Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard similar readings to what we have heard yesterday, as they speak of the persecutions that God’s faithful servants had to endure in the midst of their work and ministry, encountering all the opposition from the world, as the prophet Jeremiah lamented his sufferings at the hands of those who had plotted against him and persecuted him. In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the bitter opposition which the Lord faced from the Pharisees, many of whose members were against Him.

In our first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, we heard how the prophet faced lots of difficulties and persecutions from those who hated and disliked him, especially those who were irritated by the constant words of doom that the prophet Jeremiah delivered from God, as the people of the kingdom of Judah continued to live in sin and refused to change their ways, and hence, Jeremiah delivered warnings from the Lord of the coming of destruction for both Judah and Jerusalem.

But many of the people refused to believe in Jeremiah and hated him for his persistent efforts to warn them. Hence they persecuted Jeremiah and made his life difficult, and if it had not been for the assistance of Jeremiah’s friends, the prophet could very well have lost his life as well. In the Gospel passage we heard of the same plotting and unhappiness that a large portion of the Pharisees and the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council had on the Lord Jesus.

They refused to believe in Him because they refused to accept the fact that Jesus is the Messiah as some among them thought that according to the Law of whom they were experts of, the Messiah should not and could not have come from the region of Galilee where Nazareth is, and just because of that and because they perceived that what the Lord had done were blasphemous in nature and irreconcilable with the way that they enforced their piety and faith, then they could persecute and condemn Him like how they did with those considered as sinners in their midst.

And when one among them, Nicodemus, who was favourable to the message of Jesus, argued that they should not condemn the Lord Jesus before they heard Him properly and got to know the actual facts rather than to base their judgments on their own flawed understanding of the situation and biased informations, he was quickly silenced by the rest, who doubled down on their refusal to believe using the same arguments to back their decision.

What have all these Scripture passages told us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fact that pride leads to stubbornness, and also as long as we keep our pride and ego with us and indulge in keeping them and our desires, we will likely end up acting like how the Pharisees had behaved, in their stubborn refusal to listen to the Lord and believe in His message of truth. And this will likely lead us down the path of sin, and those sins will lead us into damnation unless we repent from them.

This is why during this season of Lent we are encouraged to be more humble and be more willing to open ourselves to accept God’s wisdom and words of truth, to open our ears, our eyes and deepen our senses to feel and know what it is that God wants us to do with our lives. If we have sinned against God, this is the time which we can use to seek forgiveness and healing, as God is always ever forgiving, kind and compassionate. He is always ready to forgive us, as long as we are willing to allow Him to forgive us.

Let us realise the shortness of our mortal lives and existence, and let us realise just how unworthy and corrupted we have been because of our sins. And it is God alone that can deliver us from this trouble and predicament. Let us get rid of the pride and ego within us, and deepen our humility and our submission to the will of God. This Lent, let it be a season and time of renewal of our faith, that we may draw closer to God and be found within His love and comforting grace once again.

May God be with us in our journey of faith especially through this season of Lent, and let us all not forget to pray for one another also in this difficult moments when the world is experiencing so many issues and troubles, from the current coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis among others. May God give us the strength and courage to live our lives daily with faith and trust in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 40-53

At that time, many who had been listening to these words began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Does Scripture not say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David? The crowd was divided over Him. Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

The officers of the Temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this Man.” The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in Him? Only those cursed people, who have no knowledge of the Law!”

Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.” And they all went home.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 7 : 2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12

O Lord, my God, in You I take shelter; deliver me and save me from all my pursuers, lest lions tear me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

O Lord, my righteousness; You see that I am blameless. Bring to an end the power of the wicked, but affirm the just, o righteous God, searcher of mind and heart.

You cover me as a shield. Oh God, for You protect the upright. A righteous judge is God, His anger ever awaiting those who refuse to repent.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 11 : 18-20

YHVH made it known to me and so I know! And You let me see their scheming. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me that they were plotting, “Let us feed him with trials and remove him from the land of the living and let his name never be mentioned again.”

YHVH, God of hosts, You Who judge with justice and know everyone’s heart and intentions, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, as we draw closer to the time of the Holy Week, the readings begin to speak about the coming of the time of the Passion of the Lord, as was evident in the theme of today’s readings on the suffering of God’s servants, as shown in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom highlighting the thoughts of the wicked people who rejected the message of God’s truth and persecuted the prophets and messengers sent to remind them. And then later in the Gospel we heard of the opposition against Jesus and the efforts His enemies made to try to harm Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the plots which the enemies of the faithful had planned against God’s Servant, just as they had done for the many prophets sent to them. In fact, if we carefully go through what has been written in this particular passage in the Book of Wisdom, we will realise that it is a prophecy that refers to the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, Who is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God Whom the Father sent into the world to save it. All the prophecy spoke of the treatment which Jesus would eventually receive at the hands of those who persecuted Him and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified.

Jesus had faced rejection and opposition from those who refuse to believe in Him and in the truth that He has brought into this world. He has been opposed at almost every opportunities, and many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made His ministry difficult, as He was forced even to hide from time to time, and to avoid cities and towns as the authorities were seeking to arrest Him and destroy Him. This is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as the tension between the Lord and His followers with the Jewish authorities rapidly reached a flashpoint.

The Lord made one of the most revealing statement yet in His words at the Temple before everyone who were gathered, not long before the beginning of Our Lord’s Passion. He stood firmly against all those who had doubted Him, rejected Him and persecuted Him, saying how those who refused to believe in Him and His truth were blinded by their pride and arrogance, their unwillingness to listen, and their lack of knowledge and faith about the Lord. As stated in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom, this is the reason for their actions against the Lord Jesus. Their malice and worldly concerns and desires trumped their faith and obedience in God.

Now, we have to take heed of what today’s Psalm told us, that God’s anger and wrath are reserved for those who have acted unjustly and have persecuted His faithful ones, those who acted with malice and evil, those who made others to suffer, which is exactly the retribution that is to come for all those who refused to believe in Christ and in His message. This is a reminder that God will not forget about His faithful ones, and those who have acted with injustice and evil will have to answer for their misdeeds, unless they repent from those sins.

And the root of all these evil and malice is none other than pride, the pride, arrogance, hubris and ambition in our hearts, the ego and the selfishness that we have within us. Those who persecuted the prophets in the ancient days did so because they refused to admit that they had been wrong or wayward in their lives, and they thought that they knew better how they ought to live their lives, treating those whom God had sent into their midst to remind them as nuisance or even as threats to their livelihood and way of life.

Similarly, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council acted with such injustice and wickedness against the Lord Jesus and His followers, simply because they saw Jesus as a great threat to their position and influence within the Jewish communities at that time. They perceived Him as a rival and as One that had to be removed or else they would lose all their privileges and honour, resulting in them plotting and making plans to try to arrest and destroy Jesus.

They refused to admit that there could actually be a greater and more authentic source of truth and wisdom beyond what they have zealously guarded for many years. They refused to admit that their way of observing the Law of God could have been wrong or incomplete, and they took pride in the fact that they were greatly honoured by the people and treasured as people with great intellectual capacity and wisdom. All these led them to harden their hearts and minds against God. God could not make much progress on them, but nonetheless, He still tried.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today that we should avoid pride and ego from dictating how we live our lives, and we are reminded that if we indulge in our ego, and allow hubris, ambition and selfishness to cloud our judgment and affect our actions, then it is likely that we may end up like those who have rejected God and chose to dwell in their own human ambition, trusting in their own power and intellect rather than to trust in God. And that will end up leading us down the path of sin and disobedience, as we may likely act to preserve ourselves more than we obey God’s will.

Let us all strive to sharpen the edge of our humility and deepen our faith and trust in God during this season of Lent, a wonderful time and opportunity that God had given to us to help us rediscover our path in life. Let us all also remove from our hearts and minds, the corruption of pride and hubris, ego and ambition, all that are obstacles in our path in serving the Lord. May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey, that we may be ever more faithful each and every moments of our lives from now on. Amen.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 1-2, 10, 25-30

At that time, Jesus went around Galilee; He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews wanted to kill Him. Now the Jewish feast of the Tents was at hand.

But after His brothers had gone to the festival, He also went up, not publicly but in secret. Some of the people of Jerusalem said, “Is this not the Man they want to kill? And here He is speaking freely, and they do not say a word to Him? Can it be that the rulers know that this is really the Christ? Yet we know where this Man comes from; but when the Christ appears, no one will know where He comes from.”

So Jesus announced in a loud voice in the Temple court where He was teaching, “You say that you know Me and know where I come from! I have not come of Myself; I was sent by the One Who is true, and you do not know Him. I know Him for I come from Him and He sent Me.”

They would have arrested Him, but no one laid hands on Him because His time had not yet come.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23

But the Lord’s face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. Many are the troubles of the just, but the Lord delivers them from all.

He keeps all their bones intact, and none of them will be broken. But the Lord will redeem the life of His servants; none of those who trust in Him will be doomed.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Wisdom 2 : 1a, 12-22

Led by mistaken reasons they think, “Let us set a trap for the Righteous, for He annoys us and opposes our way of life; He reproaches us for our breaches of the Law and accuses us of being false to our upbringing. He claims knowledge of God and calls Himself Son of the Lord. He has become a reproach to our way of thinking; even to meet Him is burdensome to us. He does not live like others and behaves strangely.”

“According to Him we have low standards, so He keeps aloof from us as if we were unclean. He emphasises the happy end of the righteous and boasts of having God as Father. Let us see the truth of what He says and find out what His end will be. If the Righteous is a Son of God, God will defend Him and deliver Him from His adversaries.”

“Let us humble and torture Him to prove His self-control and test His patience. When we have condemned Him to a shameful death, we may test His words.” This is the way they reason, but they are mistaken, blinded by their malice. They do not know the mysteries of God nor do they hope for the reward of a holy life; they do not believe that the blameless will be recompensed.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of just how merciful God has been to us, how patient He had been with our stubbornness and constant disobedience, our sinful ways and our rebelliousness all these while, as He has continually forgiven us when we seek His forgiveness and mercy. God has always loved us so much even when we have disobeyed Him and did so much evil before Him.

But at the same time, we must also not forget that God still despises our sins and wickedness, and His anger remains against all of our sins and disobedience. He loves us all the sinners but despises our sins, as sin is corruption on us, and no corruption and wickedness may remain in His presence. If we remain in our sinful ways and stubbornly hold on to our wickedness, then we will be judged according to those standards, and we will not be spared on the day of judgment.

Moses pleaded with God as described in our first reading today from the Book of Exodus, as at that time the Israelites rebelled against God in a very terrible manner, because they made for themselves a golden idol, shaped like a calf, as a god and idol for them to worship, while God had just earlier on delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. It was just very recently then that God opened the sea before the people of Israel that they might pass safely on the dry seabed, while destroying all the chariots and armies sent after them.

God made a Covenant with His people and renewed the Covenant and promise which He had made much earlier on with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the ancestors of the Israelites. He gave them His laws and commandments, centred on the Ten Commandments that He Himself wrote on two slabs of stone, which He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Mountain of God. On that mountain, Moses spent forty days and forty nights with God, receiving the many commandments God had set before His people to help and guide them in their lives.

But the people, probably being impatient and restless, and weak in their faith, chose to take the drastic action of forcing Aaron, the brother of Moses to make for themselves a golden calf idol as god over them, as they thought that Moses had died on the mountain after spending forty days up there away from the people. They committed all sorts of debauchery and terrible sinful deeds with the golden idol, and God was very angry against them as we can clearly heard in our first reading passage today.

God could have destroyed the people, but He listened to Moses who pleaded on their behalf, for Him to show mercy and to forgive them for their lapses and mistakes. God spared the people but some of those worst offenders and the leaders of the rebellion were indeed not spared by the wrath of God, for it was by their instigation that the whole people of Israel ended up disobeying God and sinned against Him. From then on nonetheless, God continued to love His people and was still patient with them despite their infidelity and wickedness from time to time.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord Jesus in the midst of His rebuke of the people of His time, particularly those who opposed Him stubbornly such as the many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Jesus spoke of St. John the Baptist in that same occasion, pointing out how that messenger of God himself was also rejected and ignored by the people, the same ones who was rejecting and ignoring the message that Christ was bringing to them.

Those people disobeyed the Lord much like their predecessors disobeyed and hardened their hearts by making idol for themselves to be worshipped as their god. While the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law proudly claimed themselves as the sole and crucial guardians of the faith, they ended up idolising their way of observing the laws of Moses to the point that they forgot why they have the Law in the first place and why they need to listen to the Lord and His truth.

The Lord rebuked and reminded the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular that they need to get rid of their pride and the desire to be praised and honoured by others. The Lord said that all these were preventing them from being able to be truly faithful as they were fixated on their pride and ego, their desire to maintain their prestige and honour, which they ended up idolising and caused them to fall into sin. This is why today, all of us are also then reminded through all these past examples that we should be more humble and be careful with the many temptations around us that are keeping us from being faithful to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make good use of the opportunities we have received in this season of Lent, that we approach the throne of God’s mercy and love, with the desire to be forgiven from our many sins and faults. Let us all be humble before God and strive to repent from our mistakes and sins, knowing that God is always ready to forgive us if we ourselves are willing to accept His mercy, and accepting God’s mercy require us to make that profound change in our way of life, devoting ourselves to God with a renewed faith and commitment.

May God be with us in our journey of faith, and may He continue to guide us in the midst of this current challenging moments, as the world is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. May God bless all those who have given their lives and their efforts to care for the sick and the dying. Let us pray for all of them, and let us also put our faith in God, knowing that He will provide for us all, no matter what. Amen.

Thursday, 26 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (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?”