Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we approach quickly the coming of Holy Week and Easter, we recall with joy the salvation which God had brought upon His people, time and again, throughout the history of our salvation, how He renews with us His promises and the loving relationship we ought to have with Him, through the Covenants He made with us.

That is why today rose vestments are used, as we mark Laetare Sunday, with the word Laetare coming from this Sunday’s Introit, ‘ Laetare Jerusalem, remembering that in the midst of difficulties and challenges, we ought to rejoice because of the salvation and consolation that has come upon us from God. This is the time in Lent when we do not just focus on our sinfulness and our regret for those sins, in penance and almsgiving, but also look forward to the joy which is to come, when we are fully reconciled with God.

In the first reading today, we listened to the tale of destruction of the last remnants of the kingdom of Israel, when the southern kingdom of Judah centred in Jerusalem, ruled by David’s descendants, was destroyed by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. That was because of their lack of faith and commitment to the Lord, even though the Lord had commanded them to obey His laws and commandments.

They have installed foreign and pagan gods and idols in their midst, and even desecrating the sanctity of the House of God, the Temple in Jerusalem on occasions. Thus God punished them for their refusal to obey His will, and for their wickedness and their sins. But what God truly hated was their sins and disobedience, and not their persons. God still loved them all dearly even though their sins were numerous.

It is proven by what God subsequently did for His people. In the same first reading we heard today, even though we heard to a story of despair and humiliation, but the subsequent passage in fact spoke of hope and gladness, relief and happiness, when God called upon Cyrus, the great King of Persia, to let the people of Israel go back to their own land, after he conquered the Babylonians in the year 538 BC.

And that is the reality of God’s love, that even though we mankind have sinned many, many times and refused repeatedly to follow Him, preferring our own sinful ways and habits, but the Lord is equally generous with His mercy, love and forgiveness. He is always ready to forgive us our sins and trespasses, but more often than not, we are unwilling to accept His generous offer of mercy, because we are often too proud, thinking that we are in no need for forgiveness or healing.

And we are often too preoccupied by the many temptations in life which swayed us away from the ways of the Lord, and we end up falling deeper into the trap of sin, which the devil is pulling us into, through his many persuasions and temptations. We often put our priority in our worldly cares and concerns, worrying about money, about having financial security, about our relationships and how we can maintain a good and comfortable lifestyle, about having career advancements, or having a good house to stay in, and many more.

But in the midst of all that, we often ended up forgetting about God, as we become too focused on satisfying our needs and wants, our desires and ambitions. We no longer put God as the priority of our lives, but instead we glorify and idolise money, worldly possessions, fame, prestige and many other worldly glories. We may think that we obey the laws and rules of the Church by coming to Sunday Mass regularly, but are we truly having a genuine faith in God?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we come to the Mass and celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Why do we spend our time to do the devotions and the prayers? Is it because we truly want to be with God and to communicate with Him? Is it because we think that we have to do it because the Church commands us to do it, or because we are afraid of the punishment God will inflict on us if we do not do what the Church asked us to do?

Do we realise that God has done so much for us, trying to call us to Himself and to reconcile us to Him? He has done His very best, even to the point of giving us the best and the ultimate of all gifts, namely the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. That is what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus. St. Paul wrote about God’s rich grace through Christ, by which many people are saved.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Himself made it plain to us, that because of God’s great and everlasting love for us, He gave us His own beloved Son, by Whom and through Whom we are saved, and by Whose sacrifice and death on the cross, all of us are made whole again and be made worthy of His eternal life and the inheritance and glory He has promised to all of us. He came into this world not to condemn us, but to save us, and that is the reality that we must be aware of.

Again, I want to emphasise that God does not hate us and neither is He angry with us in person. Rather, He despises our sins and our disobedience. Those sins and disobedience are the obstacles that prevent us from being able to achieve perfect reconciliation with God. As long as we continue to sin and refuse to repent from those sins, we will continue to be separated from God, and the eventual consequences may be dire, as we may end up falling into eternal damnation in hell.

He has given us very generously the gift of His Son, because of His love for us, that all those who believe in His Son, will receive true joy, happiness and salvation, freed from the sorrows and the sufferings caused by our sins and disobedience against God. But now, it is up to us, whether we want to embrace His loving mercy and compassionate heart, or whether we arrogantly reject His offer of salvation and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, let us rededicate ourselves to live our lives according to God’s will, if we have not done so. Let us develop a strong relationship with God, through our commitment to prayerful life, and also to deepen our efforts in various charitable activities. Let us remember how God has loved us so much, that He should indeed be the centre of our lives, and not all the worldly temptations of power, ambition, glory, wealth and many others.

Let us have a genuine faith in God, shown through our loving devotion, as well as by sharing the love He had shown us and blessed us with, with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor, weak, oppressed, lonely and unloved. May the Lord be with us, that in our Lenten journey, we may draw ever closer to Him and be ever more righteous and just in all the things that we say and do. Let us truly rejoice because of all the wonders that God has done for us. Amen.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

John 3 : 14-21

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.”

“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because He has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.”

“This is how Judgment is made : Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light, and does not come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

John 9 : 1-41

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Master, was he born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither was it for his own sin nor for his parents’ sin. He was born blind so that God’s power might be shown in him. While it is day we must do the work of the One Who sent Me; for the night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

Then they asked him, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” And he answered, “The Man called Jesus made a mud paste, put it on my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and I could see.” They asked, “Where is He?” And the man answered, “I do not know.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, but how is it that he now sees?” The parents answered, “He really is our son and he was born blind; but how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know Who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.”

The parents said this because they feared the Jews, who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled from the synagogue. Because of that his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.” So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Tell us the truth; we know that this Man is a sinner.”

He replied, “I do not know whether He is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.” They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

Then they started to insult him. “Become His disciple yourself! We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses; but as for this Man, we do not know where He comes from.” The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the Man comes from, and yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honours God and does His will, Hod listens to him. Never, since the world began, has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world to carry out a judgment : Those who do not see shall see, and those who see shall become blind.” Some Pharisees stood by and asked Him, “So we are blind?” And Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But you say, ‘We see’; this is the proof of your sin.”

Alternative reading (Shorter version of Reading from Year A)

John 9 : 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth.

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Ephesians 2 : 4-10

But God, Who is rich in mercy, revealed His immense love. As we were dead through our sins, He gave us life, with Christ. By grace, you have been saved! And He raised us to life, with Christ, giving us a place with Him in heaven.

In showing us such kindness, in Christ Jesus, God willed to reveal, and unfold in the coming ages, the extraordinary riches of His grace. By the grace of God, you have been saved, through faith.

This has not come from you : it is God’s gift. This was not the result of your works, so you are not to feel proud. What we are, is God’s work. He has created us, in Christ Jesus, for the good works He has prepared, that we should devote ourselves to them.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Ephesians 5 : 8-14

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Behave as children of light; the fruits of light are kindness, justice and truth in every form. You yourselves search out what pleases the Lord, and take no part in works of darkness that are of no benefit; expose them instead.

Indeed it is a shame even to speak of what those people do in secret, but as soon as it is exposed to the light, everything becomes clear; and what is unmasked, becomes clear through light.

Therefore it is said, “Awake, you who sleep; arise from the dead that the light of Christ may shine on you.”

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Psalm 136 : 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

By the streams of Babylon, we sat; and then wept, as we remembered Zion. When, on the poplars, we hung our harps.

Our captors asked for song. Our tormentors wanted songs of joy : “Sing to us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing YHVH’s song in a strange and alien land? If I forget you, o Jerusalem, may my right hand fall useless!

May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if Jerusalem is not the first of my joys.

Alternative reading (Psalm from Year A)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

2 Chronicles 36 : 14-16, 19-23

Furthermore, all the heads of the priesthood, and the people, too, were exceedingly unfaithful, following the disgusting example of the nations around them, and so they defiled the House which YHVH Himself had made holy. YHVH, the God of their ancestors, continued to send prophets to warn His people, since He had compassion on them and on His dwelling place.

But they mocked the messengers of Gos, ignored His words, and laughed at His prophets, until at last the anger of YHVH rose so high against His people that there was no further remedy. The Chaldeans burnt down the House of God, broke down the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it.

The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his descendants as slaves until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the work of YHVH was fulfilled that He spoke through Jeremiah, “The land will lie desolate for seventy years, to make up for its Sabbath rests that have not been observed.”

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfil what He had said through the prophet Jeremiah, YHVH stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his kingdom : “Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia : YHVH, the God of Heaven, Who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has ordered me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, in Judah. Now, all of you who belong to His people, go there; and may YHVH your God be with you.”

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

1 Samuel 16 : 1b, 6-7, 10-13a

YHVH asked Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way to Jesse the Bethlehemite for I have chosen My king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came, Samuel looked at Eliab the older and thought, “This must be YHVH’s anointed.” But YHVH told Samuel, “Do not judge by his looks or his stature for I have rejected him. YHVH does not judge as man judges; humans see with the eyes; YHVH sees the heart.”

Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel who said, “YHVH has chosen none of them. But are all your sons here?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, tending the flock just now.” Samuel said to him, “Send for him and bring him to me; we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

So Jesse sent for his youngest son and brought him to Samuel. He was a handsome lad with ruddy complexion and beautiful eyes. And YHVH spoke, “Go, anoint him for he is the one.” Samuel then took the horn of oil and anointed him in his brothers’ presence.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (I Classis) – Sunday, 15 March 2015 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Offertory

Psalm 134 : 3, 6

Laudate Dominum, quia benignus est : psallite Nomini Ejus, quoniam suavis est : omnia, quaecumque voluit, fecit in caelo et in terra.


English translation

Praise the Lord, all of you, for He is good. Sing all of you to His Name, for He is sweet. Whatsoever He is pleased with, He had done in heaven and in earth.

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Sacrificiis praesentibus, Domine, quaesumus, intende placatus : ut et devotioni nostrae proficiant et saluti. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.


English translation

We beseech You, o Lord, look favourably upon the sacrifices here before You, that they may profit us both for devotion and for salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.


Preface of Lent

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere : Domine, Sancte Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus : Qui corporali jejunio vitia comprimis, mentem elevas, virtutem largiris et praemia : per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem Tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Caeli caelorumque Virtutes ac beata Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes :


English translation

It is truly meet and just, right and profitable, for us, at all times, and in all places, to give thanks to You, o Lord, the Holy One, the Father Almighty, the Everlasting God, who on those who chastise their bodies by fasting had bestowed the restraining of evil passions, uplifting of heart, and the enjoying of virtue with its reward. Through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise, the Dominations adore, the Powers trembling with awe, worship Your majesty. Which the heavens and the forces of heaven, together with the blessed Seraphim, joyfully do magnify. And thus You do command that it may be permitted to our lowliness to join with them in confessing You and unceasingly to repeat :


Communion

Psalm 121 : 3-4

Jerusalem, quae aedificatur ut civitas, cujus participatio ejus in idipsum : illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini, ad confitendum Nomini Tuo, Domine.


English translation

Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together, for there will the tribes go up to, the tribes of the Lord, to praise Your Name, o Lord.


Post-Communion Prayer

Da nobis, quaesumus, misericors Deus : ut sancta Tua, quibus incessanter explemur, sinceris tractemus obsequiis, et fideli semper mente sumamus. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.


English translation

Grant us, we beseech You, o merciful God, that we may treat with unfeigned veneration and ever receive with heartfelt faith Your holy rites which we constantly celebrate. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (I Classis) – Sunday, 15 March 2015 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John

John 6 : 1-15

In illo tempore : Abiit Jesus trans mare Galilaeae, quod est Tiberiadis : et sequebatur eum multitudo magna, quia videbant signa, quae faciebat super his, qui infirmabantur. Subiit ergo in montem Jesus : et ibi sedebat cum discipulis suis.

Erat autem proximum Pascha, dies festus Judaeorum. Cum sublevasset ergo oculos Jesus et vidisset, quia multitudo maxima venit ad eum, dixit ad Philippum : Unde ememus panes, ut manducent hi? Hoc autem dicebat tentans eum : ipse enim sciebat, quid esset facturus.

Respondit ei Philippus : Ducentorum denariorum panes non sufficiunt eis, ut unusquisque modicum quid accipiat. Dicit ei unus ex discipulis ejus, Andreas, frater Simonis Petri : Est puer unus hic, qui habet quinque panes hordeaceos et duos pisces : sed haec quid sunt inter tantos?

Dixit ergo Jesus : Facite homines discumbere. Erat autem faenum multum in loco. Discubuerunt ergo viri, numero quasi quinque milia. Accepit ergo Jesus panes, et cum gratias egisset, distribuit discumbentibus : similiter et ex piscibus, quantum volebant.

Ut autem impleti sunt, dixit discipulis suis : Colligite quae superaverunt fragmenta, ne pereant. Collegerunt ergo, et impleverunt duodecim cophinos fragmentorum ex quinque panibus hordeaceis, quae superfuerunt his, qui manducaverant. Illi ergo homines cum vidissent, quod Jesus fecerat signum, dicebant : Quia hic est vere Propheta, qui venturus est in mundum.

Jesus ergo cum cognovisset, quia venturi essent, ut raperent eum et facerent eum regem, fugit iterum in montem ipse solus.


English translation

At that time, Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias, and a great multitude followed Him, because they saw the miracles which He did on those who were diseased. Jesus therefore went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

Now the Pascha, the festival day of the Jews was near at hand. When Jesus therefore had lifted up His eyes, and seen that a very great multitude came to Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread that all these may eat?” And this He had said to try him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

Philip answered, “Two hundred denarius worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone may take a little of them.” One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes, but what are these among so many?”

Then Jesus said, “Make the men sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to them who were put to sit down. In like manner, He also distributed the fishes, as much as they would eat.

And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, lest that they are lost.” Therefore, they gathered up the leftovers and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to those who had eaten. Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Therefore Jesus, when He knew that they would come to take Him by force and make Him king, fled again into the mountain by Himself alone.