Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.

Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

Thursday, 30 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 17 : 3-9

Abram fell face down and God said to him, “This is My covenant with you : you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram, but Abraham, because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you more and more famous; I will multiply your descendants; nations shall spring from you, kings shall be among your descendants.”

“And I will establish a covenant, an everlasting covenant between Myself and you and your descendants after you; from now on I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you, for generations to come. I will give to you and your descendants after you the land you are living in, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be the God of your race.”

God said to Abraham, “For your part, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation.”

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 : 5th 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 remember our calling as Christians to be truly faithful to God and not to be only superficially faithful to Him. This means that in our way of life and dedication to Him, in our every actions and deeds, we have to be truly committed and be truly full of faith in all things, and not doing things merely to fulfil our obligations and faith to the Lord without true and genuine love for Him, and without true desire to seek Him and serve Him. If we do not truly love God then we are no better than hypocrites and all those who have no place in God’s grace and salvation, which He offers freely to those who have true and genuine faith in Him. Our Scripture passages today remind us that being faithful to the Lord entails more than just having a superficial faith.

In fact, just as we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of Daniel, we are brought right into the great challenges and trials that our predecessors had faced in the past just for being faithful to God and for standing up for their faith. We heard the confrontation between the three friends of Daniel and the great King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. As we all may be familiar with, back then, the people of God, the descendants of the Israelites had been scattered and cast out from their homeland by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, who crushed the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah respectively, carrying many of the people into exile in faraway lands. That was how Daniel and his friends, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah ended up in the land of Babylon. They were bereft of homeland, honour and any semblance of worldly anchor, being homeless and without bearing in that ever changing world they lived in.

Then, in that particular occasion, as they were assembled by the King of Babylon, who had just built a great golden statue in his own image, they faced the great quandary and trial of having to obey the king’s order to everyone, for them to worship that golden statue, in the likeness of the king, who was known for his great megalomania and prideful personality, likening himself to a divinity, making himself essentially like a god. All of the people save for the three friends of Daniel bent their knees and bowed down, worshipping the golden statue under the pain of certain suffering and death if they did not obey the orders of the king. But those friends of Daniel refused to obey the king’s order and remained standing, refusing to betray the Lord their God and worship that false golden idol even if that meant endangering their own lives. They did not want to save their lives by turning their backs on the Lord.

They could have chosen to worship superficially and pretended to obey the king’s order, but in doing so, even if they did not intend to worship the idol, but their action could bring scandal to the Lord and to their faith in Him. Others who saw their actions would then see the fickle nature of their faith to God, and how easy it was for them to give up their faith in Him, at least from what was discernible through their actions. That is why, all of us should note how Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah all chose to suffer and die rather than betraying the Lord through their actions, and they chose to remain truly faithful and not just being superficial in their faith and way of life. This is why they remained unshaken in their commitment to God and did not obey the king’s commands, even under the pain of certain suffering and death. The king was angered even more by their answer to his question and demand on them to obey his will, as he threw them into the great furnace made even hotter than before.

Yet God did not abandon them, and kept them from harm, as He sent His Angel to guard them and to protect them from the flames. Thus, the friends of Daniel were spared from the dangers of death and suffering, and that so amazed the proud and haughty King of Babylon, that he tore down the great golden statue that he himself had built. The Lord showed His love for His faithful ones, and protected them, and showed that He is truly the One and only True God worthy of worship. And the faith and commitment which the friends of Daniel, Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah should be sources of inspiration and strength for each one of us to follow, so that we may also walk in the path that they had trodden, and that we may also have the courage that they had, in remaining truly faithful to God and in being truthful in how they lived their lives, in obedience to God, in all things.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord being confronted by the Jewish people, many of them adhering to the ways of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who spent a lot of time and effort enforcing a particularly strict version of the Law of God, and yet, in their excessive pursuit of religious purity and in being extra rigid in their way of observing the Law, they ended up forgetting most of the time why they practiced their faith in the manner that they had lived them. They became proud and haughty like that of the King of Babylon, and took great pride in their way of observing the Law, and condemning all those who disagreed with them, or those who did not practice the Law in the way that they had done it. This was them building up their own ‘idols’ in their hearts and lives, namely the ‘idol of pride’, the ‘idol of fame and worldly glory’, among the other ‘idols’ that they had made.

Essentially, their faith had become mostly superficial in nature, and there was barely any space or focus on the Lord in their hearts and minds. They were all too busy with observing the multitudes of precepts and details of the Law, the many fine details and rites, that they forgot about loving God and putting Him as the focus of their lives in the first place. They became proud and arrogant, and self-righteous in nature, condemning instead of helping all those whom God had actually entrusted to them as leaders and guides. They kept these away from the Lord’s grace and love, and from His salvation, instead of bringing them closer to the Lord as God Himself has intended. That was why the Lord chided and rebuked them for their lack of true and genuine faith in God, and He told them that their way of living their faith was truly wrong.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our way of life and ask ourselves if we have been faithful to the Lord as we should have. Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, making good use of the opportunities and the time provided for us in this season of Lent, that we may lead a life that is more attuned to the Lord, and be ever closer to Him, in each and every moments of our lives. May God continue to guide us and inspire us all to live ever more worthily of Him, by doing whatever we can to glorify Him by our lives and actions. May God bless our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 31-42

At that time, Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in Him, “You will be My true disciples, if you keep My word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do you mean by saying : You will be free?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave does not stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. For My part, I speak of what I have seen in My Father’s presence, but you do what you have learnt from your father.”

They answered Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill Me, the One Who tells you the truth – the truth that I have learnt from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.”

The Jews said to Him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I did not come by My own decision, but it was He Himself Who sent Me.”

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever. Blessed is Your holy and glorious Name, celebrated and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You Who fathom the depths, who are enthroned on the Cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 14-20, 24-25, 28

King Nebuchadnezzar questioned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up? If you hear now the sound of horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you will not, you know the punishment : you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if He will not, we would like you to know, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace.

They walked in the midst of the flames, singing to God and praising the Lord. Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “You have indeed given a just sentence in bringing evil upon us and upon Jerusalem, the Holy City of our fathers. You have acted in accordance with truth and justice, as punishment for our sins.”

Tuesday, 28 March 2023 : 5th 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, all of us are reminded of the love that God has always patiently shown upon us that even though we have often sinned against Him, but that did not prevent Him from continuing to reach out towards us with love, as He continued to care for us and shower us with His kindness and love. He still looked upon us with forgiveness and the willingness to be reconciled with all of us. No one can be excluded from His love, and unless we ourselves have rejected God’s love and grace right to the very end, there is always a path for us towards redemption and reconciliation with Him. We shall gain justification and strength through Him, and will be forgiven our sins if only that we repent from them and sincerely desire to turn away from the wickedness of our evils. But if we sin against God and continue to do so, we have to face the consequences for those sins, as the Scriptures had shown us today.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Numbers how the people of Israel, those whom God had rescued and led out from the land of their misery and enslavement by the Egyptians, rebelled against the Lord and complained against Him, despite having been shown such great care and love from God. They committed vile deeds and hardened their hearts against God, and thus they have sinned against God. Then, for their stubborn attitude and behaviour, the Lord sent fiery serpents to strike at those who have persistently disobeyed against Him and refused to listen to Him. This is representative of what sin entails, that is because sin leads to separation from God and hence death, since without God, we can have no life. Those who disobeyed God and sinned against Him essentially had to suffer the consequences of their own sins and wickedness.

But it did not mean that God despised His people, as in truth, God still loved His people very much, and still cared for them regardless. That was why He showed them His mercy and compassion as He gave them the path out of their predicament when they showed repentance and regret over their sins, as He told Moses to make a great bronze serpent standard, lifted up high on a pole before the people, so that all those who were bitten and then saw the bronze serpent would not perish but live. This was a prefigurement of what the Lord Himself would do through His own Son, Whom He would send into the world so that He might save us all, that by looking upon Him Who has been crucified for us, we may all find forgiveness and true reconciliation with God. Yes, what we have heard in our first reading today, is a prefigurement for our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross for the salvation of the whole world.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord Jesus as He spoke to the Jewish people who assembled and gathered in order to listen to Him. He told them all more of the truth about Himself, proclaiming about what He Himself would do for the salvation of all and the whole world. He told them all how He would have to suffer and be raised up for everyone to see, the Son of Man, raised up like the way the bronze serpent of Moses was lifted up for everyone to witness. Thus, again, what we have heard today from the Gospel is one important moment when the Lord revealed that He was about to suffer for everyone’s sake, to gather all of the Lord’s scatted people and all those who loved Him to Himself. He went through all the humiliation and sufferings so that all of us may have the assurance of new life and existence with Him.

He has revealed God’s love in the flesh, that everyone may see the Love of God personified and made clear in this world. The Lord has given us His own Son to us as the clear sign of His love, just as He has given the bronze serpent to Moses as the means for the Israelites to escape from their predicament of being bitten by those terrible serpents. The Lord gave His Son to us so that by Him bearing upon Himself all the sins and faults that we have made, which bore down heavily on His shoulders as He lifted up His Cross, we may all be redeemed and freed from the bondage to sin, to the tyranny of evil and death. This is what we are all reminded of today, as we listened to these Scripture passages. We are reminded both of the dangers and threats posed to us by our sins, and how God has most generously provided us with the means to get away from all those threats.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to come ever closer to the beginning of Holy Week, and we progress ever deeper into the mysteries of Lent and of God’s love for us, let us all therefore spend some time to reflect on our own lives and actions, particularly in everything that we have said and done in the past year. Have we been truly good and faithful disciples of the Lord in all those things, in being good and exemplary, faithful and inspirational in showing our faith through our way of life? Or have we instead lapsed and fallen away from the path of righteousness, as we allowed ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the many temptations and allures of worldly glory and pleasures around us? Have we been stubborn and obstinate just like the Israelites who frequently and repeatedly rejected God’s most generous love and compassionate mercy? Can we spend more time to focus our attention on and turn towards the Lord, Our Hope and salvation?

This season and time of Lent, let us all make good use of the opportunities and time provided to us so that we may remind ourselves of our calling as Christians, that is to be holy and worthy of God, and to distance ourselves from the wickedness of worldly attachments and sins. Let us all be good role models, examples and inspiration for one another in how we live our lives, in everything we say and do, even in the smallest and the seemingly least significant matters, so that all of us may be the true and faithful beacons of God’s light and love, and be the faithful witnesses of Our Lord’s truth in the midst of our respective communities in our today’s world. This Lent should be a time for us to reexamine our focus in life so that we may turn away from the wickedness of the world and from the falsehoods of the devil, and instead, embrace wholeheartedly the loving and righteous ways of the Lord, our God and Saviour.

May the Lord therefore be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us with the strength and the courage to be able to stand up for our faith, and to do what is right and just according to what He has shown and taught us to do. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good efforts, in everything we do for His greater glory. May God bless our Lenten journey and perseverance through life. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 28 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.