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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent, Sixth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us about the need for us to listen to the words of the Lord and repent from our sinful ways. He has called us through His many messengers and prophets, and finally, through His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, He has revealed to us what it means for us to be Christians, to abandon our past way of sin and embracing the new wisdom and truth in God.

Today’s readings are centred on repentance of sins and the forgiveness that God will give to all those who have willingly abandoned their past waywardness and sincerely desiring to be forgiven. God did not desire our destruction but our salvation, not our suffering and pain, but rather our reconciliation with Him. That is why, in our first reading today we heard of the story of the redemption of Nineveh.

At that time, the prophet Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The prophet Jonah initially refused to obey the Lord’s commands and tried to flee away from Him. But the Lord made it such that Jonah encountered a great storm on his way in a boat, and he had to ask to be thrown into the sea, and swallowed by a large whale. The whale brought him safely back to land, and the prophet obeyed the Lord’s commands to bring His message to the people of Nineveh.

Nineveh was a great city, as the capital city of the great Empire of the Assyrians, which covered most of the known world at that time. It is also the embodiment of what is evil and wicked, as the Assyrians were known to be a warlike nation, and how the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and brought its people into exile. One of its kings, Sennacherib even attempted to conquer and destroy Jerusalem, and boasted that he has destroyed many idols of the people conquered by Assyria’s armies, and how God’s people would be no different.

Therefore, Assyria and especially Nineveh, where its kings and nobles lived, was the embodiment of evil and wickedness, in the sight and thoughts of the people of God. That was what the prophet Jonah must also have had in mind, when he came to Nineveh bearing God’s warning of destruction and annihilation. Then, unexpectedly, the king, the nobles and the entire people of Nineveh repented from their sins and humbled themselves before God.

They mourned before the Lord, humbled themselves, wearing sackcloth and showing sincere regret for the wicked deeds that they have committed. And God saw their sincere desire to be forgiven, and they were forgiven from their sins. God held back the destruction that He had planned to bring upon them, as ultimately, God loves every single one of His children, without exception, even the greatest of sinners.

The prophet Jonah became angry, and was fuming over the Lord’s decision to spare the people of Nineveh. But God explained to Jonah, how His mercy and love is extended freely to all, even to the worst among sinners, as long as they desire to be forgiven and has the sincere desire to turn away from their sins. God despises not the sinners, but the sins they have committed, and their stubbornness in pursuing that path of sin.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded of this generous mercy and love that God has given to each and every one of us. In this season of Lent in particular, we are called to reflect on our own sinfulness, our own wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God. God wants us to turn away from those sins, and to be reconciled to Himself. And we should not be wasting this opportunity that God has provided to us.

Are we willing to make that commitment to embrace a new life, not of sin but of righteousness and justice? Are we willing to put the effort to renew our lives, that while once we may have acted out of selfishness and wicked desires in our hearts and minds, now we are able to turn away from those sins and enter into a new existence of faith with God? This requires a lot of effort and commitment from us, but if we are able to put our effort into it, and with God’s guidance nothing is impossible.

Today, we also commemorate the sixth anniversary of the election of our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis as the leader of the entire Universal Church. Let us all spend some time to pray for our Pope, that God will always guide and protect His Vicar, in all the work and the leadership he has shown in the management of the entire universal Church of God. Let us all pray together, and work together, with the intention of our Holy Father the Pope, for the salvation of all of God’s people. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent, Sixth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Wednesday, 13 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent, Sixth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 12-13, 18-19

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.

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.