Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the fifth one in the season of Lent we mark the beginning of the Passiontide, the period marking the time remembering the Passion or the suffering and death of Our Lord which will culminate in the celebrations of the Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. As such this Sunday is also known as the Passion Sunday, serving as an important reminder to all of us that we are approaching the end of Lent and are entering the most solemn period in our entire liturgical year.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through His prophet Jeremiah, promising them of a New Covenant that He would establish with them, and how He would reconcile them all to Himself, and that He would forgive them their sins and take them back to His embrace. The New Covenant that He would establish with them would not be like the old Covenant that He had once made, but much more perfect and complete.

At that time, the people of Israel had long disobeyed the Lord and fallen into vile and wicked ways, worshipping the pagan idols and gods, refusing to listen to the prophets and messengers that had been sent to them and remaining defiant in sin. They rebelled against God and were stubborn in challenging God’s authority, and thus, they should have been crushed and destroyed. God could have condemned mankind, but He did not do so because of the love that He has for each and every one of us.

He has always been patient in reaching out to us and in loving us, showing us all His care and compassionate love. And although He might seem to be stern and fierce at times, that was because He loved us sincerely and with the genuine desire to see us grow and become better. He is our loving Father, Who wants us all, His children to learn His ways and to be righteous and good, just as He is good. That is why He sent messengers after messengers, prophets after prophets to reach out to us.

He then sent us the fulfilment of that promise, the promises He had made to all of His beloved ones, through His prophets and messengers, including the one made through Jeremiah. That fulfilment came through Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of all. That God did not even hesitate to give to us His own beloved and only begotten Son is a testament of His enduring love and the dedication He has to the Covenant that He had made with us.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today proclaimed to His disciples and to all the people gathered, of the truth of God that has been revealed through Him, and how He would glorify His Father’s Name through His actions, where He mentioned how He would suffer and eventually die for the sake of our salvation, taking up upon Himself the sins of the whole world and placed them on His own shoulders, enduring all those for our sake, because of the love He has for us.

And just as shown in our Gospel passage today, how there were some Greeks, the non-Jews or the Gentiles who came and wanted to speak with the Lord and know more about Him, today as we heard that passage, we can see the symbolic nature of such an encounter, as God’s voice was heard just like how it was during the time of the baptism of Jesus, proclaiming that ‘I have glorified My Name, and I shall glorify it again’, as a reference to what the Lord Jesus would do to proclaim the glory of God and reveal the fullness of His truth to all.

These were meant therefore for both the Jews and the non-Jews or Gentiles alike, God has called all of them to follow Him and to walk in His path. God wants every single one of us, children of mankind, to come to know Him, to embrace Him and be reconciled with Him. Once we may have been separated from Him by sin, but God wants to show us all that no sin is great enough to come between us and Him, and His grace alone is enough to bridge that gap between us and Him.

In our second reading, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke more of all that the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour had done in order to bring us out of our predicament and enslavement by sin, that by obeying the will of His heavenly Father, He willingly took up His Cross, and by becoming both the High Priest for all of us and also the Lamb of sacrifice, the Paschal Lamb, He became for us the source of salvation and eternal life, the reconciliation with God, our loving Father and Creator.

It was by that action, the perfect and most loving sacrifice offered by Christ, our one and true Eternal High Priest, has offered on the Cross, the Altar of His sacrifice at Calvary that He has both become the High Priest offering on our behalf the sacrificial offering worthy of the forgiveness for our sins and our redemption. And not only that but He is also the Lamb to be sacrificed, the only One perfect and worthy enough, Son of God, incarnate in the Flesh, shedding His Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, in atonement for our sins.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the Passion of Our Lord, the word Passion having the meaning of enduring, suffering and persevering with patience, from the Latin words, ‘passus sum’, referring to all the hardships, trials, and grievous wounds and pains that Our Lord had to endure as He ascended the way of the Cross, the path of suffering from Jerusalem where He was condemned to death by crucifixion, up to the hill of Calvary outside the city, stripped and humiliated, nailed to the Cross, and finally suffered death at the end of all His sufferings.

That is also why we celebrate during this upcoming Holy Week, committing ourselves to the memory of the Lord Who has loved us so much that He has sent us deliverance, hope and salvation through Christ, His beloved Son, Who had to endure all the struggles and pains so that through His suffering and death, we may be freed from the tyranny of sin and death, and by sharing in the same death, we may enter into the glorious Resurrection just as the Lord Himself had risen in glory.

Through His suffering on the Cross, Christ shed His own Most Precious Body and Blood, with the Cross as His Altar, offering Himself freely and establish for us a New Covenant between us and God, with Him as the Mediator of this New Covenant. Christ being both the Son of God and Son of Man, having two distinct natures, human and Divine, united inseparably in His one Person, is perfect for this role of Mediator, bringing the gap that existed between us and God, reconciling us from the rebellion of our sins and wickedness.

According to St. Paul, Christ is the New Adam, which as compared to the old Adam, our first forefather, is perfect and the exemplary Man, that while Adam and Eve once disobeyed the Lord and ate of the fruits of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Christ obeyed His Father’s will so perfectly, that He endured all the sufferings and drank the cup of persecution, bitterness, rejection and humiliation for our sake. Through His obedience, we have been healed and are reconciled with God, establishing a New Covenant, one that is lasting and never-ending, a New and Eternal Covenant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into the time of Passiontide beginning today on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Passion Sunday, let us all therefore deepen our relationship with God and rediscover that faith that we ought to have in Him if we have not already done so yet. The Lord has shown us so much love and patience, enduring the worst of persecutions and challenges, trials and sorrows so that by His suffering we may gain our freedom from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death.

How are we then responding to God’s love, that is ever present and ever enduring in our midst? Are we going to continue to ignore Him, to reject Him and to harden our hearts and close our minds against Him? Or are we going to allow Him to touch our lives and to make us whole once again, healing us from the afflictions of our sins? As we enter into this time of deeper preparation for the upcoming Holy Week and Easter, let us therefore make best use of the time and the opportunities we have received, so that we may come to seek the Lord with a contrite heart, filled with repentance and regret for our sins.

May the Lord, our loving Father and Creator, continue to love us all as He has always done, and remain patient with us as we continue to navigate our way through this world. Let us all strive to turn away from sinful ways, and reject all forms of worldly temptations and evils, remembering just what He has gone through in order to save us and in establishing the New Covenant with us. Let us seek to be ever closer to the Lord in all things, and grow ever stronger in our faith and commitment to Him. Let our remaining observances of Lent be fruitful and help us to be more attuned to God and His will. May God bless us all and our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 12 : 20-33

At that time, there were some Greeks who had come up to Jerusalem to worship during the feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went to Andrew, and the two of them told Jesus.

Then Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him. Now, My soul is in distress. Shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But, to face all this, I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” People standing there heard something and said it was thunder; but others said, “An Angel was speaking to Him.” Then Jesus declared, “This voice did not come for My sake, but for yours. Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be cast down. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to Myself.”

With these words Jesus referred to the kind of death He was to die.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

John 11 : 1-45

At that time, there was a sick man named Lazarus who was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This is the same Mary, who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was sick.

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” They replied, “Master, recently the Jews wanted to stone You. Are You going there again?”

Jesus said to them, “Are not twelve working hours needed to complete a day? Those who walk in the daytime shall not stumble, for they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, for there is no light in them.” After that Jesus said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him.”

The disciples replied, “Lord, a sick person who sleeps will recover.” But Jesus had referred to Lazarus’ death, while they thought that He had meant the repose of sleep. So Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there, for now you may believe. But let us go there, where he is.” Then Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. As Bethany is near Jerusalem, about two miles away, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

After that Martha went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The Master is here and is calling for you.” As soon as Mary heard this, she rose and went to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. The Jews, who were with her in the house consoling her, also came. When they saw her get up and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep.

As for Mary, when she came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, who had come with her, He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

Alternative reading (shorter version of Reading from Year A)

John 11 : 3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

Jesus was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hebrews 5 : 7-9

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him, Who could save Him from death, and He was heard, because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt, through suffering, what obedience was, and, once made perfect, He became the Source of eternal salvation, for those who obey Him.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Romans 8 : 8-11

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him.

But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit Who dwells within you.

Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 12-13, 14-15

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.

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. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

Alternative Psalm (Psalm from Year A)

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.

Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 31-34

The time is coming – it is YHVH Who speaks – when I will forge a new Covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. It will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they broke My Covenant although I was their Master, YHVH declares.

This is the Covenant I shall make with Israel after that time : I will put My Law within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God and they will be My people. And they will not have to teach each other, neighbour or brother, saying : ‘Know YHVH,’ because they will all know Me, from the greatest to the lowliest, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and no longer remember their sin.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Ezekiel 37 : 12-14

YHVH said to Ezekiel, “So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves.”

“When I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”