Saturday, 2 April 2022 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we draw ever closer to the end of the season of Lent and the beginning of the Holy Week which is really just over a week away, we are reminded of the things that the Lord and His faithful ones had gone through in their efforts to bring each and every one of us to the Lord and to help reconcile us with Himself. He has gone through so much opposition and hardships in His efforts to call us back to Himself and to help us to find our way to Him once again. He sent His prophets into our midst to help and assist us, only to have them being rejected and persecuted by those people.

In our first reading today we heard the passage from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah about the persecutions that Jeremiah had faced from the opposition and the enemies he had among the people of Judah. He was sent to the kingdom of Judah with the warnings and reminders of God’s judgment for the people, all that they had committed, the sins and wickedness they had committed, which would lead them to ruin and destruction. The Lord wanted to remind them all that they could still turn back and return to Him.

Unfortunately, the people remained stubborn and refused to believe in the Lord or in His prophet Jeremiah. They persecuted Jeremiah, plotted against Him, accusing him of being a traitor and sought to kill him, and they nearly managed to do so, if not for the help of one of Jeremiah’s few remaining friends who managed to keep him safe, although he had to remain hidden and suffer nonetheless for his dedication and hard works for the greater glory of God. He truly suffered a lot in walking down the path of faith, but he remained fully trusting in the Lord’s providence.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the argument and debate among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council. That council was composed of the most influential and powerful members of the Jewish community, including the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the chief priests and the elders of the community and many other influential members, who were mostly opposed to the Lord Jesus and plotted against Him. They wanted to find ways to arrest Him and even to condemn Him to death.

There were a few of them who were sympathetic to the Lord, His cause and His teachings, namely Nicodemus as well as Joseph of Arimathea among some others. Nicodemus stood up for the Lord and tried to defend Him, by stating to the assembly that the Lord should have been allowed to state His reasons and present His arguments before they just summarily tried to accuse Him without even listening to the other side first. But Nicodemus was easily overcome by the rest who really were not interested to listen to reason.

They were all carried by their desire to persecute the Lord, out of the fear for their loss of influence and power in the community. They saw the Lord as a great threat to their power, and they refused to let all their privileges and power to go away. They tried to do whatever they could to stop the Lord and to destroy Him, and despite everything they had seen and heard in the Lord’s works, the many miracles He had performed, and all the wisdom and truth He has spoken before them, they closed their hearts and minds to Him, hardening their hearts and being unreasonable, finding excuses to try to persecute Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we are all reminded how pride and ego, worldly desires and temptations can mislead us down the same path as those people who had persecuted the prophets and the Lord Himself. We must never allow all those things again to distract us and to pull us away from the path towards the salvation and eternal life in God. And we have to be vigilant as we must always remind ourselves that the other destination is eternal damnation, an eternity of suffering away from God.

That is why, during this season of Lent, all of us are called to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord back inside, and to come back to the Lord with contrite hearts, seeking His forgiveness for all the faults and wicked things we have done. Let us all then return to the Lord with renewed faith and love, with the sincere desire to be forgiven and to be reconciled with Him. And may God continue to love us all, and continue to show us patience, for us sinners whenever we stumble and falter again in our journey of faith. May God bless us all in our every actions and deeds, and may all of us draw ever closer to Him and to His salvation. Amen.

Saturday, 2 April 2022 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit (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, 2 April 2022 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit (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, 2 April 2022 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit (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, 1 April 2022 : 4th 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 Lord in the Scriptures, we heard of the opposition that the servants and messengers of the Lord, including that of His own Son encountered in this world as the forces of those who opposed them rose up against them. There were many who stubbornly refused to follow the Lord and kept in their wicked ways, and all these led to the persecution of the servants of God, culminating in the condemnation of the Messiah and Son of God Himself, by the same people to whom He had been sent to.

In our first reading today, we heard the passage from the Book of Wisdom regarding the plots that the wicked assembled and planned against the faithful servant of God. It was essentially a highlight summarising what God’s servants and prophets had to endure during the time of their ministry among the people of God. They were often hated, rejected and ridiculed against, oppressed and persecuted. They were cast out and treated as how foreigners were treated, and even worse than that. No one would hear them even though they spoke God’s words and truth.

Those people had closed themselves against God’s words and truth, and then, as the Book of Wisdom itself also spoke of what would happen in time to come, it was also a prophecy of the Messiah and how the people would treat Him just as they had treated the prophets and messengers of God. That was what we heard in our Gospel passage today, regarding the Lord Jesus and what He experienced as He ministered among the people of God. The chief priests, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as members of the Sadducees, all plotted against Him and sought His downfall.

Nonetheless, that did not make the Lord to cease His actions and work, as He still even went to the festival in Jerusalem, and spoke loudly in the Temple proclaiming the truth about Himself. The people doubted Him because they all assumed to know where He had come from, a backwater village in Galilee where no prophet or great man was prophesied to come, and therefore thought that He was a fraud and even a blasphemer, or that He was colluding with demons and evil spirits. All of those false accusations were untrue and were maliciously made against the Lord to discredit Him and to undermine His works.

The reason for those lies and falsehoods? It was likely the jealousy and insecurity experienced by those same people, the chief priests and the Pharisees who feared that their position and influence, their privileges and power in the community would be destroyed and lost to them. They feared that the Lord would snatch the people away from them, seeing how popular He had become, and this intense preoccupation with their worldly desires and concerns likely prevented them from allowing God to make genuine communication with them, as they closed their hearts and minds against Him.

That would explain well why those same people, the ones who should have recognised the Lord first when He came upon their midst, the same ones who should have the best knowledge of the Law and the commandments of God, the words of the prophets and the prophecies they spoke, why they refused to believe even though all the signs and things have pointed clearly to the Lord Jesus being the One Whom the prophets were speaking about. They refused to accept the truth as they gave in to the temptations of their worldly desires, the desire for power, satisfaction and glory among other things.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all ponder these events and consider carefully our own choices and paths in life. Are we going to be like the Pharisees, the elders and all the people who had persecuted the prophets and messengers of God? Are we going to follow them into their rebellion against the Lord? This is why it is important that we must resist the temptations of worldly things which often lead us down the path of ruin because of our disobedience against God, which often times we may even commit without having realised it at all, just as what the Pharisees had done.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to seek the Lord with contrite and open hearts, with minds that are welcoming towards the Lord, and the willingness to listen to Him speaking to us and calling on us to return to Him. In this time of reconciliation and call to repentance, we are all reminded that we are sinners in need of healing and reconciliation with God. Are we willing then to make the effort and to do what is needed for us to draw ever closer to God and to receive the fullness of His mercy and compassionate love? The decision and choice is ours to make, brothers and sisters in Christ.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower each and every one of us to live ever more worthily in His presence, listening to Him and obeying His will in each and every available opportunities. May all of us be good examples and role models for one another from now on, in how we live our lives as dedicated Christians, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 1 April 2022 : 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, 1 April 2022 : 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, 1 April 2022 : 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, 31 March 2022 : 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, we are all called to listen to the Lord and to follow Him, cease our rebellion and disobedience against Him. He has given us many opportunities to return to Him and to be reconciled to Him, but it is our stubborn attitude and persistence in our way of sin which often led us back to the path towards downfall and destruction. We have not heeded the Lord’s call and desire to be reunited with us, as we allow sin to rule over us and to keep us separated from Him.

In our first reading today, we heard the Lord speaking to Moses in the Book of Exodus, at the time after He has revealed His Law and the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai. At that time, Moses spent forty days with the Lord atop the mountain, listening to Him and receiving from Him the extensive set of laws and guidance meant to be passed to the people of Israel, as a guide and help for all of them to remain true to the path of righteousness. But the people thinking that Moses had perished on the mountain quickly lost their trust and faith in the Lord, and forced Aaron to craft for them a great golden calf idol to worship as god over them.

This happened even though the Israelites had witnessed themselves the great wonders and power of God in freeing them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as God sent the Ten Great Plagues to crush the Egyptians and force them to let the Israelites go free. And all these happened despite the people of God having themselves witnessed how God opened the Red Sea before them, allowing them to cross free and safely through the seabed, and then destroying the chariots and armies of the Pharaoh of Egypt that were chasing after them.

The people of God still disobeyed Him and refused to have faith in Him even though they had seen all the wonders and good things that God had done for their sake, all of which showed and proved to them how beloved and dear they were to God. Yet, they established a golden calf idol over them, offered it sacrifices and committed other grievous sins against the Lord, when God had been so patient in loving them and caring for them. But Moses stepped in and pleaded with the Lord when He wanted to destroy all the people save for Moses as was just and right for Him to do, and Moses asked the Lord to withhold His anger and judgment, reasoning with Him and reminding Him of the constant love that He has shown to the people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the same attitude being shown by the people of the time of the Lord Jesus, as they showed lack of faith, refusing to believe in the Lord and even in the messenger and herald that He had sent before Him, namely that of St. John the Baptist. St. John the Baptist had called the people of God to repent from their sins and to return to the Lord with faith, and baptised many people who had come to him seeking to walk the path of conversion and redemption, opening their hearts to the Lord and His truth and love.

Yet, the Pharisees and the chief priests in particular were skeptical of St. John the Baptist, doubted his authenticity and authority, and even openly questioned him on the legality and validity of his actions, doubting that he was sent by the Lord, an action which led to St. John the Baptist to rebuke those self-serving and self-righteous leaders as brood of vipers, those who sought their own glory and personal benefits over others’ sufferings and for their efforts that went against God’s good works. The same thing happened to the Lord Himself as well, and this was what the Lord referred to as He spoke to the people in our passage today.

The Lord rebuked the people for their continued lack of faith and trust in Him, despite everything that He had done and shown to them, despite all the miracles and signs that He had made before all of them. They still would not believe and even demanded for more signs and wonders. Their hearts and minds were closed against God in their pride, in thinking that they knew the Law and commandments of God better than any others, and that was why, no matter how much wonders and miracles they had witnessed, they failed to believe much as their ancestors had betrayed and abandoned the Lord, their Saviour and Liberator, for a golden calf idol made by human hands.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we reflect on these passages from the Scriptures, let us all look back in our lives and remind ourselves whether we have been faithful to the Lord wholeheartedly as we should have, or whether we have behaved much like the people of Israel in the past, in their lack of faith and trust in the Lord, preferring to trust in idols and other worldly means, in their own strength and power rather than to trust in the Lord and journey together with Him. We are called to reflect if our way of life have been in accordance to the path that God has shown us, or whether we have walked down the wrong path all these while.

Sin is very dangerous and we should not take it lightly, for the temptations to sin and the allures of worldly desires can tempt even the most resistant to falter and fall away from God and His way. We must not let our weakness and vulnerabilities to sin to affect us, and we have to do our best to resist those temptations, or else we may end up like the Israelites, who succumbed to their fears and to their desires for worldly pleasures, and like the Pharisees and the chief priests, who fell into sin because of the temptations of worldly power and glory, and pride and ego.

Let us all make good use of the remaining time of Lent to prepare ourselves, not just physically but also spiritually and mentally, so that we may be more attuned to the Lord, be more ready and prepared to live in accordance with God’s path. Let us seek the Lord with ever greater faith and commitment, and let us do our very best to glorify Him by our lives and actions, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 31 March 2022 : 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?”