Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the story of the sons of Israel or Jacob, namely Joseph and his brothers, and we heard how Joseph was treated by his jealous brothers, betrayed and almost killed if not for the intervention of one of his brothers, ended up being sold to slavery and eventually was brought to Egypt. In the Gospel we heard a kind of parallel and similar story in the parable of the wicked vineyard tenants as told by the Lord Jesus to His disciples.

Through these readings we heard about the plots and the wicked acts which people acted against their own fellow brothers, as we heard first of the treatment of Joseph by his brothers. The brothers were irritated and angered, jealous and prejudiced against Joseph because of Joseph’s dreams and God’s vision that He has revealed through those dreams, in which the brothers misunderstood as Joseph trying to lord over them, which was compounded by the favouritism which Jacob showed to Joseph and his brother Benjamin.

The brothers desired to have that attention and the treatment which Joseph had enjoyed from his father, and that was why, they were angry at him when he recounted to them the contents of his dream. They plotted against him and threw him into a well, eventually sold him to the slavers and lied to their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Yet, in the end, we all know that Joseph went to Egypt ahead of his family as part of God’s greater agenda and plan for His people, despite the plots of Joseph’s brothers.

In the Gospel we heard the peculiarly similar story of a vineyard owner who sent his servants to collect the dues and rents of the tenants whom he had entrusted with the care of the vineyard he leased out to them. Those tenants were wicked and desired to keep everything they gained to themselves, and hence persecuted and killed the servants sent to them. The tenants also then killed the son of the vineyard owner, whom the owner sent to them thinking that the tenants would respect his son.

In the end, the owner came down himself and crushed all those wicked tenants, punishing them all for the wickedness and the evil things which they had committed for their greed and ego. They lost everything and were punished justly by the owner. And all these is a parable used by the Lord to describe the relationship between God and His people, as the owner of the vineyard represents God, while the son of the owner represents none other than Christ Himself, the Son of God sent into the world. The vineyard represents the world itself while the wicked tenants represent all those who refused to believe in the Lord and in Christ.

What all of us ought to learn from all these which we have heard from the Scriptures today is that if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of greed and desire, of pride and ego, we will likely end up like those wicked tenants who acted with such evil against their fellow men and even against the son of their master and landlord. It would also just be like the despicable act which the brothers of Joseph committed to gain for themselves favour and inheritance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very important during this season of Lent that we reflect on our own lives and think carefully how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we want to proceed from now on. Are we going to seek worldly glory and honour, human praise and fame, or pleasures of all sorts, or are we instead going to focus our attention on God and put our effort to live our lives according to His ways and obey His laws?

The choice has been given to us, and through the passages of the Scriptures today we are shown just how dangerous the temptations of worldly desires and our greed can be, in leading us into sin and from there, into an ever deeper trap of sin and malice, wickedness and evil. Are we going to follow these temptations and allow ourselves to be tempted, especially by the devil and all of his evil forces who are always out and about trying to pull us down this path?

Let us all strive therefore to be more committed and to be more faithful as we progress along this season of Lent, renewing our faith in God and growing in our relationship with Him. And today, as we also celebrate the seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, our Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the leader of the whole Church, let us all also unite our prayers for him, that God may help him and guide him in leading the Church, together with all of us Christians, all growing in faith as God’s one united Church.

May God bless us all, bless our Pope and may He strengthen His Church and all of us in our conviction and desire to love Him and to serve Him more, through our righteous and virtuous actions, and by distancing ourselves from the many worldly temptations all around us. Amen.

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Monday, 13 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, 4th Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we are all reminded both of our sinfulness and also of God’s mercy, which He extends to all of His beloved children. We have sinned before the Lord, disobeying His commandments and walked away from the path which He had shown us, in pursuit of our worldly glory and other things that kept us away from Him.

But God loves each and every one of us, so much that He was willing to forgive us and He wants to welcome us back into His presence, because He is indeed merciful and filled with compassion and pity for us. He will bless us and receive us back in grace, just as He had promised us through Jesus His Son, as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

Nevertheless, we have to remember the fact that, while God is merciful, and while He extends His mercy and love freely to all of His people, but whether His mercy works on us depends solely on whether we accept that mercy, and open the doors of our hearts to welcome God and allow Him to enter into our hearts and exercise His grace of mercy in us, transforming us from the sinners that we are into people of the light.

We have hardened our hearts against God, and we did not allow God to enter into our hearts. We shut Him out and drown ourselves in our many busy dealings and concerns of the world, that we were not even able to listen to Him speaking to us in the depths of our hearts, calling us to repent from our sins and to be reconciled with Him. This is the problem that many if not most of us are facing, and the reason why many people were still incapable of reaching God’s mercy and forgiveness.

We should look upon the example of the prophet Daniel, who in our first reading today was humbly petitioning God, exposing before Him the sins of all the people who have disobeyed His commandments and were wayward in their ways. He has admitted on behalf of the people, the sins which they had committed, which brought a great shame to them, unworthy to even call God their Lord and Master.

It is this kind of humility and acceptance of one’s own sinfulness that allows God to exercise His forgiveness and mercy among us. Many of us do not only harden our hearts in pride before the Lord, but we also deny our sins, thinking that we could not have done wrong in our lives, or that we are thinking that those sins were inconsequential. We were wrong if we think in that manner, brothers and sisters, for sin, even the smallest among all forms of sin, are abhorred by God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, as we continue to progress through this special time for repentance and forgiveness, let us all reflect deeply into our lives. Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord our God, promising Him that we will no longer sin as we had done before, but instead willingly embrace His love and mercy, opening the doors of our hearts to welcome Him.

Let us work conscientiously to restrain ourselves, our pride, our desire and all the temptations to sin which had led us astray. Let us use this time and opportunity that God had granted to us in order to work towards our redemption and salvation in God. It is time for us to turn our back against our old ways of sin, and to begin anew in faith in the Lord. This is what we must do, so that we will be worthy of God’s forgiveness, so that while we are sinners, but God will absolve from us our sins, and transform us into righteous people in His presence.

May the Lord bless us all and help us to go through this season of Lent filled with joy knowing that we have the hope of forgiveness and everlasting life by what He had promised us all who remain true and faithful to Him. Let us humbly seek Him with repentance and regret for all of our past transgressions and sins. May God forgive us all our sins and bring us to the glory of the everlasting life. Amen.

Monday, 13 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, 4th Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple
Luke 6 : 36-38

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”

Monday, 13 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, 4th Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple
Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11 and 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die. Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Monday, 13 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, 4th Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple
Daniel 9 : 4b-10

Lord God, great and to be feared, You keep Your covenant and love for those who love You and observe Your commandments. We have sinned, we have not been just, we have been rebels, and have turned away from Your commandments and laws. We have not listened to Your servants, the prophets, who spoke in Your Name to our kings, leaders, fathers and to all the people of the land.

Lord, justice is Yours, but ours is a face full of shame, as it is to this day – we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in all the lands where You have dispersed us because of the infidelity we have committed against You. Ours is the shame, o Lord for we, our kings, princes, fathers, have sinned against You.

We hope for pardon and mercy from the Lord, because we have rebelled against Him. We have not listened to the voice of YHVH, our God, or followed the laws which He has given us through His servants, the prophets.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast of St. Joseph, the Spouse and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that makes him the foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the legal and adoptive father of our Lord, because of his marriage to Mary, and he is a very essential figure whose actions were crucial in keeping the young Baby Jesus and Child Jesus safe through the world.

And it was also likely that an honourable man and servant of God as he was, he would have contributed greatly to the responsible upbringing of our Lord, guarding Him as He grew up as a Child, and providing for Him as all fathers had done. And in St. Joseph we saw the very important values of responsibility, of commitment, of devotion to God and to the works he has been entrusted to, which are some of those that we ourselves can apply to our own lives.

St. Joseph was an upright man who held righteousness and justice in highest esteem, and he has always lived in accordance to this principle, even though materially, he was just a simple and humble carpenter, making his work as a way to earn a living for his family. And from what information we can gather from the Gospel, it is evident that the people at that time did not respect much such a profession, which they likely thought to be menial and humiliating in nature.

But St. Joseph did not care about all that, he lived responsibly and with faith in the Lord, and he cared deeply for his family, and even most importantly for Jesus, as even though He was not his biological son, but St. Joseph treated Jesus as his own, and he protected Him from all dangers of the world when He was still young and defenceless. He brought his whole family to Egypt when king Herod, jealous and worried about Jesus, tried to kill Him by killing all the newborns in Jerusalem.

St. Joseph cared for his family as a father should have done, and he loved them with all of his heart, and truly, he is a role model to all fathers, and to all families. And as I have mentioned, his life and his works are also inspirations for us all to follow, in how we ought to live our lives as faithful brothers and sisters in our Lord. He did not cheat, or do anything that is wicked for the pursuit of worldly comfort, wealth and influence, and instead he was content with living a quiet and honest life with his family in Nazareth, as he helped to bring up Jesus with Mary.

As we celebrate the solemnity of this special day, the feast of St. Joseph our Lord’s foster father and the spouse of His mother Mary, all of us ought to remember whatever he had done, and all the things he had done in righteousness and justice, and endeavour to model ourselves after him. He was among the greatest of the saints because of his closeness to our Lord and Saviour, and there is much for us to learn from him.

Let us all ask ourselves, how often is it that we all have forgotten our duties and responsibilities to our own families? To our own neighbours and those whom we have been entrusted with? How many of us actually have done what we have been expected to do, and not to take shortcuts or take measures that benefit ourselves and disadvantaged others? Let us reflect on this and think about our actions, all that we have done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us approach the Holy Week next week with a clear mind, and with a clear and renewed focus as we reflect on St. Joseph and his life, and in whatever things he had done in life, and in how he devotedly cared for his adopted Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us model our lives after him, rejecting all forms of worldliness, greed and all desires that lead to selfishness and destruction.

And one more thing, that as St. Joseph guarded Jesus, he therefore also guards the whole Holy Church of God, which God Himself also likely entrusted to his intercession and protection. In the same way as he had cared for the Lord when He was young, St. Joseph is also concerned about the Church his adopted Son had established on earth, and about us all who believe in Jesus and are members of that Church.

Therefore, let us all today ask for the intercession and protection of St. Joseph for the whole Church, and let us also ask him to intercede for our sake, that all of us sinners may find our way to his adopted Son through his guidance and protection, and that he will inspire many of us, especially our young ones, to live our lives with faith, with responsibility and with hard work to reach out to God and to be worthy of Him in all things.

May God bless us all and strengthen our faith, and may He through the intercession of His foster-father, St. Joseph, be with us always and protect us and the whole Church at all times. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 1 : 16, 18-21, 24a

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus Who is called the Christ – the Messiah.

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her. While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ for He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do.

Alternative reading

Luke 2 : 41-51a

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them.