Tuesday, 23 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, hearing how the people of Israel rebelled against God and disobeyed Him when they grumbled and complained against Him as they journeyed through the desert from Egypt. They complained that they had a better life in Egypt even though over there they were slaves and were treated badly.

They did all these even though the Lord had in fact treated them very kindly, patiently answering their pleas and requests, giving them daily the bread from heaven itself, and also other food and plenty of water to drink in their journey through the desert. The Lord took good care of His people and patiently cared for them only to gain contempt, betrayal and disobedience, rebellion and wickedness in return.

The Lord then sent fiery serpents that were disastrous in their effects on the people, as many were bitten by those serpents and died. Those serpents killed many and the people begged the Lord for mercy, asking Moses to intercede for their sake. The Lord had pity on His people and showed them His clemency through instructing Moses to build a great bronze serpent standard, and lifting it up before the whole people that all those who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent would be saved.

This is related to our Gospel passage today in which we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking plainly to the people and all gathered about what would happen to Him. Those Jews were the ones living in Judea and many of them supported the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in opposition against Jesus. They doubted Him and refused to believe in Him, demanding to see miracles and signs from Him even when He had done all those wonders before them all.

And the Lord then revealed to all of them how He would be lifted up high above the Earth, a prelude to what He would endure during His Passion namely when He would be scourged, stripped and nailed to the Cross, and lifted up on the hill of Calvary, for all the same people to whom the Lord had spoken, to see the ultimate and greatest of all the signs of God’s wonders and love.

What is the significance of this, brothers and sisters? It is just like the lifting of the bronze serpent of Moses in the past through which the people were saved from the deadly sting of the serpents, thus, the Lord also had Himself lifted up so that all those who see Him, believe in Him and have faith in Him will be saved from certain death and destruction from the sting of sin.

This is therefore an important reminder for each and every one of us that we are all called to shun the temptations to sin, the allure and pull of its corruption, and all the things that have led us to our downfall, and the downfall of so many who came and went before us. As we approach the beginning of the Holy Week in less than a week’s time, we are all called to reflect deeply of the Lord’s Passion, all that He had done, out of His great love for us.

It is thanks to Him, His enduring love and great patience that each and every one of us still have hope, the hope of entering into a new and blessed existence free from sin, and one that is no longer corrupted by those wicked and evil taints of the world. The Lord has willingly taken up His Cross, bearing our many sins and their consequences and punishments, all because of His love for us. If not for Him, we should have been lost to despair and the darkness.

That is why we should appreciate the love of God and everything that He had done for us, and we must not take the opportunities that He has given us for granted, or else, we may find it that we are too late to realise how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God and to have received so many good opportunities from Him. We need turn towards the Lord, look at Him crucified and remember the love by which He selflessly took up that sacrifice in order to save all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also be inspired by the good examples set by St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, one of our holy predecessors. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was a great and renowned Archbishop, who was once also the confessor and trusted advisor of the King of Spain. He was credited with the conversion of numerous people, many of whom he personally preached to and worked with. He dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the improvement of the life of his flock, and committed himself to care for them.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo travelled extensively throughout his diocese and beyond, often on foot and baptising many, taking care of the spiritual needs of those whom he had encountered throughout his ministry. He established many chapels, convents, hospitals and schools for the benefit of many people, and many indeed were helped and touched by the actions of this saintly bishop that they became converts and believers.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with a new heart and desire to follow Him, inspired by the good examples of the saints, particularly that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo. May the Lord be our guide that we may journey successfully through life with faith, and focusing our attention from now on, to the Lord and His saving grace. Let us always remember all the sufferings and humiliations that Our Lord had to face in order to save us all, out of His enduring and ever-present love for us. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Numbers 21 : 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

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.

Thursday, 18 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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?”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Exodus 32 : 7-14

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them and have made for themselves a molten calf; they have bowed down before it and sacrificed to it and said : ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.'”

And YHVH said to Moses, “I see that these people are a stiff-necked people. Now just leave Me that My anger may blaze against them. I will destroy them, but of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses calmed the anger of YHVH, his God, and said, “Why, o YHVH, should Your anger burst against Your people whom You brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with a mighty hand?”

“Let not the Egyptians say : ‘YHVH brought them out with evil intent, for He wanted to kill them in the mountains and wipe them from the face of the earth.’ Turn away from the heat of Your anger and do not bring disaster on Your people. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the promise You Yourself swore : I will multiply Your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land I spoke about I will give to them as an everlasting inheritance.”

YHVH then changed His mind and would not yet harm His people.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (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 reminded that the Lord’s salvation has come into our midst in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate and born through His mother Mary to be the Saviour of the whole world. We are reminded today of the salvation that Christ has brought us through His suffering, His Passion, death and Resurrection.

In our first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people of the coming of the time and day of salvation, the moment when the Lord would bring all of them to freedom and happiness, and deliver them from their sufferings and troubles. At that time, the people of God had suffered from repeated invasions and also humiliations from their neighbours, and they were nowhere as great as they were as it was during the time of king David and king Solomon.

And just as the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians recently by the time of the prophet Isaiah, exiling its people to the far-off lands of Assyria and beyond, and the same Assyrians had also been coming up to the southern kingdom of Judah and besieging even Jerusalem itself. The people of Judah and their king Hezekiah were only saved because the Lord intervened on their behalf sent His Angel to destroy the whole Assyrian army.

Through Isaiah therefore, the Lord wanted to remind His people that He has not forgotten or forsaken them, and on the contrary, He remembered them well, and wanted them to be saved. But everything happens in God’s time and according to His will. This means that if the people think that the Lord had not been with them, then they were not patient enough and mistook the Lord as One Whom they could control and have at the back of their whims and desires.

The Lord sent His Saviour into this world through Christ, His own beloved and only begotten Son, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, that He may gather all of us into the embrace of the Lord, His heavenly Father, and by His sacrifice on the Cross, the Passion, suffering, death and the glorious Resurrection that we shall celebrate very soon during the Holy Week and Easter, He has saved us from the certainty of eternal destruction and death.

Yet, as we heard in our Gospel and as occurred throughout the Gospels, the people to whom the Lord had sent His Son refused to believe in Him and in His words, doubted and rejected Him even when they had seen all the wonders and miraculous deeds He had done, and even after hearing all the great and unsurpassed wisdom with which He had been teaching and preaching to them.

Thus, in our Gospel today, the Lord again reiterated that He, as the Son of God, is indeed the One sent by the Father to be the Saviour of all. And just as the prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Lord’s salvation and wonders, the Lord Jesus spoke of the same, and in fact, spoke everything all as how it has been accomplished in Him and through Him, for He is indeed the fulfilment of what the Lord had been promising us mankind through the prophets.

We are hence reminded once again that our salvation has come to us through Christ, and through His most loving sacrifice on the Cross, by which He has redeemed us from our sins, He has offered us freely the forgiveness of God for our many sins. Yet, it is we ourselves who have been so stubborn and hardened our hearts against Him, refusing to embrace His forgiveness and accept His mercy and compassion.

That is why, we are all called to seek the Lord and to open our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our hearts this Lent. During this time and season of Lent, we are constantly being reminded that we are in need of help from God, to trust in Him and to put our faith and commitment to Him. And today, we happen to be celebrating the feast day of a great saint who can be our role model and inspiration as well.

St. Patrick, the renowned saint of Ireland, the one who evangelised the people of Ireland over a thousand years ago, was remembered for his missionary zeal, faith in the Lord, and especially his dedication to those who had been entrusted to him, those people to whom he had been sent to as a missionary. St. Patrick was captured at an early age by Irish pirates and was taken as a slave, until he managed to escape and return to his family. But this not stop him or discourage him when sent as a missionary and priest later in his life, to the very place where he endured slavery.

On the contrary, St. Patrick dedicated his efforts and his whole life to teach the people in Ireland about Christ, the Lord and Saviour, when most of the people there had not yet known about Him, and were still pagans believing in the pagan gods and idols. St. Patrick patiently explained to them about the nature of God, the Holy Trinity and the main aspects of the Christian faith, and was also involved in the many interactions between the rulers and petty kings in Ireland at the time.

Through his tireless efforts, St. Patrick helped to build the foundation of the Church and the Christian faith in Ireland, and many became converts to the faith and were touched by the courage and commitment, the love that St. Patrick had for the Lord and for his fellow men, for the people of Ireland in particular, who were like the lost sheep gathered by the shepherd, who was St. Patrick himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, and be inspired by his faith and dedication to the Lord, his exemplary Christian faith and actions in life, his sincerity in reaching out to others and to his fellow men. This Lent, we are all called to purify our faith and to redirect our attention and focus back towards the Lord, so that we may remember that our lives are centred on Him and not on other worldly matters and desires.

Let us all turn towards the Lord, our most loving God and Father. Let us all seek Him with renewed love and dedication, opening our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our beings, allowing Him to transform us into the children of Light, the Light of Christ, the Light of our salvation. May God bless us all and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 17-30

At that time, Jesus replied to the Jews, “My Father goes on working and so do I.” And the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him, for Jesus not only broke the Sabbath observance, but also made Himself equal with God, calling God His own Father.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I assure you, the Son cannot do anything by Himself, but only what He sees the Father do. And whatever He does, the Son also does. The Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He does; and He will show Him even greater things than these, so that you will be amazed.”

“As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to whom He wills. In the same way the Father judges no one, for He has entrusted all judgment to the Son, and He wants all to honour the Son as they honour the Father. Whoever ignores the Son, ignores as well the Father Who sent Him.”

“Truly, I say to you, anyone who hears My word and believes Him Who sent Me, has eternal life; and there is no judgment for him, because he has passed from death to life. Truly, the hour is coming and has indeed come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and, on hearing it, will live. For the Father has life in Himself, and He has given to the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has empowered Him as well to carry out Judgment, for He is Son of Man.”

“Do not be surprised at this : the hour is coming when all those lying in tombs will hear My voice and come out; those who have done good shall rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. I can do nothing of Myself, and I need to hear Another One to judge; and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.”