Friday, 18 March 2022 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us reminding us not to dwell in our worldly desires, temptations and the many other things that may distract us and keep us away from the path of God and His salvation, from His righteousness and justice, just as our predecessors had done, in their failure to resist those temptations and instead, allowing those things to cloud their judgment and made them to commit grievous errors and sins.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Genesis in which we were told of what happened to the sons of Jacob, also known as Israel, the ones who would become the progenitors of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. Jacob had a total of twelve sons, born from different wives and from the servants of his wives. The most beloved among all those sons were naturally Joseph and Benjamin, who were born to Jacob through his most beloved wife Rachel.

This led to the preferential treatments that Joseph enjoyed over that of his brothers, which made them to be angry against their younger brother, and all these despite each of them still enjoying the great bounty of the riches of Jacob and his family. They became even angrier when Joseph, who received many visions and dreams began speaking of how his own brothers and even father would come to bow down before him. All these were in fact premonitions of what would happen in the future, but no one, including Joseph knew what they were all about.

Despite the urgings of some of the brothers from restraint, the older brothers of Joseph plotted against him, and planned to have him killed. But at the coming of a Midianite caravan on the way to Egypt, the more moderate brothers managed to persuade all of them to spare his life and sell him to the merchants instead. And that was how Joseph would end up in slavery and then sent up to Egypt, as part of his mission to prepare the path for his family, though no one then knew of this yet.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord spoke using the parable of the evil tenants before the people and the Pharisees who have often made His works difficult, placing a lot of obstacles and barriers in His path. Through that parable, the Lord related a story to all that the greed and wicked desires of the evil and ungrateful tenants had led them to persecute, oppress and even kill the servants of the owner of the vineyard who had every right to remind those tenants to pay their due to him.

In the end, this even led to them killing the son of the owner himself who was sent at long last to remind them. This was in fact a veiled criticism and rebuke by the Lord at the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all those ‘tenants’ whom God, represented by the owner of the vineyard, had entrusted with the care of His ‘vineyard’, namely His people, His flock, the people of Israel. They and their ancestors had not been truly faithful to God and instead, they often served their own interests, persecuting those whom God had sent into their midst, and up to and including the Lord Himself.

It was also a premonition of what would happen to the Lord at His Passion, His suffering and death, when by the actions of the same leaders and elders of the people, the Lord would face rejection, condemnation, forced to endure the most humiliating and painful punishment on behalf of all of us, His beloved ones. All that happened because those who condemned the Lord, were all swayed and tempted by their worldly desires, pride, ego and ambition among other things.

That is why, through the examples of Joseph and his brothers, what they had done, and what the Lord had reminded all of us through the example of the parable of the evil tenants, we are all called to remember the importance to resist the many temptations of the world, and to remain true to Him in faith. We must not easily give in to the temptations of the evil ones, and we must not give in to the pressure for us to follow the whims of our desires and the want for pleasure and temporary satisfaction.

Instead, as we continue to walk through this journey of life with faith, particularly through this season of Lent, we are all reminded to follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, one of whom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose feast we celebrate today, ought to inspire us with his enduring faith and dedication to the Lord. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem who was remembered for his great love for both the Lord and the people entrusted under his care, as well as his dedication to the truth and the well-being of the whole entire Universal Church then threatened by various heresies and divisions.

He resisted the many oppositions, attacks and pressure from the Arian heretics and all those who supported them, including even the powerful nobles and the Roman Emperors themselves, suffering multiple exiles and persecutions, having to endure many false accusations among other hardships during his ministry. Yet, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remained steadfast in faith and did not give in to those who sought to undermine the unity and identity of the Church, holding his flock firm in his hands, leading them towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all walk in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and the innumerable other saints who had walked faithfully before us towards the Lord. Let us follow them and be inspired by their good examples in how we should live our own lives with faith as well. May God be with us always, and may He continue to watch over us and strengthen us, that we may always be vigilant, and be ready to guard ourselves against any temptations of evil. Amen.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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.

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.”