Monday, 9 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (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 Scriptures we are all reminded of the need for us all to forgive one another just as we ourselves have been forgiven by God for our mistakes and faults, that we imitate our heavenly Father in His mercy, compassion and love just as we always pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Daniel, the prayer which he made and addressed to God, seeking for His mercy and forgiveness for all the sins and faults committed by the people of Israel, pleading for His mercy and compassionate love. God has kept His Covenant and remained faithful to the promises He made to His people despite all that they have committed, the sins and wickedness they have done and their rejection of God.

Yet, because of their sins and disobedience, the Israelites have been scattered and humiliated by their enemies, defeated and sent into exile by first the Assyrians and then those in Judah by the Babylonians. Daniel was among those who have been sent into the exile in Babylon, enduring many trials and difficulties as a people brought low and humbled by God. But Daniel also kept faith in God and trusted in His providence and love for His people.

That is why in his prayer, Daniel sought God’s forgiveness for His people while also admitting the sins on behalf of the people, admitting their past shortcomings and all the wicked things they have done in opposition to God. Daniel presented to us this faith which we all must have in God’s ever enduring mercy and love for us. For if not for God’s ever enduring love and compassion, we would have been annihilated a long while ago because of our sins.

God has kindly extended to us His mercy and His willingness to forgive us from our many sins, provided that we are willing to accept His offer of mercy and be converted from our sinfulness to righteousness. God indeed does not despise us the sinners, but He does despise our sins and iniquities. That is why He has repeatedly tried to bring us out of the trap of sin, reminding us to change our ways and to repent from our wicked past that we may be reconciled with Him once again.

That is why it is very important for us to have humility in us and the willingness to admit that we have been wrong in our ways and that we need God’s healing and mercy. And we often need to practice that same mercy in our own lives as well so that we may appreciate what it means to be shown mercy and to be forgiven. This is why as long as we do not forgive others, keep hatred and jealousy, anger and vengeance in our hearts, we will find it hard to allow God’s forgiveness to enter into us.

Too often we are too proud in our hearts to admit our mistakes or that we have been wrong or faulty in our ways. We are too proud to admit that we are not as good as what we think we are or what we want others to think of us. This is the obstacle that we need to overcome especially in this good time and opportunity given to us in this season of Lent, to be more open to God’s loving compassion and mercy, and show that same mercy and love in our own interactions with one another.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Frances of Rome, a holy woman and saint of the Church whose life can be a source of inspiration for all of us on how we should live our own lives in a good Christian manner as we should. St. Frances was born a noble and was made to marry at an early age following her family’s wishes, ending up as a wife and the matron of her family. St. Frances however was also known for her great love and charitable acts for the poor and the needy in her community.

St. Frances turned a part of her large family estate into a hospital for the poor and the sick, and distributed much needed goods for those who have little or none to get by. Initially she encountered opposition from her in-law family, but it was told that the opposition vanished when miraculously, the storehouses were filled up through the prayers of St. Frances, after she had donated part of her goods to the poor and the needy.

She also inspired the foundation of the religious order, the Olivetan Oblates of Mary whose members carry on the charism and inspiring works of St. Frances who had given much of her life to serve the people of God despite her privileged background of nobility. St. Frances could have been like many of the other nobles of her time, living in excesses and acting with much pride and ego, looking down on the poor and the needy. St. Frances instead got rid of all that pride and ego, and reached out to her fellow men, loving them and caring for them, being patient with those who opposed her efforts and filled her life with prayer and piety.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our Christian faith through our lives just as St. Frances had lived it? Are we able to turn our lives into testimonies of our faith in God, and that our lives may indeed give glory to God? Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to God and make good use of this time and opportunity given to us that we may be able to open ourselves to God and allow His mercy to work in us and through us, that we may be truly reconciled to Him and be forgiven from our sins.

May the Lord continue to guide us and help us to journey towards Him in this season of Lent. May He bless us all and our good works, that we may touch even more people through our lives as we become more attuned to God with each and every passing moments of our lives. St. Frances of Rome, our inspiration and our role model in faith, pray for us all. Amen.

Monday, 9 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die.

Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Monday, 9 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 9 : 4b-10

Lord God, great and to be feared, You keep Your covenant and love for those who love You and observe Your commandments. We have sinned, we have not been just, we have been rebels, and have turned away from Your commandments and laws. We have not listened to Your servants, the prophets, who spoke in Your Name to our kings, leaders, fathers and to all the people of the land.

Lord, justice is Yours, but ours is a face full of shame, as it is to this day – we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in all the lands where You have dispersed us because of the infidelity we have committed against You. Ours is the shame, o Lord for we, our kings, princes, fathers, have sinned against You.

We hope for pardon and mercy from the Lord, because we have rebelled against Him. We have not listened to the voice of YHVH, our God, or followed the laws which He has given us through His servants, the prophets.

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are brought to focus our attention to the commandments and Law of God. The Lord has given us His laws and commandments, revealing to us and teaching us how we ought to live our lives in this world so that we may walk faithfully in His path and be righteous as we should have as Christians, God’s faithful ones.

From the Book of Deuteronomy, we are all reminded that the Law of God must be an important part of life which we obey, follow and practice in all aspects of our lives so that by our actions we may indeed prove that we truly belong to God and God really is the centre and focus of our lives and existence. And we are also reminded that obeying the Law and following the commandments of God must be centred on one very fundamental aspect, that is love. Without love, one cannot claim to be obedient to the Law of God.

It is the same sentiment and idea that our Gospel passage has shown us, as in that passage we heard the Lord Jesus Himself teaching His disciples and the people on the importance of love, and in fact not just any kind of love, but love that is pure, selfless, unbiased and non-judgmental or prejudiced, love that does not discriminate against anyone but one that is established and anchored on the wonderful love of God. This is what the Lord wants us to know and implement in our own lives.

In that Gospel passage the Lord said how as Christians all of us are challenged not just to love those who have already loved us, but also to love even those who have not loved us, those who hated us, those who persecuted us and are prejudiced and biased against us. He asked us all to show love even to all these people who have not been kind to us and who will likely not respond to our love in kind. That is what true love is all about, the love that expects no returns and love that is genuine and not because of desire for returns and reciprocity.

The reality is that many of us treat love as something that we expect things in return, even to the point of being transactional in nature. We often love because we feel happy because of it and we seek to gain satisfaction, joy and pleasure out of that love. The moment that challenges, trials and disagreements begin to appear, then our love fades and turns into bickering and even hatred. This was also why so many marriages ended in failure, relationships ended up being broken and divorces and broken families soared, all because of our selfish love.

Now, all of us are called to embrace God’s love, which is selfless and giving rather than selfish and receiving or expecting. And the Lord Himself had shown us this love by His own example, as He laid hung on the Cross, selflessly bearing for our sake all of our sins and their punishments, to suffer instead of us so that by His loving sacrifice, He may deliver us all from our sins and therefore bring us into salvation and eternal life.

It is what He meant when He said that God loves us all, and show His love even to those who are wicked and evil, by giving them His blessings and wonders even though those people have sinned against Him. Let us all not forget that the Lord Jesus Himself forgave all of His enemies and all those who persecuted Him and condemned Him to die on the Cross, praying that they were not to be held accountable for what they had done to Him on that day.

That is what we are all called to do, brothers and sisters in Christ, to show our pure, selfless and genuine love to one another, even to those who have made our lives difficult or even those who hated us and were prejudiced against us. Indeed, this is easier said that done, and it is important that we realise how we will definitely encounter challenges and difficulties, as well as temptations to hate and to be selfish, but as Christians, are we able to strive to be more loving as Our Lord Himself had done?

Today we also celebrate the feast of two famous saints and martyrs of the Church, two holy women, St. Perpetua and St. Felicity. St. Perpetua was a Roman young woman who became a Christian, but faced opposition from his own father who wanted her to recant her faith. Despite her persecution and being put in prison, St. Perpetua remained faithful to God and refused to recant her faith. In prison, St. Perpetua encountered a slave woman, a Christian named St. Felicity. St. Felicity gave birth to a daughter just before her martyrdom with St. Perpetua and some other Christians.

In the end, both St. Perpetua and St. Felicity remained faithful to the very end, and together with several other Christians, were thrown into the Colosseum and died in martyrdom against the terrible beasts used in the gladiatorial fights by the Romans. And we can see how both St. Perpetua and St. Felicity were filled with God’s love, love that is both selfless and giving, for they did not expect anything in return for their love towards God. Had they expected things in return for their faith, they would have abandoned their faith easily in the face of trials, persecutions and certain death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the good faith and loving examples of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, and even more so, Our Lord Himself Who died for us on the Cross, let us all devote ourselves anew to God from now on, and make use of the wonderful opportunities and time given to us, especially in this season of Lent, to learn to love more selflessly and to be more faithful to God, to draw ever closer to Him and to be more righteous in His presence. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.