Saturday, 11 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day each and every one of us are reminded that as Christians, we have the obligation to love one another, and foremost of all, to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our strengths and might. This is what God had commanded us to do, and which we must do wholeheartedly and sincerely in our daily lives.

It is the heart and the true purpose of the Law of God. God has loved us so much that He wants us all to be like Himself, to be like Him Who is love. And His love is perfect and impartial, and He gives His love freely to all. And therefore, because God is love, so therefore His Law is also the Law of love. He has given His laws to His people so that through these laws, they may learn about love, and also how to love sincerely with their hearts.

But as the time went on, many misunderstood and misinterpreted God’s laws. They used them for their own purposes, to advance their own causes and to gain advantages for themselves. This is what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. Instead of bringing love to the people of God, the laws of the Lord became a source of burden and difficulty for the people, for they had been applied without proper understanding of its true meaning and intent.

And many took the laws and commandments of God at its face value, not realising and appreciating what these laws are truly about. The first and most important of all the commandments that God had given us His people is truly very basic and very simple, that all of us have to love God with all of our might, with all of our strength and conviction, and with our entire and whole beings. It is to follow in what God had first done unto us, giving us His unconditional love by creating us out of love for us, and by granting us His grace of life and His love.

Many of us in the world today love in the way that is not in accordance with what the Lord had taught us to do. We love because we often seek returns from the love which we have given. We love others because we know that those people will love us back and give us back in return what we have given them first, and sometimes we even demand that more should be returned to us than what we give.

That is what happened to our society and communities today, even in the love present between our families and our couples in marriages. We love because it is a conditional and transactional love, desiring for reward and returns on what we have done. This is why we have also become overly engrossed with appearances, with external beauty, desiring pleasures of the flesh, improper sexual conducts, and all the things which led to the perversion of love.

Do we all realise that when we do all these, what we have in us is not love? It is in fact desire and human greed that we have in us, loving only ourselves and caring only for our own needs. It is this selfish love and caring for oneself that had led to the breakdown of many relationships and families, and at the same time, distancing ourselves from the Lord our God.

In the Gospel passage today, all of us as Christians are challenged to overcome this status quo. We are all challenged to break free from this habit of selfishness and greed. We are all called to follow none other than the Lord our God Himself in His examples, in how He has loved us all unconditionally. And what better example there is than the loving sacrifice of Christ?

In this time and season of Lent, we are all called to reflect on the examples of Christ, Who has loved all of His beloved people, and most importantly, as He Himself said in the Gospel today, that true love, and indeed Christian love, is to love all others unconditionally and without desire for returns or rewards. And this includes loving even all those who do not love us, all those who have hurt us and hated us.

And above all else, Christ has Himself done what He had preached, loving all His enemies, forgiving them even from the cross, as He was hung on it dying from His suffering. He forgave all of them from their sins and all that they had inflicted on Him. Are we able to love in the same manner as Christ our Lord had loved? This is a challenge that all of us as Christians should take up on during this time of Lent.

Let us all reflect on this, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us think in what way we are able to obey the Lord more faithfully by following the examples of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who had shown us all how to love and how to obey the Lord and His will. He Himself had obeyed His Father to the very end, and therefore, all of us who believe in Him ought to do the same as well.

May this season of Lent be truly a time of conversion for us, that all of us who have once been unloving, wicked and selfish may be turned into loving, forgiving and compassionate children of God our Father, following His examples in being selfless and true in our love for each other, just as how we love Him with all of our hearts, minds and strengths. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 11 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 11 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

Saturday, 11 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

Friday, 10 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by the passages from the Sacred Scriptures that while righteous and good deeds bring about justification and salvation in God, wickedness and evil deeds, sins in whatever forms they are, bring about destruction and condemnation for even the smallest of sins has no place in the presence of our God.

This is particularly fitting considering that this season of Lent that we are going through now is a season of repentance, of forgiveness for our sins, and of a renewal of hearts and minds. It is a time for us to reevaluate our lives, our actions, words and deeds. It is a time for us to ask ourselves, have we been justified in our actions, and have we been worthy through all of our deeds? Or have we instead done what is abhorrent and wicked in the presence of God?

All of these are reminders for us, as we live through our lives, lest that we forget and fall astray into sin and darkness. It is very easy for us to fall into temptations to sin, and as a result, fall into sin and become corrupted in heart, mind and soul. In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we are reminded that even the righteous ones can fall into sin, and by the corruption of their sins, they will be judged.

This is an important reminder that we all need to be constantly be vigilant against the lures of sin, and we cannot be complacent in our faith and in our lives. It does not mean that if we have become Christians, then we are safe and certain in our struggle against sin. Sin can come back and afflict us at any time whenever we are unprepared and lacking in vigilance.

That is precisely why we practice fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent. Through fasting and abstinence, we restrain ourselves, our desires and the desires of our flesh, the vulnerabilities of our hearts and minds, so that we may resist the temptation to sin and to do whatever is not right in the sight of God and men alike. We do not fast and abstain to be seen and to be praised by others around us. On the other hand, we fast and abstain because we want to free ourselves from the lures of the sins that are surrounding us.

Discipline is very important in our lives and in our faith. We must have that rigour and commitment in doing what is right and just in the sight of God. It is normal for us to endure temptations and the pull to do what are contrary to the ways of the Lord, but if we try our best and resist, we will certainly be able to remain truly good and righteous despite all the forces of those who are arrayed against us.

On the other hand, we are also reminded that God is ever full of mercy, compassion, love and forgiveness. He will not abandon His beloved people to the darkness, and He will not let sinners to perish without ever having the hope of reconciliation and reunion with Him. That is why in the same passage from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, God also gives hope to all those who have sinned, which is truly all of us mankind, that if only we turn away from our sins, we will be saved.

In this season of Lent, all of us sinners are called to repentance and redemption in God. All of us are called to turn our back to sin, to all the things which we have committed, all the wicked actions and deeds we have done. We are all called to do penance before God and men alike, doing deeds and actions that are good, as a penance for all of our sins, and as a sign that we have truly regretted our sins and genuinely desiring forgiveness from God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all during this time and opportunity given to us by God, turn towards Him and commit ourselves anew to Him. Let us no longer sin and resist the temptation to sin. Let us throw away our pride, our arrogance, our selfishness and all the things that have separated us from God. Let us help one another to persevere in our journey, so that all of us will remain to be true to our faith in God, and we remain worthy of Him to the end of it all, when God will glorify all those who have kept their faith in Him.

May God bless us all and be with us in our daily lives, and may all of us through this holy and penitential season of Lent find a renewal in our faith. Let us draw closer to God, and let us always walk in His ways, holy and blessed, all the days of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 10 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Friday, 10 March 2017 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 4c-6, 7-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness.

For that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.