Wednesday, 18 March 2020 : 3rd 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 as we listened to the Lord’s words in the Scriptures, we are reminded that as Christians all of us ought to obey the Lord, listen to Him and follow His ways, and not to be disobedient and sinful, as what we have often done in our lives. The Lord reminds us all that He has given us His laws and precepts, His guidances and directions for us to follow, that we may find our way to Him.

On this day all of us are reminded that all of us are still bound by whatever the Lord has taught and revealed to us, the laws and ways which He has entrusted to the care and stewardship of His Church, in the laws of the Church which have been presented to us, and which we ought to obey as part of our obedience to the divine laws and to the will of God. These laws and commandments are meant to guide our way to walk in the path of God faithfully.

But some people had misunderstood and misused the Law for their own purposes. Some like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law used the Law to advance their own agenda and aims, to be more famous and respected, praised and honoured because of their obedience to the numerous customs and traditions, rules and regulations that while were derived from the Law, but were not part of the original Law itself as revealed by God, or that they misunderstood God’s intentions.

Many also thought wrongly, thinking that the Law was a way for God to restrain us and punish us for our sins, as some thought that the Law was punitive in purpose and use. This is because they looked upon God and saw Him as a fearsome and menacing entity, as One to be feared and to be submitted to, as One Who we cannot disobey or we would end up enduring His wrath and anger. This is why many took the Law and the rules of the Lord wrongly, and obeyed for the wrong reasons in their hearts.

The Lord Jesus came into this world to reveal to us all the true meaning and intention of the Law by which God wants to lead us all to Himself. He revealed how the Law was not meant to make us and our lives difficult or to oppress us with harsh and tough regulations. Rather, what the Lord wants is for us to control ourselves and obey His laws so that we will not be easily overcome and tempted by our desires, ego, and all sorts of worldly concerns we have all around us and within us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should reconsider how we have lived our lives thus far, whether we have obeyed God’s laws and if we did obey His laws, whether we have obeyed those laws because we feared God and His anger and retribution, doing it out of fear rather than because we genuinely love God and desired to follow Him and His laws because we really love God and as a result we want to be righteous and good like Him? If we truly love God then surely we will want to make sure that our actions and all of our whole beings are thoroughly attuned to Him.

And that is exactly what we have all been called to do, that we turn ourselves wholeheartedly towards God, Who is in truth very loving and filled with lots of compassion and mercy towards us. But for us to be forgiven, then we need to be open to His mercy and be sincerely repentant of our sins and faults. And today, we should also be inspired to follow the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, holy servant of God and great defender of the faith.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem was the Bishop of Jerusalem who was remembered for his great faith and dedication to God, giving his life to the service of God despite all the challenges and trials he had to endure from his opponents and rivals, especially from those who professed the heretical Arian beliefs, in opposition to the true and orthodox faith as promulgated in the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. To this extent, he was falsely accused by his enemies of misconduct and impropriety in several occasions. He was accused of selling Church property for his own personal benefits when in truth, he was helping people who were suffering from famine in Jerusalem at that time.

St. Cyril had to endure exile and persecution by those who supported the position of his enemies, particularly those who adhered to the Arian heresy. Nonetheless, St. Cyril remained faithful and committed to the mission entrusted to him, and he did his best to care for the faithful, and became a beacon of steady and unfailing faith for those who remained true to the faith even amidst the challenges from those who upheld erroneous teachings and ways, allowing God to work through him and his actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the manner that St. Cyril of Jerusalem had with his life? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord anew, especially beginning in this season of Lent, a time of renewal and rejuvenation of our faith. Let us all from now on be obedient to God and follow His laws with renewed purpose and intention, obeying Him not out of fear but out of love, and out of sincere desire to be righteous and worthy of Him, that we distance ourselves from sin and strive to be good in every moments of our lives from now on.

May God be with us all in this journey, and may He strengthen us in the resolve to serve Him and to love Him through obedience, that we may be good examples in faith to our fellow brothers and sisters at all times. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 17-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.”

Wednesday, 18 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 15-16, 19-20

Exalt the Lord, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word. He spreads snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes.

It is He Who tells Jacob His words, His laws and decrees to Israel. This He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Wednesday, 18 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 4 : 1, 5-9

And now, Israel, listen to the norms and laws which I teach that you may put them into practice. And you will live and enter and take possession of the land which YHVH, the God of your fathers, gives you.

See, as YHVH, my God, ordered me, I am teaching you the norms and the laws that you may put them into practice in the land you are going to enter and have as your own. If you observe and practice them, other peoples will regard you as wise and intelligent. When they come to know of all these laws, they will say, ‘There is no people as wise and as intelligent as this great nation.’

For in truth, is there a nation as great as ours, whose gods are as near to it as YHVH, our God, is to us whenever we call upon Him? And is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are as just as this Law which I give you today?

But be careful and be on your guard. Do not forget these things which your own eyes have seen or let them depart from your heart as long as you live. But on the contrary, teach them to your children and to your children’s children.

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented through the Scripture passages we heard, of the topic which often came up in the discussion of our faith, especially regarding the matter of salvation and faith. We are reminded that our faith cannot be empty and devoid of good and concrete actions, or good works based on that faith, because without those works, our faith is truly empty, meaningless and dead.

That is the essence of what St. James had mentioned in his Epistle, that faith without good works is the same as having a dead faith, and having a dead faith is meaningless and pointless to us, as it does not lead us towards God but instead to eternal damnation like those who have sinned and disobeyed God, and refused to repent from their sins. For faith, by itself, without the backing of concrete action, is no better than just formality or even hypocrisy for some.

St. James used the example of how even the demons and evil spirits, who rebelled against God and were formerly angels of heaven that were thrown down because of their sins, still believed in God and had to obey Him as their Lord and Master, no matter how they begrudged it or hated it. After all, they were created by Him and they still have to acknowledge His authority and power. That was why the demons and evil spirits obeyed Jesus when He ordered them to get out of the people they had possessed.

Yes, indeed, they believed and had faith in God much as we do, but the evil spirits and demons did not hold fast to their faith and instead put their trust in their own pride and rebellion, following Lucifer, their leader, whom now we know as Satan in their rebellion of pride and vanity, and they all fell and were condemned. They had faith but acted otherwise, no different from many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law whom the Lord Jesus often rebuked because of their hypocrisy and lack of true faith.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke about those who were unfaithful and preferred to save themselves rather than to gain the kingdom of God. These people were those who were too engrossed in their desires for worldly ambitions and pleasures, that they would rather save their lives in this world rather than to save themselves in the world that is to come. They put faith as a mere formality and at face value, but inside their hearts, there was no love for God.

The Lord spoke of this again with reference to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often opposed Him and worked against Him all the time. They had faith in God indeed, and they claimed to be the most faithful and pious of all God’s people, and yet, their faith were superficial and for show, as they prayed publicly and made show of their piety that they might be praised and honoured for that, and they revelled and enjoyed in such treatment.

Those people had faith in God and yet did not show their faith through genuine good works, and instead, they acted in ways contrary to their faith and to what they had been teaching the people, and that was why they were considered as hypocrites. Their love for themselves and their own ego and desire surpassed and overcome their faith in God, and that was why, they refused to believe in the Lord’s truth and all the wonderful and miraculous deeds He has performed before their own eyes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are therefore called to be truly faithful to God, not just in name or as a formality only, but that we must be genuine in wanting to follow God and His ways at every moments of our lives. We are called to be His witnesses in our respective communities and places, to proclaim His glory and truth by our lives, lived with faith and true dedication, and not just faith in name only.

Today, we can look upon the good examples set by one of Our Lord’s faithful saint, whose life and works are truly an inspiration for all of us as Christians. This saint is none other then St. Peter Damian, a holy bishop, Cardinal of the Church and a Doctor of the Church whose feast we celebrate today. He was a member of the Benedictine Order, and was remembered to be a great reformer of the Church and the Christian faith.

St. Peter Damian devoted much of his life to serve the Church in various capacities, beginning from religious life as part of the Benedictine monks, and his tremendous piety and love for God were evident even from those early days. He worked closely with some of the Popes, and was involved in the major reforms of the Church at that time which was facing my corruptions and immoral behaviours of its members, especially that of the clergy, from the influences of the secular world.

For his many works and contributions, the then reigning Pope wanted to make St. Peter Damian a Cardinal, a great honour which he resisted and rejected for quite some time before finally he accepted the important role as the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, one of the most prestigious role in the Roman Church, becoming the right hand man of the Pope in reforming many Church practices and disciplines, guiding many back to the path of obedience to God.

For that and his many other contributions, we can see how St. Peter Damian was not just a man who had an empty and meaningless faith. Instead, he showed us all what it means for us to have a genuine, living and worthy faith, faith that according to St. James as faith which is lived through good works, and through those same good works and faith, we will be blessed by God and brought to salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we carry on living our lives in this world from now on, let us all reflect on today’s Scripture readings and the words of St. James, and being inspired by St. Peter Damian and his lifelong dedication to God, let us all strive to dedicate ourselves to God with a newfound zeal and strength. May God be with us throughout this journey, and may He bless us all now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 8 : 34 – Mark 9 : 1

At that time, Jesus called the people and His disciples, and said, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.”

“What good is it to gain the whole world, while destroying your soul? There is nothing more precious than your soul. I tell you : If anyone is ashamed of Me and of My words among this adulterous and sinful people, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the Glory of His Father with the holy Angels.”

And He went on to say, “Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power.”

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family, there his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness, he is kind, merciful and upright.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.