Saturday, 12 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

God desires the love of mankind, and He loves them very much. That is why He gave us all of His attention and focus, and He offered Himself to them to open for them the pathway to salvation. In a sense, He had granted them great favour, only for them to refuse Him and reject Him, and even reject the salvation which He had freely offered them.

In today’s first reading God promised His beloved people that He will love them and care for them, freeing them from the grip of death and sin, and will provide for them once again as He had once had. We can see indeed how great is God’s love for us, that He gave us chance after chance, and opportunity after opportunity. He gave us hope even when we are in the greatest darkness.

Yet mankind were selfish, and are still indeed selfish even today. We thought only for ourselves and for our own benefits and we complain when things do not go our way. That is our nature, and we often succumb to it. The Pharisees rejected Jesus because of His teachings and ways that oppose their own authority and positions of privilege and honour within the society.

How about the people then? They also rejected Christ because they were reluctant to abandon their former way of life and follow what Christ taught them, and they were also easily swayed by the offer of money and goods of the world, that we can easily see in tomorrow’s Palm Sunday Gospel and Passion readings, how the same people who cheered for Jesus as King when He proceeded into Jerusalem, within less than one week would be condemned to death by the same people. Yes, the same people who acclaimed Jesus as King also cried out for His death.

And it is a fault that we have as we tend to blame the Jews on what happened to Jesus, in how they condemned Him to death and rejected Him and His offer of salvation, because it is always convenient and easy to blame someone else. We think of the Jews to be the ones to blame for the death of Christ, but we conveniently forgot that Jesus Himself was and is a Jew, born son of David, the heir of David and the descendant of Abraham.

And Jesus when He suffered and died on the cross, He did so for all of us, and also including the Jews, both those who had no part in His death and those who had hated Him and condemned Him. He Himself remembered them even in His suffering, asking the Father to forgive them and overlook their sins for their ignorance and lack of knowledge of who He truly was.

God Himself had forgiven them, and He had forgiven us. So for those among us who thought to blame the Jews, the very people the Lord had chosen to be born into, and to those of us who like to put the blame on others, let us from now on reflect on our own actions first. Before we even judge or condemn others, have we been sufficiently pure and worthy in our own actions that we will not be judged? We often forget that when we judge others, we therefore also open the door for us to be judged ourselves.

God did not wish to punish anyone, as indeed, He wanted all of us to be reunited with Him in love. He wishes for us to be perfected in love, that we may leave behind our past sinfulness and wicked behaviour, and become more like Him and be more loving as He is. That was why He sent Jesus to be with us, to be both our Saviour, to break the chains of sin and death, and at the same time also show us how to love, like God has loved us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we approach the pinnacle of our preparation, as we proceed towards the holiest week of all our celebrations, the Holy Week of Jesus’ Passion, let us resolve to be more like God, in becoming more loving and forgiving, in being more inclusive and compassionate, helping one another to approach the Lord rather than condemning or judging each other. Let us reserve no place for Satan in our hearts! For it is in a darkened heart that Satan is happy to dwell in. Let the light of God instead be within us, that He may also guide our ways, that our ways will always be pleasing to God.

May the Lord forgive us our sins and show us how to love Him just as He had loved us first. Let us never be separated again from You, o Lord our God. Be with us always, till the end of time. Amen.

Saturday, 12 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

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, 12 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (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, 12 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (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 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, 11 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we often like to presume many things, even those that we have no right to. We like to think that we know it all and refuse to believe if we face any kind of criticism or feedback from others. We especially do not like if we are questioned on our way of doing things. We resist and make complaints when things do not go our way.

That is, brethren, what happened to the people of Israel, the Jewish people of Jesus’ time. They had forsaken the truth of the Lord for human conveniences, and had rejected the Lord in favour of the devil and his worldly pleasures and temptations. They refused to see the truth that came with Jesus, and obstinately kept to their wicked ways.

They failed to understand the Christ and the purpose of His coming, as they did not understand God’s ways or the Scriptures in the first place. They put their trust in their human ways and observances, rather than seeking to know more about God and what He had intended for them. They failed to see how Jesus is the Messiah, the very One who would liberate them from the grip of sin and death.

Why so? That is because they have grown complacent and accustomed to the ways of the world, that they end up rejecting any attempts to make them change their ways. But again, as we see from the readings today, not all of them were such as that. Not all of the people of God were set in their wicked and rebellious ways, as there were indeed those who would listen to God and repent their sinful ways.

Those who refused to listen to Jesus and His words likely came from those who stood to lose the most by following Jesus and abandoning their wicked ways. These were the people in positions of power and influence, and they committed evil deeds through their positions and occupancies, leading many others to follow them into sin.

That was why the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the teachers of the Law were the ones who were most adamant against Jesus and His teachings, because they  looked upon Him as a rival and a usurper to their power and influence. The irony is such that they were the ones who by right should have the greatest knowledge of the Scriptures among the people of God, and thus should have been the ones who would have first noticed the Messiah and the Lord when He comes.

Thus, they refused to open their hearts to listen to the wisdom of God and instead succumb themselves to the temptations of Satan in their hearts, opening themselves to evil, such as pride, anger, wrath, jealousy and hatred which led them to act in a way that opposed the Lord and His ways, even as He came into the world to be the light to those who are in darkness, including they themselves.

That is what happened if we too allow ourselves to be taken over by our desires and human weaknesses, by our pride and arrogance, and by our jealousy and insecurities which lead us to disobey God and block His attempts and offers which He gave to us freely for our sake and for our salvation. That makes us to sin even more and to fall deeper into damnation.

So, today, we have to change our ways if we have acted like the Pharisees, and today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Stanislas or St. Stanislaus, a martyr of thr faith and one of the first pioneers of the faith in the kingdom of Poland, a thousand years ago. The martyrdom of St. Stanislas is well known even today, both in Poland and abroad.

St. Stanislas was the Bishop of Krakow, the same diocese from where our late Blessed Pope John Paul II came from originally before he became our Pope. St. Stanislas brought about a vigorous evangelisation of the then still largely pagan peoples of Poland, bringing about a real transformation of the society and bringing them to know the ways of the Lord.

St. Stanislas fought against many vices in the society, one of the most serious ones involve the very king of Poland himself, Boleslaw II also known as the Bold. King Boleslaw the Bold was known for his many good deeds, but he was also corrupted by the many vices of the world, and he did many things that were immoral and evil in the sight of God.

St. Stanislas did not fear of even rebuking his own superior, the king. St. Stanislas rebuked the king and eventually excommunicated him, casting him outside the communion of the Church into damnation. Yet instead of changing his ways and repenting for his sins, King Boleslaw chose the quick way out and murdered St. Stanislas with great cruelty and without fear of God for murdering one of His faithful servants.

As a result, King Boleslaw lost his throne, overthrown and eventually died in great infamy, because he disobeyed God and refused to listen to His will. He followed in the footsteps of the Pharisees who were adamant in their rebelliousness, that they refused to listen to God. This is what we have to avoid, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, we cannot be complacent, and we have to open our ears, and the ears of our heart wide, so that we may listen to God and obey Him. Let us not be like King Boleslaw, the Pharisees and all those who acted to preserve their own selves and as a result end up in condemnation, which threw them into eternal suffering in hell. Let us all be faithful servants of our God, and continue to serve Him and listen to His will.

May God be with us always and guide us till the end of time, God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 11 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

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 these 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, 11 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (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, devilish 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, 11 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (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, 10 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God established His first covenant with our father in faith, that is Abraham. Yes, Abraham is our father in faith, because even though we may not be descended from him by blood, but we are all his descendants by our same faith, that is in the same God, the very God who had made His contact with Abraham and made him the father of many nations because of his faith and devotion.

Abraham, once known as Abram, was not chosen because of his greatness, his wealth or his power. He was not chosen because of his abilities or talents, nor because of the number of his sheep, as shepherds with many sheep were indeed very great in his time. No, Abram was chosen not because of all of these. He was chosen because of one singular but very important reason, that is his faith and his actions that were based strongly on that faith.

Abram was faithful, and he was righteous in all of his actions. He lived closely to God’s will and followed the way of the Lord all of his life. He believed in God and he trusted completely in Him, even to the point of giving up his own long promised son, Isaac, to be sacrificed at Moria, when God supposedly asked him to do so. God tested his faith in that moment, and Abram followed through with complete faith and trust in God.

He obeyed God and he believed. And that was how he became renowned and great among many and among the nations. God made true the covenant that He had established with him, and from him came forth many nations and many peoples, uncounted and numerous indeed like the sands on the seashore as God had promised Abram, who later then known as Abraham, the one whom God was pleased with.

God fulfilled the promise He had made with His people, to Jacob that he would be great and a nation would come forth from him, Israel, the chosen people of God, from whom the descendants came the people discussed in today’s Gospel, and Jesus Christ Himself. God also fulfilled the promise He had established to Israel, that He would bring them to freedom and live in happiness in the Promised Land of milk and honey.

God also fulfilled the promises He had made with David, His faithful servant. He promised that his descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel and rule over God’s people forever. Yet, just as in the case of the covenant God established with Jacob and Abraham, it was God’s people who disobeyed the Lord and broke their part of the covenant, by abandoning God and worshipping pagan idols, and committing practices wicked in the sight of God.

The people of Israel and even the kings, among the descendants of David were disobedient, and as soon as the messengers sent by God to remind them of God’s love and promise were gone, they were quick to return to their old, debauched and wicked lifestyle. That was why God gave them to the hands of their enemies, and they were scattered, not to punish them per se, but rather to remind them yet again that without God, they are nothing.

But brethren, does that mean God also forsook His covenant with Israel? No. In fact God remained faithful to the covenants and promises that He had made. Covenant is the greatest form of promise compared to other forms of promises, and it was we and our ancestors who broke the covenant we have with God. God was always faithful and He never gave up on us, unless we ourselves gave Him up for other idols.

And God showed His commitment and love for us, through the ultimate gift that He gave to us, namely the gift of Jesus, His own Son. Through Jesus, God showed yet again, and in finality, the perfect love He has for all of us, and the total commitment He has to the covenants He had made. He fulfilled the promise He made with Abraham, Jacob and David through Jesus, the son of David who is seated at the throne of God and rules for eternity as the King of all kings.

And through Jesus, God made a new covenant, the last and greatest of them all, with us, renewing the promise He had made with mankind of many generations. And this new covenant is sealed by God with none other than by His own Precious Blood, poured out by the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, who died for us. He died so that we may live, and such is His love for us, indeed!

Yes, brethren, that is how faithful God is to us, and how loving He is towards us. He had proven again and again His dedication and yet we always spurn His love. The people rejected Him because they preferred the devil and his pleasures rather than the true love offered by the Lord through Jesus.

Shall we then follow their examples? Or shall we remain true to the Lord? Let us no longer be rebellious and ignorant of God’s love, but instead embrace His love to the fullest and prove that we can hold our part of the new covenant He had established. May the Lord see in us the love and hope that is still in us, that He may forgive us our trespasses and bring us once again closer to Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 10 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

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.