Wednesday, 7 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we listened to the Lord speaking to us about His laws and commandments, which He had given to us His people. In the first reading today, we heard about the Lord speaking through Moses, His servant, teaching His people about the laws and commandments. The people were reminded to follow the Law and to obey God in all that He had taught them to do.

God has blessed them with His commandments and norms which He did not yet reveal to the other people and nations, and He expected them all to obey those laws and commandments. And He showed to them that if they remained true and faithful to His laws and commandments, they would be blessed and honoured, and they would be able to enjoy the graces He gave to them, in the land promised to them, all the prosperity meant for them as He promised their ancestors.

It is also exactly what the Lord Jesus reiterated in the words He said in the Gospel passage today. Yet, we see in those words, the frustration that the Lord showed as He was faced with opposition by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Why is that so? That is because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused the Lord Jesus and His disciples of trying to supplant the Law they carefully and zealously guarded, with a new version of the Law.

But Jesus rebuked them and said that what He brought unto them was the true meaning and obedience to the Law which God had revealed to His people so long ago through Moses. The problem lies in the fact that the laws as preserved and observed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been misunderstood and misapplied in such a way that the people were not able to appreciate why is it that they need to be faithful and obedient to the Law.

At that time, most of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were so focused on their aim to purify the people of Israel from all of their past impurities and sins, that they ended up creating many more rules and regulations which distracted the people of God from the true intention of the Law that is to bring the people closer to God and to love God more in their daily life. They were so caught up in their attempt to live up to their so-called obedience to the laws of Moses that they forgot why they ought to be doing all those actions and to Whom they ought to be doing it.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Lord Jesus had done was merely to redress the errors of the Pharisees and the corruption which had twisted the laws and commandments of God. He revealed to us all the true meaning of the Law, that is love. For all the rules and regulations added in and modified by the elders and the traditions of the Jewish people, the actual Law is truly simple, that is to love God with all of our entire effort, and to love one another with the same kind of love.

That is all that the Lord wanted from His people, a pure and unconditional love, just as He Himself has loved them first with that kind of love, commitment and devotion. Unfortunately, that was not what He received from His people, and when He came into their midst, in Jesus Christ, all that He received was scorn, rejection and refusal to believe in Him and His truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect, is that our attitude as Christians as well? Is that how we have treated the Lord? So far in our respective lives how many of us have truly lived them with true obedience to the Lord, loving Him genuinely in all that we do and say, in every action we take and in every moment? Or have we blindly obeyed or followed the ways and the rules taught to us by the Church without really understanding why we have done so?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, two renowned saints and martyrs of the Church, who lived during difficult years of intense persecution against the Church and the faithful, under the Roman Empire. St. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who resolved to become a Christian convert despite the objection from her father, while St. Felicity was a young slavewoman, who were imprisoned together with St. Perpetua for their faith.

They remained strong in their faith despite the physical sufferings and torture they had to endure, all the ridicule, scorn and anger directed at them, because of their great love for God. They did not mind enduring the same hatred of the world just as the Lord Himself had endured it. They willingly embraced martyrdom rather than to give up their faith in God. Their courage and commitment to the Lord inspired many people even many centuries after their passing from this world.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live the same Christian life as St. Perpetua and St. Felicity have lived theirs? Are we able to love God in the same way that God has loved us, that is with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, with our entire beings? Let us all make use of this time of Lent to prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically to grow deeper in our love and commitment to God.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He awaken in each one of us the same love, dedication and commitment as shown by His saints and martyrs, especially St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, whose memory we remember today. Let us ask for their intercession, that by their prayers God may be moved to call us all to Himself, to be forgiven and redeemed from our sins and unworthiness. St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, pray for us. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 17-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.”

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 15-16, 19-20

Exalt the Lord, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word. He spreads snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes.

It is He Who tells Jacob His words, His laws and decrees to Israel. This He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 4 : 1, 5-9

And now, Israel, listen to the norms and laws which I teach that you may put them into practice. And you will live and enter and take possession of the land which YHVH, the God of your fathers, gives you.

See, as YHVH, my God, ordered me, I am teaching you the norms and the laws that you may put them into practice in the land you are going to enter and have as your own. If you observe and practice them, other peoples will regard you as wise and intelligent. When they come to know of all these laws, they will say, ‘There is no people as wise and as intelligent as this great nation.’

For in truth, is there a nation as great as ours, whose gods are as near to it as YHVH, our God, is to us whenever we call upon Him? And is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are as just as this Law which I give you today?

But be careful and be on your guard. Do not forget these things which your own eyes have seen or let them depart from your heart as long as you live. But on the contrary, teach them to your children and to your children’s children.