Friday, 2 April 2021 : Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the very important day of the Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord, the day when Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, was crucified for our sake, when He took up His Cross up the hill of Calvary and died for all. It was all these that made today truly a ‘Good Friday’ because without the offering and selfless sacrifice of Our Lord, there would not have been any hope for us, and it was because of Him that we have seen the light of hope and salvation once again.

Today, on Good Friday we remember the Lord Who willingly emptied Himself of all glory, in obeying the will of His heavenly Father, stripping Himself of all dignity and glory so that He may bear the punishment for all of our sins, and by taking up all those with Him, He might offer a most perfect sacrifice, worthy for the redemption of all of us mankind, and for the atonement of our multitudes of sins. Today we remember God’s love that has manifested in the crucifixion, in a love so wonderful and selfless that He willingly endured all humiliation for us.

Through what the Lord had done that day, He has completed what He had begun the day earlier, in the Last Supper when He instituted the Holy Eucharist, giving His own Precious Body and Blood to be shared by the disciples. As we all just celebrated and remembered yesterday in the events of Holy Thursday, the Lord had the Passover meal with His disciples, in which He instituted the New Passover, one that no longer remembered the past event of how God rescued the people of Israel from the slavery in Egypt, but an even much greater event, that God has come to rescue all of His people from the slavery of sin.

At that Passover meal, we may have noticed yesterday that unlike the usual Passover meal of the Jewish Passover, where a lamb is slaughtered and eaten by the household, at the new Passover, the Lord offered Himself as the sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God to be slaughtered for all of us, to be the source of forgiveness for all of our sins and iniquities. This has been prophesied by many of the prophets, particularly that of the prophet Isaiah who spoke at length about the Messiah or Saviour Who would come into the world and Who would suffer persecution, rejection and death.

In comparison with the old Jewish Passover, the significance of the events of Good Friday together with the preceding events at the Last Supper cannot be underestimated or ignored. For at the old Passover, at the beginning of the meal, represented by the Last Supper, is the moment when the first of the four cups of wine is drunk, led by the father and head of the house, where the unleavened bread is taken out and eaten with the lamb as mentioned earlier, which is what the Lord Himself had done, offering His Body and Blood to His disciples in the bread and wine at the Last Supper.

Then, the second cup, the Cup of Proclamations and third, the Cup of Blessings was drunk afterwards, at the moment when the family spoke of the significance of the Passover, reminding the people and especially the young children on why the Passover was so important, for God has saved His people in the past through such great deeds from their certain destruction and annihilation. As indicated from the Scriptures and the accounts of the Last Supper, the last and fourth cup, the cup of Praise had not been drunk yet when the Lord and His three disciples went out of the meal and headed to the Gardens of Gethsemane.

That last cup, also known as the Cup of Consummation, was the cup that the Lord referred to in the Last Supper as of why He would not drink the fruits of the vine again until the coming of the kingdom of God, referring specifically to how the Passover meal, the New Passover He was bringing into this world, had not ended yet as of that night of the Last Supper, and instead would culminate on the Cross at Good Friday, with the death of the Lord as the completion of the New Passover. That was why at the Gardens of Gethsemane, when the Lord was in agony, He prayed that the ‘cup may pass Him by’ and yet, He remained firm in His obedience and dedication to His mission, no matter how tough and painful it would be.

When at the ancient, first Passover the lamb was slaughtered on the day of preparation for the Passover, it was on Good Friday that was the day before the Sabbath day, as has been noted in the Scriptures, that the Lord died on the day of the preparation for the Passover. Thus, indeed it was very symbolic and real how the Lord had chosen that very day to highlight how He was truly the Paschal Lamb, the One to be sacrificed for the salvation of all, the Lamb of the New Passover. While in Egypt, the Israelites used the blood of the lamb to mark the doors of their houses that they were spared the great plague of death coming upon Egypt, thus all of us have been marked by the Blood of the Lamb of God.

How is that then significant for us? It is significant because the Precious Blood that the Lord has shed sealed the New Covenant between us and God, reconciling us to Him, and bridging the gap that had once existed between us and Him. Through the Cross, by His Passion, His suffering and death, and importantly through His Resurrection, Christ has showed that there is hope beyond death, and there is the assurance of eternal life with God.

He has perfectly obeyed the will of the Father, to be the Mediator of the New Covenant between all of us and God. And as the New Adam, according to St. Paul the Apostle, Christ became the source of new life in God, bringing all mankind to a renewed life in grace. Just as the first Adam fell into sin by eating the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, out of desire and disobedience against God, falling into the temptations of Satan. Christ, the New Adam, persevered to the very end, nailed to another ‘tree’, that is the Cross, in full and perfect obedience to God, His Father.

Thus just as the first Adam led all mankind into sin, the New Adam, Christ, led all of us into the path out of the tyranny of sin, showing us that sin and death do not have the final say over us. For through His death and Resurrection, He proved that He truly is the Lord and Master of life and death, and that His grace is greater than sin and death. And that is why, He has willingly suffered for us that by uniting our humanity to Himself, we share in His death, death to our old, sinful selves, and then share in His glorious Resurrection, entering a new life and existence, with the promise of eternal life.

Hence, we should not treat the events that happened during this Easter Triduum as separate, unrelated events, but rather as one great event, the New Passover and the New Covenant that the Lord has established with us, beginning at the Last Supper, through Our Lord’s suffering and persecution, right through His crucifixion and completed through His death on the Cross. Through all these, right up to the events on Good Friday that we commemorate today, the Lord showed His mighty hands in delivering all of us His people from the tyranny of sin and the darkness of evil.

This is why on the Cross, as He was about to die, the Lord said, ‘I thirst’, and a mixture of sour and bitter wine was given to Him, symbolically showing the drinking of the Cup of Consummation, and the completion of the New Passover, which Christ spoke of as He said, ‘It is finished.’ Right after that very moment, the Lord gave up His Spirit and died, with the words, ‘Father, into Your hands, I commend My Spirit’ completing the sacrifice and offerings of the New Covenant and the New Passover.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all now look to the crucifix, to the Cross of Our Lord, bearing our Saviour Who had suffered and died for all of us. He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed and offered for us, as the perfect and worthy atonement for our sins. And He is also our High Priest, the Mediator of the New Covenant, just as Moses and Aaron once sealed the Covenant between God and Israel with the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the Altar. And thus, Christ, Our High Priest and the Lamb at the same time, offered Himself on the Altar of the Cross, to seal the New Covenant between us and God, and to be the source of healing and absolution for our many sins.

There, on the Cross, lies a reminder of the bloody and sorrowful offering of the Lamb of God, of God Who loved us so much that He is willing to suffer and die for us. And every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, brothers and sisters, we remember this very same sacrifice, for as I mentioned yesterday, on Holy Thursday, that the whole liturgy of the Eucharist in the Holy Mass is no less than the same sacrifice and offering, the same thing that happened two millennia ago, from the Last Supper to the Cross, from the moment that the Lord offered the bread and wine and turned them into His own Precious Body and Blood, and up to the completion of that Passover sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we focus ourselves on the very important events that happened on that day at Calvary, let us all bear in mind always how God loves us so much, that everything He had done and which we remember today, are for our sake and nothing else. Every time we sin and disobey God, let us remember that all those sins are what our Lord Himself bore on His Cross, the wounds He endured, and all the bitterness and humiliations He suffered, so that we may be forgiven and enter into a new life of grace through Him.

Let us all therefore unite our sufferings and ourselves to the Lord, through His crucifixion, His suffering and death. Let us all be truly ashamed of our many sins and all the things that we have done in contradiction to our Christian faith and calling, and in rebellion against God and His will. Let us not harden our hearts any longer, but seek our Lord, the Mediator of the New Covenant, that He may heal us through His Cross, and allow His outpoured Precious Blood to wash us clean and to purify us just as the saints and martyrs had purified themselves in the Blood of the Lamb.

As we all share and partake in the Holy Communion today, let us remember that we receive none other than the Lord Himself, the same Lord and the same sacrifice He made at Calvary, on the Altar of the Cross. The Eucharist we receive is the same crucified Lord and Saviour Who have marked us by His Blood, and bring us forth from the slavery to sin and bring unto us the New Passover, that we are ‘passed over’ from death into new life, which we will be further reminded on as we enter into the time of the glorious Resurrection in Easter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all move forward in life, no longer looking back at sin and at all the wicked ways of the world, and instead, fill ourselves with the resolve and renewed conviction to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to glorify Him through our lives, our actions and deeds. May the Lord, our Crucified Messiah, Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, be with us always, and bless us all, His beloved ones, on this most good and wonderful day of our salvation, the salvation of His Cross. Amen.

Friday, 2 April 2021 : Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 4 : 14-16 and Hebrews 5 : 7-9

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, Who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him Who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the Source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.

Friday, 2 April 2021 : Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 30 : 2 and 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17 and 25

In You, o Lord, I take refuge, may I never be disgraced; deliver Me in Your justice. Into Your hands I commend My Spirit; You have redeemed Me, o Lord, faithful God.

I have become an object of reproach for My foes, a horror for My neighbours, a fear to My friends. Those who see Me in the streets flee from Me. I am like the dead, unremembered; I have become like a broken pot, thrown away, discarded.

But I put My trust in You, o Lord, I said : “You are My God;” My days are in Your hand. Deliver Me from the hand of My enemies, from those after My skin.

Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save Me in Your love. Be strong and take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.

Friday, 2 April 2021 : Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 52 : 13 – Isaiah 53 : 12

It is now when My Servant will succeed; He will be exalted and highly praised. Just as many have been horrified at His disfigured appearance : “Is this a Man? He does not look like One.” So will nations be astounded, kings will stand speechless, for they will see something never told, they will witness something never heard of.

Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has YHVH revealed His feat? Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling He grew up before us, with nothing attractive in His appearance, no beauty, no majesty. He was despised and rejected, a Man of sorrows familiar with grief, a Man from Whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account.

Yet ours were the sorrows He bore, ours were the suffering He endured, although we considered Him as One punished by God, stricken and brought low. Destroyed because of our sins, He was crushed for our wickedness. Through His punishment we are made whole; by His wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all gone astray, each following His own way; but YHVH laid upon Him all our guilt.

He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, He humbly submitted. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer He did not open His mouth. He was taken away to detention and judgment – what an unthinkable fate! He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for His people’s sins. They made His tomb with the wicked, they put Him in the graveyard of the oppressors, though He had done no violence nor spoken in deceit.

Yet it was the will of YHVH to crush Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will have a long life and see His descendants. Through Him the will of YHVH is done. For the anguish He suffered, He will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just Servant will justify the multitude; He will bear and take away their guilt.

Therefore I will give Him His portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong. For He surrendered Himself to death and was even counted among the wicked, bearing the sins of the multitude and interceding for sinners.

Thursday, 1 April 2021 : Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, marking the beginning of the most solemn and sacred time of the Easter Triduum, the three sacred days during which the climax of the Lord’s salvific mission took place, as He passed through His Passion, the suffering, the pains and sorrows, the trials and scourges, to His nailing and death on the Cross, and finally, on the third day, He rose gloriously from the dead, conquering death itself and overthrowing the bondage of sin from mankind by His Resurrection.

Tonight, we recall the beginning of that Passion of the Lord by commemorating the Last Supper that the Lord had with His disciples, just before He was about to be arrested, condemned, humiliated and scourged, then finally suffer and die for all mankind. In the Last Supper which we commemorate today, there are truly very significant things that we ought to pay attention to, as we recall what happened that night in Jerusalem about two millennia ago.

That night, on the time of preparation for the Passover, the Lord chose to have the Passover meal with His disciples just as how all the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites have been celebrating the Passover ever since the first Passover in Egypt. The Passover was truly the most important event in the entire year, remembering the very moment that God Himself saved His people from death, intervening for the last time in the Ten Plagues He inflicted on the Egyptians, and with that last blow, He removed from His people the chains of tyranny and slavery.

Following that tradition, the Lord had the Passover with His disciples on the date He has chosen, and at a place He has shown His disciples, where He began the Passover meal that would change the world forever. For at that very moment, the Lord made a new Passover that was no longer about the old moment when He rescued the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt, but a new Passover which is the salvation of all mankind from their enslavement to sin. God would rescue all of His people from the tyranny of sin and lead them to freedom.

And in all these, the Lord’s role is central, as if we see the parallel between the old Passover and the new Passover, what is notable is that, while in the old Passover, the centrepiece is the lamb, pure and blameless was prepared, set aside and slaughtered, its blood taken up and used to mark the lintels of the doors of the Israelites’ houses, while its flesh was roasted on fire and eaten up on the night of the Passover by the whole people of Israel, in the new Passover, there was no lamb in the same traditional sense.

Instead, the Lord Himself is the Sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God and our Paschal Lamb, as shown how the centrepiece of the entire Last Supper, the beginning of the New Passover is the Lord Himself, offering His own Precious Body and Precious Blood in the bread and wine that He has blessed and offered, given to the disciples to share and eat. And when He has blessed the bread, He said, ‘This is My Body, given up for you’, and the wine, ‘This is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins’.

The Lord would then go on to complete this at Good Friday, the offering of His sacrifice that began at the Last Supper. As He later on would take up His Cross, bloodied and bruised, wounded and in pain for our sins, He is that sacrificial Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been redeemed, and at the same time, He is also the High Priest offering the gift of sacrifice, as a worthy offering for the redemption of all. In this case, what He offered was Himself, His own Precious Blood, which alone is worthy to redeem us all, unlike the blood of mere lambs, which though pure and blameless, cannot be compared to the Lamb of God.

And do we all realise that the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist at each celebration of the Holy Mass is the journey of the Lord’s Passion, from the night of the Last Supper right up to the crucifixion and death of Our Lord? When the Lord Jesus lay dying on the Cross, He said a very important phrase that we often overlook, namely ‘It is finished’. Through those words, the Lord wants us to know that His offering as the Paschal Lamb has been completed, and right after that, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit’, completing the New Covenant that He established with us through His suffering and death, sealed by His Blood.

Thus, the Lord instituted on that very night the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Mass as we know it today, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy our brethren in the Eastern traditions. For that night, He offered the bread and wine that He has transformed into the very essence and reality of His own Body and Blood, shared and taken up by all the disciples, that they are all part of the new Communion of the faithful. Just as the Israelites of old partake at the table and be sharers of the Covenant of God sealed with the blood of the lamb, thus the disciples became the first partakers and sharers of the New Covenant sealed by the Lord with His own Blood.

And that very night, the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, thus the Holy Mass came to be that very moment of the Last Supper, and the Lord authorised His disciples with the power and authority to do what He Himself had done, consecrating them to be the priests of His New Covenant and Church. That is why, from that moment on, the Apostles have the power and authority to turn the bread and wine into the same Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord, remembering the commandment the Lord spoke of, to ‘do this in the memory of Me’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, tonight as we recall that very first night when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist on the Last Supper, we are called to reflect on the great and wonderful love that God has for each and every one of us, that He wants to rescue us all from the depth of our troubles and misery, offering Himself as the Lamb of sacrifice, to be crushed and destroyed for our sake, bruised, wounded and crucified for us, to die in our place so that we may be delivered from eternal death and into the everlasting life.

As we enter into this mystery of the Easter Triduum, all the solemn celebrations and moments we are going to have up to the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, let us all keep ourselves focused on the Lord, our Saviour and Crucified Messiah, Who have allowed Himself to take up the condition of a slave and the punishments for us. Let us all remember just how much He has endured for our sake. If we have had a difficult and challenging time this year and the past year due to the pandemic, its effects and other reasons, then do not forget that the Lord is enduring all those together with us.

We are never alone, brothers and sisters in Christ, for by sharing and partaking in His Body and Blood through the Eucharist, all of us have shared in His humanity and His death, and having been marked by His Blood just as the Israelites had their houses marked with the lamb’s blood, they had been passed over from death. Thus, in the same way, united to Christ, we have gone through the death of our past selves, and enter into a new existence as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen, to be His own people, and share in the glorious Resurrection into a new life of grace.

The Lord is journeying with us together through these difficult moments, and by what He has done in the Gospel today, as He came to serve the disciples by washing their feet, a job usually done by a servant or slave, He wants us all to journey together as one people and one Church, all hand in hand together, serving one another and showing care and concern for one another. What the Lord had mandated His disciples to do was to do what He had taught and shown them to do, and it is to show love and concern towards our fellow brethren.

Let us all therefore play our active parts as Christians, called and chosen to be the Lord’s disciples and followers, that in our every words, deeds and actions, we will always show Christian love and faith, showing love for our fellow brothers and sisters, all sharing in this same Communion and in the same New Covenant that God has established through Christ, all of us the members of this same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

From now on, let us renew our faith in the Lord and learn to appreciate the Holy Mass and particularly the wonderful gift of the Holy Eucharist, Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, which He had shed and poured out of love for us, for our salvation. And as we enter into this most solemn and sacred Easter Triduum let us all commit ourselves and our time to the Lord, refocusing our attention to Him, and reflecting on all that He had done for us, all the love that He has shown us, and how fortunate we all have been to be beloved in such a manner.

May God be with us always, brothers and sisters in Christ, and may He strengthen us especially through the Easter Triduum that we may grow ever stronger in faith and commitment to Him, and also in our belief and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, to Our Lord’s Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, as the centrepoint of every celebration of the Holy Mass and Divine worship. May He guide us all, through these solemn and holy days, that we may benefit most wonderfully from the experience of faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 1 April 2021 : Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Thursday, 1 April 2021 : Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, 1 April 2021 : Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to Me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. Truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s Son. You have freed Me from My bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out My vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Thursday, 1 April 2021 : Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 12 : 1-8, 11-14

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons, and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat. That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all of the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt.”

“This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”