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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

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

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

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be the king of them all.

They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.

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

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

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard similar readings to what we have heard yesterday, as they speak of the persecutions that God’s faithful servants had to endure in the midst of their work and ministry, encountering all the opposition from the world, as the prophet Jeremiah lamented his sufferings at the hands of those who had plotted against him and persecuted him. In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the bitter opposition which the Lord faced from the Pharisees, many of whose members were against Him.

In our first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, we heard how the prophet faced lots of difficulties and persecutions from those who hated and disliked him, especially those who were irritated by the constant words of doom that the prophet Jeremiah delivered from God, as the people of the kingdom of Judah continued to live in sin and refused to change their ways, and hence, Jeremiah delivered warnings from the Lord of the coming of destruction for both Judah and Jerusalem.

But many of the people refused to believe in Jeremiah and hated him for his persistent efforts to warn them. Hence they persecuted Jeremiah and made his life difficult, and if it had not been for the assistance of Jeremiah’s friends, the prophet could very well have lost his life as well. In the Gospel passage we heard of the same plotting and unhappiness that a large portion of the Pharisees and the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council had on the Lord Jesus.

They refused to believe in Him because they refused to accept the fact that Jesus is the Messiah as some among them thought that according to the Law of whom they were experts of, the Messiah should not and could not have come from the region of Galilee where Nazareth is, and just because of that and because they perceived that what the Lord had done were blasphemous in nature and irreconcilable with the way that they enforced their piety and faith, then they could persecute and condemn Him like how they did with those considered as sinners in their midst.

And when one among them, Nicodemus, who was favourable to the message of Jesus, argued that they should not condemn the Lord Jesus before they heard Him properly and got to know the actual facts rather than to base their judgments on their own flawed understanding of the situation and biased informations, he was quickly silenced by the rest, who doubled down on their refusal to believe using the same arguments to back their decision.

What have all these Scripture passages told us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fact that pride leads to stubbornness, and also as long as we keep our pride and ego with us and indulge in keeping them and our desires, we will likely end up acting like how the Pharisees had behaved, in their stubborn refusal to listen to the Lord and believe in His message of truth. And this will likely lead us down the path of sin, and those sins will lead us into damnation unless we repent from them.

This is why during this season of Lent we are encouraged to be more humble and be more willing to open ourselves to accept God’s wisdom and words of truth, to open our ears, our eyes and deepen our senses to feel and know what it is that God wants us to do with our lives. If we have sinned against God, this is the time which we can use to seek forgiveness and healing, as God is always ever forgiving, kind and compassionate. He is always ready to forgive us, as long as we are willing to allow Him to forgive us.

Let us realise the shortness of our mortal lives and existence, and let us realise just how unworthy and corrupted we have been because of our sins. And it is God alone that can deliver us from this trouble and predicament. Let us get rid of the pride and ego within us, and deepen our humility and our submission to the will of God. This Lent, let it be a season and time of renewal of our faith, that we may draw closer to God and be found within His love and comforting grace once again.

May God be with us in our journey of faith especially through this season of Lent, and let us all not forget to pray for one another also in this difficult moments when the world is experiencing so many issues and troubles, from the current coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis among others. May God give us the strength and courage to live our lives daily with faith and trust in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 7 : 40-53

At that time, many who had been listening to these words began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Does Scripture not say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David? The crowd was divided over Him. Some wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

The officers of the Temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this Man.” The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in Him? Only those cursed people, who have no knowledge of the Law!”

Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.” And they all went home.

Saturday, 28 March 2020 : 4th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 7 : 2-3, 9bc-10, 11-12

O Lord, my God, in You I take shelter; deliver me and save me from all my pursuers, lest lions tear me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

O Lord, my righteousness; You see that I am blameless. Bring to an end the power of the wicked, but affirm the just, o righteous God, searcher of mind and heart.

You cover me as a shield. Oh God, for You protect the upright. A righteous judge is God, His anger ever awaiting those who refuse to repent.