Wednesday, 4 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded that we need to be humble and to have faith in God, through our Scripture passages which brought to our attention what our predecessors had done in the past. We heard first the story of the prophet Jonah in Nineveh, the mighty capital city of the Assyrian Empire in our first reading today, while in the Gospel we heard the Lord Jesus speaking in rebuke to the people who still doubted Him and asked Him to show them signs when He had done all those miracles before them.

In our first reading we heard the prophet Jonah who have arrived in Nineveh, after he tried to flee from the Lord and the mission He gave him earlier on, only to encounter a terrible storm that ended up with him asking to be thrown into the sea to spare the rest, and was saved in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights. Jonah then obeyed the Lord and proceeded with his mission to bring the message of doom and the upcoming judgment and destruction of Nineveh.

At that time, the city of Nineveh was one of the greatest cities in the world, with population as mentioned in the Scripture as being over a hundred and twenty thousand, which was a truly monumental population for the time. It was the capital and most important city of the vast and powerful Assyrian Empire, which had expanded rapidly and conquered many nations, and it was also the Assyrians who conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, destroyed its capital Samaria and brought the northern tribes of Israel into exile.

For all of these, and for all the wars and destructions that the Assyrians wrought, and the likely decadent lifestyle in the court of the King of the Assyrians, the sins of Nineveh and its people were truly numerous and terrible, well known to everyone, and it was Jonah who was tasked by God to proclaim His judgment and the upcoming destruction to the entire city and all of its people. No one in the city, from the King to the lowest slaves, even the animals would be spared.

Certainly we may remember another occasion in the Scripture where not just one but two cities were destroyed because of their sins, that is the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Both cities were destroyed with a mighty rain of fire and brimstones from the heavens, and save for the righteous Lot and his family, everyone in the two cities perished because of their sins. It was likely then that this fate would have befallen Nineveh and its people as well.

Yet, what distinguished Nineveh from the earlier case of Sodom and Gomorrah was that immediately after they heard the words and the terrible premonition of the prophet Jonah, the whole city of Nineveh went into great mourning and repentance before God. Everyone from the King, who issued the order to the whole city and its people to repent from their sins, right down to the lowest among the people, all humbled themselves, tore their clothes and wore sackcloth as a sign of penance.

God saw and knew the sincerity of their repentance and He spared the whole city and its people from the punishment they were about to suffer then. Compared to Sodom and Gomorrah, which did not repent from their sins but instead doubled down further in their wickedness, the repentance and humility of Nineveh had won for them the forgiveness and reprieve from God for their numerous, terrible sins and mistakes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it was these signs and actions that the Lord Himself then referred to as He addressed the people who doubted Him and demanded miraculous wonders and signs from Him as described in our Gospel passage today. Jesus Himself has performed many wonders and miracles openly before the people, and many had witnessed and seen for themselves the glory of God at work. Yet, unlike the people of Nineveh who repented and believed in God, many among the people of the time of Jesus, especially the Pharisees, hardened their hearts and refused to believe.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the important lesson from this for all of us is the reminder that humility is a very important trait we must have for us to achieve forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Conversely, pride is our greatest obstacle and our greatest enemy in our fight and struggle against sin and evil. As long as we have pride in us and we indulge in that pride, we will find it difficult to seek God’s forgiveness, mercy and love.

In this season of Lent, we are called to resist that pride in us, and instead grow in humility. Today, let us all look at the good examples and virtues set by one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Casimir, a holy noble and one of the heirs of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania, who was renowned for his great piety, personal humility and virtues, and for his great love and dedication to God and His Church.

Although St. Casimir was born as the heir of the two powerful realms which during that time was among the mightiest kingdoms in Christendom, but like the King of Nineveh, that did not cause him to be prideful and filled with hubris. Instead, he exhibited great piety and humility, known for his charitable efforts and works among the poor and the sick, caring for the needs of those who were less fortunate and ignored by the society.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians can also follow in the footsteps of St. Casimir, in humbling ourselves before God and in loving Him, by dedicating ourselves to the many works of mercy and love for our fellow brethren, which are indeed highly encouraged for us to do during this blessed season of Lent. Let us all then discern what we are going to do to enrich and make best use of our Lenten observation, and commit ourselves to God anew from now on.

May God bless us always, and may He strengthen our faith in us and may He help us to remain true and faithful to Him, and to be humble at all times following the humility and great piety of His servant, St. Casimir, holy prince and servant of God. St. Casimir, pray for us! Amen.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Wednesday, 4 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 12-13, 18-19

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jonah 3 : 1-10

The word of YHVH came to Jonah a second time : “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.”

In obedience to the word of YHVH, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Upon hearing the news, the king of Nineveh got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. He issued a proclamation throughout Nineveh :

“By the decree of the king and his nobles, no people or beasts, herd or flock, will taste anything; neither will they eat nor drink. But let people and beasts be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call aloud to God, turn from his evil ways and violence. Who knows? God may yet relent, turn from His fierce anger and spare us.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened upon them.

Saturday, 4 March 2017 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the healing which God is offering to all of us His people, which He had made by offer through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into this world in order to become the salvation for all the people, and become healing for all those who have fallen into the sickness of sin, the disease of our souls.

The message which the Lord our God had announced to all in today’s readings is that all of us ought to change our lives, and reorientate them towards the Lord, so that if we have once committed sins and wicked acts, we must stop them immediately, no longer disobeying the Lord and His laws, and instead, beginning to follow Him and obey His ways, in all the things we do in this life.

God is merciful and loving, and He wants each and every one of us to be saved and freed from the torment of our sufferings because of our sins. He wants all of us to receive grace, peace and blessings because we have found our way to Him, and no longer are lost in the darkness of this world. That is why He had given His mercy and love so freely through Christ, through Whom He gathered all of us to Himself.

However, many of us do not realise that it is we ourselves who have been stubborn and resistant to God’s mercy and love. We have not been willing to welcome God’s mercy in our hearts, and all of these is because of first of all, our human pride and ego, refusing to believe that we have erred or committed a mistake in our lives. We are not willing to allow God to come in and transform our lives, just because we have too much ego and cannot bear others to see that we have humbled ourselves.

That was exactly what happened to the Pharisees and the elders, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests. Many of them criticised Jesus for having embraced and walked among the tax collectors and prostitutes, and even calling some of His disciples from among them, one of whom was Levi, whose calling was part of the Gospel we heard today. Jesus called Levi from his tax collector post, and he willingly left behind everything in order to follow Him.

Those tax collectors had been hated and resented by the population as a whole, because especially upon the instigation of the Pharisees, they had been seen as traitors of the nations and the people, having worked with their Roman conquerors and helping them in administrative works such as the collection of taxes, resented by the people as a whole.

But many of them were aware of their status and their sins, and when God called them through Jesus His Son, they responded in kind and turned away from their sinful ways, as Levi had done, and followed Him wholeheartedly. They followed Him and were saved because of their sins, and because they humbled themselves before God, fully knowing of their sins and unworthiness, unlike that of those who have accused them.

The same mercy and love have been offered by God to all, but while those who accepted God’s mercy were forgiven, those who refused to acknowledge their sins had not received His mercy. They have haughtily thought that they were worthy of God but they have overlooked their own sins. They thought that they were without blame, but they failed to recognise their own shortcomings and sins. In this manner, those tax collectors and sinners they had ridiculed came before them in attaining God’s salvation and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we need to understand from today’s Scripture readings is that, no one is truly beyond God’s forgiveness and ability to forgive, unless they themselves reject being loved and being forgiven by God. God extended His love and grace to all, without any exceptions, and therefore all of us need to respond in kind, doing what we can in order to love Him back, and devote ourselves to Him.

This season of Lent is a very good opportunity for us to reevaluate ourselves and our lives, whether we are ready to continue moving forward in our path towards God’s grace and salvation, or whether we need time to reevaluate and rethink the direction of our lives. It is a good time for us to heed the examples of the holy saints and the holy people of God in the ages past, who had lived a righteous and worthy lives, as examples for us to emulate and follow.

St. Casimir of Poland for example, the holy saint whose feast we celebrate today, is an exceptional role model for our faith. He was a royal prince of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, and eventually became its crown prince after the death of his elder brother. However, despite his noble and high position in life, St. Casimir was renowned to be a person filled with humility and compassion, known for his charity and love for the poor, and for his pious works and devotions to God.

He led a life wholly committed and dedicated to the Lord, and showed others by example on how they ought to be faithful to their Lord and God. He inspired many others in following his footsteps and after his early death at the age of twenty-five, many people continued to venerate him and follow on his examples in their lives, imitating the holy saint for his exemplary life and piety.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on our own lives today and henceforth, and remembering what St. Casimir had done, let us all open our hearts to the Lord, allowing Him to enter into them and thus transforming us from dirty and unclean vessels into worthy and glorious vessels of His Presence. Remember that God Himself has chosen to reside in us, and therefore, all of us need to turn away from our sins and embrace God’s mercy and love. Sin no more and follow the Lord in all that we say and do.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen us and our resolve to be ever more faithful to Him. Let us all throw far away our pride and arrogance, our human resistance and weaknesses, that we will not end up like the Pharisees who rejected God’s love and mercy, but instead be like Levi and the tax collectors, who humbly repented their sins, and were gloriously transformed by God’s love. May God bless us all always. Amen.

Saturday, 4 March 2017 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Luke 5 : 27-32

At that time, Jesus went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax-office, He said to him, “Follow Me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus.

Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners to a change of heart.”

Saturday, 4 March 2017 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 85 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Listen, o Lord, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my life for I am God-fearing; save Your servant who trusts in You.

Have mercy on me, o Lord, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant, for You, o Lord, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o Lord, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o Lord, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

Saturday, 4 March 2017 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Isaiah 58 : 9b-14

If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word, if you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon. YHVH will guide you always and give you relief in desert places.

He will strengthen your bones; He will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised. You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses.

If you stop profaning the sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred YHVH’s holy day, if you honour it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in YHVH, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of YHVH has spoken.

Friday, 4 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Holy Scriptures about the Law of God which we all mankind should listen to and obey to, as it has been given by God to us as the means through which our salvation would come from. God had given us these laws as the guides by which we may find our way to return to the Lord our God, especially after we have been wayward on our path to Him.

For while we may think that it is easy and convenient to speak about love, but it is in reality not as easy as it seems. Love is not as what we all often think about, as in our minds and in our understanding, we often look at love as the love and even the lust existing between two peoples, between a man and a woman, who desire each other, and then developing into a relationship.

No, it is not just this kind of love, as the problem is that, in our limited human understanding, we see love as the twisted love that it is in our world today. Let us just see how it was a few weeks ago when the secular world is celebrating in its own way the Valentine’s Day, as a day of romancing and as a day of materialistic craze as one tries to outdo the other in trying to impress their respective lovers.

And we see the amount of advertising, commercialisation and the monetisation of love, where it becomes a commodity for trading and selling, instead of what love is in accordance to what God had told us and shown us. This is the kind of love that we know, not true love but a selfish love, love that cares only about ourselves and those to whom we share that love, but often at the expense of the others whom we do not care about.

You all may be asking, why did I spend so much time going through love and its concept, and how it is realised in our world today, while the Gospel today speaks of God’s Law? That is because, just as in the first reading from the Book of the prophet Hosea spoke about the love that God is pouring down on us all mankind, and how He wants to release us from the suffering of this world due to our sins, and how He wants to make us pure and clean once again, then it was His Law that was an instrument through which He was trying to help us to accomplish this.

And that Law of God is about love, and is indeed Love itself, for God is Love. If God is true and real Love, then surely all that He brings into this world will be filled with love. And in the Gospel, Jesus summarised aptly that God’s Law is truly about two fundamental things that we have to do, that is to first of all, love God before all other things, and do so with all of our hearts’ strength, with all of our focus and effort, and then do the same for the others around us, our fellow men.

In order to understand this fully, we have to realise the context in which the Gospel passage happened in the past. During the time of Jesus, and particularly throughout His ministry, the Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law were often against Jesus and His works, and they always tried to find fault in Him and to condemn Him, because in their eyes and in their minds, He had violated and disobeyed the Law of God as they knew it.

That is because to them, the Law has become empty and devoid of its true meaning, and instead become an instrument of oppression and punishment, and through their way of observing the Law, they did these without true understanding of the purpose of the Law that is the love of God, made through the Law for His desire to bring mankind filled with sin to repentance and thus to receive from Him the eternal redemption.

Therefore, on this day, all of us are called to find out more about God’s commandments of love, and then after understanding them, their purpose and attention, let us all not stop there but continue to commit ourselves to do what the Lord had asked us to do in our own lives. And this season of Lent is the perfect time and opportunity for us to do what is good, filled with charity, care and concern for our brethren around us, and thus devoting ourselves to love God all the more.

Today we mark the feast of St. Casimir of Poland, a faithful and devoted servant of God who devoted his whole life to the Lord. St. Casimir was a royal prince and indeed the crown prince of both the kingdoms of Poland and Lithuania, a mighty Christian kingdom at that time. He was destined to succeed as king, but he never let that fact to hold him back and to distract him, as he continued to devote himself fully to God and to the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Casimir showed by his actions, by his ministry and service to the weak and the poor, the rejected ones and the ostracised, he helped them and showed the love of God to them. He was a humble and pious man, who obeyed the Lord and His commandments at every opportunity. He showed true understanding of the Law, by his loving actions and by his dedication. And through this, he showed us how to be a real disciple of the Lord.

May God help us all to draw ever nearer to Him, and may all of us be strengthened in our hearts to love God and our fellow men ever more, without condition and without selfishness and desire attached, but instead with great sincerity. Let us all follow the examples of St. Casimir of Poland and also the examples of the other saints and holy people of God, and be made worthy and holy ourselves, and be worthy of the kingdom of God. Amen.

Friday, 4 March 2016 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up to Jesus and asked Him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

“After this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.” The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is One, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.