Saturday, 9 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (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 all reminded to prepare ourselves for the beginning of the Holy Week, which as its name suggest is the holiest of all weeks in the entire liturgical year, seven days of celebration of Our Lord’s Passion, beginning tomorrow on Palm Sunday and which ends on the glorious resurrection at Easter Sunday. We ought to prepare ourselves in heart and mind to enter into this solemn occasion and period of time so that we may better appreciate the works and all that the Lord, our most loving God has done for us, for our sake and salvation.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the words of the Lord concerning His people, Israel and his descendants, the people of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah that had been scattered throughout the nations as they were defeated and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively, and they had been uprooted from the lands of their ancestors, brought off into exile in those far-odd lands where they had to endure the humiliation of losing their homeland and as a people that had brought ruin upon themselves because of their lack of faith in God.

God has always been patient with His people, and He has always reached out to them with a lot of love and compassion. However, it has always been us who have resisted His love and kindness. We have always been stubborn, just as the people of Israel and Judah had been stubborn in their rebellious attitude, in their refusal to listen to the prophets and messengers that God had placed in their midst to remind them. The Lord has always patiently reached out to His beloved ones despite of their attitudes, but it is indeed shameful to see the way that many if not most of us have behaved.

In our Gospel passage today, we have heard how the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council and most of its members had gathered together and plotted against the Lord Jesus because they had disagreed with Him constantly and even found Him as a great threat to their own legitimacy, authority and power. The Sanhedrin was made from the most influential members of the Jewish community, including the elders and the chief priests, the members of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Many among these people had found issues against the Lord, and mostly they were afraid that the great popularity that the Lord Jesus managed to gain would end up resulting in them losing their privileges, power and status.

That was why they discussed what to do with Him, and they resolved to crush Him, even if they had to resort to using backhanded methods such as false accusations and others, and even plotted to hand Him over to the Romans to be condemned and punished to death. They justified themselves, as Caiaphas, the High Priest at that time, argued that they were doing it all for the good of their whole nation. As they argued that if the Lord continued to gain popularity, eventually the Romans would remove the privileges and relative independence that they had granted the Jewish elite, the very same members of the Sanhedrin that were persecuting the Lord Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard today the reminder of just how difficult the Lord’s tasks were, as He had to go against those who refused to even open their hearts and minds to His truth and love. Yet, He did not give up on us, and He fulfilled the promises He had made to all of us since the very beginning. Just as He had promised to Adam and Eve, that Satan would eventually be defeated, and that the deliverance for mankind would come from the Lord, thus, Jesus our Lord came into our midst to fulfil all those promises, the promises God had made with each and every one of us mankind, all throughout time.

And He revealed that He would do all that by offering His own life on the Altar of the Cross. Through the Cross, He will claim all of us, as our Lord and King, Whom God had promised to us, that He will be King over all of us, as prophesied by Ezekiel and the other prophets. He has always been faithful and kind to us, always ever compassionate and patient in everything, and He gave us His own life, offering His Most Precious Body and Blood so that we can be saved from eternal damnation and destruction. Tomorrow we will commemorate the moment when He entered in triumph to Jerusalem, as the King Who has come to be with His people, and began the moments of His Passion.

The Lord knew well what He had to do and what He had to endure for the sake of His beloved ones. He had to be rejected, betrayed, and then made to suffer the worst sufferings and punishments for our sake, in atonement for our sins. Yet, He willingly endured all of them, because He truly loved us so very much, so much that He was willing to endure those humiliations, persecutions, the worst of pain and to go through the gates of hell and death for us, through His crucifixion. All these are what we will commemorate and remember throughout the Holy Week that will start tomorrow.

Let us ask ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are ready to commemorate Holy Week and the upcoming Easter season with faith and true understanding of their significance for us. And are our ways of life in accordance with what the Lord had taught and shown us? Or are we still living our lives in the state of sin? If the latter is the case, then that means we have to remind ourselves of everything that Our Lord has done for us, His constant and enduring love for each one of us sinners. And as long as we are still living and breathing air in this world, we still have the opportunity to make amends and return to Him for forgiveness.

Let us all wait no longer and tarry no more, and instead, make the conscious effort to find our way back to the Lord with faith. May all of us draw ever closer to God and do our very best to be good examples to one another in how we live our lives, with exemplary actions and good attitude, inspiring each other to be good disciples and followers of our Lord and Saviour. May God bless us always and remain with us throughout our journey of life, and may all of us have a blessed and wonderful Holy Week observance starting tomorrow. Amen.

Saturday, 9 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

Saturday, 9 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 9 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be the king of them all.

They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.

My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.

I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH Who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.

Friday, 8 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Gospels yet another account of the confrontations that happened between the Lord and those who opposed Him, all those who refused to listen to Him and continued to stubbornly hardened their hearts and minds. The same thing had happened to the prophet Jeremiah in the past as well, and we heard the plots and the things that people had done to the prophet and servant of God. But God has always stood by His faithful ones and He would not let those who are dear to Him to suffer and be crushed. Even if they were to suffer, in the end, those who remain faithful to God shall triumph together with Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah regarding the time when persecutions faced by Jeremiah at the hands of his enemies, which at that time opposed Jeremiah and his works among the people of Judah, calling on all the people to return back towards God with faith. God had sent him to His obstinate and stubborn people to remind them of His ever generous mercy, which He has always made available to them, but which they had frequently ignored and spurned.

Jeremiah had to go through a lot of troubles for the sake of the Lord, and yet, He endured all of it patiently, and entrusted himself and his works to the Lord. Of course there were moments when he was exhausted and tired of facing all the oppositions, and which he spoke to the Lord about, but in the end, he believed that God sent him for a good reason, and no matter what, in the end, those who believe in Him and trust in Him will never be disappointed. Jeremiah, just as many other prophets who came before him and those who came after him, might have to endure all those bitterness and hardships, but through their faith and dedication, they had done a lot of good works for the sake of the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord were opposed by the Jewish people in Jerusalem and Judea who were against Him and were incensed and angry when He spoke of His truth, that He is indeed the Son of God, the Messiah or Saviour sent into this world. The people were stubborn and refused to believe in Him, because they refused to admit that the Man they saw before Him, a mere Son of a carpenter from Galilee, could have been the Saviour of the world. They refused to listen to Him because they were prideful and filled with ego and hubris, particularly those who saw themselves as more righteous than others.

Yet, the Lord kept on speaking the truth and would not be deterred by the opposition He had faced, just as Jeremiah had once done his best and continued to carry out the mission entrusted to him despite the challenges and oppositions he encountered. The Lord Jesus spoke the truth and revealed more and more of what the Lord, the Almighty God, would very soon be doing for the sake of the whole world, through Him, the One Who had been sent into this world as its Saviour and Hope. The Lord would soon enter into His Passion and He was prepared to carry out the mission entrusted to Him to the very end, even though He would have to endure the bitter sufferings for that.

Through our Scripture readings today continue to prepare us for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death and resurrection which we will all focus on throughout the Holy Week next week. Now, we have heard all the trials and challenges that the faithful servants of the Lord had to endure in their works of faith, and ultimately, the Lord Himself would face the ultimate trial in His Passion, His crucifixion and death. All of us as Christians must remember the Lord’s words, that He had told us, how if we are to be His disciples, we have to carry our crosses and follow Him.

Are we ready to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s Passion, the most important events happening throughout the Holy Week leading to Easter? Are we able to focus our attention on Him and all that He had done for the sake of our salvation? Or are we going to remain stubborn and obstinate in the manner of how the Jewish people, especially the members of the Sanhedrin, the High Council of the Jewish people, the elders and the Pharisees had done, in opposing the Lord and His truth? Are we going to continue living in the state of sin, and walking down the path towards our destruction and death?

Let us all reflect on all these things carefully as we ponder the mystery of the Lord’s Passion, and let us focus our attention on Him as we remember everything that He had done for our sake, as He reached out to us with love, mercy and compassion, to be reconciled with us and to help us to return to Him. Let us all do our best to walk the path of this journey of faith, and do our best to endure whatever trials, challenges and obstacles that we may have to face in this journey, and not be afraid, following in the footsteps of Jeremiah and many other of God’s most faithful servants.

May God be with us all, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His Presence, now and always, evermore. Let us all be good inspiration for one another, and be role models of faith, at all times. Amen.

Friday, 8 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews then picked up stones to throw at Jesus; so He said, “I have openly done many good works among you, which the Father gave Me to do. For which of these do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered, “We are not stoning You for doing a good work, but for insulting God; You are only a Man, and You make Yourself God.” Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law : I said, you are gods? So those who received this word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true.”

“What then should be said of the One anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in Me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest Him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptised, and there He stayed. Many people came to Jesus, and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about You, and everything he said was true.” And many became believers in that place.

Friday, 8 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

I love You, o Lord, my Strength, the Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

A deadly flood surrounded me, devillish torrents rushed at me; caught by the cords of the grave, I was brought to the snares of death.

But I called upon the Lord in my distress, I cried to my God for help; and from His Temple He heard my voice, my cry of grief reached His ears.

Friday, 8 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 20 : 10-13

I hear many people whispering, “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!” All my friends watch me to see if I will slip : “Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say; “then we can get the better of him and have our revenge.”

But YHVH, a mighty Warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten. YHVH, God of hosts, You test the just and probe the heart and mind.

Let me see Your revenge on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause. Sing to YHVH! Praise YHVH and say : He has rescued the poor from the clutches of the wicked!

Thursday, 7 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of how God has made a Covenant with Abraham, our father in faith, and how the same Covenant has been renewed and established anew again and again, until the time when Christ, Our Lord and Saviour came into this world and accomplished the works that His heavenly Father has entrusted to Him. He has come into our midst and established with us a new, everlasting and eternal Covenant that He sealed with the offering and outpouring of His own Most Precious Blood and the shedding of His Most Precious Body on the Altar of the Cross. We are called to reflect on this as we draw ever closer to the beginning of Holy Week, the time when we are going to commemorate the events surrounding Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death and resurrection.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the Lord making the Covenant with Abraham, who was then still known as Abram, a man who came from the far-off region of Mesopotamia, following the commands and call of God into the land of Canaan, the land which God then promised to him and his descendants to be their own land. Abram then did not yet have a son that will carry on his name and legacy, but God promised him that he would be the father of many nations, through his son Isaac, the one that God would give to him in due time, but which then was yet unknown to Abram. Abram trusted in the Lord and although technically he and his wife, both of whom had been advanced in age, could no longer bear a child anymore, but he trusted in the Lord and believed in His words and promises.

That is why God chose to made a Covenant between Himself and Abram, choosing him and set him apart from any other men and women who were his contemporaries at that time. God chose Abram because He knew everything in his heart and mind, and how Abram truly had faith in Him and trusted in Him wholeheartedly. God sees what is in man’s heart, even to the deepest of their hearts and beings. In Abram, God found a truly righteous man worthy of becoming the one with whom He made a Covenant with. Through Abraham, the salvation of all of His beloved people would come, as it has been planned all along from the very beginning.

Thus, Abram made a Covenant with God and he devoted himself to God, with a new life blessed by God, as Abraham the righteous and just, the beloved and chosen one of God, whose descendants were numerous and many, and all of us who call the Lord as our Master, we also call Abraham as our father in faith. All of us share with him this faith which he had first shown all those years ago, dedicating himself to the Lord and followed Him wherever He called him to follow and walk to. All of us are therefore also expected to follow the Lord wholeheartedly in the same manner, giving our time, effort and attention to be ever faithful as disciples and followers of His.

However, as we heard from our Gospel passage today, it is often that many of us have failed to do this as shown by the attitude of the Jewish people in Judea and Jerusalem, especially among their leaders and elders, the chief priests and the Pharisees, who adamantly refused to listen to the Lord or believed in Him despite all the things that they had heard, seen and witnessed themselves through the Lord’s many miracles and works among the people. The Lord has come amongst His people to reveal His truth among them, and to call them to return to Him, and yet, because they were truly stubborn, they refused to believe in Him and hardened their hearts and minds.

They were all too caught up by their pride and ego, that they failed to realise the extent of their infidelity and stubbornness. They preferred to remain in their rebellious state as they thought that they could not have been wrong or mistaken, and they did not like it when others came to them revealing of how vulnerable and misguided they had been. Thus, unlike what had happened in Abraham’s case, his descendants ironically and unfortunately refused to trust in the Lord and His love and truth. While Abraham devoted himself to the Lord and followed Him with all of his heart, the same could not be said of his descendants, and thus, the Lord rightly rebuked them for that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these words from the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we are to follow the Lord and be committed to Him, to the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. The Lord has called us to follow Him, and how are we going to respond to Him? Are we going to continue to live in the path of sin and evil, or are we committed to a change in our way of life, and are we willing to walk with God from now on, in obeying Him and dedicating ourselves to His truth? Are we going to be good role models who can show others how we can be good Christians, as good disciples and children of God?

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John Baptist de la Salle, the renowned founder of the Brothers of Christian School, a religious order and fraternity of men committed to the advancement of Christian education all throughout the world. St. John Baptist de la Salle was a priest and canon of the Cathedral of Reims who was called to minister to the needs of the needy, and seeing the terrible state of education of especially young Christians all around him, he decided to embark on a new ministry, in dedicating himself to the needs of those who are last, lost and least, especially those who are struggling in their youth and education.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as St. John Baptist de la Salle dedicated himself and his whole life for the benefit of many others who are in need of help, all of us should do whatever we can to contribute to others all around us as well. The Lord has called us all to follow Him and we should respond to Him in the same way that St. John Baptist de la Salle and many other of our holy predecessors had done. Are we willing and able to commit our lives in the same way too? The choice is really ours if we want to follow Him and to spend our time and effort in walking down His path.

Let us all therefore remind ourselves of the great faith that Abraham, our father in faith, St. John the Baptist de la Salle, our holy predecessor and many other holy men and women who have inspired us all. May all of us be like them as well in faith, and grow ever stronger in our commitment and dedication to live our lives in accordance with God’s will, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 7 April 2022 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.