Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to remember just how fortunate we are that God has been so loving, compassionate, caring and merciful towards us. If not for the mercy that He has shown us, and for the love that He still has for each and every one of us, enduring even the worst struggles of our sins and disobedience, we ought to have been annihilated.

In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus we heard of the well-known case when the people of Israel disobeyed the Lord and rebelled against Him at Mount Sinai, not long right after He had rescued them and brought them out of the land of Egypt, destroying the armies of the Pharaoh sent against them and freeing them from the hands and tyranny of the Egyptians.

How did Israel disobeyed and rebelled against the Lord? When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to get the Law of the Lord and the Covenant, and was up there for forty days long, the people grew impatient and lost faith in both God and Moses, and some dissidents in the community seized the chance to try and seduce the people to turn to the pagan idols, shaped like a golden calf in the manner of the Egyptian gods.

This showed that the people, especially some among them did not yet have faith in God, or even refused to have faith in Him, just as shown in how many constantly grumbled and complained that they had so much better lives in Egypt even when they were enslaved, and that they had better food and drink, all these when the Lord constantly supplied the whole people daily with the bread of heaven, manna, flock of birds to give them meat to eat, and water throughout their journey in the desert.

When Moses interceded on behalf of the people, he was trying to appease the Lord’s anger over those who had disobeyed and betrayed Him, even as He had just given to them His laws and renewed His Covenant with them. The Lord could have just annihilated the whole nation and left Moses alone as the only survivor as He said, but He withhold His anger and forgave the people because of Moses and what he pleaded with Him.

This is therefore related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today when we heard the Lord speaking to the people chastising many of them for their stubbornness and refusal to believe in Him, which was likely and especially pointed on many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who claimed to represent the authentic teachings and the laws of Moses, and yet, they had misinterpreted and misrepresented those laws.

They had forgotten the true intent and meaning of the Law of God, meant to show the way for the people to know God and to love Him. Instead, they used those laws to glorify themselves and for their own benefit, imposing on the people harsh conditions and rules that made it difficult for them to follow the Lord, while closing the door of salvation to those who needed them the most, by rejecting and ostracising those tax collectors, prostitutes and others.

That was why the Lord criticised them directly, and spoke clearly that it was Moses himself who would accuse them all before the Lord, as it was Moses who received the true Law and understood its meaning, which had been warped and changed so much by that time. And the Lord said that unless they changed their ways and turned to the true path, then they were heading to destruction.

And when the people, all mankind had sinned against the Lord, here it was the Lord Jesus Himself, Who like Moses in the past, interceded on behalf of the people. The Lord Jesus, Our Saviour is the High Priest of all of us, representing us, as He offered Himself as the perfect and worthy loving sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross. Through His Passion, suffering and death, He has shed His most Precious Blood and offered on our behalf, the worthy sacrifice to atone for our sins.

Then, through His Resurrection, the Lord called on us all to follow Him to share in the new life that He has offered us through that Resurrection. Just as we have shared in His death, we too have a share in His resurrection, that through Baptism, all of us have been brought into the new life, and a new existence, blessed and filled with the grace of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, all of us are reminded first of all of our sinfulness, all those things that we had done in violation of God’s laws and against His will. Those sins will weigh down on us, and whatever we have in our burden of sin, we shall be judged against by, and unless we atone for them and be forgiven, then we may face the certainty of eternal destruction and death.

But God is ever loving and ever merciful, and He has given us the ultimate gift in Christ, His beloved and only begotten Son, Whom He had sent into this world to be our Saviour. To all of us who believe in Him, He has promised the assurance of eternal life, and if we accept the forgiveness of God and repent sincerely from our sinful ways, then surely we will be reconciled fully and completely with God.

Now, how are we going to proceed forward in life then? Perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, one of the great and influential early Church fathers and a great and dedicated bishop of the Church. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem during a time of great strife for the faithful in the See of Jerusalem, with divisions and disagreements that took place between the rival factions.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem had to face against the opposition from both religious and secular figures, powerful individuals and nobles, and even opposition from the Imperial family and the bureaucracy itself, which was at that time influenced heavily by the Arian heresy as well as other heresies and divisions rampant at that time. But this did not stop St. Cyril from committing himself to the efforts to reconcile those different factions with each other.

Through his efforts, St. Cyril brought many people back to the faith, and despite him having to endure several exiles and much difficulty, but through his works, the Church was able to overcome its darkest years and reaffirming its foundation in the true faith as passed down from the Lord through His Apostles. His courage and determination, his faith and love for God should be inspiration to each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord therefore with renewed faith and zeal, with new love and devotion to Him, as we continue to journey through this season of Lent. Let us all seek His mercy and seek His forgiveness for our many sins, that we may be forgiven from them and find consolation and true joy in Him and through Him, and gain the true inheritance of heavenly glory. May God be with us all and bless us all in our good endeavours, efforts and faith. Amen.

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 31-47

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “If I bore witness to Myself, My testimony would be worthless. But Another One is bearing witness to Me, and I know that His testimony is true when He bears witness to Me. John also bore witness to the truth when you sent messengers to him, but I do not seek such human testimony; I recall this for you, so that you may be saved.”

“John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were willing to enjoy his light. But I have greater evidence than that of John – the works which the Father entrusted to Me to carry out. The very works I do bear witness : The Father has sent Me. Thus He Who bears witness to Me is the Father Who sent Me. You have never heard His voice and have never seen His likeness; therefore, as long as you do not believe His messenger, His word is not in you.”

“You search in the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find life; yet Scripture bears witness to Me. But you refuse to come to Me, that you may live. I am not seeking human praise; but I have known that love of God is not within you, for I have come in My Father’s Name and you do not accept Me. If another comes in his own name, you will accept him. As long as you seek praise from one another, instead of seeking the glory which comes from the only God, how can you believe?”

“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father. Moses himself, in whom you placed your hope, accuses you. If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Exodus 32 : 7-14

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them and have made for themselves a molten calf; they have bowed down before it and sacrificed to it and said : ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.'”

And YHVH said to Moses, “I see that these people are a stiff-necked people. Now just leave Me that My anger may blaze against them. I will destroy them, but of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses calmed the anger of YHVH, his God, and said, “Why, o YHVH, should Your anger burst against Your people whom You brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with a mighty hand?”

“Let not the Egyptians say : ‘YHVH brought them out with evil intent, for He wanted to kill them in the mountains and wipe them from the face of the earth.’ Turn away from the heat of Your anger and do not bring disaster on Your people. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the promise You Yourself swore : I will multiply Your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land I spoke about I will give to them as an everlasting inheritance.”

YHVH then changed His mind and would not yet harm His people.