Saturday, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained within the Scriptures, we are all reminded that as God’s people, each and every one of us are called to be genuine in our Christian way of life and devotion to God. All of us must live our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us all, or else we are truly no better than hypocrites and unbelievers, and unworthy of calling ourselves as Christians, or God’s children and holy people. He wants each and every one of us to rediscover this faith and zeal that we all ought to have within us, especially through the faithful and dedicated observance of this holy and blessed season and time of Lent, a time of reflection, discernment and reconciliation between us and God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard the Lord telling His people through Moses and His servants, that the people of Israel had been called and chosen from among the nations to be His own people, as the first of those whom He had called, to walk in His path and to devote themselves to Him. That was why He gave them all His Law and commandments, His precepts and taught them His ways and the truth. Unfortunately, the people of God were stubborn and often gave in to their desires and worldly attachments, and ended up causing them to sin many times in many occasions, unable to resist those temptations and get rid from themselves their stubbornness and attachments to worldly things. The Lord reminded all of His people that just as much as He has blessed and loved them, they also have the obligation and the requirement to obey the Law and the commandments that God has given them.

This means that they ought to do what the Lord had taught them to do, distancing themselves from sinful practices and ways. The Lord has given them His Law and the Ten Commandments to guide them in their path so that they would have something to hold onto in their lives, amidst the many trials, challenges, temptations and many different pressures for them to conform to the worldly ways and paths, and abandoning God’s path and truth. Indeed, to live our lives in the manner acceptable and appropriate for the Lord is not something that is easily done, and more often than not we will realise, just as our ancestors and predecessors had discovered before us, that to be a faithful Christian is something that is easier said than done, and that there are a lot of challenges and difficulties that await in our path, in obeying and observing God’s Law and commandments in our lives.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples, which also serves as a reminder for us all, that as the followers and disciples of the Lord, we must always remember to love one another and to be full of compassion and love even to those who did not love us back, and those who despise us. That is the challenge which the Lord has also given us all as Christians, to be different from the world, which is definitely more used to us loving those who love us, those who benefit us and those who care for us, and also putting ourselves ahead of others. As Christians, on the contrary, the Lord taught us all to put others before ourselves, and to do whatever we can to reach out to others with genuine and pure love, and He Himself has shown us this by His own example, which we remember particularly during this time of Lent.

I am referring to the suffering and the trials that the Lord Himself would willingly endure and suffer for our sake during His Passion, as He picked up His Cross and brought it up all the way to the Hill of Golgotha, or Calvary, where He endured all the pain, humiliation and the worst of sufferings so that by His sufferings, in His Passion, He might lead us all into freedom, by bearing upon His own shoulders, all the multitudes of our sins and the punishments for them, to die on our behalf and becoming for us the perfect offering of pure love, to atone for all the sins of the whole world. He endured all of that out of His ever present and patient love for each and every one of us, desiring to see us forgiven and reconciled with His heavenly Father, that none of us hopefully will be lost to the damnation of hell due to our many and innumerable sins.

That is why during this time and season of Lent, all of us are called to remember God’s ever generous love for us, and His rich and compassionate mercy, remembering how He has always provided for all of His beloved ones, and even for those who have betrayed and abandoned Him. The Lord chose to willingly suffer and die for everyone, and not only for those who have already loved Him. He went out of His way, seeking all those who have been lost to Him, those who indulged in sin and wickedness of life, and refused to listen to Him, reaching out to them patiently, each time, so that hopefully they might listen to reason and His truth, and be converted, and be reconciled with Him. This is what He has done to each and every one of us as well. No one is truly beyond God’s mercy, forgiveness and love, unless we ourselves choose to reject Him to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, let us all continue to discern our way of life and see in what way we can be better and more committed disciples and followers of His, and we can do this by following the good examples set by our holy predecessors, one of which, whose feast we are celebrating today, is St. Casimir of Poland. St. Casimir was a Royal Prince of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, who was known for his great piety and devotion to God, as well as charity and care for the needy and the poor in the kingdom from his early age. He was remembered for his exemplary faith and actions, his chaste and holy lifestyle at a time when it was common for someone in his status to embrace a debauched and hedonistic way of life. St. Casimir dedicated his life to the end to the glory of God, and despite dying in a relatively early age due to tuberculosis, the example of his holiness and dedication to God continue to inspire many people right up to this day.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, can we follow the good examples of St. Casimir and many other of our holy predecessors in how we ought to live our lives? In this season and time of Lent, let us all reorientate our lives and redirect our focus in life back towards the Lord, Whom we should put right at the very centre of our lives. Let us all turn towards Him with faith, and do whatever we can to serve Him faithfully each day and at every moments given to us. May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us all and may He empower each and every one of us to be ever better and stronger in our desire to serve Him, and to do His will, at all times. May God bless us always, in our every actions, deeds and efforts, to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (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, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (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, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (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, 3 March 2023 : 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 truly faithful to the Lord and not just merely paying lip service or maintaining an appearance of being faithful, or worse still to make a show of our faith in order to gain praise and acclamation from others. Such a faith is not what we as Christians are expected to have, and we should not also allow the temptations of the world to prevent us from being truly faithful to God. God has given us many means and help through which we all can get closer to Him and find our way to Him, but it is really up to us whether we want to follow Him and commit ourselves to His path, as we have been given the freedom to choose our path in life, whether we want to obey the Lord or whether we want to continue down the path of sin and evil.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which God told His people through Ezekiel how everyone will be judged and have their fates determined by each and every one of their actions and deeds, their words and interactions in life. The Lord essentially told His people that there is no one who is already condemned from the beginning, and opportunity is always provided to all those who seek for reconciliation with Him. God is always ever generous with His love and mercy, and He never ceases to love us all, caring for us and giving us the necessary guidance and help in life, so that by all these, He hopes that each and every one of us may find salvation through Him, and be truly free from our bondage and enslavement by sin. Sin is a great enemy to all of us, and one which we have to overcome in order for us to come closer to God.

The Lord told His people that those who were considered as righteous can fall into sin and be damned for their sins they committed, if those sins truly were serious and were not repented or overcome, forgiven by God and absolved by Him. Meanwhile, all those considered and deemed as wicked, evil and sinful, could be saved if they repented from their sins and change their ways. The Lord will forgive all those who came seeking Him and His forgiveness, with the sincere and real desire to love Him and to return to Him, and this is what the Lord wanted all of His people, including all of us to know. Back then, during the time of the prophet Ezekiel, the people of God had suffered a lot and been humbled and thrown down, for all the wickedness that they and their ancestors had committed, and even so, God still loved each and every one of them, and desired for them to be reconciled with Him.

He called on them to return to Him, and gave them help, reassurance and assistance all throughout their way, sending His prophets, messengers and guides to them, and eventually, even His own beloved Son, the One promised to be the Saviour of all mankind, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today, the Lord said to His disciples of how they ought to be truly faithful and dedicated to God, and that they have to be genuine in their beliefs, and their way of life ought to truly reflect of their status as God’s beloved children and people, and that is, they have to be truly good and righteous in all of their ways and actions. Otherwise, if we profess to believe in God and yet act in ways that are contrary to our faith and beliefs, we are then no better than hypocrites and unbelievers in our faith and way of life, and worse still, we can even cause scandal for our faith and tarnish the Lord’s Holy Name.

We have to be truly faithful to God, filled with love and devotion to Him, and also love for our fellow brothers and sisters, as best as we are able to. In that same Gospel passage, the Lord spoke against those whose faith were superficial and all those who despised their fellow brethren, or had evil or bad intent against them. All of these were just as what the prophet Ezekiel had spoken before the people, that all those who commit bad and wicked deeds will be judged by their evil and sinful deeds, by their actions in bringing harm and suffering on others, or by their lack of care and attention to others, in being selfish and self-centred in their attitudes. Instead, as Christians, as all those who profess to believe in the Lord, all of us are called to be filled with the virtues, righteousness and love of God in all things. Unless we are truly filled with all these, it may be difficult for us to find our way back to the Lord, as they often become great obstacles in our path.

That is why during this season of Lent all of us are called and reminded of our calling and vocation as Christians, first of all to be holy just as the Lord our God is Holy. All of us are reminded that because God is our loving Father, as His children, all of us should reflect Him in our way of life and attitudes, in our actions and interactions with one another. All of us should spend this time and season of Lent growing ever stronger in our commitment to the Lord and His path. All of us should do whatever we can to live our lives with true Christian charity and generosity, doing everything we can to glorify the Lord by our lives. We should spend more time with the Lord, communicating with Him and listening to His words being spoken deep within our hearts and minds, turning away from the many distractions and temptations from all around us in this world.

That is why we should spend more time in prayer, reaching out to our most loving and caring Father in every possible opportunities, praying to Him and communicating with Him, listening to Him calling upon us to follow Him in the path He has pointed out to us and shown us. We should do whatever we can to restrain our worldly desires and distance ourselves from unhealthy attachments and distractions through our practice of fasting and abstinence, done with the right focus in helping us to come closer to the Lord and to His righteous and virtuous path instead of as a means of boasting and showing off of our faith to others. And lastly, we should continue to show more love, care and generosity through almsgiving and care, all of which we are called and encouraged to do more during this season of Lent, reminding us of our nature as Christians, as God’s beloved and holy people.

May the Lord continue to bless our every efforts and actions, and may He empower each and every one of us to live our lives more courageously and with greater commitment in His path and love. May He guide us and strengthen us to be ever stronger in standing up for His truth in our communities today, and to live our lives most faithfully as good and devout Christians, in every possible opportunities, and at all times. Amen.

Friday, 3 March 2023 : 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, 3 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 4c-6, 7-8

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, 3 March 2023 : 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, 2 March 2023 : 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, all of us are called and reminded to turn towards the Lord our God whenever we are in dire straits and in need of help and consolation. Each and every one of us are reminded that the Lord is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He had made with us, and He is always loving and caring towards us, ever always showing us His patient and kind love despite the stubbornness and rebellious attitudes that we had shown towards Him. God is truly our loving Father and Creator, Who has created us out of love and hence, continues to watch over us and shows us His loving kindness at all times, but there are moments and times when we, as His children, need to seek for Him and ask for His help.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Esther the story of the Queen of Persia, Esther, who belonged to the Jewish people, that is the descendants of the people of Israel and Judah, and hence, was among God’s first called and chosen people. Back then, the remnants of Israel had been emancipated by the first Persian King of Kings, Cyrus the Great, who allowed them to return to their homeland and to rebuild their destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. They had endured many decades of persecutions and challenges, ever since they were uprooted from their homeland, forced to endure in humiliation being homeless and exiled, because of the disobedience and sins that they and their ancestors had committed in refusing to listen to the Lord or obey His will.

It was then that the enemies of the Lord and His people tried to rise up and gang up against the people of God, as highlighted in the Book of Esther as the role of a particular Haman the Agagite, a descendant of the King of Amalek, Agag, who was crushed and killed by God’s servant, Samuel, during the war between Israel and Amalek a few centuries prior, in the early days of the kingdom of Israel. The conflict hence led to the longstanding feud between the Israelites and their descendants with the descendants of Amalek. During the time of Esther, this came to a great culmination in the attempt by Haman to destroy the whole entire people of God by using his position and authority as a great right hand man of the King and regent over the whole Persian domain.

Haman managed to get the King to order the eradication of the entire Jewish people, all the descendants of God’s people, and it was there that Queen Esther was caught in a great quandary, as she wanted to help her people, but the law of the realm stated that she was not to come and approach the King unless he requested or called for her appearance, and to do otherwise would likely have led to her being deposed, as it was exactly how her predecessor as the Persian Queen, Vashti, lost her position and was exiled. Worse still, she could have also suffered even death for her attempt to help her people. Yet, encouraged by her uncle, Mordechai, who struggled in his own way against Haman and his wickedness, and ever having strong faith in the Lord, Queen Esther entrusted her life and everything in the hands of the Lord.

And that was exactly what we have heard in our first reading today, as Queen Esther prayed to the Lord, seeking for His guidance, help and strength, in leading her through whatever she would be doing for the sake of God’s own people, who was about to face destruction and damnation. She entrusted everything to the Lord, knowing that God would not abandon those whom He loved, and she asked Him for the courage and strength to face the King and all those forces seeking to destroy the people of Israel, so that God might indeed lead them out from the darkness, and save them in their hour of greatest need. Indeed, God intervened and helped, and not only that the people of God were saved, by the actions of Queen Esther, but Haman himself, the great enemy, faced the just consequences of his evils, and he suffered the same fate that he had wickedly planned for Mordechai and the Israelites.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard a related passage in which the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples that they ought to ask, seek and approach the Lord, their God and their Father, as unless they come and ask, seek and find the Lord, and try to reach out to the Lord, then they would not be able to gain anything, and the Lord will open the door and help all those who have shown the willingness to reach out to Him. God truly helps only all those who are able and willing to help themselves first, strengthening and guiding them in the manner of how He has helped, blessed, protected and guided Esther in her effort to save her own people from utter destruction and annihilation. All of us are therefore also reminded in the same way that we should always focus our attention on the Lord, and do whatever we can to serve Him faithfully, following and obeying His Law and commandments.

This season of Lent is a particularly good and appropriate time for us to come and seek the Lord with renewed vigour and effort, especially if we have been separated and sundered from Him due to our many sins and evils. If we have been estranged from God because we did not truly know Him and did not spend enough time on Him, or in trying to find out and know more about Him, then this is indeed the time for us to repent from our many sins, stop disobeying the Lord, resist the many temptations all around us and embrace once again God’s ever generous mercy, compassion, kindness and love. Each and every one of us must indeed realise just how fortunate we are to have such a loving God and Father, Who has always watched over us and protected us, and Who has always called on us to return to Him, only to be faced with stubborn rejection from us.

May the Lord, our loving Father and Creator, continue to bless us and love us in each and every moments, and may all of us draw ever closer to Him, deepening our relationship and understanding of His love, through our Lenten practices, by our genuine and devout prayers, spending more precious and quality time with Him, communicating with Him and walking ever closely in His path and grace, and also by restraining our temptations and wickedness through fasting and abstinence, and by our practice of showing the same love and kindness that God has shown us, by our generous almsgiving and care for all those who are in need. May God be with us always, and may He empower each one of us to be His ever more faithful disciples, and good role models and inspirations to one another. Amen.

Thursday, 2 March 2023 : 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.”