(Holy Week) Friday, 14 April 2017 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Good Friday of our Lord’s Passion, the moment when Jesus our Lord was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate at the instigation of His opponents, and put to suffer and was tortured, made to bear the heavy wooden cross, and eventually was crucified on the cross, and died. This is what we commemorate today, the day when our Lord Himself died for our sake.

And why do we call this day ‘Good Friday’? Should we not be mourning for such a sombre event, when someone died, and all the more, God Himself Who died? That is because, without Good Friday, then all of us mankind, who are all sinners, would have perished and be destroyed, as then we would have had no hope for salvation. As we are sinners, our sins should have caused us to be damned and to be cast out from the grace of God, and endure the same fate as Satan and his angels, that is eternal suffering.

Yet it was God’s love for each and every one of us that had led to the cross. The cross of Christ is first of all the symbol of God’s love, for the Lord Jesus was willing to carry up that heavy cross, not just the burden of the heavy physical wooden cross, but also the even much heavier burdens of our sins, the combined weight of our disobedience, our faults and our failures. It was all these which God had carried upon Himself, bearing on Himself all of our sins and the consequences for those sins.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the faithful and the Church in the city of Rome, spoke of how people would not find it easy to give up his or her life for the sake of another person, even if the person is a close or good friend. They may consider it if the person had been very good and upright in all things. As a result, there might just indeed be people who would give up his life for a righteous person. But usually, there would not be those who want to do anything good for the sake of those who were wicked and evil.

But take note how God showed His great love for His people. He gave up Himself and His life, not only for the righteous or for the just, but for everyone, every single one of us mankind, from the greatest saints to the worst of sinners and wicked people. Indeed, He also died for the sake of His enemies and all those who had put themselves as obstacles in His path!

That is indeed what God had done, just as He had done for the sake of His people Israel in the past. He showed them care and concern, and was truly patient with them, even though when they have constantly rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him. Because of their sins and wickedness however, the Israelites perished in the desert as what was supposed to be their just punishment came up to them.

In one occasion, we heard how the Israelites suffered grievously from fiery serpents that were sent by God Who was furious at their lack of faith, and as punishment for their sins. Indeed, many of them died and there were many among them who were swayed to turn themselves in to the Lord, admit their sins and wickedness. The people came to Moses, asking him to ask the Lord to forgive them, for they would no longer sin before Him.

Therefore God instructed Moses to craft the likeness of a serpent, a bronze serpent, to be placed on a stand so that all the sons and daughters of Israel could see the bronze serpent. And all who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and who ought to have died, would not die because they had seen the bronze serpent, the symbol of God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is a reminder to all of them, that their sins had brought about their downfall, and should have ended up in them perishing, but God loved each and every one of them, and wanted to forgive them.

Jesus Himself made the direct comparison between that event with His own Passion. He was very specific in His mention of what would happen at the time of His own Passion, when the Son of Man, Himself, would be lifted up high for all to see, just as Moses had raised the bronze serpent in the past. That was when Jesus was crucified, put to death on the cross, a way to die at that time, most humiliating and reserved only to the worst of criminals in accordance to the Roman law.

Surely, the devil himself would have thought that he had won when Jesus was arrested, condemned to death and brought to the cross at Calvary. Ever since Jesus began His ministry, he had done all of his efforts in order to undermine and stop the works of Jesus, by tempting Him, which did not work, and then, he chose to oppose Him through various people and various means.

But God turned that symbol of ultimate humiliation into the symbol of the ultimate victory and triumph, for as we all know, Jesus Who died on that day at Calvary, did not die for nothing, and neither did He die permanently, for death had no hold or power over Him. Sin and death, darkness and evil fled away when the Lord rose in glory after He had died for three days, showing to all that death is not to be our fate. The fate of all humanity, is instead to share in the cross of Christ and therefore to share in His glorious resurrection as well. And this means that we all ought to have eternal life with God.

Moses raised the bronze serpent, and all who saw it lived, even though they had been bitten by the fiery serpents. In the same way, Jesus our Lord was raised up on the cross for all of us to see, to witness and to realise, that by His death on the cross, He Who took up upon Himself all the multitudes of our sins, had sacrificed Himself out of love for us, so that whoever looked upon Him and believed, will not die but have eternal life from God.

But surely now we can say, we do not see God, for Jesus is no longer here with us. He was there two millennia ago surely, but then He had been crucified and died, and had risen into His glory and ascended to heaven. We no longer see Him, and we were not there during His crucifixion. But yet, we are also saved, brothers and sisters in Christ. Why is this so? That is because in every Holy Mass, and including in today’s service, even though there is no consecration today, the Lord becomes really present in our midst, through the Most Holy Eucharist.

When the priest consecrates the bread and wine brought forth to the Altar, he in fact, reenacts the same sacrifice at Calvary, lifting up both bread and wine, but no longer just mere bread and mere wine, but in substance and essence completely transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Himself. Do we all remember the time of our Lord’s crucifixion and death whenever we see these happening? Or are we too busy with ourselves and all of our busy schedules and thoughts to realise just how fortunate we are to have God Who really cares for us and Who loves us deeply?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we may feel sorrowful because the Lord our God Himself had died on the cross. We may feel sorrowful and dejected because indeed, how can we not do so, considering that our God Himself, our Lord, Master and Creator had died for our sake? Indeed, we are sorrowful because every single one of our sins had been borne by Him, without complaint, without objection, but only with the reply of a perfect love.

We are sorrowful because our sins are indeed the wounds that were inflicted on Christ. Every single lacerations, every single wounds are our sins, our slander towards one another, our lack of love, care and concern for the poor and the needy, our action in ostracising others, being unjust and biased against our fellow men, or by our jealousy, hatred and all the other things that had caused us to fall into sin. Do we realise just how much God loved each and every one of us, that He was willing to bear all of these, so that He can forgive us the multitudes of our failures and incompetence? And He never complained at all, as He made His way to Calvary!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we celebrate the Passion and death of our Lord, let us all spend time in prayer and contemplation. Let us remember every single moment that we have sinned, all the faults we have, all the jealousies and unbecoming attitudes we had shown in life, all of our slandering and wicked ways, and reflect on how much we have caused pain and sorrow for our Lord, as He bore that cross of our sins, on His way to save all of us.

Yet, let us also remember that, Good Friday does not stand by itself. Easter comes after Good Friday. And therefore, because we have shared in the death of our Lord, we also will share in His resurrection and receive eternal life, provided that we truly can come to the understanding of the importance of leading a good, just and upright life, sinning no more and turning ourselves and our ways completely to God.

Let us remember that vice versa, Easter does not come about without Good Friday. There will be lots of challenges ahead on our path. Jesus did not have it easy, and indeed He suffered in the most difficult of ways possible. And so, we too will suffer as He has suffered, and we will be tempted just as He had been tempted. Yet, if we do not lose our sight and focus on the light and hope that is to come, the joy of Easter, surely we will then be able to find our way to the Lord, and in the end, receive from Him the crown of everlasting glory.

May the Lord bless us all, forgive us all our sins, and may by His triumphant and victorious cross, reminds us always of our own daily crosses that we need to take up, that we may follow Him towards salvation and the glory of eternal life. Amen.

(Holy Week) Friday, 14 April 2017 : 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.

(Holy Week) Friday, 14 April 2017 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Hebrews 4 : 14-16 and Hebrews 5 : 7-9

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, Who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him Who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the Source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.

(Holy Week) Friday, 14 April 2017 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 30 : 2 and 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17 and 25

In You, o Lord, I take refuge, may I never be disgraced; deliver Me in Your justice. Into Your hands I commend My Spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I have become an object of reproach for My foes, a horror for My neighbours, a fear to My friends. Those who see Me in the streets flee from Me. I am like the dead, unremembered; I have become like a broken pot, thrown away, discarded.

But I put My trust in You, o Lord, I said : “You are My God;” My days are in Your hand. Deliver Me from the hand of My enemies, from those after My skin.

Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save Me in Your love. Be strong and take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

(Holy Week) Friday, 14 April 2017 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Isaiah 52 : 13 – Isaiah 53 : 12

It is now when My Servant will succeed; He will be exalted and highly praised. Just as many have been horrified at His disfigured appearance : “Is this a Man? He does not look like One.” So will nations be astounded, kings will stand speechless, for they will see something never told, they will witness something never heard of.

Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has YHVH revealed His feat? Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling He grew up before us, with nothing attractive in His appearance, no beauty, no majesty. He was despised and rejected, a Man of sorrows familiar with grief, a Man from Whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account.

Yet ours were the sorrows He bore, ours were the suffering He endured, although we considered Him as One punished by God, stricken and brought low. Destroyed because of our sins, He was crushed for our wickedness. Through His punishment we are made whole; by His wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all gone astray, each following His own way; but YHVH laid upon Him all our guilt.

He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, He humbly submitted. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer He did not open His mouth. He was taken away to detention and judgment – what an unthinkable fate! He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for His people’s sins. They made His tomb with the wicked, they put Him in the graveyard of the oppressors, though He had done no violence nor spoken in deceit.

Yet it was the will of YHVH to crush Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will have a long life and see His descendants. Through Him the will of YHVH is done. For the anguish He suffered, He will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just Servant will justify the multitude; He will bear and take away their guilt.

Therefore I will give Him His portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong. For He surrendered Himself to death and was even counted among the wicked, bearing the sins of the multitude and interceding for sinners.

Sunday, 9 October 2016 : 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
2 Timothy 2 : 8-13

Remember Christ Jesus, risen from the dead, Jesus, Son of David, as preached in my Gospel. For this Gospel I labour and even wear chains like an evildoer, but the word of God is not chained. And so I bear everything for the sake of the chosen people, that they, too, may obtain the salvation given to us in Christ Jesus and share eternal glory.

This statement is true : If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure with Him, we shall reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 : 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.