Thursday, 23 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to remember our many sins, faults, mistakes, and all those failures we have in living our lives in the way that the Lord has told and commanded us to do. This is especially appropriate during this season and time of Lent, during which time each one of us are called to turn away from those sins and wickedness, and return to the Lord once again with love and devotion towards Him. We should remember the failures and mistakes that our predecessors had made, and which we ourselves have committed so that we may rectify them and change our ways before it is too late for us. God has always been rich in His love and mercy towards us, but it is truly up to us whether we want to embrace His love, kindness and compassion.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus in which the story of what happened during the time when the Israelites were gathering at Mount Sinai was told to us. Back then, the Israelites were just led out from the land of Egypt in a great Exodus led by God, through His servant Moses, and guided to the Mountain of God in Sinai. It was there that God made and renewed the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and established a new promise and reassurance of His love, and then gave them all His Law and commandments through Moses, whom He called up the mountain, to receive the Ten Commandments and the whole precepts and the teachings fo the Law. Moses spent a whole period of forty days atop the mountain, and in that meantime, the Israelites down below rebelled against God.

Despite having seen the greatness and the love of God in person, with all the great miracles and powers that the Lord had displayed, in the ten great plagues that struck Egypt and forced the Egyptians and their Pharaoh to let them go free, and despite having been freed from the force of the Egyptian armies and chariots that chased them right to the Red Sea, the people of Israel still doubted the Lord their God and did not have faith in Him. The Lord has shown and proven His might and faithfulness to them, never abandoning them in their hour and time of need, and provided for them during the whole duration of their journey in the desert towards the Promised Land of Canaan, with the provision of manna, bread from heaven itself, with flocks of birds and also ample supply of water from the rocks, that God has given them all. Despite all these, they still failed to believe and put their trust in Him.

Instead, they built for themselves a golden calf idol, likely imitating what the Egyptians had for their idol, as one of the Egyptian gods was portrayed as a bull or calf, and then worshipped that idol as their god, claiming that it was this idol which had saved them from the land of Egypt. This was what made the Lord totally furious at His people, as He told Moses of the wicked actions of those people whom He had just saved and cared for, and then they betrayed Him for a pagan idol they built with their own hands. God wanted to destroy the whole people of Israel and spared just Moses, and promised to make him to be a great nation, but Moses interceded on their behalf and begged God to reconsider and not destroy the people for their sins. God listened to Moses and spared the people of Israel, who nonetheless had to suffer the consequences of their rebellion.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words that the Lord Jesus said to the Jewish people, with the Jewish people here likely referring to those people who subscribed to the ways and interpretations of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and hence, often opposed the Lord and refused to believe in Him, as they saw Him and His teachings and truth as aberrations of the Law that they practiced and kept, the same Law and commandments that God had given to Moses. They even associated the Lord’s works to demonic influences and collusions, and accused the Lord Jesus of blasphemy against God, for having claimed to be able to forgive sins and for calling God as His Father. That was why they kept on hardening their hearts and minds, refusing to listen to God and His words of truth, and continuing to believe that their way and interpretation of the Law were the correct ones.

It was the pride and hubris, the arrogance and the stubbornness of those people which prevented them from coming to the salvation in God, and from believing in His truth, just the same way how their ancestors at Mount Sinai had rebelled against God and disobeyed Him. That is because they allowed their human pride, greed and worldly desires and attachments to tempt and sway them, such that they ended up falling into the path of evil and sin, and getting further and further away from God and His path. It will be our fate as well if we continue to allow ourselves to be distracted by the worldly temptations and attachments all around us, and if we let the worldly idols in our lives to lead us astray, that is the idols of fame, glory, wealth, pleasures and many others. These are the idols of our modern day world, those idols that will distract us from the focus that we should all have in the Lord.

That is why during this time of Lent, all of us are reminded to refocus our lives and our attention on the Lord. We should not allow the many distractions all around us from pulling us away from the path of the Lord. We should therefore also follow the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating today, with the hope that we all may be inspired by his life and good examples. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was a Spanish priest that eventually became a missionary and appointed as Archbishop of Lima in the then New World, what is today Peru. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was truly a humble and committed servant of God, whose personal piety and obedience to God, love for Him and love for his fellow men inspired many who followed in his footsteps and examples. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo spent a lot of time reaching to his flock, teaching them about the faith and catechising them, and according to history and records, baptised no less than half a million of them, including the saints St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was also very staunch in his dedication to the reforms of the Church, and launched a campaign of reform and reorganisation of his Archdiocese, to ensure that the clergy and the members of the faithful lived their lives in accordance to what the Lord has taught them, to the Church teachings and Apostolic traditions. He spent a lot of time in prayer and reflection, and dedicated himself to the betterment and help for his flock, to his fellow brothers and sisters, especially to those who were less fortunate and who were suffering. The dedication of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, his faith and love both for God and for his fellow men should inspire us all that we may also live our lives well and in righteous manner, that we may truly be found worthy and good by the Lord our God, and worthy indeed to inherit the great things that God has prepared for us.

May the Lord hence guide and help us in our journey of faith through life, particularly during this blessed season and time of Lent. May He empower each and every one of us so that we may always adhere faithfully to His Law and commandments. May He inspire us to follow in the footsteps of His saints, like that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo and many others, such that we may ourselves be sources of inspiration and strength for our fellow men, and be the beacons of God’s light, truth and love. May God bless us always, in all things, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, all of us are called to remember God’s ever generous love, compassion, kindness and mercy towards all of us, that He is willing to forgive us our many sins and wickedness, if we are to seek Him and confide in His love and mercy. God is our loving Father Who truly cares for each and every one of us, and He does not want us to be lost from Him. He chastised and punished us with the intention to help us to be more disciplined in our way of life, distancing ourselves from the path of sin and evil. He called on us all to turn away from the temptations of worldly glory, pleasures, and all sorts of attachments that we may often have, which are indeed great obstacles and barriers in our path towards Him. He provided us help along our journey so that hopefully we may end up in the path of righteousness.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah the words of comfort and assurances from God to His people in the kingdom of Judah, as He told them that He will always remember them and that He will always provide for them, and be reconciled with them, despite their past wickedness and sins. Back then, during the time of the prophet Isaiah’s life and ministry, the people of God, the Israelites had been wrecked by a lot of hardships and tragedies, especially when the northern half of the land of Israel and most of the ten tribes of the twelve of the Israelites were crushed and conquered by the Assyrians. Those in the northern kingdom of Israel had long defied the Lord and refused to obey Him, and most of their kings were wicked and sinful, leading the people further and deeper into the path of sin. Thus, the terrible end eventually came upon them, as the Assyrians destroyed and laid waste their cities, and brought many of them into exile in far-off lands away from their homeland.

Those living in the southern kingdom of Judah, where Isaiah ministered in, did not fare much better either, as they had also often been rebellious against God. They had also faced a lot of hardships and struggles, and by the time of Isaiah’s ministry, according to the events of that time, the forces of the Assyrians even came to conquer Judah and Jerusalem as well. If not for God’s timely intervention, as He smote the whole Assyrian army in rebuke of their proud and haughty king Sennacherib, the same fate that faced the northern Israelites would have faced those who lived in Judah as well. They would have endured the same fate that befell their northern brethren sooner, although they would later indeed face that fate with the Babylonians, due to their lack of repentance and continued sinful way of life. Yet, despite all of these, as God Himself has proclaimed, He still remembered His people and would not abandon them.

That was what God had patiently done for His people in a very long time, that despite their lack of faith in Him and despite their stubbornness in not listening to Him and in hardening their hearts and minds, but God still cared for them anyway like that of a loving father who still loves his children who may be naughty and difficult at times. He chastised and disciplined them, with the intention so that they may all turn up to be well. Thus, that is what He also does with us all as well, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are all His beloved ones, those whom He favours and cares for. However, this is also a reminder that unless we behave ourselves and change our sinful ways, we may end up facing the same fate as those who have continued to rebel and disobey God’s commandments to the very end. We are reminded of this during this time of Lent so that hopefully we may change our ways and turn once again towards the Lord and His mercy.

In the Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words that the Lord spoke to the assembled people, many of whom were angry with Him because He performed His miracles and works on the Sabbath day which was a day considered sacred, and which to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law was a day free from any kind of action and work, and in which it was a taboo for anyone to do anything. And as mentioned, the Lord also referred to God as His Father, which was indeed the truth, but the people were angry as they thought of Him of blaspheming against God by claiming Him to be His Father. Hence, this led to the people rising up against the Lord. They hardened their hearts and minds against Him, and the Lord responded with the discourse in which He highlighted to them the relationship that He has with the Father, and what He has been sent into this world for.

As highlighted by the Lord Himself, He elaborated on how He has been sent into this world to be its Saviour, because God our Father has deemed it right for Him to send us the ultimate gift of His love by sending His own beloved Son into our midst. He has given us Jesus to be our Lord and Redeemer, and by Whose hands, had brought us closer to His Father, and through His adoption of our human nature and existence, has indeed united all of us to Himself and His Father so that we are also the adopted children of God, by sharing in the humanity of Christ. Hence, we are reminded yet again of the need for us to humble ourselves before the Lord and embrace His mercy and love, and not to be like those people who continued to resist Him and His truth simply because they were too proud and stubborn to admit that they could have been wrong or mistaken in their ways. The Lord came to them bearing His truth and love, only for many of them to reject Him.

In this season and time of Lent, let us all therefore remind ourselves of God’s ever present and ever patient love for each and every one of us, keeping in mind how He has generously offered us all His mercy and compassion all these while. Let us all no longer be stubborn or difficult in our attitudes, allowing ourselves to be immersed in God’s love and grace. We should spend more time in this season and time of Lent to become ever closer to the Lord, our most loving Father, and heed His call and reminders for us to repent and change our wicked and sinful ways. Let us all no longer be hesitant to follow the Lord wholeheartedly or be easily swayed by the many temptations and pressures all around us, to conform to worldly ways and abandon God’s path of truth and righteousness. This is what all of us should be doing during this time of Lent, a time of reconciliation with God.

May the Lord, our most loving God and Father continue to love us and provide us each day, and may He empower us all with the strength and the desire to reach out to Him and His most generous love and mercy. May He instil in each one of us the strong desire to commit ourselves to Him and His path, and inspire us that we may be good role models and source of inspiration to all those whom we encounter in our lives, so that more people may come to believe in God through us. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the grace and healing that all of us receive from the Lord, Who alone is the source of all our hope and inspiration, grace and strength amidst the darkness, challenges and hardships of this world. The Lord our Saviour and our God has shown us His ever enduring love and patience with us, offering us freely and most generously the gift of His love and mercy despite our sinfulness and stubbornness in refusing His love and mercy. The Lord has always been patient and kind towards us, as we are all His beloved people and children, who are truly precious to Him. None of us can be separated from His love unless we ourselves have rejected Him and resisted Him all the way to the very end, as how some of our predecessors had done.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel about the vision of the Temple of God in Heaven, the great Sanctuary and the place of the Holy Presence of God, which represents the Lord’s glory and presence, and from which came forth a great river and flood of water that went down from the side of the Temple, which provided life for many of the things that dwell in the water, and which brought forth life to spring forth from wherever it touched. This vision of Ezekiel is a reminder that from God comes healing and hope for all of us, as we see the life-giving water of the great river springing forth from the Temple of God’s Presence. He is truly the source of our strength and redemption, and from Whom we shall once again be reconciled and be led back to His most loving embrace and to the path towards eternal life and true joy.

In the Gospel passage today, we then heard a rather similar experience and story linked to that of our first reading, when we heard of the account of the healing that came upon a paralysed man who was lying by the Pool of Bethzatha, by the Lord Jesus, Who came to him and took pity on him. That man had been paralysed for a very long period of thirty-eight years, which is a truly long time, and surpassing even perhaps the lifetime of many of us here. He had suffered all those while and no one lifted a hand to help him. The link to the spring of the healing water in our first reading today is the Pool of Bethzatha itself, which according to the tradition and belief of the Jewish people, had a miraculous healing property, that as mentioned, when an Angel of God came down upon the water, the first person to touch the water would be healed.

It was then that the Lord came to the poor man, who had no one to help him for those thirty-eight years of paralysis, and went on to heal him and made him to be able to walk again. That was another Sabbath day that the Lord performed His miracle in, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were quick to criticise and persecute the Lord for His continuous actions in healing and performing many good deeds on the Sabbath. Those people had misunderstood and misinterpreted the Law, treating the Law as a means for them to gain recognition and praise by others, as they imposed very difficult terms and tenets on the people of God, forcing them to practice the Law in the way that they had done. They prohibited every single actions on the Sabbath, even those deeds and actions that are good in purpose and can help others.

The Lord made it clear that in His actions in healing those sick people and others who suffered other maladies and troubles, that the Law was not made to be the lord over man, but instead, it was meant to help lead mankind back towards God and to help them to discover the truth about His love and ways. The Law itself was meant to help the people of God to rediscover the love that they ought to have for the Lord and the obedience and the effort that they should be spending in building a strong and genuine relationship with Him. It is also a reminder that as those whom God had loved and cared, and as His people, we should also show the same love, kindness and compassion on others around us. We should not act like those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who often took great pride in their own piety and supposed righteousness and faith, and who looked down on others and even persecuted those who disagreed with them and did not follow their way.

This is also a reminder that each one of us are sinners in need of God’s healing and mercy, without which we cannot find our way to the true joy and eternal life that we can find in God alone. As we have heard from the readings today, the Lord alone is the source of our Hope, healing and grace, and through Him, we have received the rich grace and blessing of His love, which He poured upon us most generously, even when we are still sinners and stubborn in our constant rebellion and refusal to listen to Him. He patiently led and guided us to Himself, sending His help and guidance to us in various ways, caring for all of us and calling on all of us to turn away from the path of sin and evil, showing us the sure path forward to eternal life and true joy with Him. He has come into our midst in the flesh, in the person of His own beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, so that all may be saved through Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this penitential season of Lent, let us ask ourselves if we are going to continue to live our lives in the way of worldliness and sin as we have often done, or whether we are able to make the commitment to embrace God and His path, turning away from sin and evil, and returning to the loving embrace of God. The Lord has freely offered us His love, compassionate mercy and forgiveness, and it is up to us whether we want to take up His offer or not. We cannot truly be forgiven unless we are willing to embrace God wholeheartedly, and to turn our backs against our past, sinful way of life. This is of course much easier said than done, but that does not mean that we should be discouraged and disheartened by the challenges and trials that we may have to face in being a disciple and follower of the Lord. Instead, this should spur us ever more to commit ourselves even more to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of the time and opportunities that we have been given in the duration of this season of Lent so that we may endeavour to listen to God’s call deep in our hearts and minds, and open ourselves to Him coming into our midst, so that like the paralysed man by the Pool of Bethzatha, He may come to heal us from our wretched condition and our sinfulness. all of us are in need of God’s healing and mercy, as there is no cure for sin apart from God’s mercy. That is why we should humble ourselves and be contrite in our hearts, in regretting our many sins and wickedness, and strive so that we will no longer continue to harden our hearts against God, and that we may embrace wholly the love that God has always generously poured down upon us. Let the spring of God’s living water continue to wash over us, encouraging and inspiring us to live our lives in the best way possible, to do what He has wanted us to do.

May the Lord continue to be with us, and may He empower each and every one of us to persevere despite the many trials and hardships that we may have to face in the journey of our faith throughout our respective lives. May God continue to help us to go forth as His faithful and committed disciples, becoming the true beacons of His light and truth, that our every words, actions and deeds may inspire many others to come to the Lord, His salvation, truth and grace as well. May God bless us all and keep us in His love, through all time and always. May God bless our Lenten observance and time, and may He remain by our side, in this faithful journey we make. Amen.

Monday, 20 March 2023 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the great Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and who was also the Foster-father of the Saviour of the world and Son of God, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. That is why St. Joseph was accorded with such a great honour by the Church, as one of the important member of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and as the one who had taken care of the Lord in His early age, and was a great father figure to Him and a devoted husband to his wife, Mary, the Mother of God. That was why, over a century and half ago, St. Joseph was declared the Protector of the Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX, as the patron and intercessor for the whole Universal Church, the one we can look up for guidance and inspiration in the way how he himself had lived his life with great faith and dedication to God and also to his family.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel in which God spoke to the prophet Nathan the words that he was to deliver to King David of Israel, detailing what God had intended for him and his family. King David was one of the most righteous and greatest among the kings of Israel, and he was full of love for the Lord and was also a great shepherd, guide and leader for the people entrusted to his care by God, just the way how he cared for his sheep when he was still a shepherd in his youth. God therefore reassured David that his rule and reign over Israel, and that of his descendants, the reign of the House of David will last forever, and the descendants of David will always sit on the Throne of Israel. God had blessed David and his house, his descendants, and as long as they were faithful to the Lord, the kingdom of the people of God flourished and prospered.

However, it was not always that the kings, the descendants of David had been faithful to God. Many of the kings beginning with Solomon himself, the son and successor of David, and the kings of Judah were unfaithful to God and were wicked in their way of life and actions. Thus, the fortunes of the kingdom of God’s people waned and eventually, as many of them remained unfaithful to God and committed great sins against God, the kingdom was destroyed and crushed, and the people of God scattered to many places. Yet, God still provided for those whom He loved, including even those who have sinned against Him. He gathered back the Israelites and preserved the descendants of David, through whom eventually St. Joseph was born, as the heir of David. It was through St. Joseph that the Lord Jesus became known as the ‘Son of David’ or the ‘Heir of David’. Despite them not biologically related, but the legal marriage of St. Joseph to Mary, the Lord’s Mother, made Jesus to be the legal heir of David.

Then we heard in our second reading today from St. Paul and his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, of the Lord’s promises made to Abraham and his descendants, of the Covenant that He has established with all of them. The Lord called Abraham from the land of his ancestors and for his faithfulness, righteousness and commitment to Him, He established a Covenant with him and his descendants, promising that he would become the father of many nations, and everything that God had promised did come true in the end. This was just like what He has promised to David, and God showed His promises coming true in all occasions, of which Christ is the culmination and fulfilment of all those promises. How is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because through Christ, Who has come into this world as the Son of God born in the flesh and adopting our human nature, all of us have been made children of God by adoption as well, and every one of us through this spiritual link to Abraham, have made the latter our father in faith as well.

Not only that, but God also fulfilled the promises He made to David, for Jesus Christ came to be the One to sit on the Throne of David for eternity, to be the one true and eternal King over all of God’s people, and hence, the House of David does indeed last forever as God had intended it. Yet, it was their righteousness, those of Abraham and David, as well as St. Joseph, that brought about this justification and grace in the first place. God saw what was inside man’s heart, even to the deepest parts within us that we may not even be aware of. He saw in all of these faithful predecessors of ours, a strong and dedicated love for Him, and the love for righteousness and justice in all things, and the desire to follow Him wholeheartedly, as they had done in their whole lives. St. Joseph in particular was known to be an upright figure, righteous and hardworking, dedicated and committed to God much in the same way as his ancestors, Abraham and David had lived their lives.

In our Gospel passages today, the two Gospel choices we have both highlighted the actions of St. Joseph in the brief mention of his story in the Gospel narratives, as much of the Gospels are focused on the later ministry of the Lord Jesus rather than on His early life. From the Gospel of St. Matthew we heard how St. Joseph took care of the Holy Family, of the Lord and Mary, His mother, when danger was about to come for the Holy Child. Back then, King Herod the Great wanted to kill the Child Jesus, having seen Him as a rival and danger to his own hold on the throne of Judea and his other lands, which was then tenuous at best. King Herod did not even hesitate to order the slaughter of all the innocent children in Bethlehem aged two and below, in order to eradicate this potential threat to him and his rule. St. Joseph was therefore warned by God to bring the Child Jesus and His mother to Egypt, in order to hide there for a while until those who sought His death had passed on.

St. Joseph obeyed this dutifully and carried on his role as the Protector and the father figure of the Holy Family with genuine dedication and commitment. While details are very scant of what happened in those years, St. Joseph must have taken good care of both the Lord and Mary, his wife, and cared for them, bringing them back to Nazareth after everything had stabilised as the Lord commanded it. Then in the other Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Luke, we heard of the account of the moment when the Lord Jesus stayed behind in the Temple of Jerusalem at the age of twelve. St. Joseph was there together with Mary, His mother, as they searched for Him and found Him in the Temple. It was mentioned how the Lord obeyed His parents and went back with them to Nazareth, and how He grew in stature and wisdom in the world, in the eyes of God and man alike.

This must have been contributed by St. Joseph, which in the face of the lack of details of what exactly happened, but he must have brought up the Lord Jesus well, and taught Him what he knew of the Law and commandments of God, guiding and teaching Him in the same path of righteousness and justice that St. Joseph himself had allowed all his life. The lack of mention of St. Joseph in the later parts of the Gospels during the Lord’s ministry and according to the Apostolic traditions suggest that St. Joseph had passed away before the Lord Jesus embarked on His ministry, but his role in bringing up, caring and taking care of his foster Son, is something that all of us as Christians should very well take heed on, and remember as we ourselves carry on living our lives in this world. All of us are called and reminded particularly during this season of Lent, to be faithful and committed to God, and to be righteous and just in our way of life, just as St. Joseph and our other holy predecessors had done.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect how we can be better disciples and followers of the Lord from now on, by following the inspirations and examples from our holy predecessors, like that of Abraham and King David, but especially in particular from that of St. Joseph, so that we may also be truly worthy of being called God’s children, His holy people. Let us all make good use of the time and opportunities provided to us, particularly during this season of Lent, so that we may redirect our focus and attention in this life to the path that God has shown and taught us to follow. Let us all ask our patron and protector, the great St. Joseph, our great role model and guide to intercede for us and to help us so that we will always strive to be righteous, good and faithful in our way of life, and remain firm in our commitment to the Lord, the way that St. Joseph himself had done in his life. May God bless us all and be with us in our journey of faith throughout life. Amen.

Sunday, 19 March 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we mark the Fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, all of us notice that today we have a somewhat more festive and joyful atmosphere in our celebration of the Holy Mass, as we mark the occasion of Laetare Sunday, one of the only two days in the whole liturgical year that the colour rose is used as the colour of the day. Together with Gaudete Sunday during the season of Advent, this Laetare Sunday marks the moment when amidst the more penitential and sombre nature of both Advent and Lent, we remind ourselves of the great joy and the exultation that we are expecting and looking ahead towards in Christmas and Easter respectively. Thus, as we continue to progress ever closer to the coming of the Holy Week and the Easter season, all of us ought to remember what we have been preparing ourselves for in this upcoming celebration and festivities, and remind ourselves of our penitential practices this Lent which are meant to prepare ourselves wholly for the great celebrations to come.

In our first reading this Sunday, we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel regarding the story of the time when God told Samuel to visit Jesse the Bethlehemite, a man of Judah whom we know as the father of the then future King of Israel, the famous King David. Back then, Saul was the king of Israel, the first one to rule over the people of God, but he has fallen into disobedience and sin against God by not following the instructions and the commands that God had given him and instead following his own desires and whims. Thus, God chose David to be the new king to rule over His people, and sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him with the holy oil. We heard how Jesse presented his seven sons before Samuel, and none of them except David pleased the Lord. When Samuel saw the eldest son of Jesse and thought that he was good in appearance and stature, the Lord told Samuel that He did not judge by appearance but by what is in the heart of man.

David truly loved God, and was a righteous, good and faithful man, who led the people of God faithfully and with great wisdom in his reign as King over them, leading them down the path of faith in God. And despite him failing in some occasions later on throughout his reign, by far and large he remained firm in his faith in following God, and he was also a humble man at heart, who was always ready to humble himself before God and man alike. Compared to other kings and rulers who have been swayed by the temptations of worldly pride and glory, or by their own success and greatness, including that of David’s own son and successor, Solomon, the Lord’s choice of David as King of Israel was indeed reflective of how God chose the best not by their appearances or their outward facade, but by their interior disposition and real self, which God knows all about.

This sets the tone for what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, that is about our ability to see the truth and light of Christ, and seeing the path towards God’s salvation and grace, as well as being truly sincere and genuine in our faith and life. Today, as we remember the love of God and look forward to the joyful celebration of Easter, in our anticipation of that Joy to come, our Laetare Sunday celebration and Scripture passages remind us that each one of us are called to be truly filled by the light of God, His truth and His love. We are reminded that each and every one of us are the children of God, and as the children and people of His light. Therefore, it is important that all of us truly embody in all things, in our whole lives and existence, the true values and beliefs of the Lord’s teachings, His Law and commandments, and not be like those hypocrites who outwardly believed in God but inside, they are all rotten and wicked.

This is also what St. Paul told to the faithful people in Ephesus, calling on them all to arise from the darkness of the world and abandon that darkness for the light of Christ’s truth and love. The Apostle reminded the faithful that they are the children and people of God, and they belong to the Light, and therefore, their actions and way of life should indeed reflect this nature, and that they should be genuinely faithful in all things. They should not scandalise the faith, the Church and all the other faithful people of God because of their wickedness and sinful actions. That is why he has called on all of them to embrace the Lord fully and wholeheartedly, to truly love God with all of their hearts and minds, with all of their strength. Unless they commit themselves wholly to God and if they continue to allow the temptations and attachments to worldliness to sway and distract them, then the path towards God and His salvation will truly be a difficult one.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we are reminded yet again about this by the story of the moment when the Lord healed a man born blind, who was blind since birth. The Lord performed that healing on the blind man, opening his eyes and allowed him finally to see the light of this world. Immediately, that brought about the attention of the people who remembered this man who had been blind all the time since his birth, and then suddenly could see clearly. As this happened on the Sabbath, some of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law present there immediately questioned the formerly blind man, who it was that healed him, and how he was healed in the first place, with some even doubting that he had been blind in the first place. This was because those people cannot reconcile with the fact that someone had performed this miraculous healing on the Sabbath day, as it had happened.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had often gotten in conflict and disagreements with the Lord because He often performed His healing on the Sabbath, which was to highlight the point that He wanted to bring across that it was truly foolishness that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were interpreting the Law in the way that brought about inconveniences and difficulties for the people of God to live their lives, not only in making it an offence to do anything on the Sabbath, but even forbidding and preventing anything good from being done on the Sabbath. Their way of obeying and observing the Law was based on external and ritualistic observance, on literal understanding of the precepts, but failing to understand the true intention and purpose of the Law, which was in truth meant to help the people of God to live their lives in accordance with His truth and love.

That is why, the Lord told them all that while they might be physically capable of seeing, unlike how the blind man was, but they were suffering from spiritual blindness. Their pride and ego, their arrogance and greed for power and worldly glory and praise led them to shut the doors of their hearts and minds, and also their spiritual eyes to the truth and the light of God. That is why although they could see perfectly well and had witnessed many of the miracles that the Lord had performed before them, but they consistently and stubbornly refused to believe, kept on asking the Lord for more signs when they had witnessed so many things and heard so many words of Wisdom and truth that the Lord had done before them. They even doubted Him and cast doubts in the hearts of others by openly challenging Him and accusing Him of colluding with the demons in the action of His miracles.

All those things happened because they allowed sin to cloud their minds and to make them blind to God’s truth and love. They had practiced their faith outwardly and were pious in the sight of others, showing all their ritual expertise and knowledge of the Law, but most if not all of those were superficial in nature. Below all of that, there was no true love for God. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is possible for one to be outwardly faithful to the Lord but in the inside, to have no real or genuine faith in Him. It means that they were just going through the motion as they practiced their faith, and they just carried on doing all their works without real understanding and appreciation of the true intentions of God’s Law and commandments. They were like a brilliant pot that is highly polished on the outside, but the inside is empty, or even ugly and dirty. That is what St. Paul had warned the faithful against, that they should not be bereft of the light of Christ in their hearts.

How do all these then relate to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, all of us are called to reflect deeply in our hearts, and look within us if Christ’s Light can be found within, and if His truth and love are the bedrock and strong foundation of our faith and lives. What the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing, are exactly what we ourselves had been doing as well. How many of us practiced our faith in the way that we were just going through the motion? How many of us went and attended the Holy Mass or other celebrations of our faith, and yet we were not spiritually or mentally present there. How many of us cannot wait until everything is over so that we can go back to our usual daily routines and pursuits in life? Some of us even have the bad habit of leaving before the Holy Mass had concluded, even when we did not have the legitimate reason to do so.

The list can go on and on for us, like how many of us prayed by reciting the prayers and devotions and yet did not mean what we were saying. That is why I call these recitations and utterances rather than true, genuine prayer. We may think that we have done what our faith has been asking us to do, but we forget that what the Lord wants from us is to build a genuine and living relationship with Him, that of course begins from us spending more quality time with Him and nurturing that relationship we have with God. We do that by refocusing our lives and our attention truly on the Lord, and by learning to listen to Him instead of us just keep on reciting, telling or demanding for Him to do something for us. And we can also spend more time to reflect on our way of life and actions as well, on whether they have been truly a reflection of what God’s holy people should be like.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to spend more time in prayer so that we may deepen and build up a genuine relationship with God, and we are also called to practice fasting and abstinence, not so that others may see how pious or great we are in our faith, but so that we may restrain the allure of worldly pride, greed and desire. All those things are great obstacles and barriers that keep us separated from God, and which have also kept causing us to fall again and again into sin. That is why this Lent we are constantly being reminded to distance ourselves from those sinful way of life and from all the obstacles that have been making it difficult for us to reach out to God. We are also called to be more generous in sharing our love and blessings to others, by practicing more almsgiving, again not for fame or praise from others, but so that others who are less fortunate than us may also truly experience joy and relief in their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we look forward to the coming of our true Joy in Christ this Easter, let us all open the barred doors of our hearts and minds, and humble ourselves, seeking God for His forgiveness and compassionate mercy. Let us all remember the love and kindness that He has always shown us, and endeavour therefore to live our lives from now on in accordance with the path that He has shown us. Let us all be good examples and role models for each other, and inspire the people around us by our genuine faith and love-filled hearts, that also shine with the Light of Christ, so that more and more people may also come to believe in God through us. Let us all be thoroughly good and worthy of God, not just outwardly only, but our interior orientation should also be attuned with God. May God bless us all in the remaining time we have this Lent and help us to continue doing our best in living our lives and faith as good and truly devoted children of God. Amen.

Saturday, 18 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded as we progress through this blessed season and time of Lent, that we should not allow pride, ego, ambition, arrogance and all the wickedness in our hearts and minds to distract and mislead us all down the wrong paths. If we allow those things to lead us astray, then we will end up getting further and further away from the Lord and His salvation. Worse still, we may end up in the eternal darkness and damnation, where regret and agony will be ours for eternity, regretting our foolish decisions and our inability to resist the various urges and temptations that surround us, pressure and allow us to walk down this wrong path in life. We should turn away from this path when there is still time and opportunity for us to do so.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Hosea in which God reminded His people of the love that He has for them all, and also the sins and wickedness that they had committed against Him. Yet, despite all those sinful ways and wickedness, the Lord still looked upon all of them with pity and mercy, calling on them to repent and turn away from their sins and embrace His love and grace once again. He has called on all of them to find their way to His salvation, offering them freely His forgiveness and mercy, leading them down the path to righteousness, as He has done through His many prophets and messengers. The prophet Hosea for example has been sent to the people in the northern kingdom of Israel, composed of much of the ten of the twelve tribes of the Israelites that rebelled against the House of David, where many of the people had been wicked and sinful for throughout most of the preceding centuries, refusing to believe in God and persecuting His prophets.

Back then, during the life and ministry of the prophet Hosea, the people of Israel and Judah have been facing a lot of hardships and struggles, being attacked and crushed from all sides by their enemies, and at the time of Hosea, the kingdom of Israel were especially threatened by the growing power of the mighty and conquering Assyrian Empire, which was to destroy and conquer the Israelites towards the end of Hosea’s ministry, destroying their capital Samaria, their cities and towns, and bringing most of them off into exile and scattered them in distant lands far away from their homeland. Then, just another century or so later, the same would happen to the people of Judah as well, because the Babylonians also destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, and brought the rest of the people of God into exile. All those things happened because of the disobedience and the many sins that the people of God had committed against Him, and their refusal to follow Him or listen to His will.

Yet, the Lord did not abandon or forget about His people, despite them having betrayed and refused to listen to Him so many times. God has always remembered them and showed His kindness and love on them regardless. He has generously reached out to all of them and He is willing to forgive them all their sins if only that they repented and changed their sinful and wicked way of life. He had sent them so many prophets and messengers in order to remind and help them in their journey back towards Him, and He always showed His desire to be reconciled with us and to have us back once again in His loving embrace. God desired not their empty love and lack of true faith, but desiring that they all have a genuine conversion of heart, and a wholehearted commitment and dedication to His path, remembering His Law and commandments, His teachings and truth.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the well-known parable that the Lord spoke to the people regarding a Pharisee and a tax collector each praying in the Temple of God. We heard how the Pharisee flaunted his piety and actions, praising himself in an act of self-congratulation and pride, showing his egoistic nature and ambitious desires, and not only that, but he even looked down on the tax collector and criticised him for his supposed failures and wickedness, and making a show of his mocking of the tax collector’s unworthiness and sins before God. Meanwhile, as we heard, the tax collector did not even dare to look up, and was too ashamed and embarassed at his failures and sinful way of life, which he regretted and hoped to atone for before the Lord, begging for His mercy and forgiveness. He came before the Lord seeking for mercy and forgiveness, and that is what he was given, while the Pharisee’s boastful self-praise and action actually led him further into sin.

It was through this story then that the Lord wanted us all to know that each and every one of us are equally beloved by Him, and we should not think that we are deserving more of His love and mercy than others, or to think that others are undeserving and unworthy while we are worthy. The Lord has made it clear that all of us can share in the Lord’s most bountiful love and mercy, as long as we commit ourselves to the path of redemption, and commit ourselves to resist the temptations of sin and evil, distancing ourselves from those wickedness that had caused us to be sundered and separated away from God. The Lord has called on us to return to Him, and He wanted us all to walk this path of faith and forgiveness, showing us His desire to embrace us with His most generous kindness and love, to make us all His blessed people and children once again.

That is why we should resist the temptations of pride, greed and all the things that the Israelites and the Pharisee in our Scripture readings today have shown us. Instead, let us all look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, who have lived their lives faithfully and with love and devotion to God, especially that of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Cyril of Jerusalem was the Bishop of Jerusalem who was remembered for his dedication to God and his flock, as well as for his courageous efforts and works in defending the true and orthodox faith against those who espoused the false and heretical teachings, especially that of the Arian heresy. Back then, many among the heretics enjoyed the protection of the Imperial court and the support of the powerful members of the community, and swayed by greed and worldly glory, those heretics continued to work in dividing the Church and bringing about the downfall of many into the wrong paths.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem dedicated himself to resist the efforts of those wicked heretics and committed his life and ministry to care for the spiritual well-being of his flock and that of the wider Universal Church, spending a lot of time writing various treatises on the faith, as well as other theological matters, and resisting the various efforts of the false teachers and guides in misleading the people of God down the wrong path. He faced a lot of hardships and trials throughout his ministry, being deposed and exiled on several occasions due to the intrigues and the resistance from the Arian bishops and heretics, but all these did not dampen the spirit and the dedication of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who continued to commit himself wholeheartedly for the work intended for the salvation of souls and for the glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the good examples set by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and do whatever we can so that we may commit ourselves more wholeheartedly to the path that God has set before us. Let us all seek Him with humble and contrite hearts, loving God with all of our hearts and focusing our attention on Him. Let us all turn away from sin and from all evil, and let us resist the temptations surrounding us so that we may be truly worthy of God in all the things we act, say and do. May God be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey towards Him, and help us to remain strong and persevere against the allure of worldly temptations and evils. Amen.

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded of the need for us to return to the Lord and to remember His love and mercy, particularly during this blessed penitential time and season of Lent, when we prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Holy Week and Easter. We are all called to remember our responsibility and obligations as Christians, to be exemplary in our way of life and to obey the Law and commandments of God in all things. We are reminded to love God and our neighbours above all else, and even perhaps more than how we love ourselves. Definitely we should not allow our own selfishness and self-love to end up causing us to forget about our duties and responsibilities as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own.

In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord made to His people through His prophet Hosea, calling on them to repent from their wicked and sinful ways, embracing His love and mercy, and returning to His loving grace and compassion. The prophet Hosea back then lived and ministered to the people of God during the final decades and years of the northern kingdom of Israel, which were made of much of the ten of the twelve tribes of the Israelites that broke off from the rule of the House of David. That northern kingdom had spent most of its history and time in rebellion and disobedience against God, as their kings did not obey God and His Law, refusing to follow His commandments and words, and as such led the people down the path of sin and evil. They had been misled by their own wicked desires and the inability to resist the temptations of the world.

That was why the Lord was angry at those people who had repeatedly rejected His kindness and love, hardened their hearts and minds and refused to listen to Him. Not only that, but they also even persecuted those prophets and messengers that God had sent into their midst to help and guide them down the right path. They had no regard for God and His truth, and preferred to live their lives in their own terms and ways. That led them further and further into the path of sin, and into their downfall. They were punished for their delinquence and stubbornness, and their enemies fell upon them one after another, as God pronounced His judgment over them, telling them how they would be scattered and having their homeland and kingdom destroyed by their own actions. But then, the Lord also told them that in the end, despite all that, God still loved them and cared for them.

God did not want them all to end up being cast out into the utter darkness and destruction, as after all, He loves each and every single one of us, without exception, even to the worst of sinners among us. However, what He truly despises is our many sins and wickedness, and our refusal to listen to His words and reminders, our stubbornness and arrogance among other things. Those are the things that have often led many among us to continue to walk down the path of rebellion and evil, and hence, He calls on every one of us through what we have heard from the prophet Hosea, to turn away from all sorts of wickedness and evils, all the things that can often lead us down the path of sin and destruction. He wants us all to remember His Law and commandments, which He has presented before us so that they may become our guide and help in our journey towards His salvation and grace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the conversation between a teacher of the Law and the Lord Jesus in which the former asked the Lord what among the commandments of God is the most important commandment in the Law of God. Whether the intention was to test the Lord or out of pure curiosity is open to interpretation, but essentially, the Lord told the teacher of the Law that the whole entire Law of God, its commandments and precepts, all of them can be summarised completely into two main Law, that is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and with all of our might, and to love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, in the same manner as well. The whole entire Ten Commandments indeed describe these two Law perfectly, and also the many other commandments and precepts of God’s Law, as revealed through Moses and the prophets.

Unfortunately, as time went on, the knowledge and understanding of the Law of God, its true intention and purpose had become warped and altered, as the Law of God no longer became the means by which the people of God came to be closer to Him, and instead, the people became focused more on how the Law was to be practiced and enforced, the rituals and the practices, the details and the intricacies of those rites became paramount and more important than the meaning and the intention of the Law. This was why so many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were criticised by the Lord for their irrational and particularly strict interpretation of the Law, which was also warped by the many additions and alterations done throughout the centuries which did not always remain faithful to the original intent and purpose of the Law as God taught and revealed it to His people.

The Law was meant to teach the people to remember God first and foremost in their lives, and to place Him as the main centre of attention and focus of their lives. It is a reminder that first of all, God loves us all, and He wants us all to be with Him, and to be with Him, Who is full of love, we too must be filled with the same kind of love, love that is unconditional and selfless, which brings us to love God Himself first, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, just as the Lord wanted us to do in our lives. Unfortunately, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees made the Law to be such an oppressive and rigid set of rules, that it even drove people away from the path of the Lord, as many found it hard to follow such a way, and many others still were even openly discriminated against by those same people whom the Lord had entrusted with the care of His Law, commandments, precepts and teachings.

That was why the Lord came into our midst to reveal before us the true intention of His actions, His Law and commandments, and remind us yet again of His desire to be reconciled with each and every one of us. As mentioned earlier, that while we may have indeed greatly sinned against God, but God wants us to seek Him and to be reconciled with Him, to be forgiven from our many faults and sins. He wants us to learn again how to love Him and how to love one another, distancing ourselves from the kind of selfishness and pride, the greed and jealousy, lust and all the attachments we had to worldly desires and things which often became great obstacles in our path towards Him and His salvation. That is why today we should remind ourselves that we should get rid from our midst all those things that kept us away from God, and follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and a great saint, whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Patrick was a well-known missionary of the faith, who was born in the area of Britain in the fifth century, and it was told that he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates in his youth, before he managed to flee and eventually made his way back to his homeland, where he studied to become a missionary and a priest. He went to the mainland Europe and was then appointed as a priest and missionary, sent to the region of Ireland, and became the first bishop of the land, where there were still mainly pagan populations throughout the whole island. St. Patrick ministered faithfully and patiently to the people of Ireland, spending many years reaching out to them, to the kings, the nobles and the commoners alike, and managed to touch many hearts and many lives, convincing quite a lot of people to turn away from sins and their old idols, and became followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take the good examples of the life and the works of St. Patrick to inspire us in how we should live our own lives as Christians, loving God first and foremost, and dedicating ourselves to Him and His cause, and also loving one another in the same manner, remembering the patient love that both God and St. Patrick had shown to those who were beloved to them. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and grace that we may follow Him with great faith and commitment, from now on, and walk always ever in His path. May God continue to guide us and bless us in our journey of faith throughout this life. May God bless us always, in all of our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 16 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded not to give in to our pride and ego, our stubbornness and our waywardness in how we and our ancestors had often behaved in the past, in resisting God’s love and compassion, and in rejecting His ever generous kindness and attention, as we preferred to follow our own path and hardened our hearts, unable to resist the temptations being present all around us that pulled us away from the path of God’s righteousness and grace. We often allowed those temptations to mislead and delude us, leading us further and further away from the path towards eternal life and justification in God. And that is why today, all of us are reminded to turn away from sin and from our disobedience, and humble ourselves, so that we may once again walk in the path of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the Lord spoke in lamentation and frustration over the sins of His people to Jeremiah, whom he had sent to the kingdom and the people of Judah, the remnants of the Israelites who have rebelled against God again and again, over the period of time, and despite repeated reminders from the Lord through His prophets, messengers and servants, they still allowed themselves to be swayed by sin and the temptations to disobey the Lord. Their northern neighbours, the kingdom of Israel centred in Samaria had been crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians decades before the time of the prophet Jeremiah, for their continuous sin and disobedience, and they had been scattered and exiled from the lands of their ancestors. It was just a matter of time before the same fate would befall the people of Judah as well.

The Lord had done many good things for His beloved people, and He has reached out to them again and again, guiding and chastising them whenever it was necessary, to help them to remain true to the path that He wanted them all to follow. Unfortunately, more often than not, they chose to listen to the false leads and prophets, to the corrupt guides and all the various temptations all around them, of power, fame, glory, material possessions among other things. All those things had steered them away from what God had told them all to do. Despite God having rescued them from their slavery in Egypt, cared for them and showed them His love and kindness, all throughout the years, but the people of God were often ungrateful and forgot about Him, continuing to follow the path of sin and wickedness and rejecting his love and compassion.

All of those things happened because the people were focused too much on their worldly attachments and desires, all the things that ended up causing them to lose track and control over their lives, and dragged them ever further into the path of damnation and evil. They could not resist the pull and allure of those worldly attachments and desires in their hearts, and as such, they kept on falling again and again into sin. That was also why many among the people refused to listen to the Lord and to believe in Him all throughout the history of salvation, as highlighted in the Scriptures. They were so busy and preoccupied with their worldly pursuits and concerns that they had no place for God in their lives, and they thought in terms of the world and not in terms of what they had been taught and guided with by the prophets and messengers of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard one such occasion when the Lord Jesus was confronted by the people who accused Him of colluding with the prince of demons, Beelzebub as He performed His miracle in healing a man who had been struck dumb by demonic possession. This accusation was truly baseless and did not make sense at all, just as the Lord Himself pointed out the folly of such an argument. The Lord told them all that if the demons and evil spirits were divided against each other, then they could not stand or do anything as they would spend all their time just quarrelling and fighting over each other, just like how it worked and what had happened in our world, when a country, a nation and a people were divided against each other in civil wars and conflicts. And those that are divided against the other is truly unlikely to flourish and prosper.

Hence, accusing the Lord falsely of being complicit and colluding with demonic forces is really nonsensical and vile in nature. This accusation came about because those who accused the Lord hardened their hearts and minds and refused to accept the fact and truth that the Lord’s work had been genuine and authoritative. While it was not mentioned explicitly in the Gospel passage today, but it was likely that those who accused the Lord either belonged to the group of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law or their supporters. Many among those people had often opposed the Lord and were criticial of Him and His disciples, because they could not accept Him as a legitimate source of teaching authority on their faith, and even saw Him as a dangerous rival and threat to their own power and influence in the community.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, they likely opposed the Lord at every turn and opportunity out of jealousy, fear and pride. Many of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests feared that the Lord’s growing influence and popularity in the community of the people of God would destroy whatever power structures, influence and privileges that they had gathered, built up and established among the people at that time. Hence, they refused to accept the truth of God, hardened their hearts and minds, resisting the Lord’s effort to reach out and explain the truth to them. That was why despite having witnessed many of the Lord’s miracles again and again, but they still failed to believe in God and even accused Him vilely of such false accusation as what we heard in our Gospel passage today.

Ironically, they were doing exactly what the Lord had been telling them about the folly of the demons being divided against each other. Yes, essentially, by their actions, those who accused the Lord of colluding with Beelzebub were causing division by their actions and words, and also hindered the good works of the Lord, just as how they had hindered many from coming towards the Lord and His salvation by their self-righteous attitude and imposition of an overly strict interpretation of the Law of God. On the contrary, the fact is that the devil and all those who seek our destruction, those demons and evil spirits are no less united in purpose and intention to bring about our downfall, and are united in their actions to crush us and to make us falter and fail in our path towards God’s salvation and grace. They planted the seeds of pride and arrogance in those who opposed the Lord so that more people would have been prevented from coming to reconciliation and salvation in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all resist the temptations of worldly glory and desire, and learn to be humble and to open our hearts and minds to listen to the Lord, to His Wisdom and truth, and harden our hearts and minds no more, so that we may not act like those who have resisted the Lord. Let us all help one another to come to the Lord by our righteous and faithful attitude, doing whatever we can to follow Him and to inspire others to do the same as well. May the Lord help us in our journey towards reconciliation with Him, especially during this blessed penitential season of Lent. May He empower each one of us to be able to follow Him more earnestly and with greater commitment and zeal. May He bless our every efforts and good endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the obedience that all of us should have towards the Law and commandments of God, the precepts and ways that the Lord Himself has revealed and taught to us. As members of God’s Church, that is as Christians, each and every one of us are called to be truly obedient and committed to God’s path, to listen to Him and to do whatever He has asked us to do. That is what He Himself has tasked and entrusted to us to do. After all, how can we convince others to believe in God and to do our works of evangelisation if we ourselves had not really believed in God and His truth? We are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers if our way of life and actions do not reflect this faith we have in God, or worse still, contradict with that faith.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard of the words of the Lord that He spoke to His people through Moses, who reminded all of them of just how blessed and fortunate they are to have been beloved in such a way by the Lord, their Lord and God. Moses told the people to listen to their God and to follow Him wholeheartedly, and not harden their hearts and minds against Him any longer. He reminded them all that the Law of God, the commandments and the path the Lord has shown them have been presented to them and therefore they should walk in the path of God and to pass down the knowledge of the Law and the truth of God through the generations to come. Moses hence exhorted and called on all the people of God to be truly holy just as the Lord Himself is holy, and to be good just as their Lord and Master is good.

Contextually, we must understand that Moses’ comments and exhortation was made with the understanding of just how stubborn the people of Israel could be, in disobeying God and in refusing to believe in Him. They had often rebelled against the Lord, complained against Him and chose to live a sinful and wicked life rather than obeying God and His Law. That is why the Lord sent them reminders through Moses to adhere to His path of righteousness and grace. God still loved His people all very much despite all those wickedness that they had committed. He even gave His people the reassurances that He would not abandon them and He will guide them all to the path towards salvation and eternal life. In the end, He fulfilled His promises and gave us the most perfect gift of all, that is none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus told the people and His disciples, telling all of them that He came into this world not to annul or remove the old Law, that refers to the Law of God revealed through Moses, but rather, He came into this world in order to make us whole once again, by gathering all of us from whenever we have been scattered throughout this world. He came to clarify the meaning, intention and purpose of the Law of God, which was always meant to help the people of God to redirect their focus and attention towards the Lord. Unfortunately, throughout the preceding centuries, the Law had been often misunderstood and misinterpreted by the people who misused and exploited the Law for their own selfish interests and desires. This led to the Law of God no longer being practiced in the way that they were supposed to be observed.

Hence, the Lord came into the world to reveal the truth to us, about His love for us and about everything that He had done for our sake, that by His revelation and teachings, He might bring us closer to Himself. He tells us that the Law was not meant to oppress us or to make us to feel superior or the right to discriminate one another. The Law has often been misused back then as means for some to gain more renown, praise and fame for themselves, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, in seeking attention and praise for their piety and actions, in their way of observing the Law and the prayers and practices they did, in the public places and more. Not only that, but they also allowed the temptations of vanity, pride and worldly greed to affect and influence them, and as such, they ended up becoming more distant and sundered from God, just like how their ancestors and predecessors had disobeyed God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are all reminded to turn towards the Lord once again with faith, and commit ourselves anew with the desire to love Him and to follow His path, resisting the many worldly temptations being present all around us. All of us are called especially during the time of this season of Lent to be more attuned to the Lord, and to rediscover the faith and love that we all ought to have for Him. Each one of us have been given the opportunity and the time for us to return with faith back towards our Lord and Master, Who has always looked kindly upon us, always ever reaching out to us, finding us and trying to bring us back to His loving embrace once again. Now it is really up to us if we want to embrace God’s love and compassionate mercy, and it is up to us to choose if we want to walk in the path of His righteousness and grace.

God has presented His Law before us and He has also given us the Wisdom and the opportunities to discern what we are going to do with our lives. He has given us His patient guidance and help so that hopefully we may realise the folly of our evil and sinful ways, and that hopefully we may find our way back once again to His loving embrace, by His grace and mercy. This season of Lent is particularly good time for us to realise this and to reflect on our way of life and on our actions so that hopefully we will not continue to walk down the wrong path. Let us all turn towards the Lord and reflect upon the good examples that His holy saints and martyrs, all the holy men and women of God, our holy predecessors, and see what we can learn in our journey of life throughout this Lent and beyond. Let us all draw closer to God and deepen our relationship with Him, resisting the temptations and the allures of worldly desires and attachments, among other things.

May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our path this Lent, so that we may have a most fruitful season and time to reconnect with God, to obey His Law and commandments with vigour and zeal. May God bless us all and may He guide us all with the strength and grace to follow Him wholeheartedly and to free ourselves from sin. May God empower us with the courage and strength to dedicate ourselves anew each day. Wishing all of us a most blessed and good season of Lent. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard from the passages of the Scriptures, the clear reminder and call for all of us to be merciful, kind and forgiving just as the Lord, our God has been merciful, kind and forgiving towards us all. Each one of us should remember the great love and mercy that God has generously shown us, even when we have erred so badly and when we have disobeyed Him time and again. Whenever we come to Him, seeking for His forgiveness and mercy, with a contrite and regretful heart, God is always ready to welcome us back and forgive us, and while He chastised and punished us for our sins, but He did so out of love for us and the desire to see us changed and converted, that we do not allow sin to corrupt and attach itself to us any longer. These are the things that we have been reminded to do this Lenten season, and we should very well heed this call.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Daniel, we heard of the prayer made by Azariah, one of the friends of Daniel who was at that time persecuted upon the orders of the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, who sentenced him and two others, Hananiah and Mishael into a great furnace of fire because of their refusal to bend their knee and worship the great golden idol and statue built by Nebuchadnezzar in his own image. They would have perished if not for God’s intervention, and God sent His Angel to be with them, protecting them from the flames. It was there inside the blazing furnace that Azariah made this heartfelt prayer to God, asking Him to remember His love for His people, to reconcile them to Himself and to forgive them their many sins and mistakes, and to remember the love that He always had for Him.

Azariah highlighted the Covenant that God had made with His beloved people, with their ancestors, and how they had been humbled and truly brought low by their own actions and disobedience, how they had lost everything, and they had been scattered and crushed for their persistent wickedness and evils. Azariah presented before the Lord the face of a people who have regretted their sins and mistakes, and were committed to a path of repentance and atonement. It was henceforth that God rescued His people, beginning with Azariah and his companions, and eventually the rest of the people of God when He moved the heart of the Great King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, after he conquered the Babylonians and freed the Israelites and their descendants, allowing them to return to their homeland after many decades in exile, and to reestablish their cities and towns, as well as the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the parable of the ungrateful servant, who has been forgiven a great deal of debt towards his master, when he did not do the same with his own fellow servant, who owed him a much smaller sum as compared to what the ungrateful servant owed to the master in the first place. That wicked and ungrateful servant did not show any gratitude or understanding of just how fortunate he has been in being forgiven from his massive debt to his master. He chose to persecute his own fellow servant for a much smaller debt that the latter owed him. This was what angered the master when he found out about what kind of ingratitude and wicked behaviour his servant had done to his fellow man, and as such, that servant had to pay his dues and the prior forgiveness that he received was rescinded from him.

That parable is a reminder for us to remember God’s love and compassionate mercy first of all, as He has forgiven us all our many sins and as He has reached out constantly to us despite us having often disobeyed and abandoned Him for other things in life, for the many distractions and temptations all around us. Each and every one of us have received such great grace and good things from God, just like how the master had shown pity on his servant, forgiving him a massive sum of debt, one that far surpassed the debt which that ungrateful servant refused to forgive his fellow servant. Similarly therefore, we need to ask ourselves and reflect, whether we ourselves are to be blamed for something similar as well. Have we ourselves held grudge or hatred against one another, and refused to forgive others whatever faults and sins that they had done to us?

It is here then that we need to remember that part of the Lord’s prayer in which we say, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us’. This means that we have to forgive others first and be kind, compassionate, merciful and forgiving first before we expect to be forgiven our sins by God. That is because, even if we are forgiven our sins, but if we still continue to hate each other, then it is likely that we will still continue to sin, as if we allow hatred, anger, jealousy, greed, pride and all those things to enter into our hearts, they will likely cause us to hurt others, to make the people around us to experience suffering and pain, just as what the ungrateful servant had done to his own fellow servant. If we have not learnt to forgive like how God had forgiven us and loved us, then how can we gain true forgiveness and reconciliation with Him?

Not only that, but how can we claim that we truly belong to God, as His people and children if our actions and way of life are contrary to what the Lord Himself had done for us? Let us recall how God gave us all His own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as our Saviour and Redeemer, when we have given Him so much hurt and problems, rejecting and abandoning Him, disobeying Him and more. God has done so much for us and yet we still hardened our hearts and minds against Him. That is what happens when we still allow ourselves to be swayed and deluded by the worldly glory, temptations, pleasures and all the things that often lead us down the wrong path in life. Each and every one of us are reminded that we should not be easily pulled by these into the false path of the evil one, and that we should do whatever we can to seek the Lord and His truth, love and mercy.

Let us all therefore strive from now on, especially during this holy and blessed season of Lent, brothers and sisters in Christ, to be exemplary in our faith and way of life that we may inspire many others to follow the Lord as well, and to be the source of hope and strength for all those who are still under the sway of sin and darkness of this world. Let us all do our best as Christian to be faithful to God and to be loving and forgiving in our lives, in our every actions, words and interactions from now on. May God bless us all, in all of our good efforts and endeavours, and may He be with us always in our journey throughout this Lenten season and beyond, and be ever generous with His mercy. Amen.