Saturday, 20 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard of the rejection of God’s message and truth by those to whom God had sent His servants and messengers, as shown in our first reading with the lamentation of the prophet Jeremiah against those who plotted against Him, and then in our Gospel passage today, when the Pharisees rejected the Lord Jesus and many of them refused to believe in Him and in the message that He has brought into this world.

In our first reading today, we heard of the problems faced by the prophet Jeremiah and how he lamented that many were plotting against him simply because he spoke the words of the Lord, and brought His revelation and truth to the people who refused to believe in him and in the Lord. They branded him as doomsayer, fear-monger, prophet of doom and even as a traitor against the nation and king, for speaking up and revealing how the kingdom of Judah would be destroyed because of the sins of its people and their refusal to repent.

The prophet Jeremiah had spent a lot of time and effort trying to call on the people to return to the Lord, but they remained firm in their stubbornness and refusal to repent, remaining in their sinful ways and rebellious attitudes. He had to go up against many false prophets and messengers who claimed to speak the words and the will of God, but who in reality were only interested in their own benefits and selfish desires by flattering the king and the nobles. They spoke not of God’s truth but the lies of the devil.

Why did the people of Judah harden their hearts as such against the efforts of the prophet Jeremiah, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of their ego and pride, thinking that they could not have done wrong or erred in their choice of actions in life. And their worldly desires and succumbing to temptations led them to refuse to believe in the Lord, as they continued on living their lives following their own path rather than following the Lord and His path.

This same attitude was also shown by the Pharisees in our Gospel passage today. They gathered together because of the need to discuss about the Lord Jesus and the works He had done among the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee. Many among the Pharisees opposed the Lord and refused to believe in His message of truth, while a small minority of the Pharisees actually believed in the Lord, for example Nicodemus and some others.

They refused to believe because they thought that the Lord was a false Messiah and a fraud, as they thought that He had originated from the region of Galilee which was back then at the fringe of the Jewish society and community. Of course they did not know that the Lord was actually born in Bethlehem, the city of David and the place where the Messiah was prophesied to be born in. Regardless, as they were already against the Lord and formed opinion against Him, no matter where He hailed from, they would likely still have opposed Him.

The Lord had shown His might and wondrous miracles before many of those same Pharisees, and yet many of them still refused to believe in Him, doubted Him and questioned His authority and the legitimacy of His actions. He has patiently reached out to them, but they still refused to believe just like how their ancestors refused to believe in Jeremiah, accusing the Lord of heresy and other false accusations just as the enemies of Jeremiah had also accused him earlier on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this important for us all? It is a kind reminder from the Lord through His Church during this very important season of Lent that we must not allow ourselves be controlled by our ego and desires, by the temptations of worldly allures and pride, and all other things that often distracted us in our journey towards the Lord and His salvation. We are all called to turn once again towards the Lord and to humble ourselves before Him, that we may find forgiveness and grace from Him.

It is our pride and ego that often prevented us from finding the salvation in God, because we are too proud to accept the fact that we may be mistaken or at fault, and the desires we have in life may be the serious stumbling blocks that kept us all from truly being able to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and with genuine faith. That is why we are reminded yet again of just how each and every one of us are sinners, all in need of healing and forgiveness from God.

This Lent is the perfect time and opportunity for us to turn towards the Lord once again and be reconciled with Him. Let us therefore make good use of the time and opportunity, and do whatever we can, to the best of our abilities, to be ever closer to God and to attune ourselves to Him and His ways, and do our best to glorify Him by our way of life and by our dedication through faith. May God bless us all, and may He guide us through our Lenten observance, that we may find true joy in Him at the end of our struggles and journey. Amen.

Saturday, 20 March 2021 : 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, 20 March 2021 : 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, 20 March 2021 : 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, 19 March 2021 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. As St. Joseph is the legal wife of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, hence, he was also the foster-father of the Lord. He is the head of the Holy Family and its Protector, especially in his role protecting Mary and Jesus when the Child Jesus was under threat from those who sought to have Him killed.

St. Joseph was himself a descendant of king David of Israel, a fact that is highlighted very strongly in today’s Scripture passages. In our first reading today we heard of the Lord speaking to king David through His prophet Nathan, reassuring David that because of his faith and dedication, God would make his reign secure and his dynasty a lasting one, as a Covenant and promise that He made with him. And this would come true with the coming of the Lord Jesus, Who was born the legal Son of St. Joseph, the Heir of David.

According to the genealogy of the Lord, as contained in the Gospel of St. Matthew, it was evident that He was descended through St. Joseph from the mainline descent from king David, through the kings of Israel and Judah, right up to the exile to Babylon and henceforth, the heirs of the fallen kingdom, to St. Joseph himself. As the legal father of the Lord, he established that link between king David and the Lord Jesus, Who was therefore the Son and Heir of David, the rightful ruler of the kingdom of Israel.

Mary herself, according to the other genealogy, was descended from David through a different lineage, which made the Lord Jesus Himself also descended through His mother, from king David for those who argued that St. Joseph was merely the foster-father and not the biological father of the Lord, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. It was then the union between Mary and St. Joseph that firmed up that link, as we then heard in our Gospel passage today, that St. Joseph initially had his doubts when he heard that Mary had been with a Child even when they had not yet been together in marriage.

But the Lord revealed to St. Joseph that everything had happened according to His will, and it was by His will that Mary was with Child, and not because Mary had committed adultery with another man. St. Joseph had always been a virtuous and upright man, that even when he was in doubt of what happened to Mary, he did not want to drag the case to the open, as that would have meant that Mary could have been stoned to death as an adulterer according to the punishment by the Law.

Nonetheless, St. Joseph committed himself to the cause that the Lord had called him to, embracing fully the mission he had been entrusted with as the head of the Holy Family, foster-father of the Saviour of the world, and as the first good role model for our Lord Himself during His formative years, as St. Joseph must have definitely taught the Lord all that He needed to know, in all the skills and experiences of the world and the society, among other things.

Here, St. Joseph was just like his forefathers, Abraham and David, as the latter was pointed out in today’s first reading earlier on his exemplary faith and dedication by which he has served the Lord, and therefore God would secure his reign and that of his house forevermore. While Abraham was mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, as the father of many nations and as the father of all Christians in faith.

St. Paul in his description of Abraham spoke of a man and servant of God who had been upright, just and dedicated to the Lord in all things, and it was by his virtues and dedication that he had been exalted above all other men, chosen from among the nations to be the progenitor of so many nations and as the forefather of the Israelites, God’s first chosen people. St. Joseph followed in the footsteps of both his predecessors, and through his virtues and faith, became for all of us the role model of Christian faith and living.

In this season of Lent, we have all been called as Christians to follow in the good examples set by St. Joseph, in his virtues and in his dedication to the Lord, in all that he had done in obedience to the Lord and out of love for Him. Are we willing to walk down that same path of faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we commit ourselves to the Lord just as St. Joseph had committed his life and dedicated all that he could to serve Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of St. Joseph, let us all seek the intercession of this great protector of the Church, and ask him to pray for our sake, for the Church of God facing all sorts of challenges and persecutions. Let us all devote ourselves to the Lord through His role model, St. Joseph as our model and example that through this season and time of Lent we may become ever closer to God and be ever more attuned to His will and His truth.

May God bless us always, and may He always strengthen us, giving us the courage that we need much in order to strive for being ever more faithful amidst the challenges in life, all the temptations and obstacles preventing us from reaching out to God. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 19 March 2021 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 1 : 16, 18-21

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus Who is called the Christ – the Messiah.

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her.

While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ for He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do.

Alternative reading

Luke 2 : 41-51a

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them.

Friday, 19 March 2021 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 4 : 13, 16-18, 22

If God promised Abraham, or rather his descendants, that the world would belong to him, this was not because of his obeying the Law, but because he was just and a friend of God through faith.

For that reason, faith is the way and all is given by grace; and the promises of Abraham are fulfilled for all his descendants, not only for his children according to the Law, but also for all the others who have believed.

Abraham is the father of all of us, as it is written : I will make you father of many nations. He is our father in the eyes of Him Who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence what does not yet exist, for this is the God in Whom he believed. Abraham believed and hoped against all expectation, thus becoming father of many nations, as he had been told : See how many will be your descendants.

This was taken into account for him to attain righteousness.

Friday, 19 March 2021 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

You said, “I have made a covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish his descendants forever; I build his throne for all generations.”

“He will call on Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’ I will keep My covenant firm forever, and My love for him will endure.

Friday, 19 March 2021 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 7 : 4-5a, 12-14a, 16

But that very night, YHVH’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, this is what YHVH says : When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you and I will make his reign secure. He shall build a house for My Name and I will firmly establish his kingship forever. I will be a Father to him and he shall be My son.”

“Your house and your reign shall last forever before Me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to remember just how fortunate we are that God has been so loving, compassionate, caring and merciful towards us. If not for the mercy that He has shown us, and for the love that He still has for each and every one of us, enduring even the worst struggles of our sins and disobedience, we ought to have been annihilated.

In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus we heard of the well-known case when the people of Israel disobeyed the Lord and rebelled against Him at Mount Sinai, not long right after He had rescued them and brought them out of the land of Egypt, destroying the armies of the Pharaoh sent against them and freeing them from the hands and tyranny of the Egyptians.

How did Israel disobeyed and rebelled against the Lord? When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to get the Law of the Lord and the Covenant, and was up there for forty days long, the people grew impatient and lost faith in both God and Moses, and some dissidents in the community seized the chance to try and seduce the people to turn to the pagan idols, shaped like a golden calf in the manner of the Egyptian gods.

This showed that the people, especially some among them did not yet have faith in God, or even refused to have faith in Him, just as shown in how many constantly grumbled and complained that they had so much better lives in Egypt even when they were enslaved, and that they had better food and drink, all these when the Lord constantly supplied the whole people daily with the bread of heaven, manna, flock of birds to give them meat to eat, and water throughout their journey in the desert.

When Moses interceded on behalf of the people, he was trying to appease the Lord’s anger over those who had disobeyed and betrayed Him, even as He had just given to them His laws and renewed His Covenant with them. The Lord could have just annihilated the whole nation and left Moses alone as the only survivor as He said, but He withhold His anger and forgave the people because of Moses and what he pleaded with Him.

This is therefore related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today when we heard the Lord speaking to the people chastising many of them for their stubbornness and refusal to believe in Him, which was likely and especially pointed on many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who claimed to represent the authentic teachings and the laws of Moses, and yet, they had misinterpreted and misrepresented those laws.

They had forgotten the true intent and meaning of the Law of God, meant to show the way for the people to know God and to love Him. Instead, they used those laws to glorify themselves and for their own benefit, imposing on the people harsh conditions and rules that made it difficult for them to follow the Lord, while closing the door of salvation to those who needed them the most, by rejecting and ostracising those tax collectors, prostitutes and others.

That was why the Lord criticised them directly, and spoke clearly that it was Moses himself who would accuse them all before the Lord, as it was Moses who received the true Law and understood its meaning, which had been warped and changed so much by that time. And the Lord said that unless they changed their ways and turned to the true path, then they were heading to destruction.

And when the people, all mankind had sinned against the Lord, here it was the Lord Jesus Himself, Who like Moses in the past, interceded on behalf of the people. The Lord Jesus, Our Saviour is the High Priest of all of us, representing us, as He offered Himself as the perfect and worthy loving sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross. Through His Passion, suffering and death, He has shed His most Precious Blood and offered on our behalf, the worthy sacrifice to atone for our sins.

Then, through His Resurrection, the Lord called on us all to follow Him to share in the new life that He has offered us through that Resurrection. Just as we have shared in His death, we too have a share in His resurrection, that through Baptism, all of us have been brought into the new life, and a new existence, blessed and filled with the grace of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, all of us are reminded first of all of our sinfulness, all those things that we had done in violation of God’s laws and against His will. Those sins will weigh down on us, and whatever we have in our burden of sin, we shall be judged against by, and unless we atone for them and be forgiven, then we may face the certainty of eternal destruction and death.

But God is ever loving and ever merciful, and He has given us the ultimate gift in Christ, His beloved and only begotten Son, Whom He had sent into this world to be our Saviour. To all of us who believe in Him, He has promised the assurance of eternal life, and if we accept the forgiveness of God and repent sincerely from our sinful ways, then surely we will be reconciled fully and completely with God.

Now, how are we going to proceed forward in life then? Perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, one of the great and influential early Church fathers and a great and dedicated bishop of the Church. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem during a time of great strife for the faithful in the See of Jerusalem, with divisions and disagreements that took place between the rival factions.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem had to face against the opposition from both religious and secular figures, powerful individuals and nobles, and even opposition from the Imperial family and the bureaucracy itself, which was at that time influenced heavily by the Arian heresy as well as other heresies and divisions rampant at that time. But this did not stop St. Cyril from committing himself to the efforts to reconcile those different factions with each other.

Through his efforts, St. Cyril brought many people back to the faith, and despite him having to endure several exiles and much difficulty, but through his works, the Church was able to overcome its darkest years and reaffirming its foundation in the true faith as passed down from the Lord through His Apostles. His courage and determination, his faith and love for God should be inspiration to each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord therefore with renewed faith and zeal, with new love and devotion to Him, as we continue to journey through this season of Lent. Let us all seek His mercy and seek His forgiveness for our many sins, that we may be forgiven from them and find consolation and true joy in Him and through Him, and gain the true inheritance of heavenly glory. May God be with us all and bless us all in our good endeavours, efforts and faith. Amen.