Saturday, 16 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God through the Scriptures, reminding us all to love one another, just as the Lord our God has loved each and every one of us without any exception. God has generously loved all of us, despite of how we have rejected His love and how we have refused to obey Him all these while. And we are reminded that we too should love in the same way that God has shown His love for us.

In today’s Gospel passage, we are reminded that we should love everyone regardless of whether we are going to benefit from those whom we intend to love. We should show love and compassion even to those who cannot return our love, or worse still, refuse to return us our love, or those who repay our love with contempt and hatred, with anger and enmity. This is just what the Lord our God had done, in His generous love towards us even when we have not loved Him as we should have.

And in all of these, we are reminded of the core principle and reality of what love is truly for each and every one of us. Love in its true form is something that embodies the selfless offering and giving of oneself, and not selfish in nature. For true love embodies the relationship between two parties in which each of the party is willing to commit to the relationship and to give part of himself or herself, to the new union formed between the two of them.

Unfortunately, many of us did not know what true love is all about, and many of us ended up loving one another in the wrong way. To many of us, the form of love that are often familiar and which we frequently used is the kind of love that has been tainted with greed, pride and human desires. We expect those who want the love from us to give us something back in return, and while those who did not give us what we want, receive no love from us.

In the end, love became transactional, empty and meaningless, overshadowed by greed and human desire. We love because we desire a return for the effort of the love we have shown, and when we do not get fairly of what we have given, then we end up becoming dissatisfied and angry. We then end up hating the person or refusing to love the person back just because we did not receive the love from that person yet.

In the end, we are not loving with sincerity, and the love that we have in us is superficial in nature. Love that is not based on the genuine desire to be sharing and giving of ourselves is not true love, but is instead lust and corruption of the flesh and the mind. In this kind of love, we love for the sake of benefits, for the sake of advantage for ourselves, the convenience of the body and the pleasures of the flesh.

That is why we see increasingly more and more divorces happening in our marriages today, as more and more people are losing sight and focus on the true meaning of their married life. They see marriage as a burden instead of a blessing, because they have not understood what the meaning of true love is. To more and more couples, love has become a growing desire and temptation of the flesh, that it becomes a mere playground of lust and greed, of human selfishness and pleasure.

When each of the married couples or those in relationships see those relationships as something that bring benefit upon themselves, then the relationships will hardly last long, especially when difficulties and challenges come upon those relationships. That is why if we build our relationships based on impure and selfish love, that is based on our selfish desires to benefit ourselves, we will end up ruining those relationships due to our selfish actions to benefit only ourselves.

The Lord showed us all how to love, by His own actions and examples. When the world was up against Him and hated Him, He still loved all those who have challenged Him and persecuted Him, so much so that even as He was suffering so much and dying on the cross, He forgave His accusers and enemies, and prayed to His Father that He would not condemn those people to damnation because of the sins they have committed.

And He loved each and every one of us so much, despite of our own lack of love against Him and our refusal to acknowledge His love as evidenced by our sins. He bore His cross to Calvary, to suffer and to die for us, that even though we have been selfish in our greed and pride in refusing His love, He loved us all nonetheless, a perfect selfless giving of Himself, the example of a perfect love shown to us by the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to love each other in a Christian way, that is following how the Lord Himself has loved us. Are we able to love genuinely and selflessly as He has shown us? It is of course not easy for us to love as He has loved, as we are bound to be tempted by our desires and by the weakness of our human flesh and existence. Yet, the Lord shows us that it is indeed possible to be selfless and to show true love in our actions. What we need is just our dedication and willingness to commit to this path, to face the challenges that may come our way.

Therefore, in this season of Lent, all of us are called to become less selfish, less prideful, less greedy in our relationships with one another. Instead of being so calculative and being so filled up with pride and desire in our lives, in our expectations for others, let us instead be more generous in giving and in sharing the blessings we have received. Let us all learn the value and importance of sacrifice, following the inspiration of the loving sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

May we grow stronger in love, not love that is selfish and greedy, or love that is seeking for self-benefits and pleasure, but instead love that is selfless, genuine, and nurturing, where we can share our blessings and happiness with one another, and cause us to grow together in faith, hope and love in God. May the Lord be with us all and may He continue to guide us through life. Amen.

Saturday, 16 March 2019 : 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, 16 March 2019 : 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, 16 March 2019 : 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, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded to be righteous and good in all of our words, deeds and actions, for if we wander away from this path of righteousness, we will end up venturing into disobedience and eventually sin against God. All of us mankind are ultimately vulnerable to sin, and it is our sins that will be judged by God at the time of reckoning. Our righteousness and our wickedness will be judged by God at the time of His judgment.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard about the discourse that no sinner is too far away or too unworthy of God’s forgiveness, for if the sinner is to repent sincerely from his or her sins and turn wholeheartedly back towards the Lord with love and commitment to live a righteous life from then on, then God will forgive that sinner and judge the sinner based on the desire to love Him and to turn away from the sinful past.

Then, we also heard how those who were righteous and yet committed sins will also be judged by those same sins they committed. God will not let those who were righteous and yet willingly fell into sin and do not repent from those sins to be judged as worthy of His glory and inheritance. It is by their disobedience and refusal to obey the Lord that they will be judged despite of their past righteousness.

This is a constant reminder to each one of us that we are always in danger of falling into sin through temptations and through the seductions that Satan and all of his wicked forces are placing before us all the time. Satan is always out and about trying to strike us down by various means, to prevent us from attaining salvation in God, and to drag us down to be condemned with him and all the other fallen angels in hellfire.

And the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today added on this by telling His disciples and therefore all of us, that we must be truly genuine in doing our good deeds, so that in everything we say and do, we will truly say them and do them with the intention to be righteous and truly good before God, to glorify God and not to satisfy our own selfish desires and intentions. This is what the Lord said when He pointed out to them the wickedness of the Pharisees, in their piousness and yet, an empty piousness and faith.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although their external actions and works seemed to be pious and good, but many of them did not do these because of the love they had for God, but rather because of the selfish desire for glory, for self-praise and self-glorification, out of hunger and greed for worldly fame and human appraisal, for the satisfaction of the body and the mind. Therefore, although they may seem to be righteous, but through these perversion of faith and righteousness, they have in fact sinned against God.

And many among the Pharisees often looked down on those whom they deemed to be unworthy of God’s love and mercy, such as the tax collectors and the prostitutes, whom they condemned as those who were wicked and hopeless, out of God’s saving grace, when in fact, those were the ones who sought the Lord willingly and with sincere devotion and commitment. The tax collectors and the prostitutes turned towards the Lord, and they were forgiven. Some among them, including Levi, became one of the Twelve Apostles, now a glorious saint of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded through these that none of us are beyond God’s mercy and love. He has always been ever generous with His mercy and compassion, and not even the greatest among us sinners are beyond His mercy. Some of the greatest saints of this world came from the rank of the greatest of sinners. Some of them were murderers, while others lived a debauched and wicked life. But they all turned away from their past sinful life, and dedicated themselves to a new life in God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow the footsteps of the Apostles and the saints, many of whom were once great sinners as well, just like us. But are we able and are we willing to commit ourselves as they themselves had done? Are we able to resist the temptations to sin, and commit ourselves to follow a righteous path in life instead of following the path of vice and evil? Let us all turn towards the Lord with faith anew and dedicate ourselves to live according to His way from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to live well in accordance to His will, and persevere through the temptations and challenges that may come our way. Let us all pray for courage and strength, especially during this blessed season of Lent, that we will be able to turn our lives into a new one, with God’s grace and strength. Amen.

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 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, 15 March 2019 : 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, 15 March 2019 : 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, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the vastness and the wonders of God’s love for each and every one of us, especially when we ask for His favours and for His care. He is not One Who does not care about us, His loved ones, but instead He shows concern for us at all times, as a loving Father to all of us. But often we do not realise just how great is the love that He has for each one of us.

Today we heard the first reading passage taken from the Book of Esther, in which the Queen Esther of Persia, who came from among the people of Israel, prayed to the Lord just before she was about to go before the King, with the intention of pleading for the sake of her own people who at that time was faced with certain annihilation at the hands of those who plotted against them. The order of the king to destroy the Israelites have been written into law, and the destruction of Israel seemed to be certain.

But against all odds, Esther was persuaded by Mordechai, her uncle, who knew of the plot against the Israelites, to make use of her position as queen to persuade the king to change his mind. Mordechai himself even said that perhaps God has placed Esther to be in that exact position for this very reason, that at the moment of doom and hopelessness, God would work His wonders through Esther, the one whom God had chosen to be the path of salvation for His people.

But for Esther, she faced a great and troubling prospect, for it was forbidden that the queen should come before the king without being summoned. She could have suffered imprisonment and even death for doing such an action. That was why, Esther prayed to the Lord, in the words she spoke in our first reading passage today, placing her complete trust in God, her Lord and Master, that He would guide her and protect her in all that she was going to do.

She beseeched the Lord to show mercy and love for the sake of her people, the beloved children of God, who were about to be massacred and destroyed without the means to protect themselves. God listened to her pleas and call for mercy, and He put forth into motion His plan of salvation for His people. He softened the heart of the king of Persia when Esther came before him, and he listened to the council of the Lord spoken through Esther.

In the end, the people of Israel were saved and they were allowed to defend themselves against their enemies. The Israelites were saved by the love of God, and because they prayed and asked the Lord for His mercy and compassion, through His servants Mordechai and Esther. He truly is a loving Father and Master to His beloved children and people, and He listened to them and knew what they needed.

This is exactly what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that if only we ask, it shall be given to us, knock, and the door will be opened to us. God will not abandon us in our time of need, and He is always by our side, caring for us and protecting us, each and every days of our life. When we do not realise this, and think that God is not there with us, that is because we are often too preoccupied and distracted by our worldly concerns and desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is ever so loving and merciful towards us, and He is always willing to forgive us and to help us. Now, we were all again at the brink of destruction, because of sin. Sin is caused by our disobedience against God, and we should have been annihilated just as the Israelites were to be destroyed by their enemies in the days of Esther. But God intervened, because Jesus, His Son, has been sent into this world to be our Saviour.

Jesus became our High Priest, Who offered His prayers and petitions for our sake, just as Esther prayed for God to be merciful to His people. And just as Esther came before the king of Persia, risking her own life, thus Christ came between us and our eternal death, baring His own life on the cross, to become our Hope and our Salvation. And God showed His mercy to us through the triumph of the cross, for His Son has triumphed against sin, just as Esther triumphed against the enemy of Israel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, we are all called to rediscover once again the love of God, the merciful gaze of His eyes which is always upon us. We have often ignored His love and refused to listen to His call in our hearts, calling us to be forgiven from our sins. Let us now no longer do what we have always done, and stop being so stubborn, and allow God to enter into our lives and be forgiven, by our sincere repentance.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love each and every one of us, and may His mercy come down upon us when we ask Him for that mercy, that He will extend His grace and love once again upon us. May God bless us all and all of our actions, from now on, that we may glorify God in everything we say and do. Amen.

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 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.”