Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the fifth and last Sunday of Lent, we come ever closer to the holy season of Easter and to the Week when we will celebrate the most important mysteries and features of our faith, when Jesus Christ our Lord gave Himself for us and died for us. And today that is why if we notice the readings, they all drew the same conclusion, that deliverance is upon us, and God has prepared deliverance for all of us without exception.

Yes, we are all God’s beloved children and people, and therefore it is just natural that God would intend good things for us. He did not intend us any harm or let destruction be our fate, because He created us in His love, and He wanted only good things and blessings for us. It was we ourselves, mankind, who cursed ourselves and turned our back on the love of God, that we were headed into doom and eternal destruction.

Yet, we are truly special in the sight of the Lord, for unlike Satan and his fellow fallen angels who rebelled against God, we were all given a second chance of eternal life and salvation, because God loved us so much, so much so that He gave us that love in the form of Himself, in Jesus His Son, the Word made flesh and born into this world through the Virgin that He might save us all.

That is why Jesus our Lord is the hope for all lives, for all of us in this world, past, present and the future. That is because through Him, mankind were given hope once again, a light which pierced through the darkness of our souls and the darkness of the world around us. He breathed new life into us, and through His teachings, He showed us how to love God and be in His eternal grace.

Today we heard the very well-known story on the Resurrection of Lazarus, who was brought back into life by Jesus after he had died of an illness for a few days. Through this wondrous miracle, we were shown that Jesus is Lord and He is all powerful, being God, having absolute and complete power over life and death. And as He is the Master of life, life is His to bestow, and on Lazarus, man among whom He loved, He gave that life so that all who saw it may also believe in Him and therefore themselves gained life for themselves.

Yet it is also important that today we make a clear distinction so that we will not be confused later on. Lazarus was resurrected and was returned to life, but not by His own power or will, but by the grace and power of God through Jesus. The same also happened during the time of the prophet Elijah, who returned the life to the son of a suffering widow whom he was staying with.

Jesus, on the other hand, who is God and who was with God as His Word, rose from the dead by the power of His own will and might, as the Lord over life and death. That was the key difference between Christ and Lazarus in their respective resurrections. And this is also to show that Christ is the Saviour, the new hope for all mankind, that all who believe in Him and in the Father who sent Him, He will raise up to new life like that of Lazarus, and even more.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have often forgotten about Christ in our own busy schedule in life, and in all our occupations and works, that we have turned away from the Lord and in the life and salvation that He offered us all. That is why, we have to constantly remind ourselves of the fact of our frailty and weakness, that we are predisposed to sin and vulnerable to committing trespasses to God.

It is why this Lent is the perfect time and opportunity for all of us to repent and commit ourselves to change our ways. This Lenten season is the time for renewal and rejuvenation of our souls, in which we can reorientate ourselves that we may forsake what is evil and harmful for our salvation and seek the love and mercy of God.

We should not waste this perfect opportunity, and make best use of it, so that we will be able to reach out for the Lord and His salvation, and we should humbly ask the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness rather than hardening our hearts as what the people of God had once done, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. God is rich with His mercy and love and He will not forsake us, providing that we ourselves are open to accepting His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the life, and the bringer of the new life in salvation that He freely offers us all. We should all take the time from now on to make concrete our love and devotion for the Lord, that we may commit to changing our ways for the better and dedicate ourselves to God without reservations. We should be like the two sisters Mary and Martha, who loved the Lord, who had faith in Him and believed in Him.

Let us all now resolve to seek God and to have Him always in our heart, committing ourselves to total change of self, abandoning all things that are evil in the sight of God, washing ourselves clean from these taints, and commit to doing good from now on. May the Lord our God and Father, see always the good that is in us, and our desire to be reunited with Him, and thus forgive us our trespasses and welcome us back into the grace and blessings He had prepared for all of us. God bless us all. Amen.

 

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 1-45

There was a sick man named Lazarus who was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This is the same Mary, who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was sick.

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” They replied, “Master, recently the Jews wanted to stone You. Are You going there again?”

Jesus said to them, “Are not twelve working hours needed to complete a day? Those who walk in the daytime shall not stumble, for they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, for there is no light in them.”

After that Jesus said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him.” The disciples replied, “Lord, a sick person who sleeps will recover.” But Jesus had referred to Lazarus’ death, while they thought that He had meant the repose of sleep.

So Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there, for now you may believe. But let us go there, where he is.” Then Thomas, called the Twin said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. As Bethany is near Jerusalem, about two miles away, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.

And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” After that Martha went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The Master is here and is calling for you.” As soon as Mary heard this, she rose and went to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in place where Martha had met Him.

The Jews, who were with her in the house consoling her, also came. When they saw her get up and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep. As for Mary, when she came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, who had come with her, He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it.

Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

John 11 : 3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.

And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it.

Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

 

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 8 : 8-11

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your experience is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him.

But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit who dwells within you.

 

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 4c-6, 7-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness, and for that You are revered.

I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.

 

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 12-14

So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel.

You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves, when I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”

 

Sunday, 16 February 2014 : 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Sirach 15 : 16-21

If you wish, you can keep the commandments and it is in your power to remain faithful.

He has set fire and water before you; You stretch out your hand to whichever you prefer. Life and death are set before man : whichever a man prefers will be given him.

How magnificent is the wisdom of the Lord! He is powerful and all-seeing. His eyes are on those who fear Him. He knows all the works of man. He has commanded no one to be Godless and has given no one permission to sin.

 

Sunday, 9 February 2014 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

We are light of the world and salt of the earth. That is what our Lord had made us all to be, all those who believe in Him and has been welcomed and are now part of His Body, that is His Church. We are all called to be light and salt for all the nations, and to proclaim the kingdom of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the nations, to all the peoples, especially those who live in darkness and those who have no flavour in their lives.

Yes, we are called to bring light to those who had fallen into the darkness and to bring flavour to the blandness of people’s lives in this world. Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear in the first reading, from the book of the prophet Isaiah, of the examples of the things we can do, in order to accomplish this in accordance with God’s will.

In all of us, God has given seeds of faith, hope, and love, and many gifts of various types, which we can use to help one another, and bring indeed the light and flavour to the livelihood of many. Each one of us have different set of skills and abilities, granted to us by God, awaiting for us to use them for the good of our fellow men, our fellow brothers and sisters.

Yet, many of us did not use these gifts God had given us, and let them to be dormant. There are various reasons attributed to this lack of action, but the most important and common of which include, fear of failure and embarrassment, laziness and sloth, and finally, greed and desire for self-aggrandisement and glorification. All of these prevent us from utilising fully God’s gifts for each one of us.

And when this happened, the light that is in us becomes hidden, and the salt that is in us becomes tasteless and bland, and therefore the gifts in us become dormant and useless. We fear failure and embarrassment in the eyes of men, because we are concerned of how others view us and our actions, as we practice our faith in this world. We also have our own desires and temptations, that we use our gifts instead for the benefit of others, but for our own good and our own glory, often at the expense of many others.

We are often to take the first step, and have the initiative to embark on the mission of good works as the Lord had told us to do, because we are often uncertain, what will our actions do to ourselves. We often ask ourselves first many times, whether what we are doing or going to do will impact us in a way that disadvantages us, by making us look embarrassed or less preferable by our society and our friends in any way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this world has its set of values, many of which do not necessarily agree or correspond to the values which our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord in the Holy Scriptures had taught us. The world therefore will not necessarily see our actions based on our faith in good light, but our Lord who sees all, will see that whatever we are doing, to be good.

If we continue to be concerned about our image or standing in the society, as well as our friendships and relationships, then it may be difficult for us to be truly the light and salt of the world. To be light of the world, we have to throw far, far away our prejudices, our fears, and our uncertainties. Instead we should put our trust in God, and believe in Him only, trusting that He will guide our way to the truth.

We should also throw far away our desire and our greed, for power, for affluence, for pleasure, and for many other things of the world. If we are to become the true light of the world and salt of the earth, then we have to be truly selfless, that our beings be transformed to be conduits of God’s love and grace, that through us, the world will see the Light of our Lord and the beauty that He brings into this world, which brings flavour to all things.

We should not be worry or fearful, but yet we too should not be showy or seeking attention in any way. We have to make use of what God has given us, in faith, hope and love, and show them through concrete actions, out of pure and unadulterated and unconditional love for our brethren, just as the prophet Isaiah had said.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from today onwards, resolve to seek out those in need, whether they are in need of material goods, basic survival items, or even as simple as needing love. Let us be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, showing this world that there is much good in God and in following God, that all mankind may be saved in the Lord. God be with us all. Amen.