Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the mercy, love and benevolence of God Who has heard the prayers and pleading of His people, beginning with the prayer of Azariah, and the other friends of Daniel, who have been put into a most difficult situation, and they prayed before the Lord asking for His mercy and love, and then in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking about the parable of the ungrateful servant which is related to this matter as well.

In our first reading today, as mentioned we heard of the moment when king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sentenced the three friends of Daniel to be burnt in a great fiery cauldron that was made even hotter because they adamantly refused to worship a great golden idol that the king had built in his own image. The king demanded all of his subjects to worship the golden idol or be punished to death. Everyone obeyed the king’s commands except for the three friends of Daniel.

The king was enraged when the three of them not only refused to obey the king’s commands but reiterated and reaffirmed their faith in the Lord publicly before the king and all those who were gathered. Thus, they were condemned to death and they should have perished in the great furnace that was prepared for them and others who dared to disobey the king. But Azariah, one of the three, together with the other two friends of Daniel prayed to the Lord, showing their commitment and faith, while also showing the repentance of the people of Israel.

Through this, they represented the people of God who at that time was in exile, having lost their homeland and their Temple, their kingdom and honour. They expressed their regrets and sincere mournfulness over all of their sins. They also expressed their dedication and love for the Lord, and that they hoped their example and courage in standing up for their faith would finally move the Lord to show His mercy and forgiveness to His people.

The Lord sent His Angel to safeguard the three men, and they all miraculously survived the flame unharmed, and all those who witnessed this miracle, including that of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, were astonished at what they had seen. Not only that the three men were unharmed, but they were released without injury and the king himself tore down the golden statue that he had built.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard of the parable of the ungrateful servant in which the Lord told His disciples about a servant who owed an immense amount of ten thousand pieces of gold to his master, who should have suffered the terrible consequence of his debt, having to lose his property and even loved ones. But the master took pity on the servant when the latter begged for mercy, and he was forgiven all of his debt, therefore becoming a person free from bondage and obligation of his debt.

Yet, as we heard, the servant was not grateful for what he had received, and instead he persecuted his own fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount of merely a hundred pieces of silver. Not only that the amount owed to him was a mere hundredth of what he used to owe the master, but as it was of silver rather than gold, this served to highlight just how much smaller that debt was in comparison to what the master had earlier on forgiven him.

That ungrateful servant was then on punished by the master for his lack of gratitude and for not forgiving his fellow servants when he himself had already been forgiven so much, and this parable together with our first reading today served to remind us all Christians that all of us are called to forgive much and to get rid of vengeance and all related things from our hearts and minds, just as we ourselves have been forgiven so much more by God.

We cannot be angry and be nasty to our fellow brothers and sisters, and we should not hold grudges and any sorts of negative feelings against our neighbours, just as the Lord Himself had willingly forgiven us from our sins when we come to Him seeking for forgiveness and mercy. This Lent, we are all challenged to be more forgiving and to be more filled with mercy and compassion in all of our actions and deeds, in everything that we say and do.

Today we can also be inspired by the examples shown by St. Frances of Rome, a mother of a family and a venerable woman who was remembered for her kindness, charity and compassion for others, especially for the poor and the less privileged. She also founded a community of Benedictine oblates who were committed to a holy life in the Lord but without professing solemn religious orders and vows. She was remembered for her care for the poor, and was generous in giving when there were others in need.

It was told that on one occasion, St. Frances’ giving so annoyed her father-in-law that he locked the supply room to prevent her from giving any more to the poor and the suffering. Yet, the same father-in-law returned the key to her when miraculously the supplies in the boxes were refilled just as St. Frances finished her prayers. And although she did encounter much difficulties during her own life, having to endure exile and devastations due to wars and plagues, St. Frances remained firm in her faith and in her charitable efforts, no matter what happened.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow the good examples set by St. Frances, and dedicate ourselves anew as Christians to be loving and more forgiving, to be more compassionate and committed in our faith and service to God, as well as to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us all turn towards the Lord with a new conviction and desire to love Him, and do our very best to glorify Him by our actions and deeds in life. May God bless us all and may He be our guide, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 18 : 21-35

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants.”

“Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.'”

“The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When the servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now his fellow servants saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : Do not abandon us forever, do not reject Your covenant for Your Name’s sake. Do not withdraw Your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, Your friend, of Isaac, Your servant, of Israel, Your holy one, to whom You promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea.

Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer You holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense. We have no place to present to You the first-fruits of our crops, and so obtain Your favour.

But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to You, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us Your favour for we know that those who trust in You shall never be disappointed.

And now, we serve You with our whole heart, we fear You and we seek Your face. Do not leave us in our humiliation, but treat us according to Your kindness and Your great mercy. Free us in keeping with Your wonders, and give us the glory of Your Name, Lord.

Monday, 9 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (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 Scriptures we are all reminded of the need for us all to forgive one another just as we ourselves have been forgiven by God for our mistakes and faults, that we imitate our heavenly Father in His mercy, compassion and love just as we always pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Daniel, the prayer which he made and addressed to God, seeking for His mercy and forgiveness for all the sins and faults committed by the people of Israel, pleading for His mercy and compassionate love. God has kept His Covenant and remained faithful to the promises He made to His people despite all that they have committed, the sins and wickedness they have done and their rejection of God.

Yet, because of their sins and disobedience, the Israelites have been scattered and humiliated by their enemies, defeated and sent into exile by first the Assyrians and then those in Judah by the Babylonians. Daniel was among those who have been sent into the exile in Babylon, enduring many trials and difficulties as a people brought low and humbled by God. But Daniel also kept faith in God and trusted in His providence and love for His people.

That is why in his prayer, Daniel sought God’s forgiveness for His people while also admitting the sins on behalf of the people, admitting their past shortcomings and all the wicked things they have done in opposition to God. Daniel presented to us this faith which we all must have in God’s ever enduring mercy and love for us. For if not for God’s ever enduring love and compassion, we would have been annihilated a long while ago because of our sins.

God has kindly extended to us His mercy and His willingness to forgive us from our many sins, provided that we are willing to accept His offer of mercy and be converted from our sinfulness to righteousness. God indeed does not despise us the sinners, but He does despise our sins and iniquities. That is why He has repeatedly tried to bring us out of the trap of sin, reminding us to change our ways and to repent from our wicked past that we may be reconciled with Him once again.

That is why it is very important for us to have humility in us and the willingness to admit that we have been wrong in our ways and that we need God’s healing and mercy. And we often need to practice that same mercy in our own lives as well so that we may appreciate what it means to be shown mercy and to be forgiven. This is why as long as we do not forgive others, keep hatred and jealousy, anger and vengeance in our hearts, we will find it hard to allow God’s forgiveness to enter into us.

Too often we are too proud in our hearts to admit our mistakes or that we have been wrong or faulty in our ways. We are too proud to admit that we are not as good as what we think we are or what we want others to think of us. This is the obstacle that we need to overcome especially in this good time and opportunity given to us in this season of Lent, to be more open to God’s loving compassion and mercy, and show that same mercy and love in our own interactions with one another.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Frances of Rome, a holy woman and saint of the Church whose life can be a source of inspiration for all of us on how we should live our own lives in a good Christian manner as we should. St. Frances was born a noble and was made to marry at an early age following her family’s wishes, ending up as a wife and the matron of her family. St. Frances however was also known for her great love and charitable acts for the poor and the needy in her community.

St. Frances turned a part of her large family estate into a hospital for the poor and the sick, and distributed much needed goods for those who have little or none to get by. Initially she encountered opposition from her in-law family, but it was told that the opposition vanished when miraculously, the storehouses were filled up through the prayers of St. Frances, after she had donated part of her goods to the poor and the needy.

She also inspired the foundation of the religious order, the Olivetan Oblates of Mary whose members carry on the charism and inspiring works of St. Frances who had given much of her life to serve the people of God despite her privileged background of nobility. St. Frances could have been like many of the other nobles of her time, living in excesses and acting with much pride and ego, looking down on the poor and the needy. St. Frances instead got rid of all that pride and ego, and reached out to her fellow men, loving them and caring for them, being patient with those who opposed her efforts and filled her life with prayer and piety.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our Christian faith through our lives just as St. Frances had lived it? Are we able to turn our lives into testimonies of our faith in God, and that our lives may indeed give glory to God? Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to God and make good use of this time and opportunity given to us that we may be able to open ourselves to God and allow His mercy to work in us and through us, that we may be truly reconciled to Him and be forgiven from our sins.

May the Lord continue to guide us and help us to journey towards Him in this season of Lent. May He bless us all and our good works, that we may touch even more people through our lives as we become more attuned to God with each and every passing moments of our lives. St. Frances of Rome, our inspiration and our role model in faith, pray for us all. Amen.

Monday, 9 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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, 9 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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, 9 March 2019 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that God is so full of love and mercy towards us, that He is willing to forgive us all our sins and to give us once again the wondrous graces and love, the promise of inheritance that we have once been entitled to, through the forgiveness of our sins. Although our sins may have indeed been very great, but God’s love for each one of us is even greater.

That is why He was willing to give it all to us, for our sake, that He willingly carried the heavy burden of the cross, so that by His suffering on the cross and by His death, He frees us all from the bondage of sin and death. The cross of Christ is the perfect symbol and evidence of His love for each one of us, of the great desire which Our Lord has for our salvation and for our turnaround from the path towards damnation, into reconciliation with Him.

God is calling on all of us to repent from our sins, and to turn away from our wicked paths, calling on us to abandon our past ways of disobedience and waywardness, our refusal to listen to Him and our stubbornness in following our own prideful and ambitious ways. God gives us opportunities, one after another, chances after chances, for us to turn back to Him, and to seek Him and His mercy before it is too late for us.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Lord Jesus confronted the Pharisees who criticised Him for His interactions with those whom they deemed to be sinners and to be unworthy of God’s grace and love. The tax collectors were among those who were at the bottom of the society’s regards and status, as they were widely viewed as betrayers and traitors to the nation for having apparently colluded with the Roman overlords.

But the Lord showed pity and mercy towards them, even when the Pharisees were criticising Him before the people for doing so. And the Lord made it clear that He came into the world seeking the healing and forgiveness of sinners, and those whose sins were greater, were those whom the Lord sought first, as He hoped to rescue them from the fate of eternal damnation. And many of the tax collectors were sorrowful and repentant of their sins, and they were forgiven.

And we heard how one among the tax collectors left everything behind and followed the Lord, the man who was known as Levi, later known as St. Matthew the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles and also one of the Four Evangelists. This example shows us how even great sinners can become great saints, as long as they turn away from their sinful ways and sincerely repented from their wickedness. Those who turn towards God and placed their trust in Him will indeed not be disappointed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must realise that none of us are perfect in our ways, and in some way or another, we have not been fully obedient and good, and therefore, sins have corrupted us and caused us to fall deeper and deeper into this trap, and being led further and further away in estrangement from the Lord. We should not follow the examples of the Pharisees, who took great pride in their supposed piety and righteousness.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because it does not matter how small or how great our sins are, as the fact remains that we are all sinners in need of healing and forgiveness. And it does not give any one of us the right to condemn or look down on others just because we think that our sins are lighter and smaller than others’ sins. It is not right for us to be judgmental on others just because we think that we are better than them.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Frances of Rome, a holy woman and religious Benedictine oblate who was remembered for her devotion and piety, despite her noble and privileged upbringing. St. Frances of Rome often took care of the sick and the poor that she encountered, and despite the various challenges that she and her family had to experience, she continued to live a holy life that is dedicated to the service of God, and in her charitable love for her brethren who were in need.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are called to follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, in how they lived their lives with holiness, turning away from sins and wickedness. God is calling each and every one of us to holiness, to be forgiven from our sins, that we may be redeemed from our bondage to that great obstacle which prevented us from being able to be reunited with our God.

Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord, our time, effort and attention, to love the Lord our God and to serve our fellow brethren, to care for those who are in need. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in our love and dedication for Him. May God bless us all and our good works. Amen.

Saturday, 9 March 2019 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (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.”