Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to remember just how fortunate we are that God has been so loving, compassionate, caring and merciful towards us. If not for the mercy that He has shown us, and for the love that He still has for each and every one of us, enduring even the worst struggles of our sins and disobedience, we ought to have been annihilated.

In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus we heard of the well-known case when the people of Israel disobeyed the Lord and rebelled against Him at Mount Sinai, not long right after He had rescued them and brought them out of the land of Egypt, destroying the armies of the Pharaoh sent against them and freeing them from the hands and tyranny of the Egyptians.

How did Israel disobeyed and rebelled against the Lord? When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to get the Law of the Lord and the Covenant, and was up there for forty days long, the people grew impatient and lost faith in both God and Moses, and some dissidents in the community seized the chance to try and seduce the people to turn to the pagan idols, shaped like a golden calf in the manner of the Egyptian gods.

This showed that the people, especially some among them did not yet have faith in God, or even refused to have faith in Him, just as shown in how many constantly grumbled and complained that they had so much better lives in Egypt even when they were enslaved, and that they had better food and drink, all these when the Lord constantly supplied the whole people daily with the bread of heaven, manna, flock of birds to give them meat to eat, and water throughout their journey in the desert.

When Moses interceded on behalf of the people, he was trying to appease the Lord’s anger over those who had disobeyed and betrayed Him, even as He had just given to them His laws and renewed His Covenant with them. The Lord could have just annihilated the whole nation and left Moses alone as the only survivor as He said, but He withhold His anger and forgave the people because of Moses and what he pleaded with Him.

This is therefore related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today when we heard the Lord speaking to the people chastising many of them for their stubbornness and refusal to believe in Him, which was likely and especially pointed on many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who claimed to represent the authentic teachings and the laws of Moses, and yet, they had misinterpreted and misrepresented those laws.

They had forgotten the true intent and meaning of the Law of God, meant to show the way for the people to know God and to love Him. Instead, they used those laws to glorify themselves and for their own benefit, imposing on the people harsh conditions and rules that made it difficult for them to follow the Lord, while closing the door of salvation to those who needed them the most, by rejecting and ostracising those tax collectors, prostitutes and others.

That was why the Lord criticised them directly, and spoke clearly that it was Moses himself who would accuse them all before the Lord, as it was Moses who received the true Law and understood its meaning, which had been warped and changed so much by that time. And the Lord said that unless they changed their ways and turned to the true path, then they were heading to destruction.

And when the people, all mankind had sinned against the Lord, here it was the Lord Jesus Himself, Who like Moses in the past, interceded on behalf of the people. The Lord Jesus, Our Saviour is the High Priest of all of us, representing us, as He offered Himself as the perfect and worthy loving sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross. Through His Passion, suffering and death, He has shed His most Precious Blood and offered on our behalf, the worthy sacrifice to atone for our sins.

Then, through His Resurrection, the Lord called on us all to follow Him to share in the new life that He has offered us through that Resurrection. Just as we have shared in His death, we too have a share in His resurrection, that through Baptism, all of us have been brought into the new life, and a new existence, blessed and filled with the grace of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, all of us are reminded first of all of our sinfulness, all those things that we had done in violation of God’s laws and against His will. Those sins will weigh down on us, and whatever we have in our burden of sin, we shall be judged against by, and unless we atone for them and be forgiven, then we may face the certainty of eternal destruction and death.

But God is ever loving and ever merciful, and He has given us the ultimate gift in Christ, His beloved and only begotten Son, Whom He had sent into this world to be our Saviour. To all of us who believe in Him, He has promised the assurance of eternal life, and if we accept the forgiveness of God and repent sincerely from our sinful ways, then surely we will be reconciled fully and completely with God.

Now, how are we going to proceed forward in life then? Perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, one of the great and influential early Church fathers and a great and dedicated bishop of the Church. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem during a time of great strife for the faithful in the See of Jerusalem, with divisions and disagreements that took place between the rival factions.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem had to face against the opposition from both religious and secular figures, powerful individuals and nobles, and even opposition from the Imperial family and the bureaucracy itself, which was at that time influenced heavily by the Arian heresy as well as other heresies and divisions rampant at that time. But this did not stop St. Cyril from committing himself to the efforts to reconcile those different factions with each other.

Through his efforts, St. Cyril brought many people back to the faith, and despite him having to endure several exiles and much difficulty, but through his works, the Church was able to overcome its darkest years and reaffirming its foundation in the true faith as passed down from the Lord through His Apostles. His courage and determination, his faith and love for God should be inspiration to each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord therefore with renewed faith and zeal, with new love and devotion to Him, as we continue to journey through this season of Lent. Let us all seek His mercy and seek His forgiveness for our many sins, that we may be forgiven from them and find consolation and true joy in Him and through Him, and gain the true inheritance of heavenly glory. May God be with us all and bless us all in our good endeavours, efforts and faith. Amen.

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 31-47

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “If I bore witness to Myself, My testimony would be worthless. But Another One is bearing witness to Me, and I know that His testimony is true when He bears witness to Me. John also bore witness to the truth when you sent messengers to him, but I do not seek such human testimony; I recall this for you, so that you may be saved.”

“John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were willing to enjoy his light. But I have greater evidence than that of John – the works which the Father entrusted to Me to carry out. The very works I do bear witness : The Father has sent Me. Thus He Who bears witness to Me is the Father Who sent Me. You have never heard His voice and have never seen His likeness; therefore, as long as you do not believe His messenger, His word is not in you.”

“You search in the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find life; yet Scripture bears witness to Me. But you refuse to come to Me, that you may live. I am not seeking human praise; but I have known that love of God is not within you, for I have come in My Father’s Name and you do not accept Me. If another comes in his own name, you will accept him. As long as you seek praise from one another, instead of seeking the glory which comes from the only God, how can you believe?”

“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father. Moses himself, in whom you placed your hope, accuses you. If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Exodus 32 : 7-14

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them and have made for themselves a molten calf; they have bowed down before it and sacrificed to it and said : ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.'”

And YHVH said to Moses, “I see that these people are a stiff-necked people. Now just leave Me that My anger may blaze against them. I will destroy them, but of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses calmed the anger of YHVH, his God, and said, “Why, o YHVH, should Your anger burst against Your people whom You brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with a mighty hand?”

“Let not the Egyptians say : ‘YHVH brought them out with evil intent, for He wanted to kill them in the mountains and wipe them from the face of the earth.’ Turn away from the heat of Your anger and do not bring disaster on Your people. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the promise You Yourself swore : I will multiply Your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land I spoke about I will give to them as an everlasting inheritance.”

YHVH then changed His mind and would not yet harm His people.

Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of God’s mercy and love for each one of us, and we are reminded also of the need for us to be merciful and loving in the same way towards each other, towards our fellow brethren and all those whom we encounter in life. This is what each and every one of us need to realise, as we live our lives in this world, as fellow sinners in the presence of God.

It does not matter how great or how small our sins are, but the fact remains that we have been tainted by sin, and we have therefore become unworthy of God and His love due to the sins we committed, out of disobedience and refusal to listen to Him and the stubbornness in tracing our own path in life in defiance of His will. It does not matter how small our disobedience is, how insignificant our sins have been, as sin is still sin.

And yet, despite all of our stubbornness, wicked attitudes and refusal to listen to the Lord, the Lord remained full of patience and mercy, and willing to forgive us our sins and be reconciled with us, should we make the effort to turn away from those sinful ways and embrace the mercy and forgiveness that He has provided us all so generously. Why not? He even gave us His own beloved Son, to be our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Now, if God, our Lord and loving Father has been merciful towards us, patient and loving despite all of our childish and stubborn attitudes all these while, then why should it not be that we, as God’s children, follow His examples and learn to love and to be merciful as He had done to us. But unfortunately, the reality is such that many of us mankind are still so stubborn in our hatred and jealousy for one another, that we prefer to cause pain and suffering, to be angry and unhappy instead of to forgive and to love.

That is why, God reminds us all again and again, with the love and mercy He Himself has shown us, so that all of us may also learn to be loving and to be merciful ourselves. It is through true and genuine love that we will be able to break free from the bondage to sin. If we continue to act with heart filled with hatred, jealousy, ego, pride and greed, we will continue to expose ourselves to the temptations to sin, and we will end up falling ever deeper into the chasm of sin.

That is why we need to make the conscious and sustained effort to resist those temptations, by restraining ourselves in the flesh, and being conscious of how sinful we have been, regardless of how serious our sins may have seemed as compared to the sins that others have committed. As mentioned earlier, sin is still sin, regardless of how small or how insignificant it may seem to be. Sin is a corruption and taint on our souls and our beings, and unless we are free from those sins, small or big, then we have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make use of the opportunities given to us during this season of Lent to turn our back on sin, on all the stubborn oppositions we have committed against God in our past actions and deeds, in our words and utterings. Let us all sharpen instead the edge of our humility and let go of the pride and greed in our hearts and minds, that we may come to be righteous in our actions, words and deeds, leaving behind all those attitudes that cause us to be full of pride and disobedience.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a holy man and servant of God, one of the early Church fathers who was remembered for his loving and forgiving nature, which he presented in his writings, in which he wrote extensively about God’s love and mercy to His people. St. Cyril himself had endured many challenges and oppositions throughout his life and he was falsely accused many times by his rivals. Yet, he remained composed, and continued to serve the Lord and the people regardless of those challenges.

Therefore, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, by growing more generous in love and forgiveness, keeping in mind that our most loving and patient God has loved us all so dearly, each and every moments that we live in this world. Are we able to change ourselves through embracing the way of mercy and the way of love? Then we must be loving and merciful at every living moments of our life. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us all in everything we do. Amen.

Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

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, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 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, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

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, 18 March 2017 : 2nd 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 we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God is loving, and He is filled with mercy for His people, as He desires to forgive all those who have wronged Him, all who have betrayed Him and left Him behind, as what the parable of the prodigal son would have told us, that famous story on forgiveness and mercy, as told by Jesus our Lord.

Most if not all of us should be quite familiar with the story, which we have heard since our childhood, or in our catechism classes, or through reading the Scriptures. But how many of us truly understand its meaning and its significance? How many of us can relate ourselves and our own experiences with that story of the prodigal son, who was forgiven by his father?
In that parable, we heard how the prodigal son left his father after getting his share of the inheritance, and squandered off all his wealth and possessions on lavish living. In the end, he had no money left with him, and all of his friends who used to be with him left him behind. He suffered terribly in that foreign land, and no one would want to help him, even his friends. He had to endure the most difficult of conditions, and even shamed by working at the lowest possible places as a caretaker of pigs in a farm.

In the end, the prodigal son decided to go back to his father, seeking to humbly seek his forgiveness and even wanted to declare before his father that after having committed such a shameful act, and after having sinned in such a manner, he could no longer be called the son of his father. Instead, he wanted to be treated just as one of his father’s slaves.

But his father would have none of that, and ordered his servants that his younger son should be dressed up in the finest of clothes and a feast be prepared for his sake, celebrating his return from the faraway lands. He was indeed dressed up and treated with a treatment equal to that of the son and heir of a king. Then we heard about how the elder son was angry at his father after having heard of the treatment which the prodigal younger son had received.

In all of these, we can see ourselves, and how we relate ourselves with God and one another. The parable is a very good representation of our very own selves, our lives and our actions in this world. The father is a representation of God, while the prodigal son represents all those who have sinned and who have been separated from God and His love. How about the elder son? The elder son represents those who have remained true and faithful to the ways of the Lord.

First of all, the prodigal son is just like us, who have wandered off from the way of the Lord, seeking other things and other pleasures of life instead of the love of God, just as how the younger son looking to venture to a far off land. Yet, his father allowed him to do so, the loving God, Who loves each and every one of us, because He loved us. He gives us a free will and a freedom to choose our path forward.

But in our sins and in our weaknesses, in our frailties and in our easy fall into temptations, we have fallen into a miserable state just as the prodigal son did. And when we are in trouble, people who do not truly love us or care for us will leave us behind. They are like Satan and his angels, who pretended to be our friends, but when we have fallen into sin, they will laugh at our folly and marvel at our downfall and misery.

There is only One Who will remember us and continue to love us, and that is God. Even though we have wandered off, rebelled, and disobeyed Him, He will continue to love us, just as the father continued to think about the prodigal son. But we must remember what the prodigal son had done. As wrong and mistaken as he had been, he had resolved and decided to humble himself and sought his father, returning to the father who loved him.

This is where many of us mankind have faltered, because we have not been able to overcome one thing that often stands in the way of our salvation. And what is that, brethren? It is pride, our very own human pride. From our pride, came stubbornness and all the other things that have prevented us from seeking God and His forgiveness. First of all, we think that whatever we do, God will forgive us without our need to make the effort to seek for repentance, and this is the sin of presumption according to the renowned St. Cyprian of Carthage.

And presumption came from our pride, in our thought that we cannot have done any mistake, that we cannot have been wrong, even in our despicable state of sin and wickedness. This is what all of us must resist and overcome, brothers and sisters in Christ, or otherwise, we will continue to fall and end up in eternal damnation of hell. Let us seek instead to follow the path of the prodigal son, who humbly sought the forgiveness of his father.

And as we all can see, the father forgave his prodigal and wayward son, just as God is ever ready to forgive us and to welcome us back. We must not be afraid to seek God the Father for His forgiveness, for there is a second great sin, according to St. Cyprian, and that is the sin of despair, which is ultimately also born out of our human pride. We think and assume that our sins are so great that God will not forgive us, but God will forgive us if only we make the effort to overcome our sins and repent from them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to realise that God is ever merciful and loving, especially to all of us who have sinned and fallen into sin. But God’s mercy will not have any effect on us, unless we consciously put in the effort to make that mercy useful and meaningful to us. God wants to forgive us, but do we want to be forgiven? And are we able to commit to the commitment to sin no more and lead a righteous life from now on?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, during this season of Lent, we need to spend some time to reflect on our own lives and our actions. We need to reevaluate our lives and actions, and we need to renew our lives in the same manner as the prodigal son. Are we able to overcome our pride, our stubbornness and all the obstacles that had prevented us from reaching out to God and His mercy?

Now, we also then need to take note of the action of the elder son, who became angry at the return of the younger, prodigal son. Jesus through that action was rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have often hampered the return of sinners to God’s grace, because they thought that sinners were incapable of being forgiven by God, and because they thought that they alone deserved God’s love.

As Christians, and as those to whom God had given His grace, we cannot have this kind of attitude. First of all, we need to know that God loves everyone, all sinners alike, and we have to remember that all of us are sinners after all, in need of God’s mercy. We must always be vigilant lest we fall back into our sinful ways. And therefore, we should not think that we alone deserve God’s grace, but rather, we should help open the path to God’s mercy to those who are in need of our help.

Let us therefore guide one another, and help each other to remain faithful to God and true to His ways, by showing our faith through our words, actions and deeds, so that all of us may be saved together, and receive once again God’s love and grace. May all of us walk in the path of the prodigal son, and humbly seek forgiveness for our sins, and may all of us be able to commit to repent from our sins, and do good from now onwards. Amen.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, ‘This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So Jesus told them this parable : “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”