Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of God’s mercy and love for each one of us, and we are reminded also of the need for us to be merciful and loving in the same way towards each other, towards our fellow brethren and all those whom we encounter in life. This is what each and every one of us need to realise, as we live our lives in this world, as fellow sinners in the presence of God.

It does not matter how great or how small our sins are, but the fact remains that we have been tainted by sin, and we have therefore become unworthy of God and His love due to the sins we committed, out of disobedience and refusal to listen to Him and the stubbornness in tracing our own path in life in defiance of His will. It does not matter how small our disobedience is, how insignificant our sins have been, as sin is still sin.

And yet, despite all of our stubbornness, wicked attitudes and refusal to listen to the Lord, the Lord remained full of patience and mercy, and willing to forgive us our sins and be reconciled with us, should we make the effort to turn away from those sinful ways and embrace the mercy and forgiveness that He has provided us all so generously. Why not? He even gave us His own beloved Son, to be our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Now, if God, our Lord and loving Father has been merciful towards us, patient and loving despite all of our childish and stubborn attitudes all these while, then why should it not be that we, as God’s children, follow His examples and learn to love and to be merciful as He had done to us. But unfortunately, the reality is such that many of us mankind are still so stubborn in our hatred and jealousy for one another, that we prefer to cause pain and suffering, to be angry and unhappy instead of to forgive and to love.

That is why, God reminds us all again and again, with the love and mercy He Himself has shown us, so that all of us may also learn to be loving and to be merciful ourselves. It is through true and genuine love that we will be able to break free from the bondage to sin. If we continue to act with heart filled with hatred, jealousy, ego, pride and greed, we will continue to expose ourselves to the temptations to sin, and we will end up falling ever deeper into the chasm of sin.

That is why we need to make the conscious and sustained effort to resist those temptations, by restraining ourselves in the flesh, and being conscious of how sinful we have been, regardless of how serious our sins may have seemed as compared to the sins that others have committed. As mentioned earlier, sin is still sin, regardless of how small or how insignificant it may seem to be. Sin is a corruption and taint on our souls and our beings, and unless we are free from those sins, small or big, then we have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make use of the opportunities given to us during this season of Lent to turn our back on sin, on all the stubborn oppositions we have committed against God in our past actions and deeds, in our words and utterings. Let us all sharpen instead the edge of our humility and let go of the pride and greed in our hearts and minds, that we may come to be righteous in our actions, words and deeds, leaving behind all those attitudes that cause us to be full of pride and disobedience.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a holy man and servant of God, one of the early Church fathers who was remembered for his loving and forgiving nature, which he presented in his writings, in which he wrote extensively about God’s love and mercy to His people. St. Cyril himself had endured many challenges and oppositions throughout his life and he was falsely accused many times by his rivals. Yet, he remained composed, and continued to serve the Lord and the people regardless of those challenges.

Therefore, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, by growing more generous in love and forgiveness, keeping in mind that our most loving and patient God has loved us all so dearly, each and every moments that we live in this world. Are we able to change ourselves through embracing the way of mercy and the way of love? Then we must be loving and merciful at every living moments of our life. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us all in everything we do. Amen.

Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Luke 6 : 36-38

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”

Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11, 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die.

Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Daniel 9 : 4b-10

Lord God, great and to be feared, You keep Your covenant and love for those who love You and observe Your commandments. We have sinned, we have not been just, we have been rebels, and have turned away from Your commandments and laws. We have not listened to Your servants, the prophets, who spoke in Your Name to our kings, leaders, fathers and to all the people of the land.

Lord, justice is Yours, but ours is a face full of shame, as it is to this day – we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in all the lands where You have dispersed us because of the infidelity we have committed against You. Ours is the shame, o Lord for we, our kings, princes, fathers, have sinned against You.

We hope for pardon and mercy from the Lord, because we have rebelled against Him. We have not listened to the voice of YHVH, our God, or followed the laws which He has given us through His servants, the prophets.

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.