Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this night we begin the solemn three days of great celebration and commemoration of the most important events in the history of the salvation of all mankind, collectively called the Easter Triduum. On this night we remember that Last Supper which the Lord Jesus had with His disciples, as He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is why today’s celebration is truly very significant, as it established one of the core tenets of our faith, believing that the Lord has given us His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the bread and wine turned into this Body and Blood of the Lord.

Today’s important celebration cannot be overlooked as we have the Lord Jesus, as the Eternal High Priest of all, offering His own Body and Blood, in the form of bread and wine He had at the Last Supper, the very first Sacrifice of the Mass, lifted up as offering to God the Father, and which is turned into the essence and substance of His own Body and Blood offered on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, where this Sacrifice is finally completed. The Lord Jesus Himself indicated this just before He was about to die with the words, ‘It is accomplished’.

On this day, we also remember the ‘Mandate’ from the Lord to His disciples, which is the reason why today is also known as Maundy Thursday, the word ‘Maundy’ originating from the Latin word ‘Mandatum’ which means ‘Mandate’ and commission that the Lord had given to His disciples, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. That we practice the custom of the washing of the feet during the Mass today came about from the action that the Lord Himself took, as He humbled Himself like a servant, even a slave, before His disciples and washed their feet.

This is something which only a slave would do to his master, and that was why St. Peter was so reluctant to accept that the Lord would do such a denigrating and humiliating thing before his own eyes. Yet, the Lord told him to obey, and to follow, as in the end, whatever He has done to them, they were to do to each other as well. What this means is that, just as the Master has loved His disciples that is all of us so much, that He was willing to do everything for us, then we too should love one another in a genuinely Christian way and show authentic love, care and compassion.

Through this institution of the Holy Eucharist today, the Lord has established the institution of priesthood as well, as He instituted and made His own disciples to be priests just like Him as the High Priest. To them, He has given the power and authority to celebrate and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as He has done, which is why He also commanded them to ‘Do this in the memory of Me’. Every time the Holy Mass is celebrated, it is not a new sacrifice being celebrated, but the same sacrifice which our Lord has offered on the Cross.

That is why we all truly believe that the bread and wine offered in the Mass has been completely transformed and changed in essence and substance to the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, although their appearance may still be that of bread and wine. We believe that by the hands of our priests, who have received the same power and authority passed onto them from the Apostles and their successors, our bishops, we have received the Lord Himself, Body and Blood, in the Eucharist.

Today therefore we are called to reflect on this great gift of God for us, that He has willingly shed His own Body and Blood that we who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ, may be united to Him, and share in His death on the Cross, and by dying to our past existence, we may then have a share too in His glorious Resurrection. If we do not receive Him worthily and with faith, then we will not have part in Him just as the Lord had said. We will remain separated and sundered from Him.

We should not treat the celebrations of today and the upcoming Good Friday and Easter Vigil separately, but instead as one unity, which is why they are celebrated together as the Easter Triduum. It is this supreme moment of our human history and existence that we celebrate that time when the Lord saved us all by His perfect, loving and willing sacrifice, emptying Himself of all things and taking up upon Himself all the punishments, burdens and sufferings for the redemption of our sins.

And as we enter into these most sacred moments in the entire liturgical year, let us all have this renewed faith in God, that particularly amidst our current difficult situation all around us, the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic among other things, all the economic downturn and instabilities, all the despair and darkness all around, we still have hope in the Lord. In God is the light that is ever present and ever trustworthy even in the most challenging moments of our lives, and we need to hold on to this faith.

Let us all spend these three days of the Easter Triduum deepening our faith and dedication to the Lord, making good use of the time to reflect on how fortunate all of us to have been beloved by God so much that He was willing to go through all the troubles and sufferings for our sake. Let us all also spend the time to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how we can live our lives in a more Christian and Christ-like way, in serving others and in loving our fellow brethren, like how the Lord Jesus Himself taught us and His disciples, in being humble and obedient at all times.

And let us also not forget our brothers and sisters who are now suffering, either because they are sick and dying from the pandemic and from other diseases and ailments, or because they are separated from their loved ones and families, particularly our frontline healthcare staffs and peoples involved in various efforts to restore normalcy in our communities. Let us all keep them in our prayers and do whatever we can do to help and support them.

Of course, lastly we must also continue to support our priests, our bishops, our Pope and the Church, that they will continue to be faithful and strong in their dedication to serve the flock of the Lord according to the Mandate that the Lord had passed on to His disciples. Let us pray for them, our shepherds that they may remain strong and courageous in leading us and serving us even through these very difficult times. Let us be united with them and the whole Church in our renewed faith and obedience to God from now onwards.

May the Lord help us and guide us through this Easter Triduum beginning today that we may benefit as much as possible from this time of reorientation of our focus in life towards God. May God strengthen us all in faith and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to Me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. Truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s Son. You have freed Me from My bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out My vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 12 : 1-8, 11-14

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons, and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat. That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all of the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt.”

“This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”

Sunday, 21 April 2019 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord Jesus has risen in glory! As the time of Easter finally comes, we celebrate after the long wait and expectation during the season of Lent, because we have had true joy in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour by all that He has done for us. He has released us from the tyranny of sin and the bondage of death, and showed us all the path to eternal life.

On this day Christ showed His power and might, revealing His victory over even sin and death, two things that have kept us under their dominion all these while. He has fulfilled completely all that the Lord has promised His people from the beginning of time, their liberation and reconciliation, which He has done by His loving sacrifice on the cross, and bringing the souls of the faithful to God, their loving Father and Creator.

On this day, the despair of man gives way to hope, as the veil of darkness that have blinded and surrounded us all these while has been pierced by the Light that Christ has brought into our midst. He renewed us and made our existence meaningful again by His Passion, His suffering, death on the cross and ultimately, His resurrection from the dead. He is in fact showing all of us the glory that is to come, if we remain steadfast in our faith and love for Him.

As we enter into this holy and blessed season of Easter, it is therefore important that we understand its significance and also what is expected of us all as Christians, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. We must remember that the celebration of Easter does not last just for this day only, as the liturgical celebration of the Easter season lasts for a total of fifty days until the Solemnity of the Pentecost.

But even more importantly, we must also realise that the celebration of Easter does not also last just until Pentecost Sunday, but also through the rest of the days of our life. It means that the spirit and celebration of Easter must extend so completely and pervades so well into our lives that we exhibit that spirit of Easter, that joy and passion to live out our calling as Christians at every moments of our respective lives.

The most important aspect of Easter that we must realise is one of transformation of our lives. Through Easter, by Our Lord’s resurrection, and earlier on through His suffering and death, God has united us all to Himself, and we have been called to share in His suffering and death, to endure the pain and suffering, the challenges and difficulties of denying our own selves, our prideful, our egoistic, our greedy, our lustful and our sinful selves, and embrace the new existence in Christ.

It is not easy to change ourselves, and to resist the many temptations of this world that are ever present and ever pervasive around us. And we will indeed face many opposition, hurdles and obstacles, rejection and refusal even from those whom we deem to be close to us and dear to us. And it will be difficult and challenging for us to endure the physical, mental and even spiritual sufferings of committing ourselves to the way of the Lord.

It is because Satan, that is the devil and all of his allies, the forces of darkness, are unwilling to let us go away into our freedom. They will do whatever is within their power, in order to tempt us, to persuade us, and even to force and pressure us into bowing once again to sin. They were once our slavemasters, as they enslaved us through sin, and they wanted nothing less than our own ruin and downfall.

But the Lord is always with us, even when we do not realise it. Even in the moments of our greatest sufferings and pain, we must remember that Christ, Who Himself has endured suffering and pain far greater than any one of us have ever suffered, as He bore down the enormous weight of the cross of our sins, is by our side and He will not abandon us to those who seek our destruction and annihilation.

In the Gospel passage often used for the Evening Mass of Easter Sunday today, we heard the famous story of the encounter between the Lord and the two disciples who were on their way to the neighbouring town of Emmaus showed us, that the Lord is always there to encourage us and to give us strength, and a lot of times we did not even know that He was there, just as the two disciples did not recognise Jesus even as He was walking with them. They only recognised Him when He broke the bread before them and their eyes and minds were opened.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these and having spent some time discussing about what Easter truly means and how it is filled with joy that each and every one of us must carry on in our own lives, now we should reflect on how we can follow the examples of the Apostles and the followers of the Lord, who carried with them the knowledge and witness of the Lord’s truth, His Passion, death and resurrection.

We heard how in our first reading today, St. Peter the Apostle was very passionate and spirited in his testimony of faith before the people, and this was made when he went to the house of Cornelius, a Roman who became a believer of Jesus and His truth, and by the testimony of faith which St. Peter spoke before him and his family, they all became firmer in their conviction of faith, and the Holy Spirit Himself came down upon all of them, encouraging them and strengthening them in their commitment and faith.

And this represents what we all need to do as Christians, in how we live out our lives with faith, in how we dedicate ourselves as the witnesses and as the bearers of God’s truth as presented in the wholeness of our Christian faith and teachings. Each and every one of us must be bearers of God’s truth and dedicate ourselves to live up to our faith in our daily living, so that all of those who see us and all that we do, will recognise the presence of God in our midst, for through our actions, filled with faith and love for God, God Himself will be present in our midst through them.

What does that mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? And how do we then carry on with our lives from now on as Christians? It means that first of all, we must have the resolve to live our lives with righteousness and dedication to God, we must keep away from ourselves all actions and thoughts, all things that lead us to sin and disobedience against God. We must be role models of faith for our fellow brethren, and show in us, the Light of God as He has revealed to us this Easter.

And then, we should also have that firm hope in the Lord and strong trust in Him, knowing that He is always there with us, even when at times it may be difficult for us to feel and to know of His presence. That is why we often need to spend more time with God, as many of us are frequently distracted by numerous worldly temptations and pressures, that prevented us from truly being able to know God’s presence in our midst.

We need to deepen our relationship with God, by spending more time with God in prayer. And when we pray, we are actually opening up our minds, hearts and senses to be more attuned with God, and that is when, we will be better able to sense God’s presence in our midst, and thus, we will remain close to Him no matter whatever troubles and challenges we may face in life. And by our faith, many more will come to believe in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this joyous and blessed season of Easter, let us all no longer despair or be doubtful, for God Himself has shown His faithfulness through the cross, and by His resurrection He has shown us the path forward towards eternal life. Let us all be ever closer to God and realise that He is always with us, guiding us along the journey of our lives.

Let us all turn wholeheartedly towards Him from now on, and be truly filled with the spirit of Easter joy, that we may be committed to share this joy with one another, especially with those who are doubting, those who are unsure about their faith, and those who are faltering in their dedication to God. And let us also bring the light of Christ to more people, to all those who are still enslaved by sin and by the darkness of this world. May the Risen Lord bless us and all of our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.