Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the need for us to be humble before God and seek His mercy and forgiveness, as we show genuine and utter regret for all of our sins and past wickedness. The Lord wants to forgive us our sins because of the great love that He has for each and every one of us. However, if we want to be forgiven then we have to truly repent from our sins and turn away from all the evils we have committed, and believing fully in the Lord once again.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through Hosea calling on them all to embrace His mercy and forgiveness. The Lord called on all of them, who had strayed away from His path and who had not obeyed His words and commandments to turn towards Him, that He might forgive them and bring them back into His graceful embrace and love.

At that time, the Israelites had erred and wandered off away from the Lord’s path and Law. They had been scattered all over the nations, and by the time of the ministry of the prophet Hosea, almost nothing left was of the northern kingdom of Israel, beaten, crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians. Many of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel were taken away to exile in far-off lands, and they suffered great humiliation for this.

And this is exactly where the Lord reminded His people that they should put their trust in Him and believe in His path. The Lord wants all of His people, us all included, to see that we have this assurance of forgiveness and mercy, and thus hope and strength through Him. We just need to recognise our own sins and shortcomings, and admit before the Lord that we had been wrong and mistaken in our past way of life.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples through a parable, depicting a tax collector and a Pharisee praying in the Temple of Jerusalem, in God’s Holy Presence. And the Lord reminded the people using the contrast between the attitudes of the Pharisee and the tax collector in their prayers before the Lord. We heard of how the Pharisee boasted about his faith, piety and achievements, while even looking down on the tax collector.

We heard how the tax collector was very regretful and repentant over his sins and actions. And regarding whether it was him or the Pharisee who had greater fault or sin, it did not matter, as God forgives those who seek Him with humility and the desire to be forgiven, no matter how great their sins might have been. By using the example of the Pharisee and the tax collector in His parable however, the Lord was pointing out the stark contrast between the two group of people mentioned, which was at that time filled with lots of prejudices and biases.

First of all, the Pharisees were always seen as being righteous and pious in their actions and behaviour, and the people always highly respected and regarded them in the community. On the other hand, the tax collectors were often hated and reviled as traitors and as those whose lives were corrupt and even evil. They were treated as such because they collected the much hated and despised taxes on behalf of the king and the Roman overlords, and some did get rich while doing that.

Showing this prejudice inside His parable, the Lord wanted to show all of us that the Lord calls on everyone to seek His forgiveness and mercy, and first of all we need to be humble and to realise the depth of our own sin, so that we may be forgiven from our sins. The tax collector was forgiven his sins precisely because he humbled himself before God and wanting to be forgiven for his sins, while the tax collector in his pride did not even show regret for his sins and sinned even more by slandering his own fellow man, when as the guide of the people, he should have extended the tax collector a helping hand rather than condemning him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence we are all reminded this Lent that we should turn away from our sinful ways, embrace the Lord’s forgiveness and love, and be more charitable and generous in loving one another, in showing care and concern for each other rather than comparing ourselves and trying to find out who is better than the other in faith and in life. Let us not allow pride, ego, ambition and vanity from distracting and preventing us from reaching out to the Lord and His salvation.

May the Lord awaken in us the spirit of humility and the spirit of repentance and genuine regret for our many sins. May He strengthen us all and give us the courage to move forward in life with a new commitment and a new dedication to live a more Christian living that we do not sin any more, and strive instead to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 18 : 9-14

At that time, Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others : “Two men went up to the Temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector.”

“The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all my income to the Temple.’ In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”

“I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 18-19, 20-21

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

Shower Zion with Your favour : rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then, You will delight in fitting sacrifices.

Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 5 : 15 – Hosea 6 : 6

For in their anguish they will earnestly seek Me.

“Come, let us return to YHVH. He Who shattered us to pieces, will heal us as well; He has struck us down, but He will bind up our wounds. Two days later He will bring us back to life; on the third day, He will raise us up, and we shall live in His presence.”

“Let us strive to know YHVH. His coming is as certain as the dawn; His judgment will burst forth like the light; He will come to us as showers come, like spring rain that waters the earth.”

“O Ephraim, what shall I do with you? O Judah, how shall I deal with you? This love of yours is like morning mist, like morning dew that quickly disappears. This is why I smote you through the prophets, and have slain you by the words of My mouth. For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice; it is knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.”

Friday, 12 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Lord, we are all reminded that the Lord loved us all very dearly and similarly He also wants us to love Him in the same way and to show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and fellow men whom we encounter in this life. This is our calling as Christians, to be those who are beloved by God, and who also show the same love of God to one another.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Hosea, detailing about God and the love that He had for all of His people, at the time when the northern kingdom of Israel where Hosea was ministering in was in its final days. At that time, the people of Israel had long been wayward and disobedient, refusing to obey the Lord and His ways, rejecting the many messengers and prophets that had been sent to them in order to remind them to follow the Lord.

As such, they suffered the consequences of their waywardness, their rebellion and refusal to listen to God. They were crushed and humbled, and as the prophet Hosea was famous for, their doom was pronounced. This would come true with the final defeat of the northern kingdom by the forces of the Assyrians who destroyed Samaria, its capital and occupied the whole land, depopulating the region and replacing the whole people to the far-off Assyria.

But with the message of doom also came the message of hope, as the Lord reaffirmed through Hosea, His love and commitment for His people. He called on all of them to repent from their sinful ways and to reject their past wickedness. If only that they would abandon those sins, He would gladly forgive them and embrace them once again when they came to Him with contrite heart. The Lord still loved His people even though they had betrayed Him, abandoned Him and refused to listen to Him, and that is just how much God’s love for us is.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard the Lord conversing with one of the teachers of the Law regarding the most important commandment in the Law. This conversation came about partly because of the great number and variety present in the Law, the many rules and regulations that govern the Jewish society at the time. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were those who often zealously guarded the strict observance and following of the laws of Moses, and as such, when the question was asked, that teacher of the Law might have the intention of testing the Lord to find out what His opinion was regarding the Law.

However, based on the answer given by the teacher of the Law, it might seem that he was just curious of what the Lord thought about the Law. And the Lord indeed summarised the whole Law very well and revealing to all that the Law is indeed all about showing the love of God to man, and how mankind can love God better in their actions and life, and then show the same love to their fellow brothers and sisters.

We cannot be true disciples and followers of the Lord unless we truly believe in this and fully immerse ourselves in God’s love. That is why, during this season of Lent, first of all, we are all called to repent from our sins and to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy, which He has shown us and reminded us through His prophet Hosea, in calling us all to turn back to Him and to be fully reconciled in Him once again.

And in order to do this, we need to do what the Lord has commanded us to do, through His Law and commandments. All these while, we have erred and fallen into sin, like those Israelites of the past and so many others who have rejected God and His generous offer of mercy and compassion, all because of our ego and pride, and these things became great obstacles in our path towards God.

That is why during this season and time of Lent, we need to become smaller in ourselves, in our ego and pride, in our selfish desires and in the desire to be greater and in our wishes to achieve our own personal needs, and instead, we seek to put God above all else, and make Him the centre and the reason for our very existence. And in doing that, we shall also love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow mankind.

May the Lord help us in our journey to rediscover ourselves and to realign ourselves to Him. Let us all make the conscious effort to turn wholeheartedly towards God, from now on, and may God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, and may we never again lose sight on our focus and hope in God. Amen.

Friday, 12 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent (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, 12 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent (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, 12 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent (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.

Thursday, 11 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent (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 called to turn back to God and to abandon our sinful ways, that we do not continue in our stubborn disregard of His laws and commandments and that we should not fall further and further into the temptations of our desires, on those wicked thoughts and the allures of worldly possessions.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, of the Lord reminding His people through Jeremiah, speaking to them regarding the need for repentance and to change their ways, highlighting how they had disobeyed Him and rejected His prophets and messengers for so many times. They had wandered off away from the path that God had set before them, preferring to follow the pagan idols and beliefs rather than to listen to the Lord.

In our Gospel passage then we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law regarding the matter of how Jesus healed the man who had been beset by evil spirits. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused the Lord of having colluded with the demon lord Beelzebub, which was truly a serious accusation. The Lord then rebuked those who accused Him by pointing out the folly of their accusation and argument.

If the devil and his fellow evil spirits and demons were divided among themselves, among each other, then that would have led to civil war and destruction. If one thing was certain, it is that the devil and his fellow rebel spirits, the evil forces were all united in their desire to destroy us and to bring about our downfall. Instead of the false accusation the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law brought against Him, and the unfounded accusation that He had been colluding with Beelzebub, the Lord revealed that it was by the power of God that He had done everything He did.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to see reason and many of them continued to resist Him and tried their best to make His ministry and work difficult, questioning and doubting Him throughout the way, all were because of their own worldly desires and ambitions. They saw the Lord and His teachings as threat to their own influence, prestige and power within the community. That is why they did not want Him to be successful and tried all they could to undermine Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called not to be swayed by worldly temptations, by our desires or by any other things that can become great obstacles in the way of us reaching the Lord. We are reminded by what we have heard in today’s readings that we must stay united with God, open our hearts and minds to listen to Him and His truth. Let us not be blinded by our desires and pride like what happened to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law at that time.

As the Lord mentioned, those who were not with Him, were against Him, and if we allow this division to exist among us Christians, then we will cause ruin to happen to us and the Church. We must stand united together against the assaults of the devil and all those who sought our downfall and destruction. As I mentioned earlier, completely contrary to what the Pharisees said, and according to what the Lord said, the devil and all the demon lords and princes are no less united in their efforts to crush us, and to snatch us away from God and His salvation.

That is why during this season of Lent all of us are called to reject all sorts of wickedness and evils, and embrace once again God’s ways and obey His laws and love Him with a renewed spirit and joy. Are we willing and able to commit to this path shown to us by the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all turn towards the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him, obeying Him and His laws from now on. Let us all sin no more and be exemplary in our way of life so that we can be inspiration for one another in how we ought to live up to our faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us so that we may remain firm in our conviction to serve Him and follow Him despite all the trials and challenges, all the temptations and obstacles we may encounter in our path. May God bless us all and our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 11 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 14-23

At that time, one day Jesus was driving out a demon, which was mute. When the demon had been driven out, the mute person could speak, and the people were amazed. Yet some of them said, “He drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God, has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters.”