Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God speaking to us in our hearts through the Scripture passages we heard, in which first we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, the promises that God had made to His people and which He has revealed to them through His prophets. The Lord has revealed to us what lies ahead of us, should we keep our faith in Him.

He revealed to them the good things He has planned for all of them, with references to all the hardships, challenges and difficulties that they had to encounter due to their disobedience against Him. He said that they would no longer be divided into two kingdoms, a reference to the division of the kingdom of Israel to the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, due to the disobedience and sins of Solomon, the king of Israel and the people.

The Lord promised that He would restore the glory of Israel, and fulfil the promises He had made to them, in the new reign of the kingdom of David, of glory and joy without end, where God will free them from all of their guilts, their attachments and bondage to sin, and God Himself will rule over all of them for eternity, in the new and true kingdom of Israel, God’s holy kingdom that surpassed the old kingdom that had fallen by the time of the prophet Ezekiel.

And all of these were fulfilled in the person of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of God, Who came into the world just as God has promised through the prophets, the One Who is the Heir of David, the One Who will shepherd the people of Israel, all of mankind, as God’s own people, forever and ever. He is the one True King, Who has come into the world, revealing the fullness of God’s glorious and wonderful plan for each and every one of us.

Unfortunately as we all heard in our Gospel passage today, instead of being welcomed and accepted, He was instead rejected and cast out from the society by the ones who should have known of His coming and those to whom had been entrusted the leadership and shepherding of the people of God. The chief priests, the Sanhedrin and the elites of the people rejected Him and wanted to condemn Him to death, all to safeguard their own interests and desires.

That was what the Lord Himself experienced, rejected and unwanted, even by His own people, the very same people to whom He has been sent to bring them the fulfilment of God’s long awaited promises and goodness. The Lord even had to hide from them, as it was not yet His time to suffer and die then, although the time was already really at hand at the time. Yet, despite all of these, God still loves each and every one of us and is faithful to the Covenant that He had made with us.

As we are about to enter into the Holy Week period, let us all keep in mind and indeed, focus our attention on the love which God has for each and every one of us. And His love for us was so selfless and so great that, even though we mankind have repeatedly disobeyed Him, refused to believe in Him, and even persecuted so many of those whom He had sent into our midst, including His very own Son, Our Lord Jesus, yet, He is still ever loving and merciful towards us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we enter into this holiest moment in our entire year, let us all enter the Holy Week with an open mind and heart, willing to listen to the Lord and to welcome Him into our midst. God wants to love each and every one of us, and it is often that we have to be receptive to the love, mercy and compassion that He is showing to each and every one of us, or otherwise, we will end up like the Sanhedrin, the chief priests and the Pharisees who refused to believe in God because of their pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reexamine our lives and to turn our way of life from one that was filled with wickedness and disobedience, pride and human greed, into one that is aligned with the will of God. We are called to turn ourselves to the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our might. And in order to be able to do that, we have to learn to be humble and to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord into our hearts and allow Him to change our lives and our attitudes.

There will indeed be challenges and difficulties awaiting us, should we choose to devote ourselves to the way of the Lord. His prophets and servants had suffered, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of those faithful servants, namely Pope St. Martin I, a holy Pope and martyr of the Church. Pope St. Martin I stood fast in his faith and dedication to the true faith, even in the midst of persecution and opposition from the Roman Emperor, who although was a Christian, but believed in the heretical teachings of monothelitism.

The Pope was arrested and made to suffer by the Emperor and his agents, and was put into exile in faraway lands, where he eventually died, a part of his suffering and martyrdom, just because he remained firm in his conviction and dedication to the Lord, to the very end. Pope St. Martin I placed God above everything else, even his own personal desires and wishes, that instead of saving himself and protecting his own self, he let himself to suffer and be martyred rather than to betray the Lord and the truth that He has brought into this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all imitate the good examples of Pope St. Martin I, as well as the many other saints of the Church. Let us all walk in their footsteps, doing what is right and worthy of the Lord, in all of our words, in all of our actions and in all that we do in our daily lives from now on. May God bless us all and may He continue to guide us through life, that as we enter into the Holy Week, we may continue to grow in faith in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 13 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be the king of them all.

They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.

My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.

I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH Who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.

Friday, 5 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scriptures reminding us all about the opposition that those who are faithful to God has to experience through life, and we are going to focus more and more on this theme as we approach the beginning of the Holy Week of the Passion, suffering and death of Our Lord, which will be in just about more than a week’s time.

In the first reading today, we heard the passage from the Book of Wisdom relating to us how there were a lot of opposition against the faithful and against all the servants of God. The Book of Wisdom is a book that focuses on much of the internal thoughts and deliberations of the people, and in today’s segment, we focus on the thoughts that went in the minds of those who persecuted the prophets and the messengers of the Lord.

And we see the kinds of wickedness and stubbornness present in the minds of those people who refused to believe in the prophets and in the messages of truth they brought with them. They plotted against the faithful ones of God simply because they refused to let go of the pride, ego and the greed within their hearts and minds. They took it personally that those prophets and messengers had criticised them and the way they lived their lives.

This is parallel to what the Lord Jesus mentioned and spoke before the people in our Gospel passage today. At that time, as the time was coming close to the moment when Jesus was about to be betrayed and handed over to His enemies, the oppositions against Him among the priests, the scribes, the Pharisees and all others who saw Him as their rival and as a dangerous influence were increasing rapidly.

And this is where unfortunately, the pride of men came in between them and the ability to welcome the truth of God. They were doubting the truth that the prophets and eventually, Christ Himself revealed because they thought of themselves as being holders and owners of the real truth, as they perceived themselves as being better, more educated and even more worthy than the ones who have come speaking the truth of God before them.

That was why they refused to listen, as they hardened themselves and their mindset on what they thought were the right ways and attitudes to do. They viewed the words of the prophets and the Lord Jesus as dangerous threats and perhaps even falsehoods from their point of view. That was why they even refused to allow the truth of God to enter into their minds, and continued to do what they thought was right, even when they were actually wrong and committing sins.

Today as we heard all of these, we are reminded that each and every one of us may have been like the Pharisees, the priests, the teachers of the Law and all those who have oppressed the prophets and the Lord Himself. We may have refused to listen to the words of the Lord that He spoke deep within our hearts and minds, and closing the doors of our hearts and minds to Him. We are often so preoccupied with the many worldly matters and concerns that we do not allow God and His truth to get through to us.

Unless we open our hearts and minds, by putting aside ego and pride, desire and greed from all things, by humbling ourselves before the Lord and by realising that each and every one of us are not perfect in our ways and in our thoughts, we will likely not be able to change our ways and as such, continuing to sin, and getting more and more distant from God as time passes by. There is a need for us to reorientate and change our direction in life, so that we may find a new way and path in life, one that leads to the Lord.

Today, all of us are also called to follow the good examples set by St. Vincent Ferrer, in how he devoted his life to the good service of God, travelling to many places and preaching the truth about God to the people in various places. St. Vincent Ferrer helped many people to turn themselves to the Lord, and was very generous with his work among the poor and orphans, caring for the need of the people of God.

Through all these, we are all reminded that we need to have a profound change in attitude and approach in life. And during this season of Lent, we are called to turn away from sin, and to die to our human pride, greed, desire and all the things that have been preventing us from being able to come closer to God. We are reminded through the call to repentance, that each and every one of us are sinful and are in need of healing from God.

Let us all turn away from sin, and let us all refocus our attention to God from now on. May the Lord be our guide, and may He continue to bless us and by His encouragement, may He help us always to overcome the many temptations and challenges in this life. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (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, 5 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (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.