Saturday, 14 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Scriptures, our attention and focus are brought on the mercy and compassionate nature of Our God. This we heard first of all from the words of the prophet Micah who spoke of God’s love and guidance for His people as their Lord and Shepherd, and then followed by the famous parable of the prodigal son in our Gospel passage today, a story that all of us are certainly familiar with.

In the first reading we heard of the prophet Micah who spoke of the Lord as the Shepherd of the people of Israel, as the One Who guides the people through and provides for them all throughout their history, reminding of His great deeds and wonders especially when He brought out the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, protecting them from their enemies and destroyed all those who opposed and wanted to defeat them.

The prophet Micah was also speaking in the manner of a prayer, asking God to be merciful on His people just as He had been merciful with them in the past, forgiving them their sins and turning them over a new lease of life when they regretted their sins and repented from those wickedness they have committed. The prophet also spoke to God of the promises and the Covenant which He had made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all of His faithful servants, to turn away from His anger and be merciful on their descendants.

Through all these, and linking to what we certainly know in the parable of the prodigal son, we can see how God indeed is not an angry and fearsome God that many of us often thought, but rather, a loving, compassionate and merciful God Who wants each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. The prodigal son in the parable, which represents us as the sinners, separated from the father’s love, as the father represents God, shows us that no matter how worried or scared one may be to be reconciled to our loving Father in heaven, the truth is that He loves us even greater than He despises our sins.

Yet, this is where we must understand that unless we make the effort to return to the Father, even in shame and humiliation, we can never find the path to reconciliation with Him. The younger son had squandered off his portion of inheritance, and did all sorts of vices and wicked things during his time in the foreign land, and when he ran out of everything, he resolved after consideration and deliberations, to return to his father even though he had to swallow his pride and lose his face, to be humiliated and even to beg his father to treat him just like one of his father’s servants.

In all of that, we can see how the prodigal son summoned the courage and the strength to journey back to his father in repentance and regret, willing to humble himself that he might be reconciled to his father. And this is what all of us must also do as we journey towards God, our loving Father and Creator, and embrace His generous offer of love and mercy. Just as the father of the prodigal son welcomed his long lost son so passionately when they were reconciled, so is our loving Father as well. God is truly joyful to have us reconciled with Him, when we are sincere in our desire to turn away from our sins and to embrace fully once again, His love and grace.

Now, let us all reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on what our lives have been thus far. Have we allowed our pride and ego, our greed and desires, our attachments to sin and the various wickedness of this world to prevent us and become obstacles for us in our journey to be reconciled with God? Have we allowed ourselves to continue to sin because we are too afraid to admit that we have been wrong and that we have been defiled by the sins we committed? Or have we allowed ourselves to fear God and His anger and retribution just because we failed to recognise His genuine love and desire to forgive us?

Have we allowed the devil to tempt us to continue to sin by indulging in all sorts of things that go against God’s will, because they pander to our desires, our ambitions and wishes? Have we become too attached to the lures of power, worldly glory and fame, of pleasures and satisfactions of our bodies among many other things? Let us really carefully discern on all these as we progress through this blessed penitential season of Lent, so that we truly may follow the example of the prodigal son in returning to the love of his father, that we ourselves may be reconciled with God, our loving and ever merciful Father.

Let us all realise that God despises our sins, not us as the sinners. After all, He created us all in love, for the reason of sharing His love for us, and His love endures so much that He was willing to give us His ultimate gift of love in Christ, His own Beloved Son, to be our Saviour, redeeming us all through the most painful and bitter pain of the Cross, making the ultimate sacrifice of love for our sake. And this is indeed for us to remember, that with every sins we committed, we inflict those blows and injuries on the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all sin no more and strive to be upright in all of our dealings and actions, to be good to our fellow brothers and sisters, that we show love and compassion to those who have wronged us, to forgive them their faults and mistakes just as we also should ask to be forgiven our own mistakes and faults, which we may not even realise that we have committed unto others around us, even to our family members, our friends and our loved ones. And it is important that we are merciful just as God our Father is merciful so that through our own mercy and forgiveness, compassion and love, we too are open to accept God’s offer of compassion, love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore strive to be merciful as the Father is merciful, and to love as the Father has loved us. Let us all be sorry for our sins and faults, to seek forgiveness through our genuine desire to repent and turn away from our sins and from all sorts of wickedness in our lives. May the Lord help us and may He give us the courage and strength to walk faithfully in this path that He has led us through, that we may truly find consolation and true happiness in Him, through the forgiveness of our sins and by being reconciled to our loving Father. Amen.

Saturday, 14 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (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, 14 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (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, 14 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (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, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the story of the sons of Israel or Jacob, namely Joseph and his brothers, and we heard how Joseph was treated by his jealous brothers, betrayed and almost killed if not for the intervention of one of his brothers, ended up being sold to slavery and eventually was brought to Egypt. In the Gospel we heard a kind of parallel and similar story in the parable of the wicked vineyard tenants as told by the Lord Jesus to His disciples.

Through these readings we heard about the plots and the wicked acts which people acted against their own fellow brothers, as we heard first of the treatment of Joseph by his brothers. The brothers were irritated and angered, jealous and prejudiced against Joseph because of Joseph’s dreams and God’s vision that He has revealed through those dreams, in which the brothers misunderstood as Joseph trying to lord over them, which was compounded by the favouritism which Jacob showed to Joseph and his brother Benjamin.

The brothers desired to have that attention and the treatment which Joseph had enjoyed from his father, and that was why, they were angry at him when he recounted to them the contents of his dream. They plotted against him and threw him into a well, eventually sold him to the slavers and lied to their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Yet, in the end, we all know that Joseph went to Egypt ahead of his family as part of God’s greater agenda and plan for His people, despite the plots of Joseph’s brothers.

In the Gospel we heard the peculiarly similar story of a vineyard owner who sent his servants to collect the dues and rents of the tenants whom he had entrusted with the care of the vineyard he leased out to them. Those tenants were wicked and desired to keep everything they gained to themselves, and hence persecuted and killed the servants sent to them. The tenants also then killed the son of the vineyard owner, whom the owner sent to them thinking that the tenants would respect his son.

In the end, the owner came down himself and crushed all those wicked tenants, punishing them all for the wickedness and the evil things which they had committed for their greed and ego. They lost everything and were punished justly by the owner. And all these is a parable used by the Lord to describe the relationship between God and His people, as the owner of the vineyard represents God, while the son of the owner represents none other than Christ Himself, the Son of God sent into the world. The vineyard represents the world itself while the wicked tenants represent all those who refused to believe in the Lord and in Christ.

What all of us ought to learn from all these which we have heard from the Scriptures today is that if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of greed and desire, of pride and ego, we will likely end up like those wicked tenants who acted with such evil against their fellow men and even against the son of their master and landlord. It would also just be like the despicable act which the brothers of Joseph committed to gain for themselves favour and inheritance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very important during this season of Lent that we reflect on our own lives and think carefully how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we want to proceed from now on. Are we going to seek worldly glory and honour, human praise and fame, or pleasures of all sorts, or are we instead going to focus our attention on God and put our effort to live our lives according to His ways and obey His laws?

The choice has been given to us, and through the passages of the Scriptures today we are shown just how dangerous the temptations of worldly desires and our greed can be, in leading us into sin and from there, into an ever deeper trap of sin and malice, wickedness and evil. Are we going to follow these temptations and allow ourselves to be tempted, especially by the devil and all of his evil forces who are always out and about trying to pull us down this path?

Let us all strive therefore to be more committed and to be more faithful as we progress along this season of Lent, renewing our faith in God and growing in our relationship with Him. And today, as we also celebrate the seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, our Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the leader of the whole Church, let us all also unite our prayers for him, that God may help him and guide him in leading the Church, together with all of us Christians, all growing in faith as God’s one united Church.

May God bless us all, bless our Pope and may He strengthen His Church and all of us in our conviction and desire to love Him and to serve Him more, through our righteous and virtuous actions, and by distancing ourselves from the many worldly temptations all around us. Amen.

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (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, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (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.

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Thursday, 12 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are presented with a choice to be followed in life. We are presented with the choice between serving and following the Lord, putting our trust and faith in Him, or whether we prefer to serve and follow our own ways and paths, trusting in our own strength, indulging in all the temptations of this world. This is a choice given to all of us, which we may freely choose, and this is why we should reflect closely on what we have heard in the Scriptures today.

In our first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, the prophet spoke of the curse against those who followed the path of disobedience against God, namely those who trusted in themselves and in worldly matters more than they trusted in God. While those who trust in God will have the assurance of God’s providence and blessings, His promise of eternal life and glory everlasting, which we cannot gain unless we have faith in God.

This then leads us to our Gospel passage today which recounts to us the famous parable of the Lord Jesus, which is about Lazarus, the poor man and a rich man at whose house’s doorstep Lazarus always dwelled, hoping for the rich man to give him even the scraps of bread and food that fell from the table. But no one would give anything to Lazarus, and the poor man died in suffering and agony, abandoned and unloved by anyone. The rich man as mentioned in the Gospel, also then died.

We heard how Lazarus the poor man ended up in Paradise, in the presence of God in heaven with Abraham, enjoying the fullness of God’s inheritance and grace, no longer suffering the pains and torments that he had once endured while he was still alive in the world. Meanwhile, we heard of the rich man who descended into the depths of hell, suffering in agony for eternity, without any hope of respite or escape, and even when he begged Abraham to send Lazarus for help, it was impossible for that to happen.

The Lord used this parable to show us that it is very easy for us to be swayed and tempted by riches and by the other pleasures of the world. When He used the example of Lazarus and the rich man, we must be careful not to think that the Lord condemns the rich or despises them, for fundamentally we must understand that God loves all of us, His beloved children and people, regardless of our background, our material well-being, our race or any of our worldly distinctiveness. He loves all, regardless whether they are poor or rich, weak or powerful.

But what He wanted to point out through this parable is that we as sons and daughters of men are weak and easily tempted by the many worldly riches, pleasures, all the pull of desire of the flesh, the temptation of money, of fame and glory, of gluttony and greed. And the more we have with us, the more susceptible we are to those temptations, like that of the rich man who was swallowed up by his desires that he ignored and forgot all about Lazarus, who was suffering by his doorstep.

What the rich man sinned from was from the sin of omission, that sin of neglecting his fellow brother when he was obviously in the position to help Lazarus and provide for him through the excess in material goods and the provisions that God has blessed him with. And this is an important reminder for all of us Christians in this season of Lent, that we ourselves must also not be ignorant of the needs of those around us, who have been neglected and less fortunate than us.

We are all called to love one another more generously and to share the many wonderful blessings that God has given us with each other. If we truly have faith in God and trust in Him, then we should not be worried in sharing what we have with one another, as ultimately, as we show our love for our fellow brethren, we truly are blessed by God and He will remember us for our love and for our faithfulness at the day of judgment. Lazarus’ fate will be ours and we will enjoy the fullness of God’s providence and love.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, starting from this season of Lent and beyond, let us all be more charitable in giving, be less selfish and be less consumed by our desires for worldly sustenance and temptations. Let us make use of the observances this Lent of fasting and abstinence, to control our urges and desires so that we may open our eyes and see the plight of our less fortunate and suffering brethren all around us, and share our love and blessings with them.

Let us all be true Christians and disciples of the Lord from now on, being more faithful to God with each passing days. And let us all seek to be ever more faithful and deepen our relationship with God in this season fo Lent. May God bless us all and our good efforts in faith. Amen.

Thursday, 12 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”