Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God is loving, and He is filled with mercy for His people, as He desires to forgive all those who have wronged Him, all who have betrayed Him and left Him behind, as what the parable of the prodigal son would have told us, that famous story on forgiveness and mercy, as told by Jesus our Lord.

Most if not all of us should be quite familiar with the story, which we have heard since our childhood, or in our catechism classes, or through reading the Scriptures. But how many of us truly understand its meaning and its significance? How many of us can relate ourselves and our own experiences with that story of the prodigal son, who was forgiven by his father?
In that parable, we heard how the prodigal son left his father after getting his share of the inheritance, and squandered off all his wealth and possessions on lavish living. In the end, he had no money left with him, and all of his friends who used to be with him left him behind. He suffered terribly in that foreign land, and no one would want to help him, even his friends. He had to endure the most difficult of conditions, and even shamed by working at the lowest possible places as a caretaker of pigs in a farm.

In the end, the prodigal son decided to go back to his father, seeking to humbly seek his forgiveness and even wanted to declare before his father that after having committed such a shameful act, and after having sinned in such a manner, he could no longer be called the son of his father. Instead, he wanted to be treated just as one of his father’s slaves.

But his father would have none of that, and ordered his servants that his younger son should be dressed up in the finest of clothes and a feast be prepared for his sake, celebrating his return from the faraway lands. He was indeed dressed up and treated with a treatment equal to that of the son and heir of a king. Then we heard about how the elder son was angry at his father after having heard of the treatment which the prodigal younger son had received.

In all of these, we can see ourselves, and how we relate ourselves with God and one another. The parable is a very good representation of our very own selves, our lives and our actions in this world. The father is a representation of God, while the prodigal son represents all those who have sinned and who have been separated from God and His love. How about the elder son? The elder son represents those who have remained true and faithful to the ways of the Lord.

First of all, the prodigal son is just like us, who have wandered off from the way of the Lord, seeking other things and other pleasures of life instead of the love of God, just as how the younger son looking to venture to a far off land. Yet, his father allowed him to do so, the loving God, Who loves each and every one of us, because He loved us. He gives us a free will and a freedom to choose our path forward.

But in our sins and in our weaknesses, in our frailties and in our easy fall into temptations, we have fallen into a miserable state just as the prodigal son did. And when we are in trouble, people who do not truly love us or care for us will leave us behind. They are like Satan and his angels, who pretended to be our friends, but when we have fallen into sin, they will laugh at our folly and marvel at our downfall and misery.

There is only One Who will remember us and continue to love us, and that is God. Even though we have wandered off, rebelled, and disobeyed Him, He will continue to love us, just as the father continued to think about the prodigal son. But we must remember what the prodigal son had done. As wrong and mistaken as he had been, he had resolved and decided to humble himself and sought his father, returning to the father who loved him.

This is where many of us mankind have faltered, because we have not been able to overcome one thing that often stands in the way of our salvation. And what is that, brethren? It is pride, our very own human pride. From our pride, came stubbornness and all the other things that have prevented us from seeking God and His forgiveness. First of all, we think that whatever we do, God will forgive us without our need to make the effort to seek for repentance, and this is the sin of presumption according to the renowned St. Cyprian of Carthage.

And presumption came from our pride, in our thought that we cannot have done any mistake, that we cannot have been wrong, even in our despicable state of sin and wickedness. This is what all of us must resist and overcome, brothers and sisters in Christ, or otherwise, we will continue to fall and end up in eternal damnation of hell. Let us seek instead to follow the path of the prodigal son, who humbly sought the forgiveness of his father.

And as we all can see, the father forgave his prodigal and wayward son, just as God is ever ready to forgive us and to welcome us back. We must not be afraid to seek God the Father for His forgiveness, for there is a second great sin, according to St. Cyprian, and that is the sin of despair, which is ultimately also born out of our human pride. We think and assume that our sins are so great that God will not forgive us, but God will forgive us if only we make the effort to overcome our sins and repent from them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to realise that God is ever merciful and loving, especially to all of us who have sinned and fallen into sin. But God’s mercy will not have any effect on us, unless we consciously put in the effort to make that mercy useful and meaningful to us. God wants to forgive us, but do we want to be forgiven? And are we able to commit to the commitment to sin no more and lead a righteous life from now on?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, during this season of Lent, we need to spend some time to reflect on our own lives and our actions. We need to reevaluate our lives and actions, and we need to renew our lives in the same manner as the prodigal son. Are we able to overcome our pride, our stubbornness and all the obstacles that had prevented us from reaching out to God and His mercy?

Now, we also then need to take note of the action of the elder son, who became angry at the return of the younger, prodigal son. Jesus through that action was rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have often hampered the return of sinners to God’s grace, because they thought that sinners were incapable of being forgiven by God, and because they thought that they alone deserved God’s love.

As Christians, and as those to whom God had given His grace, we cannot have this kind of attitude. First of all, we need to know that God loves everyone, all sinners alike, and we have to remember that all of us are sinners after all, in need of God’s mercy. We must always be vigilant lest we fall back into our sinful ways. And therefore, we should not think that we alone deserve God’s grace, but rather, we should help open the path to God’s mercy to those who are in need of our help.

Let us therefore guide one another, and help each other to remain faithful to God and true to His ways, by showing our faith through our words, actions and deeds, so that all of us may be saved together, and receive once again God’s love and grace. May all of us walk in the path of the prodigal son, and humbly seek forgiveness for our sins, and may all of us be able to commit to repent from our sins, and do good from now onwards. Amen.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, ‘This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So Jesus told them this parable : “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, shepherd the flock of Your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when You went out of Egypt. Show us Your wonders.

Who is a God like You, Who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of His inheritance? Who is like You Whose anger does not last? For You delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again You will show us Your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Sunday, 3 May 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 26-31

When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples there, but they were afraid of him because they could not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles. He recounted to them how Saul had seen the Lord on his way and the words the Lord had spoken to him. He told them also how Saul had preached boldly in the Name of Jesus.

Then Saul began to live with them. He moved about freely in Jerusalem and preached openly in the Name of the Lord. He also spoke to the Hellenists and argued with them, but they wanted to kill him. When the believers learnt of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria with eyes turned to the Lord and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 1b-8

This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem. All, except the Apostles, were scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Saul meanwhile was trying to destroy the Church; he entered house after house and dragged off men and women and had them put in jail.

At the same time those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to a town of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. All the people paid close attention to what Philip said as they listened to him and saw the miraculous signs that he did.

For in cases of possession, the unclean spirits came out shrieking loudly. Many people who were paralysed or crippled were healed. So there was a great joy in that town.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Galatians 1 : 11-20

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel we preached to you is not a human message, nor did I receive it from anyone, I was not taught of it but it came to me as a revelation from Christ Jesus.

You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day God called me out of His great love, He who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and He was pleased to reveal in me His Son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me. I immediately went to Arabia, and from there I returned again to Damascus.

Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying.