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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord speaks to us through the words of the Scriptures that we have just heard, in which we heard a message of repentance and forgiveness from God. Through what we have heard, we are all reminded that God extends His mercy and forgiveness to all those who come and seek Him, and provided that we change our ways and sincerely seek to be reconciled with Him, we shall be forgiven our sins.

The prophet Isaiah came and preached at the pivotal moments in the history of the people of Israel, as he lived during those years when the northern kingdom of Israel, covering most of the ten tribes of the Israelites had been destroyed recently by the forces of the Assyrians, and most of its people brought off into forced exile in far-off lands in distant Assyria and Mesopotamia, away from the lands of their ancestors.

And at that time, the southern kingdom of Judah itself had been existentially threatened by its powerful neighbours, including from the Assyrians themselves, who came up to Jerusalem and besieged it, as king Sennacherib of Assyria almost conquered all of Judah and Jerusalem if not for the divine intervention of the Lord that wiped out the Assyrian forces and sent the king of Assyria back to his lands in shame.

All those were because of the lack of faith in the people of Israel, as they had abandoned the ways of the Lord, disobeyed the laws and commandments of God again and again, and refusing to listen to the many prophets and messengers that had been sent into their midst to call them back and remind them to stop their rebellious ways and turn back towards God.

Yet, the Lord never gave up on us, and He did not stop trying to seek us out and to turn us back towards Him, that we may be reconciled to Him, be forgiven from our many sins, and thus, He tirelessly continued to seek us out, and He gave us all the best of all gifts in this regard, that is the gift of our salvation through His own most beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have received the new assurance of eternal life and glory in God.

In our Gospel passage we heard of the calling of Levi, the tax collector by the Lord, Who called him to follow Him to be His disciple. Levi listened to the Lord’s call and immediately left everything behind and followed the Lord. Through this call, the man once known as Levi became a new man, called by God to be His Apostle, St. Matthew, who was also one of the Four Evangelists, in writing the Gospel attributed to him.

We see therefore how this man, a former tax collector, widely condemned and ostracised at his own time by the rest of the general community due to the strong prejudices that then existed on the tax collectors in labelling them as traitors to the nation and the people, as well as being greedy and exploitative of others, could become a great saint and one of the Apostles and the Evangelists no less.

We need to know that no one is truly away from God’s salvation and grace, and just as God Himself is also consistently and actively reaching out towards us, then in fact the mercy and forgiveness of God are truly readily and easily accessible for us, and the story of many of our predecessors, turned from sinners to saints, only serve to highlight this fact even more.

However, the main obstacle preventing us from finding our way to God is in fact our own reluctance, doubt and refusal to accept God’s generous offer of mercy and forgiveness. Many of us are unwilling to commit to the Lord and continued to live in the state of sin. That is why so many people still failed to receive the rich bounties of God’s grace and mercy. As long as we allow the many temptations present in the world to tempt us away from the Lord, then we are likely to remain distant from Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to overcome the temptations of worldly desires and all other obstacles that are in the way of our reconciliation with God. Let us all be courageous in responding to the Lord with a renewed faith from now on, that we will remain faithful to the path that the Lord has showed us, and that we will always strive to walk faithfully in His presence, now and always. May God bless us and guide us in our path going forward in life. Amen.

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 5 : 27-32

At that time, after Jesus healed a paralytic man, He went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax office, He said to him, “Follow Me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus.

Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it, that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 85 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Listen, o YHVH, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my life, for I am God-fearing; save Your servant who trusts in You.

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 9b-14

If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word. If you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon.

YHVH will guide you always and give you relief in desert places. He will strengthen your bones; He will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fall. Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised. You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses.

If you stop profaning the Sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred YHVH’s holy day, if you honour it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in YHVH, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of YHVH has spoken.

Saturday, 13 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the downfall of man, who have disobeyed the Lord and chose to listen to the lies of the devil, and as a result, committed sin against God and was banished from the Gardens of Eden, where they should have remained and lived in great bliss and joy with the Lord. Yet, through what we have heard today we are also reminded that nonetheless, God still loved us even with our imperfections and with our disobedience, as His love endured throughout to even this very day.

In our first reading today we heard of the story of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Eden because of their disobedience in eating of the fruits of the forbidden Tree of knowledge of good and evil, in direct contradiction to the Lord’s instructions to keep away from the tree. Satan was also punished and cursed, but one important difference is that, while because of their sins, mankind must then suffer, but God did not abandon them or want them to be destroyed. On the contrary, from that very beginning He has proclaimed how He would save them all and liberate them from the clutches of the evil one.

The devil would be crushed by the woman, although he would have the chance to strike at the sons and daughters of man. And this salvation came through Mary, the woman who was prophesied and expected, to be the mother of the Messiah or Saviour. The Saviour Himself is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Word Incarnate, Son of God, born in the flesh to walk amongst us and to gather us all to Himself. Through Christ all of us have received a new hope of true happiness and eternal life, one that is everlasting and will never end.

The Lord could have destroyed us all outright for our disobedience and sins, and for all the stubbornness that we have shown Him all throughout time and history. We have committed so many wicked deeds and made so many others to suffer in order to satisfy our own selfish desires and ambitions that we should have deserved annihilation and destruction. Yet, the Lord was still willing to give us chance and to patiently guide us down the right path towards Him. We have wronged Him so much and yet, He still loved us equally if not even more.

In our Gospel reading today we heard how this love was manifested in some form as the Lord famously performed His miracle of the feeding of the four thousand men and many other thousands of women and children with just seven loaves of bread. At that time, the people had been following the Lord for many days without having proper sustenance as the place where they gathered were not really convenient for them to obtain food and other necessities.

But the Lord had pity on them, and looked on them with great compassion, in not just teaching them and helping them to find their way, as a Shepherd guiding the lost sheep, but He also provided them with the sustenance until they all had enough to eat and were fully satisfied with much leftovers to spare. Through this act of great love and rich in symbolism, God wants us all to know that we are truly beloved by Him and are precious to Him, without exception.

To this end, not only that the Lord fed His people with the loaves of bread, but through His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the Cross, He gave them the best gift of all in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Bread of Life offered freely for us that all of us who partake in Him may receive new life through Him and be justified through Him. The Lord truly loved us so much that He was willing to go through all that just to lead us out of our predicament and be reconciled with us again.

Now, what are we then going to do with our lives, since we know just how much God has blessed us and just how fortunate we are? Are we going to continue to be stubborn and refuse His compassion and mercy? Or are we going to embrace Him like that of a prodigal son embracing his father, seeking for forgiveness and renewed relationship and love? The choice is indeed ours, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we want to choose life over death, and eternal life over eternal damnation.

Let us all seek the Lord with a new zeal and spirit from now on, strengthened and encouraged by all that the love of God has done for us. Let us all walk with Him once again and strive to live worthily of Him, that in following Him and being faithful to Him, we will finally receive the glory and eternal joy that we have been promised and which we have been intended to live in, now and forevermore. May God bless us always, in all things. Amen.

Saturday, 13 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterwards Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish, so Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well.

The people ate and were satisfied. The broken pieces were collected, seven wicker baskets full of leftovers. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number. Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.