Sunday, 20 March 2016 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great beginning of the Holy Week, the very important week of celebrations of the core tenets of our faith, of the very crucial events surrounding the history of our salvation in God through Jesus Christ, His Son. For it was through Christ that we were all saved from destruction and damnation guaranteed for our sins.

Today we begin the celebration of the Holy Week with the celebration of the Palm Sunday, where we all know that it celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus our Lord into Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. Then, certainly, one may ask, what is the significance of such an entry? Did Christ not enter the city of Jerusalem on other occasions as well? After all the Gospels did say about how Christ went to the Temple of Jerusalem for a few times throughout His journeys, and surely He had entered the city a lot of times, even when He was still young and was only twelve years old.

But no, brothers and sisters in Christ, for this entry into Jerusalem is different from the other entries and visits by Jesus and His disciples to Jerusalem. For this entry marked the beginning of the end, that is the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus our Lord in this world, and yet also the beginning of God’s final phase of the plan to save us all mankind.

For it was what happened in that Sunday, a week before the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which set up the stage for the whole culmination of the work of our Lord, that began in Bethlehem on the day of His birth into this world, which came to His baptism, His ministry, and then His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and then how the people who had proclaimed Him as King would then turn on Him, and demanded the Romans to crucify Him instead.

Jesus knew that going into Jerusalem at such a time would mean that He would have to face rejection, suffering, punishment and death, and death by the hanging on the cross, by the Romans. But even knowing this, and knowing all of the persecutions, torture, the pain that He would have to endure, He still pressed on, and entered Jerusalem regardless, going forth to face whatever it was that those who were opposed to Him were trying to do to Him.

And why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of His love for all of us, which transcended everything else. If God did not love us the way He had done, then He would not have bothered even to rescue us from our seemingly hopeless situation. After all, we mankind have proven ourselves throughout history to be very stubborn and resistant to the love and mercy which God is showing us.

We continued in our rebellious ways, not listening to God reminding us and constantly trying to pull us away from our fallen ways. And we resist even those whom He had sent to call us back into righteousness, the messengers, the prophets and the other holy men and women. God fully knew how His rebellious people would treat Him if He Himself were to come into their midst and call them to do the same thing, that is to repent.

But He did so regardless, just as at the mountain where He was transfigured, at Mount Tabor, where He did not remain forever, but continued to descend down the mountain, knowing that in order to save mankind from their fate, there is something that must be done, and it is to offer a worthy sacrifice as the means to absolve them from their sins.

And in order to absolve the whole multitude of mankind, all the billions and countless billions of them, and all the sins each had accumulated or will accumulate in their respective lives, which is really a gargantuan, a humongous amount of sins, nothing is worthy save if the Lord offers Himself, the one sole, perfect sacrifice, worthy to absolve us all. Just imagine all the sins, big and small that we have committed in life, and we should realise just how many sins we have committed.

And then imagine how that many sins being committed by all mankind who have ever lived, past, present and future, and all their sins, our sins are placed firmly on the shoulders of our Lord, Who willingly bore them all the way to the cross, and die for the sake of all of us criminals through our sins, so that our punishment may not be ours, but our lot becomes that of eternal life with God Who loves us.

And as we think and reflect about the love which our God has for us, let us also reflect on our own lives, our actions, words, deeds and all the things we have done in our lives. Have we been like the people of Jerusalem in their deeds, in how they treated the Lord Jesus? They welcomed the Lord with great pomp and celebrations, hailing Him as the Son of David, the Messiah and King, and yet, just less than a week later, they were the same ones who chose Barabbas over Jesus, and cried out, “Crucify Him!” when Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus.

That means, have we proclaimed ourselves as Christians, saying that we are faithful to the Lord, and yet, have we been truly faithful to God? Are we faithful in our actions and in all our dealings with one another? If we say that we are faithful to God and yet our actions are detestable to Him, then we are no better than those people in Jerusalem, who proclaimed Jesus as King and Messiah on one day, and on the other day, called for Him to be crucified.

But remember, Jesus forgave them all, and He prayed for them. And He also died for them all, for He gave Himself up to be crucified, to suffer and die for all mankind, and not just for all those who are good to Him. Ultimately, it is our acceptance to His offer of mercy, and our commitment to make our own lives a better one that will make a difference in our lives.

As we proceed into the Holy Week celebrations beginning from today, and as we rejoice in God, crying out aloud, “Hosanna!” Let us also remember that we today also celebrate the Holy Passion of our Lord, He Who suffers for our sins and Who were tortured and wounded because of our trespasses. Let us be thoroughly and completely changed in body, mind and heart, so that we may become more devoted and faithful in all things, and be worthy of God’s promise of everlasting life. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Alleluia! The Lord is risen, and we are glad. All creation rejoices because our Lord has triumphed. Satan He had conquered, sin He had cast down, and death He had destroyed forever by the power of His glory and majesty. In His rising from the dead we find hope of our salvation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the greatest feast of our faith, the culmination of our long wait for this moment, which we began with Ash Wednesday forty days ago, and now finally we come to this moment when we celebrate our Lord’s triumph. For today is the culmination of all God’s hard work, both in heaven and on earth. It was at this moment that God declared to all men, the fullness of His intention, and the goodness that He has planned for them.

Easter is a very important moment for all of us, for without Easter, and without our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, our faith would mean nothing, and we will have no hope in our own lives. We can have hope for the future because our Lord had risen and conquered death, proving to all of us that death and sin do not have the final say over all of us. It was once dreadful, yes, but through what Jesus had gone through for us, He had set us free.

Without Easter, without the resurrection of our Lord, there is no meaning to Good Friday, for then Jesus would just be a mere Man condemned to death, and die a humiliating death on the cross, the end of a rather successful career and work as a popular preacher and prophet. And there would be little meaning to our celebration of the Palm Sunday too, for then Jesus would just be someone who aspired to be the King over the Jews and failed, betrayed by His own people.

And our observance of Lent, Christmas and other important feasts would be for nothing, and our faith would be empty, since we are believing in a person who would seem to be no different than any other person. But Jesus is different, and we know that and we believe that He is not just like any other men, but He is God, who has made Himself to assume the flesh of man, so that He becomes fully God and fully Man at the same time, in the person of Jesus Christ.

And by His own power, Jesus had descended down into hell, after His death, which happened on Good Friday, and when He went down into hell, not because by any sins but because of what He wanted to do for all of us, He brought the souls of the faithful who have been lying in wait for timeless ages, and brought them into the salvation and new life which God had promised them all.

This is the essence of Easter, that is the final victory which had been inflicted on Satan, on sin and death. This is the moment of victory and triumph, of celebration, the new and true Passover, made through the new Covenant which God had sealed by His own Blood shed on the cross. Like the first Passover, a people in suffering under the slavery of the Egyptians had been freed from their torment by their God, who did not forget His love for them, and who had opened even the Red Sea for them to cross to safety from their oppressors.

The Scripture readings today are a series of reminders for all of us, of God’s continuing work and presence in our midst from the very moment when He created this world and all of us, that He never abandoned us mankind even after we have fallen into sin. We were created perfect and all good, as our first reading from the Book of Genesis had mentioned, and we were not meant to suffer death and tribulations in this world, if not because of our disobedience that led us to sin.

God easily could have crushed us and destroyed us if He wanted to. He was certainly perfectly capable of such feat. And yet, He went to all the trouble of coming down personally Himself to sort out the issue, and the rest of the story, we know all about it. It was the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He assumed our humanity so that as the new Adam, the new Man, He might show the way for us to break free from our chains of sin and become righteous and true disciples and children of our God.

Yes, that is exactly what the significance of Easter is also to us. We have to remember that every Easter, we renew our baptismal promises, and our brethren who have decided to accept our Lord and God as their Lord and Saviour are traditionally baptised on this day, at either the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday, as this is the moment that signifies new birth, new life and liberation from all the vices and evils of old, of our old lives and of our old habits.

Do we realise how important our baptism is to us? Through baptism we have been made free from all the sins and defects of our past, and we are reborn anew in the Lord. Jesus mentioned to the faithful Pharisee, Nicodemus, how a man must be reborn again if he or she wants to attain the fullness of God’s grace and salvation. And while the Great Flood of Noah’s time destroyed all those who were impure in the world and the righteous ones were saved, so therefore through the waters of baptism, we have died to our old selves of sin, to our old selfishness and wickedness, and reborn into a new life of grace.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this greatest feast of our faith, and as we begin our season of great celebration this Easter, can we ask ourselves as we look deep within our hearts, whether we have already done what God had asked us to do as His disciples and as His children? God had made us His adopted children through baptism, when we are made the members of His Church, and by sharing in the glory of Christ, we became His brethren, the members of His Body.

And therefore, naturally, as His children, we should behave all children are. Children should emulate their fathers and follow what their parents had taught them. If we truly belong to the Lord, then we would not continue whatever wickedness and evils which we had once committed in our lives. Indeed, if we do so, we do not just mock the goodness of God, but we also bring doom upon ourselves.

Our faith cannot be passive or stagnant, and neither can we believe that because we have been baptised and as members of God’s Church, then we are automatically saved. Our faith requires us to continue living day after day in fulfillment of what our faith had taught us. That means, our actions, our words and our every deeds must show that we truly are Christians, people who have been chosen by God and who believes in Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Otherwise, our actions and deeds will only betray our faith, that to show that we are not worthy of God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice greatly in this great joy of Easter, let us all renew our commitment, as we renew our baptismal promises, and let us mean them with every single words we utter from our mouth. Let us reject Satan, all the devices of evil and all forms of sin with finality, knowing that if we sin any more, we are betraying Jesus yet again and disrespect the love which He had shown us. Let us all grow stronger in our faith and in our dedication to the Lord, and help one another to seek the Lord and become closer to Him.

May Almighty God be with all of us, forgive us all our sins, awaken in us all the love and passion which we ought to have for Him, and by remembering our own baptism, let us all share the joy of Easter with one another. The Lord has risen, and He has conquered death! The glory of our Lord is upon us! Allelluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 1-9

Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter, and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which had been around His head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place.

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. Scripture clearly said that He must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that.

 

Alternative reading

Matthew 28 : 1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake : an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came to the stone, rolled it from the entrance of the tomb, and sat on it.

His appearance was like lightning and his garment white as snow. The guards trembled in fear and became like dead men when they saw the angel. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen as He said. Come, see the place where they laid Him; then go at once and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. This is my message for you.”

They left the tomb at once in fear, yet with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to His disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way and said, “Rejoice!” The women approached Him, embraced His feet and worshipped Him. But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell My brothers to set out for Galilee; there they will see Me.”

 

Alternative reading (for Evening Masses)

Luke 24 : 13-35

That same day, two followers of Jesus were going to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem, and they talked about what had happened. While they were talking and arguing about what had happened, Jesus came up and walked with them, but their eyes were not able to recognise Him.

He asked, “What is it you are talking about?” The two stood still, looking sad. Then the one named Cleophas answered, “Why, it seems You are the only traveller to Jerusalem who does not know what has happened there these past few days.” And He asked, “What is it?”

They replied, “It is about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a Prophet, You know, mighty in word and deed before God and the people. But the chief priests and our rulers sentenced Him to death. They handed Him over to be crucified. We had hoped that He would redeem Israel.”

“It is now the third day since all this took place. It is also true that some women of our group have disturbed us. When they went to the tomb at dawn, they did not find His Body; and they came and told us that they had had a vision of angels, who said that Jesus was alive. Some of our people went to the tomb and found everything just as the women had said, but they did not find a Body in the tomb.”

He said to them, “How dull you are, how slow of understanding! Is the message of the prophets too difficult for you to understand? Is it not written that the Christ should suffer all this, and then enter His glory?” Then starting with Moses, and going through the prophets, He explained to them everything in the Scriptures concerning Himself.

As they drew near the village they were heading for, Jesus made as if to go farther. But they prevailed upon Him, “Stay with us, for night comes quickly. The day is now almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. When they were at table, He took the bread, said a blessing, broke it, and gave each a piece.

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised Him; but He vanished out of their sight. And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts filled with ardent yearning when He was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures?” They immediately set out and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and their companions gathered together.

They were greeted by these words : “Yes, it is true, the Lord is risen! He has appeared to Simon!” Then the two told what had happened on the road to Emmaus, and how Jesus had made Himself known, when He broke bread with them.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Colossians 3 : 1-4

So then, if you are risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on earthly things. For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, reveals Himself, you also will be revealed with Him in Glory.

 

Alternative reading

1 Corinthians 5 : 6b-8

Do you not know that a little yeast makes the whole mass of dough rise? Throw out, then, the old yeast and be new dough. If Christ became our Passover, you should be unleavened bread.

Let us celebrate, therefore, the Passover, no longer with old yeast, which is sin and perversity; let us have unleavened bread, that is purity and sincerity.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 117 : 1-2, 16ab-17, 22-23

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

The right hand of the Lord is lifted high, the right hand of the Lord strikes mightily! I shall not die, but live to proclaim what the Lord has done.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing and we marvel at it.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34a, 37-43

Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him.”

“We are witnesses of all that He did throughout the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem itself. Yet they put Him to death by hanging Him on a wooden cross. But God raised Him to life on the third day and let Him manifest Himself, not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God – to us who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from death.”

“And He commanded us to preach to the people and to bear witness that He is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. All the prophets say of Him, that everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins through His Name.”

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Triduum (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 1-7

At that time, when the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go and anoint the Body. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb.

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they looked up, they noticed that the stone had already been rolled away. It was a very big stone. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right, and they were amazed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified; He has been raised and is not here. This is, however, the place where they laid Him. Now go and tell His disciples and Peter : Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.”

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Triduum (Psalm after the Epistle)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 117 : 1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

The right hand of God is lifted high, the right hand of the Lord strikes mightily! I shall not die, but live to proclaim what the Lord has done.

The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Triduum (Epistle)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 6 : 3-11

Do you not know that in baptism which unites us to Christ we are all baptised and plunged into His death? By this baptism in His death, we were buried with Christ and, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the Glory of the Father, so we begin walking in a new life. If we have been joined to Him by dying a death like this so we shall be by a resurrection like His.

We know that our old self was crucified with Christ, so as to destroy what of us was sin, so that we may no longer serve sin – if we are dead, we are no longer in debt to sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, once risen from the dead, will not die again and death has no more dominion over Him.

For by dying, He is dead to sin once and for all, and now the life that He lives is life with God. So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Triduum (Psalm after the Seventh Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 41 : 3, 5 and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Now as I pour out my soul, I remember all this – how I used to lead the faithful in procession to the house of God, amid shouts of joy and thanksgiving, among the feasting throng.

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre and harp, o God, my God.

 

Alternative Psalm (for Baptism)

 

Psalm 50 : 12-15, 18, 19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.