Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, which is the fifth and the last one in the season of Lent before the beginning of the Holy Week, we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of a new Covenant forged between God and His people, which would come to be realised during the events of the Passion of Our Lord that we commemorate in this upcoming Holy Week.

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing about the Covenants that God had made with His people, which then ended up being broken by the same people with whom He had made those Covenants with. Now, what is a Covenant in the first place? A Covenant is not just like any promises or pacts, even though it may sound very similar to a promise or a pact between peoples. A Covenant is a very formal agreement and contract between two parties, where each party is expected to obey to certain rules of the Covenant.

And it is God Who made His Covenants with us, with God as one party of the Covenant, and us mankind as the other party of the Covenant. But while God has always been faithful to His part in the Covenants He made, it has always been us who failed to honour our part of the Covenant. The descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and all those with whom God made His Covenants had sinned, by disobeying His laws, worshipping pagan idols and committing wicked acts such as murder, adultery and simony and many more.

A prominent part of the Covenant in the past during the time of the Old Testament was the sacrifice of animals such as lambs or bulls or pigeons, which blood was then divided into half, half poured onto the altar while the other half is sprinkled onto the people as a sign of the renewal of the Covenant. They were always conducted in the most formal and solemn circumstances to highlight just how serious God is at establishing a loving relationship with us.

Whenever we disobey God and do what is wicked and against His ways, we sin before Him, and by that sin, we have been disgraced and sundered from God’s love. And therefore we break the Covenant that God had made with us by our sins. When that happened in the past, the people who sinned must come to a priest, who would then sacrifice the animals brought onto the Temple, and sprinkle the blood on the sinner as a sign of God’s forgiveness.

Essentially, this is a very symbolic gesture of God’s forgiveness of our sins, which is then linked to the renewal of the Covenant He had established with us. But as we can see, mankind is a very stubborn race of people, who often failed to resist the temptation to sin, and we continue to do what we prefer to do rather than to obey the ways and the laws of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise the extent of the love which God has shown to us all, to each and every one of us, from the least among us to the greatest and the mightiest among us. All of us are equally loved by God, and none of us can say that God does not love us or hate us. He loves each and every one of us for who we are, His beloved children and creation, but it was our sins that He despised. It was our sins which come in between us from our loving relationship with God.

It was never in God’s intention to punish us or to make our lives miserable. If souls fell and ended up in hell, in the state of eternal despair and hopelessness, that was not God’s doing, but the mistakes committed by the fallen beings themselves. God has always offered His love, forgiveness and compassion freely without the need for us to pay for them. But it is us mankind who have willingly refused to accept God’s offer of mercy, love and compassion.

For the love of worldly things, our greed and ambition, our ego and desires, we have chosen to walk in our own path, instead of obeying and following God. We ended up disobeying God and living in sin, and that is why many of us mankind, throughout the ages are truly in a sad state, defiled and corrupted by our sins and wickedness. Had the Lord not done anything to help us, hell would have been full with all of us and our ancestors.

No, that is not what God wanted to happen, and that is why, He resolved to end the continuing cycle of sin and damnation once and for all, by forging with us a renewed Covenant, the greatest among all the Covenants, one that will never end and will never be broken, because it is sealed not with any animal sacrifices or any forms of animal blood, but by the most precious Blood of all, the Blood of Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it was by His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the cross, that Jesus Christ Our Lord sealed the New Covenant which He made with us all, as the Mediator of that New Covenant, between God and mankind, His beloved ones. Christ’s loving sacrifice and His voluntary shedding of His Blood from the cross, on the perfect altar that is Calvary, marks the beginning of a new era, of reconciliation between God and His people, all of us.

Before Christ, we mankind and Our Lord have been separated because of sin, such that in between us and Him there is an uncrossable chasm and sundering, that prevented us from being able to be with Our God. Our sins should have merited us eternal damnation and suffering in hell, separated forever from God. However, as mentioned, God did not want that to happen to us, because of His love, and thus, He gave us Christ as our Saviour, that all of us who believe in Him will be saved.

Through Christ, Who is both God and Man, all of us find a new hope, by the bridge that Christ Himself had built through His cross, to bring man back to the loving embrace of their Creator. This new and everlasting Covenant will never be broken, for God Himself guaranteed it by His own Most Precious Blood, sealed for all eternity. Now, it is the matter of whether we are willing to be a part of that Covenant or not.

God has always given us the freedom to choose whether we want to obey Him or not. However, the consequences of our choice is ours alone to bear. If we decide to follow the examples of the Israelites of the past, who disobeyed God and preferred to live in sin, enjoying all the good fruits and the desires of this world, then we have to know that we have chosen all these over all that God has offered us.

But if we choose to be faithful to Him and partake in the Covenant He had made with us through Christ, then we can call ourselves as Christians, in body, heart, mind and spirit. Yet, we cannot be half-hearted in our faith and commitment, or else, it is likely that we will be tempted and fall. Being a true Christian requires effort and commitment from us, as the Lord Himself said, that in order for us to follow Him, we must take up our crosses and follow Him.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, reflecting and remembering upon all the good things that God had done for us, His insistent love and compassion for us, and all that He had given us, even to the point of giving us His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and to die for us on the cross for our salvation, just so that He can bond us all to a new and everlasting Covenant that superseded all previous ones, then we should indeed think of how we can be part of this wonderful Covenant.

As we approach the Holy Week beginning next Sunday with the Palm Sunday, let us recall the Passion of Our Lord Jesus, Who took up that cross and suffered for us, so that by gathering all of our sins to Himself, He might redeem all of us, His beloved people. Let us all shun all of our past sins and wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God, and walk from now on in His ways.

Let us now be an active partner of the Lord in the Covenant He made with us, by devoting ourselves, our time, our effort, our actions and our words for the greater glory of God. And how do we do this? First of all, we need to put God as the priority in our lives, by obeying His laws and commandments, and by doing our actions with our love for God in mind. That means, we should not treat our brothers and sisters with contempt or hatred, or selfishly trying to preserve our own needs and attain our desires over the sufferings of others.

Let us be more charitable in all of our dealings, in our every actions and deeds. Let us all have pity and compassion on those who are not as fortunate as us in our midst, and do whatever we can to help, or to alleviate their sufferings, or to share our joy with them. This is how we show others the same love that God has shown us, a selfless and compassionate love.

Let us also draw closer to God, by deepening our relationship with Him through prayer, that in everything we do, we do it prayerfully, knowing that God is with us, and that we exist to be with God, to love Him and to serve Him with love. Let us all show our commitment to Him by devoting our lives more wholeheartedly to Him. May all of us find our way to reach God’s saving grace, and receive the gift of eternal life and glory, as part of the Covenant He has established with us.

May all of us be more committed to live up to the Covenant God made with us, by proactively seeking to be righteous and just in His presence, by our compassion to the poor and to the needy around us, by listening to the pleas of the hungry and by showing comfort and love for the lonely and for those who were without love. May God be with all of our actions and endeavours, and may He bring us ever closer to Him, and bless us all of our days. Amen.

Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 12 : 20-33

At that time, there were some Greeks who had come up to Jerusalem to worship during the feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went to Andrew, and the two of them told Jesus.

Then Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him. Now, My soul is in distress. Shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But, to face all this, I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” People standing there heard something and said it was thunder; but others said, “An Angel was speaking to Him.” Then Jesus declared, “This voice did not come for My sake, but for yours. Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be cast down. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to Myself.”

With these words Jesus referred to the kind of death He was to die.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

John 11 : 1-45

At that time, there was a sick man named Lazarus who was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This is the same Mary, who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was sick.

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” They replied, “Master, recently the Jews wanted to stone You. Are You going there again?”

Jesus said to them, “Are not twelve working hours needed to complete a day? Those who walk in the daytime shall not stumble, for they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, for there is no light in them.” After that Jesus said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him.”

The disciples replied, “Lord, a sick person who sleeps will recover.” But Jesus had referred to Lazarus’ death, while they thought that He had meant the repose of sleep. So Jesus said plainly, “Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there, for now you may believe. But let us go there, where he is.” Then Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. As Bethany is near Jerusalem, about two miles away, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

After that Martha went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The Master is here and is calling for you.” As soon as Mary heard this, she rose and went to Him. Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. The Jews, who were with her in the house consoling her, also came. When they saw her get up and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep.

As for Mary, when she came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, who had come with her, He was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

Alternative reading (Shorter version of Reading from Year A)

John 11 : 3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45

So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified through it.”

It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after He heard of the illness of Lazarus, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Only then did He say to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”

When Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. And she said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

Jesus was moved in the depths of His Spirit and troubled. Then He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “If He could open the eyes of the blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus was deeply moved again, and drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to Him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.” Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone.

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for You have heard Me. I knew that You hear Me always; but My prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When Jesus had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did.

Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hebrews 5 : 7-9

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him, Who could save Him from death, and He was heard, because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt, through suffering, what obedience was, and, once made perfect, He became the Source of eternal salvation, for those who obey Him.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Romans 8 : 8-11

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him.

But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit Who dwells within you.

Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 12-13, 14-15

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again, the joy of Your salvation; and sustain me, with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

Alternative Psalm (Psalm from Year A)

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness.

For that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.

Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 31-34

The time is coming – it is YHVH Who speaks – when I will forge a new Covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. It will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they broke My Covenant although I was their Master, YHVH declares.

This is the Covenant I shall make with Israel after that time : I will put My Law within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God and they will be My people. And they will not have to teach each other, neighbour or brother, saying : ‘Know YHVH,’ because they will all know Me, from the greatest to the lowliest, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and no longer remember their sin.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Ezekiel 37 : 12-14

YHVH said to Ezekiel, “So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves.”

“When I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”

(Usus Antiquior) Passion Sunday (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 March 2015 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Offertory

Psalm 118 : 17, 107

Confitebor Tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo : retribue servo Tuo : vivam, et custodiam sermones Tuos : vivifica me secundum verbum Tuum, Domine.


English translation

I will confess to You, o Lord, with my whole heart. Render to Your servant, I shall live and keep Your words. Enliven me according to Your word, o Lord.


Secret Prayer of the Priest

Haec munera, quaesumus Domine, ei vincula nostrae pravitatis absolvant, et Tuae nobis misericordiae dona concilient. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.


English translation

May these offerings, we pray to You, o Lord, both loosen the bonds of our sins, and win for us the gifts of Your mercy. 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 the Holy Cross

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere : Domine, Sancte Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus : Qui salutem humani generis in ligno Crucis constituisti : ut, unde mors oriebatur, inde vita resurgeret : et, qui in ligno vincebat, in ligno quoque vinceretur : 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 holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, who had established the salvation of mankind in the wood of the Cross, that from where death into the world, from there a new life might spring, and that he who by a tree overcome, by a tree too might be overthrown. Through Christ our Lord, through whom the angels praise, the Dominations adore, the Powers, trembling with awe and worship Your majesty, which the heavens, and the forces of heaven, together with the blessed Seraphim joyfully magnify You. And You do command that it is to be permitted in our lowliness to join with them in confessing You and repeat unceasingly :


Communion

1 Corinthians 11 : 24, 25

Hoc corpus, quod pro vobis tradebatur : hic calix novi Testamenti est in meo sanguine, dicit Dominus : hoc facite, quotiescumque sumitis, in meam commemorationem.


English translation

This is My Body which shall be delivered for you. This is the chalice of the New Testament in My Blood, says the Lord. Do this, as often as you receive it, in commemoration of Me.


Post-Communion Prayer

Adesto nobis, Domine, Deus noster : et, quos Tuis mysteriis recreasti, perpetuis defende subsidiis. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.


English translation

Draw near to us, o Lord our God, and with Your perpetual succour defend those whom You have refreshed with Your mysteries. 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) Passion Sunday (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 March 2015 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet

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

John 8 : 46-59

In illo tempore : Dicebat Jesus turbis Judaeorum : Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? Si veritatem dico vobis, quare non creditis mihi? Qui ex Deo est, verba Dei audit. Propterea vos non auditis, quia ex Deo non estis.

Responderunt ergo Judaei et dixerunt ei : Nonne bene dicimus nos, quia Samaritanus es tu, et daemonium habes? Respondit Jesus : Ego daemonium non habeo, sed honorifico Patrem Meum, et vos inhonorastis me. Ego autem non quaero gloriam meam : est, qui quaerat et judicet.

Amen, amen, dico vobis : si quis sermonem meum servaverit, mortem non videbit in aeternum. Dixerunt ergo Judaei : Nunc cognovimus, quia daemonium habes. Abraham mortuus est et Prophetae; et Tu dicis : Si quis sermonem meum servaverit, non gustabit mortem in aeternum. Numquid Tu major es patre nostro Abraham, qui mortuus est? Et Prophetae mortui sunt. Quem teipsum facis?

Respondit Jesus : Si ego glorifico meipsum, gloria mea nihil est : est Pater Meus, qui glorificat Me, quem vos dicitis, quia Deus vester est, et non cognovimus eum : ego autem novi eum : et si dixero, quia non scio eum, ero similis vobis, mendax. Sed scio eum et sermonem ejus servo. Abraham pater vester exsultavit, ut videret diem meum : vidit, et gavisus est.

Dixerunt ergo Judaei ad eum : Quinquaginta annos nondum habes, et Abraham vindisti? Dixit eis Jesus : Amen, amen, dico vobis, antequam Abraham fieret, ego sum. Tulerunt ergo lapides, ut jacerent in eum : Jesus autem abscondit se, et exivit de templo.


English translation

At that time, Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews, “Which of you shall convince Me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God, hears the words of God. Therefore you did not hear them, because you are not of God.”

The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “Do not we say it well, that You are a Samaritan, and has a devil in You?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a devil, but I honour My Father, and you have dishonoured Me. But I do not seek My own glory, for there is One who seeks and judges.”

“Amen, amen, I say to you, if any man keeps My word, he shall not see death forever.” The Jews therefore said, “Now we know that You have a devil in You. Abraham is dead, and the prophets too, and yet You said that if any man keeps My word, he shall not taste death forever. Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. And you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I shall say that I do not know Him, then I shall be likened to you, a liar. But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see My day, he saw it, and was glad.”

The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I AM.” They took up stones therefore to cast at Him, but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.