Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 14-20, 24-25, 28

King Nebuchadnezzar questioned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up? If you hear now the sound of horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you will not, you know the punishment : you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if He will not, we would like you to know, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace.

They walked in the midst of the flames, singing to God and praising the Lord. Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “You have indeed given a just sentence in bringing evil upon us and upon Jerusalem, the Holy City of our fathers. You have acted in accordance with truth and justice, as punishment for our sins.”

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of just how each and every one of us are sinful people in need of healing and forgiveness from God. The Lord has shown us the path going forward in life and if we are willing to follow Him, we will receive from Him the assurance of eternal glory and life through Christ, His Son, our Lord and Saviour.]

From our first reading today, we have heard of the rebellion of Israel against God, their lack of gratitude and appreciation for all that God had done for them, even though He had been so generous towards all of them. God has given His people food to eat, the manna He sent to them every morning except on the Sabbath day, as well as large birds to supplement these in the evenings, and gave them all plenty of clear and good quality water in the middle of the lifeless and desolate desert.

Yet the people refused to appreciate this wonderful grace of God, which He has lovingly and patiently extended to His people. The people had repeatedly grumbled and disobeyed the Lord, spurning His love and betraying Him for pagan idols of their neighbours. Despite all these, they still grumbled why God led them to such a desolate place although He had freed them all by mighty deeds out of their suffering in Egypt.

That was why the fruit of their disobedience is punishment, represented by the fiery serpents sent against them to remind them of the sins they have committed against God. The serpents bit many of them and many died, again a reminder that death is the result and consequence of sin. Unless we repent from those sins, as what the Israelites did, regretting their rebellion and disobedience, and begging Moses to intercede on their behalf, unless we do these, we too will perish from our sins.

And then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus reminding yet again how sin leads to death, and how He Himself is going to His own death as He has repeatedly mentioned to His disciples of His upcoming suffering and death. He mentioned of how He Himself would suffer and die, lifted up on the Cross high for all, in an obvious parallel to what had happened with Moses and the Israelites in our first reading today.

Moses was told to craft a bronze serpent and put it on a long pole that many people can see it from afar, and those who have been bitten by the serpents and saw the bronze serpent of Moses would not perish but live. In the same way, Christ is lifted up high on the Cross for everyone to see, to be the source of hope and the assurance of salvation for all of us sinners who have been bitten by the sting of sin.

God has loved us all so much that He was willing to endure all that suffering, pain and punishments for us. His crucifixion is the real proof of how much His love is for us and how precious we are all to Him. God’s love is so great that He even wants to forgive us all from our sins and our terrible rebellions against Him. Nonetheless, at the same time again, He also wants to remind us that all sins are dangerous to us, as sin will become our undoing if we continue to allow them to corrupt us and bring us down.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, every time from now on, as we look on the crucifix, on which Our Lord is hung, we are looking at the concrete evidence of God’s love for us, and also the hope and light that He has brought upon us as we still live in the darkness of this world. And now that we see just how much He has cared for us, are we willing to make that commitment to serve Him and to turn away from our sinful past?

Let us all make good use of the time and opportunity that God has granted us, to be reconciled to Him and to embrace His love once again. Let us all sin no more, and be not stubborn anymore in continuing to walk down the path of evil. Instead, let us all draw closer to God, and embrace fully His compassion and mercy, and become from now on, good and faithful Christians, devoted to God at all times.

May God bless us all, and may He strengthen us to serve Him and to follow His path with fervour and zeal. May God empower us all to live more faithfully and to be the bearers of His light in the darkness of this world that even more people may be saved through our faith, that more and more people will turn towards Christ and love Him as their Hope and Saviour. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 101 : 2-3, 16-18, 19-21

O Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me when I am in trouble. Turn Your ear to me; make haste to answer me when I call.

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory, when the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in all His splendour. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “The Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Numbers 21 : 4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Monday, 30 March 2020 : 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 words of the Scripture which spoke to us about the fate of two women, who had encountered troubles under two different circumstances. Yet, both of the occurrences had the similarity of them being examples of how God mercifully and lovingly cared for His people, protected those who put their faith in Him and sought Him for help. The Lord saved Susanna, a righteous woman from false accusation in our first reading today, while in the Gospel He saved the woman caught in the act of adultery.

In our first reading today, we heard how the innocent and faithful woman, Susanna, who was framed by her two prosecutors, two respected elders who lusted over her and wanted to commit sin with her. Susanna stood her ground and refused to submit to those men’s desires, and she almost lost her life to false accusation as the two elders abused their authority to falsely accuse Susanna of adultery and promiscuity while it was their own sins that led them to the attempted rape of Susanna.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Pharisees led a woman caught in the act of adultery to the Lord Jesus, condemning her to death by stoning in accordance to the Jewish customs and laws, and they attempted to use her as a test for Jesus, seeing His reaction and response hoping that He would be trapped by what He said or told them. If Jesus had condemned the woman, then the Pharisees could then say that Jesus was following the example of the Pharisee and therefore discredit His teaching authority. If Jesus said that the woman should be set free, the Pharisees then could condemn Jesus for siding with a sinner.

But the Lord has Wisdom none of those people had, which in the first reading today we heard how God’s Spirit and Wisdom descended upon Daniel, who rose up and defended Susanna, forcing the two elders to reopen the investigation when they had almost succeeded in silencing her by condemning her to death. Daniel trapped the two elders in their own words and false testimonies, and they were convicted by their own words.

In a similar manner, we heard how the Lord Jesus deftly manoeuvred around the Pharisees’ attempt to trap and corner Him using the adulterous woman, by asking those who had no sin to cast the first stone on the woman. This was a perfectly wise set of words to say in that occasion as it is a reality that every one has sinned before, and the longer that one has lived, the more sins naturally he or she had committed.

That is why the people gathered left, one by one, beginning with those who were the eldest, up to the youngest ones, and in the end, no one was left to condemn the woman. And here we have to take note that, the only one who is without sin at that place and time, was none other than Jesus Himself. And yet, did Jesus cast the first stone to the woman? He did not. He forgave the woman her sins, but told her not to sin again, and live righteously from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from today’s Scripture passages, clearly there are two important learning points that all of us should spend some time to reflect on. First of all, is the fact that God loves us all, and His love for us is even greater than the hatred He has on our sins. And for all those who have faith in Him and put their trust in Him, God will provide for them and protect them, just as what He had done to Susanna.

And then secondly, God wants us all to be reformed and to be cleansed from our sins, our wickedness, from all those things that brought about our downfall. As He told the adulterous woman, that she had been forgiven and yet, she must not sin again, it shows us that in the end, sin is something that we must distance ourselves from, and which we have to be vigilant against, as God is ever loving and forgiving towards us, but we must not take this for granted and continue to live in the state of sin.

Are we willing to turn once again towards God and seek His forgiveness and mercy for our sins? Are we able to make the commitment to change our ways of life and embrace once again the righteousness of God, rejecting all sorts of wickedness in life? This is what we have all been called to do in our lives, and especially in this season of Lent we are encouraged to spend our time with greater devotion to God, focusing our attention on Him and doing what we can to restrain our desires to sin.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to follow Him and to put our trust in Him from now on. May God bless us always and may He be with us all, throughout this journey of faith in life. Amen.

Monday, 30 March 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 1-11

At that time, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak He appeared in the Temple again. All the people came to Jesus, and He sat down and began to teach them. Then the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone.

“Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the Law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but You, what do You say?” They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against Him. Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. And as they continued to ask Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And He bent down again, writing on the ground.

As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and do not sin again.”