Wednesday, 25 March 2015 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a very great feast day of the Church, commemorating nine months before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the moment when our Lord Jesus was conceived, and when the Divine Word and Son of God was incarnate into flesh, and assumed the form of Man through the intermediary of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who played a key role in today’s celebrations.

On this day, we commemorate also that day when the Archangel Gabriel came to the small, poor and humble village of Nazareth in Galilee, to break the news regarding the end of the long wait for the coming of the Lord’s Promised Messiah, the Good News announced to the world through Mary. And thus, the Feast is called the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord, because on that day, His arrival and entry into the world was first announced.

And today, the theme of our Scripture readings is obedience, and obedience that entails true and genuine desire to obey the will of God and to listen to what the Lord wants from us. In the past, people used to observe the Law and obey all of its commandments in great detail, even to the details of what kind of animals should be sacrificed for a certain purpose, and that by doing so, the people thought that they were devout and pious in the eyes of the Lord.

Unfortunately, such devotions, while necessary and good, but if they are not based upon good and strong foundations, as well as upon good understanding of the will of God, then it is very easy for us to be misled and to lose the meaning of what we are doing for our faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did exactly that, as were so many people even in the Church for many years.

They were focused on the wrong thing, and they thought that by doing all of the complicated and various rituals, they had fulfilled what God had wanted. They thought that by imposing strict discipline on the faith and by enforcing the punishment which the laws of Moses stated as should be done to certain kinds of sinners, they had brought joy the Lord. But the fact is, that they were sorely mistaken.

How does all these relate to the event of the Annunciation of our Lord? This is because we have been wayward and lost our way so many times that our Lord Himself had willingly decided to come down Himself in order to save us from destruction. He has promised this salvation ever since the beginning of time, at the time when our first ancestors fell into sin.

If we take note of what took place then, we would realise that God had promised mankind that He will make the Woman crush the head of the snake, even while the snake bites on the heels of the child. All these represent what has happened to us all mankind, and what God had done about that. The snake is the devil and all of his devices, sin and wickedness, all of which are threatening to destroy the children of God that is all of us.

But the Lord did not let Satan to have his way with us freely as he wanted it. He gave us all a hope, since that time, and which He constantly renewed through the prophets and His messengers, the hope for salvation which was to come. He never abandoned those whom He loved so dearly. It is often we are the ones who abandoned Him first. He is ever faithful and ever loving.

Thus after a long wait, today we heard about how made that promise to come to the perfect fulfillment through Jesus, who came into the world in order to save it. It is what the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is all about, that is the announcing of the great Good News of our Lord’s salvation in Jesus to the whole world through the Archangel Gabriel, who revealed it to the world through Mary, the Mother of our Lord. She is the Woman through whom the Salvation of this world would come and thus crush the dominion of Satan.

Therefore, on this day, as we reflect on the nature of this feast day and celebration, let us all come to realise how great is the love which our Lord had shown us all, the mercy He wants to give us so that we will not suffer from our rebelliousness. Let us all realise that all that He wants from us is our love and devotion, that we give all our hearts to Him in sincere devotion.

That is more important for Him than all other forms of devotions. That does not mean that we do not need prayer or neglect our devotions in the Mass and others. On the other hand, these are truly very necessary. But if we do not comprehend their significance and how these can help us to be closer to our Lord, and if we do not have the love for God in our hearts in the first place, then all of those are meaningless.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our devotion and commitment to the Lord today. Let us all show sincerity in our faith towards Him, and do not just pay lip service any longer to Him. Instead, let us all truly mean our faith, and practice it in our lives, in our every actions. Let us all make whatever remaining time we have in this season of Lent to be a meaningful one. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name of Mary.

The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus.”

“He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : ‘You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings.’ Then I said : ‘Here I am. It was written of me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.’

First He says : ‘Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them’ – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : ‘Here I am to do Your will.’

This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the body of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

As the scroll says of me, to do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your Law is within my heart.

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness; I have made no secret of Your truth and Your kindness in the great assembly.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, while yesterday we spoke of God’s mercy and justice, the forgiveness of sinners, then today we continue in the same theme, that while God is not happy and angry with our sins, but as long as we are willing to repent and change our sinful ways, then the Lord will forgive us and bring us back to His embrace and love.

And there are also strong parallels between the readings today from the Old and the New Testament each. The first reading today is about the punishment which God accorded to Israel when they disobeyed Him and grumbled excessively against Him while they were journeying through the desert. God sent fiery serpents to strike at all the unbelievers and many of them died.

And when they had repented their rebellion and begged God for forgiveness through Moses, God sent a new hope to the people in trouble and despair, by the crafting of the bronze serpent standard, which Moses then lifted up high for all the people to see. Then, as a result, all those who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent would not die but live on.

In the same way therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ had been raised up high, for all mankind to see, including at all times whenever we see Him on the cross. And all of us who look at Him, know Him and believe in Him and in all the things that He had done for us, shall be saved and granted the eternal blessings and graces of God. He has given us all this salvation freely, and He suffered for our sake because of His love, knowing that by doing so, He had given us all a second chance.

That is why, He is so particular about our conversion, from our worldly and sinful ways into the path of the Lord towards our salvation. We cannot pretend to ignore all of these, for the time shall come in the end, when the Lord will judge all of us according to our deeds. If we are found to be filled with sin, then at that time, no amount of begging or atonement will be able to help our fate of eternal suffering.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be reminded that our Lord Jesus Christ had given His all in order to save us from our fate of death, by the sacrifice which He took upon on the cross. As we draw closer to the beginning of the Holy Week, which begins this coming Sunday, let us all understand more of the sins which we have committed, and even more importantly, how to change our ways that we may sin no more and be saved.

As mentioned earlier, God does not hate the sinner but the sins that the sinners committed. Therefore, we have to be sincere in our repentance and conversion. We cannot profess to be believers and followers of our Lord and yet we still continue to commit sins and wickedness in our daily lives. If we do so, then we are hypocrites who do not act as what we have preached and believed.

 May Almighty God help us to find our way to Him, and also by awakening in us the strong desire for repentance, for forgiveness and for the purification of our wicked and sinful selves, that after this time is over, our Lord may congratulate us for we have triumphed and are worthy to receive the gifts of eternal life and eternal joy with God in heaven. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, again Jesus said to the people, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.”

They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him, I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “the Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Numbers 21 : 4-9

From Mount Horeb they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Monday, 23 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings all have a clear purpose and intention which the Church intends to have us all know about it. It is about being judgmental and the judging attitude of others around us. It is within our human nature to be quick to judge and condemn others when they do something wrong to us. But it is not in our nature to judge ourselves and to look into ourselves for our mistakes.

In the first reading, we heard about the story of Susanna, the woman of Judah during the time of the exile in Babylon. She was a righteous and faithful woman, who had a loving family, and yet, the two elders appointed to be leaders of God’s people in exile turned to evil deeds and gave in to their desires and worldliness, and therefore, they persecuted her and almost had their way on her.

The elders gave in to their desire and their lust, and they were unable to resist the temptation of the flesh. And when they realised their sins in whatever they had committed or plotted with, instead of genuinely and sincerely repenting their ways and rejecting Satan, they instead allowed Satan to do even more harmful and evil works through them, by giving in to their pride and selfishness, seeking to preserve themselves by punishing the unfortunate Susanna to death.

The same also often happens to us, brothers and sisters in Christ. When we made a mistake and we are afraid of the consequences and the punishment, it is often and indeed it is our nature to seek to preserve ourselves first, by trying to find others to be blamed for our mistake instead, that is to find a scapegoat. It is what the two elders had done, when they could not get what they wanted, and even if they had succeeded, they wanted to clean their hands off whatever sins they had committed.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard also about how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus in order to test Him and trap Him with their malicious intents. They masqueraded and pretended to be faithful to the Lord and His teachings by apparently showing concern about that woman who had committed adultery and wanted her punished. Yet, they failed to look into themselves.

Jesus rightly said to them and revealed to them the fact which they and indeed, many of us often conveniently forget. Let the one without sin cast the first stone. That is the truth revealed by Christ to us, brethren, that we are all without exception, a sinner. Each of us have sinned differently, but nevertheless, be it that we have small or large sins, all of us are still separated from God through those sins which we have committed.

We should not judge others for the fault and mistakes which they had done in their lives, for we too can be judged by our own fault and by our own misbehaviours. This is what the Lord wanted for us to know, so that we would not be antagonised and that we would not keep hatred and prejudice against our own brethren. Only God has the authority and capacity, as well as the right to judge all of us.

And like the two elders, they were judged for their own sins when they tried to condemn the innocent woman to death. God does not judge as He pleases, but He judges based on whether we are willing to throw far, far away our ways of sinfulness and embrace the ways of truth, or whether we are unrepentant or even trying to cause harm to others through lie, slander, prejudice, hatred and many others.

The Lord does not hate the sinner, and that is why He forgave the adulterous woman her sins, just as He wanted to forgive all mankind their sins, but His next words are equally clear as well, that she should sin no more. Hence, we too, we who have been forgiven from our sins by the Lord, must also sin no more in our lives. God hates the sin, as sin is wickedness, rebelliousness and disobedience against the will of God.

In this time of Lent, we should reflect on our own lives. Do we forgive each other our sins and faults to one another? Do we endeavour to live more and more according to the will of God? Today we celebrate the feast of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, the Spanish Archbishop of Lima several hundred years ago, who is one of the first saints who hailed from the New World or the American continent.

He worked hard to evangelise the people of the New World, bringing the Light of Christ to those who still live in sin and darkness. He established many schools, institutions and other instruments to help future efforts of evangelisation and conversion of sinners to the true Faith. But most important of all, he did not judge against sinners but in fact sincerely tried his best to bring them to righteousness in God. He championed their rights against the colonial rulers, the Spanish Empire which sought to exploit them as much as possible and treat them as less than human beings.

By looking at the examples of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo and what we have heard in the Scriptures today, we know that we should do more to help those who are still stranded and trapped in sin. We must do more to help those who have none or few to help them. It is important for us to show mercy to one another, and to help each other to grow more and deeper in our faith. But we must also not forget to remind each other to sin no more.

God have mercy on sinners, but He still hates sin very much. Therefore, let us all make ourselves worthy by distancing ourselves from all things that can cause us to sin, and do good from now on. Let us all be found worthy at the end of time, and from then on to receive the fullness of God’s grace and blessings. God bless us all. Amen.