Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God speaking to us in our hearts through the Scripture passages we heard, in which first we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, the promises that God had made to His people and which He has revealed to them through His prophets. The Lord has revealed to us what lies ahead of us, should we keep our faith in Him.

He revealed to them the good things He has planned for all of them, with references to all the hardships, challenges and difficulties that they had to encounter due to their disobedience against Him. He said that they would no longer be divided into two kingdoms, a reference to the division of the kingdom of Israel to the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, due to the disobedience and sins of Solomon, the king of Israel and the people.

The Lord promised that He would restore the glory of Israel, and fulfil the promises He had made to them, in the new reign of the kingdom of David, of glory and joy without end, where God will free them from all of their guilts, their attachments and bondage to sin, and God Himself will rule over all of them for eternity, in the new and true kingdom of Israel, God’s holy kingdom that surpassed the old kingdom that had fallen by the time of the prophet Ezekiel.

And all of these were fulfilled in the person of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of God, Who came into the world just as God has promised through the prophets, the One Who is the Heir of David, the One Who will shepherd the people of Israel, all of mankind, as God’s own people, forever and ever. He is the one True King, Who has come into the world, revealing the fullness of God’s glorious and wonderful plan for each and every one of us.

Unfortunately as we all heard in our Gospel passage today, instead of being welcomed and accepted, He was instead rejected and cast out from the society by the ones who should have known of His coming and those to whom had been entrusted the leadership and shepherding of the people of God. The chief priests, the Sanhedrin and the elites of the people rejected Him and wanted to condemn Him to death, all to safeguard their own interests and desires.

That was what the Lord Himself experienced, rejected and unwanted, even by His own people, the very same people to whom He has been sent to bring them the fulfilment of God’s long awaited promises and goodness. The Lord even had to hide from them, as it was not yet His time to suffer and die then, although the time was already really at hand at the time. Yet, despite all of these, God still loves each and every one of us and is faithful to the Covenant that He had made with us.

As we are about to enter into the Holy Week period, let us all keep in mind and indeed, focus our attention on the love which God has for each and every one of us. And His love for us was so selfless and so great that, even though we mankind have repeatedly disobeyed Him, refused to believe in Him, and even persecuted so many of those whom He had sent into our midst, including His very own Son, Our Lord Jesus, yet, He is still ever loving and merciful towards us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we enter into this holiest moment in our entire year, let us all enter the Holy Week with an open mind and heart, willing to listen to the Lord and to welcome Him into our midst. God wants to love each and every one of us, and it is often that we have to be receptive to the love, mercy and compassion that He is showing to each and every one of us, or otherwise, we will end up like the Sanhedrin, the chief priests and the Pharisees who refused to believe in God because of their pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reexamine our lives and to turn our way of life from one that was filled with wickedness and disobedience, pride and human greed, into one that is aligned with the will of God. We are called to turn ourselves to the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our might. And in order to be able to do that, we have to learn to be humble and to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord into our hearts and allow Him to change our lives and our attitudes.

There will indeed be challenges and difficulties awaiting us, should we choose to devote ourselves to the way of the Lord. His prophets and servants had suffered, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of those faithful servants, namely Pope St. Martin I, a holy Pope and martyr of the Church. Pope St. Martin I stood fast in his faith and dedication to the true faith, even in the midst of persecution and opposition from the Roman Emperor, who although was a Christian, but believed in the heretical teachings of monothelitism.

The Pope was arrested and made to suffer by the Emperor and his agents, and was put into exile in faraway lands, where he eventually died, a part of his suffering and martyrdom, just because he remained firm in his conviction and dedication to the Lord, to the very end. Pope St. Martin I placed God above everything else, even his own personal desires and wishes, that instead of saving himself and protecting his own self, he let himself to suffer and be martyred rather than to betray the Lord and the truth that He has brought into this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all imitate the good examples of Pope St. Martin I, as well as the many other saints of the Church. Let us all walk in their footsteps, doing what is right and worthy of the Lord, in all of our words, in all of our actions and in all that we do in our daily lives from now on. May God bless us all and may He continue to guide us through life, that as we enter into the Holy Week, we may continue to grow in faith in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be the king of them all.

They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.

My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.

I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH Who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.

Friday, 12 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rapidly approach the beginning of the Holy Week of Our Lord’s Passion, commemorating the suffering, death and eventually resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the nature of the Scripture readings chosen for the occasion increasingly reflect the deeper understanding and ties to the mysteries of the Lord’s Passion, and how He fulfilled the mission that He has been sent into this world for, through the laying down of His life on the cross.

In the first reading today, we heard the story from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, where the persecution and plotting against the prophet by his enemies and all who opposed him were laid bare before us. They all opposed him and the forces that were combined against him were immense. He was treated as a doomsayer, a traitor and someone who ought to be killed for having spoken the truth of God before them, that is for exposing and pointing out their wickedness.

The prophet Jeremiah however trusted in God and placed himself completely in His mercy and loving care, knowing that despite all the opposition He had to endure and the challenges and difficulties He had to face, the Lord was always faithful, and would always be, and to trust in Him would lead to a true joy in the end, joy that surpasses all sufferings, pains and challenges that one had to encounter and endure.

In the same way therefore, in the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus was also treated in a similar manner by those who opposed Him, those who contended that He was spreading lies and blasphemies, and refused to believe in all that He had told them to do. The Lord Jesus experienced the same rejection, ridicule and persecution as Jeremiah had once experienced, but He also trusted completely in the plan that His heavenly Father had placed on Him.

It was indeed tough, difficult and painful, and that was why, Jesus before He faced His Passion and suffering on the cross, agonised so much in His humanity over all that He had to endure, the pain and the whole weight and burden of the cross, that is not just the physical weight of the wooden cross, but even more so, the entirety of the unimaginably heavy burden of mankind’s sins. And yet, He obeyed the Father’s will perfectly, and by that obedience, brought unto us the promised eternal salvation and life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this time and season of Lent, we have been urged to remember our own sinfulness, our own unworthiness before God because of our sins, and how we have been called to renew our faith and our lives through dedication and commitment of our lives from now on, so that while once we may have done what was wicked and evil in the sight of God, but now we become a new people with a new heart, mind and purpose.

Yes, indeed, the path forward if we choose to walk down this path will be difficult and arduous, as the prophet Jeremiah’s life and our Lord Jesus Himself have evidently shown us. But this is where we need to learn to overcome our attachments to the world and all the temptations that often surround us and overwhelm us with desire, ego, pride and all sorts of things that led us into disobedience and sin against God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we approach and enter into this holiest week and period of time in our liturgical year, let us all prepare ourselves in body, heart, mind and soul, in our entire and whole being, to be able to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Passion, suffering, death and resurrection of Our Lord meaningfully and faithfully, that by deepening our understanding of our faith and by committing ourselves further to God, we may be ever more worthy to receive the eternal glory that He has promised to all of us mankind.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He help us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him and be worthy to receive the everlasting inheritance He has promised to all those who are faithful in Him. May He bless us always in our daily lives and in all of our actions and works in life. Amen.

Friday, 12 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews then picked up stones to throw at Jesus; so He said, “I have openly done many good works among you, which the Father gave Me to do. For which of these do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered, “We are not stoning You for doing a good work, but for insulting God; You are only a Man, and You make Yourself God.” Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law : I said, you are gods? So those who received this word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true.”

“What then should be said of the One anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in Me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest Him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptised, and there He stayed. Many people came to Jesus, and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about You, and everything he said was true.” And many became believers in that place.

Friday, 12 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

I love You, o Lord, my Strength, the Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

A deadly flood surrounded me, devillish torrents rushed at me; caught by the cords of the grave, I was brought to the snares of death.

But I called upon the Lord in my distress, I cried to my God for help; and from His Temple He heard my voice, my cry of grief reached His ears.

Friday, 12 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 20 : 10-13

I hear many people whispering, “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!” All my friends watch me to see if I will slip : “Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say; “then we can get the better of him and have our revenge.”

But YHVH, a mighty Warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten. YHVH, God of hosts, You test the just and probe the heart and mind.

Let me see Your revenge on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause. Sing to YHVH! Praise YHVH and say : He has rescued the poor from the clutches of the wicked!

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (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 reminding us of the Covenant which God has established with each and every one of us, the children of Abraham by faith. Abraham was prominently mentioned in the first reading today taken from the Book of Genesis, in which the Covenant of God with him was mentioned, all the promises that God had made before him, how He would make him the father of many nations, and how his descendants would be innumerable and became great nations.

And Abraham were favoured by God with such a great promise because of his faith in God, his steadfastness and willingness to obey and to follow the will of God. That was why out of many other men and women of his time, God chose Abraham to be the instrument of His will and the partaker of His Covenant. To him was granted a son, even at his old age, and when his wife could not possibly have borne him any more children, as the proof and concrete sign of God’s faithfulness.

It was ironic therefore, that in the Gospel passage today, when the Lord came to fulfil the fullness of His promises to the descendants of Abraham, many among those same descendants refused to believe in Him, and in the good works and the truth that He was proclaiming and performing in their midst. Instead, they accused Him of collaborating with evil spirits and committing blasphemy before God, in their own opinion.

The people claimed that the Lord could not have been true in what He spoke, because they were unable to see the wisdom of God being revealed in the person of Jesus. They were amazed and in fact enraged when they heard Jesus saying that He was there even before Abraham was, and they thought of Him as merely a Man and nothing else. Some among them even thought of the Lord Jesus as a heretic, a dangerous influence that must be removed.

In this occasion therefore, we saw two very different attitudes and expressions between the attitude of Abraham, who was faithful and committed to God, and the attitude of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham who lacked faith in God and who refused to believe in the One Whom He had sent into the world, into their midst. We saw how mankind had succumbed so deeply into sin, that those sins hardened their hearts and minds, and prevented them from coming closer to God and His truth.

In this case, we saw the contrast between the humility of Abraham in accepting God’s plans for him, and the pride of his descendants who refused to acknowledge the truth of God being revealed before their very eyes. And that pride brought danger to them, for it made them stubborn and even ardently opposing the Lord’s efforts and wanting to kill Him for His supposed ‘blasphemy’ in their opinion.

And therefore, through the passages of the Scriptures we have received and heard today, we are reminded that we have been presented with many choices of actions in our daily lives. We can choose to obey the Lord and to follow His commandments and laws just as Abraham, our father in faith has done, or we can instead indulge in our own worldly desires and in our own ego and pride, as the Israelites did, many times throughout history, including at the time of Jesus, in how they disobeyed God and opposed His good works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be aware that if we choose to follow in the path of Christ, as we should, we will likely encounter the same opposition and challenges as the Lord Himself has faced. It is indeed much easier for us to be wicked than to be righteous, to be prideful rather than to be humble, to be filled with anger, hatred, lust and jealousy rather than to be filled with love, compassion and mercy.

Today, therefore, we ought to listen to the story of the life of St. Stanislas, a holy bishop and servant of God, and also a martyr of the Church and the faith. St. Stanislas was a Polish bishop who stood up courageously against the ruler of Poland at the time, king Boleslaw the Brave. The king and his nobles were not living righteously and were enacting laws and regulations that were corrupt. St. Stanislaw himself chastised the king for his sexual immorality and lack of proper conduct as a ruler.

The king was so angered by the bishop’s opposition to his rule and his policies, that he tried to have him killed, only for St. Stanislas to be even firmer in his opposition to the king’s waywardness. Eventually, the holy and devout servant of God was martyred at the hand of the king himself, when the men the king sent to slaughter him refused to lay their hands on the holy bishop. And thus, a faithful servant of God fell for defending his faith, and yet, be assured that his reward in heaven and everlasting life is unimaginably great.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to be inspired by the faith of both Abraham, our father in faith and that of St. Stanislas, holy servant of God and faithful defender of the faith. Let us all purge from ourselves all taints of sin, of ego and pride, of anger and jealousy, of hatred, greed and worldly desires. Let us all instead fill ourselves with humility, with love and compassion in our hearts, and with the burning desire to love God and put Him at the centre of our lives from now on. May the Lord always be our guide, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.