Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to renew our faith in God and to recall our calling as Christians to be the faithful witnesses of the Lord’s truth and Resurrection, the bearers of the Gospels and the Good News of God’s salvation in our world today, just as St. Stephen, the holy Deacon and Protomartyr had done it during his own ministry, and how the other holy men and women of God, our predecessors, had done it.

In our first reading today, we heard the discourse on St. Stephen, one of the seven first Deacons of the Church appointed by the Apostles in establishing the Order of Deacons to minister to the needs of the people of God. St. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, and passionately carried out his mission, doing the good works for the Lord and His people, as well as preaching the truth of God and the Gospels, and performing wondrous miracles before many.

It was not long that his efforts met tough resistance from the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council. The same people had attempted to stop the works of the Apostles and restrain them by ordering them not to continue the work in the Name of the Lord Jesus. However, as the works of the Apostles and the other disciples, including that of St. Stephen continued to flourish and grow, the Sanhedrin began to find ways to suppress their works, and what happened to St. Stephen was the result of this.

As St. Stephen went up against his opponents, who publicly challenged him and even those who had been paid to make false testimonies, those who were assembled against him realised that not even those were able to discredit, stop or argue against St. Stephen’s wisdom and power given to him by the Holy Spirit. St. Stephen was there alone in the assembly, as many gathered in opposing him and wanting to stop him and condemn him for his efforts and works. But the Lord gave him the courage to continue to preach the truth, and speaking without fear, even before those who hated and despised him and the Lord.

St. Stephen still in fact patiently ministered to those people who were assembled against him, and he spoke in great detail in the parts after today’s first reading in the Acts of the Apostles regarding God’s plan of salvation and how God had patiently led and guided His people throughout the past with love, and finally gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to be the Saviour of all, that by dying, He has taken up all of mankind’s sins, the sins of those same people assembled against St. Stephen, in order to redeem all of them from their sins and to free them from its chains and bondage of death.

This is the truth that the Lord Himself has also spoken before the people of God as mentioned in our Gospel today when He spoke to the assembled multitudes right after He had fed them all, five thousand men and many thousands more of others, with the miraculous breaking of the bread and the fishes. He spoke of Himself as the One Whom God had sent into the world, and as One Who has given Himself, as the Bread of Life, broken and offered for us, for our salvation.

All of us are witnesses and inheritors of the truth, of God’s amazing love to each and every one of us, His providence and blessings, His ever loving presence in our midst, and all that He has done for us, in loving us and in showing compassion towards us. St. Stephen and the many other saints and martyrs all spoke of this same truth, and many among them suffered and died for this truth. As Christians, we are all called to follow in their footsteps and partake in the effort to reach out to our fellow brethren.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we ready to take up our crosses and follow the Lord wholeheartedly? Are we willing and ready to follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, St. Stephen and so many other saints and martyrs, to stand up for the truth and to deliver this same truth to this darkened world? We have all been called to be the beacons of God’s light in this world, and therefore, let us all commit ourselves thoroughly to serve Him, and to be His faithful and good disciples at all times.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, in each and every moments of our lives. May He empower all of us to be His true disciples, and may all of us grow ever closer to Him, and also grow in faith and love for Him, always. Amen.

Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 22-29

At that time, the next day after Jesus fed the five thousand men, the people, who had stayed on the other side, realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples; but rather, the disciples had gone away alone.

Bigger boats from Tiberias came near the place where all these people had eaten the bread. When they saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Master, when did You come here?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for Me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for He is the One on Whom the Father has put His mark.”

Then the Jews asked Him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this : that you believe in the One Whom God has sent.”

Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 23-24, 26-27, 29-30

Although princes conspire against me, Your servant will observe Your decrees. Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

When I explained my ways, You responded; instruct me then in Your precepts. Explain to me all Your ordinances, and I will meditate on Your wondrous deeds.

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.

Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 8-15

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

As they were unable to face the truth, they bribed some men to say, ‘We heard him speak against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the Law; they took him by surprise, seized him and brought him before the Council.

Then they produced false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against our Holy Place and the Law. We even heard him say that Jesus the Nazarean will destroy our Holy Place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And all who sat in the Council fixed their eyes on him, and his face appeared to them like the face of an Angel.

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the need for us to be humble before God and seek His mercy and forgiveness, as we show genuine and utter regret for all of our sins and past wickedness. The Lord wants to forgive us our sins because of the great love that He has for each and every one of us. However, if we want to be forgiven then we have to truly repent from our sins and turn away from all the evils we have committed, and believing fully in the Lord once again.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through Hosea calling on them all to embrace His mercy and forgiveness. The Lord called on all of them, who had strayed away from His path and who had not obeyed His words and commandments to turn towards Him, that He might forgive them and bring them back into His graceful embrace and love.

At that time, the Israelites had erred and wandered off away from the Lord’s path and Law. They had been scattered all over the nations, and by the time of the ministry of the prophet Hosea, almost nothing left was of the northern kingdom of Israel, beaten, crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians. Many of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel were taken away to exile in far-off lands, and they suffered great humiliation for this.

And this is exactly where the Lord reminded His people that they should put their trust in Him and believe in His path. The Lord wants all of His people, us all included, to see that we have this assurance of forgiveness and mercy, and thus hope and strength through Him. We just need to recognise our own sins and shortcomings, and admit before the Lord that we had been wrong and mistaken in our past way of life.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples through a parable, depicting a tax collector and a Pharisee praying in the Temple of Jerusalem, in God’s Holy Presence. And the Lord reminded the people using the contrast between the attitudes of the Pharisee and the tax collector in their prayers before the Lord. We heard of how the Pharisee boasted about his faith, piety and achievements, while even looking down on the tax collector.

We heard how the tax collector was very regretful and repentant over his sins and actions. And regarding whether it was him or the Pharisee who had greater fault or sin, it did not matter, as God forgives those who seek Him with humility and the desire to be forgiven, no matter how great their sins might have been. By using the example of the Pharisee and the tax collector in His parable however, the Lord was pointing out the stark contrast between the two group of people mentioned, which was at that time filled with lots of prejudices and biases.

First of all, the Pharisees were always seen as being righteous and pious in their actions and behaviour, and the people always highly respected and regarded them in the community. On the other hand, the tax collectors were often hated and reviled as traitors and as those whose lives were corrupt and even evil. They were treated as such because they collected the much hated and despised taxes on behalf of the king and the Roman overlords, and some did get rich while doing that.

Showing this prejudice inside His parable, the Lord wanted to show all of us that the Lord calls on everyone to seek His forgiveness and mercy, and first of all we need to be humble and to realise the depth of our own sin, so that we may be forgiven from our sins. The tax collector was forgiven his sins precisely because he humbled himself before God and wanting to be forgiven for his sins, while the tax collector in his pride did not even show regret for his sins and sinned even more by slandering his own fellow man, when as the guide of the people, he should have extended the tax collector a helping hand rather than condemning him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence we are all reminded this Lent that we should turn away from our sinful ways, embrace the Lord’s forgiveness and love, and be more charitable and generous in loving one another, in showing care and concern for each other rather than comparing ourselves and trying to find out who is better than the other in faith and in life. Let us not allow pride, ego, ambition and vanity from distracting and preventing us from reaching out to the Lord and His salvation.

May the Lord awaken in us the spirit of humility and the spirit of repentance and genuine regret for our many sins. May He strengthen us all and give us the courage to move forward in life with a new commitment and a new dedication to live a more Christian living that we do not sin any more, and strive instead to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 18 : 9-14

At that time, Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others : “Two men went up to the Temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector.”

“The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all my income to the Temple.’ In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”

“I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 18-19, 20-21

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.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

Shower Zion with Your favour : rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then, You will delight in fitting sacrifices.

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 5 : 15 – Hosea 6 : 6

For in their anguish they will earnestly seek Me.

“Come, let us return to YHVH. He Who shattered us to pieces, will heal us as well; He has struck us down, but He will bind up our wounds. Two days later He will bring us back to life; on the third day, He will raise us up, and we shall live in His presence.”

“Let us strive to know YHVH. His coming is as certain as the dawn; His judgment will burst forth like the light; He will come to us as showers come, like spring rain that waters the earth.”

“O Ephraim, what shall I do with you? O Judah, how shall I deal with you? This love of yours is like morning mist, like morning dew that quickly disappears. This is why I smote you through the prophets, and have slain you by the words of My mouth. For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice; it is knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.”

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the story of the sons of Israel or Jacob, namely Joseph and his brothers, and we heard how Joseph was treated by his jealous brothers, betrayed and almost killed if not for the intervention of one of his brothers, ended up being sold to slavery and eventually was brought to Egypt. In the Gospel we heard a kind of parallel and similar story in the parable of the wicked vineyard tenants as told by the Lord Jesus to His disciples.

Through these readings we heard about the plots and the wicked acts which people acted against their own fellow brothers, as we heard first of the treatment of Joseph by his brothers. The brothers were irritated and angered, jealous and prejudiced against Joseph because of Joseph’s dreams and God’s vision that He has revealed through those dreams, in which the brothers misunderstood as Joseph trying to lord over them, which was compounded by the favouritism which Jacob showed to Joseph and his brother Benjamin.

The brothers desired to have that attention and the treatment which Joseph had enjoyed from his father, and that was why, they were angry at him when he recounted to them the contents of his dream. They plotted against him and threw him into a well, eventually sold him to the slavers and lied to their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Yet, in the end, we all know that Joseph went to Egypt ahead of his family as part of God’s greater agenda and plan for His people, despite the plots of Joseph’s brothers.

In the Gospel we heard the peculiarly similar story of a vineyard owner who sent his servants to collect the dues and rents of the tenants whom he had entrusted with the care of the vineyard he leased out to them. Those tenants were wicked and desired to keep everything they gained to themselves, and hence persecuted and killed the servants sent to them. The tenants also then killed the son of the vineyard owner, whom the owner sent to them thinking that the tenants would respect his son.

In the end, the owner came down himself and crushed all those wicked tenants, punishing them all for the wickedness and the evil things which they had committed for their greed and ego. They lost everything and were punished justly by the owner. And all these is a parable used by the Lord to describe the relationship between God and His people, as the owner of the vineyard represents God, while the son of the owner represents none other than Christ Himself, the Son of God sent into the world. The vineyard represents the world itself while the wicked tenants represent all those who refused to believe in the Lord and in Christ.

What all of us ought to learn from all these which we have heard from the Scriptures today is that if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of greed and desire, of pride and ego, we will likely end up like those wicked tenants who acted with such evil against their fellow men and even against the son of their master and landlord. It would also just be like the despicable act which the brothers of Joseph committed to gain for themselves favour and inheritance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very important during this season of Lent that we reflect on our own lives and think carefully how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we want to proceed from now on. Are we going to seek worldly glory and honour, human praise and fame, or pleasures of all sorts, or are we instead going to focus our attention on God and put our effort to live our lives according to His ways and obey His laws?

The choice has been given to us, and through the passages of the Scriptures today we are shown just how dangerous the temptations of worldly desires and our greed can be, in leading us into sin and from there, into an ever deeper trap of sin and malice, wickedness and evil. Are we going to follow these temptations and allow ourselves to be tempted, especially by the devil and all of his evil forces who are always out and about trying to pull us down this path?

Let us all strive therefore to be more committed and to be more faithful as we progress along this season of Lent, renewing our faith in God and growing in our relationship with Him. And today, as we also celebrate the seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, our Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the leader of the whole Church, let us all also unite our prayers for him, that God may help him and guide him in leading the Church, together with all of us Christians, all growing in faith as God’s one united Church.

May God bless us all, bless our Pope and may He strengthen His Church and all of us in our conviction and desire to love Him and to serve Him more, through our righteous and virtuous actions, and by distancing ourselves from the many worldly temptations all around us. Amen.

Friday, 13 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Seventh Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.