Sunday, 3 April 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we gather together to celebrate this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we are all called yet again to embrace God’s ever wonderful and patient love and mercy, His enduring desire to be reconciled with us and to love us wholeheartedly. He has called us to abandon our sinful ways and our wicked deeds, and to come to Him with contrite hearts and the desire to love Him once again. We are all reminded of this call to repentance and holiness this Sunday, as we continue to progress ever closer to Holy Week and Easter.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord to His people reassuring them of His providence and love. He reminded them of everything that He had done in the past in rescuing them from their predicament. He spoke of the moment when He brought their ancestors out from Egypt, opening the sea before them and destroying their enemies, the armies and chariots of the Pharaoh before their own eyes. The Lord reminded them of everything that He had done for their sake, and not only that, He reassured them that He would do even more things in the future to come.

He will send to them the promised deliverance and salvation, by sending them His own beloved Son as the Saviour to all of them, a promise to be fulfilled by the coming of Christ, the Son of God into this world. He would gather all of mankind, all His beloved ones to Himself, and they shall enjoy forever the bounty and grace of eternal life and true happiness of being together with Him in the glory of Heaven. The Lord has always intended for us all to enjoy the true happiness and joy of this wonderful world that He had created, and He did create us out of love that He has for each one of us.

We were never intended to endure the bitterness of suffering in this world. However, our inability to resist the temptations to sin essentially ruined all of that. We fell into the temptations of our own desires and fell to the devil’s lies and temptations as he tempted our first ancestors to follow him and his advice instead of believing in God as they should have. By sin we have been separated and sundered from the presence of God, cast out of Eden as our just punishment and the consequence for our sins. Yet, that was not the end for us. God could have destroyed and crushed us for our sins and wickedness. But, His love for us surpassed even His disgust for our sins.

Nonetheless, the reality is that no sin can remain unaccounted for, and we have to answer for every one of these taints and corruptions on our very own souls and beings. As long as sin taints us, we will have to answer for every single one of them, and those who pass on from this world with sins still unforgiven and unaccounted for will be judged by those sins we have committed, as well as by those sins of omission we made when we ignored the opportunities when we could have done good things with our lives, be it for the benefit of our fellow brothers and sisters or for the greater community.

That is why in our Gospel passage today we are reminded through the well-known interaction between the Lord Jesus and the woman who had committed adultery and were caught in the midst of doing so, and also how the Lord interacted with the crowd assembled there, some of whom with the malicious intent of using the opportunity to try to put the Lord into a trap and to get Him into a corner and to find reasons to persecute and condemn Him. Why so? That is because the whole event was likely the effort of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in trying to discredit or even persecute the Lord, Who was well-known for His frequent interactions and works among those considered as sinners, such as the tax collectors, the prostitutes and people who were possessed, ill and had disabilities.

At that time, associating with those people were often abhorred and discouraged, and this went even to the extent that coming close into contact with them causing someone to be considered unclean and unworthy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular were very convinced of their own piety, their righteous and worthy way of life, through their strict interpretation, enforcement and living of the ways of the Law of God. However, they failed to realise one very important thing that, in the end, it is not they who determine whether they are worthy of God or not. Instead, God is the One Who will determine all of that.

Through the example of the Lord’s interaction with the convicted adulterous woman, the Lord made it very clear that what He wants is not the destruction of sinners like us. Instead, as I mentioned earlier, that His love for us is indeed so great that it surpasses even the wickedness of our sins. Of course it does not mean that He condones or accepts our sins and evil actions. Rather, He wants us to distance ourselves from those actions and sins, to turn away wholeheartedly from those evil deeds and ways, and embrace wholly His love and mercy, walking ever always in His righteous path.

That was why the Lord told the woman that He did not condemn her, just as no one gathered there did not dare to do so either. When the Lord told the assembled people who pressed Him to take action against the woman, and He said that the one who was without sin ought to cast the first stone at her, it reminds us all that each and every one of us are sinners, no matter how small or insignificant, how great or serious our sins may be. Sin is sin, and as long as we have sin in us, we are unworthy of God and cannot come close to Him. And yet, it was God Who first made the move to close up the distance between us.

He told the woman that He did not condemn her either, but wanting her to turn away from those sins she committed, sinning no more and embracing fully His forgiveness and mercy. It proves that God hates not the sinner but the sin. He does not despise us as a person, but rather our attachment to sin, our stubbornness in remaining attached and obsessed over those worldly desires and all the other temptations that we often fail to resist and even indulge ourselves in. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were so fixated on their own sense of pride and self-righteousness that they failed to realise that they themselves too, were sinners.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, should we allow our pride and ego, our desires and the many other distractions in life to prevent us from finding our way to God and His salvation? We must not let ourselves be dissuaded and distracted by all those things that may end up getting us further and further away from the Lord’s path. And that is why we must remind ourselves yet again to seek the Lord with renewed faith, genuine desire to be reconciled with Him and with a contrite heart full of regret for our many sins and wickedness, with the commitment to make amends and to get closer to Him, Our Lord and Saviour once again.

As St. Paul said in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Philippians, all of us have to seek Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, find Him and do whatever we can to walk with Him together, and we have to seek Him as in Him is worth everything and more than whatever we can find and gather in this world. He has willingly reached out to us, with plenty of mercy and compassion, willing to forgive us our sins if we desire to have them forgiven, and as long as we sincerely show contrition and regret over those faults and mistakes that we had done. What better reward and prize we can get as compared to these?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together this Sunday in the Lord’s presence, let us all remind ourselves of our sinfulness and how we all are in need of God’s healing and mercy. We are all in need of this forgiveness for God alone can forgive us our sins. Otherwise, we will have to answer for every sins we have with us that are still unaccounted for and unforgiven as I mentioned. And if we do not change our ways, remaining in our state and path of sin, we will be judged by those same sins we committed. God generously wants to forgive us our sins, but it is often we who reject Him and His love.

And are we going to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who gloated over those whom they deemed to be less worthy and more wicked than they were? This is a reminder that this is not the attitude that we should adopt at any point of time, as this kind of attitude truly prevents us from humbling ourselves and realising that we are always in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. While the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners are all fast going forward in the path towards God’s forgiveness and eternal life as they realised their sins and made the efforts to be forgiven by God, those who kept their pride and ego will perish because of that pride.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remind ourselves and one another to be humble before God, and to make good use of the time and opportunities that have been given to us, such that we may benefit from the gift of Our Lord’s ever generous mercy and compassion. He has proven to us again and again of how faithful He has been to the Covenant that He had made and sealed with us and our ancestors, while we have proven yet again and again, how unfaithful we have been to Him, and how terrible we have been in living our lives so far, in not following God’s path and in walking down our own paths towards doom.

Can we do our best and strive to reject those temptations to sin, brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we reject the devil and all the wicked things that he has been persuading us to do, and all the lies and falsehoods that he has presented before us? Let us follow the Lord’s advice and call, for us to sin no more and turn wholeheartedly towards Him, knowing that in God alone there is true happiness and satisfaction. Let us remember that while God loves us and does not despise us, He still despises our sins and wickedness. Let us do our best in the remaining time of this Lenten season, to purify ourselves and to make a good habit of living virtuously in God’s path, so that from now on we may be ever better Christians, ever more committed disciples of Our Lord.

May the Lord be with all of us as we journey together with Him, as we walk down the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. May He grant us the courage and strength to follow Him with commitment and strong desire to love Him in each and every moments of our lives, and may we also be good examples, role models and inspirations for one another in how we live our lives so that many more people may also share in God’s salvation and eternal life with us. Amen.

Sunday, 3 April 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 1-11

At that time, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak, Jesus appeared in the Temple again. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone. “Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but You, what do You say?” They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against Him.

Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. And as they continued to ask Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And He bent down, again, writing on the ground. As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone, with the woman standing before Him.

Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and do not sin again.”

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, 3 April 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 1-11

At that time, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak, Jesus appeared in the Temple again. All the people came to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone. “Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but You, what do You say?” They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against Him.

Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. And as they continued to ask Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And He bent down, again, writing on the ground. As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone, with the woman standing before Him.

Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and do not sin again.”

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, 3 April 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Philippians 3 : 8-14

Still more, everything seems to me, as nothing, compared to the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord. For His sake, I have let everything fall away, and I now consider all as garbage, if, instead, I may gain Christ. May I be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, that comes from the Law, but with the righteousness that God gives, to those who believe.

May I know Him, and experience the power of His resurrection, and share in His sufferings, and become like Him, in His death, and attain, through this, God willing, the resurrection from the dead! I do not believe I have already reached the goal, nor do I consider myself perfect, but I press on till I conquer Christ Jesus, as I have already been conquered by Him.

No, brothers and sisters, I do not claim to have claimed the prize yet. I say only this : forgetting what is behind me, I race forward, and run toward the goal, my eyes on the prize, to which God has called us from above, in Christ Jesus.

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, 3 April 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

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, 3 April 2022 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 43 : 16-21

Thus says YHVH, Who opened a way through the sea and a path in the mighty waters, Who brought down chariots and horses, a whole army of them, and there they lay, never to rise again, snuffed out like a wick. But do not dwell on the past, or remember the things of old. Look, I am doing a new thing : now it springs forth. Do you not see?

I am opening up a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beasts of the land will honour Me, jackals and ostriches, because I give water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert that My chosen people may drink. I have formed this people for Myself; they will proclaim My praise.

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.”

Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the fifth one in the season of Lent we mark the beginning of the Passiontide, the period marking the time remembering the Passion or the suffering and death of Our Lord which will culminate in the celebrations of the Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. As such this Sunday is also known as the Passion Sunday, serving as an important reminder to all of us that we are approaching the end of Lent and are entering the most solemn period in our entire liturgical year.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through His prophet Jeremiah, promising them of a New Covenant that He would establish with them, and how He would reconcile them all to Himself, and that He would forgive them their sins and take them back to His embrace. The New Covenant that He would establish with them would not be like the old Covenant that He had once made, but much more perfect and complete.

At that time, the people of Israel had long disobeyed the Lord and fallen into vile and wicked ways, worshipping the pagan idols and gods, refusing to listen to the prophets and messengers that had been sent to them and remaining defiant in sin. They rebelled against God and were stubborn in challenging God’s authority, and thus, they should have been crushed and destroyed. God could have condemned mankind, but He did not do so because of the love that He has for each and every one of us.

He has always been patient in reaching out to us and in loving us, showing us all His care and compassionate love. And although He might seem to be stern and fierce at times, that was because He loved us sincerely and with the genuine desire to see us grow and become better. He is our loving Father, Who wants us all, His children to learn His ways and to be righteous and good, just as He is good. That is why He sent messengers after messengers, prophets after prophets to reach out to us.

He then sent us the fulfilment of that promise, the promises He had made to all of His beloved ones, through His prophets and messengers, including the one made through Jeremiah. That fulfilment came through Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of all. That God did not even hesitate to give to us His own beloved and only begotten Son is a testament of His enduring love and the dedication He has to the Covenant that He had made with us.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today proclaimed to His disciples and to all the people gathered, of the truth of God that has been revealed through Him, and how He would glorify His Father’s Name through His actions, where He mentioned how He would suffer and eventually die for the sake of our salvation, taking up upon Himself the sins of the whole world and placed them on His own shoulders, enduring all those for our sake, because of the love He has for us.

And just as shown in our Gospel passage today, how there were some Greeks, the non-Jews or the Gentiles who came and wanted to speak with the Lord and know more about Him, today as we heard that passage, we can see the symbolic nature of such an encounter, as God’s voice was heard just like how it was during the time of the baptism of Jesus, proclaiming that ‘I have glorified My Name, and I shall glorify it again’, as a reference to what the Lord Jesus would do to proclaim the glory of God and reveal the fullness of His truth to all.

These were meant therefore for both the Jews and the non-Jews or Gentiles alike, God has called all of them to follow Him and to walk in His path. God wants every single one of us, children of mankind, to come to know Him, to embrace Him and be reconciled with Him. Once we may have been separated from Him by sin, but God wants to show us all that no sin is great enough to come between us and Him, and His grace alone is enough to bridge that gap between us and Him.

In our second reading, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke more of all that the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour had done in order to bring us out of our predicament and enslavement by sin, that by obeying the will of His heavenly Father, He willingly took up His Cross, and by becoming both the High Priest for all of us and also the Lamb of sacrifice, the Paschal Lamb, He became for us the source of salvation and eternal life, the reconciliation with God, our loving Father and Creator.

It was by that action, the perfect and most loving sacrifice offered by Christ, our one and true Eternal High Priest, has offered on the Cross, the Altar of His sacrifice at Calvary that He has both become the High Priest offering on our behalf the sacrificial offering worthy of the forgiveness for our sins and our redemption. And not only that but He is also the Lamb to be sacrificed, the only One perfect and worthy enough, Son of God, incarnate in the Flesh, shedding His Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, in atonement for our sins.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the Passion of Our Lord, the word Passion having the meaning of enduring, suffering and persevering with patience, from the Latin words, ‘passus sum’, referring to all the hardships, trials, and grievous wounds and pains that Our Lord had to endure as He ascended the way of the Cross, the path of suffering from Jerusalem where He was condemned to death by crucifixion, up to the hill of Calvary outside the city, stripped and humiliated, nailed to the Cross, and finally suffered death at the end of all His sufferings.

That is also why we celebrate during this upcoming Holy Week, committing ourselves to the memory of the Lord Who has loved us so much that He has sent us deliverance, hope and salvation through Christ, His beloved Son, Who had to endure all the struggles and pains so that through His suffering and death, we may be freed from the tyranny of sin and death, and by sharing in the same death, we may enter into the glorious Resurrection just as the Lord Himself had risen in glory.

Through His suffering on the Cross, Christ shed His own Most Precious Body and Blood, with the Cross as His Altar, offering Himself freely and establish for us a New Covenant between us and God, with Him as the Mediator of this New Covenant. Christ being both the Son of God and Son of Man, having two distinct natures, human and Divine, united inseparably in His one Person, is perfect for this role of Mediator, bringing the gap that existed between us and God, reconciling us from the rebellion of our sins and wickedness.

According to St. Paul, Christ is the New Adam, which as compared to the old Adam, our first forefather, is perfect and the exemplary Man, that while Adam and Eve once disobeyed the Lord and ate of the fruits of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Christ obeyed His Father’s will so perfectly, that He endured all the sufferings and drank the cup of persecution, bitterness, rejection and humiliation for our sake. Through His obedience, we have been healed and are reconciled with God, establishing a New Covenant, one that is lasting and never-ending, a New and Eternal Covenant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into the time of Passiontide beginning today on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Passion Sunday, let us all therefore deepen our relationship with God and rediscover that faith that we ought to have in Him if we have not already done so yet. The Lord has shown us so much love and patience, enduring the worst of persecutions and challenges, trials and sorrows so that by His suffering we may gain our freedom from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death.

How are we then responding to God’s love, that is ever present and ever enduring in our midst? Are we going to continue to ignore Him, to reject Him and to harden our hearts and close our minds against Him? Or are we going to allow Him to touch our lives and to make us whole once again, healing us from the afflictions of our sins? As we enter into this time of deeper preparation for the upcoming Holy Week and Easter, let us therefore make best use of the time and the opportunities we have received, so that we may come to seek the Lord with a contrite heart, filled with repentance and regret for our sins.

May the Lord, our loving Father and Creator, continue to love us all as He has always done, and remain patient with us as we continue to navigate our way through this world. Let us all strive to turn away from sinful ways, and reject all forms of worldly temptations and evils, remembering just what He has gone through in order to save us and in establishing the New Covenant with us. Let us seek to be ever closer to the Lord in all things, and grow ever stronger in our faith and commitment to Him. Let our remaining observances of Lent be fruitful and help us to be more attuned to God and His will. May God bless us all and our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 21 March 2021 : 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, 21 March 2021 : 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, 21 March 2021 : 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.