Saturday, 30 March 2019 : 3rd 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 passages in which we heard about the pride of the Pharisee and the humility of the tax collector, in a parable that the Lord Jesus told to the people and His disciples. Using that parable, the Lord wanted to show just how great God’s mercy and love for each and every one of us is, that no one is truly excluded or prevented from receiving His merciful love.

The Lord mentioned a tax collector and a Pharisee because of the prejudices and perceptions that each one of them experienced at that time. The tax collectors were often treated with disdain and contempt, with distrust and suspicion due to the nature of their work in collecting the taxes for the Roman governor and administration, while the Pharisees were treated with reverence and adulation because of their respected position in the community.

Therefore, there was then a strong bias against the tax collectors, who were collectively treated as rebels, traitors and unworthy of being members of the community of the people of God. The tax collectors were shunned and treated as if they were great sinners who were incapable of receiving God’s mercy and unworthy of God’s love. This is such while the Pharisees were seen as holy and pious group of people, who always made public their prayers and devotions before everyone.

Through the parable He mentioned, the Lord Jesus wanted to break this prejudice and bias, which the people have had in their hearts and minds. He wanted to show them that even a tax collector in truth was aware of the sins and whatever wicked things he had done, and having been treated so badly by the community in general, it was quite certain that they must have felt very bad about their own actions.

But the tax collector in the parable, knowing and understanding about his own shortcomings, humbled himself before God and begged Him to show mercy and compassion, admitting his sins before Him, unlike the Pharisee who did not just brag about his own achievements and supposed piety, but also looked down and ridiculed the tax collector before God, thinking of himself as being more worthy than the tax collector.

In the eyes of God, a repentant sinner is far more worthy than a proud person who may outwardly be pious and good, but in truth, is still a sinner in heart. In fact, pride is the number one reason why many of us have continued to live in sin, firstly because we refused to admit that we have been wrong in our way of life, and secondly, we have that false sense of security and even superiority, in thinking that we are better off than others who seem to be deeper in sin than us.

Pride is a great obstacle in our path and journey towards God’s grace and loving mercy, for pride keeps us hardhearted and stubborn, unwilling to seek healing for the sins and wicked things we have committed all the while. And it also often gives us the reason and excuse to say no to God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness. But at what cost, brothers and sisters in Christ? Nothing less than the salvation of our souls!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to reflect on our own lives, on our every actions, words and deeds. And surely we will become more aware of how sinful or broken we have been in life. But are we going to allow our sins and our brokenness to continue to affect us through life? Or are we going to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, He Who alone is capable of healing us from our sins?

Let us all therefore pray for the grace to be humble like the tax collector in the parable that Jesus said to the people. Let us pray for the grace to be aware of how sinful we have been, and how broken our lives have become, and ultimately for the grace and courage to seek healing through forgiveness that comes generously from God alone. May the Lord continue to guide us through our journey in this season of Lent and beyond. Amen.

Saturday, 30 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 18 : 9-14

At that time, Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others : “Two men went up to the Temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector.”

“The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all my income to the Temple.’ In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”

“I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”

Saturday, 30 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 18-19, 20-21

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

Shower Zion with Your favour : rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then, You will delight in fitting sacrifices, in burnt offerings, and bulls, offered on Your altar.

Saturday, 30 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 6 : 1-6

Come, let us return to YHVH. He Who shattered us to pieces, will heal us as well; He has struck us down, but He will bind up our wounds. Two days later He will bring us back to life; on the third day, He will raise us up, and we shall live in His presence.

Let us strive to know YHVH. His coming is as certain as the dawn; His judgment will burst forth like the light; He will come to us as showers come, like spring rain that waters the earth. O Ephraim, what shall I do with you? O Judah, how shall I deal with you?

This love of yours is like morning mist, like morning dew that quickly disappears. This is why I smote you through the prophets, and have slain you by the words of My mouth. For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice; it is knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.

Friday, 29 March 2019 : 3rd 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 Lord through the Scriptures reminding us of the importance of love in our lives, for love is the foundation of our whole lives. In the first reading today, we heard of the love which the Lord our God lavished on us, His beloved people, despite of the sins that we have committed all these while, just as how He showed mercy to His people who have disobeyed Him.

The prophet Hosea lived and ministered at a time when the people of God had been scattered and humiliated because of their disobedience against God and for the wickedness they did before the Lord. But the prophet revealed God’s ever merciful and loving compassion for each and every one of us, because of the tender love and mercy that He has for us. God does not ever desire our destruction, but instead our redemption and reconciliation with Him.

God blessed His people again and again despite them having wrought much pain and sorrow for Him, in their refusal to obey the Law and in their persistence to continue to sin and do what was wicked before God and His people alike. And even when they obeyed the Law, it was not because of the love which they had for God, but rather for their own vanity and selfish desires and intentions, as what the people of the time of Jesus had shown.

In both cases, there was no love between those people and God, and God was sidelined from their hearts, minds and attention. That is why they were not able to appreciate and make good use of the Law and the commandments that God had given to them. Instead of learning to love God and to draw closer to Him by obeying the Law in its full meaning and understanding its purpose, they feared God as One Who was distant and to be feared.

As a result, they did not draw closer to God, and in the way they practiced the Law, they did so out of obligation, or fear, or just for formalities and to fulfil what has been required by the traditions of their ancestors. And some, like the Pharisees, instead made use of the Law to make themselves look righteous, pious and good before the people. But in their hearts, there was no true love and devotion for God.

This is what we all need to overcome, the temptation of worldly desires, the idols of wealth, of human glory and praise, the pressure to conform to the standards and expectations of the world, which have caused us to be unable to realise God’s love being present in our midst. Sometimes, we are just too busy with our daily preoccupations, our concerns for many worldly matters, to be able to realise just how blessed we are, to have a God Who loves us all so dearly.

And this is where Satan is working very hard in trying to prevent us from gaining God’s grace and salvation. He is trying to make us to be too distracted from realising God’s love and wish to forgive us. And if he is not successful, he will then leverage through our fear and doubts, to prevent us from seeking God’s merciful love. This is most evident when we mankind feared of reaching out to God, thinking that He is angry with us and wants to punish us for our sins. But this is in truth, not what the Lord feels about us.

In this time of Lent, we are invited to embrace God’s ever present and ever readily available mercy. He has extended so generously His mercy and forgiveness, that He is willing to overlook all of the trespasses and wickedness that we have committed thus far in life. However, this offer of mercy and forgiveness must also be matched with the genuine and strong desire in our hearts and in our minds to be forgiven.

Are we able to accept God’s loving mercy? In order to be able to receive God’s forgiveness, we need to reorientate ourselves and relook into how we have lived our lives thus far. And this is truly a good time for us to begin making a change in our direction in life. Let us all make good use of this opportunity that God has granted us, so that we may grow ever more faithful towards God and be ever more loving towards Him, each and every days of our life. May God bless us all and our efforts. Amen.

Friday, 29 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Friday, 29 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 80 : 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, I relieved your shoulder from burden; I freed your hands. You called in distress, and I saved you.

Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, My people, as I admonish you. If only you would listen, o Israel!

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I the Lord am your God, who led you forth from the land of Egypt.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Friday, 29 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Thursday, 28 March 2019 : 3rd 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 God in the Scriptures speaking to us about the matter of being united to God and not to dissent by our disobedience and refusal to believe in Him. We are reminded that if we are all united in God, we will stand firm despite the challenges and pressures from the world, and we will not be shaken and lost from God, for God loves us all, and as long as we keep our faith in Him, God will provide for us and protect us.

In today’s Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus rebuked some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who have slandered Him publicly by saying that He performed His miracles and exorcism of demons and evil spirits, by collusion and collaboration with Beelzebul, the prince of demons. The Lord said this with disbelief and probably even anger at the irony presented by those who criticised the works of the Lord.

They criticised the Lord that He was using demons to cast out other demons, but the Lord pointed out that it was not the devil and his forces that were divided among themselves, rather, the people of God, who were divided among themselves and unable to unite themselves in thought and belief in God. The devil, that is Satan and all of his allies are all united in the same purpose, that is to bring about our downfall and damnation, while we mankind are often prone to being divided among ourselves.

The moment that men do not put their trust and faith in God, that is the moment when the devil and all of his wicked allies strike, manipulating us and dividing us through pride, through ambition and human greed, through the temptations of desire and other worldly pleasures. The devil is waiting for us when we are at our weakest, to strike at us, knowing that when we are united, he cannot assail us. He tries his best to divide us, one against another, so that it is easier for him to strike us down, one by one.

The devil is using our pride and ego, ambition and desire, greed and jealousy against us. That was how he led the Israelites astray, by hardening their hearts and minds with pride and worldly desires, when the lust and desire for gold, wealth and power brought them to sin against God, in making an idol for themselves, and in disobeying the laws and commandments of God. They bickered and quarrelled among themselves, for God was not at the centre of their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be mindful that this is how the devil is also constantly striking at us, by luring us with the temptation of power, of pleasures of the flesh, of money and wealth of this world, with fame, influence and glory, all the things that caused us to bicker among one another, and quarrel among ourselves. Even friendships and relationships have been torn apart by the pressure of worldly desires and ambitions.

This is how even within our Church, we often see divisions and conflicts, where the members of the Church ministries quarrel and bicker among each other, gossiping and backstabbing, complaining and being mean and hurtful to one another through our words and actions. The devil is truly busy at work, with all of his allies and agents, in trying to tempt us to sin, by planting in us the seeds of disagreements and dissensions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this time of Lent, we are called and indeed challenged to overcome all of these negative thoughts, emotions and desires within us. But the path forward will not be an easy one, as there will be plenty of opposition, as the devil and his kingdom are hard at work, trying to subvert us and to prevent us from gaining salvation in God. There will be plenty of challenges in our path, and unless we make the conscious effort to restrain ourselves, we will end up being more and more divided among ourselves, and the devil will swoop in for the kill easily.

Let us all strive to be true disciples of Christ in this blessed season of Lent onwards, by turning ourselves and our lives back to be in accordance with God’s will and centre our focus and attention back towards Him. Let us also strive to overcome division and conflict, by putting love in all of our actions, words and deeds. Before we act and say something, let us always put ourselves into considerations of love.

Let us love one another sincerely and graciously, remembering of the love that God Himself has shown us, that each and every one of us may also love one another in the way that He has loved us all, so generously and so sincerely, that even though we have disobeyed Him and walked away from Him, time to time, again and again, He still continues to love us all despite all these. Let us all be generous with our love, and continue to live our lives well, as good and faithful disciples of the Lord from now on. Amen.

Thursday, 28 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 14-23

At that time, one day Jesus was driving out a demon, which was mute. When the demon had been driven out, the mute person could speak, and the people were amazed. Yet some of them said, “He drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God, has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters.”