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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

Saturday, 8 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 8 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be the king of them all.

They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.

My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.

I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH Who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 7 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews then picked up stones to throw at Jesus; so He said, “I have openly done many good works among you, which the Father gave Me to do. For which of these do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered, “We are not stoning You for doing a good work, but for insulting God; You are only a Man, and You make Yourself God.” Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law : I said, you are gods? So those who received this word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true.”

“What then should be said of the One anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in Me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest Him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptised, and there He stayed. Many people came to Jesus, and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about You, and everything he said was true.” And many became believers in that place.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

I love You, o Lord, my Strength, the Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

A deadly flood surrounded me, devillish torrents rushed at me; caught by the cords of the grave, I was brought to the snares of death.

But I called upon the Lord in my distress, I cried to my God for help; and from His Temple He heard my voice, my cry of grief reached His ears.

Friday, 7 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Jeremiah 20 : 10-13

I hear many people whispering, “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!” All my friends watch me to see if I will slip : “Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say; “then we can get the better of him and have our revenge.”

But YHVH, a mighty Warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten. YHVH, God of hosts, You test the just and probe the heart and mind.

Let me see Your revenge on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause. Sing to YHVH! Praise YHVH and say : He has rescued the poor from the clutches of the wicked!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 6 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.