Saturday, 22 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Today we heard the well-known parable of the prodigal son, which I am certain that at some point of your life, you have heard it at least once. In this parable, God is compared to a loving and forgiving father, whose younger son had gone wayward and lost, and when that son returned to him, the father rejoiced and welcomed him back with full of love.

And indeed our God is like that, and He is indeed our Father, who loves us and cares for us, whose thoughts are centred ever on us every day and every moment in time. He looks always onto us, and wants us to be once again reunited with Him. And we are the prodigal sons, and also like the elder son of the father.

For we all have sinned before God, and committing what is evil in His eyes, and very often in our lives, we have disobeyed His law and His will, and instead following our own desires and our own forged path, which we built on our desires as well as on the foundations laid down by Satan. We were corrupted by the world and brought away from the way of truth.

It is easy for us to relate with the younger son, for we know that in this world, there are plenty and indeed almost limitless availability for human pleasures and goodness to satisfy our desires and our greed for such things. And that was exactly what happened to the younger son, who squandered the hard-earned wealth of his father, which was his inheritance, on loose living.

I am sure that in one way or another, this also happened to us. We gave in to the increasingly aggressive world, which indeed increases its attacks on us and our faithful living, by multiplying the number of pleasures and goodness that it tries to bring to us, seducing us to a lifestyle that is signified by excessive consumption and blatant disobedience of God’s will.

In this world, it is increasingly difficult for us to live without being bombarded daily by the increasing amount of advertisements and promotions on the good things of this world, the amenities and joys of life, all the components of a materialistic and hedonistic lifestyle. How many of us are not aware of the offers on the latest gadgets and jewelries? How many of us are not aware of the lucrative deals being offered?

But the key message that we ought to know today is that, regardless of all these, we all have hope, because God who is our Father is always waiting for us, like the father of the prodigal son, ever eager to see his long lost son to return to his side. The prodigal and sinful son realised that he had sinned against God and his father, by committing all that he had done. And this is indeed a very important moment that we all have to note.

It is this realisation, and coupled by the desire to return to his father, which propelled the prodigal son on his difficult journey home, to return to the love of his father. But had the son not realised his sinfulness, even in his difficult times, he would just be dead in that foreign land, and his death would not have been mourned by any. He would have died among the animals, without honour and be shamed forever in darkness.

The same therefore will happen to us, if we do not realise the depth and gravity of our sins, and if we continue to walk in the path of the wicked, following our hearts’s desire rather than following the Lord our God. We will suffer for eternity in shame, regret and hopelessness in hell, where there will be no light, no pleasure, and no happiness but only sorrow, regret and darkness.

So it is important for us to realise our sins, know them, and seek God for absolution and forgiveness, humbly asking Him to forgive us and promise to change our ways and sin no more, just as the prodigal son sought the forgiveness of his father, and then be received back into the fullness of love that his father has prepared for him, which God too had prepared for us.

And lastly, we who have been saved by our baptism and faith in Jesus Christ, are also like the elder son. We have been deemed as righteous and we remain in the house of the father, God our Father because of our faith in His Son. But that does not mean that we have the right to condemn all those who are still wayward. Remember that we are all sinners who still need to be saved by the grace of God through our actions.

Instead, let us help one another, especially those who are still in the darkness. Let us bring them to the light of God, by showing it through our own deeds and actions, that they may believe in us, children of the light, that they too will follow our path, to become children of God.

May our Lord who loves us, and who forgives and welcomes His prodigal sons back to His side, continue to love us, watch over us, and guide us that we may always walk righteously and faithfully on His path. Amen.

Saturday, 22 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

Meanwhile 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 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, 22 March 2014 : 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, 22 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd you 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, 21 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jesus spoke about Himself when He talked about the parable of the evil tenants in today’s Gospel reading. And indeed everything came true as He spoke of. Jesus was the son of the owner of the vineyard, and the owner is God the Father, while the vineyard is this world where we live in. The grapes and the grapevine are all of us, the people of God.

The evil tenants are, in specific terms, the Pharisees and the elders of Israel, those who rejected Jesus the Son, and who later crucified Him to death on the cross. But in more general terms, they can also refer to anyone with power or holding any positions of power. They can also refer to any of us, brethren. For we mankind are prone to temptations of power and they may come at any time.

Why are we like the evil tenants? That is because we relish in the glories and joys of this world, that we grow attached to them, and we became obsessive over them, not wanting to give them up. That is what had happened to the Pharisees and the chief priests by the time of Jesus. They who had been entrusted with power and authority over the people, grew attached to that power, and it consumed them with desire for power, and jealousy for anyone they saw as threat to that power.

That explained why they were so stubborn and tried their best to undermine the works of Jesus and His disciples wherever they went to. They followed Jesus and heard Him as He taught the people of the revelation of God’s truth and salvation, but they did not listen to Him. Yes, they keep their ears and hearts closed against the Lord who tried to reach out to them and reconcile them with Him.

They tried to come out with plots after plots, and plotted they did, against the Lord and Messiah whom they are supposed to serve and preach for. They hardened their hearts against Him and branded Him a heretic and a blasphemer while in fact it was they themselves who had blasphemed against God through their wicked actions.

It is a lesson that all of us can learn from, that we should not let our human pride and ambition to get in our way as we go to seek the Lord and ask Him for His saving power. We cannot let ourselves be manipulated by the evil one, who sowed the seeds of lie in us, making us think that it is good for us to disobey and break the law of God as long as it suits our own desires and purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we be like the Pharisees and those whose greed for power and control had obstructed their acknowledgment of the Lord’s authority? Or shall we be meek and humble, asking our Lord for guidance and for Him to lead us into a blessed life with Him? The choice here is clearly ours and we have to act upon it.

Let us not be brought down by the trap of power, and the pull of desire and wants, that we end up being great obstacles in the Lord’s work of salvation. Instead, let us learn to be humble, to set aside our own greed and human pride, and allow the Lord to be our guide and our leader, entrusting with Him and truly trusting Him to make the decisions that will be good to our own lives.

May the Lord our God help us to be reconciled with Himself, and to cast out all semblances of evil and wickedness from ourselves, that we may once again be made worthy, that we will not be judged to be among those who are unworthy of His salvation and those destined for damnation in hell. Let us pray for one another, and support one another, that our faith in God may be always strong. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 21 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

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, 21 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

Then God 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.