Saturday, 27 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are about to begin the Holy Week of the Passion of Our Lord tomorrow on Palm Sunday, today we are reminded through the Scripture passages of the coming of God’s salvation and all of His loving promises as the prophet Ezekiel has revealed to the people of Israel in exile as we heard in our first reading today, and then we also heard of the coming of the time of the Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death as we heard of the meeting of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish high council in the Gospel today, plotting the end of the Lord.

Beginning with our first reading today, we all heard of the Lord speaking to His people through the prophet Ezekiel at the time when most of the descendants of the Israelites had been scattered away from their homeland, without a home to return to, without a nation and king to rule over them, without the Temple around and within which they could worship the Lord their God, for they have been defeated and crushed by the Babylonians. Their cities were destroyed, the kingdom destroyed and the Temple of God was also destroyed.

But God reassured His people through Ezekiel that He did not forget about them, and neither did He desire for them all to continue to suffer. On the contrary, He revealed that He would save all of them in due time, sending His salvation into the world, to gather all of His scattered children and call everyone to Himself through His Saviour, Who is none other than Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, the Son of God and Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate.

It was therefore by the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ into this world that we have seen the light and salvation of God, the hope and enlightenment through which we shall find our liberation and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death that had reigned over us all these while. Just as the Lord reassuring His people through Ezekiel that the dark and difficult times of their exile in Babylon and elsewhere would not last forever, thus the Lord through Christ, His own beloved Son, He would liberate all of His beloved ones and gather them all into His loving presence and grace.

Unfortunately, as we can see many people refused to believe in the Lord when He came to them bringing the revelations of God’s truth. This is likely because those chief priests, elders and the members of the Pharisees were to proud to admit that they had been wrong, and they did not want the good situation, prestige and respect they had garnered from the people to wane and disappear. That was why the High Priest Caiaphas discussed among the chief priests and elders, and mentioned the need to bring an end to Christ so that their whole nation could be saved, when in fact they meant that their own livelihood and status could be preserved.

Thus, as we heard, the Lord went in hiding and did not openly show Himself anymore in public until when He was arrested and put on trial before the Sanhedrin and later on eventually by Pontius Pilate, to be condemned like a criminal and to die a most painful and humiliating death on the Cross. But through all that, God had brought salvation unto us, that by the selfless, perfect and most loving sacrifice He had made, Christ reconciled us with God, our loving Father and Creator.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we are therefore reminded first of all of the Lord’s ever gracious and generous mercy, the great patience by which He awaits us and is still waiting for us to return to His righteous embrace. We are all called to seek Him and to rend our hearts, minds and souls before Him, allowing Him to touch us with His love, compassion and mercy.

Let us all not harden our hearts or be swayed by our ego or pride. Instead, let us all humble ourselves and be inspired by Christ’s own humility and obedience to the will of His Father, that as we enter into the most solemn celebrations of Holy Week beginning tomorrow with Palm Sunday, we may reflect well on the great sufferings that Christ has suffered for our sake, in His willingness to endure the worst of humiliations, sufferings and pains for our salvation.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, that we may find our way to Him, and be ever more committed and willing to live our lives as good and dedicated Christians from now on if we have not already done so. May all of us have a blessed Holy Week celebration beginning tomorrow, and become ever closer to the Lord, our God, through Jesus Christ, His Son. Amen.

Saturday, 27 March 2021 : 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, 27 March 2021 : 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, 27 March 2021 : 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, 26 March 2021 : 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 called to focus our attention to the Lord and His truth, humble ourselves and accept that truth which He has brought to us. We should not harden our hearts and minds against Him, and instead we should allow Him to enter into our hearts and minds and transform us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the persecution and the trials faced by the prophet Jeremiah, who was sent by God to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah in is twilight days. Jeremiah often called the people to repent from their sins and to turn away from their wicked ways. He laboured hard to speak God’s truth and His will among the stubborn people, and this brought him much opposition and many enemies.

But Jeremiah remained firm in his faith and conviction, and while he did grumble and complain over all that he had to suffer, which was understandable given the very tough circumstance he was in, nonetheless, he held firmly to his belief and trust in the Lord. He trusted that the Lord is always by His side, guiding Him and protecting Him, and would remember all that he had done for His sake, rewarding His faithful ones while exacting just punishment on those who continued stubbornly to resist.

In our Gospel passage today then we heard about the Lord Jesus and how He proclaimed the truth of God to the people of Judea, the descendants of the same people to whom the prophet Jeremiah had ministered to many centuries previously. Many of those people also refused to believe in the Lord, doubted Him and opposed Him, particularly many from among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

They were angry when the Lord openly referred to Himself as the Son of God, and God as His own Father. They wanted to arrest Him for having blasphemed against God, and eventually, during the Passion of the Lord, not long after this encounter between the Lord and the people in Jerusalem and Judea, those opponents of the Lord managed to charge Him on this same accusation after they had Him arrested and tried before the whole Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council.

But had they read and understand the Scriptures and the words of the prophets more carefully, they would have realised from all the truth that the Lord Jesus had spoken, from all the miraculous deeds and wonders that He had performed before so many of them, that He could only be the Messiah, or the Saviour of the whole world, Who had been prophesied by the prophets and Whose coming had been long anticipated and awaited.

Yet, many among the people refused to accept the truth, and among those who did this were those who held on to their pride and ego, their worldly desires for power, influence and status, refusing to allow the Lord to shine over them as He gained more and more followers throughout His ministry. They saw Him as a threat to their power and status within the society, and thus worked and plotted against the Lord, inciting the people with false leads in the process.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in these readings from the Scripture, we are therefore reminded that we must really be careful with our ego, with the desires in our hearts and minds, and with the many temptations by which the devil is constantly and consistently trying to tempt us with into disobedience against God’s will, to oppose the Lord as those people had once done against Him, and their ancestors also rose up against the prophet Jeremiah.

Let us all during this season of Lent be filled with remorse and regret for our sins, sincerely desiring to be forgiven from all the things we have committed that were against the will of God. Let us all be reconciled with God, seeking for His mercy and kindness, through true and genuine repentance. May God be with us always, and may He bless us and guide us in our journey towards righteousness. May God bless our many good works and endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 26 March 2021 : 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, 26 March 2021 : 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, 26 March 2021 : 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, 25 March 2021 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, marking the exact nine months before the date of Christmas as we recall that moment when Our Lord and Saviour was incarnate in the womb of His beloved Mother, Mary, right upon her acceptance of the will of God and her total and complete entrustment to God. By her positive response to the Good News delivered to her through the Archangel Gabriel, Mary has completed and heralded the long awaited coming of the Messiah.

On this day we rejoice in the memory of the Good News that was brought by the Archangel Gabriel, announced to Mary in Nazareth, the coming of God’s long awaited salvation, the fulfilment of all of His plans in saving us mankind. Mankind has long awaited the coming of the salvation which God had in fact proclaimed from the very beginning, right from the very moment that mankind fell into sin because of the temptations of Satan.

Right at that moment the Lord proclaimed that while Satan would strike at the heel of the children of men, but the Woman shall crush Satan himself under her feet. That Woman referred to by the Lord was Mary, the one who would indeed come a long time later as the proof and the fulfilment of God’s many promises to His people, that in the end, He is always still with them and never abandoned them to destruction and evil.

He renewed His promises and as we heard in our first reading today He made the same commitment through His prophet Isaiah, speaking to Ahaz, the king of Judah. The king refused to ask for a sign from the Lord which the Lord then rebuked the king for his false humility and faith, as although he said that he did not want to put the Lord to the test, in his actions and rule as king, he did quite a lot in misleading the people down the path of sin and wickedness, and hence, God again reiterated that the Woman would bear a Child.

Through that exchange between Ahaz and God, we heard the clearest yet of the prophecy of what was to happen, as Mary, the Woman mentioned and promised by God, would indeed bear a Child, Who is the Son of God Most High, the Word of God, Only Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh becoming Man, the Son of Man. He is the Emmanuel mentioned by the Lord to king Ahaz, as His coming into the world meant that God Himself has then dwelled in this world, in our midst, among each one of us.

Today therefore on this great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, all of us rejoice in the Lord and His love for us, that He has fulfilled the promises He made to us, and gave us all His Good News, through the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, soon to be Mother of God, of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Through Mary’s obedience to the will of God, her faith in God and her humble acceptance and commitment to her role as the Mother of the Lord and Saviour, we have therefore received the salvation from God in Christ.

Today therefore we ought to reflect on the faith that Mary had in the Lord, her virtues and dedication, as although she was conceived without the taint of original sin by the grace of God, but she was still a woman, and she remained pure and blameless throughout all her life, and hence the Archangel Gabriel hailed Mary as being in the fullness of God’s grace, which made her to be perfect as the one to bear the Lord and Saviour of all, and as the Ark of the New Covenant.

We may be wondering if it is indeed possible for someone to remain pure, blameless and immaculate from sin throughout. Yet, it was how we ourselves have been created by God, pure and incorrupt, and we were tainted only because we allowed sin to enter into our hearts and minds. Our love for God is not great enough for us to resist the temptations to sin and to do what is against the will of God. On the contrary, Mary loved God with all her heart and with all her might, and that love allowed her to remain true to Him, and remain in fullness of grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Have we been living our lives in accordance of God’s will as Mary had done? Or have we instead allowed sin and our desires to control us and the direction of our lives? This is the question that we should really ask ourselves today on this Solemnity of the Annunciation and looking back throughout our Lenten journey, and even further back throughout these past years of our lives. Have we been genuine and good Christians, brothers and sisters?

Let us all seek the Lord with renewed conviction and faith from now on, by looking upon His mother, Mary as our role model and example. Let us all be inspired by the faith of Mary, her piety and dedication, her commitment and humility to accept her role in whatever God had entrusted her with, that she dutifully followed and committed herself, all the way even to the foot of the Cross, when she saw her own Son dying and suffering on the Cross for our salvation, for our benefit.

May Mary, the Mother of God, our loving mother as well, pray for us and continue to aid us in our journey through her guidance and ceaseless intercessions, that we may draw ever closer to her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour that we all may be worthy to receive from Him the gift of eternal life and glory. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, 25 March 2021 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.