Saturday, 24 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures speaking to us about the promises God had made to His people at the time of the prophet Ezekiel, a prophet who spoke about God’s words during the time when Israel had fallen into a state of humiliation and great misery. God promised His people that He would no longer turn His gaze away from them, but He would take care of them again as He had before.

This happened in the context of the people of Israel at that time having been exiled from their homeland, and having their cities destroyed and conquered. And at that time, the kingdom of Judah was also destroyed, with all of the people carried off to Babylon far away from their homeland. It was a time of great humiliation and misery for the people, who had to endure exile and persecution as their ancestors had experienced before in Egypt.

But God would not forget His people, and instead, He gave them help and liberation through His servants, and called upon the king of Persia, Cyrus, to emancipate the Israelites and send them back to their homeland. The people of Israel would return to their homeland and reestablish their livelihood there. However, eventually they would once again fall into sin and disobedience against God.

And God once again sent His deliverance to His people, by sending unto them Jesus, His own beloved Son, to be their Saviour. Unfortunately, they did not appreciate what God had done for them, and in fact, they persecuted the Lord Jesus and His disciples just as their ancestors had refused to listen to the prophets and messengers that God had sent among His people in the days past.

They were even plotting against Him, the chief priests, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all those who had frequently been on the collision course against the Lord and His teachings. They made life very difficult to the Lord Jesus and His disciples to the point that, according to the Gospel passage today, He had to hide from all those who were after Him and wanted His death.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the reality is that, we also often act in the same manner, without regard for God and for His laws and commandments. We refused to listen to Him and we would rather follow the whim of our desires and our worldly concerns. As a result, we have fallen deeper and deeper into sin. But yet, the Lord has always given us opportunities, one after another, giving us help wherever and whenever we need them.

Are we grateful for all that we have been given and what we have been blessed with, by God Himself? And above all else, are we grateful for the ultimate gift which God has given us, that is eternal life, which is given to us by the loving sacrifice He performed on the cross? Whenever we look at the Christ crucified on the crucifix, do we realise just how much it is that God loves each and every one of us?

As we enter into the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the beginning of the Holy Week tomorrow, during the Palm Sunday, let us all deepen our understanding of God’s marvellous work among us, and how He has given us all His everything and every effort, that as we are going to hear the Passion Reading tomorrow, relating to us the moment when He laid down His life for us, that we may live, we may grow deeper in our relationship with Him and in our faith.

May the Lord be with us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, and may He continue to bless us with a good and living faith. May He empower us all to live faithfully, ever in His loving presence. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 24 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”

Saturday, 24 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 24 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be the king of them all.

They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them.

My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.

I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH Who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.

Friday, 23 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the coming of the Holy Week, the readings taken from the Scriptures increasingly took up a very peculiar tone, to highlight the gravity and the importance of the events that would take place soon in the liturgical calendar of the Church. In today’s passage from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the plotting which the wicked people of Judah plotted against the prophet Jeremiah, who came into their midst speaking God’s truth, and yet, he was rejected because of what he had told them.

The prophet Jeremiah had to endure much difficulty and opposition throughout his ministry among the people of Judah, and few believed in his message. They ridiculed him, made his life very difficult, and placed obstacles, one after another in his path. But the prophet Jeremiah, despite his occasional grumbling and complaints about his challenges and difficulties, he remained ultimately faithful to God and entrusted himself to Him.

God was with Jeremiah, and He guided him through those turbulent times, and despite all the challenges encountered by the prophet, he did not give up or stop his preaching and calling upon the people to turn away from their sinful ways. This is similar to what the Lord Jesus experienced, when He came into the world, bringing His truth and His salvation into our midst.

As we can see in the Gospel passage today, the Lord also encountered great opposition to His mission and work, because the people to whom He was sent, refused to believe in Him and they ridiculed and rejected Him just as their ancestors had done to the prophet Jeremiah. They refused to listen to Him, and hardened their hearts as they became angry at Jesus’ mention that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, sent into the world to correct all of mankind’s wrongs.

Instead of allowing God to enter into their hearts and listening to His offer of mercy and forgiveness, they resolutely continued down the path of their rebelliousness, and they were in fact the ones who would also reject the Lord before the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, when they were asked to choose between the Lord Jesus and the murderer Barabbas. They called out for His death and said in a loud voice, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the attitude that many of us have also either willingly or unwillingly taken in our lives. We have not allowed God to enter into our hearts and minds, and we close ourselves up from Him. We would not listen to Him and preferred to follow our own ways and thoughts instead. And that is why we have fallen into sin and became distant from God.

Today, let us all look upon the example of a particular saint, whose feast day we celebrate on this day, that is St. Turibius de Mogrovejo. He was a Spanish priest who was appointed to be the Archbishop of Lima in Peru, then part of Spanish America. He was remembered for his great piety and commitment to God, living honest and good life in accordance to God’s will.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo showed great concern for the poor, the sick and those who were oppressed in the society. He established many houses and schools to care for them and to provide for their needs. He also championed for the case of the slaves and all those who were often prejudiced against by the society. He was also committed to serve the needs of his flock, entrusted to him by God. He enforced a stricter standard amongst the clergy, which by then had fallen into corruption and scandal. He even excommunicated the members of the clergy who had corrupt dealings and persecuted the native peoples of the Americas.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo showed us all, how to live as true Christians, by doing God’s will and turning away from wickedness and sin. We must not allow our ego and pride to be in the way of our salvation in God, but instead, let us all be humble and be open to God’s mercy doing its work in our lives. Let us all make this our resolution from now on, that we no longer live to serve our own selfish desires and our ego, but instead, to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in this life, that we may progress in our journey of faith towards Him and find in Him the eternal life and the salvation that we are looking forward to, each and every day of our life. May all of us be reconciled with Him through our genuine repentance and turning away from our sins, and by embracing His ways, as His holy saint, St. Turibius de Mogrovejo had done. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, pray for us. Amen.

Friday, 23 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 10 : 31-42

At that time, the Jews then picked up stones to throw at Jesus; so He 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, 23 March 2018 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (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, devillish 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.