Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Chrism Mass which is the time when all the holy oils are blessed and made ready for the use in the diocese. On this day also all priests ordained to serve the Lord in sacred ordination renew their commitment to God and are called to remember the sacred vow and promise they have made before God and their bishops, to obey the laws of the Church and to be dedicated in their works and ministry of the Sacraments to the people of God.

The Lord has called those priests to serve Him, that those who responded to this call to the holy order of priesthood be endowed with the Holy Spirit of God, consecrated and made holy, set apart from others to be the ones to shepherd His people. The Lord has brought His light to the people He loved through these priests, as these are called to reflect His light and love, and bring them to the people who are still living in the darkness of this world.

And especially for this year, the significance of what we celebrate this morning at the Chrism Mass is even greater, in light of the current terrible pandemic that had engulfed most of the world and caused so many deaths and many more people who are sick because of this pandemic. It is not just because the holy oils are used for many good purposes, one of which, the Oil for the Sick or Oleum Infirmarum is used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, but also because many of our priests are also at the frontline tending to many of the people.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not just the doctors and nurses who are at the forefront of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic and other diseases. The priests and all the servants of God are also at the forefront of an even greater battle, the battle against despair and against falsehoods, against all sorts of wickedness that already exist in this world and more of others that have sprung up because of this current dire situation. We have seen how people suffer in despair, losing hope and acting irrationally because of all these, a lot of selfish and terrible attitudes shown all these past few weeks.

We have seen how people can be so nasty against each other, and we have seen how people are divided against each other. And all these are caused by the lack of faith in many, and our priests are still on the forefront of that spiritual battle, the battle of faith for those souls. It is not enough that we just save the person physically but also spiritually as well. Of course the current efforts done by the doctors, nurses and other healthcare warriors are extremely important, but we must not forget our spiritual healthcare warriors, that is our priests and all the ordained ministers of God.

We may have heard how priests in various places around the world tried their best to reach out to their flock through various means, some through online conferencing and meetings, some through online activities, or even arranging smaller scale activities. We heard of how priests travelled around the empty roads and streets, bringing the Blessed Sacrament on the monstrance, that people who are locked in their homes due to quarantine may still feel the presence of God in their midst and not lose hope.

And we may have heard also how many priests have even died because of the pandemic. Some of them died from the disease while they ministered to the people whom they cared for so much, those who were without hope and those who were sick and dying. That is the reality of the works and the lives of our priests, brothers and sisters in Christ. To follow the Lord as how our priests have been called to, is truly a great cross to be carried, in the footsteps of the Lord Himself. Many had indeed responded to this call, as we have just discussed.

It is important therefore that today we spend some time to pray for our brave and courageous priests, all those who have given their lives for the service of the Lord and His Church. Let us all pray that they may be given the strength, the courage and the energy to continue to serve the people of God despite all the challenges and difficulties that they may be facing. Let us always give them our support and encouragement, for they are indeed the pillars that support the Church and our Christian communities together in this difficult time.

We should give encouragement to our priests, as many of them are definitely stressed up with many concerns and works at the moment. Many of them had to make many sacrifices of time and energy to support us in turn during this difficult moment. They are using the same holy oils blessed today to bless many of our houses and hospitals, and more importantly to anoint the sick and the dying ones among us. They need our prayer and support, and we should be more united with them and the whole Church during this time of crisis.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore today at this celebration of the Chrism Mass implore the Lord to send His Holy Spirit to all of our priests to sanctify them and to strengthen them, that they may remain strong and resolute despite all the challenges that they may face. Let us all stay united with them in prayer, and work together to keep up hope despite all the darkness, fears and uncertainties. Let us also prepare ourselves wholeheartedly to prepare for the celebration of the Easter Triduum beginning tonight and be ready to celebrate the upcoming glory of Easter.

May the Lord also give us His strength and hope that we too may be strong and courageous like our brave and faithful priests, that we too may be bearers of hope and the light of God to encourage our fellow brethren in this time of great need. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 16-21

At that time, when Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 1 : 5-8

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has washed away our sins with His own Blood, making us a kingdom and priests for God His Father, to Him be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

See He comes with the clouds and everyone will see Him, even those who pierced Him; on His account all the nations of the earth will beat his breast. Yes. It will be so. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, He Who is, Who was and Who is to come : the Master of the universe.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 21-22, 25 and 27

I have found David my servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. He will call on Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 61 : 1-3a, 6a, 8b-9

The Spirit of the Lord YHVH is upon Me, because YHVH has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to the captives, freedom to those languishing in prison; to announce the year of YHVH’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God; to give comfort to all who grieve; (to comfort those who mourn in Zion) and give them a garland instead of ashes.

But you will be named priests of YHVH, you will be called ministers of our God. I will give them their due reward and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a race YHVH has blessed.

Thursday, 18 April 2019 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate together the first day of the Paschal or Easter Triduum, the three most important days in the entire liturgical year, marking the beginning of the events that marked the very crucial moment in our human history and existence, the moment when God Himself intervened to save us all from our fated destruction, by His own Passion, suffering and death on the cross, and by His glorious resurrection, through which He conquered sin and death.

On this night we gather to celebrate the moment of Our Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples, which marked the beginning of the long sequence of events that led to His death on the cross, and on that night, when the Last Supper happened, the Lord instituted not just one, but two of the most important Sacraments of the Church, that is of the Eucharist, as well as the Holy Orders of the sacred priesthood.

First of all, with regards to the Eucharist, on this night, through the Scripture passages we heard, we are reminded of the Last Supper being the new and true Passover, which fulfilled and completed the Passover as known to the Jewish people, the one that celebrated the moment of the liberation of the people of Israel from their slavery in the land of Egypt, when God brought them out by His own power, and freed them from the tyranny of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

The details were mentioned in our first reading passage today, in which the Israelites were told to take a lamb for each household, and in which the lamb was to be slaughtered and to be eaten after being roasted on the fire for each of the members of the household. Meanwhile, the blood of the lamb was to be marked on the doorposts of the houses of the people of Israel, so that the Angel of God bearing the plague of death on the Egyptians would not harm them.

And this is where the new, Christian Passover of Our Lord Jesus Christ, represented in the Last Supper, was truly significant when we understand the importance of the first, old Jewish Passover of the time of the Exodus. At the new Christian Passover, that is at the Last Supper, there is also lamb to be sacrificed and shared by the people, but that is not the usual Passover as known to the Jewish people at the time. For the Lord Himself is the Lamb, and He offered Himself, His own Flesh and Blood, to be the Lamb of Sacrifice.

And the Last Supper was merely part of a larger celebration and event, which is why, we celebrate it all together as part of the most sacred Paschal Triduum, where if we carefully look through the entirety of the liturgical celebrations, is one large and extended celebration of the Holy Mass, because the same Eucharist consecrated on this night, at the celebration of the Last Supper, will also be used tomorrow on Good Friday, the day when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion and death.

As such, the Last Supper cannot be separated from the Crucifixion, for both of them are part of the one and same sacrifice of Our Lord. Jesus Our Lord is the Lamb of the Passover, the Paschal Lamb Who has been sacrificed for us all, just as how the priests of the ancient Israel offered the sacrificial lamb for the atonement of the sins of the people, and the sacrificial lamb’s blood was spilled on the altar as a reminder of how the blood of the lamb marked Israel’s salvation and liberation at the time of the Exodus.

Significantly, the Lamb of God, our Paschal Lamb is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, willingly embraced to be slaughtered for all of our sins, and spilled His own Most Precious Blood on the Altar of the Cross. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Calvary or Golgotha, the place where the Lord was crucified, is the Altar on which the Lord offered Himself both as the High Priest of all of us mankind, and offering Himself as the perfect offering by which God reconciled us all to Himself.

When the Lord at the Last Supper took the bread, blessed the bread and said the words of the Institution, “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is My Body… which shall be given up for you…” and when He took the chalice, filled with wine, blessed it and gave it to His disciples to drink, “Take this, all of you and drink from it… for this is the chalice of My Blood… the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant…” He did not just symbolically just mentioned the bread and wine being His Body and Blood.

On the contrary, Jesus was very clear, that the bread and wine, through His own Divine Power and united to His own crucifixion that would soon to happen at the time, that the bread He gave to His disciples was His Real Body and the wine He gave to them was His Real Blood. And to all of His disciples, He has given them the commandment and the mandate, to do what He has done, in His memory.

And when He passed His Body and Blood to His disciples, it was just as the old Jewish Passover, when everyone shared in the lamb that has been slaughtered, by which blood they have been ‘passed over’ by the Angel of Death, and were saved. The Israelites were saved and liberated from the slavery of sin by the blood of the unblemished lamb, and now, all of us who believe in Christ, are saved by the Blood of the Lamb of God, the true and perfect unblemished Lamb, worthy to save us all from our sins.

That was why, just as the Lord instituted the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, He also instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Orders at that occasion of the Last Supper, which we are celebrating tonight. Each of those whom God has called and chosen to be His holy priests, are the successors of the Apostles, to whom the Lord has given the power and the authority, to unite their own offerings at every celebrations of the Holy Mass, to His own sacrificial offering on the Cross at Calvary.

That is why, every single celebrations of the Mass is properly known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by the Lord Himself, as the same sacrifice that the Lord has performed at Calvary. The Lord is not sacrificed again and again, but only once and for all, and this is the same sacrifice which is reenacted again and again at every celebration of the Holy Mass, when the priests, ordained by the successors of the Apostles, and become successors of the Apostles themselves.

The responsibilities that our priests have accepted to bear are enormous, as they are entrusted with the role to be in persona Christi, to represent Christ Himself in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore, to bring forth and unite all the people of God to the same sacrifice that the Lord Jesus has done on the Cross. Through His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has become the ultimate servant of all, the servant of all the people of God, humbling Himself and emptying Himself of all glory, that He may save us all through His perfect and selfless offering of love.

Thus, let us all pray, brothers and sisters in Christ, that each and every one of us will deepen our faith in God, especially as we enter into the sacred mysteries of the Paschal Triduum, and reflect on our belief and faith in the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, and unite our prayers together with all those whom God had called to be His servants, to be those called to the Holy Orders, to be like Christ and to be His representatives on this world.

Let us all pray that our priests will be filled with love, and also a spirit of humility and selflessness, that they may offer their own loving self and give themselves in sacrifice for the good of all the people of God, just as the Lord Himself has done. Let us all pray that they all will be faithful to the calling and to the mission which God has entrusted to them, that just as He commanded them as He washed the feet of His disciples, that they will be filled with a spirit of faithful servanthood, of courageous faith to serve all of God’s people.

And finally, let us also be inspired by the examples set by our priests and all those who have given themselves to the service of God, that we too, may follow the example of the Lord and obey the commandment that He has mandated to His disciples, that we love one another, and be humble in all things, becoming servant to one another in love.

Let us all recall that infinite and boundless love that Christ has shown us, by His willing sacrifice in becoming our Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, so that each and every one of us who partake in Him in the Eucharist, will share in His death, by dying to our own past, sinful selves, and then share in His glorious resurrection, to a new life filled with God’s grace. Let us all then prepare ourselves to celebrate meaningfully the most important events in the history of our salvation, by focusing our attention on this Paschal Triduum on Our Lord Jesus Christ, His love for us, and His selfless sacrifice, by which all of us have been saved, by the power of the Cross. Amen.

Thursday, 18 April 2019 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Thursday, 18 April 2019 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, 18 April 2019 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to Me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. Truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s Son. You have freed Me from My bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out My vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Thursday, 18 April 2019 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 12 : 1-8, 11-14

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons, and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat. That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all of the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt.”

“This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”