Wednesday, 5 April 2023 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we come ever closer to the beginning of the Easter Triduum and commemorating the most important events in the whole entire liturgical year, all of us are reminded yet again of everything that the Lord had done for each and every one of us, in all the things He had endured for our sake, the sufferings, trials and hardships that He had to face, all so that we can be saved and liberated from the tyranny and dominion of sin. He has reached out to us and touched us, offering His most generous love and mercy so that by His compassion, all of us may find the sure path and the guarantee of eternal glory with Him. God loves each one of us and He does not want to be lost from Him. This is why we commemorate this most holy and blessed of all weeks, remembering what God had done for us out of His enduring and most supreme love.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the continuation of the discourse on the suffering of the Holy Servant of God Whom He had sent into our midst, to bear the brunt of the punishments and the rejection that this One would have to face as He carried out dutifully in obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father. God has sent unto us His Son, incarnate in the flesh and born as the Son of Man, so that by His sufferings, His pains and hardships, and by the wounds and hurts, all of us have received healing and forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation with God, our loving Father and Creator. He has willingly done this because He truly loves each one of us so greatly, as our loving Shepherd, reaching out to us, His lost sheep, so that by laying down His life for us, He may raise us up to eternal life.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, which had been building up as we heard the past two days of Gospel passages from Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday. That is why this day is also known as Spy Wednesday, denoting and remembering the moment when Judas Iscariot, the traitor, went behind the back of the Lord and His disciples, to betray Him to the hands of the chief priests and all the other enemies of the Lord. He sold his own Lord and Master for a mere sum of thirty pieces of silver, which symbolically was also back then the typical price of a slave in the market. Blinded by his own greed and human desires and arrogance, Judas allowed Satan to enter into our hearts and to do what was truly abhorrent, betraying the very One Who has called Him to be His disciple and abandoning Him for the pursuit of worldly glory and temptations.

If we remember the background and the story of Judas Iscariot, such an action was truly not entirely unexpected at all, since we all have heard that Judas Iscariot had often been dishonest and whose way of thinking and beliefs were often at odds with the Lord. According to the Apostolic traditions and history, Judas Iscariot had often stolen and appropriated the common funds the Lord’s group for his own selfish use, enriching himself with the money and things that were not his own. He must indeed have been a smart and intelligent man, for having been entrusted with the group’s finances. Unfortunately, he allowed his desires for power, glory, material wealth and more to cloud his judgment and to tempt him, leading to him being misguided by Satan into committing a most great and heinous act of rebellion and sin against God, in abandoning and betraying Him for monetary gains.

Yet, as I have mentioned yesterday earlier on, it may indeed be very easy for us to point fingers at Judas Iscariot and heap all the blame and condemnation on him, for his heinous and wicked actions especially in betraying the Lord. However, the actions of Judas Iscariot should in fact be a reminder for us of our own lack of faith, vulnerabilities to sin, inability to resist the many temptations of the world, the challenges and hardships we often face in encountering various forms of temptations and persuasions, coercions and pressures from many quarters, trying to lead us down the path of disobedience and rebellion against the Lord, much as Judas Iscariot himself had done. Before we conveniently just blame Judas Iscariot for everything that happened back then, we have to realise that in our own daily living, we have often also done what Judas himself had done.

Every time we commit sins against the Lord, be it small or significant, trivial or substantial, we have in fact betrayed the Lord and abandoned Him for the sins and whatever it is that we prioritised instead of fully obeying God’s Law and commandments. That is why, the example of Judas Iscariot and everything that he had committed should be something for us to carefully reflect on as we live our lives in this world, so that we do not end up falling into the same temptations that had brought him down, and led him to commit such a terrible act. Not only that, but as we all know how Judas Iscariot then responded to his action, by killing himself in regret, instead of entrusting himself to God’s forgiveness and mercy, all of us are called to remember that each and every one of us have the capacity for repentance and reconciliation with God just as much as we have the capacity to sin against God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are about to enter very soon into the time of Easter Triduum, beginning tomorrow on Holy Thursday, let us all do whatever we can to reflect upon the things that the Lord has done to us, all the love, mercy and compassion that He has shown to all of us, so that although we are all sinners, wicked and evil in our words, actions and deeds, but through what He Himself had done for our sake, God had given us a certain path towards reconciliation with Him. That is why we should reflect on our often sinful and rebellious way of life so that we do not end up losing our way and committing the same things that Judas Iscariot had done. We are all called and reminded to focus our attention once again to the Lord, and remember everything that He had gone through for us, in His most loving embrace, and in reaching out to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour.

As we enter into the Easter or Paschal Triduum, let us all do whatever we can to centre our lives and focus our attention on the Lord, and grow ever stronger in our connection with Him. Let our every actions and observance of the many wondrous things happening during this Easter Triduum help us to grow ever closer to the Lord. May God bless us all and may He empower us to remain firmly ever more faithful to Him. May He help us to be ever more committed and courageous in all things, in being good role models and examples, as inspiration for each other in faith. May God bless our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 April 2023 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 26 : 14-25

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says : My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with My disciples in your house.'”

The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you : one of you will betray Me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who dips his bread with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scripture says He will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man : better for him not to have been born.” Judas, who was betraying Him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do You?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Wednesday, 5 April 2023 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 68 : 8-10, 21bcd-22, 31 and 33-34

Since I am held in contempt for Your sake, and shame has covered My face. I have become a stranger to My kindred, an alien to My mother’s sons. Zeal for Your house consumes Me as fire and those who insult You insult Me as well.

I looked for sympathy and there was none, for comforters and there was no one. They gave me poison for food and vinegar to drink.

I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving. Let the lowly witness this and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise those in captivity.

Wednesday, 5 April 2023 : Wednesday of Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 50 : 4-9a

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

He Who avenges Me is near. Who then will accuse Me? Let us confront each other. Who is now My accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord YHVH is my Help, who will condemn Me?

Tuesday, 4 April 2023 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and as we continue to progress through this blessed time of the Holy Week, all of us are reminded to continue to focus our attention on the Lord and appreciate everything that He had done for us, in how He has reached out to us with His love, patiently caring for each and every one of us, leading us to Himself and showing us His kindness and compassionate mercy in each and every moments. The Lord has done all these for us, for our salvation. If not for everything that He had done, we would have perished and been condemned to eternal damnation and destruction, but thanks to His generous intervention and love, God has rescued us and provided us with the assurance of new and everlasting life, a blessed existence with Him in His Holy Presence.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the continuation of the discourse in the past few days regarding the coming of the Saviour or Messiah of God. The Lord promised His people through His prophets and messengers, particularly through the prophet Isaiah, of the coming of His deliverance and salvation to all of His people. The Lord has not forgotten those whom He cared about, and would send to them His help through His Messiah, Who is in fact His own beloved Son, Incarnate in the flesh, Our Lord Jesus Christ. This same Messiah or Saviour would endure the worst beatings and sufferings on our behalf, the worst hardships and trials, all to give us the sure path to eternal life and liberation from our sins. Through His Son, the Lord led us to a new path by which He would bring us back to Him, guiding us as a most loving Shepherd.

He came to us, calling on us, His lost sheep, to follow Him and to embrace the fullness of His love, reminding us not to harden our hearts and minds any longer, and be willing to embrace Him wholeheartedly, His loving kindness and generous mercy. Then, He did all these by exposing Himself to all the wickedness of the world and all the trials that He had to bear as part of His journey. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the conversion between the Lord and His disciples during the time of the Last Supper, at which time He revealed what would happen to Him, how He would be betrayed by one of those who were closest to Him, and how He would also be abandoned and left behind by His other disciples and followers. It was there that the Lord highlighted to all those who were listening to Him, what He would have to go through in order to fulfil the will of His heavenly Father perfectly and completely.

Judas Iscariot had already plotted against the Lord, his own Master, by allowing the temptations of the devil to sway and mislead him down the path of wickedness, as he gave in to the temptations of his greed and attachments of worldly desires. He has often embezzled much funds from the common funds of the Lord and the disciples, taking advantage of his responsibility as the treasurer of the group. Judas Iscariot allowed himself to be swayed by the temptations of those money and worldly attachments, and thus, led him to walk the path that Satan had guided him, to approach the chief priests and to plot with them in betraying his own master, for a sum of thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He betrayed and abandoned the Lord for greed and desire of worldly glory, wealth and possessions, trading the assurance of eternal life and true joy for the temporary joy of the world.

It is easy then indeed for all of us to put all the blame on Judas Iscariot. It is convenient for us to point fingers at him and his wicked attitudes and deeds, but lest we forget, that everything which Judas Iscariot had done, are what we mankind had done again and again, throughout time and ages past. If we are to accuse Judas for his betrayal and wickedness, then we ought first look upon our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities to sin. If Judas Iscariot had betrayed and abandoned the Lord for money, material goods and other worldly things, is that not what we have often done ourselves, from time to time? How many of us have spent a lot of time, effort and attention on worldly pursuits, ambitions and all sorts of things that we desire in this world, ignoring and forgetting about the Lord, and doing all sorts of wicked and evil things, in our mad pursuit for those worldly matters?

That is why, instead of pointing fingers at Judas Iscariot and dumping all the blame on him, let us all make good use of what we have heard today from our Scripture passages to reflect on our own lives and on how we ourselves have often failed the Lord and betrayed Him for the many attractions and persuasions of this world. And as we enter more deeply into the mystery and immersing ourselves into our Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death and resurrection during this Holy Week, let us all therefore remember first of all God’s love for us made manifest to us in the person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who has shown us the genuine face of God’s Love, made tangible and real for us. Let us reflect on our fallen state and failures, our faults and wickedness which have prevented us from coming towards the Lord and attain full reconciliation with Him.

Let us all therefore take heed from the downfall of Judas Iscariot as a reminder for each and every one of us so that we may turn away from the path of worldliness and desire, unhealthy attachments and ambitions, which had led so many of our predecessors to their downfall. Instead, we should deepen our humility and learn to resist the temptations of pride, ego and desire, and guard ourselves well, lest the devil may strike at us and make us to be enslaved by sin. This Holy Week we are all reminded that God has done so much for us, to call us out from the darkness, and to bring us to the path of His love, truth and righteousness. But, what have we done to embrace God and His love? Have we spent the time and the opportunities given to us so that we may make good use of them in developing an ever better and stronger relationship with God?

May the Lord continue to guide us all and may He encourage us to live ever more worthily in His Presence. May He continue to show us the path forward, filled with His love and grace, and may He help us to persevere amidst this world full of darkness and many temptations and pressures all around us, that we may always be strong and courageous to resist those temptations and pressures, striving to lead a life truly holy and worthy of the Lord. May God bless us all in our every good works and efforts, and may He bless us especially during this upcoming Easter Triduum, that in whatever we do to immerse ourselves in all the celebrations and commemorations, we may continue to glorify Him by our every actions, words and deeds. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 April 2023 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 13 : 21-33, 36-38

At that time, after He said a discourse to His disciples after He washed their feet, Jesus was distressed in Spirit, and said plainly, “Truly, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples then looked at one another, wondering whom He meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining near Jesus; so Simon Peter signalled him to ask Jesus whom He meant.

And the disciple, who was reclining near Jesus, asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.” So Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And as Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

None of the others, reclining at the table, understood why Jesus said this to Judas. As Judas had the common purse, they may have thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or “Give something to the poor.” Judas left as soon as he had eaten the bread. It was night.

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while; you will look for Me, but as I already told the Jews, so now I tell you : where I am going you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but afterwards you will.” Peter said, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I am ready to give my life for You.”

“To give your life for Me?” Jesus asked Peter, “Truly I tell you, the cock will not crow, before you have denied Me three times.”

Tuesday, 4 April 2023 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15 and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge, a Stronghold to give me safety, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my Hope, my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day, little though it is what I can understand. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Tuesday, 4 April 2023 : Tuesday of Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 49 : 1-6

Listen to me, o islands, pay attention, peoples from distant lands. YHVH called me from my mother’s womb; He pronounced my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in His quiver.

He said to me, “You are Israel, my servant, through you I will be known.” “I have laboured in vain,” I thought, “and spent my strength for nothing.” Yet what is due me was in the hand of YHVH, and my reward was with my God. I am important in the sight of YHVH, and my God is my Strength.

And now YHVH has spoken, He Who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that you be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Monday, 3 April 2023 : Monday of Holy Week (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 brought ever deeper into the mysteries and the details of Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and trials, leading up to His death on the Cross which we are going to commemorate soon on Good Friday during the Easter Triduum. Hence, on this day, all of us are reminded yet again of everything that God had done for our sake, all the love that He has shown us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, in showing His kindness and love so wonderfully to us sinners who are in need of His help and healing. We are reminded that God loves each and every one of us, even no matter how great our sins have been. As long as we come to Him with contrite hearts and endeavour to turn away from our sinful path and way of life, there is a way for us to be reconciled with Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which we listened to the proclamation about a certain Chosen One Whom God had appointed to be the One to bear His salvation and deliverance to the nations. We have heard how the Lord revealed His truth to the nations, of His love and compassion towards them, that He has sent into our midst His Servant, the One Who would be crushed and persecuted for us, to suffer and even die for our sake. This is the same Messiah that the prophets and messengers of the Lord have been prophesying about and which they had promised and proclaimed for many ages. The Lord has willingly sent His salvation into our midst, in the form of His own Beloved Son, born into this world and taking up our own human existence such that by His coming into this world, He may reunite us with God, our loving Father and Creator.

That is what the Lord has done, by reaching out to us, coming down to dwell among us, so that all of us sinners may find our consolation and help through Him, as we are reminded yet again of His love and faithfulness to the Covenant that He has made and renewed again and again with us. God has never forgotten about His people and He has reached out to them, every time they had faltered and fallen into sin. He reminded them of His ever patient and most generous love, and called on them to reject the path of sin and disobedience. Through His Son, God made us all partakers of a New and Eternal Covenant sealed by the breaking of His own Most Precious Body and by the shedding and outpouring of His own Most Precious Blood, broken and poured out for us and our salvation, as the most worthy offering made on the Altar of the Cross, at Calvary.

In our Gospel passage today, taken from the Gospel of St. John, we heard of the curious moment when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, came to the Lord at a dinner, and anointed His feet with an expensive perfume made from pure spikenard, which cost quite a fortune back then. She poured the perfume on the Lord’s feet and with tears and her hair, she wiped the Lord’s feet with them. This was then criticised immediately by Judas Iscariot, the traitor among the Lord’s disciples. The writer of the Gospel, St. John the Apostle gave the explanation and the context that Judas Iscariot, being the one entrusted as the treasurer of the Lord’s group, had not been honest and upright in his actions, as he often stole from the common fund that had been assembled by the disciples, which should have been used to support their work and ministry. Judas Iscariot evidently loved money and continued to be dishonest in his actions.

When he criticised Mary, saying that the perfume should not have been wasted in such a manner and could have been sold for the proceeds to be given to the poor, as we heard, it was showing us the extent of how humanity has both the capacity to disobey and sin against God, as well as the capacity for repentance and forgiveness. In Judas Iscariot, we saw how man may easily succumb to the temptations of worldly desires and attachments, to wealth, glory, fame, human praise, pleasures of all sorts and many other things that often kept us away from the Lord and His grace. Judas Iscariot allowed his love and desire for money to delude him and to allow him to be tempted by the devil, allowing Satan to enter into his heart and persuade him to not only say such vile words against Mary, but also later on to betray the Lord for a sum of thirty pieces of silver, to the chief priests and the other enemies of the Lord.

On the contrary, we saw Mary’s humility and sincerity in loving the Lord, and in humbling herself such that she gave her best to glorify Him, by using her own hair, the crown of her beauty and worldly glory, to wipe His feet, the feet being usually associated as the dirtiest and most unfavourable part of the human body. Yet, Mary had no qualm at all of doing such an action before everyone assembled, shedding herself of all honour and glory in doing so, and using her best perfume in giving glory to God. As the Lord Himself mentioned, this was a prefigurement of His Passion, His suffering and death, and how she was anointing Him and preparing His Body for burial. But Mary also prefigured the Lord in a more subtle way, as her actions showed what the Lord Himself would do, first at the Last Supper, in humbling Himself to wash the feet of His disciples, and then later on, to humble Himself and empty Himself of all honour and glory, to suffer and die for us on the Cross, for our salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today, all of us are reminded first of all, of God’s ever enduring and patient love for us, which we should always keep in mind throughout this most solemn week commemorating our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death. It was for our sake that He has willingly suffered all of that, so that by everything that He had to go through, He might deliver us from our fate of destruction and death, and offer us the sure path to eternal life through Him. Then, we are also reminded of the need for us to listen to the Lord and His patient calling for us to embrace His love and mercy, as we are all called to be humble like Mary, the sister of Lazarus, in realising our sinfulness and unworthiness before God, and in obeying the will of God like the Lord Jesus Himself, Who obeyed the Father’s will so perfectly, for our salvation. Let us also distance ourselves from the dangers of pride and worldly temptations, that we do not fall into the same trap as Judas Iscariot had experienced.

May the Lord continue to help us in our journey of faith and life, especially throughout this season of Lent and this most solemn time of the Holy Week. May He continue to strengthen each and every one of us and help us to persevere through the many hardships, trials and challenges that we may have to face daily in life. May God bless each and every one of us and help us all to be ever more faithful and committed in our lives, in following Him at all times. Amen.

Monday, 3 April 2023 : Monday of Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 12 : 1-11

At that time, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where He had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for Him, and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus.

Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume, made from genuine spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Judas Iscariot – the disciple who was to betray Jesus – remarked, “This perfume could have been sold for three hundred silver coins, and the money given to the poor.” Judas, indeed, had no concern for the poor; he was a thief, and as he held the common purse, he used to help himself to the funds.

But Jesus spoke up, “Leave her alone. Was she not keeping it for the day of My burial? (The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have Me.)” Many Jews heard that Jesus was there and they came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead.

So the chief priests thought about killing Lazarus as well, for many of the Jews were drifting away because of him, and believing in Jesus.