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.