Wednesday, 27 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the Law which God has given to us, as the precepts and guides for us all to follow, in how we ought to live our lives, with faith and obedience to God. And through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Our Saviour, God has revealed to us all what His Law is truly about, and how the Law can guide each and every one of us to righteousness.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard about the moment when Moses gathered the people of Israel before him as they journeyed through the desert after their Exodus from Egypt, and just before they entered the Promised Land. Moses reminded the people of the special privilege that they have received, for being God’s chosen ones, those to whom God has revealed His Law and commandments.

Moses had brought the Law of God to the people, in the Ten Commandments and in the many other precepts and commandments of the Law as passed on from God to the Israelites through Moses. And Moses also reminded the Israelites of the special relationship that they all had with God, as God was with them and guided them, such that they were able to persevere through the hardships of the forty years of journey through the desert.

God provided His people with everything that they needed, feeding them with manna daily, the bread of heaven itself, as well as clear and sweet water flowing from the rocks. It was even told that a rock was following the Israelites, as a sign of God’s providence, that He would always provide for the needs of His loved ones. He even drove away and destroyed all those who sought to bring ruin to the Israelites, their enemies and all those who did not welcome God’s chosen people.

God was so close to His chosen people, and this was in fact a foretaste of what each and every one of us, who are called and chosen, will enjoy through God’s love and providence. God is leading us all to Himself, and it is His will that each and every one of us be closer to Him, but unfortunately, God’s people did not fully understand what His Law truly meant. That was why they constantly disobeyed and rebelled, as they thought of God as an angry and exacting God, Who oppressed them with the Law.

That is why it was up to Christ to come and reveal the fullness of the truth of God’s Law before all of His people, to reveal fully why God gave the Law to His people, to the generations of people who have failed to understand the true purpose and intention why God gave the Law to His people. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law at the time of Jesus accused Him of disobeying and trying to discredit the Law by His actions, and hounded and persecuted Him and His disciples endlessly because of this.

That is why the Lord made it clear to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as all those who have heard of His message, that He came into this world bearing the fullness of God’s truth and wisdom, and not to override what God has given to mankind. He was in fact going to purify the Law and the practices of the Law rather than to override or abandon it. For many ages and centuries, the Law had been corrupted in its understanding and purpose by human desires and corruption.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God Himself revealed to us that His Law is the Law of love, not of oppression and fear. His Law was intended to teach us the way of love, and the Lord did not just impose those ways on us. On the contrary, He Himself showed by example through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For Jesus Himself summarised the Law into two main categories, that is first of all, loving God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, and then secondly, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same love.

The Lord Jesus loved His Father dearly, spending a lot of time to pray in secluded area to talk to Him in prayer. He obeyed the Father’s will to the very end, when He willingly accepted death, death on the cross for His love of His heavenly Father, as well as for all of us. He also loved each and every one of us because of His compassion for those among us who are the last, the lost and the least. He reached out to those who are sick in body and in spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now we are all challenged to follow what the Lord Himself has done, in fulfilling the Law so perfectly and in the examples that He has shown us all. Are we able to commit ourselves from now on to live faithfully according to the Law of God? And this means for us to abandon pride and ego, human greed and desire in all of our actions. But this is not something that can easily be done.

Temptations and challenges will be in our midst at all times, and unless we restrain ourselves and try our best to do what pleases the Lord, by loving Him and our fellow brethren, we will fall again and again into sin. But, remember, brothers and sisters, that the Lord is ever patient, ever forgiving and ever loving. God will guide us and lead us to the right path if only we allow Him to do so. Too often we are too distracted and busy to seek Him or to understand just how much He loves each and every one of us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make a new commitment to the Lord from now on, beginning this Lent, that we will be ever more generous in love, first of all for God, spending our time and prioritising Him above everything else, and then, loving our fellow men, reaching out to those who are around us. Let us all grow ever more in faith and love for God, and obey the Lord in His laws and commandments, in its true purpose and intention, for us to love God and to be closer to Him always. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture that remind us the importance of mercy and forgiveness in our lives. First of all, in the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Daniel, we heard of the prayer of Azariah, who was one of the three friends and compatriots of Daniel. And then in the Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus telling the people of the parable of the unforgiving servant.

These two readings are related, in how God wanted us to see how He has shown us His rich mercy and forgiveness, all these while, despite of all of our refusal to obey Him, our stubbornness and obstinate attitude, in continuing to live our lives in defiance of His will, and in continuing to do what is wicked and evil in our daily lives, in our every actions, words and deeds. This is why God is so gracious and generous in extending His merciful love to us, that despite all of these, He is still so forgiving and loving.

In the first reading today, as mentioned, Azariah prayed to God together with his other two friends, who were together condemned with him to perish in the great furnace that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had commissioned to burn to death all those who refused to worship the great golden statue that the king had commissioned in his own image. While everyone else submitted to the king’s will and worshipped the golden statue, Azariah and his two friends refused to betray their faith in God by worshipping the golden idol.

King Nebuchadnezzar became angry and threw them into the fire after hearing their confession of faith, but Azariah and his friends remained firm in their faith in God. Not even the threat of pain, suffering or death could cause them to abandon or betray their Lord and Master, He Who is far above all worldly kings and their false aspirations of majesty and glory. Thus they prayed to the Lord as we heard in our first reading passage today, asking for His intervention, providence and mercy.

They humbled themselves before God, presenting themselves as the remnants as they were, of a nation and country humbled and scattered because of the sins and wickedness they have committed, in the days of their ancestors and predecessors. They showed the contrition of their people, and asking God to have mercy on them, for otherwise they would have been wiped out, all those who still remained faithful to God.

And God saved them from the fire, as the fire did not harm them at all. The king of Babylon was amazed at what he has witnessed, and was so impressed that he immediately tore down the golden statue of his own image that he has built in shame. This is just one of the many proofs of God’s wonderful love and rich mercy for His people, that He will not abandon them to destruction even when they have sinned against Him.

What we all often overlook is the fact that God does not despise us sinners. He loves each and every one of us because after all, He created us because of the love He has for each one of us. If not for His love, He would not have created us in the first place, or that He would have immediately struck us down and destroyed us the moment we disobeyed or sinned against Him. He did not do that, and in fact, He gave us opportunities, again and again, to be reconciled to Him and to be forgiven our sins.

That is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus used a parable to bring forth this important point on forgiveness and mercy, in telling the story of a servant who was forgiven by his master for a large amount of debt he owed the master, and yet, refused to forgive a fellow servant who just owed him a much smaller amount of debt. At that time, ten thousand pieces of gold meant a lot of money, and was far more valuable than the hundred pieces of silver that the other servant owed the unforgiving servant.

The master became very angry at the unforgiving servant, and threw him into jail and revoked the pardon he had given to the servant earlier for his large amount of debt, simply because, he had not done as what the master had done for him. The unforgiving servant refused to forgive a small amount of debt owed to him when the master had forgiven him a far larger amount of debt earlier on.

This is an important reminder to each and every one of us especially in this penitential season of Lent, when we are called to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, reconciliation by the forgiveness of our sins and true repentance. The master in Jesus’ parable represents the Lord, Our God Himself, while the servants represent each and every one of us. And the debts owed by the servants represent our sins. Sins came about because of the disobedience and evil acts we have done, or good things we have not done, both towards God and towards our fellow men.

And as mentioned earlier, God was so loving and merciful towards us, that even though we have disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him, and despite of our great and unimaginable amount of sins, He ultimately still loves each and every one of us, for He despised our sins, and not us the sinners. This was why in the parable, the master, representing God, has pity and showed mercy even to the servant who had a lot of debt to him. This shows us all that God will forgive us all, whether our sins be great or small.

No one is out of the range and reach of God’s ever available mercy, as long as we are sincere in our repentance and desire to turn away from those sins. But this is where today, through what we have heard in the parable, we are all reminded of the need for us to forgive just as we have been forgiven. It is often difficult for us to forgive, as hatred, jealousy and anger often find their way into our weak and vulnerable minds and hearts.

But unless we forgive the sins of those who have caused us hurt and to suffer, we cannot be truly forgiven, as the parable of the Lord showed us. The unforgiving servant was ultimately not forgiven from his debts, because he refused to forgive another servant who owed him much less than what he himself owed his master. We must remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that no matter how painful is the suffering and pains that others have done to us, all these are truly nothing compared to the pain and suffering we have caused the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect then on the Passion and suffering of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He willingly bore the unimaginably heavy burden of our sins, the combined weight of sin of all mankind, with Him as He bore the cross down the path of suffering to Calvary. In all of this, He bore it willingly and out of love for each one of us. As He look down upon us from the cross, He has only mercy in His loving Heart, intended for us, His wayward children.

If God is willing and able of endure such pains and sufferings to remove from us our sins, then why is it that we cannot let go of even small slights and insults, pains and sufferings that our fellow brethren had done to us? Every single wounds on the body of Christ, after all, are every single sins we have committed, whether it be small or significant sin. Sin is still sin, and God is willing and capable of forgiving us from our every sins. Now, are we able to forgive those who have sinned against us?

Let us make this our Lenten commitment, and in fact not just during Lent, but from this moment onwards, to forgive one another our sins and mistakes, our deeds and words that have brought about hurt and injury on those whom we have encountered in our lives. May the Lord forgive us all our sins, we unworthy sinners, just as we have forgiven our brothers and sisters, our sins and trespasses against each other. Amen.

Monday, 25 March 2019 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate together the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which is celebrated on every twenty-fifth day of the month of March each year unless it falls within the time of the Holy Week and Easter Octave or on Sundays. The Annunciation of the Lord therefore marks a period which is exactly nine months prior to the date of Christmas, that is the twenty-fifth day of the month of December.

And that is because the Annunciation of the Lord marks the time when the Lord finally proclaimed His Good News to His people at the time He has appointed, after long waiting and expectation by mankind throughout time. This was the moment marked by the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel before Mary, the virgin and young woman at Nazareth, in which the revelation of God’s Good News was made. When Mary accepted her role as revealed by God, the Lord was incarnate in the flesh of Man right at that moment.

The Archangel Gabriel came to Mary bearing a very important revelation, which all of mankind have awaited for a long time. That was the news of the coming of God’s salvation, which most unexpectedly came in the form of the virgin conception and birth of the Child that Mary bore within her. Yet, that was the exact fulfilment of what the prophet Isaiah had mentioned before king Ahaz of Judah, when Ahaz refused to ask God for a sign, showing his lack of faith.

In contrast with the lack of faith in king Ahaz, when Isaiah spoke to him of God’s favour, we saw the faith in Mary, who despite the uncertainty in her heart, accepted fully and faithfully God’s plans and intentions for her, to be the bearer and mother of the Messiah or Saviour of the whole world. When she asked the Archangel, “How can it be, since I am a virgin?”, Mary was not expressing her disbelief or lack of faith, instead, it was natural that anyone who heard those proclamations by the Archangel would be surprised.

After all, it seemed to be against all natural laws, for a virgin to bear a child, as since the beginning of time, children came about when a man and a woman become joined together, and bearing together the fruits of their love for each other. But Mary, as a virgin and yet to be married to her fiancee, St. Joseph, could not have been with a child yet. Nonetheless, what is impossible or seemingly impossible for us, is completely possible for God.

And Mary chose to trust in God and in the plans He had for her and for the salvation of the whole world. Even more importantly, Mary committed herself not just to a part of God’s plan for humanity, but for the entirety of the journey and the plan that God had made evident through Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary. Mary chose to devote herself to her Son, dedicating her whole life to take care of and raise the One Who had been entrusted to her as Son, and later on, to follow Him throughout His life and ministry, right to the very foot of the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why, Mary is so honoured in the Church and our faith, not because she was different in essence from any one of us. We do not worship her as God is worshipped, but we honour her and glorify her as all saints are honoured, and her honour surpasses that of all the other saints. For her faith, dedication and total commitment to what the Lord has entrusted to her, she has indeed become the Co-Redemptrix of our salvation, as without her faith and commitment, our salvation through Christ would not have been possible.

That is why, Mary is not just a role model to all of us Christians, but she is also the shining example for all of us, in all of her actions, in how humble she was in accepting the role that she was to play as the mother of Our God and Saviour. She remained simple and humble throughout life, and continued to dedicate herself to God and to her Son, Jesus, in doing what she could to support His ministry, as a faithful servant and mother attending to Him.

In this season of Lent, there is a reason why the occurrence of the Solemnity of the Annunciation often happens within the boundaries of this blessed season. That is because all of us have also received God’s Good News, that He has proclaimed to us through His Church, just as Mary received the Good News of salvation through the Archangel Gabriel, as well as how king Ahaz accepted his through the prophet Isaiah.

Now, we all have a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ. Do we want to follow the example of king Ahaz, in his refusal to accept the Good News and in his lack of faith, or do we want to follow the example of Mary, Mother of God and humble servant of His? I think the choice here is very clear. While Ahaz is often condemned and grouped together with those wicked kings of Israel and Judah that led the people of God to sin, but Mary, though once a poor and unknown young woman from the small village of Nazareth, now, she is remembered all over the world as the very Mother of Our Lord and Saviour.

Yet, we must also remember that Mary committed herself thoroughly to God’s call, and dedicated herself in her faithful service. In the same way, all of us are also called to devote ourselves to God, in changing our way of life and turning completely to God. And this season of Lent, with its penitential nature, is the perfect time for us to begin this transformation and conversion, that we may become new beings, filled no longer with doubt, pride, ego, hatred, jealousy and wickedness, but instead with God’s love, full of faith and love in us.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this blessed season of Lent, that each and every one of us may imitate the faith and commitment that His own Mother, Mary, has shown us all, in her humble acceptance of the role that He has granted to her, as well as in her commitment and faith to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, throughout her whole life. May God empower us all, to be ever faithful, that we may grow closer to Him, and be worthy to receive eternal glory at the end of our earthly journey.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, full of grace and blessed among women, pray for us all sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 24 March 2019 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Lent, we heard of God’s call to His people, that each and every one of us ought to heed, as we continue to live our lives in this world. He is calling on each and every one of us to reform our way of life and to turn away from sin, that each and every one of us may be saved from our current wretched state, and be worthy of God’s grace and love.

In the first reading today, we heard of the calling of Moses, when God appeared before him at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, as he was shepherding his flock. The Lord appeared to him as a burning bush that miraculously was not burnt by the fire. Moses approached the burning bush and God called him from within the fire, revealing to him Who He was, and what His will was for Moses, the calling He made to him to be the leader of His people, Israel.

In order to understand this better, we need to understand the context and the historical condition of the time, that is, at the time, the Israelites have been living in Egypt for a few centuries after their forefathers came there to escape the great famine of the time of Joseph, son of Jacob. The Israelites flourished in Egypt, and their numbers grew rapidly, but this created fear among the Egyptians and their Pharaohs, who then enslaved the Israelites and tried to destroy them as a race.

Moses was one of the male children of the Israelites who were supposed to be killed in accordance to the law meted by the Egyptians in trying to destroy the people of Israel. But Moses was saved when his mother put him in the basket in the water, and the daughter of the Pharaoh saved him from the waters, adopting him to become her own son. Later on, as Moses grew up, he saw the injustice and the oppression that his own people had to experience, and in one occasion, murdered one of the guards who were torturing one of the Israelite slave.

As a result, Moses had to flee from Egypt to the wilderness of Sinai, as the Pharaoh and his guards wanted him for his murder of the Egyptian. There in the desert, Moses found a new life as a shepherd and married into a Midianite family. It might have seemed that Moses would remain there till the end of his life, while the Egyptians would continue to enslave and oppress the Israelites, God’s own chosen people.

But God had an entirely different plan, as what we have heard today from our first reading passage. God called Moses to become His instrument to bring His people out of their slavery in the land of Egypt, and lead them towards the Promised Land which God has promised to Abraham, to Jacob and his descendants. This is God’s plan, and He revealed it all before Moses at the burning bush, calling on him to be His servant.

Initially, Moses had his reservations, as he was not sure how the Israelites would welcome him or know his purpose in Egypt, the land he had fled from many years ago in fear of his own death. But God reassured him and told him that He would be with him, and He revealed His Name before Moses, to be told to the Israelites as the sign that God has not forgotten His people after all the years of suffering that they had gone through, but would free them and lead them to their own land as He had promised.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings have deep meaning and revelation to each and every one of us as Christians, those whom God had called from among the world, to be His disciples and followers, servants and friends. God called on us to follow Him just as Moses had been called and led by God to be the leader of His people, Israel. Therefore, there are two main messages that we have to heed from these passages today.

First of all, we must endeavour to be free from the chains of slavery that we have suffered from all these while. We may be wondering these questions in our minds right now, ‘We are slaves? We do not know about that, I thought we have always been free?’ or that ‘How can we be slaves if we are not suffering in this world, but instead we live in abundance and plenty of happiness and joy in this world, being prosperous and good in all things?’

That is because many of us perhaps do not even realise that each and every one of us are enslaved, right now, because of our sins. Slavery of sin has enthralled us all, and the chains of sin have kept us from truly being free in the Lord. Every time we disobey God, we sin against Him, and this sin keeps us chained to even more sin, and the desires, greed, pride, ego, jealousy, hatred and all negative things inside us keep us bound to the bondage of sin.

And we cannot free ourselves from the bondage of sin, for no one can forgive and remove from us our sins, except that of God Himself. Fortunately, God is so loving and so forgiving towards us all, His beloved children, that just as He sent Moses to the Israelites as a deliverer and liberator, He has sent Jesus Christ, His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and Liberator from sin. He extends to us His generous love and mercy through Christ, Our Saviour.

Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, the land of their slavery, and made a Covenant between them and God. Similarly, Christ Our Lord also led us all out of the land of our slavery, that is sin and darkness, and made a new and Eternal Covenant between us and God. And while Moses brought the Ten Commandments, God’s Law to the Israelites, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Law and the fulfilment of the Law of God, that He revealed before us all.

Through Christ, we have been forgiven our sins, and He has lovingly sacrificed Himself, bearing for us the burdens and chains of our sins. But unfortunately, we are often still consciously wanting to bind ourselves back to those chains of sin, just as if we read the rest of the Book of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Numbers, how the Israelites continuously grumbled and complained against God and Moses, rebelling against Him and thus sinned.

They argued that it was better for them to have remained in Egypt and therefore remained being slaves, rather than for them to die in the middle of the desert. This was despite the fact that God had cared for them so well, that even in the middle of the desert, God gave them food to eat, the bread of the manna from heaven, and clear and sweet water to drink, and they had all that they needed even in the middle of the barren desert.

That was why they had to journey for forty years in the desert, a long journey before they enter the Promised Land. In the same way, therefore, we live our lives today in parallel with what the Israelites experienced. The Israelites went through the baptism of water, as they passed through the Red Sea that God opened before them, destroying the armies and chariots of the Pharaoh in the sea behind them, as the symbolic sign of their liberation. In the same way, we have been freed from the chains and bonds of sin, through our own baptism.

But along the rest of the journey, in our lives today, we can still be tempted by sin. Our life today, from the moment of our baptism till the end of our earthly life, is like the journey of the Israelites, with all of the challenges and difficulties. The temptations of the devil is all over the place throughout our journey, as the devil, who was our slavemaster, wanted us to be enslaved once again to sin. Yet, God provides for us, just as He has provided for the Israelites.

We heard last Sunday, that our Promised Land is heaven itself, for according to St. Paul, our citizenship is in heaven. And that is the very Promised Land that we are heading towards. God is leading us towards there, but at the same time, if we look at the example of the Israelites again, there were many who did not make it towards the Promised Land because of their refusal to obey, their sins and defiance against God.

That is why, this journey towards God and His eternal glory, our final destination in heaven will not be an easy one. It will be filled with challenges and difficulties, but this is exactly what St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us, that God is with us along the way, and we should heed His words and obey His laws, and do not follow the path of the wicked, who will lead only into death and eternal suffering.

In the Gospel today, we are reminded to be fruitful and to bear good fruits, as the Lord in His parable reminded us that those trees that do not bear fruit ought to be cut down and be destroyed. God gives us another chance in this life, just as the gardener pleaded for the trees, to be given more time and fertiliser to grow, that they may grow in due time and produce fruits. Now, it is up to us, whether we want to be fruitful and bear good fruits of our lives, or whether we prefer to remain barren or produce bad fruits.

What are these good and desirable fruits, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fruits of love and faith. That is why, today, we are also secondly challenged by God, just as Moses is called by God, to be the leader of God’s people, that each and every one of us may lead one another, our fellow brothers and sisters, by bearing the true faith in ourselves. How can we expect others to believe in the Lord if we ourselves have not believed in Him? And how can others believe if we have not practiced our faith? Anyone who profess to believe in God and yet act in ways opposite to that faith are hypocrites.

That is why, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded to make good use of the wonderful opportunity that God has given to us all, by doing what the Church has prescribed for us in this season of Lent, that is to restrain our greed and desire, our pride and ego through abstinence and also fasting. Let us all turn away from our past sins, wickedness, selfish actions and any moments when we have caused hurt and suffering in one another.

And let us also be generous with love and with our giving, in sharing our blessings with those who have little or none to get by with. Let us all not be ignorant of their pleas for help, and be willing and be courageous, like Moses, in answering God’s call to free His people Israel. Moses could have refused the Lord and remained in a good life with his new family, but he chose to follow the Lord and embark on the arduous path, not just in liberating the Israelites, but in leading them for many decades to the Promised Land.

Just as Moses endured so many difficulties, even plenty of people who were not thankful and rude towards him, and how he had to suffer rejection many times, and threats to himself, we too will encounter all these challenges throughout our life and journey towards God. But we must keep heart and remain faithful, for remember, our end point and last destination is heaven, where we truly belong and God will reward all of us who have borne good fruits of faith and love for Him.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this season of Lent, that we may make good use of the opportunities given to us, that we may draw ever closer towards God, and be ever more righteous and upright in all of our actions and deeds. Let us all heed God’s call and commit ourselves to Him, as Moses had once done, and devote ourselves to Him from now on, with hearts and minds full of faith, love and dedication. Amen.

Saturday, 23 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the love which God has for each and every one of us, and so great is His love that He is willing to forgive even the greatest of sinners, no matter how great the sin that the sinner has committed, provided that the sinner is willing to be forgiven and willing to commit himself or herself to the path of redemption and reconciliation.

Today, as we continue to journey through the season of Lent, we are called to reflect through the passages taken from the Scriptures as our readings today, to think about our own lives and experiences, in how each and every one of us can make good use of this opportunity that God has given us, that we may be forgiven from our sins and be saved from the certainty of our impending doom and destruction due to those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Micah, we heard the prophet speaking to the people of God about the wondrous deeds that God has done for His people in the past, when He delivered them from the hands of their enemies, provided for their needs and blessed them with so many good blessings and graces. This was a reminder of God’s love for His people to those who have not been obedient to Him, rebelled against Him and were wicked in His sight.

This must be understood in the context of what the prophet Micah experienced, at the time of the northern kingdom of Israel, when God was no longer respected and worshipped in those places, and where the pagan idols and wicked deities have taken over the worship of God among the people. The prophets of God like Micah were rejected and oppressed, and they had to fear for their lives.

And yet, Micah told the people how the Lord was known for His mercy and forgiveness, His love and compassion for His people, that He will forgive them if only that the people were willing to be forgiven. And this often requires a change in their way of life, and in the commitment to reject the wicked practices and ways of the world, and instead embracing the righteousness and justice of God’s ways.

In today’s Gospel reading we heard the famous parable of the prodigal son, which correlates just perfectly with what we have heard from the prophet Micah. In that parable, we heard of a prodigal, younger son of a father who had two sons, who took his part of the rich inheritance from his father, and went to a distant land, squandering off all the wealth on wicked and immoral way of life, described as loose living in the Gospel.

And when the prodigal son had wasted all of his money and properties, he was left destitute and alone. All of those whom he might have regarded as friends abandoned him because they only wanted to enjoy the money and wealth he had, and once he ran out of them, they left him all alone. The prodigal son had to endure all sorts of humiliation, and endured the suffering of having nothing, not even his human dignity, when he decided to return in shame to his father.

He would have expected that his father would be very angry at him, and did not want to treat him as a son anymore, not after everything he had done in squandering off the wealth and portion of inheritance entitled to him. That is why he wanted to be treated like a slave in his plea for the father’s forgiveness. But little did he realise that his father loved him so much that he was welcomed back with such a great festivities and joy, as the lost son was found and returned to his father.

In this parable, we heard the story of the prodigal son, which in fact represents all of us mankind, all of us who are sinners, who have disobeyed the Father’s will, God, our heavenly Father, Who has blessed us with so many wonderful things and blessings, just as He had done to the Israelites in the past. Instead of appreciating all that He has done for us, like the Israelites and the prodigal son, we acted in defiance and disobedience, and did all that were abhorrent to God.

And yet, God loves us all so much, just as the father loved the prodigal and lost son, that He gave us chances after chances to return to Him and be forgiven from our sins. And the ultimate proof of this love, is how He gave us Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who gave us the hope and sure pathway to the eternal glory and life with God, our loving Father. By His loving sacrifice on the cross, we mankind have been gathered like a shepherd gathering his lost sheep from among the darkness and wilderness of this world, and into His eternal light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Lent, we are called to do two main, important actions. First of all, we must be like the prodigal son, who has willingly, despite all the risks he took and in swallowing his pride, sought to return to his father. That is why we must turn away from our sinful way of life, and humbly seek God’s love and forgiveness. It is often that our ego and pride stand in the way of our forgiveness, because we do not want to admit that we have been wrong.

This is where we really need to be humble, to admit our mistakes and shortcomings before God. God Who loves us and Who knows our faults will have mercy on us, and He will grant us pardon and forgiveness, if only we seek Him with all of our heart. But then, we must also heed the other calling of today’s Gospel, and that is, for us not to be like the elder son, who has always been with the father, and became angry when the younger, prodigal son returned and treated with such fanfare that he became jealous.

This is why, secondly, this Lent, we must also reach out to our brethren, who may be in deeper and greater darkness than we are, those who have not embraced the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We should not act with pride and haughtiness, looking down on those who are still sinful and filled with wickedness. Ultimately, they too are our brothers and sisters, and they have no less right than us, to enjoy God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we should imitate the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, who as bishop in the New World, the Americas, devoted himself so much to his ministry and works, that he often braved through difficult conditions to minister to the people, caring for them physically as well as spiritually. He spent a lot of effort improving the people’s livelihood, and preached the truth of God in their midst. Countless people came to the Lord through his works, and he was still remembered for all of his dedication.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to make this our Lenten commitment? In fact, we should commit to this new way of life, to serve God and His people, from now on, giving all of our efforts and strength to love God with all of our hearts and be forgiven our sins, just as we assist one another in seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. May the Lord continue to bless our works, and may He guide us to His eternal glory. Amen.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scripture readings are reminding us in the midst of this blessed season of Lent, of the dangers of the pride, ego and jealousy that are often found in the hearts and minds of men. Very quickly all of these can lead us into sin, as the Scripture readings today presented before us the example of Joseph and his brothers as well as the parable of the vineyard owner as mentioned by the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading today we heard of the story of how Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob or Israel, came to conflict because of the jealousy that existed between them. In order to understand this better, we must understand that Joseph was born from Jacob’s favourite wife, and was born in his old age, and therefore, Joseph was really doted on by Jacob as a favourite son. It is inevitable that the brothers of Joseph became jealous at such a treatment.

That was why we heard how they plotted to have Joseph killed, thinking that if Joseph was killed, then they would not have him in their midst any longer and became a rival to their father’s attention and even inheritance. To them, even though he was of their own flesh and blood as their own brother, but they did not hesitate to commit such a heinous and wicked crime just because of their jealousy, the ego, pride and greed in their hearts.

Thankfully, Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob, heard of the brothers’ plan and told them to think in a more reasonable manner, and therefore, not to kill Joseph but in the end, selling him off to a Midianite caravan that brought Joseph to Egypt. And God turned the wicked acts of the brothers of Joseph into something good, as Joseph came to be the Viceroy of Egypt and prepared the way for his whole family to come to Egypt and be saved during the seven years of great famine.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard then the Lord Jesus in the parable with which He taught the people, on a vineyard owner who leased out his vineyard to tenants, who became greedy and haughty, proud and ambitious, in refusing to obey the terms of agreement in the tenancy. In fact, they plotted against the owner, his workers and servants, and even the son of the owner, when they were sent to remind the wicked tenants to fulfil their agreement.

This was in fact a representation of how wicked men treated the prophets of God and eventually, God’s own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ Himself. The owner of the vineyard is the Lord, the vineyard is the world and all creation, the messengers and servants are the prophets and the servants of God, and the son of the owner is the Lord Jesus, Saviour and Lord, Who was betrayed, rejected and condemned to death by those who refused to listen to the Lord, just as the wicked tenants put the son of the owner to death.

All of these happened, just as Joseph was ill-treated and almost put to death by his own brothers, because of jealousy, because of desire, because of the pride and ego that fill up our hearts and minds. When we start to desire for worldly acclamations, influence, fame, glory, joy and other forms of temptations that are always around us, we will find that we will not be able to have peace in mind, because we will end up plotting against each other and being unhappy, because others have what we ourselves do not have, and vice versa.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to break off from this vicious cycle of greed and desire, of pride and ego. That is why we practice fasting and abstinence, to restrain our inner desires and the wicked temptations that are always trying to pull us to commit sin by being jealous to one another. We are called to practice this restrain to prevent us from falling deeper and deeper into the traps of sin.

And that is why we are also encouraged to be charitable and give almsgiving during this period, because rather than grumbling and being angry and jealous at what we do not have, we should instead share what we have with each other, that instead of us all being unhappy at one another, why not if we can be happy together as a community and family of God’s people together?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, drawing from the wisdom of the Lord in the Scriptures, as well as from our own human experiences, in which we must have experienced a lot of injustice, anger and pain, suffering and hurt from actions of ours that are selfish and prideful, let us all turn away from these wicked thoughts and deeds, and commit ourselves anew in this season of Lent and beyond, to be true and loving disciples of the Lord from now on. May God bless us always, in all of our good endeavours, in loving one another and in being ever more selfless, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us of the importance for us to be good and to do good in our respective lives, while we are still able to do so. God has given us a lot of opportunities for us, in order to make good use of the talents and graces given to us, in following what He has commanded us all to do, that is to love Him and one another wholeheartedly.

Yet, many of us have not done what we have been called to do, as we preferred to act in ways that enrich ourselves, benefitting our own lives and even causing others to suffer and ending up in pain, just because we want to preserve our own selfish gains and needs. As long as we put our trust in all these worldly riches, power, glory and all sorts of things that often tempted us, as the prophet Jeremiah had warned, we will find it difficult to be truly faithful to God.

In the Gospel passage today we then heard about the story that the Lord Jesus told to His disciples, on the experience of a rich man as contrasted with a poor man, Lazarus. Both of them lived a very contrasting and different kind of life, with the rich man enjoying all the kinds of pleasures and joys that the world could give, while Lazarus, the poor man, had to suffer from hunger and poverty.

Lazarus hoped that the rich man would share some of the food he had with him, even if that would be the scraps of bread that fell off from the rich man’s table. But even that was not available to him. In the end, both Lazarus and the rich man died, passing away from this world. But their fates could not have been more different, just as in life, they experienced very different kinds of life and treatment.

The rich man went down to hell, suffering for all the sins he had committed in life. The poor man, Lazarus, instead went up to heaven, to be with Abraham and enjoying all the good things that he had not been able to experience in life. And Abraham mentioned to the rich man when he called for help, that there was a chasm between them, between hell and the blessed heavens, that none of them could cross, and no help could be given to the rich man.

This is a reminder to each and every one of us, that unless we live our lives in a righteous and God-fearing manner, we will end up into the trap of sin, and sin will lead us to the eternal separation from the love and grace of God, that is hell. And from that state, there is no escape or any more hope of salvation and liberation. God wants to remind us that the consequence of sin is truly severe, and all those who put their trust in things other than God, is likely to regret like the rich man had done.

In all of these, we must understand and we must be mindful that God is not condemning the rich people or their riches. He does not condemn the powerful or their influence and power. Rather, what He condemns is the attitude that we mankind take with power, glory, and all those worldly things. We are too easily tempted by all these wicked desires, and that is why we end up making use of our wealth, power, fame and abilities for the wrong reasons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded that as Christians, all of us are called to live our lives with faith and genuine dedication to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. In this blessed time of Lent, in particular, we are called to be more generous with our giving and with the sharing of our blessings. Therefore, instead of doing what we have always done in trying to bring glory and good things for ourselves, we should turn away from selfish and proud ways, and be loving and generous in our interactions with others.

We must remember that sin can be caused not just by wicked actions in life, but even by the sin of omission, which is the sin of not doing what we could have done while we are perfectly capable of doing something to bring good to others. When we ignore the plight of the poor and the weak, the oppressed and the ostracised around us, just like how the rich man ignored Lazarus, then we will end up sinning against God just as the rich man has done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to make this Lenten season into a meaningful time for us to seek reconciliation with God? Are we willing and able to commit our time and effort to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with a new commitment, that while once we may have been sinful and disobedient, now, with the spirit of reconciliation and sincere repentance, we may become new in faith, and grow in our love towards God, from now onwards.

May God continue to guide us on our journey, and may He empower us all to live faithfully in accordance with His ways and be obedient to all that He had taught us to do. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours. Amen.