Saturday, 12 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Lord speaking to us through the Scriptures in which we are all called to fulfil His Law and commandments, to live our lives wholeheartedly according to the way that He has shown to us. The Lord has called on us to follow Him and in order to do this, we have to listen to Him and to the teachings that He has shown us and passed onto us through His Church, through His Apostles and disciples, from whom we have been called to be true servants and followers of God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses, the leader of the people of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt, told the people to follow the Lord, His Law and commandments, for they had been chosen by God to be His own people and to be counted among His blessed ones, as God Himself has made a Covenant with them, renewing the Covenant that He once made with Abraham, their forefather. And as part of that Covenant, just as God would bless them and keep them safe, caring for them, therefore the people had to keep their part of the Covenant, which is to follow the Law and commandments of God.

At that time, the people of Israel had journeyed for a long time in the desert, for about forty years after they had disobeyed the Lord and distrusted Him in His love and providence, not listening to Him or trusting Him when He reassured them that He would be with them as they entered into the promised land, and instead rebelled against Him in fear. That led to the whole people having to endure that journey of penance for the entire forty years duration, as they wandered in the desert while waiting for the time that the Lord would once again lead them into the land He has promised to them.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord telling His disciples and the people who were gathered to listen to Him that they were all called to love one another generously and unconditionally. This means that we cannot just love those who love us or give us happiness and benefit, but love has to be universal and unconditional. This was just exactly how the Lord Himself has loved us, as Jesus pointed out that God still loved and cared even for the wicked and for the greatest of sinners, blessing them just as He had done for the good ones.

The Lord still loved all of His people, all of us mankind, even from the moment when we began to sin against Him. He could have just crushed and destroyed us, annihilated us by there mere power of His will alone. Yet, He did not do so. He reached out to us and patiently sought to gather us back into His presence and embrace once again. The Lord has shown us this generous love, His compassion and mercy all the time, always ever patiently waiting for us to be reconciled to Him, when we realise our sinfulness and our fallen state, and make the concrete steps to return to Him.

But the Lord also reminds us therefore that in order to be His true disciples, hence we need to make the effort to follow Him in the way that He has taught us to do, to turn away from our sinful path, rejecting the temptations of our ego, pride, desire, ambition among other things, the pursuit of the pleasures of the flesh and many other distractions that are often found around us. As long as we do not make the conscious effort to go down the path that God has shown us, we will likely still remain separated from God, His love and grace.

That is why, during this blessed season of Lent, all of us are called to rebuild this relationship with God, the forty days of Lent and our fasting, abstinence and other observances recalling the forty years of the journey of the Israelites in repentance for their sins, their disobedience and refusal to believe in God, His love and His truth. This season of Lent, all of us are called to purify ourselves from the ravages of sins and evil that had corrupted and afflicted us for so long all these while. We are called to renew our faith and trust in the Lord, to know that it is in God alone that we can find true healing and salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make great use of this time and season of Lent to seek the Lord with contrite hearts and minds, willing to humble ourselves, we sinners who are in need of God’s forgiveness and compassionate love. Let us rediscover the love that we ought to have for God, and let us turn once more towards Him with genuine faith. May the Lord continue to be with us in this journey of faith and life. May He encourage and strengthen us to be generous in loving one another too, to all men and to all people, even those who have not loved us back or even hated us.

May God be with us all and may He bless us in all the things we say and do, that through our Lenten observances, we will be purified and renewed, drawing ever closer to God. Amen.

Saturday, 12 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 12 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

Saturday, 12 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

Friday, 11 March 2022 : 1st 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 all reminded to be righteous and good in all of our actions and deeds, and to be truly faithful to God. Otherwise, we will be judged by whatever wicked and evil things we have committed, by whatever sins we have done, just as our good deeds will also be weighed in our judgment. In the end, those who are truly faithful to God will flourish while those who are lacking in faith will fall into damnation and eternal suffering. The Lord has reminded us of this as we enter into this season of Lent for our own benefit.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which the Lord told His people through Ezekiel that He did not desire the death and destruction of any one of His beloved children, that is all of us. The Lord has expressed the truth that His love for us is enduring even despite all the disobedience and rebelliousness that we have often displayed all these while, and He has always been willing to be reconciled with us, calling us to return to Him with contrite hearts and repentant attitudes, desiring to reject our sins and evils.

He also reminded all of us that all of us will be judged by our deeds and all that we have done in this world, whether by words or real deeds and actions. And no one is truly beyond God’s salvation and grace, as He mentioned how even the sinners will be saved should they repent and turn away from their sins, just as much as the righteous will perish and be judged against by their evil deeds, if they persist in doing so. What the Lord wanted to point out is that there is truly no limit to His love, mercy and compassion, and each one of us are called to share in this love.

At the same time, we are reminded not to be complacent in living our faith and lives so that we do not end up falling into the temptations of sin or thinking that we are better than others and holier in any way. Even if this is true, we are called not to compete about this or attempt to discredit and undermine each others’ journey towards salvation, but rather, to help each other in our journey and way towards God. The Lord wants us all to show love for our fellow brothers and sisters, and not be selfish, thinking only about ourselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord saying to His disciples of how they ought to be faithful to God, in all the things they do in life. They are all called to be truly faithful and not just being hypocritical or self-serving in their attitudes. In order to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, we have to be ready to forgive each other, to be reconciled with our fellow brethren, for if we cannot even forgive our brothers and sisters for their smaller faults and mistakes to us, then how can we expect to be forgiven for our comparatively much greater sins?

That is why, during this season of Lent, all of us are called to reach out to one another, to show love to our fellow men, and to be merciful and forgiving, letting go of our pride, our ego and stubbornness, opening our hearts and minds, our entire beings to God’s love and grace. We should allow God to work His wonders and love through us. That is why we are all called to turn back towards the Lord and to repent from our sinful ways, and help each other in this respective journeys of faith we have. It is not a competition, for in the end, what awaits us in God is the same result and outcome.

In this season of Lent, let us all spend more time in prayer and contemplation, deepening our relationship with God and building a genuine connection with Him. Too many of us do not even have a superficial connection and relationship with God, less still a good and vibrant one. We are often too busy to even recognise God’s presence in our lives, ignoring His love and attention to us. He has always watched over us and patiently guided us towards Himself, but it is we who often neglected our responsibilities and abandoned our faith in God.

Let us all therefore strive to do our best to be better Christians in each and every moments of our lives, and this Lent is the best time for us to begin charting our path forward in being faithful to God and in living our lives to the best we can as Christians in our respective communities and places. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to walk with Him faithfully each day, living virtuously, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 11 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Friday, 11 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.

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.

Friday, 11 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 18 : 21-28

If the sinner turns from his sin, observes My decrees and practices what is right and just, he will live, he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be charged against him, he will live as a consequence of his righteous deeds. Do I want the death of the sinner? – word of YHVH. Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live?

But if the righteous man turns away from what is good and commits sins as the wicked do, will he live? His righteous deeds will no longer be credited to him, but he will die because of his infidelity and his sins. But you say : YHVH’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is My position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong?”

“If the righteous man dies after turning from his righteous deeds and sinning, he dies because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes and turned from the sins he had committed.”

Thursday, 10 March 2022 : 1st 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 all called to seek the Lord, His loving kindness, help and providence, knowing that He is always paying attention to us, caring about us and He is constantly putting His mind on our well-being, just as we are all His beloved children, His beloved people, the ones whom He cherished and loved from the very beginning of time.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Esther in which we saw how Queen Esther of Persia, an Israelite who became the Queen of Persia, came before the Lord in prayer and supplication on behalf of her people, which at that time was under threat of annihilation and utter destruction. Contextually, at that time, Haman, an Amalekite, Israel’s old enemy, plotted for the destruction of all the descendants of the Israelites especially because of the favour that the King of Persia showed Mordechai, Haman’s rival and Esther’s relative.

Mordechai sought help from Queen Esther, who therefore contemplated the course of action that she would take in order to help her people. In order to do so, it was likely that she had to come towards the king and begged him to save and spare her people, the people of Israel. However, in doing so, she risked losing everything she had, as she would be disobeying the king by coming to the king uninvited, and as her predecessor as queen, Vashti, had experienced, she could have been banished and exiled.

But Esther turned towards the Lord for strength and courage, for His help and aid on behalf of His people. Esther prayed, asking God to remember the love which He had for His people, the kindness that He has always shown them despite their constant rebelliousness and disobedience. She asked Him for the strength and courage when she was going up to see the King of Persia, the ‘lion’ and king of kings in the known world at that time, that she might persuade and convince the king to help her people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and to the people, as He told all of them that they should ask of the Lord, their God and Father for whatever they needed. They should come and seek the Lord, and listen to Him, instead of listening and depending on worldly pursuits and means as we have often done. If we do not ask the Lord and knock on His door, then how can we know that what we ask will be possible or not? There is nothing impossible for God, but at the same time we also have to realise that everything happens through God’s will and not ours.

That is why it is very important that we do not think that we have no need for God in our lives. It is crucial that we remember how God is always by our side and He will always provide for whatever we need. We have to trust in the Lord and put our faith in Him, much as Queen Esther had done, and in how our predecessors had entrusted themselves to the Lord with faith. The Lord has provided for them in their hour of need, their time whenever they have the need of God’s help and guide.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called and reminded to grow in our faith in the Lord, and trust Him more. Let us all be worried less and be less preoccupied and concerned regarding our fears and many desires in life, and instead let us grow ever more in our hope and relationship with God. And how are we going to do that? That is why we are called to spend more time with God, and not just any time, but more importantly, good quality time with Him, through prayer and other means.

All of us should make good use of this season of Lent as a time of good spiritual preparation and rediscovery, to be more attuned and connected to God in all things. All of us should do our best to deepen our connection and relationship to God, hold back for a while from our usual busy schedules in life, and instead, learning to spend this precious, quality time with God. It is important that we do this so that we will not end up falling further and further away from God.

May the Lord continue to be with us, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in living courageously in His presence, as He had done for Queen Esther, that all of us may draw ever closer to God and find our way to God and His salvation. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 10 March 2022 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and the door will be opened to him who knocks.”

“Would any of you give a stone to your son, when he asks for bread? Or give him a snake, when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there you have the Law and the Prophets.”