Tuesday, 21 March 2023 : 4th 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 reminded of the grace and healing that all of us receive from the Lord, Who alone is the source of all our hope and inspiration, grace and strength amidst the darkness, challenges and hardships of this world. The Lord our Saviour and our God has shown us His ever enduring love and patience with us, offering us freely and most generously the gift of His love and mercy despite our sinfulness and stubbornness in refusing His love and mercy. The Lord has always been patient and kind towards us, as we are all His beloved people and children, who are truly precious to Him. None of us can be separated from His love unless we ourselves have rejected Him and resisted Him all the way to the very end, as how some of our predecessors had done.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel about the vision of the Temple of God in Heaven, the great Sanctuary and the place of the Holy Presence of God, which represents the Lord’s glory and presence, and from which came forth a great river and flood of water that went down from the side of the Temple, which provided life for many of the things that dwell in the water, and which brought forth life to spring forth from wherever it touched. This vision of Ezekiel is a reminder that from God comes healing and hope for all of us, as we see the life-giving water of the great river springing forth from the Temple of God’s Presence. He is truly the source of our strength and redemption, and from Whom we shall once again be reconciled and be led back to His most loving embrace and to the path towards eternal life and true joy.

In the Gospel passage today, we then heard a rather similar experience and story linked to that of our first reading, when we heard of the account of the healing that came upon a paralysed man who was lying by the Pool of Bethzatha, by the Lord Jesus, Who came to him and took pity on him. That man had been paralysed for a very long period of thirty-eight years, which is a truly long time, and surpassing even perhaps the lifetime of many of us here. He had suffered all those while and no one lifted a hand to help him. The link to the spring of the healing water in our first reading today is the Pool of Bethzatha itself, which according to the tradition and belief of the Jewish people, had a miraculous healing property, that as mentioned, when an Angel of God came down upon the water, the first person to touch the water would be healed.

It was then that the Lord came to the poor man, who had no one to help him for those thirty-eight years of paralysis, and went on to heal him and made him to be able to walk again. That was another Sabbath day that the Lord performed His miracle in, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were quick to criticise and persecute the Lord for His continuous actions in healing and performing many good deeds on the Sabbath. Those people had misunderstood and misinterpreted the Law, treating the Law as a means for them to gain recognition and praise by others, as they imposed very difficult terms and tenets on the people of God, forcing them to practice the Law in the way that they had done. They prohibited every single actions on the Sabbath, even those deeds and actions that are good in purpose and can help others.

The Lord made it clear that in His actions in healing those sick people and others who suffered other maladies and troubles, that the Law was not made to be the lord over man, but instead, it was meant to help lead mankind back towards God and to help them to discover the truth about His love and ways. The Law itself was meant to help the people of God to rediscover the love that they ought to have for the Lord and the obedience and the effort that they should be spending in building a strong and genuine relationship with Him. It is also a reminder that as those whom God had loved and cared, and as His people, we should also show the same love, kindness and compassion on others around us. We should not act like those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who often took great pride in their own piety and supposed righteousness and faith, and who looked down on others and even persecuted those who disagreed with them and did not follow their way.

This is also a reminder that each one of us are sinners in need of God’s healing and mercy, without which we cannot find our way to the true joy and eternal life that we can find in God alone. As we have heard from the readings today, the Lord alone is the source of our Hope, healing and grace, and through Him, we have received the rich grace and blessing of His love, which He poured upon us most generously, even when we are still sinners and stubborn in our constant rebellion and refusal to listen to Him. He patiently led and guided us to Himself, sending His help and guidance to us in various ways, caring for all of us and calling on all of us to turn away from the path of sin and evil, showing us the sure path forward to eternal life and true joy with Him. He has come into our midst in the flesh, in the person of His own beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, so that all may be saved through Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this penitential season of Lent, let us ask ourselves if we are going to continue to live our lives in the way of worldliness and sin as we have often done, or whether we are able to make the commitment to embrace God and His path, turning away from sin and evil, and returning to the loving embrace of God. The Lord has freely offered us His love, compassionate mercy and forgiveness, and it is up to us whether we want to take up His offer or not. We cannot truly be forgiven unless we are willing to embrace God wholeheartedly, and to turn our backs against our past, sinful way of life. This is of course much easier said than done, but that does not mean that we should be discouraged and disheartened by the challenges and trials that we may have to face in being a disciple and follower of the Lord. Instead, this should spur us ever more to commit ourselves even more to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of the time and opportunities that we have been given in the duration of this season of Lent so that we may endeavour to listen to God’s call deep in our hearts and minds, and open ourselves to Him coming into our midst, so that like the paralysed man by the Pool of Bethzatha, He may come to heal us from our wretched condition and our sinfulness. all of us are in need of God’s healing and mercy, as there is no cure for sin apart from God’s mercy. That is why we should humble ourselves and be contrite in our hearts, in regretting our many sins and wickedness, and strive so that we will no longer continue to harden our hearts against God, and that we may embrace wholly the love that God has always generously poured down upon us. Let the spring of God’s living water continue to wash over us, encouraging and inspiring us to live our lives in the best way possible, to do what He has wanted us to do.

May the Lord continue to be with us, and may He empower each and every one of us to persevere despite the many trials and hardships that we may have to face in the journey of our faith throughout our respective lives. May God continue to help us to go forth as His faithful and committed disciples, becoming the true beacons of His light and truth, that our every words, actions and deeds may inspire many others to come to the Lord, His salvation, truth and grace as well. May God bless us all and keep us in His love, through all time and always. May God bless our Lenten observance and time, and may He remain by our side, in this faithful journey we make. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 1-16

At that time, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, there is a pool (called Bethzatha in Hebrew) surrounded by five galleries. In these galleries lay a multitude of sick people : blind, lame and paralysed.

(All were waiting for the water to move, for at times an Angel of the Lord would descend into the pool and stir up the water; and the first person to enter the pool, after this movement of the water, would be healed of whatever disease that he had.)

There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him, and because He knew how long this man had been lying there, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so while I am still on my way, another steps down before me.”

Jesus then said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk!” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his mat and walked. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had just been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and the Law does not allow you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The One Who healed me said to me, “Take up your mat and walk!”

They asked him, “Who is the One Who said to you : Take up your mat and walk?” But the sick man had no idea who it was Who had cured him, for Jesus had slipped away among the crowd that filled the place. Afterwards Jesus met him in the Temple court and told him, “Now you are well; do not sin again, lest something worse happen to you.”

And the man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had healed him. So the Jews persecuted Jesus because He performs healings like that on the Sabbath.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9ab

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore, though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is the Lord of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of the Lord – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 47 : 1-9, 12

The man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastwards. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing the east and there I saw the stream coming from the south side.

The man had a measuring cord in his hand. As he went towards the east he measured off a thousand cubits and led me across the water which was up to my ankles. He measured off another thousand cubits and made me cross the water which came to my knees. He measured off another thousand cubits and we crossed the water which was up to my waist. When he had again measured a thousand cubits, I could not cross the torrent for it had swollen to a depth which was impossible to cross without swimming.

The man then said to me, “Son of man, did you see?” He led me on further and then brought me back to the bank of the river. There I saw a number of trees on both sides of the river. He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome.”

“Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful and the sea water will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound. Near the river on both banks there will be all kinds of fruit trees with foliage that will not wither and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”