Friday, 15 April 2022 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel 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 cup 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 also are 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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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.

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 14 : 1 – Mark 15 : 47

It was now two days before the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law were looking for a way to arrest Jesus on a false charge, and put Him to death; but they said, “Not during the Festival, for there might be trouble among the people.”

Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. As He was reclining at dinner, a woman entered carrying an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfumed oil on Jesus’ head. Then some of them became angry and said, “What a useless waste of perfume. It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor.” And they criticised her.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why are you troubling her? What she has just done for Me is a very charitable work. At any time you can help the poor, for you always have them with you; but you will not have Me forever. This woman did what she had to do : she anointed My Body for burial, before I die. Truly, I say to you, wherever the Good News is proclaimed, and this will be throughout the world, what she has done will be told in praise of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests, in order to betray Jesus to them. On hearing him, they were excited and promised to give him money. So Judas started planning the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day when the Passover Lamb was killed, disciples asked Him, “Where would you have us to go to prepare the Passover meal for You?” So Jesus sent two of His disciples with these instructions, “Go into the city, and there, a man will come to you carrying a jar of water.”

“Follow him to the house he enters and say to the owner, ‘The Master says, Where is the room where I may eat the Passover meal with My disciples?’ Then He will show you a large room upstairs, already arranged and furnished. There, you will prepare for us.”

The disciples went off. When they reached the city, they found everything just as Jesus had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were at table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray Me, one who shares My meal.”

They were deeply distressed at hearing this and asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You?” And Jesus answered, “It is one of you Twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scriptures say He will. But alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed; better for him if he had never been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. And He said, “Take this. It is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and after He had given thanks, He passed it to them and they all drank from it. And He said, “This is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not taste the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “All of you will be dismayed and fall away; for the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after I am raised, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

Then Peter said to Him, “Even though all the others fall away, I will not.” And Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, today, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But Peter insisted, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all of them said the same.

They came to a place which is called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” But He took Peter, James and John along with Him, and, becoming filled with fear and distress, He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake.”

Then He went a little further on and fell on the ground, praying that, if possible, this hour might pass Him by. Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Yet, not what I want, but what You want.” Then He came and found them asleep; and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not stay awake for one hour? Stay awake and pray, all of you, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the body is weak.”

And, going away, He prayed, saying the same words. When He came back to the disciples, He found them asleep again. They could not keep their eyes open; and they did not know what to say to Him. When He came back the third time, He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is all over, the time has come : the Son of Man is now given into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go! Look : the one who betrays Me is approaching.”

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders. The traitor had arranged a signal for them, “The One I kiss, He is the Man. Arrest Him, and take Him away under guard.”

So, when He came, He went directly to Jesus, and said, “Master! Master!” and kissed Him. Then they seized Jesus and arrested Him. One of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Jesus turned to them and said, “So, you have set out against a robber! Did you need swords and clubs to arrest Me? Day after day, I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest Me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Then they all deserted Him and fled. A young man, covered by nothing but a linen cloth, followed Jesus. When they took hold of him, he left the cloth in their hands and fled away naked. They led Jesus to the High Priest; and all the chief priests assembled, with the elders and the teachers of the Law. Peter had followed Him at a distance; and went right into the courtyard of the High Priest, where he sat with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

Now the chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some evidence against Jesus so that they might put Him to death; but they were unable to find anything. Even though many came up to speak falsely against Him, their evidence did not agree. At last, some stood up and gave this false witness : “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made by human hands, and, in three days, I will build another, not made by human hands.” But even so, their evidence did not agree.

The High Priest then stood up in the midst of them and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What about this evidence against You?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. The High Priest put a second question to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Then Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Most Powerful, and coming with the clouds of heaven around Him.”

Then the High Priest, tearing his garments to show his horror, said, “What more evidence do we need? You have just heard His blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They all condemned Jesus, saying, “He must die.” Some of them began to spit on Jesus; and, blindfolding Him, they struck Him and said, “Play the prophet!” And the guards set upon Him with blows.

While Peter was below, in the courtyard, a servant girl of the High Priest came by. Noticing Peter beside the fire, she looked straight at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the Nazarene.” But he denied it, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out through the gateway, and a cock crowed.

The servant girl saw him there and told the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But Peter denied it again. After a little while, those standing nearby said to Peter, “Of course you are one of them; you are a Galilean, are you not?” And Peter began to justify himself with curses and oaths, “I do not know the Man you are talking about.”

Just then a cock crowed a second time, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Early in the morning, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law (that is, the whole Council or Sanhedrin) had their plan ready. They put Jesus in chains, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” As the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have You no answer at all? See how many charges they bring against You.”

But Jesus gave no further answers, much to Pilate’s surprise. At every Passover festival, Pilate used to free any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a man called Barabbas, jailed with the rioters who had committed murder in the uprising. When the crowd went up to ask Pilate the usual favour, he said to them, “Do you want me to set free the King of the Jews?” for he realised that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him out of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, for the release of Barabbas. Pilate replied, “And what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!” Pilate asked, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!”

As Pilate wanted to please the people, He freed Barabbas, and, having had Jesus flogged, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him inside the courtyard, known as the Praetorium, and called the rest of their companions. They clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head. Then they began saluting Him, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” With a stick they gave Him blows on the head and spat on Him; then they knelt down, pretending to worship Him.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. The soldiers led Him out of the city to crucify Him. On the way, they met Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country; and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they had led Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He would not take it.

Then they nailed Him to the cross, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what every man should take. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Him. The statements of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says : ‘And with lawless ones He was numbered.’

People passing by laughed at Him, shook their heads and jeered, “Aha! So, You are able to tear down the Temple and build it up in three days? Save Yourself now, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law mocked Him, saying to one another, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let us see the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from His cross, and then we will believe in Him.” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted Him.

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?” As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately, the curtain that enclosed the Temple Sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave; and he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

There were also some women watching from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, who had followed Jesus when He was in Galilee and saw to His needs. There were also others who had come up with Him to Jerusalem.

It was now evening, and, as it was Preparation Day, that is the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea boldly went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus. Joseph was a respected member of the Council, who was, himself, waiting for the kingdom of God. Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon; so he summoned the captain and inquired if Jesus was already dead. After hearing the captain, he let Joseph have the Body.

Joseph took it down and wrapped it in the linen sheet he had brought. He laid the Body in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone across the entrance to the tomb. Now Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joses took note of where the Body had been laid.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Mark 15 : 1-39

Early in the morning, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law (that is, the whole Council or Sanhedrin) had their plan ready. They put Jesus in chains, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” As the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have You no answer at all? See how many charges they bring against You.”

But Jesus gave no further answers, much to Pilate’s surprise. At every Passover festival, Pilate used to free any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a man called Barabbas, jailed with the rioters who had committed murder in the uprising. When the crowd went up to ask Pilate the usual favour, he said to them, “Do you want me to set free the King of the Jews?” for he realised that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him out of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, for the release of Barabbas. Pilate replied, “And what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!” Pilate asked, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!”

As Pilate wanted to please the people, He freed Barabbas, and, having had Jesus flogged, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him inside the courtyard, known as the Praetorium, and called the rest of their companions. They clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head. Then they began saluting Him, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” With a stick they gave Him blows on the head and spat on Him; then they knelt down, pretending to worship Him.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. The soldiers led Him out of the city to crucify Him. On the way, they met Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country; and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they had led Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He would not take it.

Then they nailed Him to the cross, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what every man should take. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Him. The statements of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says : ‘And with lawless ones He was numbered.’

People passing by laughed at Him, shook their heads and jeered, “Aha! So, You are able to tear down the Temple and build it up in three days? Save Yourself now, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law mocked Him, saying to one another, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let us see the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from His cross, and then we will believe in Him.” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted Him.

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?” As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately, the curtain that enclosed the Temple Sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave; and he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

Sunday, 28 March 2021 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, 30 August 2020 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 16 : 21-27

At that time, from that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds.”

Sunday, 3 May 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Vocation Sunday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 2 : 20b-25

But if you endure punishment when you have done well, that is a grace before God. This is your calling : remember Christ Who suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you may follow in His way. He did no wrong and there was no deceit in His mouth. He did not return insult for insult and, when suffering, He did not curse but put Himself in the hands of God Who judges justly.

He went to the cross bearing our sins on His own Body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live an upright life. For by His wounds you have been healed. You were like stray sheep, but you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the whole Universal Church celebrate together the great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, remembering that moment when the Lord’s one and holy True Cross was discovered in the city of Jerusalem. At that time, just two decades or so after the Edict of Milan in the Year of Our Lord 313, the True Cross was discovered by St. Helena, the Empress Mother of the Roman Empire.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, famous as the Emperor who first adopted the Christian faith for himself and also for the Empire, had finally triumphed over all of his rivals and enemies, having finally reunited the whole Empire under one reign and liberating the whole people of God, communities of Christians who were still persecuted from time to time by the rival rulers of the Emperor Constantine who supported or courted the support of the pagans.

As the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem was under the control of the rival Emperors, it was then that finally, after the reunification of the whole Empire under the rule of the Emperor Constantine the Great that the whole land knew peace again after decades of continuous strife and conflict. The Christian population in particular finally had a reprieve after almost constant persecution from the very early days of the Church.

The Emperor’s mother, St. Helena, who was already a Christian long before that of her son, went to the Holy Land for pilgrimage, and it was told by tradition that in Jerusalem she discovered three crosses at the place near the site where the historic Crucifixion of the Lord took place when the pagan temples that once stood over the sites were demolished. The three crosses therefore correlated with that of the Lord’s Cross and the two crosses used to crucify the two thieves who were with Him that day.

In order to find out which of the three crosses is the one True Cross of the Lord, St. Helena brought a woman who was suffering from terminal illness, and when she touched one of the three crosses, she was completely healed from her issues, indicating that the one which the woman touched, was the one and holy True Cross. The discovery of the True Cross was not just a very significant event in the whole history of the Church, but it is also a very symbolic event marking the triumph of Christ over that of the enemies of the Church.

And even more so than just merely marking the victory of Christianity over the pagans and their false pagan gods, the gods of the Romans and Greeks and the many other peoples of the Empire, but the Cross of the Lord itself is a powerful and real symbol of victory of mankind against their greatest enemy, that is sin. Sin has always been our great enemy, as sin leads to death and separation from God, the Source of all our lives.

And by His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Himself has conquered sin and death. He has been victorious and triumphant in the battle against them, and through Him, all of us mankind have received the assurance of eternal life and salvation. Thus, through the Cross, God has shown His light and a new hope to all of us, as a victorious and conquering sign against all of our enemies and all those who sought our destruction.

When we then look at the Cross again, we must understand the context in how God made use of this humble and simple instrument to be the ultimate weapon and means by which the final victory and triumph against sin would be won. For the Romans who ruled all of Judea and the whole lands around the Mediterranean at that time, the cross was the symbol of ultimate humiliation and fear, as crucifixion was a punishment reserved only to the worst of all criminals, to those who betrayed the state and those who committed unforgivable crimes.

But God converted that symbol of ultimate shame and indeed defeat, into a symbol of ultimate victory, hope and glory, by what He has willingly done in embracing the Cross to be crucified despite Himself being totally blameless and faultless. And in parallel to what we have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, through the Cross, Christ changed the ultimate symbol of our defeat into the ultimate symbol of victory.

At the time of the Exodus, as recorded in the Book of Numbers, the people of Israel frequently and constantly rebelled against God, in refusing to believe in Him and in rejecting the truth and the laws which He has laid before them. They chose to follow their own selfish paths, worshipping pagan gods and doubting all that they have been shown through Moses. Because of all these disobedience, the people sinned against God.

The fiery serpents sent against them were actually representative of mankind’s sins, our own sins. St. Paul mentioned in one of his Epistles, the Epistle to the Corinthians that ‘the sting of sin is death’, clearly alluding to this moment depicted and recorded in the Book of Numbers, when the fiery serpents bit many of the Israelites and killed them. And then, God asked Moses when the people begged Him for forgiveness, to build a bronze serpent and to place it on a tall pole that everyone might see the bronze serpent and live.

Prior to His Passion, suffering and crucifixion, the Lord Himself had revealed to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who was sympathetic to Him, that this was a prelude and prefigurement of the moment of Christ’s Crucifixion. Just as the bronze serpent, representing the fiery serpents that killed the Israelites was raised up high, the Lord told Nicodemus that He Himself would be raised up on the Cross for all to see.

And He, the Sinless and Perfect One, willingly took up all the sins of the world, gathering to Himself all the burdens, the sufferings, the pains and tortures of the sins we should have endured and faced, and took them upon Himself. He lowered Himself such that, while He had done nothing wrong at all, He willingly accept total humiliation and nakedness, total rejection and pain, of being treated less than a human being on the Cross.

It was so painful and terrible to see the suffering Christ on the Cross, that even before He was crucified, as He was carrying His Cross, the women of Jerusalem wailed and wept for Him. All those who saw the Lord at that time would have been terrified and struck with fear and sorrow seeing just how much He has suffered. Yet, that was not the end, as we all know that the death of Christ is not the end of it all.

Instead, by His glorious resurrection on the third day, the Cross, a symbol of the ultimate shame, punishment and sorrow has been transformed into the symbol of ultimate victory and triumph. For at long last, death and therefore sin no longer has the final say over man. The Son of Man and Son of God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, has conquered death and rose in glory. And in parallel to what had happened in the time of the Exodus, all those who come to believe in the Lord, will not die but live.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have the Crucifix, the Holy Cross of Our Lord as the centre of our faith as is the Eucharist. For it is by shedding His Blood and Body on the Cross, the Bloody Altar of God’s sacrifice, that He brought unto us the salvation through His death and resurrection by which He defeated death and sin. It was His great and undying love for each and every one of us that has allowed Him to endure the sufferings for our sake.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we recall the triumphant Cross of Christ, how it was rediscovered by St. Helena and all that the Lord had done in bringing about our salvation through His Cross, all of us as Christians should reflect deep into our own respective lives, in our actions, words and deeds. Have we all loved God just as God has loved us all so much and so unconditionally? Have we devoted ourselves wholeheartedly to Him just as He has done so for us?

In a world today filled with darkness and many uncertainties, temptations and sins, we must hold true to that Cross, the Cross of our hope, the Cross by which the Ultimate Victory has been won by Our God. Let us all not be disheartened but be hopeful and be strong, always fixing our gaze on Him Who has suffered on the Cross. And let us all remember that He suffered because of our sins, every single one of our sins and disobedience.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on? Are we able to turn away from being sinful and disobedient against God, in each and every moments of our lives? Are we able to love God ever more unconditionally through our every words, deeds and actions from now on? May the Lord bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of life, and may He be with us all our days through reminding us of the glory of His triumphant Cross. Amen.

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 77 : 1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Give heed, o My people, to My teaching; listen to the words of My mouth! I will speak in parables; I will talk of old mysteries.

When He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God was their Rock, the Most High, their Redeemer.

But they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues, while their hearts were unfaithful; they were untrue to His Covenant.

Even then, in His compassion, He forgave their offences and did not destroy them. Many a time He restrained His anger, and did not fully stir up His wrath.

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Numbers 21 : 4b-9

The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Alternative reading

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.