord, a sick person who sleeps will recover.”

But Jesus had referred to Lazarus’ death, while they thought that he had meant the repose of sleep. So Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there, for now you may believe. But let us go there, where he is.” Then Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. As Bethany is near Jerusalem, about two miles away, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.

And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.”

But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

After that Martha went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The Master is here and is calling for you.” As soon as Mary heard this, she rose and went to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him.

The Jews, who were with her in the house consoling her, also came. When they saw her get up and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep. As for Mary, when she came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, who had come with her, He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it.

Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now He will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

Alternative reading (shorter version of Readings from Year A)

John 11 : 3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.

And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.”

But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.” He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it.

Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now He will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

Sunday, 13 March 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Lent, Third Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Philippians 3 : 8-14

Still more, everything seems to me as nothing compared with the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord. For His sake I have let everything fall away and I now consider all as garbage, if instead I may gain Christ.

May I be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but with the righteousness that God gives to those who believe. May I know Him and experience the power of His resurrection and share in His sufferings and become like Him in His death, and attain through this, God willing, the resurrection from the dead!

I do not believe I have already reached the goal, nor do I consider myself perfect, but I press on till I conquer Christ Jesus, as I have already been conquered by Him. No, brothers and sisters, I do not claim to have claimed the prize yet. I say only this : forgetting what is behind me, I race forward and run towards the goal, my eyes on the prize to which God has called us from above in Christ Jesus.

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

Romans 8 : 8-11

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him. But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the Spirit is life and holiness.

And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit Who dwells within you.

Sunday, 13 March 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Lent, Third Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When the Lord brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o Lord, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness, and for that You are revered.

I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn. O Israel, hope in the Lord.

For with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.

Sunday, 13 March 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Lent, Third Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 43 : 16-21

Thus says YHVH, Who opened a way through the sea and a path in the mighty waters, Who brought down chariots and horses, a whole army of them, and there they lay, never to rise again, snuffed out like a wick. But do not dwell on the past, or remember the things of old.

Look, I am doing a new thing : now it springs forth. Do you not see? I am opening up a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beasts of the land will honour Me, jackals and ostriches, because I give water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert that My chosen people may drink. I have formed this people for Myself; they will proclaim My praise.

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

Ezekiel 37 : 12-14

So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! when I open your graves and bring you out of your graves, when I put My Spirit in you and you live.

I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.