Saturday, 23 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the love which God has for each and every one of us, and so great is His love that He is willing to forgive even the greatest of sinners, no matter how great the sin that the sinner has committed, provided that the sinner is willing to be forgiven and willing to commit himself or herself to the path of redemption and reconciliation.

Today, as we continue to journey through the season of Lent, we are called to reflect through the passages taken from the Scriptures as our readings today, to think about our own lives and experiences, in how each and every one of us can make good use of this opportunity that God has given us, that we may be forgiven from our sins and be saved from the certainty of our impending doom and destruction due to those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Micah, we heard the prophet speaking to the people of God about the wondrous deeds that God has done for His people in the past, when He delivered them from the hands of their enemies, provided for their needs and blessed them with so many good blessings and graces. This was a reminder of God’s love for His people to those who have not been obedient to Him, rebelled against Him and were wicked in His sight.

This must be understood in the context of what the prophet Micah experienced, at the time of the northern kingdom of Israel, when God was no longer respected and worshipped in those places, and where the pagan idols and wicked deities have taken over the worship of God among the people. The prophets of God like Micah were rejected and oppressed, and they had to fear for their lives.

And yet, Micah told the people how the Lord was known for His mercy and forgiveness, His love and compassion for His people, that He will forgive them if only that the people were willing to be forgiven. And this often requires a change in their way of life, and in the commitment to reject the wicked practices and ways of the world, and instead embracing the righteousness and justice of God’s ways.

In today’s Gospel reading we heard the famous parable of the prodigal son, which correlates just perfectly with what we have heard from the prophet Micah. In that parable, we heard of a prodigal, younger son of a father who had two sons, who took his part of the rich inheritance from his father, and went to a distant land, squandering off all the wealth on wicked and immoral way of life, described as loose living in the Gospel.

And when the prodigal son had wasted all of his money and properties, he was left destitute and alone. All of those whom he might have regarded as friends abandoned him because they only wanted to enjoy the money and wealth he had, and once he ran out of them, they left him all alone. The prodigal son had to endure all sorts of humiliation, and endured the suffering of having nothing, not even his human dignity, when he decided to return in shame to his father.

He would have expected that his father would be very angry at him, and did not want to treat him as a son anymore, not after everything he had done in squandering off the wealth and portion of inheritance entitled to him. That is why he wanted to be treated like a slave in his plea for the father’s forgiveness. But little did he realise that his father loved him so much that he was welcomed back with such a great festivities and joy, as the lost son was found and returned to his father.

In this parable, we heard the story of the prodigal son, which in fact represents all of us mankind, all of us who are sinners, who have disobeyed the Father’s will, God, our heavenly Father, Who has blessed us with so many wonderful things and blessings, just as He had done to the Israelites in the past. Instead of appreciating all that He has done for us, like the Israelites and the prodigal son, we acted in defiance and disobedience, and did all that were abhorrent to God.

And yet, God loves us all so much, just as the father loved the prodigal and lost son, that He gave us chances after chances to return to Him and be forgiven from our sins. And the ultimate proof of this love, is how He gave us Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who gave us the hope and sure pathway to the eternal glory and life with God, our loving Father. By His loving sacrifice on the cross, we mankind have been gathered like a shepherd gathering his lost sheep from among the darkness and wilderness of this world, and into His eternal light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Lent, we are called to do two main, important actions. First of all, we must be like the prodigal son, who has willingly, despite all the risks he took and in swallowing his pride, sought to return to his father. That is why we must turn away from our sinful way of life, and humbly seek God’s love and forgiveness. It is often that our ego and pride stand in the way of our forgiveness, because we do not want to admit that we have been wrong.

This is where we really need to be humble, to admit our mistakes and shortcomings before God. God Who loves us and Who knows our faults will have mercy on us, and He will grant us pardon and forgiveness, if only we seek Him with all of our heart. But then, we must also heed the other calling of today’s Gospel, and that is, for us not to be like the elder son, who has always been with the father, and became angry when the younger, prodigal son returned and treated with such fanfare that he became jealous.

This is why, secondly, this Lent, we must also reach out to our brethren, who may be in deeper and greater darkness than we are, those who have not embraced the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We should not act with pride and haughtiness, looking down on those who are still sinful and filled with wickedness. Ultimately, they too are our brothers and sisters, and they have no less right than us, to enjoy God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we should imitate the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, who as bishop in the New World, the Americas, devoted himself so much to his ministry and works, that he often braved through difficult conditions to minister to the people, caring for them physically as well as spiritually. He spent a lot of effort improving the people’s livelihood, and preached the truth of God in their midst. Countless people came to the Lord through his works, and he was still remembered for all of his dedication.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to make this our Lenten commitment? In fact, we should commit to this new way of life, to serve God and His people, from now on, giving all of our efforts and strength to love God with all of our hearts and be forgiven our sins, just as we assist one another in seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. May the Lord continue to bless our works, and may He guide us to His eternal glory. Amen.

Saturday, 23 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, ‘This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So Jesus told them this parable : “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”

Saturday, 23 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

Saturday, 23 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, shepherd the flock of Your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when You went out of Egypt. Show us Your wonders.

Who is a God like You, Who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of His inheritance? Who is like You Whose anger does not last? For You delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again You will show us Your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scripture readings are reminding us in the midst of this blessed season of Lent, of the dangers of the pride, ego and jealousy that are often found in the hearts and minds of men. Very quickly all of these can lead us into sin, as the Scripture readings today presented before us the example of Joseph and his brothers as well as the parable of the vineyard owner as mentioned by the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading today we heard of the story of how Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob or Israel, came to conflict because of the jealousy that existed between them. In order to understand this better, we must understand that Joseph was born from Jacob’s favourite wife, and was born in his old age, and therefore, Joseph was really doted on by Jacob as a favourite son. It is inevitable that the brothers of Joseph became jealous at such a treatment.

That was why we heard how they plotted to have Joseph killed, thinking that if Joseph was killed, then they would not have him in their midst any longer and became a rival to their father’s attention and even inheritance. To them, even though he was of their own flesh and blood as their own brother, but they did not hesitate to commit such a heinous and wicked crime just because of their jealousy, the ego, pride and greed in their hearts.

Thankfully, Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob, heard of the brothers’ plan and told them to think in a more reasonable manner, and therefore, not to kill Joseph but in the end, selling him off to a Midianite caravan that brought Joseph to Egypt. And God turned the wicked acts of the brothers of Joseph into something good, as Joseph came to be the Viceroy of Egypt and prepared the way for his whole family to come to Egypt and be saved during the seven years of great famine.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard then the Lord Jesus in the parable with which He taught the people, on a vineyard owner who leased out his vineyard to tenants, who became greedy and haughty, proud and ambitious, in refusing to obey the terms of agreement in the tenancy. In fact, they plotted against the owner, his workers and servants, and even the son of the owner, when they were sent to remind the wicked tenants to fulfil their agreement.

This was in fact a representation of how wicked men treated the prophets of God and eventually, God’s own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ Himself. The owner of the vineyard is the Lord, the vineyard is the world and all creation, the messengers and servants are the prophets and the servants of God, and the son of the owner is the Lord Jesus, Saviour and Lord, Who was betrayed, rejected and condemned to death by those who refused to listen to the Lord, just as the wicked tenants put the son of the owner to death.

All of these happened, just as Joseph was ill-treated and almost put to death by his own brothers, because of jealousy, because of desire, because of the pride and ego that fill up our hearts and minds. When we start to desire for worldly acclamations, influence, fame, glory, joy and other forms of temptations that are always around us, we will find that we will not be able to have peace in mind, because we will end up plotting against each other and being unhappy, because others have what we ourselves do not have, and vice versa.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to break off from this vicious cycle of greed and desire, of pride and ego. That is why we practice fasting and abstinence, to restrain our inner desires and the wicked temptations that are always trying to pull us to commit sin by being jealous to one another. We are called to practice this restrain to prevent us from falling deeper and deeper into the traps of sin.

And that is why we are also encouraged to be charitable and give almsgiving during this period, because rather than grumbling and being angry and jealous at what we do not have, we should instead share what we have with each other, that instead of us all being unhappy at one another, why not if we can be happy together as a community and family of God’s people together?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, drawing from the wisdom of the Lord in the Scriptures, as well as from our own human experiences, in which we must have experienced a lot of injustice, anger and pain, suffering and hurt from actions of ours that are selfish and prideful, let us all turn away from these wicked thoughts and deeds, and commit ourselves anew in this season of Lent and beyond, to be true and loving disciples of the Lord from now on. May God bless us always, in all of our good endeavours, in loving one another and in being ever more selfless, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.