Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded of the need for us to return to the Lord and to remember His love and mercy, particularly during this blessed penitential time and season of Lent, when we prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Holy Week and Easter. We are all called to remember our responsibility and obligations as Christians, to be exemplary in our way of life and to obey the Law and commandments of God in all things. We are reminded to love God and our neighbours above all else, and even perhaps more than how we love ourselves. Definitely we should not allow our own selfishness and self-love to end up causing us to forget about our duties and responsibilities as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own.

In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord made to His people through His prophet Hosea, calling on them to repent from their wicked and sinful ways, embracing His love and mercy, and returning to His loving grace and compassion. The prophet Hosea back then lived and ministered to the people of God during the final decades and years of the northern kingdom of Israel, which were made of much of the ten of the twelve tribes of the Israelites that broke off from the rule of the House of David. That northern kingdom had spent most of its history and time in rebellion and disobedience against God, as their kings did not obey God and His Law, refusing to follow His commandments and words, and as such led the people down the path of sin and evil. They had been misled by their own wicked desires and the inability to resist the temptations of the world.

That was why the Lord was angry at those people who had repeatedly rejected His kindness and love, hardened their hearts and minds and refused to listen to Him. Not only that, but they also even persecuted those prophets and messengers that God had sent into their midst to help and guide them down the right path. They had no regard for God and His truth, and preferred to live their lives in their own terms and ways. That led them further and further into the path of sin, and into their downfall. They were punished for their delinquence and stubbornness, and their enemies fell upon them one after another, as God pronounced His judgment over them, telling them how they would be scattered and having their homeland and kingdom destroyed by their own actions. But then, the Lord also told them that in the end, despite all that, God still loved them and cared for them.

God did not want them all to end up being cast out into the utter darkness and destruction, as after all, He loves each and every single one of us, without exception, even to the worst of sinners among us. However, what He truly despises is our many sins and wickedness, and our refusal to listen to His words and reminders, our stubbornness and arrogance among other things. Those are the things that have often led many among us to continue to walk down the path of rebellion and evil, and hence, He calls on every one of us through what we have heard from the prophet Hosea, to turn away from all sorts of wickedness and evils, all the things that can often lead us down the path of sin and destruction. He wants us all to remember His Law and commandments, which He has presented before us so that they may become our guide and help in our journey towards His salvation and grace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the conversation between a teacher of the Law and the Lord Jesus in which the former asked the Lord what among the commandments of God is the most important commandment in the Law of God. Whether the intention was to test the Lord or out of pure curiosity is open to interpretation, but essentially, the Lord told the teacher of the Law that the whole entire Law of God, its commandments and precepts, all of them can be summarised completely into two main Law, that is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and with all of our might, and to love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, in the same manner as well. The whole entire Ten Commandments indeed describe these two Law perfectly, and also the many other commandments and precepts of God’s Law, as revealed through Moses and the prophets.

Unfortunately, as time went on, the knowledge and understanding of the Law of God, its true intention and purpose had become warped and altered, as the Law of God no longer became the means by which the people of God came to be closer to Him, and instead, the people became focused more on how the Law was to be practiced and enforced, the rituals and the practices, the details and the intricacies of those rites became paramount and more important than the meaning and the intention of the Law. This was why so many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were criticised by the Lord for their irrational and particularly strict interpretation of the Law, which was also warped by the many additions and alterations done throughout the centuries which did not always remain faithful to the original intent and purpose of the Law as God taught and revealed it to His people.

The Law was meant to teach the people to remember God first and foremost in their lives, and to place Him as the main centre of attention and focus of their lives. It is a reminder that first of all, God loves us all, and He wants us all to be with Him, and to be with Him, Who is full of love, we too must be filled with the same kind of love, love that is unconditional and selfless, which brings us to love God Himself first, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, just as the Lord wanted us to do in our lives. Unfortunately, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees made the Law to be such an oppressive and rigid set of rules, that it even drove people away from the path of the Lord, as many found it hard to follow such a way, and many others still were even openly discriminated against by those same people whom the Lord had entrusted with the care of His Law, commandments, precepts and teachings.

That was why the Lord came into our midst to reveal before us the true intention of His actions, His Law and commandments, and remind us yet again of His desire to be reconciled with each and every one of us. As mentioned earlier, that while we may have indeed greatly sinned against God, but God wants us to seek Him and to be reconciled with Him, to be forgiven from our many faults and sins. He wants us to learn again how to love Him and how to love one another, distancing ourselves from the kind of selfishness and pride, the greed and jealousy, lust and all the attachments we had to worldly desires and things which often became great obstacles in our path towards Him and His salvation. That is why today we should remind ourselves that we should get rid from our midst all those things that kept us away from God, and follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and a great saint, whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Patrick was a well-known missionary of the faith, who was born in the area of Britain in the fifth century, and it was told that he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates in his youth, before he managed to flee and eventually made his way back to his homeland, where he studied to become a missionary and a priest. He went to the mainland Europe and was then appointed as a priest and missionary, sent to the region of Ireland, and became the first bishop of the land, where there were still mainly pagan populations throughout the whole island. St. Patrick ministered faithfully and patiently to the people of Ireland, spending many years reaching out to them, to the kings, the nobles and the commoners alike, and managed to touch many hearts and many lives, convincing quite a lot of people to turn away from sins and their old idols, and became followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take the good examples of the life and the works of St. Patrick to inspire us in how we should live our own lives as Christians, loving God first and foremost, and dedicating ourselves to Him and His cause, and also loving one another in the same manner, remembering the patient love that both God and St. Patrick had shown to those who were beloved to them. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and grace that we may follow Him with great faith and commitment, from now on, and walk always ever in His path. May God continue to guide us and bless us in our journey of faith throughout this life. May God bless us always, in all of our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 80 : 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, I relieved your shoulder from burden; I freed your hands. You called in distress, and I saved you.

Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, My people, as I admonish you. If only you would listen, o Israel!

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I the Lord am your God, who led you forth from the land of Egypt.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Friday, 17 March 2023 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded that the Lord’s salvation has come into our midst in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate and born through His mother Mary to be the Saviour of the whole world. We are reminded today of the salvation that Christ has brought us through His suffering, His Passion, death and Resurrection.

In our first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people of the coming of the time and day of salvation, the moment when the Lord would bring all of them to freedom and happiness, and deliver them from their sufferings and troubles. At that time, the people of God had suffered from repeated invasions and also humiliations from their neighbours, and they were nowhere as great as they were as it was during the time of king David and king Solomon.

And just as the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians recently by the time of the prophet Isaiah, exiling its people to the far-off lands of Assyria and beyond, and the same Assyrians had also been coming up to the southern kingdom of Judah and besieging even Jerusalem itself. The people of Judah and their king Hezekiah were only saved because the Lord intervened on their behalf sent His Angel to destroy the whole Assyrian army.

Through Isaiah therefore, the Lord wanted to remind His people that He has not forgotten or forsaken them, and on the contrary, He remembered them well, and wanted them to be saved. But everything happens in God’s time and according to His will. This means that if the people think that the Lord had not been with them, then they were not patient enough and mistook the Lord as One Whom they could control and have at the back of their whims and desires.

The Lord sent His Saviour into this world through Christ, His own beloved and only begotten Son, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, that He may gather all of us into the embrace of the Lord, His heavenly Father, and by His sacrifice on the Cross, the Passion, suffering, death and the glorious Resurrection that we shall celebrate very soon during the Holy Week and Easter, He has saved us from the certainty of eternal destruction and death.

Yet, as we heard in our Gospel and as occurred throughout the Gospels, the people to whom the Lord had sent His Son refused to believe in Him and in His words, doubted and rejected Him even when they had seen all the wonders and miraculous deeds He had done, and even after hearing all the great and unsurpassed wisdom with which He had been teaching and preaching to them.

Thus, in our Gospel today, the Lord again reiterated that He, as the Son of God, is indeed the One sent by the Father to be the Saviour of all. And just as the prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Lord’s salvation and wonders, the Lord Jesus spoke of the same, and in fact, spoke everything all as how it has been accomplished in Him and through Him, for He is indeed the fulfilment of what the Lord had been promising us mankind through the prophets.

We are hence reminded once again that our salvation has come to us through Christ, and through His most loving sacrifice on the Cross, by which He has redeemed us from our sins, He has offered us freely the forgiveness of God for our many sins. Yet, it is we ourselves who have been so stubborn and hardened our hearts against Him, refusing to embrace His forgiveness and accept His mercy and compassion.

That is why, we are all called to seek the Lord and to open our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our hearts this Lent. During this time and season of Lent, we are constantly being reminded that we are in need of help from God, to trust in Him and to put our faith and commitment to Him. And today, we happen to be celebrating the feast day of a great saint who can be our role model and inspiration as well.

St. Patrick, the renowned saint of Ireland, the one who evangelised the people of Ireland over a thousand years ago, was remembered for his missionary zeal, faith in the Lord, and especially his dedication to those who had been entrusted to him, those people to whom he had been sent to as a missionary. St. Patrick was captured at an early age by Irish pirates and was taken as a slave, until he managed to escape and return to his family. But this not stop him or discourage him when sent as a missionary and priest later in his life, to the very place where he endured slavery.

On the contrary, St. Patrick dedicated his efforts and his whole life to teach the people in Ireland about Christ, the Lord and Saviour, when most of the people there had not yet known about Him, and were still pagans believing in the pagan gods and idols. St. Patrick patiently explained to them about the nature of God, the Holy Trinity and the main aspects of the Christian faith, and was also involved in the many interactions between the rulers and petty kings in Ireland at the time.

Through his tireless efforts, St. Patrick helped to build the foundation of the Church and the Christian faith in Ireland, and many became converts to the faith and were touched by the courage and commitment, the love that St. Patrick had for the Lord and for his fellow men, for the people of Ireland in particular, who were like the lost sheep gathered by the shepherd, who was St. Patrick himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, and be inspired by his faith and dedication to the Lord, his exemplary Christian faith and actions in life, his sincerity in reaching out to others and to his fellow men. This Lent, we are all called to purify our faith and to redirect our attention and focus back towards the Lord, so that we may remember that our lives are centred on Him and not on other worldly matters and desires.

Let us all turn towards the Lord, our most loving God and Father. Let us all seek Him with renewed love and dedication, opening our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our beings, allowing Him to transform us into the children of Light, the Light of Christ, the Light of our salvation. May God bless us all and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 5 : 17-30

At that time, Jesus replied to the Jews, “My Father goes on working and so do I.” And the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him, for Jesus not only broke the Sabbath observance, but also made Himself equal with God, calling God His own Father.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I assure you, the Son cannot do anything by Himself, but only what He sees the Father do. And whatever He does, the Son also does. The Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He does; and He will show Him even greater things than these, so that you will be amazed.”

“As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to whom He wills. In the same way the Father judges no one, for He has entrusted all judgment to the Son, and He wants all to honour the Son as they honour the Father. Whoever ignores the Son, ignores as well the Father Who sent Him.”

“Truly, I say to you, anyone who hears My word and believes Him Who sent Me, has eternal life; and there is no judgment for him, because he has passed from death to life. Truly, the hour is coming and has indeed come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and, on hearing it, will live. For the Father has life in Himself, and He has given to the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has empowered Him as well to carry out Judgment, for He is Son of Man.”

“Do not be surprised at this : the hour is coming when all those lying in tombs will hear My voice and come out; those who have done good shall rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. I can do nothing of Myself, and I need to hear Another One to judge; and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.”

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 144 : 8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18

Compassionate and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

The Lord is true to His promises and lets His mercy show in all He does. The Lord lifts up those who are falling and raises those who are beaten down.

Righteous is the Lord in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 49 : 8-15

This is what YHVH says : “At a favourable time I have answered you, on the day of salvation I have been your help; I have formed you and made you to be My covenant with the people. You will restore the land, and allot its abandoned farms. You will say to the captives : Come out; and to those in darkness : Show yourselves.”

“They will feed along the road; they will find pasture on barren hills. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the scorching wind or the sun beat upon them; for He Who has mercy on them will guide them and lead them to springs of water. I will turn all My mountains into roads and raise up My highways. See, they come from afar, some from the north and west, others from the land of Sinim.”

Sing, o heavens and rejoice, o earth; break forth into song, o mountains : for YHVH has comforted His people and taken pity on those who are afflicted. But Zion said : “YHVH has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Yet though she forget, I will never forget you.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us as we go deeper through the season of Lent, we are called to reflect on God’s forgiveness and mercy, His compassionate love and the wonderful providence and care that He has shown us all, His people, all throughout history. We heard from our first reading today, the prayer of Azariah, one of the three friends of Daniel, the prophet of God at the time of the Babylonian exile, and from the Gospel we heard the Lord’s parable of the unforgiving servant. Through these, God wants us to learn about forgiveness ourselves, that we may forgive our brothers and sisters, despite of the pain and troubles they may have done to us.

In our first reading today, Azariah and his companions prayed to God asking for His help and protection, at the time when the exiles of Israel in Babylon were suffering as they had lost their homeland and their Temple, shamed and suffering the consequences of their disobedience and refusal to obey the Lord. Their ancestors had rejected the many prophets and messengers that were sent in order to remind them to turn away from their sins and embrace once again God’s righteousness and justice.

When the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered all of his subjects to worship a great, golden statue made in the image of himself or to be executed, almost everyone obeyed out of fear for their lives except for the three young men of the exiled Israelites, the three friends, Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael. The three of them remained firm in their faith in God and refused to worship the golden idol which was a direct violation of their faith. They did not fear death and remained faithful as they knew that God would be with them no matter what might happen to them.

Azariah made his prayer to God, showing exactly that faith which he held firmly even when he and his two companions were thrown into a blazing furnace that was made much, much hotter on the orders of the king, who was very angry at the firm faith of the three young men. Azariah trusted in God and asked Him to remember His Covenant with His people, the descendants of His servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the love which He has shown to all of them. And by showing the remorse that all of the people had for their past sinfulness, Azariah hoped that God would spare His people and help them in their hour of need.

God saved the three men from harm, protected them and showed them that He has forgiven His people, as He later would help them and let them all go home to their ancestral lands. And that is what He expect of them all to do as well, to be merciful and forgiving just as He has been merciful and forgiving towards us. And this is reiterated very well in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord speaking to us on the parabloe of the unforgiving servant. In that parable, using the example of a servant who did not follow his master’s good example, God wants to teach us to be merciful and good towards others.

In that parable, the master represents the Lord, our God, Who is the Lord and Master over all of us. Those servants of the master represent all of us mankind, who indeed have been indebted to the master, as those debts represent our sins, with some of us having more and some of us having less, but all of us are sinners nonetheless. And everyone ought to suffer punishments because of those debts, but the master generously forgave the servant who begged to be given more time to pay off his debts. This actually showed just how loving and merciful our God has been to us, that even when we have sinned so greatly against Him, He will still forgive us and love us if we truly mean to repent from our sins.

God has always been kind to us, but it is usually we ourselves who have not appreciated this kindness, and we have often been mean towards our felllow brethren. That was shown in the Gospel parable, as the servant who had been forgiven his relatively immense debt, refused to forgive his fellow servant who had owed him a much smaller sum of debt. This represent how we mankind often ask to be forgiven our sins, but we forget to forgive our fellow brothers and sisters the debts we have made to one another.

We are therefore called to reflect and discern how we can be more loving and forgiving to one another, as we progress through this season of Lent, this time of renewal and rejuvenation of our faith. We are called to be more Christ-like in all of our actions, interactions with each other and deeds. That means, we should learn to forgive each others’ faults, remembering that all of us after all have been forgiven our sins and debts by God, even though they were much more serious than what we have owed one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should focus our attention on one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Patrick of Ireland, the famous patron saint of that island country and many people of Irish descent all around the world. St. Patrick, his faith, dedication and love for God can be a great source of inspiration for all of us in how we live our lives as Christians. For his courage and dedication as a great missionary in Ireland still inspire many of our modern day missionaries and also many among us Christians.

St. Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates at a young age, but he managed to escape slavery and returned to his family. After becoming a priest, his past bitter experiences in Ireland did not prevent him from returning to that same island to spread the Word of God and the message of the Gospels to the islanders who were then still mostly pagan. St. Patrick performed many wonderful miracles and also remembered for his precious teachings to the pagans, many of whom turned to the Christian faith because of him, and he was also appointed the first Bishop in Ireland.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to love the Lord and our fellow men like St. Patrick? He has definitely suffered at the hands of those Irish pirates who brought him to slavery for a good six years or so, and yet, his return to Ireland and his dedication to serve the people of that island showed that he must have forgiven all those who have wronged him earlier on in his life, and instead worked hard to convert them all to the faith in Christ, teaching them about the love, mercy and compassion of God.

Let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, in how we live our lives with faith from now on. Let us dedicate ourselves to serve God with all of our hearts and our might, and love Him and all of our fellow brothers and sisters with sincere love and compassion, showing mercy and forgiveness to those who wronged us, asking for forgiveness for our own shortcomings and faults, and showing care and love for those who need them. May God bless us all, and may St. Patrick, holy servant of God, intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Patrick, Bishop (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.”