(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this occasion we celebrate together the Chrism Mass, the moment when all of the priests and all those who had committed themselves to a life of sanctity to God renew their commitment and vow to the Lord, and it is also the occasion when the holy oils are blessed and sanctified for use in the anointing of the catechumens, the sick and also for the ordination to the holy orders.

Since ages past, oils have been used to signify an inauguration and sanctification, and they were used since those times to bless and inaugurate the rule of kings and princes, and also for the worship of the divine, being used in temples and in rituals of worship for the pagan gods and idols. And in the Scriptures, in the tradition of our faith, the holy oil has been used to anoint God’s chosen ones, on those whom God had placed His favour on, as a sign of sanctification and grace.

Therefore, when all the people who have accepted the faith come forward to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, they are also anointed with the holy oil as a sign of their anointment as the people who have been made priest, prophet and king as mentioned in the Scripture. These are the three callings which are brought upon all the people of God, the calling to be priestly, prophetic and kingly as our Lord is a Priest, a Prophet and a King.

The Lord is a Priest, the High Priest of all the people of God, for He offered sacrifice to the Lord for the sake of all of us sinners, for the oblation of our sins. He however offered not the imperfect sacrifice of animals, bulls, rams or birds. He offered Himself, His own Precious Body and Blood as a perfect offering for the absolution of all of our sins and faults.

And He is also a Prophet, for He declared the truth about Himself, about the salvation which He had brought into this world. He came declaring the Good News, to all mankind, fulfilling completely and perfectly all that the earlier prophets were speaking about Him. He brought the truth which many people refused to believe in, including all those who have persecuted Him and rejected Him.

He is also a King, for He comes into this world as the Son and Heir of David, the king whom God had placed over His people Israel. He came as a king, as the King over all other kings, for He is the Lord and Master of all, and reign as the Almighty and All-Powerful King, Whose reign was told to be never-ending, and He will bless us all His people, and love us all to the end of time.

Yet, He is also humble even though He was mighty and great. He did not boast of His greatness and glory, and instead choosing to come in humility, being born of His mother in a simple stable, and lived a lowly and humble life. He is the epitome of all priests, the One Who is the model for all of us faithful ones. We have to walk in His ways, obey Him and do as what He had done in His earthly life.

And thus, in particular, on this day and occasion we remember our holy priests, all those who have given themselves completely to the service of God, giving themselves to be the ones who are the representatives of Christ in this world. Our priests are all acting in persona Christi as they reenact the same sacrifice at Calvary, when the bread and wine are offered and blessed, transformed by the power of the Lord acting through our priests, into the very essence and substance of the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord.

They have consecrated themselves to the Lord, and have been offered and chosen from among us all to be those who will become the go-between between us and God. They have a difficult task ahead of them, and many of them had met various challenges, even slander and opposition. Yet, many of them courageously continued on regardless, doing the best they could to fulfil the calling and vocation to which they have been called by God.

Let us all support our priests and all those who have consecrated themselves to God, that they may be able to continue to be faithful to the vows which they had made before the Lord. Let us pray also for more vocations as we all know just how increasingly difficult the situation is for our Church, with the declining vocations to priesthood and also with the ever more and ever greater challenges to our faith due to our contemporary culture and societal norms.

Let us begin by living good and honest Christian lives, role modelling for one another, and helping each other to live in accordance to how the Lord wants us to live. Let us all strive to be a priestly people, a prophetic people and a kingly people, loving one another and giving ourselves to care for those who are in need of our help. If we all can do this and cultivate true Christian values in our lives, before long, certainly the vocations to the priesthood will bloom and flourish again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all gather together in prayer on the occasion of this Chrism Mass, that the holy oils blessed by the Bishop will bring strength and power to all those to whom it will be given, be it to the catechumens, that they may be continuously firmed and strengthened in their faith as they journey towards baptism, and to those who are to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, that the Holy Spirit will enter into their hearts and inflame their faith.

And last of all, let us all pray that all those who have given themselves in total commitment to the Lord as His priests will be blessed with faith and strength in their commitment to lead a life devoted to Him. Let us all pray that the holy oils blessed today will bring them the power and strength to devote themselves to their calling as it is applied on their foreheads and palms, that they will be ever ready to take up the cross of Christ at all times and follow Him.

And now that our priests had done so, let us all the laity also follow in their footsteps and walk in the way that God had shown to us. May the Lord bless us all and keep us all in His grace. May He awaken in each and every one of us the love which we ought to have for Him. God bless us all. Amen.

(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : 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.”

(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : 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.

(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : 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.’

(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : 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.

Friday, 25 March 2016 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Good Friday, and we all know that today marks the very special moment in the history of our faith and of our salvation, because on this day we celebrate together the love of our God, the great and infinite love which He had for every single one of us, by bearing our own sins and iniquities upon Himself, and ascending to the hill of Golgotha, He bared Himself before all to see, and though rejected and ridiculed, He persevered to the end for our sake. Yes, so that by His suffering and death on the cross, He may bring us all out from the darkness and into the eternal light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, one might be asking, that given the gravity of the situation of the day, of what we commemorate, then why we do call this day Good Friday? Should it not be one of sorrow and sadness, remembering how our Lord and Saviour was hated, rejected, cast out and sentenced to death on the cross? But this is where exactly we have to understand the meaning of our Lord’s works and His greatest work of all, that by sacrificing Himself and offering Himself on the cross, He has brought us all a new hope, and as well as a new life. Today is Good for us, because if not for this day, all of us would have no hope, and our existence in this world would have been meaningless.

Yes, we have ever suffered in this world, suffered pain and bitterness, sorrow and sadness, and all the other forms of sufferings because of the consequences of our sins and disobedience against God. We have betrayed our Lord, broken our promises to Him, failing to keep His laws and covenants, and by listening more to the words of Satan the deceiver and also to our own human desires, pride, greed and submitting ourselves to sin, rather than to obey the Lord and to live in accordance with His will. It was our destiny and fate for us to face persecution and punishment at the end of our earthly lives, an eternity of suffering and separation from the Lord our God in hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God does despise our sins and He was angry at us with our disobedience. But we must not forget that just as much as He was angry with our sins and wickedness, He also still loved us with equal and even greater intensity, for all of us are beloved in His eyes, and He had created all of us out of love, to enjoy forever the blessings and graces that He had promised to all of us. Yet, because of our disobedience, we have been sundered from Him, separated from those blessings and graces intended for us, and that is why we suffered, because of our sinfulness.

And therefore to that extent of helping us and to keep us away from our fate of being destroyed for our disobedience, God Himself intervened for our sake, by sending to us His Deliverer, the Saviour Who would bring all mankind out of their sins and their misery, and bring them from the darkness of sin and into the light of righteousness in Him. And for this purpose He would send no mere man or any mere servant, but He sent to us His own Son, the very Lord God and Creator of all life and all the universe. He sent to us as a Redeemer, the Word of God, He Who is part of the Trinity, One God and Lord of all things, and yet, in all these, He was willing to empty Himself and came down to us in the form of a humble Man.

All these were done, so that by His humble and perfect offering before God His Father, the Lord God may accept His offering, and use it as the redemption and grace for all of us mankind who have ever lived, from the days of Adam to the days of the last man at the end of time. God offered Himself on the cross for us, that all of us who have a share in His suffering and death, may receive the gifts of eternal life and redemption from our sins. This was a sacrifice beyond all other sacrifices and offerings, for if in the past, the people of Israel offered the blood of goats and doves in order to absolve them temporarily from their sins, but God Himself offered His own Flesh and Blood, the perfect and spotless offering beyond all others, which was the only one worthy to redeem the whole multitude of our sins, every single taint of original sin that had held us back from our salvation and reunion with our loving God.

And if He had loved us so much, then what are we all supposed to do, brothers and sisters in Christ? Christ had chosen to die for all of us, for all mankind, from the least of sinners to the greatest among them, and from the humblest and smallest person, to the great and the mighty. He did not choose from us, and neither was He biased against a certain group or towards a certain person, but He offered His love, mercy and salvation to all. It is our choice now then, whether we are to accept that rich offering of love and mercy, or whether we want to reject them and instead continue to proceed on with our own lives.

Today we are all reminded that the cross that our Lord bore on His way to Calvary, and the cross on which He was nailed to, and hung between the heavens and the earth is a cross of love, the cross of mercy, the cross of forgiveness. For it was through that cross, that God made His love evident to all, and it was through that love, that He endeavoured to gather all of His beloved children to Himself, and took for us, for our sake, the punishments intended for us. And that cross is also the cross of victory, of the triumph against evil and sin, and of the triumph against death. For we know that His death was not forever, and neither did death had any power over Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, but we also have to realise that the cross of Christ is also a cross of suffering, as well as a cross of responsibility. Jesus Himself had said to His disciples, that all those who want to follow Him ought to take up their own crosses and follow Him. So, all of us mankind also have the same obligation to carry up our crosses with us, if we are to follow Him. This is what Jesus told us about how by becoming His followers and disciples, life will be difficult for us, because of all the opposition by the world, and by all the forces of darkness that did not desire to see us saved from our fated destruction.

And just how do we carry our crosses, brethren? It is by remembering that the cross itself is a symbol of love, a bridge between God and mankind, which our Lord Jesus had built for us. For once because of our sins, a great and wide chasm had existed between us and God, and none of us could go to the Lord without crossing that chasm, which was impossible. But our Lord Jesus made it all possible by His death on the cross. For we all who share in His cross, dying to ourselves and our sins, share with Him the glorious joy of His resurrection and brought into a new life of righteousness worthy of our Lord. It was through this that God Himself made the bridge between Him and ourselves, that is the cross of Christ.

Therefore, in order to carry our crosses, we ought to remember that the cross itself is a joining between two components, the vertical bar and the horizontal bar. The vertical bar represents the love and the relationship we have with God, while the horizontal bar represents the love and the relationships we have with one another, with our fellow men. And hence, if we are to be faithful to the Lord, and to be worthy of the salvation which He had offered us through His cross, we ought to remember to obey His covenant and His laws, that is by loving Him with all the might of our bodies, minds, hearts and soul, and do the same to our fellow brethren around us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all use this opportunity to reflect on our own lives. Have all of us been faithful to the Lord, and obeyed all of His laws and commandments? Or have we instead been more faithful to our whim and desires? Have we been loving and merciful in our interactions with our brethren around us, showing them acts of love and mercy, of care and compassion, of tenderness and justice? Let us all do so, if we have not done so yet. Let us all go forth in celebrating this Easter Triduum and the whole joyful season of Easter, by bringing forth the joy that God brought us, and share it with others who have little or none. May God bless us and keep us, and may through His holy Cross, He brings us to eternal life in Him. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 25 March 2016 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 18 : 1 – John 19 : 42

At that time, when Jesus had finished speaking, He went with His disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there, which Jesus entered with His disciples.

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, since Jesus had often met there with His disciples. So Judas took soldiers and some servants from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they went to the garden with lanterns, torches and weapons.

Jesus knew all that was going to happen to Him; He stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, stood there with them. When Jesus said, “I am He,” they moved back and fell to the ground.

He then asked a second time, “Who are you looking for?” and they answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus replied, “I told you that I am He. If you are looking for Me, let these others go.” So what Jesus had said came true : “I have not lost one of those You gave Me.”

Simon Peter had a sword, he drew it and struck Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the chalice which the Father has given Me?”

The guards and the soldiers, with their commander, seized Jesus and bound Him; and they took Him first to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year; and it was Caiaphas who had told the Jews, “It is better that one Man should die for the people.”

Simon Peter with another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus, but Peter had to stay outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the High Priest, went out and spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in.

Then this maidservant on duty at the door said to Peter, “So you also are one of His disciples?” But he answered, “I am not.” Now the servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire and were standing and warming themselves, because it was cold. Peter was also with them warming himself.

The High Priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in places where the Jews meet together, either at the assemblies in synagogues or in the Temple. I did not teach secretly. Why then do you question Me? Ask those who heard Me, they know what I said.”

At this reply one of the guards standing there gave Jesus a blow on the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” Jesus said to him, “If I have spoken wrongly, point it out; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike Me?” Then Annas sent Him, bound, to Caiaphas, the High Priest.

Now Simon Peter stood there warming himself. They said to him, “Surely you are also one of His disciples.” He denied it, and answered, “I am not.” One of the High Priest’s servants, a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you with Him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at once the cock crowed.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the headquarters of the Roman governor. It was now morning. The Jews did not go inside, lest they be made unclean by entering the house of a pagan, and therefore not allowed to eat the Passover meal. So Pilate came out and asked, “What charge do you bring against this Man?”

They answered, “If He were not a criminal, we would not be handing Him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your own law.” But they replied, “We ourselves are not allowed to put anyone to death.”

It was clear from this what kind of death Jesus was to die, according to what Jesus Himself had foretold. Pilate then entered the court again, called Jesus and asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a king, like those of this world, My guards would have fought to save Me from being handed over to the Jews. But My kingship is not of this world.”

Pilate asked Him, “So You are a King?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a King. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears My voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?”

Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, “I find no crime in this Man. Now, according to custom, I must release a prisoner to you at the Passover. With your agreement I will release to you the King of the Jews.” But they insisted and cried out, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged. The soldiers also twisted thorns into a crown and put it on His head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around His shoulders; and they began coming up to Him and saluting Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him on the face.

Pilate went outside yet another time and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing Him out, and I want you to know that I find no crime in Him.” Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak, and Pilate pointed to Him, saying, “Here is the Man!”

On seeing Him the chief priests and the guards cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Take Him yourselves and have Him crucified, for I find no case against Him.” The Jews then said, “We have a Law, and according to the Law this Man must die because He made Himself Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this he was more afraid. And coming back into the court he asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have power to release You, just as I have power to crucify You?”

Jesus replied, “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed Me over to you is more guilty.” From that moment Pilate tried to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes Himself a King is defying Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he had Jesus brought outside to the place called the Stone Floor – in Hebrew Gabbatha – and sat down in the judgment seat. It was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King.” But they cried out, “Away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your King?” And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be crucified. They took charge of Him. Bearing His own cross, Jesus went out of the city to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew Golgotha. There He was crucified, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read : ‘Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.’ Many Jewish people saw this title, because the place where Jesus was crucified was very close to the city; and the title was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’; but, ‘This Man claimed to be King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each of them. But as the tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom, they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots to decide who will get it.” This fulfilled the words of Scripture : ‘They divided My clothing among them; they cast lots for My garment.’ This was what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished and, in order to fulfill what was written in Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away.

The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus. When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.

The one who saw it, has testified to it, and his testimony is true; he knows he speaks the truth, so that you also might believe. All this happened to fulfill the words of Scripture : ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ Another text says : ‘They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.’

After this, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate, for he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. And he asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate agreed, so he came and took away the body. Nicodemus, the man who at first had come to Jesus by night, also came and brought a jar of myrrh mixed with aloes, about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, following the burial customs of the Jews.

There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been crucified, and, in the garden, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And therefore, because the sepulchre was nearby, and the Jewish day of preparation was coming to a close, they placed the body of Jesus there.