Saturday, 8 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we see seemingly very contrasting pictures painted by what we heard from the first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, which spoke of the coming of the Lord’s glorious kingdom of glory, where He would succour and rescue all of His people suffering and scattered around the world, and the Gospel passage, in which we heard the Pharisees and the chief priests who worked together to arrest Jesus and persecute Him to death.

As we approach the beginning of the week of the Holy Passion of our Lord Jesus, the Holy Week, holiest among the weeks of our Liturgical Year, it is important that we see these two readings as related to each other, in terms that, the Lord will fulfil the promise which He had made to His people, to gather them together once again and bless them again with the fullness of His love, and to bring all of His beloved ones into a life of bliss, happiness and glory, but all these would not come about without the suffering and Passion which our Lord Jesus was to suffer during what we are celebrating in this upcoming Holy Week.

Jesus had to endure rejection, opposition and stubbornness from the people to whom He had been sent to. God had showed His love to His people by sending them none other than His own Son, the Son of David and Son of God, to be the Heir to all the kingdom of David and as Lord and rightful King over all of God’s people, and yet, the very leaders, the chief priests, elders and the Pharisees who were leaders of the people, rejected Him.

The Pharisees and the elders, the chief priests and the high priest himself, Caiaphas, all of them surely were very aware of what Jesus and His disciples had been doing all that time, healing and preaching in many villages and towns throughout Galilee and Judea, and performing even miracles in Jerusalem and its surroundings, even raising Lazarus from the dead near the Holy City. His deeds were well known and could be attested by many who witnessed all of them.

And yet, they refused to believe in Him and rejected Him because, they were much more concerned about themselves, about their status and privileges, about their position in the society, as revered and highly respected members of the elite, upon whom the whole community revolved around. They were concerned that the teachings and works of Jesus would jeopardise their own position and prestige among the people, and a threat because that would probably have caused the Romans to remove the privileges they have granted them.

As such, human pride, ambition and desire for power, prestige and influence have resulted in the obstruction towards the good works of God. The same thing had caused the fall of many among the people of Israel, as well as many other among us mankind. It is all of these wickedness, all of these sins which our Lord Jesus Himself shouldered as He brought His cross on the way from Jerusalem to Calvary, bearing insults and rejection from His beloved people.

And yet, if we remember what Jesus did during His time of Passion and suffering, He forgave His enemies and all those who have persecuted Him. From the cross, He forgave those who have surrendered Him to the Romans and called out for His death, and indeed, He also suffered and died for these people. It is a reminder to all of us that, whenever we sin, God is willing to forgive us, and He has died for those sins that we have committed.

If we have a sense of shame inside us, then surely we would have realised that all the sins we have committed are wrong and are things that we must rectify. It is a time for us to reflect on our lives, even as we enter into the Holy Week. All the more we have to link our actions and deeds in life with the works and the actions of Jesus, Who have taken upon Himself all of our life’s sins and faults on Himself. He has loved each and every one of us who are sinners unto death, death on the cross.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn away from our rebellious ways, from all the things we have committed, all the sins and wrongs we have done in our lives thus far. Let us turn away from the way of the Pharisees and the elders, who have placed themselves and their selfish desires ahead of their responsibility to lead the people of God to their Lord.

Let us all devote ourselves to do what is right and just, by loving and caring for each other, for our neighbours, even for strangers and for our enemies. Let us all forgive one another of the hurt that we have caused each other much as Jesus Himself had forgiven His enemies, all those who have caused Him harm and condemned Him to death.

Let us all die to our pride, to our ego, to our selfishness and all the wickedness in us, and come to live again in glory with God, as we remember together His Passion, death and resurrection in the upcoming Holy Week. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 7 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard all the insults and accusations which the Jewish people and the opponents of Jesus were hurling against Him because He has revealed Himself to be the Son of God and the Messiah for all the world. They refused to believe in Him and wanted to stone Him for what they considered to be blasphemy against God.

Even though they had seen all that Jesus had done before them, by His healing of the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, making people who were deaf to be able to hear again, and those who were mute to be able to speak again, and even raising people from the dead as what He had done with the son of the widow from Naim and also with the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official, they still refused to believe.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they have hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord, not allowing Him to enter into their hearts and minds. They have put their trust in their own human judgment and intellect, thinking that they alone have the knowledge of truth, and when One came into the picture, challenging all that they used to believe, they refused to listen to the truth.

And therefore, it comes to the danger of our human pride and ego, which is the most harmful of all kinds of sins and temptations, as it is pride that brought many people to fall into sin, and it is our ego and pride which made us stubborn and adamant in our refusal to admit and repent from our sins, as the Israelites had themselves once done. And it is what all of us Christians must avoid and remove from ourselves, especially during this time of Lent.

It is pride that had prevented us from humbling ourselves and from realising that all of us are poor sinners. It is pride that had closed the doors of mercy before us, not so much that God had abandoned us or that He had not forgiven us, but instead, we ourselves in our pride and ego had refused God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness, and by our sins due to that pride, we have distanced ourselves away further from God and His merciful love.

Let us today reflect on the life of the saint, whose holy life we are commemorating today, the life of St. John Baptist de la Salle, the founder of the order of the Brothers of the Christian Schools or the Lasallians. St. John Baptist de la Salle was a French priest who was remembered for his dedication to the poorest, the least, the last and the lost among the community, those who have no one else to turn to, those who have been abandoned and unloved.

To that extent, St. John Baptist de la Salle left behind his prestigious post as the canon to the Cathedral of Rheims, a post with great prestige and privilege at that time, and chose to serve the people of God, calling together like minded people and assemble together what would become the Brotherhood of the Christian Schools, providing genuine Catholic education to the people who have once been uneducated and had no access at all to what had once been the privilege of the rich and the elite.

St. John Baptist de la Salle showed all of us the way to reach out to the Lord and to His mercy, by following what he had once done to the least and the poorest among his brethren. He eschewed pride and human ambitions, human glory and fame, renown and prestige, for true faith in God by doing what he could in order to help his fellow brethren, by showing them love, care and compassion.

It is what we all as Christians ought to be doing as well, that each one of us are not Christians just by name, or only on paper, but also through real deeds and works. Let us all make use of this opportunity that God has given us in order to strengthen our faith by devoting ourselves ever more to the works of mercy and love, committing ourselves to help our brethren, in the same manner as what St. John Baptist de la Salle and the other saints had done.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless us all in our works. May He remain with us and help us on our way, that we may find our way to Him and be saved in Him. Amen.

Thursday, 6 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the faith of Abraham, the father of many nations and peoples, who had heard the Lord’s call and followed His call to go to the land He had promised to him and to his descendants. And that was why God blessed Abraham and made His covenant with him, and with all of his descendants.

But the Israelites at the time of Jesus refused to believe in Him when He came into this world to establish a new covenant with them. They were very proud of themselves as the descendants of Abraham, and yet in their actions, they showed what were contrary to how Abraham had lived his life. They were vain, filled with human ambitions and desires, acted unjustly upon others and did what was sinful in the sight of God.

They thought that by being born children and direct descendants of Abraham, then they alone deserved God’s love, grace and salvation. Unfortunately, because of their actions and wicked deeds, even Abraham himself would be ashamed to have these people calling themselves his descendants. Their actions have brought scandal to the name of Abraham, for they have not acted and did things in the same manner as Abraham had done.

They have not been faithful to God, and they have not done what the Lord had asked them to do. They gave in to worldly temptations of power, desire and all other sorts of things that kept them away from being truly faithful to God. And they forgot that, as God mentioned to Abraham at that time, and written in the book of Genesis, they need to obey the commandments of God and be actively involved in living up their part of the covenant.

Yes, a covenant is not a one-directional transaction between God and Abraham. A covenant instead is a transaction and agreement, between two parties, and in this case, involving both God and Abraham. Both sides would have to fulfil their respective part of the covenant, or else, the covenant would not be fulfilled. And that was what happened to the Israelites, as they disregarded their obligations to fulfil the commandments of God, they had lost their right for the covenant with God.

That was why they also suffered the consequences, having been conquered and put down by their enemies, having to leave behind which God had promised to them and to their forefathers, because of their lack of faith. They were brought to faraway lands and had to endure humiliation among the foreigners, who as written in the Scriptures, mocked them for their disobedience and fate.

Yet, the Lord is ever forgiving and loving, and that is what all of us need to remember as we progress through this time of Lent, and as we deepen our relationships with God. God sent us a new Hope in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, the Saviour and Deliverer He had promised to all of us, as the sign of His love and faith, as well as commitment to His covenant with all of us, remembering the covenant He Himself made with Abraham.

To this extent, through Jesus God had established a new covenant with us all, one that will never end and be broken, for it is by none other than through His own Precious Blood and Body shed on the cross at Calvary, that He had sealed and made fulfilled the covenant that He made anew with us. This new Covenant is the covenant between us and God, and through this Covenant all of us are called to come closer to God, to be forgiven from all of our sins and to receive God’s everlasting grace.

Are we then able to commit ourselves to God in the same way that God had committed Himself. God is ever so faithful and committed to His words and covenants that He was willing to lay down His life for the sake of us all, the partakers of His covenant. If God Himself is willing to go so far for our sake, then should we all mankind then do the same? Shall we all show Him as great a commitment and faith that we can muster?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to God from now on. Let us all be renewed in faith, and show it through our actions and deeds. Everything we say and do, we should do it with genuine Christian love and charity. Let us all give ourselves to the service and help for our brethren in need, all those around us who are in need of help, and have no one to help them. May the Lord bless us all and our endeavours, and may He bring us all to His everlasting glory, all of us who partake in His wonderful covenant. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard about God Who is ever faithful to His beloved people, Who kept to the words of His covenant with them, and He will not abandon them. And when they call out to Him, He shall answer them and deliver them from all of their troubles, if they remain faithful and true in their commitment to Him.

In the first reading today, the three friends and fellow countrymen of Daniel, namely Azariah, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, got into a great trouble with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, their master, who have conquered the country of the Israelites and brought the people of God into exile at Babylon. And as they lived in the foreign land and under the rule of foreigners, they were forced to even worship pagan gods and idols, under the threat of death.

Yet, even when they were faced with persecution and the king himself forced them to choose between worshipping his golden statue or death, they stayed true to their faith and defied the orders of the king, knowing that God is always on their side, and will provide for them in all that they need. They knew that everything they had, including their very lives, were all gifts and blessings from God. If it was God’s will that they should perish while keeping their faith, then they would let God’s will be done.

It is this kind of faith which Abraham, our father in faith also once had. He trusted completely in the Lord, following where He wanted him to go to, and giving his all to walk in the path of the Lord. And because of the great faith he had, even to the point of offering his own beloved son, as the Lord asked for, when He tested his faith, God blessed Abraham greatly, to his descendants and to his descendants’ descendants.

But God does not reward the descendants of Abraham by their birth from the line of Abraham alone. That was what we heard in the Gospel today. That is why we all also call Abraham our father in faith. We followed the Lord and believed in Him much in the same manner that Abraham had been faithful, and by that virtue, we have given the same share of the blessings which God had promised to Abraham and to his faithful descendants.

Why is this important, brethren? That is because the people of Israel, even at Jesus’ time, as we saw in the Gospel today, often used their ancestry, their descent from Abraham as something to be proud of, and to belittle and discriminate others. For the same reason, the Jews at the time of Jesus looked down on the Samaritans and the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people, because they looked at themselves as those whom God had chosen to be His people by the virtue of their ancestry, while others do not deserve God’s grace because they do not belong to them.

Yet, Jesus was angry at the Jews, precisely because while they touted themselves as being descendants of Abraham, their actions and deeds were far from being right for those who claim descent from the faithful Abraham. They did not love God as Abraham had loved God, and they did what is wicked and evil in the sight of God and men alike, caring for themselves and their desires only, and not having God living in their hearts. God had often been sidelined in their lives.

Therefore, today all of us are reminded that faith in God will bring us to salvation and righteousness, while if we disobey and sin, our sins will bring us to our downfall. It was mentioned in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, that if a righteous person turns away from his or her righteousness, and commit sin, then the person will perish because of the sins he or she has committed. In the same manner, a sinner who turns to righteousness will be saved because of the righteous deeds the sinner had done.

Let us all during this time of Lent remember that it is our actions and deeds, filled with righteousness and obedience to God, that will bring us closer to God and to His salvation. Let us all not be distracted by pride, by human greed and desire, and let us not be complacent in our faith. There is always something to be done in our lives, and we should always make use of our time well in order to obey the Lord and walk in His ways. 

Let us all follow the examples of St. Vincent Ferrer, a holy priest and Dominican friar who lived during the years of late Medieval era France. He was renowned for his great dedication to the poor and the needy, and he called many people to repentance and forgiveness through his teaching and preaching. St. Vincent Ferrer went to many places, doing good works and helping many people who struggled with their faith and with their lives.

St. Vincent Ferrer showed all of us that we have many things that we all need to do in our lives, which are all the things we are capable of doing, and yet, we are unable to do because of our reluctance and lack of dedication. There are many things that all of us Christians are capable of doing in order to help those who are around us, but we did not do, as we are too busy caring for ourselves and for our own desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, as we progress through this season of Lent. Let us all do as St. Vincent Ferrer and the saints had done before us, and as Abraham, our father in faith had lived his life. Let us all be holy as our Lord is holy, so that we may truly be worthy of His grace and blessings. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017 : 5th 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, as we approach ever closer to the time of the Holy Week, we are reminded of why we do all the fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent. In the first reading today, from the Book of Numbers, we heard what happened to the people of Israel as they journeyed through the desert. They rebelled against God and God sent punishment to them in the form of fiery serpents that killed many of them.

The people of Israel begged for mercy from God through Moses, and Moses implored the Lord to have pity on them. Seeing that they have suffered and that they wanted to end their rebellion against Him, and the sincerity of their repentance, God showed His mercy and instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent placed on a stand so that all those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and saw the bronze serpent would not die but survive and live.

And in the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to all those who followed Him about the upcoming persecution and suffering that He would then soon endure during His Passion and death on the cross. He spoke to them that He would be lifted up for all to see, the Son of Man and Saviour of the world, Who was crucified like a criminal even though He was innocent and did nothing wrong.

Through this, we can see how the event in the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is linked to the time of the salvation of mankind through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. At the time of the Exodus, God brought His people Israel out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. However, they were unfaithful and they were constantly rebelling and disobeying Him, to the point of making for themselves a golden calf to be their deity and god.

As God was angry at them, for their wickedness and sins, the fiery serpents represent the punishment for all those sins and disobedience, much as how the sins that all of us mankind have done, bring about with it punishment and consequences. And many of the people of Israel died bitten by those fiery serpents, reminding all of us that the consequence for sin is death.

When we were created by the Lord, when Adam and Eve were still walking in the gardens of Eden, God did not intend for mankind to suffer and die, for it was not His intention. But, because they have sinned and disobeyed Him, therefore, they were cast out of Eden, and had to wander in this world in suffering, and death reigned over them. Ever since, all mankind, without exception, met the end of their lives in death.

But God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is that love which allows Him to show us His mercy when we His people sincerely desire to be forgiven, through our petition and grievances, through our regretting of our sins and wickedness, by our humble submission to His grace and love. And God Who loves us will indeed forgive us our sins if we are sincere in seeking to be forgiven.

That is just as how He gave a new chance to the Israelites by asking Moses to make the bronze serpent to rescue them from their predicament. And while that applied only to the people of Israel who died in the desert, God made the same thing to happen to all of mankind, by the sending of none other than His own Beloved Son, to be the One through Whom He would exercise His mercy and forgiveness.

And Jesus willingly took up upon Himself the multitudes of our sins, our defilements and all the things that had separated us from God and His love. He bore all those sins on Himself, carrying His cross through the way of suffering from Jerusalem towards the hill of Calvary. It was at Calvary where He was raised up for all to see, as the Sign of God’s salvation, forgiveness and grace, a reminder of the bronze serpent that saved the Israelites.

By the cross of Christ we have been saved, a new hope and light had dawned on us. God has given us a second chance, because He loves each and every one of us. But are we willing to be forgiven our sins? Are we allowing God to enter into our hearts and help us to transform ourselves from the creatures of sin and darkness that we were once, into beings of light worthy to be called the children of God?

That is the question we must ask ourselves, and which we must ponder on as we go through this time of preparation in Lent. We need to spend time to reflect on our lives, our actions and deeds in life thus far. Have we been faithful to the Lord, walking righteously in His ways? Or have we been wayward and disobedient like the people of Israel in the past? Have we ignored God’s laws and commandments, by our hatred, our jealousy, our selfishness and human greed?

Let us look upon the cross of Christ, the body that lies hanging on the crucifixes we have, at our homes, at our churches and wherever we are, and at our personal crosses and crucifixes. Whenever we look at Him Who is crucified, let us first of all remember that we are all sinners and should have perished because of them. Then remember how Christ died for all of us, bearing all the burdens of our sins as His own. Remember how He suffered for our sake, taking the punishment on our behalf, that we will not perish but live.

Let us devote ourselves with new commitment, looking at the example of today’s saint whose feast we are celebrating. St. Isidore of Seville was the Bishop of Seville during the years of the early Medieval era, who was credited with the conversion of the kingdom of the Visigoths in present day Spain from the heresy of Arianism into the orthodox and true Christian faith.

St. Isidore lamented the corruption that permeated the society and the people at that time, as morality became ignored and the faith among the people faltered. St. Isidore therefore laboured hard to bring the people of God back to the faith, by preaching to them the truth of the Gospels, and calling them to repentance. He stood firmly against the false teachings of Arianism and by his works, he managed to bring multitudes of souls to salvation.

Inspired by his examples, all of us Christians should endeavour to do the same as well. We should come closer to the Lord and change our sinful ways, repent from all of our past wrongdoings, realising just how much God loves us and wants us to be reconciled with Him. And we need to help our fellow brethren, especially those who are still struggling with sin and with their wickedness.

Let us endeavour to help one another, that each one of us may learn to draw closer to God, so that we may find our way to reconciliation with our God. May all of us learn to be humble, and beg the Lord for His forgiveness, by committing ourselves to change our sinful ways, and walk in righteousness and grace from now on. May God help us all, and may He bless all of us always. Amen.

Monday, 3 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the Scripture readings, from the Book of Daniel the prophet, where we heard the false accusation done by two elders of Israel against the faithful woman, Susanna. The two elders went wayward and disobeyed the Lord, allowing their lust and desire to take over their minds and bodies, and caused them to sin before the Lord and before their fellow men.

They were the elders entrusted with the guardianship and judgment over the people. They were supposed to be those who were most well versed in the matter of the Law and the commandments of God, and yet, they misused their authority to satisfy their own selfish desires. They presented false testimonies and accusations against the innocent, just because they wanted to cover the tracks of their own sins and wickedness.

But God would not allow His faithful ones to suffer such injustice. And therefore through the work of Daniel, God rescued Susanna from the hands of the two elders who wanted to see her destroyed while concealing their sins. They wanted to accuse others of their sins, but they themselves were judged and condemned because of their own sins. This is what is reinforced by what we heard in today’s Gospel, where we heard how Jesus dealt with those who wanted to persecute and punish the woman who had been caught in the midst of committing adultery.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law wanted to test Jesus by using the woman who had been accused of committing adultery, to see if He would judge her and therefore, they themselves could use whatever He was to say against Him. That was just how wicked those who were opposed to Jesus were, as they were prepared to manipulate and to take advantage of the situation to serve their own purposes.

But Jesus knew what was in their hearts, and He did not fall for the trickery. If He had condemned the woman, then He would be in trouble, because He had walked often among prostitutes and the tax collectors, then the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would condemn Jesus for His frequent sorties and work among those considered as sinners. It was believed then that if one was to come into contact with sinners, they would be defiled as well.

If Jesus had not condemned the woman, then it would have been used to condemn Him either way, as an arbitrary person who did not recognise or turned a blind eye on sin committed by the woman. But that is when Jesus, Who in His wisdom knew what to do, chose instead to reveal that very fact which many people, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, loathed to admit, that everyone is a sinner.

Thus He simply asked all of them, that the one who was without sin ought to cast the first stone against her. And indeed, no one raised even a stone against her, and beginning from the oldest ones among them, who have lived the longest, and therefore arguably having committed the most sins in their lives, left the woman behind and went away. Eventually every one of those who wanted to punish the woman and those who wanted to test Jesus went away. No one was without sin, and they were all aware of it, as much as many of them loathed to admit the fact.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, by knowing this fact, all of us should understand just how fortunate we are to have God with us, on our side, guiding us and caring for us. Jesus was the only One Who was without sin at that time, and yet, He did not judge the woman and punish her. Instead, He gave the woman a new chance and an opportunity. He said to her, “Go and sin no more.”

This is what we need to remember, brothers and sisters in Christ. It is often that we misunderstood the Lord and His desire for us to be forgiven. Many of us thought that God is ever merciful and loving, and we often used this instance of how Jesus forgave the woman who committed adultery as the reason to back up our claim that God will forgive whatever sins we commit in life.

Yet, if we understand what the Lord wants from us, then we are really mistaken, brethren. For while God is merciful and He wants us to be reconciled with Him, this depends also on the acceptance on our side, of the forgiveness which He had given freely to all of us. And what does acceptance mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is precisely the words, “Go and sin no more.” And that means, total and complete repentance, the sincere regret and penance for our sins.

It is what we need to do from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is what we need to proclaim and tell to our fellow brethren, all those who are still lost in the darkness, so that each and every one of us may find our way to the Lord and His salvation. God will forgive us, only if we sincerely turn our ways back away from our sinful past, and embrace wholeheartedly the forgiveness, by practicing what is righteous and just in our actions, sinning no more and doing what is right from now on.

Let us all pray, brothers and sisters, for the conversion of the whole world to Christ. Let us all pray, that mankind will be able to turn away from sin, and become faithful disciples and followers of our God, so that no more people, no more souls will fall into the eternal damnation in hell fire. May God be with us all, and may He forgive us all our sins, all of us who desire to be forgiven. Amen.

Sunday, 2 April 2017 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day of our Lord we heard the story of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus and the brother of Martha and Mary, our Lord’s companions, whom we all certainly are familiar with, as the one whom Jesus raised from the dead in front of many witnesses, showing all of them that He is the one and only Lord over life and death.

Lazarus was sick and then he died, just as all mankind will one day eventually die because that is the consequence of their sins. All of us have sinned against God and disobeyed His commandments, and that is why we have received death as the just punishment for those sins. And we by our nature fear death, because death is something that we do not desire, causing us to be separated from all the things we know and love in this world.

To that extent, many of us tried to extend our life and to preserve our youth, worrying that as we grow older, we draw closer to death and all the things we do not desire. We want the pleasures of our worldly life to remain forever, and we want to enjoy all the things that this life has to offer. Many of us even try to manipulate life itself, trying all sorts of methods to keep us away from dying.

But in reality and truth, it does not matter what we have done, nothing that we have done will be able to extend even a single moment of our life, as the Lord Himself mentioned, that in accordance with His will, all of our lives had been measured and determined. We cannot make it last longer or shorter, for it is not us who are in control of our lives, but it is the Lord Who is the Master of all life, and also the Master of death.

Jesus showed us all that by His power and authority, being the Master over life and death, just as much as death has power over us because of our sins, but it does not have the final say. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth mocked death, saying, “Death where is your victory, o death, where is your sting?” For he knew that there is One Who is able to defeat death, and He Himself had shown it by His own victory against death.

Yes, we see for ourselves, through the witness passed down to us from the Apostles and those who have witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, and also those whom saw Jesus risen in glory from the depth of hell, where He descended to during the time after He died on the cross. We saw how death can be overcome, if we put our trust in the One Who had conquered death, Christ Himself, our Lord and Saviour.

This Sunday is the last Sunday before the beginning of the Holy Week, the holiest time of the liturgical year, when we celebrate the very centre of our faith, the Passion and death, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the very reason for our faith and what we believe in. Therefore, through the readings on Lazarus’ resurrection, and also the passage from the first reading, where God promised His people through the prophet Ezekiel, that He would give them life, we are all reminded that our life is in the hands of the Lord.

By the baptism which we have received, we have in fact shared in the death of our Lord Jesus on the cross. We have been made to die to our past life and ways we once had. As I mentioned, we often spend a lot of time trying to preserve our life and our youth, but as we do so, we have committed things that are sinful and wicked in the sight of God. We neglect the duties and responsibilities we have, by not extending our hands to help all those who are in need around us, and instead being preoccupied with ourselves.

As we received the Sacrament of Baptism, we have been washed and made clean again, purified from the taints of our past sins, and we have received the promise of eternal life from the Master of life Himself. He Who have raised Lazarus from the dead, will also raise us from the dead, on the time of judgment, as He had promised all of us. It is the life in the world to come that we have to look out for, and not our current life in this world.

Jesus mentioned in another occasion that, we ought to seek not the treasures of this world, but instead, we should seek and build up for ourselves the treasures in the world that is to come. Why is that so? That is because all the things that we have in this world will not last, be it money, possessions, fame, influence, appearances and any other things that we often crave for, desire and wish for.

All of these things will easily perish and disappear, and it is often that despite all the things we do to keep them, we ave to realise that, first of all, these do not give us true satisfaction, and even more importantly, none of these will be carried by us over when we die. No matter how rich, powerful or influential we are, all of us will die because of our sins.

But when we live in the Lord, believing in Him and in His promise of salvation, all of us will have a new hope in us, because we know that if we remain faithful in Him, we shall live forever with Him in glory, and enjoy forever the fullness of love and grace of God. We shall no longer feel sadness, sorrow and any other forms of fear. We shall be satisfied and joyful, because the Lord is with us, and He provides us all with all that we ever need.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we approach the end of the season of Lent and coming close to the celebration of the Holy Week, let us spend some time to reflect on our lives thus far. Are we too busy and preoccupied in our lives trying to accumulate for ourselves more money, more worldly possessions, more fame and influence, and more of other things we want and desire in life?

Are we too busy thinking about the days to come, all the plans we have prepared for our lives? Are we too busy with all these things that we forget about all that we need to do in life, as our Lord had commanded us to do? And what is that, brothers and sisters in Christ? What is it that we need to do? It is to love God with all of our strength and with all of our heart, and to show that same love to our brethren, especially to those who have no one to love them.

Yes, that is precisely our obligation as Christians. We ought to love each other, as the Lord Himself has loved us. God has given us all His love, and we ought to show the same love to one another. Let us all make the commitment to love and to care for each other, instead of being selfish and being preoccupied with ourselves. Remember, the Lord alone has power over life and death, and for all of us who have believed in Him, and having received the holy Sacrament of Baptism, our salvation is assured.

There is no need for us to worry about anything, as the Lord Himself will take care of everything for us. God will not abandon all those who have faith in Him. He will care for them and protect them, and provide them all they need. Let us all renew our efforts to be true disciples and followers of our Lord, beginning from today onwards so that we may draw closer to God, and at the same time, also help all those who are lost along the way, that they too may find their way to the Lord.

And finally, let us all pray for all those who are about to be baptised in this Easter, that they too may share the life God had promised and given us all. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.