Tuesday, 7 April 2020 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 13 : 21-33, 36-38

At that time, after He said a discourse to His disciples after He washed their feet, Jesus was distressed in Spirit, and said plainly, “Truly, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples then looked at one another, wondering whom He meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining near Jesus; so Simon Peter signalled him to ask Jesus whom He meant.

And the disciple, who was reclining near Jesus, asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.” So Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And as Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

None of the others, reclining at the table, understood why Jesus said this to Judas. As Judas had the common purse, they may have thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or “Give something to the poor.” Judas left as soon as he had eaten the bread. It was night.

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while; you will look for Me, but as I already told the Jews, so now I tell you : where I am going you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but afterwards you will.” Peter said, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I am ready to give my life for You.”

“To give your life for Me?” Jesus asked Peter, “Truly I tell you, the cock will not crow, before you have denied Me three times.”

Monday, 6 April 2020 : Monday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of God and as we enter into the Holy Week proper, we are called to focus our attention on our Lord and Saviour, the Servant of God Whom has been prophesied about and promised to us all through the prophet Isaiah. In our first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the One Whom God sent into the world to bring forth justice and peace, and to reconcile the world with Himself.

This prophecy reminds us yet again that God has so kindly sent us His Redeemer in Christ His Son, Who has revealed the truth of His salvation and desire to save His people, by His coming into this world and by His readiness to take up the Cross and suffer for our sake, which is highlighted again through today’s Gospel passage, from which we heard about the story of how Mary anointed the feet of the Lord just before He was about to commence into His Passion, suffering and death.

It is this same Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, of whom her own sister Martha complained against the Lord because she chose to listen to the Lord attentively rather than to help her sister, not because she purposely wanted to make her work difficult, but because Martha was being too preoccupied with all the hassle of her preparations and plans, all the concerns she had, that she had forgotten what is truly the most important thing for her at that time, and that is to welcome the Lord wholeheartedly into our hearts and into our beings.

In the same way, in our Gospel passage today we heard then of the moment when the Lord was anointed on His feet by the same Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and how one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot immediately criticised Mary for doing such an action, saying that the perfume used for the anointing should have been used by selling the proceeds to be given to the poor. Yet, as mentioned in the same passage, Judas said this not because he was righteous or faithful in any way, but rather out of the greed and desire for the benefit he could have gained from his habit of stealing the money from the common treasury for himself.

The Lord rebuked Judas because of this hypocrisy he had, his lack of sincere faith and commitment, unlike that which Mary had, in humbling herself before everyone who were present. Judas gave in to the temptations to sin, by continuing to remain in his wicked practices, that he eventually fell deeper into sin, betraying the Lord for the price of a mere thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. His lack of faith and focus on the Lord should indeed be contrasted with Mary’s great faith and attention she gave to Him.

Through all these which we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, we can see how our greatest enemy is indeed our pride, ego and our greed and desire. It was Martha’s pride that prevented her from spending time with God and preoccupied her with all the things she was busy preparing for the Lord. It was Judas’ pride that made him to disdain the actions of Mary and his greed made him to crave for that ‘dirty money’ he had gained from his sinful actions, which eventually led to his downfall.

Meanwhile, Mary humbled herself such that she stooped down to do something that only a slave would do, to wash the feet of a person, and worse still, she used even the crown of her beauty, the hairs of her head to do that. This is the symbolism of a great and enduring love that one has for another person, that one is willing to do such a feat and humble oneself to love the other person, which is true sign of Christian love and virtue. And this is exactly what the Lord Himself had done, in humbling Himself and in emptying Himself, taking up the position of a slave, to show His love for each and every one of us.

We are called today to reflect on the great significance of this Holy Week for us. Holy Week is truly a time for us to redirect our attention to God and all that He had done for us, in caring for us and providing us with all that we need, and ultimately, in how He has saved us from certain death and destruction through His Passion, suffering and death. Are we able to appreciate this great love of God better, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to turn wholeheartedly towards God, and draw closer to Him in this blessed Holy Week, from now and beyond?

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives faithfully, that we may be more humble and be more open and willing to listen to God, and get rid from ourselves all the pride, ego, ambition and hubris in our hearts, all the desires and greed that can lead us to fall into temptation to sin. May He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers ands sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we begin the observation of the Holy Week, the holiest and pinnacle of the liturgical celebrations of the entire year, as we enter into the most solemn and important moments in the history of the salvation of mankind and the world. On this day we enter and experience together this very moment when the Lord finally put into place everything that He has promised to us, His people, heading to Jerusalem where He knew that the moments His Passion, suffering and death would come.

On this Palm Sunday, we heard two very discordant accounts from the time of the Lord’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, as well as from the time when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, arrested, put on trial, handed over to the Romans, condemned to death and was crucified as a criminal. This represents a very distinct extremes between the glory and triumphant nature of the entrance procession into Jerusalem and the humiliating and painful nature of the crucifixion of the Lord at Calvary. And all these happened within just the span of a few days.

In our Gospel today read just before the Procession with the blessed palms, we heard of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah, speaking of the coming of the King on a donkey into His city. The people welcomed the Lord and sang praises, putting their garments and clothes on the ground for the Lord and His donkey to pass through on, and waving palm branches and leaves, a welcome truly fit for a great King.

The crowds sang ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ loudly, referring to the descent of the Lord Jesus from the much revered King David of Israel, the glorious kingdom and time of his kingship of old. The Lord Jesus had His descent as the Heir of David, through St. Joseph, His foster-father and also legal father, and therefore, Jesus is the One Whom God had promised to David that through Him, the kingdom and house of David would be glorious and strong forever. The Lord came to Jerusalem, the city of the King to claim His place as the one true King of Israel.

Certainly at that time, some people must have thought that Jesus would restore the old kingdom of Israel, defeat and drive out the Romans who were the overlords of Judea, and reign in a new era of glorious kingdom like that of the old kingdom of David and Solomon. Some of the people had tried to make Jesus as their King on several occasions, riding on the popular sentiment and the Lord’s immense following and popularity, only for the Lord to rebuff them by withdrawing every time they attempted to do so.

But as we then proceed into our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, of Whom the prophet Isaiah spoke about as One Who would bear the suffering and the punishments for our sins and faults. This is the revelation of the true purpose and mission of the Messiah’s coming, that His Kingship is achieved through not the glory of the world but through the glory of the Cross. He would have to suffer as part of God’s plan to save us mankind.

And this is what St. Paul spoke about in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, in our second reading today, as he spoke of the Christ, the Son of God Who humbled Himself completely and entirely, emptying Himself of His divinity and wonders, and willingly took up the Cross of suffering, filled with the mighty burdens and punishments due for our many and innumerable sins. He bore all of these on His own shoulders, and endured all of the pain, bitterness, rejections and ridicules because of His great and enduring love for each and every one of us.

God has loved us all so much that He was willing to do all these for our sake, and He endured all the humiliations as described throughout our Passion reading today, detailing how He was treated, ridiculed, condemned by His enemies and all those who sought to denounce and sentence Him to death. He was handed to the Romans, and rejected by the whole people who chose a criminal instead of Him to be freed. He was tortured and made to suffer such indignity, and endured the excruciating pain of nails driven into His hands and feet.

All these were what the Lord had been willing to go through for our sake. He has always been so patient and been so loving towards us. That is why today, at the beginning of this Holy Week, we are brought to focus our attention to the Lord’s Passion, His ever so great and wonderful love for each and every one of us that He was willing to go through all the sufferings for us. His love is so great that although He is King, but He desires not His own glory but instead, our own glorification, through His sacrifice on the Cross.

For through the Cross, by His obedience in His Father’s will, the Lord our Saviour has restored us to the glory that was ours before we fell into sin. He wants us to be reconciled to Him and to receive His saving grace. Unfortunately, it is often us who have been stubborn and rejected His generous offer for mercy and love. We have been like those who enthusiastically welcomed the Lord on Palm Sunday, and yet, shouted ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ on Good Friday just a few days later. We are also often like Judas Iscariot, who outwardly had faith in the Lord and yet, betrayed Him in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin this solemn celebration of the Holy Week, let us make good use of this time and opportunities provided to us that we may redirect our lives and our focus and attention back towards God. This Holy Week, let us all spend more time with God in prayer, deepening our devotion through works of charity and through reading the Scriptures with greater clarity of purpose in mind. Let us all also spend some thoughts for all those who are suffering, sick and dying during these days, unable to rejoice and celebrate as how they have usually done.

Many of us these days are unable to celebrate as we usually do, and in many parts of the world, due to the current pandemic, the celebrations of the Masses publicly have been suspended, extending through to the Holy Week and possibly even through the Easter season. And even for some of us and our communities, much of this season of Lent had indeed been a time of spiritual desolation and sadness, as we have been in many ways deprived either the regular celebration of the Mass or access to the Eucharist.

However, this is probably a good time and reminder for us all that amidst all these darkness and uncertainties, all the despairs and terrible things all around us, we still have that very one hope, the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Saviour. That is why we should still celebrate this Holy Week with much enthusiasm and faith, and we should try our best to bring forth this spirit of faith and enthusiasm to our fellow brothers and sisters. For we all should know that sin and darkness mo longer have permanent hold on us, as Christ has promised us freedom and liberation from these through His own suffering and death on the Cross.

Let us therefore enter into the Holy Week with an open heart and mind, welcoming the Lord to enter into our hearts and into our beings as gloriously and joyfully as the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Him with branches of palms and with great rejoicing and reverence. Let us all welcome the Lord into our beings that from now on, He may truly dwell in us, and be enthroned in our hearts, in our minds and in our whole beings, and that we may focus ourselves on Him from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He guide us through this blessed and most wonderful time of the Holy Week, that we may be filled with much faith and we may make good use of the time provided to us, to help us to draw ever closer to God, and to receive the fullness of God’s saving grace, forgiven from our sins and trespasses. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 4 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we are about to enter into the time of the Holy Week beginning tomorrow on Palm Sunday, we heard of the promises of God’s salvation as He spoke to them through the prophet Ezekiel, as well as the conspiracies and efforts that were being raised up against the Lord in our Gospel passage, preparing ourselves for what we are going to celebrate during the Holy Week.

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of God’s assurance that He would save His people and deliver them from all of their troubles then, as at that time they were all troubled after having been humiliated by the destruction of their kingdom and homeland, both the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed and most of the people carried off into exile in far-off lands.

God promised His people that He would restore them and bring them back to the lands of their ancestors, and He fulfilled this promise later on when the descendants of Israel were allowed to return to their homeland by the king of Persia, Cyrus. God restored their honour as a nation and showed them once again that He has loved them all the while despite the disobedience and sins they have committed. Nonetheless, He still wanted them to change and to repent from their sinful ways.

Then in the Gospel today, we heard of the discussions and plans among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council to arrest Jesus and hand Him over to the Romans. And as many of the members of the Sanhedrin belonged to the Pharisees, most of whom were opposed to Jesus, the voices of those who called for the arrest and punishment for Jesus easily overcome those who wanted to listen to Him more carefully and those who supported Him.

This reading is setting us up for the coming of the Holy Week in which the final moments of the Lord’s most important mission was about to be celebrated, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and later on, how the plans of the Sanhedrin came to fruition with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin, and eventually how He was handed over to the Romans, sentenced to death by crucifixion and died on the Cross which we celebrate on Good Friday. And finally He rose from the dead in glory, and we celebrate this gloriously in Easter.

This is how the Lord showed us His salvation and fulfilled all the promises He had made to us earlier on, that by enduring the immense suffering of the Cross and by dying for us, He restored us all into a new life, no longer bound by the tyranny of sin, but through Him we become eligible of the wonderful inheritance of God’s grace. This is the fulfilment of God’s love and promise to all of us which He has made to us and reminded us again and again through time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard in these readings today, we have seen how fortunate we are to have such a wonderful and loving God by our side. God has been so patient with us and so caring and loving, willing to forgive us our trespasses and sins although they may be so plenty. But we need to be willing to receive God’s forgiveness too, for unless we are open to God’s mercy working in our lives, we will not enjoy the fullness of God’s forgiveness and redemption.

Are we able to prepare ourselves well to celebrate the upcoming mysteries of the Holy Week? Are we willing to make this Holy Week a meaningful one by living through it with openness to God’s mercy and through our renewed faith and obedience to God’s will? Let us all spend some time to reflect on how we can better live through our upcoming few days, as we enter into the most sacred time of the year, so that we may truly grow in our spiritual beings, and draw ever closer to God in all things.

Today, we also should look at the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Isidore of Seville, who was the Bishop of Seville in what is now southern part of Spain, renowned for his great piety and dedication to God. St. Isidore championed the efforts to propagate the faith through education and purification of the faith. He convened several Church councils to overcome the falsehoods of heresies, particularly Arianism, and he did his best to help the spiritual growth of his flock. We can definitely learn from his dedication and commitment to God.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen us in faith, and may He guide us in our journey, now and forevermore. May all of us be strong in our faith like that of St. Isidore of Seville, holy servant of God and defender of the faith. Amen.

Friday, 3 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord showing us even more of the frictions and tensions that existed before the Lord Jesus was to go through His Passion in Jerusalem, suffering and eventually death, as we are really near now to the commencement of the Holy Week, which begins this coming Sunday on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. This brings into our attention what we have been spending time in this season of Lent for, that is to prepare ourselves to celebrate the glorious and solemn mysteries of the Holy Week and Easter.

In our first reading today, we heard of the lamentations and words of the prophet Jeremiah for all those who have persecuted and plotted against him. For at that time, there were many people who despised Jeremiah for all the ominous words and prophecies that he brought to the people, especially the false prophets who tried to persuade the king of Judah and the people otherwise, that they were all doing fine in their state of sin and disobedience against God.

Jeremiah was persecuted terribly and he suffered much during all those years. Had it not been for some help among the few allies he still had, he would have been killed by his enemies. But he trusted in God and remained committed to the mission which the Lord had entrusted him, that he braved the challenges and difficulties in order to carry out the works of evangelisation among the people of God.

Jeremiah’s faith and trust was indeed truly evident, as he remained confident in God’s guidance and help as shown in the first reading today, that God, as a mighty Warrior who is ever faithful will be with His people, and He has devoted Himself to them and would not abandon them in their time of distress. It was this faith which allowed Jeremiah to remain strong in his ministry despite all the trials and difficulties that he had encountered in Judah and beyond.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard of the immense difficulties and challenges that were mounting against Jesus, as the Jews in Judea, particularly the Pharisees and the members of the Jewish High Council or the Sanhedrin as these took issues with the Lord’s ministry and teachings, and they had done a lot in trying to oppose Him and challenge Him publicly in many opportunities. And in today’s Gospel passage, we heard how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, with many of the Jews opposed the Lord and took great issue with His claim being the Son of God.

The Lord had told them the truth and revealed everything to them plainly, but they refused to believe in Him and they did not have faith in Him, and that was why they hardened their hearts against Him and wanted to have Him arrested and killed, as they considered Him as blaspheming against God. Since they were also already deeply biased and prejudiced against Jesus, it was difficult for any words of truth or reason to change their minds, and hence, they persecuted the Lord just as their ancestors had persecuted Jeremiah and the other prophets.

Today, as we approach the beginning of the Holy Week and as we continue to proceed through this season of Lent, we are called to reflect on all that we have heard in today’s Scripture passages. We are all just like those who have persecuted the prophets and also refused to listen to the truth of the Lord. Through our disobedience and sins we have committed, we have acted just like those who rejected the Lord and His prophets and persecuted them.

Yet, God is always merciful and He is always ever willing to forgive us our sins, if we are willing to turn back to Him and embrace once again the fullness of His grace and love. He wants us to get rid of our hardened and stone-like hearts, and exchange it for a new heart of love, filled with renewed faith and desire to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may indeed be more like our Lord in how He has loved us and in being so patient with us despite our constant rejections and refusal to listen to Him.

Let us all proceed into the blessed moments of the Holy Week with this new heart of faith, and open our minds and our whole beings to God to welcome Him into our hearts and minds that we may truly experience a most wonderful and life-changing time in this upcoming Holy Week and also the glorious Easter season. And let us also not forget to continue to pray for the world, especially for all those who are now sick and suffering. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of how God established His Covenant with Abram, a man whom He called from the land of Mesopotamia to follow Him into the land of Canaan, which He promised that the land would be the inheritance of Abram and his descendants forever. And even more significantly for Abram, who until then was still childless in his marriage with Sarai his wife, God promised that he would become the father of many nations.

God made a Covenant with Abram, whom was known afterwards as Abraham, and He kept the promises that He had made with him, that through Isaac, the son that Abraham and Sarah had, as well as through Ishmael, another son of Abraham, many nations were born from the descendants of Abraham, principally the Israelites who are Abraham’s direct descendants and chosen race, as well as many other nations related to Abraham through descent.

It is this blood ties and descent that the Jews in our Gospel passage alluded to when they stood by their ground against the rebukes made against them by the Lord, Who showed them the errors of their ways and called them to turn away from their sinful path and disobedience. They proudly asserted themselves to be the children of Abraham, and they took offence at Jesus just because He spoke the truth of God which may indeed be unsettling for some.

They in fact behaved contrary to what Abraham had done in the past. God chose Abraham among all other people of the nations in his time because he had great faith in God, and he followed when the Lord called him, not hesitating or minding even when he had to leave all the comforts of his old life behind as he journeyed far away from his ancestral homeland, to travel to the unknown land of Canaan led only by the faith which he had in the Lord, entrusting his whole life entirely in the hands of God.

Abraham was faithful, even when he was tested by God, at the time when he was asked to offer his own son Isaac as an offering and sacrifice to God. Abraham did not even hesitate, as sorrowful and affected as he might have been, and still devoted himself wholeheartedly in the Lord, and he was indeed richly and doubly blessed by God because of his steadfastness and faith. On the contrary, the people of Judah at the time of Jesus, the descendants of the same Abraham, had not been faithful.

In fact, they doubted when the Lord Himself performed miracles and deeds that had been prophesied by the many prophets sent to the land of Israel, and even after they saw how the Lord performed those miraculous deeds before their own eyes, hearing all the testimonies and words from all those who had been healed, many of them still refused to believe in Him and doubted Him. Some even accused Him of colluding with demonic forces, such as Beelzebul the prince of demons.

We can see here how the people lacked genuine faith in God, and they were stubborn in refusing to listen to reason and God’s wisdom, preferring instead to trust in their own often flawed human judgment and ideals. They had great pride in having such intellect, abilities and power that they have so that they refused to accept that they could be wrong or mistaken, and they refused to listen when they were criticised and provided with feedback on how they ought to improve themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded to be more like Abraham, our father in faith, and not to follow the examples of those people who had little faith in God. This is also why we are urged to be more humble and be more willing to listen, not to be quick to judge and to temper our pride and desire. We should be careful of our ambitions and hubris, and we should not allow all these to tempt us and bring us to our downfall.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a saint whose life and examples can inspire us to be more faithful to God, namely St. Francis of Paola, a renowned holy man and hermit, a member and founder of the Franciscans inspired Order of Minims. St. Francis of Paola dedicated his life to God in a life of prayer and service to God, caring for the spiritual needs of many people through prayerful life away from the distractions of the world.

Since his youth, St. Francis of Paola had always been attracted to the solitary life in prayer, often seeking secluded places to contemplate and live a life of prayer. He inspired like-minded people to form the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, named after the saint who is St. Francis of Paola’s namesake, and inspired by the humble and obedient charism of the Franciscan order. They all lived in simplicity and practiced rigorous chastisement of the physical body through strict abstinence.

St. Francis of Paola showed us all that it is indeed possible for us to live entrusting ourselves completely to God’s providence and love. We do not need to live our lives in the manner that St. Francis of Paola had done in being a recluse and hermit, although some did follow in his footsteps inspired by that way of life in serving God. Rather, we need to take note how St. Francis of Paola entrusted his life to God in the same way that Abraham had entrusted his life in Him.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to God in the same way? We are given this perfect opportunity during this season of Lent to turn towards God once again with all of our hearts and devote our whole lives once again to Him. May the Lord be our guide and be our constant source of strength at all times, that we may live ever more faithfully in God’s loving presence, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scriptures which highlighted to us what it truly means for us all to be followers of God, as Christians who believe in the Lord and in His salvation. Through the Scripture passages beginning with the tale of the three friends of Daniel in the first reading today, and then to the confrontation and the strife that existed between the Lord and the Jewish people of Judea, we are reminded yet again that to follow Christ, it requires us to have a sincerity of heart in faith.

In our first reading, we heard about the three friends of Daniel, the exiles of Israel who were in Babylon then, under the rule of king Nebuchadnezzar who conquered the kingdom of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar built for himself a great golden statue in his own image and ordered all of his subjects and people to worship that golden statue under the pain of death. But the three friends of Daniel refused to do so, and when the king confronted them under the pain of death, they stood by their faith in God.

This is the kind of faith that we all need to have. It is however not that we have to be confrontational or suffer in the way that those three friends of Daniel had suffered, or that necessarily we will encounter persecution in any way. Rather, it means that we must have that strong and genuine faith in God, so much so that we will be willing to even choose death over life rather than to betray the Lord and sell our souls to the evil one.

It means that we put God as the focus and the priority over our lives, and we have to be sincere in that faith, genuinely loving God and desiring to follow Him and to walk with Him, and not just giving Him a lip service or treat our faith as a mere formality. That was what the Jews in our Gospel passage had done, as these people were descended from the Israelites of old, especially those who were once part of the kingdom of Judah and they saw themselves as the privileged people and a chosen race, looking down on others.

They took great pride in themselves as the direct descendants of Abraham and the sons and daughters of Israel, but yet, in their hearts, many among them only paid lip service to the Lord and superficially obeyed His laws and commandments rather than keeping true to the spirit of the Law and truly love God with all of their hearts and minds. Especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them always took great pride in their way of observing the laws and commandments, and looked down on others they deemed to be inferior to them.

It was these people whom the Lord rebuked in today’s Gospel passage, all those who were proud of their ancestry and status, and yet, compared to the three friends of Daniel, they did not have true and genuine faith. They were focused much on themselves in how they lived their faith, they turned inwards and became fascinated with their own pride and ego, failing to see and realise how they are in need of healing from their sins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, are we able to change our way of life and heed what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples and the people, that is to be truly faithful to God and to devote more of our time and effort to serve the Lord, to focus our attention on Him more and to dedicate ourselves with greater reverence and commitment? Are we able to overcome the temptations of pride and worldly desires that we may be more Christ-like in our lives from now on?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith so that we may walk in His path and trust in Him more. We must put God as the priority of our lives, and we must put a focus on Him in each and every moments of our lives from now on. Are we able to do that, brethren? Are we able to trust Him with all of our hearts just like how the three friends of Daniel trusted in the Lord so much that they were even willing to endure great sufferings and death, defying a great king for His sake?

May the Lord bless us all and may He be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives more faithfully, now and forevermore. Amen.