Saturday, 17 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, again on this day we heard the opposition that arose against the faithful servants of God from the Scriptures, as committed by all those who refused to listen to the words that those servants had brought unto their attention. Instead of listening to the truth and to the call towards repentance, they plotted against God’s servants to destroy them.

That is the essence of what we have just heard from the Scripture passages today as we come closer to the end of the season of Lent and the beginning of the Passion of Christ at the Holy Week in a week’s time. And the reason of such stubborn refusal to believe and to embrace the truth is because of our own inability to restrain ourselves and our desires.

The Lord Jesus spoke plainly and with authority, as the prophets of the earlier days had done so as well. But yet the people of God refused to listen to them, and they refused to listen to the Lord Jesus, because they would not allow the word of God to enter into their hearts and minds, that they may believe in Him. Instead, the words just entered through their ears and nothing more happened after that.

That is why we have to distinguish between hearing and listening in this case. We may wonder what is the difference between these two actions, but in reality, they make quite a difference. One can hear without listening, but the one who listens, also hears. Hearing refers to the process of sound entering into our ears, being captured by our ears’ sensing ability, and then we can hear the sound.

But hearing something does not necessarily mean that we appreciate or understand what we have heard. In our world today there are many noises around us, surrounding us all day long. When things become too noisy and the sounds become too loud, we shut ourselves from those noises, and we consciously try to not listen to those noises.

Similarly, if our hearts and minds are closed to God’s words and truth, then we will end up like the Pharisees and all those who were opposed to the good works of the prophets and Our Lord Himself, those who heard the word of God but failed to listen to Him speaking to them through those words. Have we been like this, brothers and sisters in Christ?

It is not easy for us to truly listen to God, as there are, as mentioned a lot of noise being ever present around us, all the time. And these are also the ways how the devil is trying actively to prevent us from listening to God speaking to us in the depths of our hearts and minds. Otherwise, had we all listened to Him and repented, hell would have been empty!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in order to be able to listen to God, we have to learn to temper ourselves, our desires and resist the many temptations present in our lives. And sometimes, it is important for us to know that being a disciple and follower of the Lord is not something that is so difficult and complicated after all. St. Patrick, the famous saint and bishop whose feast we celebrate today, preached about God and His nature of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit using a three-leaf clover to make the people understand the complex mystery with a simple symbol and approximation.

St. Patrick himself did not have it easy during his ministry to the pagan peoples of Ireland and in all of his missionary works. He often faced rejection and ridicule, much as the Lord Jesus Himself had faced from the Pharisees and from His enemies. Yet, St. Patrick patiently persevered on in his efforts, and many more people believed in God and were saved because of him.

Let us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, renew our efforts to live our lives faithfully, imitating the examples of Our Lord Himself, and all of His holy saints, particularly that of St. Patrick. May we all be able to loosen the stuck doors of our hearts and minds, too long encrusted with pride, greed, desire, ambition, prejudice, hatred, and all other obstacles that had prevented us from being able to listen to God and understand what it is that He wants from each one of us.

May all of us learn to be better and more dedicated servants of Our Lord, by lessening the importance of our selves, and by growing greater in our humility before God, embracing His forgiveness and mercy for our sins, and love Him with all of our efforts. May we listen to His words and be thoroughly converted in heart, mind, body and soul to become His beloved and worthy children. May God bless us all, and may St. Patrick intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, 17 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (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, 17 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (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, 17 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (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, 16 March 2018 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the coming of the Holy Week, we see more and more signs in the Scripture readings chosen for these days, on the opposition and challenges facing the Lord Jesus, as He was about to embark on the final stage of His earthly ministry, as prophesied by the prophets and written throughout the Old Testament.

In the first reading today, the passage taken from the Book of Wisdom placed exactly the sentiments and thoughts of those who were opposed to Jesus and attempted to bring about His downfall and end. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, the elders and the chief priests thought exactly in the manner foreshown by the Book of Wisdom, in their reasoning why they wanted to bring down the Lord.

They were jealous of the Lord and His immense popularity among the people, which He seemed to be able to do because of His very popular and authoritative sermons, and His numerous miracles and healings, which the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and all others opposed to Jesus had not been able to perform. As such they were afraid that all the privileges and power they have enjoyed then would be taken from them should the Lord triumphed in His efforts.

That was why they hardened their hearts and minds, and refused to listen to Him, even if He had brought unto them the words of truth, and even if they have witnessed and should have understood that whatever the Lord Jesus had done, could only be possible if He was indeed the Messiah, the One promised by God to be the salvation for all of the people. And there He was, God Himself made Man, choosing to dwell in the midst of His people and calling them to His saving grace.

The opponents of the Lord doubted Him because they were unable to resist the temptations of this world, the temptation of power, of influence, of prestige, of wealth, of worldly possessions and concerns, and all other things that made them to refuse to believe in God, even though what He was telling them was the truth. They surrounded themselves with self-made lies and illusions, and in the end believing in them, which were ideas planted in their minds by Satan.

Yes, whenever there are those whose works are against the good works of God, ultimately all of them came from Satan and all of his efforts and hard works against us and against God. He is always ever active in his works, trying at every moment to subvert us, to strike at us, and to turn us away from God’s salvation and grace. He does not want us to be redeemed and to be forgiven from our sins.

That is why he is always against God and His good works, and as such, that is why difficulties and challenges were often aplenty for all those who walked in God’s ways and served Him faithfully. For ages, as mentioned in the Scriptures, we witnessed how the many prophets and servants of God had to struggle against the devil and his agents which are ever present around us.

The devil exercised his works around the Lord and His disciples, and he stirred the hearts and minds of those who have been tempted by power and worldly glory, to oppose God and His works as He made it in the person of Jesus Christ. That is why He tempted Jesus to stop doing His good works, by tempting Him in the desert, and when it failed, opposing Him at every opportunity through his various works, and in the end, caused Him to be condemned to death on the cross.

Yet, Satan did not foresee that his moment of supposedly greatest triumph, at being able to condemn the Son of God and the Messiah Himself to a humiliating death, was in fact the moment of his greatest and ultimate defeat. By the power of the cross and His death on it, God has saved us all, those who were destined to perish because of our sins, as His salvation has been given to us by the outpouring of His Blood in an act of perfect love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we realise just how much God loved us all that He was willing to go through all of that in order that we may be saved? It is important that we spend this time of Lent meaningfully so that we may reflect on the loving passion of Our Lord, Who died for us on the cross. Let us all renew our faith and commitment in Him, resolve to sin no more and devote our whole lives to Him. Do not harden our hearts and minds like that of the Pharisees and the chief priests.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him and receive from Him the reward of eternal life. Let us allow God to enter into our lives and transform us from creatures of darkness that we were, into creatures of light, worthy to be called His children. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 16 March 2018 : 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, 16 March 2018 : 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.