Thursday, 2 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of how God established His Covenant with Abram, a man whom He called from the land of Mesopotamia to follow Him into the land of Canaan, which He promised that the land would be the inheritance of Abram and his descendants forever. And even more significantly for Abram, who until then was still childless in his marriage with Sarai his wife, God promised that he would become the father of many nations.

God made a Covenant with Abram, whom was known afterwards as Abraham, and He kept the promises that He had made with him, that through Isaac, the son that Abraham and Sarah had, as well as through Ishmael, another son of Abraham, many nations were born from the descendants of Abraham, principally the Israelites who are Abraham’s direct descendants and chosen race, as well as many other nations related to Abraham through descent.

It is this blood ties and descent that the Jews in our Gospel passage alluded to when they stood by their ground against the rebukes made against them by the Lord, Who showed them the errors of their ways and called them to turn away from their sinful path and disobedience. They proudly asserted themselves to be the children of Abraham, and they took offence at Jesus just because He spoke the truth of God which may indeed be unsettling for some.

They in fact behaved contrary to what Abraham had done in the past. God chose Abraham among all other people of the nations in his time because he had great faith in God, and he followed when the Lord called him, not hesitating or minding even when he had to leave all the comforts of his old life behind as he journeyed far away from his ancestral homeland, to travel to the unknown land of Canaan led only by the faith which he had in the Lord, entrusting his whole life entirely in the hands of God.

Abraham was faithful, even when he was tested by God, at the time when he was asked to offer his own son Isaac as an offering and sacrifice to God. Abraham did not even hesitate, as sorrowful and affected as he might have been, and still devoted himself wholeheartedly in the Lord, and he was indeed richly and doubly blessed by God because of his steadfastness and faith. On the contrary, the people of Judah at the time of Jesus, the descendants of the same Abraham, had not been faithful.

In fact, they doubted when the Lord Himself performed miracles and deeds that had been prophesied by the many prophets sent to the land of Israel, and even after they saw how the Lord performed those miraculous deeds before their own eyes, hearing all the testimonies and words from all those who had been healed, many of them still refused to believe in Him and doubted Him. Some even accused Him of colluding with demonic forces, such as Beelzebul the prince of demons.

We can see here how the people lacked genuine faith in God, and they were stubborn in refusing to listen to reason and God’s wisdom, preferring instead to trust in their own often flawed human judgment and ideals. They had great pride in having such intellect, abilities and power that they have so that they refused to accept that they could be wrong or mistaken, and they refused to listen when they were criticised and provided with feedback on how they ought to improve themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded to be more like Abraham, our father in faith, and not to follow the examples of those people who had little faith in God. This is also why we are urged to be more humble and be more willing to listen, not to be quick to judge and to temper our pride and desire. We should be careful of our ambitions and hubris, and we should not allow all these to tempt us and bring us to our downfall.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a saint whose life and examples can inspire us to be more faithful to God, namely St. Francis of Paola, a renowned holy man and hermit, a member and founder of the Franciscans inspired Order of Minims. St. Francis of Paola dedicated his life to God in a life of prayer and service to God, caring for the spiritual needs of many people through prayerful life away from the distractions of the world.

Since his youth, St. Francis of Paola had always been attracted to the solitary life in prayer, often seeking secluded places to contemplate and live a life of prayer. He inspired like-minded people to form the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, named after the saint who is St. Francis of Paola’s namesake, and inspired by the humble and obedient charism of the Franciscan order. They all lived in simplicity and practiced rigorous chastisement of the physical body through strict abstinence.

St. Francis of Paola showed us all that it is indeed possible for us to live entrusting ourselves completely to God’s providence and love. We do not need to live our lives in the manner that St. Francis of Paola had done in being a recluse and hermit, although some did follow in his footsteps inspired by that way of life in serving God. Rather, we need to take note how St. Francis of Paola entrusted his life to God in the same way that Abraham had entrusted his life in Him.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to God in the same way? We are given this perfect opportunity during this season of Lent to turn towards God once again with all of our hearts and devote our whole lives once again to Him. May the Lord be our guide and be our constant source of strength at all times, that we may live ever more faithfully in God’s loving presence, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (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 which highlighted to us what it truly means for us all to be followers of God, as Christians who believe in the Lord and in His salvation. Through the Scripture passages beginning with the tale of the three friends of Daniel in the first reading today, and then to the confrontation and the strife that existed between the Lord and the Jewish people of Judea, we are reminded yet again that to follow Christ, it requires us to have a sincerity of heart in faith.

In our first reading, we heard about the three friends of Daniel, the exiles of Israel who were in Babylon then, under the rule of king Nebuchadnezzar who conquered the kingdom of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar built for himself a great golden statue in his own image and ordered all of his subjects and people to worship that golden statue under the pain of death. But the three friends of Daniel refused to do so, and when the king confronted them under the pain of death, they stood by their faith in God.

This is the kind of faith that we all need to have. It is however not that we have to be confrontational or suffer in the way that those three friends of Daniel had suffered, or that necessarily we will encounter persecution in any way. Rather, it means that we must have that strong and genuine faith in God, so much so that we will be willing to even choose death over life rather than to betray the Lord and sell our souls to the evil one.

It means that we put God as the focus and the priority over our lives, and we have to be sincere in that faith, genuinely loving God and desiring to follow Him and to walk with Him, and not just giving Him a lip service or treat our faith as a mere formality. That was what the Jews in our Gospel passage had done, as these people were descended from the Israelites of old, especially those who were once part of the kingdom of Judah and they saw themselves as the privileged people and a chosen race, looking down on others.

They took great pride in themselves as the direct descendants of Abraham and the sons and daughters of Israel, but yet, in their hearts, many among them only paid lip service to the Lord and superficially obeyed His laws and commandments rather than keeping true to the spirit of the Law and truly love God with all of their hearts and minds. Especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them always took great pride in their way of observing the laws and commandments, and looked down on others they deemed to be inferior to them.

It was these people whom the Lord rebuked in today’s Gospel passage, all those who were proud of their ancestry and status, and yet, compared to the three friends of Daniel, they did not have true and genuine faith. They were focused much on themselves in how they lived their faith, they turned inwards and became fascinated with their own pride and ego, failing to see and realise how they are in need of healing from their sins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, are we able to change our way of life and heed what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples and the people, that is to be truly faithful to God and to devote more of our time and effort to serve the Lord, to focus our attention on Him more and to dedicate ourselves with greater reverence and commitment? Are we able to overcome the temptations of pride and worldly desires that we may be more Christ-like in our lives from now on?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith so that we may walk in His path and trust in Him more. We must put God as the priority of our lives, and we must put a focus on Him in each and every moments of our lives from now on. Are we able to do that, brethren? Are we able to trust Him with all of our hearts just like how the three friends of Daniel trusted in the Lord so much that they were even willing to endure great sufferings and death, defying a great king for His sake?

May the Lord bless us all and may He be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives more faithfully, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of just how each and every one of us are sinful people in need of healing and forgiveness from God. The Lord has shown us the path going forward in life and if we are willing to follow Him, we will receive from Him the assurance of eternal glory and life through Christ, His Son, our Lord and Saviour.]

From our first reading today, we have heard of the rebellion of Israel against God, their lack of gratitude and appreciation for all that God had done for them, even though He had been so generous towards all of them. God has given His people food to eat, the manna He sent to them every morning except on the Sabbath day, as well as large birds to supplement these in the evenings, and gave them all plenty of clear and good quality water in the middle of the lifeless and desolate desert.

Yet the people refused to appreciate this wonderful grace of God, which He has lovingly and patiently extended to His people. The people had repeatedly grumbled and disobeyed the Lord, spurning His love and betraying Him for pagan idols of their neighbours. Despite all these, they still grumbled why God led them to such a desolate place although He had freed them all by mighty deeds out of their suffering in Egypt.

That was why the fruit of their disobedience is punishment, represented by the fiery serpents sent against them to remind them of the sins they have committed against God. The serpents bit many of them and many died, again a reminder that death is the result and consequence of sin. Unless we repent from those sins, as what the Israelites did, regretting their rebellion and disobedience, and begging Moses to intercede on their behalf, unless we do these, we too will perish from our sins.

And then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus reminding yet again how sin leads to death, and how He Himself is going to His own death as He has repeatedly mentioned to His disciples of His upcoming suffering and death. He mentioned of how He Himself would suffer and die, lifted up on the Cross high for all, in an obvious parallel to what had happened with Moses and the Israelites in our first reading today.

Moses was told to craft a bronze serpent and put it on a long pole that many people can see it from afar, and those who have been bitten by the serpents and saw the bronze serpent of Moses would not perish but live. In the same way, Christ is lifted up high on the Cross for everyone to see, to be the source of hope and the assurance of salvation for all of us sinners who have been bitten by the sting of sin.

God has loved us all so much that He was willing to endure all that suffering, pain and punishments for us. His crucifixion is the real proof of how much His love is for us and how precious we are all to Him. God’s love is so great that He even wants to forgive us all from our sins and our terrible rebellions against Him. Nonetheless, at the same time again, He also wants to remind us that all sins are dangerous to us, as sin will become our undoing if we continue to allow them to corrupt us and bring us down.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, every time from now on, as we look on the crucifix, on which Our Lord is hung, we are looking at the concrete evidence of God’s love for us, and also the hope and light that He has brought upon us as we still live in the darkness of this world. And now that we see just how much He has cared for us, are we willing to make that commitment to serve Him and to turn away from our sinful past?

Let us all make good use of the time and opportunity that God has granted us, to be reconciled to Him and to embrace His love once again. Let us all sin no more, and be not stubborn anymore in continuing to walk down the path of evil. Instead, let us all draw closer to God, and embrace fully His compassion and mercy, and become from now on, good and faithful Christians, devoted to God at all times.

May God bless us all, and may He strengthen us to serve Him and to follow His path with fervour and zeal. May God empower us all to live more faithfully and to be the bearers of His light in the darkness of this world that even more people may be saved through our faith, that more and more people will turn towards Christ and love Him as their Hope and Saviour. Amen.

Monday, 30 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (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 which spoke to us about the fate of two women, who had encountered troubles under two different circumstances. Yet, both of the occurrences had the similarity of them being examples of how God mercifully and lovingly cared for His people, protected those who put their faith in Him and sought Him for help. The Lord saved Susanna, a righteous woman from false accusation in our first reading today, while in the Gospel He saved the woman caught in the act of adultery.

In our first reading today, we heard how the innocent and faithful woman, Susanna, who was framed by her two prosecutors, two respected elders who lusted over her and wanted to commit sin with her. Susanna stood her ground and refused to submit to those men’s desires, and she almost lost her life to false accusation as the two elders abused their authority to falsely accuse Susanna of adultery and promiscuity while it was their own sins that led them to the attempted rape of Susanna.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Pharisees led a woman caught in the act of adultery to the Lord Jesus, condemning her to death by stoning in accordance to the Jewish customs and laws, and they attempted to use her as a test for Jesus, seeing His reaction and response hoping that He would be trapped by what He said or told them. If Jesus had condemned the woman, then the Pharisees could then say that Jesus was following the example of the Pharisee and therefore discredit His teaching authority. If Jesus said that the woman should be set free, the Pharisees then could condemn Jesus for siding with a sinner.

But the Lord has Wisdom none of those people had, which in the first reading today we heard how God’s Spirit and Wisdom descended upon Daniel, who rose up and defended Susanna, forcing the two elders to reopen the investigation when they had almost succeeded in silencing her by condemning her to death. Daniel trapped the two elders in their own words and false testimonies, and they were convicted by their own words.

In a similar manner, we heard how the Lord Jesus deftly manoeuvred around the Pharisees’ attempt to trap and corner Him using the adulterous woman, by asking those who had no sin to cast the first stone on the woman. This was a perfectly wise set of words to say in that occasion as it is a reality that every one has sinned before, and the longer that one has lived, the more sins naturally he or she had committed.

That is why the people gathered left, one by one, beginning with those who were the eldest, up to the youngest ones, and in the end, no one was left to condemn the woman. And here we have to take note that, the only one who is without sin at that place and time, was none other than Jesus Himself. And yet, did Jesus cast the first stone to the woman? He did not. He forgave the woman her sins, but told her not to sin again, and live righteously from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from today’s Scripture passages, clearly there are two important learning points that all of us should spend some time to reflect on. First of all, is the fact that God loves us all, and His love for us is even greater than the hatred He has on our sins. And for all those who have faith in Him and put their trust in Him, God will provide for them and protect them, just as what He had done to Susanna.

And then secondly, God wants us all to be reformed and to be cleansed from our sins, our wickedness, from all those things that brought about our downfall. As He told the adulterous woman, that she had been forgiven and yet, she must not sin again, it shows us that in the end, sin is something that we must distance ourselves from, and which we have to be vigilant against, as God is ever loving and forgiving towards us, but we must not take this for granted and continue to live in the state of sin.

Are we willing to turn once again towards God and seek His forgiveness and mercy for our sins? Are we able to make the commitment to change our ways of life and embrace once again the righteousness of God, rejecting all sorts of wickedness in life? This is what we have all been called to do in our lives, and especially in this season of Lent we are encouraged to spend our time with greater devotion to God, focusing our attention on Him and doing what we can to restrain our desires to sin.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to follow Him and to put our trust in Him from now on. May God bless us always and may He be with us all, throughout this journey of faith in life. Amen.

Sunday, 29 March 2020 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fifth Sunday in the season of Lent, as we approach closer to the beginning of the Holy Week and the Passion of Our Lord, we focus our attention towards the coming of Easter in which we celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord, and how through that Resurrection, He has brought upon all of us the hope of new life through His Resurrection, of which today’s Gospel passage on the resurrection of Lazarus is a premonition of what the Lord was to bring to us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of God’s promise to the people of Israel through Ezekiel, how He would restore them and bring them back to the land of their ancestors, and free them from their humiliation and bondage as a defeated and conquered people, after their kingdom and land were destroyed and conquered by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. At that time, the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem had just happened, the Temple destroyed and the Ark of God disappeared.

The morale of the people of Israel at that time must have been really low, as they were in depth of despair and darkness, having been humbled such by their own disobedience against God. But the Lord reminded them then through Ezekiel how they would once again have a share in His joy and receive great happiness for the Lord promised them all that He would deliver them from their predicament, and that He would give them a new life. This is a premonition of what would happen in the days to come, when through king Cyrus of Persia, God would allow His people to return to the land of their ancestors.

But this is also a premonition of what is to come for us mankind, in the promise of liberation from an even greater darkness and humiliation, that is the trials we experience because of our sins and wickedness. God promised us all a new life that is free from sin, where we will no longer suffer the consequences of sin, liberated and made free from the burden of our sins which had enslaved us and corrupted us all these while. And He made all these promises true and fulfilled by sending to us His own Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed us what He meant by His greatest miracle then yet, in bringing back even a dead person back into life, witnessed by many hundreds and more people who happened to be there. The resurrection of Lazarus has always been read on this fifth Sunday of the season of Lent to prepare us for the celebration of the Lord’s own Resurrection at Easter. And this resurrection of the dead Lazarus was a great proof for all those who witnessed it, how the Lord was with Jesus, the power from on high, authority over all life and death. This is something that no one colluding with the devil could have, unlike what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law claimed.

On a separate occasion, the Lord Jesus also raised the daughter of an official from the dead, as well as the son of a widow from the town of Naim. All these showed that death, the ultimate enemy, is no longer something that is to be feared. And here we need to understand better the nature of how death is related to all of us, so that we may be better able to appreciate the significance of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Death is something that all of us have always feared since it is something that is uncertain and scary, marking the definitive end to life in this world as we know it.

And death is the consequence of sin, which is then in turn caused by our disobedience against God, our inability to follow His will, our shortcomings and fall into the path that is divergent from God’s appointed path. Death is our fate, just as our first ancestors, Adam and Eve had to suffer death because of their disobedience, that they were to ‘return to dust just as they had been made from dust’. They were not meant to suffer this fate, for God intended for everything to be good and perfect just as how He created all of creation.

This means that all of us were meant to enjoy the fruits of God’s creation, to receive the fullness of His intended inheritance and to bask in God’s love and grace forever. This was why God created us in the first place, to share in the wonderful love overflowing from Him. But, our disobedience led to sin, and sin created that separation between us and God, and since we have been sundered from God’s grace and presence, He, Who is the Source of all life, that is why we suffer and experience death.

And especially at this time when the whole world is facing the terrible coronavirus pandemic, the Covid-19 trouble, and people are dying in their thousands, with many tens and even hundreds of thousands are now suffering from the disease, we can see how the whole world is gripped with fear, especially over the suffering that the sickness is bringing to us, and even more so over death, as many feared that they may succumb to the disease and die.

What we have seen in the past few weeks showed this, how so many people acted in a very selfish and irrational manner, as people flocked to the markets and shops, hoarding many essential goods such as food and also sanitary equipments, which put much of the world’s supply chain in great strain and at the same time, denying many of those who need the necessities from getting what they should have gotten. Many bought much more than what they should have even considered buying, in what we know as panic buying or hoarding.

And then we also knew and heard how there had been many incidents of racism and prejudices against certain groups of people, whom many either blamed for the outset of the disease, or that they have helped in propagating its spread. These led to attacks and ostracises against those whom they had been prejudiced against, both in the direct physical terms or in the online world, on social media platforms among others.

Looking at the behaviour of many of these people, we may end up wondering what had happened to us mankind that we end up doing such actions. It is in fact our fears and our worry of death that led to many of us acting in this manner. Many of us were so afraid of facing death that we ended up acting in self-preservation and selfishness, even causing hurt to others while doing so. And ultimately we had no faith in God and this is why we ended up doing all these out of our lack of faith.

In the midst of all these terrible things happening all around us, despite all the darkness and troubles we are facing, we must remember that there is still light and hope by our side. God is that light and hope that we must hold fast to, and we must not let go of this light that we have, for God has given us His reassurance, again and again that no matter how bad or terrible things may be, but as long as we keep our faith in Him, He, the Master of all things, the Lord of all life and death will deliver us from all of our troubles.

Fear is the method by which the devil is trying very hard to subvert us and to turn us away from God. Through fear, he wants us to turn inwards and indulge in our own selfish and wicked desires, that we may end up act in ways that lead us to sin, by our lack of care for others, by our selfishness that cause the hurt of others because we want to preserve ourselves. When we are too afraid of death and having no faith in God, that is when we end up on the slippery path towards sin and death itself.

The more we fear death, the more in fact we draw closer to it, because we have little or no faith in God. And it is imperative that during this difficult time when we are facing this global pandemic and other issues, that we must put our faith in God and trust in His will and plan for each one of us. After all, why do we fear something that we have no control over? Life or death is in the hands of God alone, and none of us have the power to extend our lives for even a single second or even millisecond.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, as we reflect once again on our Scripture passages, let us all think of our priorities in life. Let us all not overly worry over whether we will suffer or die especially in this terrible times. Instead, let us all focus our attention on caring those who are around us, spending precious time to love those who are in need of love, especially in this moment when many may need consolation and love, comfort and kindness.

Let us all be filled with care and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may truly embody the Lenten spirit of repentance and turning towards God with all of our heart. It is by deepening our charity and love, and by casting aside all of the pride and ego in us that we will be able to appreciate better the love which God has for us, and to better able to trust Him and believe in the resurrection and the new life which He will give us all who believe in Him.

Let us all look forward to celebrate the glorious Resurrection of the Lord in this coming Easter, knowing how God has triumphed over sin and death, and how none of us should ever worry about suffering and death anymore, since God will restore us to the fullness of His inheritance and grace, and while we experience the death of our physical bodies, but after that, we will be raised in glory to join in body and soul with Him and all the Angels and Saints, in the glorious new eternal life.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen us all to live courageously and with faith even through this difficult moment. And may He also heal all those who are suffering, console those who have lost their loved ones, and bring those who have passed on into His eternal rest and glory. Amen.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard similar readings to what we have heard yesterday, as they speak of the persecutions that God’s faithful servants had to endure in the midst of their work and ministry, encountering all the opposition from the world, as the prophet Jeremiah lamented his sufferings at the hands of those who had plotted against him and persecuted him. In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the bitter opposition which the Lord faced from the Pharisees, many of whose members were against Him.

In our first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, we heard how the prophet faced lots of difficulties and persecutions from those who hated and disliked him, especially those who were irritated by the constant words of doom that the prophet Jeremiah delivered from God, as the people of the kingdom of Judah continued to live in sin and refused to change their ways, and hence, Jeremiah delivered warnings from the Lord of the coming of destruction for both Judah and Jerusalem.

But many of the people refused to believe in Jeremiah and hated him for his persistent efforts to warn them. Hence they persecuted Jeremiah and made his life difficult, and if it had not been for the assistance of Jeremiah’s friends, the prophet could very well have lost his life as well. In the Gospel passage we heard of the same plotting and unhappiness that a large portion of the Pharisees and the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council had on the Lord Jesus.

They refused to believe in Him because they refused to accept the fact that Jesus is the Messiah as some among them thought that according to the Law of whom they were experts of, the Messiah should not and could not have come from the region of Galilee where Nazareth is, and just because of that and because they perceived that what the Lord had done were blasphemous in nature and irreconcilable with the way that they enforced their piety and faith, then they could persecute and condemn Him like how they did with those considered as sinners in their midst.

And when one among them, Nicodemus, who was favourable to the message of Jesus, argued that they should not condemn the Lord Jesus before they heard Him properly and got to know the actual facts rather than to base their judgments on their own flawed understanding of the situation and biased informations, he was quickly silenced by the rest, who doubled down on their refusal to believe using the same arguments to back their decision.

What have all these Scripture passages told us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fact that pride leads to stubbornness, and also as long as we keep our pride and ego with us and indulge in keeping them and our desires, we will likely end up acting like how the Pharisees had behaved, in their stubborn refusal to listen to the Lord and believe in His message of truth. And this will likely lead us down the path of sin, and those sins will lead us into damnation unless we repent from them.

This is why during this season of Lent we are encouraged to be more humble and be more willing to open ourselves to accept God’s wisdom and words of truth, to open our ears, our eyes and deepen our senses to feel and know what it is that God wants us to do with our lives. If we have sinned against God, this is the time which we can use to seek forgiveness and healing, as God is always ever forgiving, kind and compassionate. He is always ready to forgive us, as long as we are willing to allow Him to forgive us.

Let us realise the shortness of our mortal lives and existence, and let us realise just how unworthy and corrupted we have been because of our sins. And it is God alone that can deliver us from this trouble and predicament. Let us get rid of the pride and ego within us, and deepen our humility and our submission to the will of God. This Lent, let it be a season and time of renewal of our faith, that we may draw closer to God and be found within His love and comforting grace once again.

May God be with us in our journey of faith especially through this season of Lent, and let us all not forget to pray for one another also in this difficult moments when the world is experiencing so many issues and troubles, from the current coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis among others. May God give us the strength and courage to live our lives daily with faith and trust in Him. Amen.

Friday, 27 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, as we draw closer to the time of the Holy Week, the readings begin to speak about the coming of the time of the Passion of the Lord, as was evident in the theme of today’s readings on the suffering of God’s servants, as shown in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom highlighting the thoughts of the wicked people who rejected the message of God’s truth and persecuted the prophets and messengers sent to remind them. And then later in the Gospel we heard of the opposition against Jesus and the efforts His enemies made to try to harm Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the plots which the enemies of the faithful had planned against God’s Servant, just as they had done for the many prophets sent to them. In fact, if we carefully go through what has been written in this particular passage in the Book of Wisdom, we will realise that it is a prophecy that refers to the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, Who is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God Whom the Father sent into the world to save it. All the prophecy spoke of the treatment which Jesus would eventually receive at the hands of those who persecuted Him and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified.

Jesus had faced rejection and opposition from those who refuse to believe in Him and in the truth that He has brought into this world. He has been opposed at almost every opportunities, and many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made His ministry difficult, as He was forced even to hide from time to time, and to avoid cities and towns as the authorities were seeking to arrest Him and destroy Him. This is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as the tension between the Lord and His followers with the Jewish authorities rapidly reached a flashpoint.

The Lord made one of the most revealing statement yet in His words at the Temple before everyone who were gathered, not long before the beginning of Our Lord’s Passion. He stood firmly against all those who had doubted Him, rejected Him and persecuted Him, saying how those who refused to believe in Him and His truth were blinded by their pride and arrogance, their unwillingness to listen, and their lack of knowledge and faith about the Lord. As stated in our first reading today from the Book of Wisdom, this is the reason for their actions against the Lord Jesus. Their malice and worldly concerns and desires trumped their faith and obedience in God.

Now, we have to take heed of what today’s Psalm told us, that God’s anger and wrath are reserved for those who have acted unjustly and have persecuted His faithful ones, those who acted with malice and evil, those who made others to suffer, which is exactly the retribution that is to come for all those who refused to believe in Christ and in His message. This is a reminder that God will not forget about His faithful ones, and those who have acted with injustice and evil will have to answer for their misdeeds, unless they repent from those sins.

And the root of all these evil and malice is none other than pride, the pride, arrogance, hubris and ambition in our hearts, the ego and the selfishness that we have within us. Those who persecuted the prophets in the ancient days did so because they refused to admit that they had been wrong or wayward in their lives, and they thought that they knew better how they ought to live their lives, treating those whom God had sent into their midst to remind them as nuisance or even as threats to their livelihood and way of life.

Similarly, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council acted with such injustice and wickedness against the Lord Jesus and His followers, simply because they saw Jesus as a great threat to their position and influence within the Jewish communities at that time. They perceived Him as a rival and as One that had to be removed or else they would lose all their privileges and honour, resulting in them plotting and making plans to try to arrest and destroy Jesus.

They refused to admit that there could actually be a greater and more authentic source of truth and wisdom beyond what they have zealously guarded for many years. They refused to admit that their way of observing the Law of God could have been wrong or incomplete, and they took pride in the fact that they were greatly honoured by the people and treasured as people with great intellectual capacity and wisdom. All these led them to harden their hearts and minds against God. God could not make much progress on them, but nonetheless, He still tried.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today that we should avoid pride and ego from dictating how we live our lives, and we are reminded that if we indulge in our ego, and allow hubris, ambition and selfishness to cloud our judgment and affect our actions, then it is likely that we may end up like those who have rejected God and chose to dwell in their own human ambition, trusting in their own power and intellect rather than to trust in God. And that will end up leading us down the path of sin and disobedience, as we may likely act to preserve ourselves more than we obey God’s will.

Let us all strive to sharpen the edge of our humility and deepen our faith and trust in God during this season of Lent, a wonderful time and opportunity that God had given to us to help us rediscover our path in life. Let us all also remove from our hearts and minds, the corruption of pride and hubris, ego and ambition, all that are obstacles in our path in serving the Lord. May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey, that we may be ever more faithful each and every moments of our lives from now on. Amen.