Sunday, 23 March 2014 : 3rd Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Be not stubborn and put our trust in God. Open our hearts and listen to God speaking in the depths of our hearts. Let Him come to us and make us once again to be worthy of Him. Be open to the words of God and do not harden our hearts against Him, and our salvation will surely come upon us and we will rejoice with God.

Do not be like the Israelites but rather be like the Samaritans, this is the message that we need to learn today. Not to be prejudiced over one race of people against another, so that is why we need to understand first the context and background that made up the scene in our Gospel reading today.

At that time, and ever since the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, about seven centuries before the birth of Christ, the remnants of the Israelites, commonly called the Jews since then, had been at odds with the people who lived at the former territories of the northern kingdom.

These people had been brought in by the Assyrian conquerors to replace the people of the northern kingdom who had been mostly deported to the far away territories of the Assyrian Empire, and these people intermingled with the remnants of the people of the northern kingdom to form the people called the Samaritans, because they lived in the region of Samaria, the former capital of the northern kingdom.

The Jews despised the Samaritans because ever since their exile in Babylon, they had been largely faithful to the law of God, and under the leadership of the Pharisees, they became rather puritans in faith, that is they were very zealous and proud of their faith in God as well as their heritage of the faith and full observation of God’s laws. And the Samaritans stood in contrast to this, as they mixed their ancestors’ pagan rites with the faith of the Israelites in God.

So essentially the Jews and the Samaritans worship the same God, but they were at odds because of their differences, in how they worship the Lord their God. And in particular because the Jews and their faith believed that they were the only ones worthy of salvation because they were of God’s chosen people, and exclude others as pagans and unworthy of salvation, refusing to deal with them as much as possible.

Well, as we see from the Scriptures, we know that Christ was first sent to the Jews, to the chosen people of God, to tell them of God’s Good News of salvation. Yet, as we know, they refused to listen to Him, or just believed superficially without real substance of the faith.

Jesus’ own neighbours in His own hometown rejected Him, the Pharisees and the chief priests rejected Him, and the same people who believed in Him and put their faith in Him because of His miracles and healings called for His death and crucifixion on the cross. Yet, the Samaritans believed in what He said and followed Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Jesus Himself said, that all who believes in Him will receive eternal life, we too will receive what He promised to the Samaritan woman if we genuinely believe in Him. And we should not be prejudiced against anyone based on their background either, and worst of all we should not claim to be righteous over another and condemn them for their supposedly ‘lesser’ faith.

Instead, let us help one another to believe more and more in God, and let us help one another to reach out to the Lord, that all of us may together be saved and may one day be together in heaven, all as the same children of the same God. Let us go together and worship the Lord as one. May God guide us and help us on our way. Amen.

Sunday, 23 March 2014 : 3rd Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 4 : 5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there. Tired from His journey, Jesus sat down by the well; it was about noon. Now a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had just gone into town to buy some food.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” (For Jews, in fact, have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift of God! If you knew who it is, who is asking you for a drink, you yourself would have asked Me, and I would have given you living water.”

The woman answered, “Sir, You have no bucket, and this well is deep; where is Your living water? Are You greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, together with his sons and his cattle?”

Jesus said to her, “Those who drink of this water will be thirsty again; but those, who drink of the water that I shall give, will never be thirsty; for the water, that I shall give, will become in them a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to Him, “Give me this water, that I may never be thirsty, and never have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said, “Go, call your husband, and come back here.” The woman answered, “I have no husband.” And Jesus replied, “You are right to say, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you said is true.”

The woman then said to Him, “I see You are a prophet; tell me this : Our ancestors came to this mountain to worship God; but you Jews, do you not claim that Jerusalem is the only place to worship God?”

Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, the hour is coming when you shall worship the Father, but that will not be on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is even now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for that is the kind of worshippers the Father wants. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit, and truth.”

The woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah (that is the Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will tell us everything.” And Jesus said, “I who am talking to you, I am He.” At this point the disciples returned, and were surprised that Jesus was speaking with a woman; however, no one said, “What do You want?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

So the woman left her water jar and ran to the town. There she said to the people, “Come and see a Man who told me everything I did! Could He not be the Christ?” So they left the town and went to meet Him.

In the meantime the disciples urged Jesus, “Master, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” And the disciples wondered, “Has anyone brought Him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me, and to carry out His work.”

“You say that in four months there will be the harvest; now, I say to you, look up and see the fields white and ready for harvesting. People who reap the harvest are paid for their work, and the fruit is gathered for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.”

“Indeed the saying holds true : One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap where you did not work or suffer; others have worked, and you are now sharing in their labours.”

In that town many Samaritans believed in Him when they heard the woman who declared, “He told me everything I did.” So, when they came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days. After that, many more believed because of His own words, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you told us; We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is the Saviour of the world.”

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

John 4 : 5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there. Tired from His journey, Jesus sat down by the well; it was about noon. Now a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had just gone into town to buy some food.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” (For Jews, in fact, have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift of God! If you knew who it is, who is asking you for a drink, you yourself would have asked Me, and I would have given you living water.”

The woman answered, “Sir, You have no bucket, and this well is deep; where is Your living water? Are You greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, together with his sons and his cattle?”

Jesus said to her, “Those who drink of this water will be thirsty again; but those, who drink of the water that I shall give, will never be thirsty; for the water, that I shall give, will become in them a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to Him, “Give me this water, that I may never be thirsty, and never have to come here to draw water. I see You are a prophet; tell me this : Our ancestors came to this mountain to worship God; but you Jews, do you not claim that Jerusalem is the only place to worship God?”

Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, the hour is coming when you shall worship the Father, but that will not be on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is even now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for that is the kind of worshippers the Father wants. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit, and truth.”

The woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah (that is the Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will tell us everything.” And Jesus said, “I who am talking to you, I am He.”

In that town many Samaritans believed in Him. So, when they came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days. After that, many more believed because of His own words, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is the Saviour of the world.”

Sunday, 23 March 2014 : 3rd Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 5 : 1-2, 5-8

By faith we have received true righteousness, and we are at peace with God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through Him we obtain this favour in which we remain and we even boast to expect the Glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us : when we were still helpless and unable to do anything. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die.

But see how God manifested His love for us : while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sunday, 23 March 2014 : 3rd Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Sunday, 23 March 2014 : 3rd Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Exodus 17 : 3-7

But the people thirsted for water there and grumbled against Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt to have us die of thirst with our children and our cattle?”

So Moses cried to YHVH, “What shall I do with the people? They are almost ready to stone me!” YHVH said to Moses, “Go ahead of the people and take with you the elders of Israel. Take with you the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.”

“I will stand there before you on the rock at Horeb. You will strike the rock and water will flow from it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the presence of the elders of Israel.

The place was called Massah and Meribah because of the complaints of the Israelites, who tested YHVH saying, “Is YHVH with us or not?”

Sunday, 14 April 2013 : 3rd Sunday of Easter (Scripture Reflection)

Obey God, and not obey men! Indeed, we should obey God, our Lord first, before we obey men, just as what Peter had said to the chief priests and the Pharisees when he rebuked them for forcing them to abandon their mission to spread the Good News of the Lord. They did not obey men, and instead obeyed the Lord, and suffered in the process, from persecution and prejudice by the priests and many among the Jews.

But it is not to say that we should disobey all men, including our Church hierarchy, beginning with our Pope, down to our priests. No, indeed, we should still obey them, as long as they carry the will of God with them and through their words and actions, reflect the will of God. This is because by obeying those who are in the position of authority, and carrying the will of God, means that we obey God too at the same time.

Do not put our complete trust and obedience in men who are finite and flawed. For mankind is flawed and imperfect, and therefore are bound to make mistakes, which may affect many others, especially if we obey these flawed ideals from our earthly superiors. Place our complete trust and obedience instead in God, and indeed, in His chosen ministers, who are our priests and ordained ministers of the Lord, who had been chosen from among many, to serve Him and His beloved people.

Of course we should not be in open rebellion against our superiors, if we disagree with our earthly superiors. Rather, we should focus on prayer and concrete actions, that should be intended to help our superiors see light in their errors and flaws, and help themselves to improve and become better in the process. Help one another, superior and workers alike, that in doing that, all of us can then truly obey the will of God, and do good works for His sake, and for the sake of all mankind.

God protects us, and He showed us His great love and mercy, especially when we too love Him, and when we seek Him when we were lost. He showed His mercy to Peter, who had betrayed Him when He was under arrest, because of fear of man, and lacking strong faith in God. He showed His love and mercy, forgiving Peter as many times as he had betrayed Him before.

That is why we ought to put our trust in Him, because He can be trusted, and He is faithful to those who love Him. He recognised the faith in Peter, while it was weak and easily shaken by the arrest of Christ, Jesus recognised that in Peter was truly a strong faith like that of a rock, just as He had Himself given Peter the name, Peter, that means literally, the rock. It is His commissioning and forgiveness of Peter at the shore of the lake that day which marked the beginning of the transformation which Peter went through, from the fisher of fish, to a fisher of mankind.

No more would he catch fish for a living, but he would dedicate his life fully in the service of the Lord. To be a fisher of man is to spread the Good News of the Lord to many, so that they can be ‘ensnared’ in the faith, that they too would believe and then gain salvation through the faith in Christ. Peter’s obedience and profession of faith and love in Christ brought about the turning point in the history of our Church, that on that day, St. Peter, who would lead our Church as the first Pope, was truly reborn in faith and in God’s love.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us strive to obey the will of God ever more, through our priests and our ordained ministers who represented God in our world. Pray for them, and pray for ourselves too, that we can follow in the example of Peter in professing our loyalty, sincerity, and love for our God, and presenting to Him a contrite heart full of regret, desiring to return to our God who loves us. Obey men too, as long as they too do the will of God, and when they do not, help them to see the light of God, that they too eventually will obey.

Let us also follow in the footsteps of the apostles who had become the fishers of men, instead of just fishers of fish. Let us go beyond our human limitation of seeking only to fulfill our own earthly needs, and instead, seek to bring the Word and teachings of our Lord to many who have yet to hear them, and who long to know Christ, our Lord.

May God protect us and bless us always with His blessings and grace, that we will always be obedient to Him and follow His examples. Amen.

Sunday, 14 April 2013 : 3rd Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

John 21 : 1-19

After this, Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples by the Lake of Tiberias. He appeared to them in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas who was called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together; and Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We will come with you.” And they went out and got into the boat, but they caught nothing that night.

When day had already broken, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. Jesus called them, “Friends, have you anything to eat?” They answered, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “Throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find something.” When they had lowered the net, they were not able to pull it in because of the great number of fish.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Simon Peter put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and jumped into the water. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; they were not far from land, about a hundred metres.

When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed into the boat and pulled the net to shore. It was full of big fish – one hundred and fifty-three – but, in spite of this, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And not one of the disciples dared to ask Him, “Who are You?” for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish.

This was the third time that Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after rising from the dead.

After they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to Him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

 

Alternative Reading (Shorter version)

John 21 : 1-14

After this, Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples by the Lake of Tiberias. He appeared to them in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas who was called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together; and Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We will come with you.” And they went out and got into the boat, but they caught nothing that night.

When day had already broken, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. Jesus called them, “Friends, have you anything to eat?” They answered, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “Throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find something.” When they had lowered the net, they were not able to pull it in because of the great number of fish.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Simon Peter put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and jumped into the water. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish; they were not far from land, about a hundred metres.

When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed into the boat and pulled the net to shore. It was full of big fish – one hundred and fifty-three – but, in spite of this, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And not one of the disciples dared to ask Him, “Who are You?” for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish.

This was the third time that Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after rising from the dead.