Saturday, 14 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Scriptures, our attention and focus are brought on the mercy and compassionate nature of Our God. This we heard first of all from the words of the prophet Micah who spoke of God’s love and guidance for His people as their Lord and Shepherd, and then followed by the famous parable of the prodigal son in our Gospel passage today, a story that all of us are certainly familiar with.

In the first reading we heard of the prophet Micah who spoke of the Lord as the Shepherd of the people of Israel, as the One Who guides the people through and provides for them all throughout their history, reminding of His great deeds and wonders especially when He brought out the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, protecting them from their enemies and destroyed all those who opposed and wanted to defeat them.

The prophet Micah was also speaking in the manner of a prayer, asking God to be merciful on His people just as He had been merciful with them in the past, forgiving them their sins and turning them over a new lease of life when they regretted their sins and repented from those wickedness they have committed. The prophet also spoke to God of the promises and the Covenant which He had made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all of His faithful servants, to turn away from His anger and be merciful on their descendants.

Through all these, and linking to what we certainly know in the parable of the prodigal son, we can see how God indeed is not an angry and fearsome God that many of us often thought, but rather, a loving, compassionate and merciful God Who wants each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. The prodigal son in the parable, which represents us as the sinners, separated from the father’s love, as the father represents God, shows us that no matter how worried or scared one may be to be reconciled to our loving Father in heaven, the truth is that He loves us even greater than He despises our sins.

Yet, this is where we must understand that unless we make the effort to return to the Father, even in shame and humiliation, we can never find the path to reconciliation with Him. The younger son had squandered off his portion of inheritance, and did all sorts of vices and wicked things during his time in the foreign land, and when he ran out of everything, he resolved after consideration and deliberations, to return to his father even though he had to swallow his pride and lose his face, to be humiliated and even to beg his father to treat him just like one of his father’s servants.

In all of that, we can see how the prodigal son summoned the courage and the strength to journey back to his father in repentance and regret, willing to humble himself that he might be reconciled to his father. And this is what all of us must also do as we journey towards God, our loving Father and Creator, and embrace His generous offer of love and mercy. Just as the father of the prodigal son welcomed his long lost son so passionately when they were reconciled, so is our loving Father as well. God is truly joyful to have us reconciled with Him, when we are sincere in our desire to turn away from our sins and to embrace fully once again, His love and grace.

Now, let us all reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on what our lives have been thus far. Have we allowed our pride and ego, our greed and desires, our attachments to sin and the various wickedness of this world to prevent us and become obstacles for us in our journey to be reconciled with God? Have we allowed ourselves to continue to sin because we are too afraid to admit that we have been wrong and that we have been defiled by the sins we committed? Or have we allowed ourselves to fear God and His anger and retribution just because we failed to recognise His genuine love and desire to forgive us?

Have we allowed the devil to tempt us to continue to sin by indulging in all sorts of things that go against God’s will, because they pander to our desires, our ambitions and wishes? Have we become too attached to the lures of power, worldly glory and fame, of pleasures and satisfactions of our bodies among many other things? Let us really carefully discern on all these as we progress through this blessed penitential season of Lent, so that we truly may follow the example of the prodigal son in returning to the love of his father, that we ourselves may be reconciled with God, our loving and ever merciful Father.

Let us all realise that God despises our sins, not us as the sinners. After all, He created us all in love, for the reason of sharing His love for us, and His love endures so much that He was willing to give us His ultimate gift of love in Christ, His own Beloved Son, to be our Saviour, redeeming us all through the most painful and bitter pain of the Cross, making the ultimate sacrifice of love for our sake. And this is indeed for us to remember, that with every sins we committed, we inflict those blows and injuries on the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all sin no more and strive to be upright in all of our dealings and actions, to be good to our fellow brothers and sisters, that we show love and compassion to those who have wronged us, to forgive them their faults and mistakes just as we also should ask to be forgiven our own mistakes and faults, which we may not even realise that we have committed unto others around us, even to our family members, our friends and our loved ones. And it is important that we are merciful just as God our Father is merciful so that through our own mercy and forgiveness, compassion and love, we too are open to accept God’s offer of compassion, love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore strive to be merciful as the Father is merciful, and to love as the Father has loved us. Let us all be sorry for our sins and faults, to seek forgiveness through our genuine desire to repent and turn away from our sins and from all sorts of wickedness in our lives. May the Lord help us and may He give us the courage and strength to walk faithfully in this path that He has led us through, that we may truly find consolation and true happiness in Him, through the forgiveness of our sins and by being reconciled to our loving Father. Amen.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God is loving, and He is filled with mercy for His people, as He desires to forgive all those who have wronged Him, all who have betrayed Him and left Him behind, as what the parable of the prodigal son would have told us, that famous story on forgiveness and mercy, as told by Jesus our Lord.

Most if not all of us should be quite familiar with the story, which we have heard since our childhood, or in our catechism classes, or through reading the Scriptures. But how many of us truly understand its meaning and its significance? How many of us can relate ourselves and our own experiences with that story of the prodigal son, who was forgiven by his father?
In that parable, we heard how the prodigal son left his father after getting his share of the inheritance, and squandered off all his wealth and possessions on lavish living. In the end, he had no money left with him, and all of his friends who used to be with him left him behind. He suffered terribly in that foreign land, and no one would want to help him, even his friends. He had to endure the most difficult of conditions, and even shamed by working at the lowest possible places as a caretaker of pigs in a farm.

In the end, the prodigal son decided to go back to his father, seeking to humbly seek his forgiveness and even wanted to declare before his father that after having committed such a shameful act, and after having sinned in such a manner, he could no longer be called the son of his father. Instead, he wanted to be treated just as one of his father’s slaves.

But his father would have none of that, and ordered his servants that his younger son should be dressed up in the finest of clothes and a feast be prepared for his sake, celebrating his return from the faraway lands. He was indeed dressed up and treated with a treatment equal to that of the son and heir of a king. Then we heard about how the elder son was angry at his father after having heard of the treatment which the prodigal younger son had received.

In all of these, we can see ourselves, and how we relate ourselves with God and one another. The parable is a very good representation of our very own selves, our lives and our actions in this world. The father is a representation of God, while the prodigal son represents all those who have sinned and who have been separated from God and His love. How about the elder son? The elder son represents those who have remained true and faithful to the ways of the Lord.

First of all, the prodigal son is just like us, who have wandered off from the way of the Lord, seeking other things and other pleasures of life instead of the love of God, just as how the younger son looking to venture to a far off land. Yet, his father allowed him to do so, the loving God, Who loves each and every one of us, because He loved us. He gives us a free will and a freedom to choose our path forward.

But in our sins and in our weaknesses, in our frailties and in our easy fall into temptations, we have fallen into a miserable state just as the prodigal son did. And when we are in trouble, people who do not truly love us or care for us will leave us behind. They are like Satan and his angels, who pretended to be our friends, but when we have fallen into sin, they will laugh at our folly and marvel at our downfall and misery.

There is only One Who will remember us and continue to love us, and that is God. Even though we have wandered off, rebelled, and disobeyed Him, He will continue to love us, just as the father continued to think about the prodigal son. But we must remember what the prodigal son had done. As wrong and mistaken as he had been, he had resolved and decided to humble himself and sought his father, returning to the father who loved him.

This is where many of us mankind have faltered, because we have not been able to overcome one thing that often stands in the way of our salvation. And what is that, brethren? It is pride, our very own human pride. From our pride, came stubbornness and all the other things that have prevented us from seeking God and His forgiveness. First of all, we think that whatever we do, God will forgive us without our need to make the effort to seek for repentance, and this is the sin of presumption according to the renowned St. Cyprian of Carthage.

And presumption came from our pride, in our thought that we cannot have done any mistake, that we cannot have been wrong, even in our despicable state of sin and wickedness. This is what all of us must resist and overcome, brothers and sisters in Christ, or otherwise, we will continue to fall and end up in eternal damnation of hell. Let us seek instead to follow the path of the prodigal son, who humbly sought the forgiveness of his father.

And as we all can see, the father forgave his prodigal and wayward son, just as God is ever ready to forgive us and to welcome us back. We must not be afraid to seek God the Father for His forgiveness, for there is a second great sin, according to St. Cyprian, and that is the sin of despair, which is ultimately also born out of our human pride. We think and assume that our sins are so great that God will not forgive us, but God will forgive us if only we make the effort to overcome our sins and repent from them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to realise that God is ever merciful and loving, especially to all of us who have sinned and fallen into sin. But God’s mercy will not have any effect on us, unless we consciously put in the effort to make that mercy useful and meaningful to us. God wants to forgive us, but do we want to be forgiven? And are we able to commit to the commitment to sin no more and lead a righteous life from now on?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, during this season of Lent, we need to spend some time to reflect on our own lives and our actions. We need to reevaluate our lives and actions, and we need to renew our lives in the same manner as the prodigal son. Are we able to overcome our pride, our stubbornness and all the obstacles that had prevented us from reaching out to God and His mercy?

Now, we also then need to take note of the action of the elder son, who became angry at the return of the younger, prodigal son. Jesus through that action was rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have often hampered the return of sinners to God’s grace, because they thought that sinners were incapable of being forgiven by God, and because they thought that they alone deserved God’s love.

As Christians, and as those to whom God had given His grace, we cannot have this kind of attitude. First of all, we need to know that God loves everyone, all sinners alike, and we have to remember that all of us are sinners after all, in need of God’s mercy. We must always be vigilant lest we fall back into our sinful ways. And therefore, we should not think that we alone deserve God’s grace, but rather, we should help open the path to God’s mercy to those who are in need of our help.

Let us therefore guide one another, and help each other to remain faithful to God and true to His ways, by showing our faith through our words, actions and deeds, so that all of us may be saved together, and receive once again God’s love and grace. May all of us walk in the path of the prodigal son, and humbly seek forgiveness for our sins, and may all of us be able to commit to repent from our sins, and do good from now onwards. Amen.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, ‘This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So Jesus told them this parable : “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, shepherd the flock of Your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when You went out of Egypt. Show us Your wonders.

Who is a God like You, Who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of His inheritance? Who is like You Whose anger does not last? For You delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again You will show us Your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Friday, 17 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all heard the Scriptures telling us about the story of when Joseph, the beloved and favourite son of Jacob, who was betrayed by his brothers, who sold him off to slavery to the Midianites, who then sold him off to the Egyptians, as many of us certainly remembered in this well known story from our catechism classes or from reading through the Book of Genesis.

Through this story, we saw how jealousy, greed as well as pride has led to us mankind committing sins of various kinds and nature before God and before men alike, as the brothers of Joseph had shown in their actions as described in the Book of Genesis. They were jealous of the attention and the love which Jacob their father had shown to Joseph, being born of his beloved wife, Rachel, and also a child of his old age.

As we heard what happened between them and Joseph, and what the brothers plotted against Joseph, we see first of all, that jealousy and desire easily lead to anger and resentment, and then these lead further into even more jealousy and more anger against those with whom we are angry and jealous with. The brothers were angry against Joseph when he told them that in his dream, all of them would bow down to him.

This is a normal human reaction, for many of us mankind easily succumb to the temptation of our human pride, unwilling to humble ourselves before any other, especially to those who we deem to be inferior to ourselves. Our ego, our pride will not allow us to bend down and humble ourselves. Instead, we try our best to preserve our dignity and our standing, and this is when we mankind begin causing harm, pain and suffering upon each other, whenever we bicker, whenever we are divided against each other.

But God wants to show each one of us that this is not the way forward for us. All of us have been called by God to love one another, and to return to righteousness in Him. He Who created us all out of love wants to love us back and have us all reconciled to Himself. However, more often than not, it is we mankind who have resisted God and did not allow Him to come to us and we refuse to allow His love to enter our lives.

We are so preoccupied in our worldly concerns and desires, that like the sons of Israel, we have been blinded by those desires and concerns, and we are unable to listen to His will in the midst of our preoccupation with ourselves and our needs. We are acting like the evil tenants in the Gospel passage today, a rebuke which Jesus our Lord made to all those who have given in to their worldly concerns, so as to refuse the love and mercy of God.

God has loved us so much that He has given us all hope through Christ His Son, Whom He sent into the world in order to become our salvation. Through Jesus, He shows us how to live like a true Christian, as those whom He had called from the world to be righteous and just, loving and compassionate just like Himself. He wants us to abandon our ways of sin, and abandon all the selflessness, all the jealousy, hatred and evil intent in our hearts, which all of us had done throughout our lives.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to conversion and change, to abandon our selfish deeds and actions of our past, and embrace the loving ways of our God. We are all called to a change of heart, that while once we are like the sons of Israel, like the evil tenants described in the Gospel passage today, we may now be transformed from beings of darkness and sin, into beings of light and righteousness.

Today we commemorate the feast of the well known saint, St. Patrick of Ireland, the Patron Saint of Ireland, who was sometimes called the Apostle of Ireland, being the one who was contributed with the conversion and the transformation of the whole country Ireland, from a pagan country where druidism and pagan idols thrived before his time, into a faithful Christian nation, whose foundation is in the Lord alone.

St. Patrick was known to be a Romano-British missionary credited with the foundation of the faith and the Church in Ireland, becoming the very first bishop in the island, establishing the Christian community that quickly became the faith of all Irish people just not long after St. Patrick’s time. Before St. Patrick came to Ireland, the island was divided among many different tribes and counties, each ruled by their own kings and rulers, who warred and bickered against each other.

But St. Patrick came and showed all of them the way to the truth of God. He preached the Good News of God to them, and called them to repent their past sins and wickedness. St. Patrick taught them the truth about God, including what is now famous as his symbol of the Holy Trinity, the three-leaf clover. He taught them how God is a perfect and loving union of three Divine Persons, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as inseparable as the three-leaf clover’s parts from each other.

And God Who is perfect in Love, and Who is indeed Love, wants to share that love with all of us His people. That is exactly why He has given us His commandments, His laws and ways, and Jesus His Son to be our salvation from the darkness, by bringing us into the light of His new world and life filled with love and grace, no longer with greed, evil, wickedness, ego and all other human ambitions and vileness.

St. Patrick converted many people in Ireland during his lifetime and mission, and many gave up their sinful ways and warlike behaviour. Instead, they began to live in peace, harmony and love, just as St. Patrick had taught them to do, following in the examples and the laws of the Lord. This is in fact, what each and every one of us Christians must do in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this time of Lent, let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and bring ourselves to righteousness and justice through our actions. Let us all do more good works in our lives, as a penance for our sins, and as a sign that we are all sincere in our desire to be forgiven from our sins. Let us all practice love in all of our actions and dealings, and let us all learn to overcome our human desires, our ego, our greed, and all the things that have thus far become our obstacles on our journey towards the Lord and His salvation.

May all of us be able to draw ourselves closer to God by doing more what the Lord wants us to do, and by committing ourselves wholeheartedly to His precepts and laws. May He bless us all and strengthen our faith inside of us, that we may grow ever more in faith, and be ever more righteous and just in life, so that not only this Lent, but from now onwards, we may be true disciples of our Lord, true Christians in name and also in spirit. Amen.

Friday, 17 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.