Sunday, 7 March 2021 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the third Sunday in the season of Lent we are all called to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter, that now as we are already halfway through this season of Lent, we should make good use of the time and opportunities given to us so that we can be ready not just to celebrate the occasion of Holy Week and Easter, but even more importantly, we may become better and more faithful disciples of the Lord.

In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus, we heard of the Lord revealing His Law and commandments to His people through Moses, His servant and the leader of the Israelites during their time journeying out of the land of Egypt in the Exodus. The Lord revealed His Ten Commandments, which I am sure we are all familiar with, as well as many other laws and rules that were recorded in the Books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, especially in the Book of Leviticus.

All of this happened as the Lord renewed and established the Covenant between Himself and the people of Israel, those whom He had called and chosen to be His own people, at Mount Sinai. The Lord specified each one of the most important Ten Commandments, beginning with the first and most important Law and Commandment of all, that is to love the Lord and honour Him with all of our heart, our might and strength, and with all of our whole being.

The first three of the Ten Commandments specified the Law that is focused on our reverence and love for God, stipulating that as those whom God had called to be His people, we are all bound to love the Lord and worship Him alone, glorifying and honouring His Name, and honouring the day and time that He had set aside for us to spend with Him, the Holy Day of the Lord, which used to be called as Sabbath and which we now keep on Sundays as our Holy Day for the celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Then, the other seven Commandments beginning with the commandment to honour our father and mother, are focused on our relationship with one another, and how we are supposed to love our fellow men, just as much as we love God. And as a whole, the entire Ten Commandments had to be honoured and obeyed as a whole, which means that we cannot truly love God unless we also show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and neither can we truly love one another unless we have that genuine love for God.

Then we heard in our Gospel passage today of the account of the moment when the Lord Jesus came to the Temple of Jerusalem and cleared it from all the corrupt merchants and money changers who were doing their business in the courtyard of the Temple. The Lord was furious that all of those merchants and money changers were openly doing their business and cheating the people of their hard-earned money right at the very place where God Himself placed His dwelling in this world.

While business itself by its nature is a profit-seeking action, but it was likely given the context of the time, that the merchants and the money changers had been charging the people unfairly for their services, meaning that they gained extra profits from what they sold and through what they did in the selling and money changing efforts. It is this unfairness in the actions those people took which led to the Lord striking them out of the Temple for their vices and injustice.

The merchants were the ones who sold the animals and the goods for the ritual sacrifices in the Temple, while the money changers were essential because at that time the Jewish diaspora was truly large and extensive, with many Jewish people living in far-off foreign lands and therefore had currencies of various origins that needed to be changed first into the ones recognised by the Temple. Otherwise, those foreign coins and money could not have been used for getting a proper sacrificial offering, and the offering would be unclean and unworthy.

With this context, we can see how not only that they unfairly did their work and business on the disadvantage or loss to the customers who came to them, many of whom had come from distant lands, but since many of them required the services of both money changers and the merchants, then they were unjustly treated not just once but twice of their hard-earned money. And this is in fact in direct violation of the Ten Commandments as mentioned earlier in our first reading today.

When those merchants and the money changers cheated their customers, it was a violation of the Commandment of the Lord, ‘Do not steal’ and ‘Do not covet what belongs to your neighbours’ among others. And not only that it showed contempt on one’s fellow brothers and sisters, a disregard of the commandments regarding our relationship with our fellow men, but even more so, by what had happened, they had disobeyed the Lord, tarnished His Name and the holiness of His Name and sanctuary.

Why is that so? By committing all these heinous deeds in the courtyard of the House of the Lord, they disrespected the sanctity of God and His holy Presence. They had also put their love of money and worldly pleasures above their love of God and they had idolised money and material wealth, and turned away from the Lord and His Law. And the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, by their approval of such actions blatantly taking place for so long, likely driven by business and greed, by worldly considerations, also had a share in the blame.

As the Lord cast out all the merchants and the money changers from the Temple courtyard, He also told the chief priests and the elders who challenged Him and questioned His authority of doing all those things that He would destroy the Temple and then raise it up again in three days. While those who listened to Him really thought that Jesus was referring to the physical Temple of Jerusalem, He was in fact referring to Himself as the Temple of God, as He is the Son of God and Son of Man, where the Divine Word has been incarnate in the flesh, and born as Man.

And it is a prefigurement of the crucifixion, when the Lord would lay down His life and therefore destroyed in that physical self through death, the destruction of the Temple as mentioned, and which was also symbolically represented by the tearing of the veil of the Holy of Holies when the Lord died on Good Friday. All of these served to show that the Temple is no longer just the physical Temple in Jerusalem, but in fact is referring to the Lord Himself, present in the Church and in all of us.

How is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord reminds all of us that as we are all part of the Church, the same Body of Christ, partaking in the Eucharist which is Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, we have ourselves become the Holy Temple of God’s Presence. St. Paul spoke of our bodies being the Temple of the Holy Spirit and how we should keep it immaculate and clean, pure and free from the corruption of sin through our genuine faith and dedication to God.

There we have the Temples far better from the Temples of Solomon and Herod, for while the latter were built by the hands of man from stone, wood, silver and gold, our bodies as the Temple of the Lord were crafted and made by God Himself. Yet, unfortunately, through sin we have allowed its corruption to make these Temple of our bodies to be corrupted and filthy, unworthy and unbecoming of the dwelling place of Our Lord and God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why during this season of Lent, and through the reminders of our Scripture passages today, we are all called to return to the Lord and obey His Law once again. Just as the Lord cleared the corruption of the Temple, the wicked merchants and money changers, we are also called to clear our own Temple, our body, mind, heart and soul from the corruption of sin. We have been given this reminder and the opportunities to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy because the Lord truly loves each and every one of us.

What shall we do then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Shall we be like those chief priests and the teachers of the Law who only obeyed the Law superficially and not with genuine intention and commitment? Shall we be like those who were only concerned about the external and superficial faith? Or shall we be genuine in our faith and commitment to God, in our love for Him and our desire to serve Him, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life that we will not lose our way easily amidst all the temptations present in this world. Let us all make good use of this season of Lent to rediscover our faith in God and our love for Him, purifying ourselves from all the corruptions of our sins, from the temptations and the allures of worldly desires and ambitions among other things.

May the Lord help us and strengthen us in this journey, that we may indeed be faithful to Him and be genuinely committed to the Commandments and Law that He has bestowed on us. The Lord has given us the guidance and the path for us to follow through the Law, and therefore, let us all endeavour ourselves to be good and even better Christians from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 6 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to seek the Lord and His forgiveness and mercy. We are called to embrace the Lord and His compassionate love, keeping in mind how He cares for each and every one of us, and how blessed we truly are for having Him as our loving Father and Creator. It was because of this love that all of us once again have hope and not be in despair because of our sins.

By right, our sins born of the rebellion and disobedience against God would have led us down the path of eternal damnation and destruction, and we would have suffered the consequences of those sins. However, God Who is ever merciful, patient in love and caring towards us have always tried His best to find us and be reconciled with us once again. God has shown us His compassion, care and mercy, and as a loving Father He wants us all to be reconciled to Him. To this extent, He continued to give us guidance and direction as we progress through life.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Micah, we heard the Lord speaking through Micah reminding all of us His people, that is no one else but God Who is truly loving as a Shepherd, Who guides and guards His beloved flock, while also chastising and disciplining those who have fallen away from the right path. Ultimately, He cares for us and does not want us to fall to the wrong path, for if we do fall, then in the end, we shall be judged by those sins and the evils that we have committed.

We heard also then of the famous story of the prodigal son in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard about how a young man who had been estranged from his father and went to a far-off foreign land, came back to his father and humbled himself before the father, begging him to forgive his sins and his faults, all the mistakes and unworthy things that he had done that made him to be unworthy to be called his father’s child anymore.

Yet, in that story, as we know it, the father did not become angry with the prodigal son. Instead, he called all of his servants and told them all to prepare for a great feast and celebration in honour of the return of his son. When the elder son was jealous at the treatment by the father for the younger, prodigal son, the father patiently explained how the prodigal son had been lost and thought to have perished, and by returning to the father with great regret and sincere desire to be forgiven, it is indeed an occasion worth celebrating.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, remembering our own treatment by the Lord, our most loving God and Father, we surely cannot be not touched by the examples shown by the parable of the prodigal son, the love that the father in the parable showed to his son, even after all the vices and wickedness the latter had committed, in squandering his money and in all of the other unworthy actions and attitudes. Just as the father’s love in the parable was genuine, unconditional and enduring, that is just how the Lord loves each and every one of us.

That is why during this season of Lent all of us are called to turn our gaze and attention towards the Lord anew, and to repent from our sinful ways and from our rebelliousness and disobedience. We have been given many avenues and opportunities to be reconciled with the Lord, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the loving hands of the Church and through the many tireless spiritual workers in our bishops and priests who spend much of their time and effort in guiding us to the right path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we humble ourselves before the Lord and repent from our faults and sins? Let us all be like the prodigal son and seek the Lord for His forgiveness, that He alone can forgive us from our sins and heal us from our brokenness. Let us all find the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him anew, entrusting ourselves in His care, in His loving providence and compassionate grace. May the Lord be with us all, His beloved ones, and may He welcome us all back to Him with His ever generous mercy and love. Amen.

Friday, 5 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture we are brought to the two story presented in those readings, beginning with the story of Joseph and his brothers in our first reading from the Book of Genesis, as well as the story of the parable of the evil tenants as told by the Lord to His disciples in our Gospel passage today. Both stories are parallel in meaning and significance, and we ought to heed these well.

With regards to the occasion of Joseph and his brothers, they, as the sons of Jacob, then also known as Israel, were disagreeing over the preferential treatment that Joseph enjoyed over that of his brothers. For the context, Joseph was the first and one of the only two sons born from Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel. The other sons were born from his first wife, Leah, as well as the maidservants whom Leah and Rachel appointed to bear children in their name.

As Joseph was born from his beloved and favoured wife, and as a child of his old age, Joseph was favoured over that of his brothers, who then became very jealous and angry over such preferential treatment, that Joseph got twice of whatever it is that they received from their father. And Joseph, who began to receive from God signs and revelations through dreams, shared with his brothers how his brothers and even his father would bow down to him, the brothers had enough and most of them wanted to get rid of him immediately.

It was only thanks to the intervention of Reuben, the eldest child of Jacob, that those brothers did not end up killing Joseph, and rather placed him in a well where he remained until the brothers then decided to sell him off to a slaver caravan from Midian heading off to Egypt. Everything would then go on just as how God intended it to be, as Joseph would then on be freed and even made to be the Regent of Egypt by the Pharaoh after his merits and wonderful deeds by God’s grace. All that God had revealed through Joseph’s dreams would indeed come true.

More importantly, brothers and sisters in Christ, we see in that case what jealousy, anger and human desire can lead us into. Even brothers can turn against brothers just over those disagreements, the jealousy and the anger present among them. And this relates well to our second story, the one from the parable of the Lord regarding the evil tenants who refused to pay their dues to the landowner and master of the vineyard.

In that parable, the evil tenants whom the master of the vineyard entrusted with the care of their respective plots became greedy and did not want to relinquish control over, and neither did they want to pay their rental dues, as should have been agreed between them and the vineyard owner. When those servants were sent by the master to remind them to fulfil their obligation, these servants were oppressed, ridiculed and even killed.

When the son of the owner was sent in the end, those evil tenants as mentioned went even further and desired those lands to be their own possessions by striking down the son and heir of the vineyard. Once again, we heard just like in the first reading today, of how human desires, the temptations of glory, wealth, power and influence can lead us into so heinous and evil a deed, when brothers plotted and wanted even the death of their own brother, and when the evil tenants brought so much suffering and death to those servants and the son of the vineyard owner sent to remind them of their dues.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is then the significance of these to us? It is that we have the need to oppose and resist the temptations present all around us, that we do not end up falling into the trap of sin and doing what the brothers of Joseph and the evil tenants had been doing. We are all called to be more humble, be more charitable and move away from the selfishness of our hearts, that instead of focusing only on our own desires and wants, we become more aware of the needs of others, and how we can help and contribute.

This season of Lent, let us all answer God’s call for us to be more genuine in how we live up to our Christian faith. Let us make use of the opportunities given to us to turn back towards the Lord and to repent from our sins. Let us all be good role model and examples for one another in faith, so that in everything we say and do, we may be exemplary and become good inspiration for one another so that we may help more and more people to reach the Lord’s salvation and grace.

May God be with us always and may He guide us through these journeys of life we have, so that we may grow ever deeper in our faith and dedication to Him, that we may be closer to the Lord and be worthy of His eternal glory, forevermore through our dedication and love, in humility and in our selfless love for Him and our fellow brothers and sisters. Amen.

Thursday, 4 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to put our trust in the Lord and be faithful to Him, be righteous and good in all of our ways, that as Christians we may indeed be true to our faith. We should not allow ourselves be tempted by the temptations of worldly power, wealth and other desires that are often great obstacles preventing us from truly being faithful to the Lord.

In our first reading today we heard the book of the prophet Jeremiah, in which the prophet spoke of God’s words on how those who put their trust in Him would not be disappointed, as He Who is always ever faithful to His promises and to the Covenant He had made with us will be faithful to us and will not forget what He has promised to us. We shall receive the fullness of His blessings and graces.

However, those who reject the Lord and refuse to follow Him, those who chose to trust in their own power and in the backing of the world, all of them would regret their choice as they would not be able to find true joy and assurance, as whatever that they had gathered and depended on, could be taken away just at any moment, and none of those would be lasting in any case.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard of a related story, that of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man as told by the Lord to His disciples. The rich man was truly living a good and comfortable life, revelling in his wealth and glory, his good and fortunate life, while Lazarus the poor beggar was waiting by his doorstep daily, hoping to get even scraps of food from the table, and yet nobody gave anything to him.

When both Lazarus and the rich man died not long one after the other, the former went to heaven by the side of Abraham, the father of the Israelites and many nations, while the rich man was condemned to hellfire. By then, it was too late for the rich man who constantly suffer for eternity the consequences of his sins and his lack of compassion for Lazarus, even when he was perfectly in the position to have helped.

This is a reminder to all of us that in this life all of us are called to be filled with love and compassion to one another, to be genuine Christians in deed and action, and not just merely formality and in words alone. We must not forget that to be faithful we must not only do what is good for ourselves, but also for others, in being charitable and generous in giving towards others who are in need.

Sin is not only just sins of action, but also including those sins due to our failure to act, namely the sins of omission. The rich man was in the perfect position to help Lazarus, to show him compassion, mercy and love, and even the slightest act could have made Lazarus’ life and condition in his life to be so much better. But he did not do so, and as a result, suffer the eternal damnation in hell for his lack of compassion and action.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be reminded of these and endeavour to take action during the time and opportunity given to us in this season of Lent, to be more Christ-like in our actions, to be more generous in giving and to be more faithful and dedicated to the Lord. We are all called to make good use of the time God has given us, the talents and blessings He has given us, for the benefit of one another.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Casimir, a great saint whose actions in life can also be inspiration to each and every one of us. St. Casimir was the royal prince of Poland, who was renowned for his great piety, compassion for the poor and those who were suffering. And although he was born into the great nobility, among the highest ranked ones in that class as a royal prince, but that did not make him to be proud or to boast of himself.

On the other hand, he humbled himself and dedicated himself to the care of his people, to those whom he encountered, serving the sick and the poor, showing love and compassion for those who needed them most before dying at a relatively young age from tuberculosis. His great work and contributions, love and generosity still inspire many people even to this very day, calling on more and more Christians to be more like our Lord Jesus in His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore do our very best to offer our lives for the greater glory of God. May the Lord guide us in our journey of faith and with our actions through life, so that we may draw ever closer to Him and be found worthy to be His disciples and as those who share in His glorious inheritance. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are presented with the importance for us to realise that as Christians, we are called to follow the Lord with sincerity and commitment, and that we will likely encounter challenges and difficulties, trials and opposition along our way and journey towards the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah detailing how there were many of those who sought to bring Jeremiah down, plotting against him and seeking to kill him. This was a reflection of the true state of things during that time, when the kingdom of Judah was at its ending and the prophet Jeremiah ministered there, calling on the people to turn away from their sins and return to God.

But the people were stubborn and refused to listen to the Lord and His prophet Jeremiah. They preferred to listen to the lies and the falsehoods spread by those false prophets and leaders who claimed to know the will of God and pretended to speak on His behalf, further leading the people to their downfall. Jeremiah was resented and shunned for daring to speak the truth of God.

That was why Jeremiah was persecuted and opposed, what he earned and suffered from remaining true to his faith and calling. This is what the reality of being a follower of the Lord is, not to expect good and pleasant life in this world just as what some Christians ended up believing, but instead, to expect struggle and challenges that may be part of our life and journey as we move forward in life.

In our Gospel passage today, that was highlighted yet again by the Lord as He spoke to the two of His disciples, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, whose mother came to Him asking for special favours for her children, that they be granted special positions of power by the Lord’s side, to be favoured over all the other disciples and followers. This highlighted the fact that many of those who followed the Lord, ultimately still considered worldly desires and ambitions.

At that time, the Lord Jesus was seen as the Messiah and Saviour of the people of Israel, and in the minds of the people, as well as in the popular belief, the Messiah was seen as someone who would liberate the people of Israel from their enemies and overlords, who would free them from the bondage and rule by the Romans, and ultimately would restore the kingdom of Israel and rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

Therefore, when St. James and St. John together with their mother came to the Lord seeking and asking for such special favour, it was made with this in mind, that they expected the Lord would reign as King, and when He reigns, they would want to have a position of trust and honour by His side, especially considering that both of them, together with St. Peter, were often brought by the Lord on many important occasions.

But the Lord revealed to them that to be His followers did not mean that they would earn worldly glory, power, honour and any sorts of influence or prestige. Rather, to be His followers would mean that they may have to suffer just as He would suffer, to be rejected and oppressed just as He Himself would be rejected and oppressed. The Lord reminded the two disciples of this stark reality, of the ‘cup of suffering’ that they would share with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these readings from the Scripture we are therefore reminded that first of all as Christians we have been called to follow the Lord and to dedicate our lives to Him. But we also must realise that if we are to remain true to Him and keep our faith in Him, sometimes we may find ourselves troubled, in dilemma and being challenged by the society among all the other difficulties that we may face. Of course this does not mean that there is no joy in life to be gained from following the Lord, but if we are expecting a blissful and free of trouble life then we must realise the reality of what it means to be Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore this Lent make a difference in our lives and in the way we live our lives from now on. Let us no longer be driven by worldly desire and by the temptations of worldly glory and power, of wealth and fame, but instead, anchoring ourselves on the Lord and renew our faith and devotion to Him, now and always, forevermore. May God bless us all in our good endeavours. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to seek the Lord with contrite heart and to seek forgiveness for our many sins before it is too late for us to do so. This season of Lent is the perfect time for us to reorganise our lives and to reflect on our lives thus far, on whether we have lived our lives in accordance to the Lord’s way or not, or whether we have strayed away from His path and fell into the sway of worldly temptations.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah at the very beginning of that Book in which the prophet Isaiah spoke of the very grim words of reality, of the Lord speaking to the rulers and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah that if they persist in their sinful and wicked ways that they would be crushed and judged to damnation by those sins. But there was also words of hope and consolation that if they were to change their ways and turn towards the Lord, they would be forgiven and be blessed by the Lord.

Contextually, when the prophet Isaiah was speaking about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, both cities as per how they were referred to were no longer existent by the time of Isaiah’s life and ministry. In truth, when the Lord spoke of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a figurative reference to those cities that had been destroyed a long time before because of their wickedness, which was so infamous that Sodom and Gomorrah until today were almost synonymous to vice and evil in reference.

The Lord therefore made a mention of those two cities as a reminder to the people of Israel back then how they would end up if they continued on persisting in refusing to follow His ways and in rebelling against Him. He wanted them to repent and change their ways, and seek to be reconciled to Him or else they might face condemnation and destruction for their faults and mistakes. He did not want them to be stubborn and be lost from Him as a result.

By the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians, their cities destroyed and their home region depopulated, with most of the people brought off into exile in faraway lands of Mesopotamia and Assyria, while the foreigners were sent in to stay at where the people of God used to live in. This was therefore a stark reminder of what the Lord had just said, that should the people continue to live in sin, they would be destroyed and be condemned for those sins, much like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which the northern tribes of Israel had suffered.

The Lord is indeed most loving and merciful, but we must not take His love and mercy for granted. As long as we are still drawing breath, then there is still hope for each and every one of us in this world. But if we delay and tarry, wait and are indecisive, then we may come to regret not having acted earlier on and for delaying when we could have done something to bring ourselves closer to God. It is not too late for us to heed the Lord’s call, repent and change our sinful ways, before it is too late for us.

What we heard then from our Gospel passage today is a reminder for us that the great obstacle for us in the path we traverse on the way to the Lord’s salvation and grace is that of our pride and worldly desires, as the Lord told His disciples how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were entrusted with the guardianship of the Law and also the responsibility over the people had not been truly faithful in how they have lived their lives, as they were focused and concerned more over their own desires and their own prestige and status over that of others’ well-being.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Gospel passage today the Lord is reminding us not to give in to the temptations of pride and vanity, the desire and temptation to be important and be recognised by others, to indulge in the many pursuits of this world, the pursuit of money and happiness, of pleasure and worldly joy. Let us instead be humble and be filled with the meekness and charity in our hearts. Let us love the Lord with ever greater devotion and show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters as well.

May the Lord continue to guide us throughout this journey of life and may He strengthen and bless us all in life, that we may truly be able to follow Him and dedicate ourselves anew to Him especially through this time of renewal and reconciliation in Lent. Let us all not be afraid and hesitant anymore to follow the Lord and His path, and be good and virtuous Christians from now on. May the Lord forgive us our sins and may He continue to love us all, now and always. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Second Sunday in the season of Lent, and we heard from our Scripture readings today about the Covenant that God has made with us all, His beloved people, and the connection between the story in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis of the action of Abraham obeying God in offering his own son Isaac to Him at Mount Moriah, with the story of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at Mount Tabor before three of His disciples.

First of all, the story of the first reading today showed how Abraham, who after receiving joyfully the fulfilment of the prophecy of the promised son, in the form of Isaac, was asked by the Lord to offer that very son for a sacrificial offering on the Mount Moriah, as an offering for the Lord. Contextually, Isaac was the long awaited son and heir to Abraham, who had waited for a very long time but failed to have any children with his wife Sarah. But God promised Abraham and made a Covenant with him, that he would be the father and progenitor of many nations through the son that he would have with Sarah.

Thus, we can just imagine what must be in Abraham’s mind the moment he heard of the Lord asking him to do what could be considered as impossible for him, to sacrifice the very son whom he had been longing for, to offer him as a burnt offering for the Lord when the Lord had promised this son to him. Yet, as we heard from the story, Abraham obeyed unconditionally and trusted in the Lord, and told the same to Isaac, that ‘The Lord shall provide’ when Isaac was wondering why there was no sacrificial animal brought with them as they went up Mount Moriah.

Abraham obeyed God wholeheartedly although he might indeed be wondering why God would ask him to do something like that. As St. Paul later on would comment on this matter in his Epistle to the Galatians, that Abraham had such trust and faith in God that even if he were to offer Isaac, God would provide and He would do what was impossible, and that His Covenant would last no matter what, and it was this unshaken faith that was rewarded by God when He told Abraham not to harm Isaac, as He had seen how truly faithful Abraham was, even to give his most beloved son to Him without hesitation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is it then that this story of the offering of Isaac at Mount Moriah can be related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ? On a quick glance, the two stories may not seem to be related, but in truth, the parallel between the two go on truly much deeper than just what is evident on the surface. The offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in fact a prefigurement of what the Lord Himself would do to show His faith and commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us.

First of all, the Transfiguration takes place at Mount Tabor, one of the renowned mountains of Israel, just like Mount Moriah. At that time, as it was throughout the history and tradition of the people of Israel, mountains are sacred places of worship of the Divine, and the Lord was worshipped in those mountains. Just as Moses ascended up Mount Horeb when he first met the Lord in the burning bush, and later on, ascending Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments and renewed the Covenant of God with Israel, and as the prophet Elijah also travelled to the same mountain to meet with God, thus appreciating the symbolism of Mount Moriah and Mount Tabor is very important for us to understand today’s Scripture passages.

When Abraham went up Mount Moriah, it was to offer Isaac to the Lord just as how the others at his time offer sacrifices on the mountains to the Divine. Now, when the Lord Jesus and His three disciples went up to Mount Tabor, none of those disciples could have predicted what they would witness at that mountain, when the Lord revealed the full truth about Himself as He unveiled His divinity before them, appearing in the fullness of His heavenly glory together with Moses and the prophet Elijah.

As the Lord appeared in His glory as the Son of God, Divine Word Incarnate before Moses and the prophet Elijah in the full sight of the three disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John, He was in fact revealing before all of them that He truly is not just a mere Son of Man, but also the Son of God Most High, the salvation of Israel and the Holy One of God, sent into the world in the flesh, God’s own Son given to us as the perfect gift of love, to redeem us and save us from the tyranny of sin and death, and to reconcile us all to Himself.

Here is where the connection between the sacrifice at Mount Moriah and the Lord Jesus came full circle, as later on, we know how the Lord would go on to pick up His Cross and go up the Mount Calvary just outside of Jerusalem during His Passion and suffering. This is significant because Mount Moriah was according to the tradition, located at where Jerusalem now stands, and therefore the offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah can indeed be compared directly to the offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on Calvary in Jerusalem.

There we see the Lord Jesus, the Promised Saviour of Israel, the Son of God, Who just like Isaac, the promised son of Abraham, was tied and brought up to the mountain, bearing the wood of sacrifice, to build up the altar of the sacrifice, and for the Lord’s case, the Wood of the Cross is His Altar, the Altar of His sacrificial offering of love, where He, as the High Priest of all, offered Himself as the worthy offering for every single one of us, on the Altar of the Cross that day, when He suffered and died for us.

And that is the ultimate proof of God’s enduring love for us, His commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us, that has been renewed and made anew through His Son, Who offered Himself as the Mediator of this New Covenant and as the perfect and unblemished Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, offered for the atonement of all of our sins. His Most Precious Blood was spilled on the Altar of the Cross and hence, purified us who believe in Him from our sins and all the corruptions of those wickedness that have been enslaving us all these while.

What is also significant is how God saved Isaac from being sacrificed at Mount Moriah by telling Abraham to stop and provided a ram to replace Isaac for the sacrifice. This is an allusion to how Christ has become the Lamb of sacrifice Who went through the suffering and death instead of us, that He died on the Cross so that we may live and not perish because of all those sins. The Lord truly loves each and every one of us and wants nothing less than for us to be reconciled to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we need to do then? First of all, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the three disciples of the Lord did not want to go away and down the mountain from the blissful experience they had on Mount Tabor, even suggesting to the Lord that three tents be made for Him, Moses and the prophet Elijah, the Lord reminded His disciples that it was not meant to be that way. He had to go through the suffering and the crucifixion in order to save all mankind. And the voice of the Father could be heard, telling the disciples to listen to His Son.

This means that all of us as Christians have also been called by God, called to listen to Him and to obey Him. We are called to follow the Lord and as He Himself said, to be His followers, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Him, which means that we should dedicate our lives and our actions, to serve Him and to do what He has willed for us and what He has called us all to do. And just as the Lord Himself has not held back giving us His own Son to be Our Saviour, to suffer and die for us on the Cross, then we should not hold back either on giving ourselves to Him.

Let us all be inspired by the faith that Abraham, our father in faith had in obeying God and in putting his full trust in the Lord, the Covenant that God had made with him and in the providence of His love. Let us all be ever more faithful to the Lord in this season of Lent, spending more time with God through prayer, listening to Him and understanding His will, dedicating ourselves ever more to His cause day by day through our own actions in life.

Are we willing to make the sacrifices and the commitment to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and if He Himself has not held back in giving His all for us by giving us Christ to be our Redeemer, and if our forefather Abraham had not hesitated in giving even Isaac, his promised son and heir to the Lord when asked, then how about us? Are we willing to give our hundred percent to the Lord, beginning from now if we have not yet done so?

In this season of Lent therefore we are all called to be better Christians, not just in name but also in deed. This means that just as much as we dedicate ourselves to the Lord and be obedient to Him, we must then show love to our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow neighbours and all those whom we encounter in life. We are all called to be more generous in giving, not just in giving of money and material help, but even more importantly in giving more of our time and attention to others, our generosity in love, care and compassion to those who need them.

We have to remember that whatever we do to the least of our brethren, to those who are in need, we are doing it for the love of God and for our love for our fellow men. This is the kind of faith that God wants from us, and this is the kind of fasting that the Lord also seeks from us, that we do not just fast from food or abstain from meat only, but even more importantly, fast from selfishness and greed, from self-importance and vanity, and abstain from all wickedness in thoughts and deeds, in exchange for true and genuine faith in the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all thus seek the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our might and redirect our attention back towards Him, with contrite heart and with regret for all of our many sins. Let us all be thankful that He has loved us all these while, caring for us and blessing us, being patient with us even as we continue to sin against us. He even sent us His own Son to be our Saviour, dying for us that by sharing in His death through our common humanity, we may share in His resurrection and enter into a new life and existence free from sin and filled with His grace.

May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and may He empower us all to walk faithfully in His presence always. May all of us have a blessed and most fruitful time and season of Lent, that we may draw ever closer to God and find the path to His salvation and be worthy of Him. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 27 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of the importance of obeying the Law and commandments of the Lord in our lives, to be obedient to God and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His cause. The Lord has called us all to follow Him and this is what we should be doing with our lives, to walk in His path faithfully and to do what He has asked us to do.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Deuteronomy the account of the moment when Moses spoke to the people of Israel with regards to the Law and the Commandments that God has revealed to them through him. God has given His people those laws and commandments in order to help and guide the people in their path and journey that they may remain firm and faithful to the path that He has shown them and not fall instead to the false ways and the temptations of the world.

Moses reminded the people to obey the ways of the Lord and to keep faithfully His precepts within their hearts, to understand and appreciate what it means to be God’s beloved and chosen people, that is to be those whom God had favoured and blessed. God has established His Covenant with Abraham, their forefathers and their other ancestors, and thus, as part of the Covenant that God had made and subsequently renewed with them, the people of Israel had to keep the Law and the commandments faithfully.

However, as history showed it through the accounts of the Scripture and others, the people of Israel did not always remain faithful. They fell again and again into sinful ways, abandoning God for the comforts of life and the allures of pagan idols and gods, and they forsake the Law and the commandments which they and their ancestors had sworn to keep as part of the Covenant between God and them.

Yet, as we can see throughout the Scriptures in the Old Testament, the Lord did not give up on His people as He kept on sending messengers and prophets, one after another to remind the people and to help them in finding their path back towards Him. The Lord then sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, to our midst to be the fulfilment of all the prophecies and the promises He has made, in saving those whom He loved, the sons and daughters of mankind.

And in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord told His disciples to show love to one another generously, especially towards those who have despised and been angry towards them, those who had persecuted them and made their lives difficult. The Lord wanted them all to show true love and generous charity, care and compassion towards one another, in the same way that He has loved them, for indeed, that is the true essence, meaning and purpose of the Law which He has imparted to all of them through Moses and the prophets.

Through the Lord and His revelation of truth, the waywardness of the people and all those who professed to follow the Law like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been exposed. Instead of just merely focusing on the superficial and the minute details of the Law and its many rules and regulations, but not understanding the true meaning and purpose of the Law, the Lord wanted all of us to be able to truly understand what His Law is all about, and ultimately how we can bring ourselves closer to Him through our true and wonderful obedience to His Law and commandments.

Many of our predecessors had not been faithful because they failed to understand that in order to have true and genuine faith in the Lord, we need to practice what we believe in within our own lives, to show the love we ought to have for God and to love Him just as He has loved us all these while. And the same love we should also show to our fellow brethren, to all those whom we encounter, and even, as the Lord Himself said, to show love to those who have not loved us and despised us. This is our calling as Christians, to be holy in life and to be exemplary in how we act towards one another.

And today we can also imitate the good examples set by St. Gregory of Narek, an Armenian saint and Abbot just recently elevated to the position of a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis and inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration in the Universal Church. St. Gregory of Narek was renowned for his piety and great contributions to the faith in Armenia where he was a priest and abbot, especially for his works on the literature work of the Book of Lamentations, a great compilation of poetry and other literary expressions of the love for God.

St. Gregory of Narek also worked on other literary pieces of work, and he was renowned for his piety as well, which inspired so many people throughout history. He showed his love for God through his own unique way, and we too can follow in his dedication and desire to love God in our own way of life. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all consider this carefully throughout this season of Lent so that we may make best use of this time to glorify the Lord anew through our lives.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us so that we may always persevere in faith despite all the challenges and the many temptations that we face daily in life. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to reflect on what it means for us to be Christians, that is to be followers of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. To be Christians mean that we are all called to action, to be truly righteous, good and just in our every actions and dealings, in our words and interactions with one another. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites that have no real faith in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel a very important and clear explanation of what it means for us to be a follower of the Lord and how our actions and choices in life can either be good or terrible for us, and all that we say and do, are all ultimately accountable to the Lord in the end. We shall be judged for all the good things we have done, just as we shall be judged for all the bad and the failures in our lives. All these will determine whether we will end up being with God for eternity or whether we will end up in eternal damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the prophet Ezekiel spoke firmly of how the righteous, if they committed sins and wicked deeds, they shall be held accountable by those things, and they would even face damnation were those deeds be great enough to merit damnation and punishment. On the other hand, even the wicked would be saved and blessed by God should they commit their lives to the Lord and turned a new leaf, in embracing the Lord’s ways and rejecting their sinful past.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? And how is this significant and important for us? It means that there is always a way out for us from sin, and that is through God’s grace and forgiveness. If we are sincere in our desire to repent and in our regrets for our many sins, and if we want to be forgiven by God for those sins, then we shall be forgiven. Otherwise, if we do not make the effort to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, how can we then expect to be forgiven?

The Lord told His disciples in our Gospel passage today that they all had to be more faithful and more genuine in their faith and lives than the Pharisees, or else they could not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This comment and words were made with the context that the Pharisees at that time were mostly self-righteous in the way that they saw and perceived themselves, thinking that their piety and actions gave them the privileged status among the community.

Those Pharisees and teachers of the Law professed to be faithful and exemplary in the way they lived their lives and faith, however, they did not have a genuine love and dedication to the Lord. They loved themselves and were more concerned about their own standing and appearances, status and privileges rather than truly being faithful. They were more concerned with their own privileges and benefits rather than with the responsibility placed on their shoulders as the guide of the people.

That was why they showed little to no concern of the wellbeing of the people, especially those whom they should be on the lookout for. Instead, by burdening the people with harsh and strict laws and rules of the Law, they made it difficult for others to seek the Lord, and they also purposefully closed the doors to salvation to the people like tax collectors, the prostitutes and all those considered as the lowest and the worst of all. This was why the Lord was looking for all these people instead, to help and lead them on down the path towards eternal life.

That is why the Lord mentioned how the faithful need to be more faithful and dedicated than those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or else they would not be able to enter the kingdom of God. Linking this with the first reading from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we are reminded how even those who were considered and considering themselves as righteous could be dragged down by their own pride and vanity, their own greed and desire as what happened to the Pharisees, while those who were great sinners could be redeemed should they sincerely desire to repent and be forgiven, as what happened to many tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners touched by the Lord Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all of these we are reminded that each and every one of us must be truly faithful to God and must be filled with genuine and sincere love for Him, with the sincere and true desire to follow the Lord with all of our hearts. And we should not be proud with ourselves or looking down on others just because we think that we are better than them. On the contrary, we should inspire one another to be ever stronger in faith and to persevere through the challenges we may encounter in life.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen us all in our journey of faith so that as we progress through this blessed season and time of Lent, we may rediscover the love we have for God and we may grow ever more devoted to Him with each and every passing moments. Amen.