Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Second Sunday in the season of Lent, and we heard from our Scripture readings today about the Covenant that God has made with us all, His beloved people, and the connection between the story in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis of the action of Abraham obeying God in offering his own son Isaac to Him at Mount Moriah, with the story of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at Mount Tabor before three of His disciples.

First of all, the story of the first reading today showed how Abraham, who after receiving joyfully the fulfilment of the prophecy of the promised son, in the form of Isaac, was asked by the Lord to offer that very son for a sacrificial offering on the Mount Moriah, as an offering for the Lord. Contextually, Isaac was the long awaited son and heir to Abraham, who had waited for a very long time but failed to have any children with his wife Sarah. But God promised Abraham and made a Covenant with him, that he would be the father and progenitor of many nations through the son that he would have with Sarah.

Thus, we can just imagine what must be in Abraham’s mind the moment he heard of the Lord asking him to do what could be considered as impossible for him, to sacrifice the very son whom he had been longing for, to offer him as a burnt offering for the Lord when the Lord had promised this son to him. Yet, as we heard from the story, Abraham obeyed unconditionally and trusted in the Lord, and told the same to Isaac, that ‘The Lord shall provide’ when Isaac was wondering why there was no sacrificial animal brought with them as they went up Mount Moriah.

Abraham obeyed God wholeheartedly although he might indeed be wondering why God would ask him to do something like that. As St. Paul later on would comment on this matter in his Epistle to the Galatians, that Abraham had such trust and faith in God that even if he were to offer Isaac, God would provide and He would do what was impossible, and that His Covenant would last no matter what, and it was this unshaken faith that was rewarded by God when He told Abraham not to harm Isaac, as He had seen how truly faithful Abraham was, even to give his most beloved son to Him without hesitation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is it then that this story of the offering of Isaac at Mount Moriah can be related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ? On a quick glance, the two stories may not seem to be related, but in truth, the parallel between the two go on truly much deeper than just what is evident on the surface. The offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in fact a prefigurement of what the Lord Himself would do to show His faith and commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us.

First of all, the Transfiguration takes place at Mount Tabor, one of the renowned mountains of Israel, just like Mount Moriah. At that time, as it was throughout the history and tradition of the people of Israel, mountains are sacred places of worship of the Divine, and the Lord was worshipped in those mountains. Just as Moses ascended up Mount Horeb when he first met the Lord in the burning bush, and later on, ascending Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments and renewed the Covenant of God with Israel, and as the prophet Elijah also travelled to the same mountain to meet with God, thus appreciating the symbolism of Mount Moriah and Mount Tabor is very important for us to understand today’s Scripture passages.

When Abraham went up Mount Moriah, it was to offer Isaac to the Lord just as how the others at his time offer sacrifices on the mountains to the Divine. Now, when the Lord Jesus and His three disciples went up to Mount Tabor, none of those disciples could have predicted what they would witness at that mountain, when the Lord revealed the full truth about Himself as He unveiled His divinity before them, appearing in the fullness of His heavenly glory together with Moses and the prophet Elijah.

As the Lord appeared in His glory as the Son of God, Divine Word Incarnate before Moses and the prophet Elijah in the full sight of the three disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John, He was in fact revealing before all of them that He truly is not just a mere Son of Man, but also the Son of God Most High, the salvation of Israel and the Holy One of God, sent into the world in the flesh, God’s own Son given to us as the perfect gift of love, to redeem us and save us from the tyranny of sin and death, and to reconcile us all to Himself.

Here is where the connection between the sacrifice at Mount Moriah and the Lord Jesus came full circle, as later on, we know how the Lord would go on to pick up His Cross and go up the Mount Calvary just outside of Jerusalem during His Passion and suffering. This is significant because Mount Moriah was according to the tradition, located at where Jerusalem now stands, and therefore the offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah can indeed be compared directly to the offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on Calvary in Jerusalem.

There we see the Lord Jesus, the Promised Saviour of Israel, the Son of God, Who just like Isaac, the promised son of Abraham, was tied and brought up to the mountain, bearing the wood of sacrifice, to build up the altar of the sacrifice, and for the Lord’s case, the Wood of the Cross is His Altar, the Altar of His sacrificial offering of love, where He, as the High Priest of all, offered Himself as the worthy offering for every single one of us, on the Altar of the Cross that day, when He suffered and died for us.

And that is the ultimate proof of God’s enduring love for us, His commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us, that has been renewed and made anew through His Son, Who offered Himself as the Mediator of this New Covenant and as the perfect and unblemished Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, offered for the atonement of all of our sins. His Most Precious Blood was spilled on the Altar of the Cross and hence, purified us who believe in Him from our sins and all the corruptions of those wickedness that have been enslaving us all these while.

What is also significant is how God saved Isaac from being sacrificed at Mount Moriah by telling Abraham to stop and provided a ram to replace Isaac for the sacrifice. This is an allusion to how Christ has become the Lamb of sacrifice Who went through the suffering and death instead of us, that He died on the Cross so that we may live and not perish because of all those sins. The Lord truly loves each and every one of us and wants nothing less than for us to be reconciled to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we need to do then? First of all, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the three disciples of the Lord did not want to go away and down the mountain from the blissful experience they had on Mount Tabor, even suggesting to the Lord that three tents be made for Him, Moses and the prophet Elijah, the Lord reminded His disciples that it was not meant to be that way. He had to go through the suffering and the crucifixion in order to save all mankind. And the voice of the Father could be heard, telling the disciples to listen to His Son.

This means that all of us as Christians have also been called by God, called to listen to Him and to obey Him. We are called to follow the Lord and as He Himself said, to be His followers, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Him, which means that we should dedicate our lives and our actions, to serve Him and to do what He has willed for us and what He has called us all to do. And just as the Lord Himself has not held back giving us His own Son to be Our Saviour, to suffer and die for us on the Cross, then we should not hold back either on giving ourselves to Him.

Let us all be inspired by the faith that Abraham, our father in faith had in obeying God and in putting his full trust in the Lord, the Covenant that God had made with him and in the providence of His love. Let us all be ever more faithful to the Lord in this season of Lent, spending more time with God through prayer, listening to Him and understanding His will, dedicating ourselves ever more to His cause day by day through our own actions in life.

Are we willing to make the sacrifices and the commitment to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and if He Himself has not held back in giving His all for us by giving us Christ to be our Redeemer, and if our forefather Abraham had not hesitated in giving even Isaac, his promised son and heir to the Lord when asked, then how about us? Are we willing to give our hundred percent to the Lord, beginning from now if we have not yet done so?

In this season of Lent therefore we are all called to be better Christians, not just in name but also in deed. This means that just as much as we dedicate ourselves to the Lord and be obedient to Him, we must then show love to our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow neighbours and all those whom we encounter in life. We are all called to be more generous in giving, not just in giving of money and material help, but even more importantly in giving more of our time and attention to others, our generosity in love, care and compassion to those who need them.

We have to remember that whatever we do to the least of our brethren, to those who are in need, we are doing it for the love of God and for our love for our fellow men. This is the kind of faith that God wants from us, and this is the kind of fasting that the Lord also seeks from us, that we do not just fast from food or abstain from meat only, but even more importantly, fast from selfishness and greed, from self-importance and vanity, and abstain from all wickedness in thoughts and deeds, in exchange for true and genuine faith in the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all thus seek the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our might and redirect our attention back towards Him, with contrite heart and with regret for all of our many sins. Let us all be thankful that He has loved us all these while, caring for us and blessing us, being patient with us even as we continue to sin against us. He even sent us His own Son to be our Saviour, dying for us that by sharing in His death through our common humanity, we may share in His resurrection and enter into a new life and existence free from sin and filled with His grace.

May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and may He empower us all to walk faithfully in His presence always. May all of us have a blessed and most fruitful time and season of Lent, that we may draw ever closer to God and find the path to His salvation and be worthy of Him. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 9 : 2-10

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There, His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say; they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved : listen to Him!”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 8 : 31b-34

If God is with us, who shall be against us? If He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not give us all things with Him? Who shall accuse those chosen by God : He takes away their guilt? Who will dare to condemn them?

Christ, Who died, and better still, rose, and is seated at the right hand of God, interceding for us?

Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 115 : 10 and 15, 16-17, 18-19

I have kept faith, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” It is painful to YHVH to see the death of His faithful.

O YHVH, I am Your servant, 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 YHVH.

I will carry out my vows to YHVH in the presence of His people, in the courts of the House of YHVH, in your midst, o Jerusalem.

Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 22 : 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18

Some time later, God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I shall point out to you.”

They came to the place to which God had directed them. Abraham then stretched out his hand to seize the knife and slay his son. But the Angel of YHVH called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

And he said, “Here I am.” “Do not lay your hand on the boy; do not harm him, for now I know that you fear God, and you have not held back from Me your only son.” Abraham looked around and saw behind him a ram caught by its horns in a bush. He offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.

And the Angel of YHVH called from heaven a second time. “By Myself I have sworn, it is YHVH Who speaks, because you have done this and not held back your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the land of their enemies. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your descendants because you have obeyed Me.”

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to focus our attention on the Lord and His love for us that He was willing to reach out to us and to rescue us from our deepest troubles and predicaments, to lead us out of the abyss and deliver us from the sufferings we experienced due to sin. And we are all called as Christians to reflect on what our faith truly means for us.

In our first reading today from the Book of Leviticus, Moses revealed to the people of Israel the laws and rules of the Lord, which he delivered to them and asked them to keep in their hearts and minds, and to pass them on from time to time, as they journeyed from the land of Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. And today we focus in particular on the laws regarding the treatment of those who suffered from leprosy, what to be done with them.

At that time, the cause for leprosy was not well known, and the disease was often misunderstood. Leprosy is actually caused by bacterial infection that can be spread through direct contact, either with the other person or with the items that the infected person has been using or wearing. Although leprosy was not particularly infectious and it was actually not easy to contract leprosy unless through frequent contact, but we must then understand the context of the circumstances of the Exodus.

During the Exodus, the Israelites journeyed through the desert and stayed together in a close-knit community due to the harsh desert conditions of the Sinai desert and the other places they journeyed through. As a result, the density of the population within the community was likely quite high and people lived in close contact with each other regularly. And as it was in the desert, where water was scarce and although the Lord did provide water for the people to drink, but it was likely that hygiene might have been a problem for the people then.

As a result, the Law was very strict with regards to leprosy, as an outbreak of leprosy could be dangerous at the time when the people were living in such close proximity. Since leprosy is also a slow-acting and chronic infection that slowly affected those who were infected, allowing the people who got leprosy to roam around freely in the close-knit community could be harmful to the greater community. Hence, those afflicted with leprosy, which showed its symptoms quite clearly, had to stay outside the community until they could prove that they were freed from the leprosy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the significance of this focus on leprosy that we have heard today? In our Gospel passage today we also heard the Lord healing a man who had been afflicted with leprosy. Until that time, over a thousand years after the Law was first revealed by Moses, the rules and traditions of the Law had been preserved and passed down for so long that the original meaning and intention, the context and appreciation of the reason of those rules had been forgotten.

That is why many of the rules and regulations enforced by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often opposed by the Lord, Who came to straighten up the truth and to reveal the true meaning and intention of the Law. He wanted all of us to know that God was not some distant, angry and wrathful God Who demanded total obedience and submission from the people, but rather, a caring and compassionate, most loving and generous God Who will bless all of us and Who seeks to be reconciled with us.

And this is where we then look again at how leprosy had been dangerous for the people back then, and how it affected them, slowly ‘eating’ through their bodies and making them to lose their body parts in time unless they could get the leprosy cured. When the man who had leprosy came to the Lord asking for Him to heal him, certainly he had been suffering and had great predicaments and troubles, being excluded and shut out for his condition. The Lord healed the man and made him good and whole again.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is in fact very symbolic of what the Lord Himself would do for our sake, in healing us from another ‘leprosy’ which is far more dangerous than the worldly leprosy. What am I referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the leprosy of the soul, which is sin. Yes, sin is like that of leprosy, a disease and corruption that is even far more dangerous than the bodily leprosy. Why is that? That is because while leprosy only affects the body, sin affects everything, our every aspects of life.

And while leprosy could still be cured, and like how it has been largely eradicated today due to the advance of modern medicine and better hygiene practices, but there is nothing that can be done with regards to sin. Only God alone can forgive us our sins and heal us from its corruptions. That is why, as the Lord came and approached the man suffering from leprosy, not only that He showed us His power to heal earthly diseases, but He also revealed to us how He would also forgive us our sins.

In another miraculous occasion, the Lord healed a paralytic man and said to the man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law immediately made issue with this statement. Yet, the Lord was speaking the truth, that He indeed had the authority to forgive us our sins, and therefore heal us from this leprosy that is eating up on all of us, afflicting us and leading us down the path of suffering.

Now, what matters is whether we are willing to let Him to touch us and heal us, as He did with the man suffering from the physical leprosy. The man who suffered from leprosy wanted to be healed and he also had faith in the Lord. Hence, he was healed and made whole, and happily he went to see the priest so that he could be readmitted into the greater community, no longer exiled and cast out due to his condition.

Sin has also made us to be exiled and cast out, brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is why again it is often referred to as the ‘leprosy of our souls’. It was due to sin that we have been cast out from the Gardens of Eden, separated from God and the fullness of His grace and blessings. Sin corrupted us and made us to be unworthy to stand in God’s presence. We should have fallen into eternal damnation and share the fate of the devil and all of his fellow fallen angels, condemned for eternity if not for the love that God has for us.

God sent us nothing less than the best gift of all, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom we have been given the sure promise of salvation and healing from our sins, which He alone can heal and forgive. And He generously showed us this forgiveness and compassion, as He gathered to Himself all of our sins, bearing them down upon Himself, on His Cross that He carried up to Calvary. And by dying for us on the Cross, He offered Himself as the perfect offering for our sins, to absolve us from all those combined sins we have committed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us as Christians are called to reflect on how fortunate and blessed we are to have received God’s truth, and how fortunate we are to have been loved in such a way by the Lord, so generous with His love and so patient in always trying to reach out to us and to forgive us when we seek Him with a heart full of contrition and regret for our many committed sins, as well as the sins of omission that we have had with us.

Have we taken God’s love for granted, and ignored His great love and the great patience He had in dealing with us? Let us not disregard our loving Father’s call for us to Him anymore, and let us respond to Him with a genuine desire to commit ourselves to Him, rejecting all the temptations to sin and to disobey against His laws and commandments.

Let us realise that in God alone we can fully put our trust and be made whole, healed and liberated from all the sins that have held us down and kept us away from the true happiness that can be found with God and Him alone. And as Christians, we should be inspirations and examples to each other in the way we live our lives, filled with faith and virtue, trust in God and righteousness that all who see us and interact with us, may also come to know God through us.

May the Lord remind us always of His love and compassion, His care and dedication towards us that we too may grow in our faith and dedication towards Him, and that we may strive well against the many temptations and pressures that try to keep us away from God and His path. May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all into life everlasting in Him, and make us all His exemplary and faithful disciples before all the peoples of all the nations. God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 10 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 11 : 1

Then, whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Give no offence to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything. I do not seek my own interest, but that of many, this is : that they be saved.

Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 11

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

Rejoice in YHVH, and be glad, you who are upright; sing and shout for joy, you who are clean of heart.

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Leviticus 13 : 1-2, 44-46

YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has a boil, an inflammation or a sore on his skin which could develop into leprosy, he must be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests, his descendants.”

“This means that the man is leprous : he is unclean. The priest shall declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A person infected with leprosy must wear torn clothing and leave his hair uncombed; he must cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’”

“As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore, he must live away from others : he must live outside the camp.”