Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (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, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us of the importance for us to be good and to do good in our respective lives, while we are still able to do so. God has given us a lot of opportunities for us, in order to make good use of the talents and graces given to us, in following what He has commanded us all to do, that is to love Him and one another wholeheartedly.

Yet, many of us have not done what we have been called to do, as we preferred to act in ways that enrich ourselves, benefitting our own lives and even causing others to suffer and ending up in pain, just because we want to preserve our own selfish gains and needs. As long as we put our trust in all these worldly riches, power, glory and all sorts of things that often tempted us, as the prophet Jeremiah had warned, we will find it difficult to be truly faithful to God.

In the Gospel passage today we then heard about the story that the Lord Jesus told to His disciples, on the experience of a rich man as contrasted with a poor man, Lazarus. Both of them lived a very contrasting and different kind of life, with the rich man enjoying all the kinds of pleasures and joys that the world could give, while Lazarus, the poor man, had to suffer from hunger and poverty.

Lazarus hoped that the rich man would share some of the food he had with him, even if that would be the scraps of bread that fell off from the rich man’s table. But even that was not available to him. In the end, both Lazarus and the rich man died, passing away from this world. But their fates could not have been more different, just as in life, they experienced very different kinds of life and treatment.

The rich man went down to hell, suffering for all the sins he had committed in life. The poor man, Lazarus, instead went up to heaven, to be with Abraham and enjoying all the good things that he had not been able to experience in life. And Abraham mentioned to the rich man when he called for help, that there was a chasm between them, between hell and the blessed heavens, that none of them could cross, and no help could be given to the rich man.

This is a reminder to each and every one of us, that unless we live our lives in a righteous and God-fearing manner, we will end up into the trap of sin, and sin will lead us to the eternal separation from the love and grace of God, that is hell. And from that state, there is no escape or any more hope of salvation and liberation. God wants to remind us that the consequence of sin is truly severe, and all those who put their trust in things other than God, is likely to regret like the rich man had done.

In all of these, we must understand and we must be mindful that God is not condemning the rich people or their riches. He does not condemn the powerful or their influence and power. Rather, what He condemns is the attitude that we mankind take with power, glory, and all those worldly things. We are too easily tempted by all these wicked desires, and that is why we end up making use of our wealth, power, fame and abilities for the wrong reasons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded that as Christians, all of us are called to live our lives with faith and genuine dedication to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. In this blessed time of Lent, in particular, we are called to be more generous with our giving and with the sharing of our blessings. Therefore, instead of doing what we have always done in trying to bring glory and good things for ourselves, we should turn away from selfish and proud ways, and be loving and generous in our interactions with others.

We must remember that sin can be caused not just by wicked actions in life, but even by the sin of omission, which is the sin of not doing what we could have done while we are perfectly capable of doing something to bring good to others. When we ignore the plight of the poor and the weak, the oppressed and the ostracised around us, just like how the rich man ignored Lazarus, then we will end up sinning against God just as the rich man has done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to make this Lenten season into a meaningful time for us to seek reconciliation with God? Are we willing and able to commit our time and effort to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with a new commitment, that while once we may have been sinful and disobedient, now, with the spirit of reconciliation and sincere repentance, we may become new in faith, and grow in our love towards God, from now onwards.

May God continue to guide us on our journey, and may He empower us all to live faithfully in accordance with His ways and be obedient to all that He had taught us to do. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 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.'”

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 17 : 5-10

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness.”

“Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.”

“Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, YHVH, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.”

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (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 speaking to us about the importance for us to look beyond our human aspirations, desires, pride, ego and ambition in life, so that we may be able to discover our true vocation in life, that is to do our best to serve the Lord and to love Him, by caring and loving one another in the best way we can.

In today’s first reading we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah on how the prophet faced a lot of opposition and challenges from the many enemies that he had among the king’s court and followers. As the prophet Jeremiah spoke many of the prophecies of the upcoming doom and destruction of both Judah and Jerusalem, he was often resented and attacked for his works, and treated as a doomsayer and even traitor for his many ominous warnings to the king and people of Judah.

And then we heard about how Jeremiah pleaded the Lord to help him, after all the wicked things that those enemies and accusers had done towards him, all the sufferings that he had to endure all those while. He had to endure all those sufferings and pains patiently, often being humiliated and disgraced as he continued to carry out God’s mission among the people of Judah. In the end, all the pride and the wickedness of the enemies of Jeremiah were crushed, when what the Lord had revealed through His prophet was fulfilled. Jerusalem and Judah were destroyed, its king, nobles and people were sent into exile.

In another occasion, in the Gospel passage today, we heard how the disciples were bickering with each other because of their struggle for power, influence and glory, when two of them, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, came with their mother to ask a special favour from the Lord, asking for positions of importance and favour at the side the Lord. Naturally, the other disciples who witnessed and came to know all of these were not happy.

And the Lord rebuked all of them for that, as they have not truly understood what it meant for them to follow Him wholeheartedly. They did not realise that following the Lord did not mean that they would enjoy power, happiness and pleasure, as how it would have been for any other worldly leaders and kings. They thought that the Lord Jesus would be just like any other kings and rulers of the world, the One Who would reestablish the kingdom of Israel, and those who won favour with Him, would gain riches and glory.

This was the same issue that those who opposed the prophet Jeremiah had faced. They all were filled with worldly thoughts, desires, the greed for power and the lust for worldly pleasures. They only thought about their own wants and desires, hoping to gain for themselves as much benefits and advantages as possible, even at the disadvantage and suffering of others. That was why they persecuted the prophet Jeremiah, when the prophet spoke of the wickedness of their sins, and how all the glory and power those people wanted to amass, would be swept away and destroyed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all these are reminders to all of us as Christians, that we must understand how we ought to live our lives as true Christians, as those who are truly committed and faithful in God. If we want to be true Christians, then we must ready to leave behind our ego and pride, our human desires and attachments to worldly concerns. Otherwise, all of these things will become serious obstacles for us, in our journey of faith.

Following the Lord means that we must model ourselves after the Lord Himself, Who humbled Himself so much that He had emptied Himself from all glory and honour, in serving even all of His disciples and taking up the work of a slave, to serve those who have been entrusted to Him. And He humbled Himself, even to take up the suffering and pain of the cross, because He revealed to us that all of worldly glory and fame are in truth meaningless and impermanent.

What did those nobles and all those false prophets gain from opposing the works of the prophet Jeremiah? Nothing! And what did the Pharisees and the chief priests gained by opposing the Lord Jesus and His followers? Nothing! What they gained were the destruction and ruination of their ambition when everything they valued were crushed by worldly forces, showing them the harsh reality of how meaningless their pursuit for power and stubbornness has been.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, during this time of Lent, let us all turn away from all these pride and wicked desires in our hearts and minds, and reorientate ourselves to live in accordance with God’s ways instead. Let us all change ourselves that while once we may have been disobedient and proud, now, we may grow in humility and obedience to the Lord. Let us all go through this season of Lent, being awakened and strengthened in faith, that we may grow ever closer to God and His love. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 20 : 17-28

At that time, when Jesus was going to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples and said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem. There the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, who will condemn Him to death. They will hand Him over to the foreigners, who will mock Him, scourge Him and crucify Him. But He will be raised to life on the third day.”

Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here You have my two sons. Grant that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, when You are in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup, but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations act as tyrants over them, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be more important in your community shall make himself your servant.”

“And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man Who has come, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”