(Easter Sunday) Sunday, 27 March 2016 : Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week, Easter Octave (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34a, 37-43

Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occured 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, 17 August 2014 : 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear a very clear and concerted message from the Lord, on the faith of those who heard the word of God, acted on them and internalised these into their hearts, and became truly faithful to the Lord. And that was what the Lord tried to show the people in the reading taken from the Old Testament, how even foreigners would come and serve the Lord faithfully and became light among the nations, and in how Jesus dealt with the Canaanite woman who showed her genuine faith in God.

If one is to read just literally what Jesus did and said in the Gospel today, then he or she may think that what was Jesus thinking of saying such things? Surely He must know that He was acting arrogantly and totally insulted the poor Canaanite woman whose daughter was in difficulty? Was it what Jesus truly meant? What did He mean to do with those words? Was He not out of His character?

Yes, all these questions, doubts and uncertainties may come into our minds if we do not understand what Jesus wanted to do, and what He wanted to show the world, through both words and actions, in fulfillment of what the Lord had revealed through His prophets long ago. Jesus wanted to show all that the Lord cares not just for a certain group of people or chosen ones to the detriment of others, but instead, He cares for and loves all equally.

For ultimately, all of us had been crafted in the very image of God, and to us He had granted us the breath of life and authority even over the entire creation, and the entirety of this world and all the other creatures God had created. And therefore, all of us are essentially equal before God, and what truly differentiates us is the actions and deeds that we do in this life, on whether they follow or whether they are against God’s ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to understand the mentality of the Jews of Jesus’ time, and even that of other times. This will definitely help us to understand why Jesus did what He had done, and why He said things as He had said it to the Canaanite woman. We all know that Abraham had been blessed by God in the days long past, long before the coming of Jesus, and because of his great faith, God chose to bless him and his descendants.

And from among his descendants, God had chosen Isaac, the son whom God promised to Abraham and his wife, Sarah. To Ishmael, the other son of Abraham, whom he had with Hagar, his slave, the blessing of God was upon him and his descendants too, but not that of the same kind or degree as the inheritance given to Isaac, the heir of Abraham and his descendants.

And then, from among the two sons of Isaac, God had chosen Jacob, the younger son, to be Israel, the one whom He had chosen among the sons of Abraham as the progenitor of a people He chose among all the nations. To Esau, the elder son of Isaac, a lesser inheritance was given. This first caused great struggle and enmity between the brothers, but eventually they reconciled themselves.

The people of Israel was born from the twelve sons of Jacob, who eventually became the twelve tribes of Israel, and all of whom migrated to Egypt during the time of Joseph, and who were enslaved by the Pharaoh and the Egyptians until the salvation of the Lord came to them through His servant Moses. God performed His power before His people and their oppressors, liberating them and bringing them to the land He had promised their ancestors, Abraham and his sons.

As ages passed and years went by, the people of God alternated between faithfulness and rebelliousness to God, and as years passed on, they became more and more restless and unfaithful to the Lord who had blessed them so much, to be the examples for the other nations. Yes, this is what God intended for His people, that the ones He had chosen among many may be examples of faith and goodness, like their father Abraham of old, that others may also follow in their footsteps.

Instead, they looked upon their chosen status as a privilege and a sign of elite status, which they interpreted as themselves being the chosen people of God, as those who are superior, greater and better than all others, than all mankind who also dwell on this earth. This is the very root of the problem which the Lord, through His prophets, and through what Jesus did and said to the Canaanite woman, intended to do.

The Jews of Jesus’ time were the descendants of the returned exiles from Babylon, the survivors of the exile from the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. They took pride of themselves as the guardians of the faith in the Lord, and many of them zealously looked down upon the others, especially those whom they considered as different from themselves, and who dwelled in the land with them. This was exactly why they looked down so much on the Samaritans and the Gentiles, namely the Canaanites and the Greeks.

The Canaanites were the descendants of those people who lived in the land of Israel since before the people of Israel received that promised land from the Lord. They were conquered and enslaved and treated badly by the people of Israel, but they managed to persevere throughout many ages and many years, and in today’s Gospel, one of them, a woman with a sickly daughter, sought help not from anyone else, but from the Lord Himself.

What Jesus said to the woman was in essence, intentionally trying to show the typical prejudice, stereotype and judgmental attitudes that many of the Jews of Jesus’ time had on these others, whom they deemed to be inferior than themselves and worthy of hellfire, just as much as they thought that their ‘devoutness’ is worthy of heaven. The disciples exhibited this attitude, and the Pharisees and the elders exhibited it to an even greater degree, even to the point of judging the Jews themselves of not being worthy if certain so and so fail to fulfill their ‘criteria’ of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the message and the aim that God desires from us in this Sunday’s readings? That we realise that our faith is faith, and our love is love, and our hope is hope, no matter who we are, what blood we have, or whose descendant we are. We are all the same human beings, sinners descended from Adam and Eve, whose disobedience brought us out of the glory of heaven, like those Israelites of the past who disobeyed God and be destroyed.

We have to throw away all forms of prejudices and judgments on others, regardless of who we are and what we have done in this life. We should never, ever look down on others who also sincerely look towards the Lord and especially those who are trying hard to reach out to God. Instead of looking down on them or scoffing at them, thinking that we are better than them, we should rather offer them a helping hand and a friendly hug, to welcome them into the kingdom of God together with us.

Jesus taught us that if we are faithful and devoted to God with true sincerity, we will all be called the chosen ones of the Lord, and become His beloved children. That was why He praised the Canaanite woman’s great faith, as example for all others who followed and listened to Him. It is because that woman had such a faith not even possessed by many among the supposedly chosen people of God, many of whom ended up betraying the Lord and persecuted Him and His disciples.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we use this opportunity today to renew our faith in the Lord? And renew our love for Him and also for our brothers and sisters around us? Much has been given to us, and much is expected from us. We should help one another to reach out to the Lord and not to be judgmental on others, be it by appearance, action or anything.

Let us rather redirect all our efforts and attentions towards loving God and loving each other with true love and sincerity, that all who sees us, sees and experiences the love of God and may also therefore come towards the salvation in God. God bless us all and be with us in all of our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 8 June 2014 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 2 : 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. And suddenly out of the sky came a sound like a strong rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues as if of fire which parted and came to rest upon each one of them.

All were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each heard them speaking in his own language.

Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them in our own native language? Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Saviour, does.”

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 13 : 21-33, 36-38

After saying this, Jesus was distressed in Spirit, and said plainly, “Truly, one of you will betray Me.”

The disciples then looked at one another, wondering whom He meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining near Jesus; so Simon Peter signalled him to ask Jesus whom He meant.

And the disciple, who was reclining near Jesus, asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.”

So Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And as Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

None of the others, reclining at the table, understood why Jesus said this to Judas. As Judas had the common purse, they may have thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or “Give something to the poor.” Judas left as soon as he had eaten the bread. It was night.

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon.”

“My children, I am with you for only a little while; you will look for Me, but as I already told the Jews, so now I tell you : where I am going you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but afterwards you will.” Peter said, “Lord, why I cannot follow You now? I am ready to give my life for You.”

“To give your life for Me?” Jesus asked Peter. “Truly I tell you, the cock will not crow, before you have denied Me three times.”

Wednesday, 9 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 31-42

Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in Him, “You will be My true disciples, if you keep My word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do You mean by saying : You will be free?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave does not stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free.”

“I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. For My part, I speak of what I have seen in My Father’s presence, but you do what you have learnt from your father.”

They answered Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill Me, the One who tells you the truth – the truth that I have learnt from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.”

The Jews said to Him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I did not come by My own decision, but it was He Himself who sent Me.”

Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 13 : 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62

There lived in Babylon a man named Joakim, who was married to a very beautiful God-fearing woman, Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter, whose pious parents had trained her in the law of Moses. A very rich man and greatly respected by all the Jews, Joakim was frequently visited by the Jews in his house adjoining a garden.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, in whom this word of the Lord became true, “Wickedness has come forth from Babylon, through the elders appointed judges, who were supposed to govern the people.”

These men frequented Joakim’s house, and all who had legal disputes used to come to them. After the people had left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden for a walk. The two old men began to lust for her as they watched her enter the garden every day. Forgetting the demands of justice and virtue, their lust grew all the more as they made no effort to turn their eyes to heaven.

One day, as they were waiting for an opportune time, Susanna entered the garden as usual with only two maids. She decided to bathe, for it was a hot day. Nobody else was there except the two elders watching her from where they had hidden themselves. She said to the maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

When the maids had left, the two elders hurried to her and said, “Look, the garden doors are shut and no one sees us. We desire to possess you. If you refuse to give in, we will testify that you sent your maids away for there was a young man here with you.”

Susanna moaned, “Whatever I do, I am trapped. If I give in to your desire, it will be death for me; if I refuse, I will not escape your persecution. I would rather be persecuted than sin in the eyes of the Lord.” Susanna shrieked, but the old men shouted, putting the blame on her. One of them ran and opened the garden doors.

Hearing the noise in the garden, the household servants rushed in by the side entrance to see what was happening. They were taken aback when they heard the elders’ accusation, for never had anything like this been said of Susanna.

The next day a meeting was held at Joakim’s house. The two elders arrived, vindictively determined to have Susanna sentenced to death. They ordered before all the people, “Send for Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter and Joakim’s wife.” They sent for her, and she came with her parents, children and all her relatives.

Her family and friends and all who saw her wept. The two elders stood up and laid their hands upon her head. Completely trusting in the Lord, she raised her tearful eyes to heaven. The elders started making the accusation, “We were taking a walk in the garden when this woman came in with two maids. She ordered them to shut the garden doors and dismissed them.”

“Then a young man came out of hiding and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and we saw this crime from there. We ran to them, and caught them in the act of embracing. We were unable to take hold of the man. He was too strong for us. He made a dash for the door, opened it and ran off. But we were able to seize this woman. We asked her who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. This is our statement, and we testify to its truth.”

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman?”

Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testified falsely against her.”

Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”

When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.”

Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you.”

“But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”

“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.”

The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them.  They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

Daniel 13 : 41c-62

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman?”

Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testified falsely against her.”

Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”

When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.”

Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you.”

“But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”

“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.”

The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them.  They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

 

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 1-45

There was a sick man named Lazarus who was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This is the same Mary, who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was sick.

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” They replied, “Master, recently the Jews wanted to stone You. Are You going there again?”

Jesus said to them, “Are not twelve working hours needed to complete a day? Those who walk in the daytime shall not stumble, for they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, for there is no light in them.”

After that Jesus said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him.” The disciples replied, “Lord, a sick person who sleeps will recover.” But Jesus had referred to Lazarus’ death, while they thought that He had meant the repose of sleep.

So Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there, for now you may believe. But let us go there, where he is.” Then Thomas, called the Twin said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. As Bethany is near Jerusalem, about two miles away, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.

And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” After that Martha went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The Master is here and is calling for you.” As soon as Mary heard this, she rose and went to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in place where Martha had met Him.

The Jews, who were with her in the house consoling her, also came. When they saw her get up and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep. As for Mary, when she came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, who had come with her, He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it.

Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

John 11 : 3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.

And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it.

Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.