Saturday, 10 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture speaking to us about the importance for us to be humble in seeking for God’s forgiveness, as we listened to the Lord speaking in the first reading today through His prophet Hosea, calling us all to return to Him by way of repentance as God is ever forgiving, even though He also punishes us because of our sins and disobedience.

At that time, the prophet Hosea lived at a time of turmoil and chaos, when the people of God and the kingdom of Israel was beset by many enemies and tribulations. All those were caused by their refusal to obey the commandments of the Lord, as they chose to walk in their own path, worshipping pagan idols and gods, and committing all sorts of inappropriate and wicked behaviour before God.

As a result, they lost God’s grace and favour, and their enemies came upon them and subjugated them. They were humbled and disgraced, and they were even crushed and humiliated, by losing the Temple in which God’s presence and Covenant has been housed, when the Babylonians ransacked and destroyed Jerusalem, and when they and the Assyrians forced many of the people of God into exile in Assyria and Babylon.

Yet, God still loved His people and cared for them. After all, He created them because they loved them, or else He would not have created them in the first place. But we and our ancestors have allowed ourselves to be swayed by sin and disobedience, and because of those sins, we have been sundered and separated from God, and we have fallen off the path in our way towards justification in God.

But God did not give up on us. Instead, He provided us opportunities after opportunities, and raised up prophets and messengers, one after another, to remind His people to repent from their sins and be found righteous in Him. Unfortunately, as we heard in our Gospel passage, one important factor often stands in the path for us to achieve salvation and justification in God, and that factor is our pride, our ego.

The Lord Jesus related to His disciples the parable about a Pharisee in the Temple who prayed with pride, boasting about his good deeds and achievements, while looking down upon a tax collector, who on the contrary, showed great remorse and humility for his sins before God. Both of them were equally sinners before God, with their shortcomings and failures, however, only one of them readily admitted the sins committed, while the other one was blind to his own sins and faults.

The people living at the time of the prophet Hosea were also proud people, who refused to listen to the prophets who chided them and rebuked them for their sinfulness. They thought of themselves as superior, and that they could not have been wrong or mistaken in the path they have chosen. But that pride and ego, and their stubbornness led right to their downfall.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Lent, let us all realise that each and every one of us, have been a sinner, and are indeed filled with sin, be it small or great, be it of high significance or of less significance. And sin is a great and dangerous enemy, as it can corrupt our souls, our minds, our hearts, our bodies and indeed our entire beings. If we do not do anything to resist the temptation to sin and to turn away from our sins, I fear that we may end up falling into eternal damnation.

That is why it is important that we should follow the example of the tax collector, who recognised how terrible a sinner he was, and how he was in need of God’s healing grace and mercy. And because of his genuine repentance and desire to be forgiven, he was forgiven from his faults, and God reconciled him to Himself. Is that not what we want with ourselves too, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Therefore, let us all during this season of Lent, deepen our relationship with God, through an ever vibrant and living prayer life. Let us all devote more of our time, effort and attention, to show love, care and compassion for the poor, for the needy, for those who are unloved, and for our brothers and sisters, especially those who have hurt us and cause us pain and suffering. Let us forgive one another our faults and trespasses, that this Lenten season be a time of renewal and exceeding grace for us. May God be with us always. Amen.

Saturday, 10 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (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, 10 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

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, 10 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 6 : 1-6

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, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard today the very clear call from the prophet Hosea upon the people of God, for them to repent from their sins and to return to the faith of their forefathers. This is made in the context of the wickedness of the people who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, which had been ransacked and crushed by their enemies, because of their sins and wickedness, their refusal to obey the Lord and His laws.

The prophet Hosea promised the same promise that God has frequently told His people, that He would not abandon them to the darkness, but He would reconcile all of them to Himself, and therefore, they would once again be His people and receive again the fullness of His love and blessings. God loved all of them and did not wish to see them perish in the hands of their enemies or falling into the eternal damnation in hell.

That was the reason why, He gave them His laws and sent His prophets to their midst, so that they might seek repentance and to be forgiven from all their waywardness and from all the sins that they had committed. But the people continued to harden their hearts and refused to believe in Him or His prophets, and they continued to worship the pagan idols and did more wicked deeds, killing the prophets and messengers sent to their midst.

As a result, the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and all the people of God were scattered. Many of them were brought off to faraway lands in Assyria and Babylon as slaves and exiles, losing the lands promised to them and their ancestors. All of these were caused by their lack of faith and obedience, and because of those sins, that they refused to repent from, they have received the just punishment for their actions.

But again, God still loved all of His people, despite all of their sins, their stubbornness and constant refusal to obey His laws and commandments. He continued to send prophets after prophets, and messengers after messengers who spoke of God’s forgiveness and mercy which He would show to His people should they turn their hearts and minds back to Him and abandon their ways of sin.

And that was why He sent us His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and Redeemer. Through Christ, the Lord revealed the fullness of the truth about Himself and His love for us all. He revealed that all that He had done for His people, are all because of His enduring and everlasting love for them. He revealed to them that His Law is indeed about love, and first of all, love which is shown to Him, above all other things, and then love shown to others, to our brothers and sisters in our midst.

But at the time of Jesus, again the people hardened their hearts. At that time, they misunderstood the Law and misused it to serve their own selfish intentions. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law used the Law to advance their own careers and prestige in the society. Instead of bringing the people closer to God, they closer off the kingdom of God from the reach of man. They have been entrusted with the task to bring the people to love God more in their lives, but they have failed in that endeavour.

Thus the Lord Jesus wanted to remind us all Christians, all of us who love Him and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, that we have to obey His Law with understanding, that is by loving God and putting Him first and foremost in our lives, without anything else in the way or as distractions in our worship of God. Then, we must also love one another, our fellow brethren, by showing genuine care and concern, compassion and love for those who need them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us emulate the examples of St. Frances of Rome, holy woman and servant of God whose feast we celebrate today. St. Frances of Rome was a saint renowned for her charity and good works among God’s people as a lay associate of the Benedictines religious order. She was remembered for her prayerful life and devotion, and for her loving care towards her peers, opening her house as an emergency hospital for multitudes of people when a great plague struck her hometown.

Are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Frances of Rome? Are we able to love the Lord Our God and love one another with the same intensity as she had done and shown us? This is the challenge that we are all called to do in this season of Lent, to renew our faith and spiritual life, that each and every one of us will no longer live our lives according to our past sinfulness, but instead, will find a new existence filled with God’s love and grace.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us to live faithfully in accordance with His will. May God bless us all and our journey of faith this Lenten season. Amen.

Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (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, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (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.