Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scripture readings are reminding us in the midst of this blessed season of Lent, of the dangers of the pride, ego and jealousy that are often found in the hearts and minds of men. Very quickly all of these can lead us into sin, as the Scripture readings today presented before us the example of Joseph and his brothers as well as the parable of the vineyard owner as mentioned by the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading today we heard of the story of how Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob or Israel, came to conflict because of the jealousy that existed between them. In order to understand this better, we must understand that Joseph was born from Jacob’s favourite wife, and was born in his old age, and therefore, Joseph was really doted on by Jacob as a favourite son. It is inevitable that the brothers of Joseph became jealous at such a treatment.

That was why we heard how they plotted to have Joseph killed, thinking that if Joseph was killed, then they would not have him in their midst any longer and became a rival to their father’s attention and even inheritance. To them, even though he was of their own flesh and blood as their own brother, but they did not hesitate to commit such a heinous and wicked crime just because of their jealousy, the ego, pride and greed in their hearts.

Thankfully, Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob, heard of the brothers’ plan and told them to think in a more reasonable manner, and therefore, not to kill Joseph but in the end, selling him off to a Midianite caravan that brought Joseph to Egypt. And God turned the wicked acts of the brothers of Joseph into something good, as Joseph came to be the Viceroy of Egypt and prepared the way for his whole family to come to Egypt and be saved during the seven years of great famine.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard then the Lord Jesus in the parable with which He taught the people, on a vineyard owner who leased out his vineyard to tenants, who became greedy and haughty, proud and ambitious, in refusing to obey the terms of agreement in the tenancy. In fact, they plotted against the owner, his workers and servants, and even the son of the owner, when they were sent to remind the wicked tenants to fulfil their agreement.

This was in fact a representation of how wicked men treated the prophets of God and eventually, God’s own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ Himself. The owner of the vineyard is the Lord, the vineyard is the world and all creation, the messengers and servants are the prophets and the servants of God, and the son of the owner is the Lord Jesus, Saviour and Lord, Who was betrayed, rejected and condemned to death by those who refused to listen to the Lord, just as the wicked tenants put the son of the owner to death.

All of these happened, just as Joseph was ill-treated and almost put to death by his own brothers, because of jealousy, because of desire, because of the pride and ego that fill up our hearts and minds. When we start to desire for worldly acclamations, influence, fame, glory, joy and other forms of temptations that are always around us, we will find that we will not be able to have peace in mind, because we will end up plotting against each other and being unhappy, because others have what we ourselves do not have, and vice versa.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to break off from this vicious cycle of greed and desire, of pride and ego. That is why we practice fasting and abstinence, to restrain our inner desires and the wicked temptations that are always trying to pull us to commit sin by being jealous to one another. We are called to practice this restrain to prevent us from falling deeper and deeper into the traps of sin.

And that is why we are also encouraged to be charitable and give almsgiving during this period, because rather than grumbling and being angry and jealous at what we do not have, we should instead share what we have with each other, that instead of us all being unhappy at one another, why not if we can be happy together as a community and family of God’s people together?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, drawing from the wisdom of the Lord in the Scriptures, as well as from our own human experiences, in which we must have experienced a lot of injustice, anger and pain, suffering and hurt from actions of ours that are selfish and prideful, let us all turn away from these wicked thoughts and deeds, and commit ourselves anew in this season of Lent and beyond, to be true and loving disciples of the Lord from now on. May God bless us always, in all of our good endeavours, in loving one another and in being ever more selfless, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded to be righteous and good in all of our words, deeds and actions, for if we wander away from this path of righteousness, we will end up venturing into disobedience and eventually sin against God. All of us mankind are ultimately vulnerable to sin, and it is our sins that will be judged by God at the time of reckoning. Our righteousness and our wickedness will be judged by God at the time of His judgment.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard about the discourse that no sinner is too far away or too unworthy of God’s forgiveness, for if the sinner is to repent sincerely from his or her sins and turn wholeheartedly back towards the Lord with love and commitment to live a righteous life from then on, then God will forgive that sinner and judge the sinner based on the desire to love Him and to turn away from the sinful past.

Then, we also heard how those who were righteous and yet committed sins will also be judged by those same sins they committed. God will not let those who were righteous and yet willingly fell into sin and do not repent from those sins to be judged as worthy of His glory and inheritance. It is by their disobedience and refusal to obey the Lord that they will be judged despite of their past righteousness.

This is a constant reminder to each one of us that we are always in danger of falling into sin through temptations and through the seductions that Satan and all of his wicked forces are placing before us all the time. Satan is always out and about trying to strike us down by various means, to prevent us from attaining salvation in God, and to drag us down to be condemned with him and all the other fallen angels in hellfire.

And the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today added on this by telling His disciples and therefore all of us, that we must be truly genuine in doing our good deeds, so that in everything we say and do, we will truly say them and do them with the intention to be righteous and truly good before God, to glorify God and not to satisfy our own selfish desires and intentions. This is what the Lord said when He pointed out to them the wickedness of the Pharisees, in their piousness and yet, an empty piousness and faith.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although their external actions and works seemed to be pious and good, but many of them did not do these because of the love they had for God, but rather because of the selfish desire for glory, for self-praise and self-glorification, out of hunger and greed for worldly fame and human appraisal, for the satisfaction of the body and the mind. Therefore, although they may seem to be righteous, but through these perversion of faith and righteousness, they have in fact sinned against God.

And many among the Pharisees often looked down on those whom they deemed to be unworthy of God’s love and mercy, such as the tax collectors and the prostitutes, whom they condemned as those who were wicked and hopeless, out of God’s saving grace, when in fact, those were the ones who sought the Lord willingly and with sincere devotion and commitment. The tax collectors and the prostitutes turned towards the Lord, and they were forgiven. Some among them, including Levi, became one of the Twelve Apostles, now a glorious saint of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded through these that none of us are beyond God’s mercy and love. He has always been ever generous with His mercy and compassion, and not even the greatest among us sinners are beyond His mercy. Some of the greatest saints of this world came from the rank of the greatest of sinners. Some of them were murderers, while others lived a debauched and wicked life. But they all turned away from their past sinful life, and dedicated themselves to a new life in God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow the footsteps of the Apostles and the saints, many of whom were once great sinners as well, just like us. But are we able and are we willing to commit ourselves as they themselves had done? Are we able to resist the temptations to sin, and commit ourselves to follow a righteous path in life instead of following the path of vice and evil? Let us all turn towards the Lord with faith anew and dedicate ourselves to live according to His way from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to live well in accordance to His will, and persevere through the temptations and challenges that may come our way. Let us all pray for courage and strength, especially during this blessed season of Lent, that we will be able to turn our lives into a new one, with God’s grace and strength. Amen.

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Friday, 15 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness.

For that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.