Sunday, 9 March 2014 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings, we see how the ‘old’ Adam and the ‘new’ Adam are compared to each other. You may be asking, why is there two Adams? That is because, Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is the new Adam who came to rectify the faults and mistakes committed by the first Adam, as what he had done in the Book of Genesis.

In the readings, we see the clear contrast between the two Adams. The first Adam, our first ancestor, fell to the temptation of Satan with Eve, and they disobeyed God’s will by eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge, thinking that they might become like God as the devil spoke to them about. Yet Christ, as the new Adam, did the exact opposite, refusing to listen to the sweet lies of the devil and firmly held onto the faith in God His Father.

Yes, how right it is when it is said that because of the first Adam, every single one of humanity, including all of us have been condemned to a life in difficulty on this earth, and a life that is subjected to the power of death because of the disobedience of our ancestors. Initially, because of the disobedience of the first Adam, we were also destined for doom and destruction, which were our due for our disobedience, but all that was changed with Christ, the new Adam.

In Christ, the new Adam, mankind was made anew. Christ our Lord became one of us, the sons and daughters of Adam, that through His perfect obedience to the will of God and the total rebuke and refusal to follow the ways of Satan, He had made all of us anew, and bring us into the light of God. As the new Adam, He broke free the fetters and chains holding us, that is the sin of the first Adam, our ancestor.

Adam and his wife, Eve, the first two mankind to be created by the Lord, showed us the things that we are vulnerable to, when the devil came and offers us things that are contrary to the goodness and to the will of God. And the temptation of Jesus in the desert by the devil further highlighted the many vulnerabilities that the devil may attack us, to tempt us away from the salvation in God.

Yes, brethren, even though Jesus through His death had liberated us from the chains of original sin, that is the sin of the first Adam, that tainted all mankind until the moment when Christ broke free that chain of sin as the new Adam, the progenitor of new life of man, the devil can still attack us and as he always does, he tries at every moment to bring us away from the salvation offered through the new Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The temptations which Christ went through can show us the venues through which the devil may strike at us. The devil can strike at our desires, our greed and desire for things like food, as in the first temptation of Jesus. He can also strike at our ego and our desire and affinity for praise, and that was the second temptation of Jesus.

And lastly, the temptation of power and glory, which he may strike us with, is one of the most dangerous, which he made in the last of his three attempts to tempt Jesus. All of these he can utilise to break us and bend us to his ways. It is easy for us to fall if we do not prepare ourselves well. The devil has many tools in his disposal to trap us and make us fall.

Do not think that we can also use the Scriptures to ward off his attacks, if we are unprepared. The devil himself quoted from the Scripture passages when he tried to tempt Jesus! If he did so before, then certainly if we are unprepared, then we will be more vulnerable to the devil’s attacks. We have to prepare ourselves, by deepening our faith in God, and strengthening our devotion to Him.

Yes, brethren, we need to strengthen our faith, the shield of our souls, that we will not fall to the tricks of the devil. Our faith should be firm like the faith of Jesus. It is not easy, brothers and sisters, as the devil will be merciless and relentless in his attacks. We need to strengthen ourselves, and reject the alluring temptations of Satan, rejecting the false pleasures that he may offer us.

This is because the joy and pleasures he offers us are just temporary and illusionary in nature. They are pleasures that gives happiness briefly for a moment, and later on may bring about great sorrow and suffering. And ultimately, if we want to gain these false promises from Satan, we will have to serve and pay him our obedience.

Brethren, we cannot have two masters, either we serve the Lord or Satan, we have to make a decisive and concrete choice. And if we serve Satan we all should know that for a brief moment of joy and pleasure, we will suffer for eternity with the devil. Serving the Lord will not be easy, and there will be challenges awaiting us.

Therefore, let us from now on, seek the Lord with all of our strength. Do not be complacent in our faith but keep our faith living and strong, by devoting ourselves genuinely and sincerely to God, giving out our love to Him and to our fellow mankind. Be faithful brethren, and be strong always, against the evil one! Amen.

Sunday, 9 March 2014 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 4 : 1-11

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert that He might be put to the test by the devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry.

Then the devil came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “Scripture says : One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took Jesus to the Holy City, set Him on the highest wall of the Temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for Scripture says : God has given orders to His angels about You. Their hands will hold You up lest You hurt Your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered, “But Scripture also says : You shall not put to the test the Lord your God.”

Then the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the nations of the world in all their greatness and splendour. And he said, “All this I will give You, if You kneel down and worship me.”

Then Jesus answered, “Be off, Satan! Scripture says : Worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone!” Then the devil left Him, and angels came to serve Him.

Sunday, 9 March 2014 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 5 : 12-19

Therefore, sin entered the world through one man and through sin, death, and later on death spread to all humankind, because all sinned. As long as there was no law, they could not speak of disobedience, but sin was already in the world. This is why from Adam to Moses death reigned among them, although their sin was not disobedience as in Adam’s case – this was not the true Adam, but foretold the Other who was to come.

Such has been the fall, but God’s gift goes far beyond. All died because of the fault of one man, but how much more does the grace of God spread when the gift He granted reaches all, from this unique Man Jesus Christ. Again, there is no comparison between the gift and the offense of one man. The disobedience that brought condemnation was of one sinner, whereas the grace of God brings forgiveness to a world of sinners.

If death reigned through the disobedience of one and only one person, how much more will there be a reign of life for those who receive the grace and the gift of true righteousness through the one person, Jesus Christ.

Just as one transgression brought sentence of death to all, so, too, one man’s good act has brought justification and light to all; and as the disobedience of only one made all sinners, so the obedience of one person allowed all to be made just and holy.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

Romans 5 : 12, 17-19

Therefore, sin entered the world through one man and through sin, death, and later on death spread to all humankind, because all sinned.

If death reigned through the disobedience of one and only one person, how much more will there be a reign of life for those who receive the grace and the gift of true righteousness through the one person, Jesus Christ.

Just as one transgression brought sentence of death to all, so, too, one man’s good act has brought justification and light to all; and as the disobedience of only one made all sinners, so the obedience of one person allowed all to be made just and holy.

Sunday, 9 March 2014 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 12-13, 14 and 17

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone have I sinned.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise.

Sunday, 9 March 2014 : 1st Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 2 : 7-9 and Genesis 3 : 1-7

Then YHVH God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He placed Man whom He had created. YHVH. God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of Life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now the serpent was the most crafty of all the wild creatures that YHVH God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say : You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden God said : You must not eat, and you must not touch it or you will die.”

The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, but God knows that the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”

The woman saw that the fruit was good to eat, and pleasant to the eyes, and ideal for gaining knowledge. She took its fruit and ate it and gave some to her husband who was with her. He ate it.

Then their eyes were opened and both of them knew they were naked. So they sewed leaves of a fig tree together and made themselves loincloths.

Sunday, 17 February 2013 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflection)

Today, again we listened to the Word of God, and found that if we stay faithful to God, despite all the temptations and the challenges facing us in our journey towards Him, God will reward us greatly, and in heaven our reward is great indeed. God loves us, and He does listen to us when we call on Him, and if we keep Him in our heart, we will not lose Him, for He is faithful.

Our modern world is filled with many things, tempting indeed for us, and many of these are so attractive that they divert our attention away from God, and into them. Worse still, these temptations made us forget about the love God has on us, how He died for us on the cross to save us from death and sin. Instead, we sin even more, and cause the Lord to grief over our continued rebellions against His ever-gracious mercy. For today, we learn indeed that there are three main forms of obstacles against us, against us in our journey towards the Lord. These are greed, power, and pride. These also translate as the three sources of temptations that affect us terribly, namely, commercialism, the world, and ourselves, our sinful beings.

First of all, when the devil tempted Jesus to turn the stone into bread, in order to fulfill His hunger, the devil tapped into our own weakness to greed and for more. For hunger is a natural occurrence in our lives when we do not intake any food for a while, but many of us who are in great abundance, not only fail to resist the temptation of the devil, and place our stomach above all the rest. Just look at all the greed in all the excessive eating habits, the high rates of obesity in many developed nations, where people eat without abandon, and eat like as if there is no tomorrow.

Not only in the matter of food, but also in fact with regards to possessions and wealth, where there are many who dedicate their whole lives solely for the pursuit of wealth, and more wealth, and affluence, and then more affluence. These people may even stop at nothing to gain what they want, including hurting others in the process, especially those they see as competitors to their goal. This is how sin and evil permeate into the hearts of all the people, including even among the faithful today. Jesus told us the way to overcome this, that is to focus on the Word of God, for we do not live from bread alone, but indeed what is most important is the spiritual food that we have, that is the Scripture. Read the Scripture, reflect on it, share it, and understand it, and you will find that you will find fulfillment greater than food, wealth, and affluence can offer.

For food, wealth, possessions, and affluence will pass away, and they will not be with us after we die. There are many out there in the world who suffer from hunger and poverty, and yet many of the rich and even those who are in the middle class who are too busy with their worldly pursuits, to offer a helping hand. The Church, which is also the world’s largest humanitarian agency, had done much to help these people, the least among the least, the last, the shunned, and the weakest.

However, there is only so much the Church can do, and ultimately it depends on us to also extend our helping hand. After all, through the word of God in the Scripture, we now know that when we give aid to these least among us, to those shunned and rejected by the society, we have done it for Christ. For Christ too is rejected by many, and hated by the world. But we, who believe in Him, if we cling strongly to Him, we will gain our due reward when the time comes.

Then the second obstacle, which is power and the offer of worldly power indeed. The very well-known phrase of “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely” is the perfect illustrator of this condition, in which power can corrupt us and twist us into a power-hungry beings seeking to gain more power or preserve our own power or control over others. This does not mean that power cannot be handled responsibly, but again, who do we then base that power on? Is it based on the Lord? or is it based on the evil one?

For indeed, a power that is of the Lord is also humble, and is also loving, for those wielding power responsibly, and belonging to the Lord will also know justice and love, and will not wield that power to cause suffering for others. Yet many use power and misuse that for their own purposes, and often cause suffering in others. The world offer a great temptation for many who has power, to always seek more and more in power and others, which is linked to that of the first obstacle, greed.

The quest for power has brought many destruction in the past, although also many constructive ones. Many people have died in wars and conflicts, especially those brought up by personal ambitions of certain people who seek ultimate power. They achieved it but for what? For power too does not last, and it is only temporary, either they are overthrown or they lose that power upon their death. Power is something that God entrusted to us, and therefore let us seek to use that authority responsibly, and not to misuse them for our own personal benefits and the detriment for others.

Then again, Jesus fought the devil and taught us that we should focus ourselves on the Lord and give the devil no attention, and base our own authority and power indeed in God and His teachings, that we can truly become wise, responsible, and just stewards of this power God has bestowed on us, for the good of others around us.

Then the last one, is the most difficult obstacle of all, that is the pride within our own being, and ourselves. We who are weak in flesh, are constantly tempted, and though our spirit is strong, but temptation of the flesh can indeed lead us astray from the path towards the Lord, but nothing is more difficult to conquer than that of pride. We humans are prideful in our nature, and pride is what has become the downfall of many. For pride prevented us from seeing in ourselves the defects that we have, and in pride too, we grow to seek more for ourselves, and hence greed, and also the quest for more power, that hunger also began from pride, pride in ourselves and our own abilities.

It is perfectly fine to be proud of our achievements if we also give what is due to the Lord, since it is with the Lord’s help that we can accomplish many things that we otherwise cannot accomplish on our own. Pride, undue pride in particular, is the main obstacle blocking us from giving what is due to God, to thank Him for His great blessing and kindness. Remember, the devil himself was the greatest, brightest, and most brilliant angels in all heaven, who was Lucifer, the light-bringer. But in pride, he has allowed himself to indulge in his own vanity, in his beauty and might, that he aspires to ascend and become God himself, challenging God the creator who created all including him. In his pride, he fell, and became the devil. We too, in our pride, can fall, and from the beautiful ones we are upon our creation by the Lord, we can fall to become nothing better than the servants of the devil in our pride and our hubris.

For pride prevents us from bowing down before the Lord, from acknowledging our sins and faults, and from approaching the Lord most merciful with a humble and contrite heart. Jesus taught us to be humble, and to not challenge the Lord our God in our pride, but to rather open ourselves to God’s love and mercy. Read the Scripture, understand the Word of God, and share our faith with one another, that we can learn more on the values and virtues of humility, simplicity, responsibility, and love itself.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Lenten season, strive to make this time a fruitful one, where we learn to wield power and authority we have responsibly, and to extend our hands to help those needy around us, those who hunger for food, those who hunger for love, and those who hunger for God. Bring to them what they need, and show God’s enduring love for all of them. Then let us also approach God with great humility, acknowledging our sins and weaknesses, and ask the Lord for His forgiveness, which He will be happy to do so, if only we approach Him with broken, humble, and contrite heart. A heart that longs for God and His love alone.

Let us like Jesus, confidently reject Satan, devil, Lucifer, the fallen angel out of pride, with a solid commitment to God, rejecting all his temptations and all his offer of corrupting goods and powers, and rather put ourselves completely in God’s hands and entrust ourselves to Him with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls. May all of us have a blessed Lent, and be prepared to commemorate our Lord’s Passion this coming Holy Week. Amen.

Sunday, 17 February 2013 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Romans 10 : 8-13

True righteousness coming from faith also says : “The word of God is near you, on your lips and in your hearts.” This is the message that we preach, and this is faith.

You are saved if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips you are saved.

For Scripture says : “No one who believes in Him will be ashamed.” Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.”

Sunday, 17 February 2013 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Psalm 90 : 1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who rest in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the Lord, “My stronghold, my refuge, my God in whom I trust!”

No harm will come upon you, no disaster will draw near your home. For He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways.

They will lift you up with their hands so that your foot will not hit a stone. You will tread on wildcats and snakes and trample the lion and the dragon.

“Because they cling to Me, I will rescue them,” says the Lord. “I will protect those who know My Name.” When they call to Me, I will answer; in time of trouble I will be with them; I will deliver and honour them.

Sunday, 17 February 2013 : 1st Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Deuteronomy 26 : 4-10

Then the priest shall take the large basket from your hands and place it before the altar of YHVH, your God, and you shall say these words before YHVH, “My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt to find refuge there, while still few in number; but in that country, he became a great and powerful nation.”

“The Egyptians maltreated us, oppressed us and subjected us to harsh slavery. So we called to YHVH, the God of our ancestors, and YHVH listened to us. He saw our oppression to which we were subjected. He brought us out of Egypt with a firm hand, manifesting His powers with signs and awesome wonders. And He brought us here to give us this land flowing with milk and honey.”

“So now I bring and offer the firstfruits of the land which You, YHVH, have given me.”