Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Universal Church celebrates the occasion of the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, marking the moment when the Archangel Gabriel came to Nazareth, to the then periphery of the Jewish world and community, to a young woman named Mary, whom God had chosen to be the one to bear the Saviour of the whole world, His promised Messiah or Christ, the One Whom we would come to know as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord, Saviour and Master. On this day of the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary to proclaim the long-awaited Good News of salvation which the Lord had promised His people, all of us, from the very beginning of time. It was truly the end of the long wait for the coming of the fulfilment of God’s many wonderful promises and assurances that He has made through His many prophets and messengers.

This Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord must be understood as the moment when the Lord became Incarnate in this world, just as the Archangel Gabriel himself mentioned that the Lord would send the Holy Spirit to overshadow Mary, and through that, the Son of God would be conceived in her womb, taking up the nature, appearance and existence of our humanity, becoming the Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate. That is why this Solemnity of the Annunciation is celebrated this day, exactly nine months to the date of Christmas, signifying the nine months of the period of pregnancy that happened to Mary, as she bore the Son of God within her, as the bearer of the Messiah and the Mother of God. It is on this day that the hope and light of this world came into the world, Incarnate in the flesh, amidst still veiled within the holy womb of Mary, His mother.

It was also then Mary’s ‘yes’ to the Lord as she uttered it to the Archangel Gabriel that made it all possible and tangible, as God gave her the freedom to choose whether to obey His will and His calling or not. Mary, being full of grace and full of faith in the Lord, responded with great love, humility and grace, in accepting the very important role that she was to play in the history of the salvation of the whole world. As we heard from the exchanges between her and the Archangel, we can tell that Mary was indeed uncertain and unsure about the path that she was to embark on, but unlike those others who refused to obey the Lord or those who fled in fear away from Him and His calling, Mary chose to obey perfectly, and committed herself to the calling that she has been entrusted with, the calling to be the Mother of God’s own Son, with the simple and humble words, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me as you have said’.

Let us all contrast what Mary had said and how she responded to what we heard in our first reading today, in how King Ahaz of Judah responded to the prophet Isaiah who just like the Archangel Gabriel, came to him bearing the Good News of God. King Ahaz rejected the offer that the prophet Isaiah made to him, as the latter told him to ask of the Lord of a sign and favour, and the King of Judah told him that he would not put God to the test. Now, outwardly this might seem as if King Ahaz was being humble before God, but what he exhibited was actually false humility and more of lack of faith and hypocrisy if anything. Why is that so? That is because this King of Judah was just like many of his predecessors who had disobeyed the Lord and His Law and commandments. He was being insincere and rather hypocritical when he told Isaiah that he would not put God to the test.

That is because his actions, as well as his continued sinful acts and constant lack of faith in God, all of those had put God to the test many times, scandalised His Holy Name and spurned His kindness and love. Thus he was truly insincere and being a hypocrite when he told Isaiah that he would not put God to the test. His wickedness and lack of faith and trust in God had brought many of the people of God into sin, and he would not humble himself before God, unwilling to believe in the words of the Lord which had been delivered to him through Isaiah and God’s many other messengers. And that was King Ahaz’s sin and failure, which can be contrasted with the way that Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour, had responded to God full of faith and trust in Him. Mary entrusted herself in the Lord and committed herself to the calling which He has given to her, even when she was still unsure of what to make of the surprising news from the Archangel Gabriel.

This is what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the second reading today also highlighted, that what the Lord truly wants from each one of us is obedience and faith, and not merely just outward expression of faith. He does not want merely just lip service and faith that is superficial, as He wants from us true obedience and commitment, faith and dedication, like just what Mary has shown us, and which the Lord Jesus Himself, in His perfect love and obedience to His Father’s will has shown us. God values our love and obedience much more than our sacrifices and offerings, just as it is possible for one to offer rich sacrifices and offerings to God and yet had little or no love for Him. In fact, that was what many of the people in the past had done, from the time of King Ahaz and before him, and up to the time of the Lord Jesus, with many among the people just doing what they thought were obeying the Law and commandments of God, and yet, without genuine faith in God or love for Him.

Instead, they loved themselves more than they loved the Lord or each other. They placed themselves more importantly than anything else, and allowed themselves to be swayed by the many temptations of worldly comfort, pleasures and ambitions, allowing their greed and desire to distract them from the path towards the Lord and righteousness. They let themselves to be swayed and misled by their own worldly ambitions and pride, and hence, faltered in their path and journey in life. The Lord has called on them to follow Him, and yet, they closed their hearts and minds from Him, and were too busy with their many pursuits and ambitions in life that they forgot about Him and His ways. That is also why at this juncture in the season of Lent, each and every one of us are reminded not to be like those people, but be inspired by the examples and the faith showed by especially our Mother Mary, the faithful one who had dedicated herself wholly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as today we commemorate this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, let us all remind ourselves of the love of God and His faithfulness, His commitment to the Covenant which He had made with us all. He has come down into this world, willingly becoming Incarnate in the flesh through His Son, Jesus Christ, so that by His coming into our midst, He may be present amongst us and touch us all, and reach out even to the least and the most wicked among us. Why He had done all these? That is because His love for us is truly very pure and great, and His desire to be reconciled with all of us, His beloved ones, is always great. He has no desire to see us destroyed and crushed by our sins, and He wants us to be freed from the bondage and domination by all those evils and sins we have committed. Hence, He gave us all the most perfect gift in His Son.

Today, let us all reflect carefully on our lives and ask ourselves whether we have listened to the Lord and His words, and whether we have paid attention to His truth and His ways. If we have been stubborn and difficult in constantly refusing to listen to Him and in being disobedient, as many of our predecessors had done, then it is perhaps time for us to reorientate our lives and see the examples that Mary has shown us, in surrendering herself completely to the Lord, entrusting her life and path to the Lord, Who has called her to follow Him and to do His will. Let us all be inspired to follow the Lord in the same way, committing ourselves, our time and effort to walk in His path. Let us all be the good role models and examples ourselves for our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. This is our calling as Christians, what we are expected and called to do.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in our faith and life, and may His blessed Mother Mary, our role model and our loving mother, continue to inspire us and intercede for us on our behalf, so that the Lord may be moved to help and guide us in our various challenges and the many trials that we may have to face and overcome amidst this journey of life we have in this world. May she continue to watch over us as she has always done, and help us to come ever closer to her Son. May God be with us always and may He bless our every efforts and good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : 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.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness; I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Friday, 24 March 2023 : 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 Scriptures, we are all reminded of the challenges and hardships often faced by those who are faithful to the Lord and obey His commandments. Those who remain firm in their faith in God often faced obstacles and pressures, rejection and even condemnation by the world because the path of the world often does not correlate or match with that of the Lord’s path. But we are then reminded that we have to remain strong and firm in our faith so that we will not falter in our journey back towards the Lord, and in seeking His mercy and forgiveness. Through God alone we can gain justification and grace, and by His forgiveness and mercy that we can be reconciled with Him, finding our path to the eternal life and true joy that we can only find in God alone.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the hardships, plotting and difficulties faced by the prophets and messengers of God as highlighted in the Book of Wisdom. That account from the Book of Wisdom showed the challenges and trials that God’s servants faced when they went up against a people that were stubborn and wicked in their ways, and we heard the author of the Book of Wisdom writing from the perspective of those wicked and stubborn people, who opposed the Lord and His servants. This then, can also be interpreted as the prophecy and the prediction of what would happen to the Lord’s Saviour, the Messiah, as the phrases from this passage from the Book of Wisdom shows us clear indication of an understanding and revelation of the coming of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The inner thoughts and conversations mentioned in the Book of Wisdom clearly highlighted what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have in their hearts and minds as they went up against the Lord Jesus and His disciples, although the book was likely written and compiled a century or more before the coming of the Lord. The writers of the Book of Wisdom must have been inspired by God and His Holy Spirit to write a revelation of the truth and the events that would come, not only to prepare the people of God of what they would witness and experience, but also highlighting the folly of the people of God who resisted the Lord’s effort in loving them and caring for them, even when He has sent His own beloved Son into their midst to be their Saviour. Their hardness of heart and attachments to worldly matters and desires became great obstacles in the path of them coming towards God’s grace and forgiveness.

That is the same sentiment shown in the Gospel passage today, as the Jewish people, used then to denote those who supported the extreme and very rigid ideas and ways of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, questioned and opposed the Lord, Who was at that time already in Jerusalem and was proclaiming His teachings and truth to the people. There were those who wanted to arrest and kill Him, namely the more hardliners among the Pharisees themselves, and there were those who were genuinely intrigue and were actually interested in whatever the Lord was teaching and delivering to them. Hence there was quite a confusion at that time, with some siding with the Lord and there were quite a few of those who stubbornly continued to resist and reject the Lord despite having heard all of His words of wisdom and having witnessed His many miracles.

Why were they all so stubborn, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of human pride and ego, jealousy and other forms of negativities inside them which blocked their hearts and minds from receiving God’s words, Wisdom and truth. Like those who have persecuted the prophets and rejected their truth and message before, the people living in the Lord’s time also had the same issue, as especially those in positions of influence and power had accumulated a lot of worldly glory, fame and power, and hence, to them, the Lord and the changes and truth He was bringing to the people of God were seen as a great threat and challenge to their own power structure and influences, and hence, this led to jealousy as the Lord drew a lot of people to Him, particularly those who were marginalised and have been ostracised and rejected by many among the people of God because they were seen as sinners and unworthy of God.

As the Lord Himself often mentioned, it was those who were despised and rejected by others who were actually fastest in the path towards redemption, as they were misunderstood and they also had the same capacity and desire for redemption and forgiveness. This was also particularly because they understood and were aware of their many sins and failures, their faults and wickedness. Thus, that was why many of the tax collectors, prostitutes, those who had diseases and those who were afflicted by evil spirits, all came in droves to the Lord, seeking for His forgiveness, healing, mercy and compassion. They were healed in body and spirit, and God helped them on their way and path towards the true joy and eternal life which He offered us all and revealed to us, through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the same One Who was persecuted by the Jewish authorities and people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all these are reminders for us that especially during this season and time of Lent, all of us should spend some time to reflect on our own state of life at the moment. If we have not been obedient to God and His Law and commandments, and if we have allowed sin to reign over our lives and dominate our existence, then it is really up to us to make the effort to resist the temptations to sin, as well as rectifying our faults and mistakes, and by the grace and guidance of God, to come to the Lord to be healed and forgiven from those sins and evils. All of us are reminded that we should no longer our pride and ego to be serious obstacles and barriers in the path of our redemption and reconciliation with God. That is why, all of us really should contemplate to live our lives from now on in the manner worthy and acceptable to the Lord our God.

May the Lord therefore continue to strengthen us and give us the courage to persevere and remain firm in faith despite the many challenges, temptations and pressures we may face in life, in the efforts that the devil and all those forces seeking our destruction, had put into place in order to lead us astray and to tempt us away from the path towards salvation and eternal life. May God be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to be courageous followers and disciples of His, and May He give us the courage and strength, the inspiration and the power to become true beacons of His light and truth in our respective communities and groups, that we may become good role models and sources of inspiration for others to follow as well. May God bless our every works and good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 24 March 2023 : 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, 24 March 2023 : 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, 24 March 2023 : 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, 23 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to remember our many sins, faults, mistakes, and all those failures we have in living our lives in the way that the Lord has told and commanded us to do. This is especially appropriate during this season and time of Lent, during which time each one of us are called to turn away from those sins and wickedness, and return to the Lord once again with love and devotion towards Him. We should remember the failures and mistakes that our predecessors had made, and which we ourselves have committed so that we may rectify them and change our ways before it is too late for us. God has always been rich in His love and mercy towards us, but it is truly up to us whether we want to embrace His love, kindness and compassion.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus in which the story of what happened during the time when the Israelites were gathering at Mount Sinai was told to us. Back then, the Israelites were just led out from the land of Egypt in a great Exodus led by God, through His servant Moses, and guided to the Mountain of God in Sinai. It was there that God made and renewed the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and established a new promise and reassurance of His love, and then gave them all His Law and commandments through Moses, whom He called up the mountain, to receive the Ten Commandments and the whole precepts and the teachings fo the Law. Moses spent a whole period of forty days atop the mountain, and in that meantime, the Israelites down below rebelled against God.

Despite having seen the greatness and the love of God in person, with all the great miracles and powers that the Lord had displayed, in the ten great plagues that struck Egypt and forced the Egyptians and their Pharaoh to let them go free, and despite having been freed from the force of the Egyptian armies and chariots that chased them right to the Red Sea, the people of Israel still doubted the Lord their God and did not have faith in Him. The Lord has shown and proven His might and faithfulness to them, never abandoning them in their hour and time of need, and provided for them during the whole duration of their journey in the desert towards the Promised Land of Canaan, with the provision of manna, bread from heaven itself, with flocks of birds and also ample supply of water from the rocks, that God has given them all. Despite all these, they still failed to believe and put their trust in Him.

Instead, they built for themselves a golden calf idol, likely imitating what the Egyptians had for their idol, as one of the Egyptian gods was portrayed as a bull or calf, and then worshipped that idol as their god, claiming that it was this idol which had saved them from the land of Egypt. This was what made the Lord totally furious at His people, as He told Moses of the wicked actions of those people whom He had just saved and cared for, and then they betrayed Him for a pagan idol they built with their own hands. God wanted to destroy the whole people of Israel and spared just Moses, and promised to make him to be a great nation, but Moses interceded on their behalf and begged God to reconsider and not destroy the people for their sins. God listened to Moses and spared the people of Israel, who nonetheless had to suffer the consequences of their rebellion.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words that the Lord Jesus said to the Jewish people, with the Jewish people here likely referring to those people who subscribed to the ways and interpretations of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and hence, often opposed the Lord and refused to believe in Him, as they saw Him and His teachings and truth as aberrations of the Law that they practiced and kept, the same Law and commandments that God had given to Moses. They even associated the Lord’s works to demonic influences and collusions, and accused the Lord Jesus of blasphemy against God, for having claimed to be able to forgive sins and for calling God as His Father. That was why they kept on hardening their hearts and minds, refusing to listen to God and His words of truth, and continuing to believe that their way and interpretation of the Law were the correct ones.

It was the pride and hubris, the arrogance and the stubbornness of those people which prevented them from coming to the salvation in God, and from believing in His truth, just the same way how their ancestors at Mount Sinai had rebelled against God and disobeyed Him. That is because they allowed their human pride, greed and worldly desires and attachments to tempt and sway them, such that they ended up falling into the path of evil and sin, and getting further and further away from God and His path. It will be our fate as well if we continue to allow ourselves to be distracted by the worldly temptations and attachments all around us, and if we let the worldly idols in our lives to lead us astray, that is the idols of fame, glory, wealth, pleasures and many others. These are the idols of our modern day world, those idols that will distract us from the focus that we should all have in the Lord.

That is why during this time of Lent, all of us are reminded to refocus our lives and our attention on the Lord. We should not allow the many distractions all around us from pulling us away from the path of the Lord. We should therefore also follow the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating today, with the hope that we all may be inspired by his life and good examples. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was a Spanish priest that eventually became a missionary and appointed as Archbishop of Lima in the then New World, what is today Peru. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was truly a humble and committed servant of God, whose personal piety and obedience to God, love for Him and love for his fellow men inspired many who followed in his footsteps and examples. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo spent a lot of time reaching to his flock, teaching them about the faith and catechising them, and according to history and records, baptised no less than half a million of them, including the saints St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was also very staunch in his dedication to the reforms of the Church, and launched a campaign of reform and reorganisation of his Archdiocese, to ensure that the clergy and the members of the faithful lived their lives in accordance to what the Lord has taught them, to the Church teachings and Apostolic traditions. He spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection, and dedicated himself to the betterment and help for his flock, to his fellow brothers and sisters, especially to those who were less fortunate and who were suffering. The dedication of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, his faith and love both for God and for his fellow men should inspire us all that we may also live our lives well and in righteous manner, that we may truly be found worthy and good by the Lord our God, and worthy indeed to inherit the great things that God has prepared for us.

May the Lord hence guide and help us in our journey of faith through life, particularly during this blessed season and time of Lent. May He empower each and every one of us so that we may always adhere faithfully to His Law and commandments. May He inspire us to follow in the footsteps of His saints, like that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo and many others, such that we may ourselves be sources of inspiration and strength for our fellow men, and be the beacons of God’s light, truth and love. May God bless us always, in all things, now and forevermore. Amen.