Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard similar readings to what we have heard yesterday, as they speak of the persecutions that God’s faithful servants had to endure in the midst of their work and ministry, encountering all the opposition from the world, as the prophet Jeremiah lamented his sufferings at the hands of those who had plotted against him and persecuted him. In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the bitter opposition which the Lord faced from the Pharisees, many of whose members were against Him.

In our first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, we heard how the prophet faced lots of difficulties and persecutions from those who hated and disliked him, especially those who were irritated by the constant words of doom that the prophet Jeremiah delivered from God, as the people of the kingdom of Judah continued to live in sin and refused to change their ways, and hence, Jeremiah delivered warnings from the Lord of the coming of destruction for both Judah and Jerusalem.

But many of the people refused to believe in Jeremiah and hated him for his persistent efforts to warn them. Hence they persecuted Jeremiah and made his life difficult, and if it had not been for the assistance of Jeremiah’s friends, the prophet could very well have lost his life as well. In the Gospel passage we heard of the same plotting and unhappiness that a large portion of the Pharisees and the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council had on the Lord Jesus.

They refused to believe in Him because they refused to accept the fact that Jesus is the Messiah as some among them thought that according to the Law of whom they were experts of, the Messiah should not and could not have come from the region of Galilee where Nazareth is, and just because of that and because they perceived that what the Lord had done were blasphemous in nature and irreconcilable with the way that they enforced their piety and faith, then they could persecute and condemn Him like how they did with those considered as sinners in their midst.

And when one among them, Nicodemus, who was favourable to the message of Jesus, argued that they should not condemn the Lord Jesus before they heard Him properly and got to know the actual facts rather than to base their judgments on their own flawed understanding of the situation and biased informations, he was quickly silenced by the rest, who doubled down on their refusal to believe using the same arguments to back their decision.

What have all these Scripture passages told us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fact that pride leads to stubbornness, and also as long as we keep our pride and ego with us and indulge in keeping them and our desires, we will likely end up acting like how the Pharisees had behaved, in their stubborn refusal to listen to the Lord and believe in His message of truth. And this will likely lead us down the path of sin, and those sins will lead us into damnation unless we repent from them.

This is why during this season of Lent we are encouraged to be more humble and be more willing to open ourselves to accept God’s wisdom and words of truth, to open our ears, our eyes and deepen our senses to feel and know what it is that God wants us to do with our lives. If we have sinned against God, this is the time which we can use to seek forgiveness and healing, as God is always ever forgiving, kind and compassionate. He is always ready to forgive us, as long as we are willing to allow Him to forgive us.

Let us realise the shortness of our mortal lives and existence, and let us realise just how unworthy and corrupted we have been because of our sins. And it is God alone that can deliver us from this trouble and predicament. Let us get rid of the pride and ego within us, and deepen our humility and our submission to the will of God. This Lent, let it be a season and time of renewal of our faith, that we may draw closer to God and be found within His love and comforting grace once again.

May God be with us in our journey of faith especially through this season of Lent, and let us all not forget to pray for one another also in this difficult moments when the world is experiencing so many issues and troubles, from the current coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis among others. May God give us the strength and courage to live our lives daily with faith and trust in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 40-53

At that time, many who had been listening to these words began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Does Scripture not say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David? The crowd was divided over Him. Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

The officers of the Temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this Man.” The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in Him? Only those cursed people, who have no knowledge of the Law!”

Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.” And they all went home.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 7 : 2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12

O Lord, my God, in You I take shelter; deliver me and save me from all my pursuers, lest lions tear me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

O Lord, my righteousness; You see that I am blameless. Bring to an end the power of the wicked, but affirm the just, o righteous God, searcher of mind and heart.

You cover me as a shield. Oh God, for You protect the upright. A righteous judge is God, His anger ever awaiting those who refuse to repent.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 11 : 18-20

YHVH made it known to me and so I know! And You let me see their scheming. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me that they were plotting, “Let us feed him with trials and remove him from the land of the living and let his name never be mentioned again.”

YHVH, God of hosts, You Who judge with justice and know everyone’s heart and intentions, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th 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 words of the Scripture, as we draw closer to the time of the Holy Week, the readings begin to speak about the coming of the time of the Passion of the Lord, as was evident in the theme of today’s readings on the suffering of God’s servants, as shown in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom highlighting the thoughts of the wicked people who rejected the message of God’s truth and persecuted the prophets and messengers sent to remind them. And then later in the Gospel we heard of the opposition against Jesus and the efforts His enemies made to try to harm Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the plots which the enemies of the faithful had planned against God’s Servant, just as they had done for the many prophets sent to them. In fact, if we carefully go through what has been written in this particular passage in the Book of Wisdom, we will realise that it is a prophecy that refers to the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, Who is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God Whom the Father sent into the world to save it. All the prophecy spoke of the treatment which Jesus would eventually receive at the hands of those who persecuted Him and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified.

Jesus had faced rejection and opposition from those who refuse to believe in Him and in the truth that He has brought into this world. He has been opposed at almost every opportunities, and many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made His ministry difficult, as He was forced even to hide from time to time, and to avoid cities and towns as the authorities were seeking to arrest Him and destroy Him. This is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as the tension between the Lord and His followers with the Jewish authorities rapidly reached a flashpoint.

The Lord made one of the most revealing statement yet in His words at the Temple before everyone who were gathered, not long before the beginning of Our Lord’s Passion. He stood firmly against all those who had doubted Him, rejected Him and persecuted Him, saying how those who refused to believe in Him and His truth were blinded by their pride and arrogance, their unwillingness to listen, and their lack of knowledge and faith about the Lord. As stated in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom, this is the reason for their actions against the Lord Jesus. Their malice and worldly concerns and desires trumped their faith and obedience in God.

Now, we have to take heed of what today’s Psalm told us, that God’s anger and wrath are reserved for those who have acted unjustly and have persecuted His faithful ones, those who acted with malice and evil, those who made others to suffer, which is exactly the retribution that is to come for all those who refused to believe in Christ and in His message. This is a reminder that God will not forget about His faithful ones, and those who have acted with injustice and evil will have to answer for their misdeeds, unless they repent from those sins.

And the root of all these evil and malice is none other than pride, the pride, arrogance, hubris and ambition in our hearts, the ego and the selfishness that we have within us. Those who persecuted the prophets in the ancient days did so because they refused to admit that they had been wrong or wayward in their lives, and they thought that they knew better how they ought to live their lives, treating those whom God had sent into their midst to remind them as nuisance or even as threats to their livelihood and way of life.

Similarly, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council acted with such injustice and wickedness against the Lord Jesus and His followers, simply because they saw Jesus as a great threat to their position and influence within the Jewish communities at that time. They perceived Him as a rival and as One that had to be removed or else they would lose all their privileges and honour, resulting in them plotting and making plans to try to arrest and destroy Jesus.

They refused to admit that there could actually be a greater and more authentic source of truth and wisdom beyond what they have zealously guarded for many years. They refused to admit that their way of observing the Law of God could have been wrong or incomplete, and they took pride in the fact that they were greatly honoured by the people and treasured as people with great intellectual capacity and wisdom. All these led them to harden their hearts and minds against God. God could not make much progress on them, but nonetheless, He still tried.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today that we should avoid pride and ego from dictating how we live our lives, and we are reminded that if we indulge in our ego, and allow hubris, ambition and selfishness to cloud our judgment and affect our actions, then it is likely that we may end up like those who have rejected God and chose to dwell in their own human ambition, trusting in their own power and intellect rather than to trust in God. And that will end up leading us down the path of sin and disobedience, as we may likely act to preserve ourselves more than we obey God’s will.

Let us all strive to sharpen the edge of our humility and deepen our faith and trust in God during this season of Lent, a wonderful time and opportunity that God had given to us to help us rediscover our path in life. Let us all also remove from our hearts and minds, the corruption of pride and hubris, ego and ambition, all that are obstacles in our path in serving the Lord. May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey, that we may be ever more faithful each and every moments of our lives from now on. Amen.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 1-2, 10, 25-30

At that time, Jesus went around Galilee; He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews wanted to kill Him. Now the Jewish feast of the Tents was at hand.

But after His brothers had gone to the festival, He also went up, not publicly but in secret. Some of the people of Jerusalem said, “Is this not the Man they want to kill? And here He is speaking freely, and they do not say a word to Him? Can it be that the rulers know that this is really the Christ? Yet we know where this Man comes from; but when the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from.”

So Jesus announced in a loud voice in the Temple court where He was teaching, “You say that you know Me and know where I come from! I have not come of Myself; I was sent by the One Who is true, and you do not know Him. I know Him for I come from Him and He sent Me.”

They would have arrested Him, but no one laid hands on Him because His time had not yet come.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23

But the Lord’s face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. Many are the troubles of the just, but the Lord delivers them from all.

He keeps all their bones intact, and none of them will be broken. But the Lord will redeem the life of His servants; none of those who trust in Him will be doomed.