Monday, 1 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress on through the season of Lent we are called to remember God’s most amazing love and boundless mercy, His compassion and all the patience that He has shown to us, His beloved people. The Lord has shown us great love and is willing to forgive us from our many sins, provided that we are willing to embrace Him and His love, and turn away from our sinful ways and disobedience.

In our first reading today, all of us heard the words of the prophet Daniel, the famous prophet who lived in exile in Babylon after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and after many of the remnants of the people of God were brought there by the Babylonians into many decades of exile. The prophet spoke of God’s great mercy and forgiveness, and how the people had been sinful and wayward in their path which resulted in their misfortune then.

They have abandoned the Lord and followed the foreign and pagan idols, disobeying the commandments and laws of the Lord and persecuting His prophets. They and their kings had not listened to the Lord and to those whom He had sent to remind them and help them to find their way back to Him. As they all were humiliated and had to suffer being exiles among the nations, led by the prophet Daniel and others like Ezra, Nehemiah and all the post-Babylonian conquest figures, the people of Israel began to walk the long path of repentance from their sins.

Eventually, the people would return to their homeland, after the Persian King Cyrus declared emancipation for the exiles of Israel, allowing them to return to their homeland. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple of God were rebuilt in due time and the people once again lived in the grace of God. All these happened a few hundred years before the coming of the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world. And as time and history had shown, the people of God fell again and again into sin, disobeying the Lord and not following the path He has shown before them.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today was reminding the people of His time again of the great mercy and love of God by which He desired to reconcile us all to Himself. And He also told the people to be merciful just as the Lord, their Father has been merciful to them. For if they themselves had been shown mercy by God for our serious and grievous transgressions and faults, then how can we not do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters for far lesser and far smaller faults and misgivings?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture passages remind us all that first of all we are called to reexamine our way of life and look deeper into our actions in life, and how we have behaved as the followers of Christ. If we have not obeyed the Lord’s will, disobeyed His laws and commandments, disregarding His reminders and ignoring His love and mercy, then we are reminded that God’s mercy and love are always available for us, but we must not take these for granted.

If we do not repent from our sins and continue to be wayward in our lives, then know that we shall be judged by whatever sins we have committed, as well as by all the failures in doing what the Lord has told us to do. Only God can forgive us our sins, and we need to show genuine repentance, regret from our sins and show the desire to love the Lord and to be faithful to Him so that we may receive pardon from God, our loving Father and be reconciled with Him.

That is why in this season of Lent we are all called to turn back towards the Lord with contrite hearts, to return to Him with newfound love and dedication to our Lord, and with the strong desire to reject sin and all of its evil allures. And we are also called as the Lord Himself told His disciples, to be merciful just as the Lord has been merciful to us. In this season of Lent, let us all strive to forgive one another whatever misgivings, misunderstandings, faults and issues that are present between us which prevent us from finding a common ground and from being reconciled to one another.

Let us all forgive one another our shortcomings and faults, and show love, care and compassion on those who need them so that we may understand the importance of being forgiven ourselves from our sins, and that we may grow ever stronger in love for God and for our fellow men without being burdened by hatred and by other obstacles and stumbling block caused by sin and the many temptations found in the world. May God be with us and may He strengthen us all to live faithfully ever in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 1 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 6 : 36-38

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”

Monday, 1 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die.

Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Monday, 1 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 9 : 4b-10

Lord God, great and to be feared, You keep Your covenant and love for those who love You and observe Your commandments. We have sinned, we have not been just, we have been rebels, and have turned away from Your commandments and laws. We have not listened to Your servants, the prophets, who spoke in Your Name to our kings, leaders, fathers and to all the people of the land.

Lord, justice is Yours, but ours is a face full of shame, as it is to this day – we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in all the lands where You have dispersed us because of the infidelity we have committed against You. Ours is the shame, o Lord for we, our kings, princes, fathers, have sinned against You.

We hope for pardon and mercy from the Lord, because we have rebelled against Him. We have not listened to the voice of YHVH, our God, or followed the laws which He has given us through His servants, the prophets.

Monday, 22 February 2021 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, celebrating with the entire Universal Church the Primacy and Authority of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the representative of the Head of the Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we focus our attention on the centrality of the role of St. Peter and his successors, the Popes, in the governance and leadership of the entire Church.

We may find it weird that we are celebrating the feast on a ‘Chair’ but the meaning and significance of the ‘Chair of St. Peter’ are in fact very great if we understand fully the importance of chair in the matter of governance and leadership, especially in the context of the early Christians. Chair is often the symbol and visible sign and proof of authority, the seat of the leader and the physical proof of the authority the leader held over the group he was in charge of.

For example, Pontius Pilate, as the Roman Procurator or Governor of Judea has his judgment seat, called the Gabbatha, when he was about to proclaim judgment on the case of the Lord during His Passion. It was from that seat that Pontius Pilate, representing the Roman Emperor, proclaimed his judgment that the Lord Jesus was to be condemned to death and be crucified.

The High Priests of old and other leaders also had their seats of authority, and for the kings and lords, these are called thrones, and even up to this day, thrones are symbol of the monarchical, royal and governmental power. Similarly therefore, for the bishops of the Church, their authority and power, entrusted to them by the Lord, are represented by their ‘seat of authority’, called the Cathedra. And aptly, the church where this Cathedra is located at, is called the Cathedral, the heart of the bishop’s diocese and the mother of all the churches in the diocese.

Therefore, that seat of the bishop symbolises not just the authority of the bishop over his diocese, but also the unity of the whole local Church and the Christian community to the bishop and therefore to the Universal Church, as then symbolises by the Chair of St. Peter, the Seat of the Pope as the Successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ, as the leader of the entire Universal Church, the whole One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

By this virtue, the Pope has been entrusted with the care of the whole community of the faithful, to safeguard the truth and the teachings of the Lord, His commandments and laws as passed down faithfully through the generations. He also spoke with the authority of the Lord, as we have heard from our first reading today, in the Epistle of St. Peter, in which St. Peter spoke exhorting the bishops and leaders of the Church to be responsible and faithful in the exercise of their mission.

St. Peter reminded the bishops, then known as elders and overseers in the earliest days of the Church, that they ought to be exemplary in their conduct and faith, so that by their faith and obedience to God, they might be faithful and be good examples for their flock, helping and leading them down the right path towards God. Otherwise, they would be leading them down the wrong path, and then, much blame will be on them.

That is why some Church traditions held that the famous St. John Chrysostom, the Doctor of the Church and one of the most influential Church fathers, himself also a bishop of the Church, spoke of how the road to hell is paved with the skulls and bones of errant and terrible priests and especially bishops who led the faithful astray down the wrong path, either through their own immoral and unfaithful life, or through false teachings and ideas.

Today, all of us are called to pray for our bishops, as well as our priests, and first and foremost of all, for our Pope, the successor of St. Peter, that in the heavy responsibilities they held, they might remain strong in faith, and firm in their conviction and their beliefs, so as not to be overwhelmed by the many temptations and pressures surrounding them, or be swayed by false teachings and ideas that can lead them astray, and then lead all the flock astray as well.

Let us all give them our prayers, our support and love, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our Pope first of all, then the other bishops may imitate the faith and examples of St. Peter, whose faith in the Lord was unwavering to the end, and whose humility was indeed exemplary. Although St. Peter himself did make mistakes and famously denied the Lord three times, but in his imperfections, he remained filled with love for God, and was genuinely remorseful for his actions.

The kind of courage and faith, the genuine love that St. Peter had in loving God, in declaring His faith and dedication to the Lord, is something that all of us Christians should also have, and are especially important for the leaders of the Church, the shepherds entrusted with the care of the faithful. Therefore, as we celebrate together this Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, let us all renew our support and obedience to the Magisterium of the Church in our Pope and the bishops, and especially to our Pope, Francis, as the successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ.

May the Lord continue to bless the Church, our Pope and the bishops, our own respective diocesan bishops and all others entrusted with the positions of leadership within the Church, that He will continue to guide them and protect them, and give them the wisdom and strength to lead and guide, to show the way to us, the flock of the Lord, that together as one Church, we may come to the Lord’s salvation, grace and eternal glory with Him. Amen.

Monday, 22 February 2021 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Monday, 22 February 2021 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Monday, 22 February 2021 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.

Monday, 15 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture all of us are reminded of the need for us to be vigilant and to be careful not to allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of pride and desire, lest we may end up falling into sin as what our predecessors had experienced, in them falling deep into sinful ways and in failing to acknowledge the Lord’s truth.

In our first reading today we heard of the story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, who was known because Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and anger, when he saw that his offerings were not accepted by God while the offerings of Abel was accepted by the Lord. As a result, man fell deeper into sin, as they allowed the temptations to sin, their desire and anger to control them and their actions.

Cain was overcome with jealousy and anger, as he despised the fact that his younger brother got the better of him, and despite their close relationship by blood as brothers, this led to Cain murdering Abel, a grievous and mortal sin, done consciously and by Cain’s own free will. And initially, he did not even show remorse as shown when God confronted Cain, he refused to admit his vile deed.

Cain was overcome by those temptations, the temptations of pride and ego, not willing to lose to his brother and that led him down the path of no return, falling deep into sin. But yet, as we heard, the Lord was still patient and loving even towards Cain, that when he pleaded with the Lord for the punishment that he had to bore, God protected him from anyone who would harm him or wanted to kill him.

Then, we heard how in the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who stubbornly refused to believe in Him and did all they could to sow doubts and disagreements before Him, in trying to prevent others from following the Lord. They challenged the Lord in many occasions and as we heard, they also demanded signs and wonders from the Lord, to perform great miracles before them, often saying that they would not believe unless they had seen the wonders of the Lord.

In truth, the Lord Himself had performed many miracles beforehand, and the Pharisees themselves often witnessed the signs and wonders that He had done. Yet, they still could not believe or refused to believe in the Lord because they could not resist the temptations and the pressure of their own pride and ego, all the things that kept them resisting the Lord’s call and love. We can see in all these how dangerous and wicked sin can be, in leading us down the wrong path in life.

At the same time, we are also reassured that the Lord has always been patient with us, in loving us and in wanting to be reconciled with us. Yet, all those temptations and our predispositions to sin, our weakness and willingness to embrace the actions that lead us to sin make us truly vulnerable. Unless we are vigilant and do our best to resist those temptations, we may find it difficult to avoid falling deeper and deeper to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn from the experiences of our predecessors, their shortcomings and all that we have learnt and the truth about the Lord’s love and providence to strengthen our desire and resolve in following the Lord and to be righteous in all of our actions and deeds. Let us all not fall again into the same trap that Cain, the Pharisees and many others had fallen into, and entrust ourselves to the Lord with a new faith and a renewed love for Him.

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in faith, that we may draw ever closer to Him and His ways. May He empower us all to be good and dedicated Christians at all times. May God bless us all, and may He be our Guide at all times. Amen.

Monday, 15 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 11-13

At that time, the Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass Him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then His Spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.”

Then He left them, got into the boat again and went to the other side of the lake.