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.

Friday, 5 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (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, 4 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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 reminding us all about the matter of faith and belief in God, that is the cornerstone and centre of our faith, and indeed, of our entire lives. For without true faith and devotion to God, we cannot live our lives in the manner that is in accordance to the way that the Lord has shown us, the path towards salvation.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Exodus, the Lord spoke out of His righteous anger before Moses, wanting to destroy the Israelites for the sins which they have committed, sins which were truly grievous and terrible, because they have willingly, consciously and deliberately rejected God despite having witnessed and received the great providence, love and grace from God, Who personally intervened for their sake and liberated them from their enemies and oppressors.

They chose a golden calf, crafted and made by the hands of man to be their god. They abandoned the Lord Who had blessed them and protected them so much, just because they thought that He was not there with them, just when Moses left them for a period of time as he went up the mountain to communicate with God and to get His Laws and commandments. They performed a great sacrilege and betrayal by such an act.

As recorded in the Book of Exodus, it may seem that the Lord is an angry and vengeful God, but this is the same pattern that happened throughout most of the Old Testament, as the people saw Him as One Who did not tolerate dissent or disobedience. But in truth, it was not the Lord Who willingly wanted the destruction of His own people, His beloved ones. Rather, it was their conscious rejection of God’s love and their sins that condemned them to destruction.

Moses interceded on behalf of the people, asking God to turn away from His righteous anger and forgive His people their sins. He reminded Him of the promises and the love that He has shown to His faithful servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And He relented and turned away from His wrath because He is a faithful God, Who is faithful to the Covenant that He had made with His servants, His beloved people.

This is a reminder for each and every one of us that we have also experienced the same thing in our own lives due to sin. By our sins we have made ourselves like the Israelites who rejected God’s love and grace and made for themselves an idol out of gold. Likewise, we have made for ourselves many idols, from all of our attachments, desires and all the other longing of our earthly lives.

And the Lord Jesus revealed Himself in the Gospel passage today, as the One Who is interceding for us before God as Moses once did, and called on all of us sinners to listen to Him and to receive His message of truth. He made it plain, clear and simple, that all those who listen to Him and receive His truth with faith, the Lord will bring them all to the salvation that He has promised to all of them. If they otherwise prefer to remain in sin and refuse to repent and listen to the Lord’s call, then they shall be judged and be condemned by the same sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where we need to keep in mind of just how loving and forgiving our God is. Despite all of our sins, He is still willing to embrace us and to forgive us from our trespasses and wicked ways, as long as we are willing to make the conscious effort to turn away from those sins and accept His truth, as revealed to us through Christ, His Son, Who has pleaded and interceded for us, through His suffering and death on the cross.

Yes, that is just how much God loved us and treasured us, that He was willing to go through all the troubles and difficulties just so that we all may be saved from certain destruction because of our own sins and disobedience. And all of us therefore should love God with all of our hearts, and devote ourselves to Him wholeheartedly, from now on, throwing away all the wicked idols of money, power, fame, influence, worldly glory and all the things keeping us from righteousness in God.

Today we can also model ourselves from the examples shown to us by the saint of the day, St. Isidore of Seville, known as a holy man and devout servant of God, who preached and taught among the people in what is now modern day Spain. He preached the truth of God and called on the people to abandon their sinful and wicked ways, and helped many others to get out of their sins, and seeking the forgiveness of God. He himself lived a holy and austere life, devoted and dedicated to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn to the Lord from now on and spend our effort in trying to make ourselves worthy once again of His love. God wants to forgive us our sins, but do we want to be forgiven? Unless we want to be forgiven, we will not be able to fully reconcile ourselves with God, and worse still, we may fall again and again back into sin, and from there to destruction and eternal damnation, a fate we certainly want to avoid.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us through life, that we may draw ever closer to Him and find the way to the fullness of His love and saving grace. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 4 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, 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, 4 April 2019 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, 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.