Saturday, 28 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Holy Scriptures about the arrogance and selfishness of men, and on the contrary, how God is ever loving and forgiving, showing His mercy and love ever upon us all. As we embark upon the celebrations of the Holy Week starting tomorrow, we have to come to realise that for many times in our life, it is our selfishness and stubbornness that have brought about our downfall.

The people of Israel were torn into two peoples, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, because of the selfishness that grew in the heart of Solomon, the great king of Israel, as he grew older and became enamoured and occupied by his great wealth and by his many wives. And therefore by his stubbornness and refusal to listen to the Lord, calamity befell the people of God.

And as had been proven many times throughout the Old Testament, and even into the New Testament, the people of God had displayed selfish attitudes so many times so as to suggest that it is in their nature to be selfish, and indeed we mankind are all by nature selfish. And it is this selfishness that led Israel to constantly rebel against the will of God and disobey His commandments.

The Israelites constantly complained against the Lord and refused to listen to Him, demanding for more and more during their journey towards the Promised Land from Egypt, because of their inability to look beyond themselves. Each of them were only concerned about themselves and not for others, and definitely for the Lord. And this is despite the fact that God had given them abundance of food, large birds and others, even manna, the bread from heaven itself, and abundance of clear and clean water to drink in the midst of the desert.

And for many times, the kings of Israel did not give glory to God, but seek for their own glory and honour. They did not care about the Lord and His precepts, and in their rule, they mistreated the people and abused their power, and at the same time they misled the people into sin, into treating the prophets and the messengers of God badly, rejecting them and murdering them for having spoken the truth about their wickedness.

This is exactly the same resistance which Jesus had encountered when He came into the world, being rejected by His own people, His own townspeople of Nazareth, and by the Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests. They refused to listen to Him and they viewed Him as a threat to their own authority, to their own sphere of influence, and most importantly, to their own way of life as they had it.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those people rejected the Lord because they thought first of themselves, as made clear by the elders themselves in our Gospel today, when they spoke of how Jesus and His actions would bring calamity and disaster to them, and to all that they held dear in their livelihood, as the Romans would come and destroy the Holy Temple and the Jewish nation.

Thus, to them the Temple and earthly things such as power, influence and nationhood is more important than honouring the Lord? They were interested only in furthering their own interests and advancing their own cause. This is why in their heart the Lord did not have any place at all, which is filled with their hubris and their pride. This is what our Lord had warned against, so that we will not follow in their path towards doom and annihilation.

Let us all reevaluate our lives and seek to be better in terms of our attitudes and our approach in life. We have to realise our sinfulness and how we can change for the better. What is at stake is none other than our own souls, our own fate. Do we want to enjoy for a while the pleasures of this world and risk our souls into eternal suffering? Or do we want to endure difficulties a bit, and then receive our eternal reward in joy?

May Almighty God guide us on our path, so that we may find our way to Him and be saved from the darkness of this world and turned to the light. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.”

In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

Saturday, 28 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

YHVH said to Ezekiel, “You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land.”

“I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be king of them all. They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.”

“My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.”

“I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.”

Friday, 27 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are drawing ever closer to the end of Lent and the celebrations of the Holy Week, when we will be commemorating the most important events of our faith. It is therefore important that we have made the best use out of this time of Lent to prepare ourselves in our body, heart and mind to celebrate together the great celebration of next week and that of Easter.

All of this boils down to one thing, that we have to know what our faith is about, and in what we believe that is our faith. We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, whom God begotten from Himself before all ages, and who is part of the Divine Lord, one of the Three Divine Persons of the singular God. That means, we believe in Jesus who is God, and who is also Man at the same time, having assumed the flesh of man, in order to bring about our salvation.

For indeed, there is only One God, and it is to Him that we dedicate all of our beings and all of our devotions. However, we know that by faith, that the Lord is working at all times in order to bring about good to this world and to all of His creations, especially for all of us mankind, His most beloved people. And thus, while the Father creates and governs all of creation, and the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind all things and the source of life, thus, the Son is the most intimate and direct manifestation of God, for He took the form of us all, and became visible to us, as God made Man.

God that was once beyond all things and beyond comprehension had made Himself visible to all, comprehensible and tangible, through Jesus Christ, who was sent into the world, so that all the world might be saved, including all of us today. By taking our own form, and by His showing of perfect obedience as the Son, who is obedient of the Father, He had shown us all mankind a new hope. Yes, a new hope that we have the chance and opportunity to free ourselves from the bonds of sin.

Jesus showed us all the way to reach out to the Lord and to find our way to our salvation, that is by following what Jesus had done, and by listening to what He had taught us and by acting according to what He had said. It is because of our rebelliousness that we have been estranged from receiving the fullness of God’s grace and promise, and so it is by the obedience of Christ that we have been brought to salvation.

St. Paul stated in one of his letters that just as the first Adam had fallen from grace by his disobedience, therefore, the New Adam, that is Christ had redeemed mankind by His own obedience to the Lord, to the will of His Father. On this day, as we reflect on the words of the Holy Scriptures, we all should also reflect on how Christ had lived His earthly life, so that we may also emulate what He had done.

He faced such a great challenge and suffering awaiting Him, and He knew all that would happen to Him. And yet, although He was tempted by His human nature, but He remained completely resolute in His desire to save all of us. Such great was His love for all of us indeed. He persevered through all of the evils and sufferings, all the humiliations and rejections so that we do not have to go through all of them if we indeed fall into hell. He gave us a new chance, a new opportunity in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not waste this perfect opportunity which had been given to us. We have to take this opportunity and make best use out of it, so that we may be changed and transformed, from a people controlled by our pride and our desires, to become faithful and obedient people of God, following the footsteps of our Lord Himself who had shown us the way.

Indeed, the path would not be easy, and just as Jesus Himself had suffered, we also would suffer as well. There will be plenty of challenges and difficulties awaiting us along the way, and we will be rejected by the world, but we can be assured that our reward will be great beyond compare. Let us therefore look up to the hope which our God had offered us, and let us be grateful for all that He had done for us. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 27 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus, so He said, “I have openly done many good works among you, which the Father gave Me to do. For which of these do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered, “We are not stoning You for doing a good work, but for insulting God; You are only a Man, and You make Yourself God.” Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law : ‘I said, you are gods?’ So those who received this word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true. What then should be said of the One anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?'”

“If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in Me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest Him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptised, and there He stayed. Many people came to Jesus and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about You, and everything he said was true.” And many became believers in that place.

Friday, 27 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

I love You, o Lord, my strength. The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

A deadly flood surrounded me, devillish torrents rushed at me; caught by the cords of the grave. I was brought to the snares of death.

But I called upon the Lord in my distress, I cried to my God for help; and from His Temple He heard my voice, my cry of grief reached His ears.