Friday, 18 March 2016 : 5th 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, n this day we heard about the people who contested against Jesus, who doubted Him, persecuted Him and rejected Him, trying to stone Him for allegedly trying to portray Himself as God. But the truth is just that, that He is God, and He was the One Whom the prophets and the other servants of God had been proclaiming about, and Whose coming the people should have expected and welcomed with joy.

But they did not do so, and instead, they resisted Him at every turn possible, attacking Him for His revelations of truth about Himself. Indeed, what Jesus was doing was merely to dispel centuries and millennia of misinformation, twisted truths and teachings, and prejudice as well as other things that have kept the people from seeing the truth that is in our Lord Jesus Christ.

And the people of God who were living in sin did not like to be told by someone else, that they have sinned and that they need to follow the path shown by the Lord Jesus if they were to seek salvation in God. This was because of the great ego in their hearts, the reluctance and unwillingness to change themselves because others said that what they have done so far and thought was right, was actually wrong.

Thus, they persecuted the prophets and the messengers of God, whose messages they did not like and which they did not want to hear. And similarly, when the Lord Himself came into the world, save for a few who are willing to listen and to accept the word of God, the rest of them continued in their constant rebellion against God, shutting themselves, their ears and their hearts from God trying to speak to them and make them understand the truth.

And in their stubbornness, they have not just damned themselves by refusing God’s offer of salvation, but similarly, they have even caused others to be shut out from salvation, misleading one another, and ultimately, committing sin, as they had done with their ancestors, by persecuting the prophets, the messengers of God, holy men and women carrying the good works and the good news of the Lord’s salvation, and they even persecuted the Lord Himself Who loved them regardless of how they had treated Him.

In this season of Lent, as we are approaching its ending and the beginning of the Holy Week this coming Palm Sunday, let us all use the remaining time as we prepare to celebrate the upcoming greatest feast and mysteries of our faith and welcome the season of Easter, to become people who are more willing to open up ourselves to the love of God, to listen more with our ears and our hearts, the reminders from the Lord, seeking for our repentance.

Today we celebrate also the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a holy bishop and servant of God, who devoted his whole life to the service of God and His Church. From him, there are many examples that we can learn about, if we are to become ever more faithful to God and be more righteous in His sight. There are many things that we can learn from his life and from his devotion.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem was a devoted bishop who oversees the faithful in Jerusalem and beyond, caring for his flock and serving them with love and commitment. And he helped them to resist the pressure of heresy and all those who sought to undermine the Church by promoting false teachings. Those heretics tried to persecute him, and St. Cyril was even exiled a few times for his persistence in resisting such heresies, but he continued to press on hard regardless.

In the end, the faithful people of God triumphed, and all the heresies were defeated. The forces of the wicked were not able to destroy the Church and the truth found in it. And the faithful were saved from being harmed by such lies, and those who have fallen, many of them returned to the faith and to the salvation God had offered through His Church alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, looking at this example, let us all also seek to find the truth in God through the Church and cast aside all of our stubbornness, ego and all the things that kept us away from being truly devoted to God. Let us find ourselves the path that leads us to God, and that path is likely through penitence, self-limiting, and all the charitable acts and works that we should do, in order to limit our selfishness and grow in our loving care for others.

May God see us and all that we are doing to bring glory to His Name. May He forgive us all our sins and past trespasses, and we hope that one day God will bless us and welcome us into His eternal kingdom, granting us the inheritance and the promise He has given to all of His faithful ones. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 18 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews then picked up stones to throw at Him; so Jesus said, “I have openly done many good works among you, which the Father gave Me to do. For which of these do you stone Me?”

The Jews answered, “We are not stoning You for doing a good work, but for insulting God; You are only a Man, and You make Yourself God.” Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law : I said, you are gods? So those who received this word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true. What then should be said of the One anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?'”

“If I am not doing the works of My Father, do not believe Me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in Me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest Him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptised, and there He stayed. Many people came to Jesus, and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about You, and everything he said was true.” And many became believers in that place.

Friday, 18 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 7

I love You, o Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on the Lord, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

A deadly flood surrounded me, devilish torrents rushed at me; caught by the cords of the grave, I was brought to the snares of death.

But I called upon the Lord in my distress, I cried to my God for help; and from His Temple He heard my voice, my cry of grief reached His ears.

Friday, 18 March 2016 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 20 : 10-13

I hear many people whispering, “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!” All my friends watch me to see if I will slip : “Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say; “then we can get the better of him and have our revenge.”

But YHVH, a mighty Warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten. YHVH, God of hosts, You test the just and probe the heart and mind. Let me see Your revenge on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause.

Sing to YHVH! Praise YHVH and say : He has rescued the poor from the clutches of the wicked!

Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate our first Sunday in the season of Lent, we always hear about the temptation of Jesus Christ our Lord in the desert by the devil, who tried to tempt Him three times without avail, and who then retreated, trying to undermine the works of the Lord in another way. This temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ is tied closely to our own observation of this Lenten period, and also to the history of our faith.

Mankind, ever since the days of Adam and Eve, our forebears and ancestors, had been afflicted with the disease of sin, as Satan managed to tempt them to disobey the Lord and by making use of our human desires to subvert us and to turn us against God, by disobeying His commandments, and by selfishly giving in to our desires. Satan had many weapons, and his greatest one is our pride, our greed and our insatiable desire to fulfil ourselves and our wants.

In the Gospel, as we heard about Jesus being tempted three times, we are heeded to take note of our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities, which Satan and his agents can easily take advantage of, in their attempt to destroy us and bring us into the eternal darkness with them. First of all, is the temptation of our stomach, the needs and wants of our body, our flesh, the temptation of food and greed.

We all know that all living things require food in order to continue living and to survive, and without food we will eventually die of starvation and hunger. But we should also be aware of the distinction and the growing gap between the rich and the poor in our world today. All of us are indeed aware, and we should have indeed heard about how many of the poor people in places and parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in the developed countries and regions, who had not enough food even to sustain themselves, less still for their children and for their families.

And yet, we also know that there are many excesses that people in our time today had committed, squandering much money and wealth in pursuit of good food and good lifestyle, a lifestyle of hedonism and excess, where a lot of waste and a lot of injustice are being done to those who have little or even none for themselves, even to keep themselves alive. And yet, there are those who rejoice, revel at themselves and feast on top of the suffering of others.

This Lent, we are fasting because we ought to resist the temptation of our flesh. Our human needs and wants is such that, hunger and starvation can lead men to hurt or even kill one another, in order to get what we need and want. If we do not restrain ourselves, then surely we shall fall into the deep trap of sin that Satan has prepared for us. Thus, let us heed what Jesus said, that we do not live on bread or food alone, as these give us just what we need in this earthly life, but we should put our trust in the word of God, our true sustenance, for it is through the Word that we can find our way to salvation.

But we have to be careful, lest the devil used our lack of understanding of God’s words in order to deceive us and tempt us further. We saw how the devil was trying to use the verses from the Scriptures to tempt Jesus to show Himself to the people, by jumping off from the pinnacle of the Temple. Indeed, the verse meant that God will protect His people, and He will send His Angels to protect us from harm, but if we test God and try to see if He really will protect us, that means we have no faith in Him.

And the second temptation was also the temptation of pride, for we mankind are all inherently vulnerable to this trait, the pride and haughtiness in each and everyone of us. We see in many people, the desire to be recognised and to be praised, so that someone will praise us and recognise us for what we have done. But at times, we can be so desperate or our desire for such things may be so great, in the end, we lose sight and focus on what we ought to do, and again, we bring harm to others.

We see how people fight and jostle with one another, either with cunning, or trickery, with words of mouth, or even through physical violence, just so that they can have an edge over another people, and gain what they desire, that is power, honour, glory, fame and many others. And this is what the devil tried to tempt Jesu with, in his third attempt, as he brought Him to the highest mountain, offering all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus would only worship him as lord.

But Jesus was not swayed, and He was not tempted. He knew that power, human praise, fame and glory, all forms of other temptations in the world were superficial and illusory in nature. They do not give lasting satisfaction and happiness, which can only be truly found in God alone. Power in particular is very dangerous, as the saying goes, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This means that if we allow ourselves to be tempted, and to seek more things for ourselves, in power and all the goods the world is offering us, then we will only get ourselves dragged deeper and deeper into the darkness, and we will never be satisfied ourselves. We should already know that, it is our tendency that once we have something that we desire, we tend to desire even more.

And this is why we abstain, and do penitential works, during this season of Lent. It was not just a mere obligation or something we have to do as part of our observation of the laws of the Church and the faith. If we look at it as that, then our focus is wrong, and what we have done will avail little at helping us to strive for God’s salvation.

Instead, we have to do what we must do in this period of Lent with proper understanding and with good faith, so that whatever we do, we do it because of our love for the Lord, and the deep and burning desire in our hearts to be cleansed of our sins and wickedness, and the desire to reject Satan and all of his lies, and be freed from our enslavement to our pride, to our greed and all forms of the temptations of the flesh and the heart.

Let us all follow our Lord Jesus’ examples, resisting the devil and all of his temptations, and through our actions during this time of Lent, let us all grow stronger in faith, and spiritually, so that we will grow more capable of resisting the advances of evil and all of its forces in the time to come. Let us all love one another, giving alms and helping those who are less fortunate than us during this time, sharing whatever goods, food or care that we have, so that all of us will be able to live comfortably and harmoniously in this world.

May Almighty God bless us and forgive us our sins, and may this season of Lent be a fruitful one in the salvation of our souls. Amen.

Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 4 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus was then full of Holy Spirit. As He returned from the Jordan, the Spirit led Him into the desert where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. He did not eat anything during that time, and at the end He was hungry. The devil then said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “Scripture says : People cannot live on bread alone.”

Then the devil took Him up to a high place, and showed Him in a flash all the nations of the world. And he said to Jesus, “I can give You power over all the nations, and their wealth will be Yours; for power and wealth have been delivered to me, and I give them to whom I wish. All this will be Yours, provided You worship me.” But Jesus replied, “Scripture says : You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone.”

Then the devil took Him up to Jerusalem, and set Him on the highest wall of the Temple; and he said, “If You are God’s Son, throw Yourself down from here, for it is written : God will order His Angels to take care of You; and again : They will hold You in their hands, lest You hurt Your foot on the stones.” But Jesus replied, “It is written : You shall not challenge the Lord your God.”

When the devil had exhausted every way of tempting Jesus, he left Him, to return another time.

Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 10 : 8-13

True righteousness coming from faith also says : The word of God is near you, on your lips and in your hearts. This is the message that we preach, and this is faith. You are saved if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart you believe that God raised Him from the dead.

By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips you are saved. For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.”