Saturday, 26 March 2022 : 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, each and every one of us are reminded to be meek and humble, and seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness for our many sins, for all the faults and mistakes we have committed in life against God and against our fellow brothers and sisters. All of us have deserved punishment and even annihilation because of those sins that we have committed, and yet God still wants to forgive us our sins and be reconciled with us because He truly loves us very, very much.

In our first reading today, we listened to the words of the prophet Hosea reminding the people of God to turn away from their sins and to embrace once again God’s love and grace, to change their ways for the better and reject their old ways of sin and disobedience. The Lord has always been kind and patient with us, and He has always provided us in our time of need. He calls us all to return to Him so that we may find our way and be saved through Him. Yet it was often our pride, ego and hubris, our inability to resist the temptations to sin which became great obstacles in our journey back towards the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today, this was clearly highlighted by the Lord Himself in the parable which He used to bring across this fact to the people who were listening to Him. The Lord used the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector to highlight how our attitudes can be a very significant factor in either leading us towards or away from God’s grace and salvation. In that occasion, the Pharisee and the tax collector both were in the Temple praying before the Lord, but how they prayed reflect the differences in attitudes that were generally correct for that time.

The Pharisee prayed looking up to Heaven and praising himself and all his deeds before God and anyone who could hear him, saying all that he had done in accordance with the Law and everything that he was superior in as compared to the tax collector who was a great sinner in the eyes of the people and especially for the Pharisee himself. Meanwhile, the tax collector did not even dare to look up and abashing himself, he humbly sought forgiveness from God for his many sins, all the faults he had committed and perhaps all the unlawful and selfish profiteering and other misdeeds he had committed.

Contextually, we must understand that the Pharisees at that time were the group of educated and intellectual elite in the community who make up one major portion of the Council of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council. The Pharisees together with the scribes or the teachers of the Law were very particular and strict in their interpretation of the Law of God as revealed through Moses. They were unbending in their very rigid and literal understanding of the Law, and they would not allow anyone to challenge them in this manner.

Over the many centuries, through the long period of time, the Law went through many additions, modifications, changes, reinterpretations and many other things that made it excessive and even punitive and difficult for the people to follow and observe. And worst of it all was the way the Pharisees used the Law as means for them to gain more power and favour for themselves. They prayed aloud and made great show of their piety in public places like marketplaces.

That is why the Lord used this example to highlight how it was difficult for many of us to be forgiven and to seek God’s path and righteousness, as our pride and ego often makes us feeling self-righteous and self-justified, and failing to recognise our own sins and faults, as what happened to the Pharisee clearly showed us. The Pharisee was so focused on his self-righteousness, pride and hubris that he failed to realise that he himself was also a sinner. And in condemning the tax collector instead of reaching out to him, in his part in making it difficult and tough for many to follow the Law, he and the other Pharisees had committed sins before God and man alike.

And unlike the tax collector, because of his pride in not recognising such sins, the sin of the Pharisee remained, and as long as those sins remained unforgiven, then he shall be judged by those same sins, and if found wanting, may end up in eternal damnation, while the tax collector, the supposedly greater sinner, having been forgiven from his sins because of his honesty, humility and the desire to be reconciled with God, may end up in Heaven.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are therefore reminded that during this Lent, all of us are called to deepen our relationship with God and be more attuned with ourselves and we are all called to live our lives with greater fidelity to God, and to humble ourselves more before Him, as sinners all coming to seek His mercy and forgiveness, depending on His ever generous love and compassion. May the Lord be with us in our Lenten journey, and may He help us that we may draw ever closer to Him and find righteousness through following His path, and be fully reconciled with Him. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 26 March 2022 : 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, 26 March 2022 : 3rd Week of Lent (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, 26 March 2022 : 3rd Week of Lent (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, 25 March 2022 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, marking the moment when the Archangel Gabriel came to the little town of Nazareth before Mary, the one God had chosen to be the bearer of His Messiah, and revealed to her the Good News that all of us mankind had awaited for a very long time. The word Annunciation itself has the same meaning as the word ‘announce’ as the Good News was announced and revealed in this world at long last, that God’s salvation was finally at hand.

The Lord has promised His salvation to all of us from the very beginning of time. In our first reading today, when we heard the account from the Book of the prophet Isaiah regarding the sign from God which Isaiah prophesied would come despite the lack of faith from the king, as when Isaiah told king Ahaz of Judah to ask for a sign from God, he refused to do so, and the prophet chastised the king for his refusal as that refusal was made not so much so by humility but rather by his lack of faith and trust in the Lord. Ahaz was one of the kings of Judah who was considered to be one of the unfaithful and wicked kings, whose actions further misled the people away from God.

Isaiah mentioned how God would show His sign in due time to all the people, that a woman would bear a Child, and that woman is a Virgin, who bears the Child with a most peculiar name, that is Emmanuel, or God-is-with-us. That was in fact an early revelation of what God would do for His people, that He Himself would come upon us through the Virgin, the Woman whom He had in fact spoken about right from the beginning of time, when mankind first fell into sin. In the Book of Genesis, we heard of how Adam and Eve, our first ancestors sinned against God, and how they ate of the forbidden tree’s fruits, and Satan deceived Eve in order to do that.

God sent Adam and Eve to wander on earth, into this world to endure the sufferings as the just consequences of our sins. However, at the same time, He still reassured us all of His love, and while we have to suffer the consequences of those disobedience and wickedness we had committed, but He still loved us no matter what, and He proclaimed before Satan, Adam and Eve, that while Satan might strike at the children of man, implying how he would come to drag more and more of the children of man into sin and therefore into damnation, but through the Woman He spoke of, God reassured and promised us all of the deliverance that would come, and that Saviour would crush the head of Satan.

Thus, the words of the prophet Isaiah was in fact yet another reassurance from God of the truth behind all that He would do for the sake of His people. God would come Himself upon us, by willingly taking up on our human existence and flesh, becoming incarnate through Mary, His mother, that He became tangible and approachable to us, conceived by the Holy Spirit and then born into this world, the Saviour Who had been long awaited for by the whole world. He is Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God Most High and the Son of Man. Mary’s acceptance of her role in the bringing forth of God’s salvation into this world made all these possible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, Mary had listened to the words of the Archangel Gabriel, revealing to her how she was to become the Mother of the Son of God Most High, and her acceptance of the role that the Lord had entrusted to her, sealed her role in the history of our salvation. That is why the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is exactly nine months before Christmas, as it was at the very moment that Mary answered the Archangel Gabriel with total submission to the will of God, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said,’ that by the power of the Holy Spirit, Our Lord was conceived in the womb of Mary, the Virgin who was to bear a Child, the Saviour of the world.

Mary’s obedience to the Lord and her total commitment to Him marks her as the New Eve as opposed to the first and old Eve of the Book of Genesis. While the old Eve disobeyed the Lord and gave in to her desires and listened to the lies of Satan tempting her with the allures of wisdom and knowledge, Mary as the New Eve remained faithful to the Lord and committed herself to Him, despite all the challenges and trials she might have to face for the path that she was led into. As an unmarried woman, to have a Child outside the bond of marriage it was very risky for her as she could have been stoned to death for her supposed adultery, and naturally Mary must have some hesitation in her heart, knowing all that. But she trusted wholeheartedly in the Lord and gave herself to what the Lord entrusted her with.

Mary has indeed been specially prepared by the Lord as we all know, conceived immaculate as the Immaculate Conception, set aside to be the worthy vessel to bear the Lord, as she is not just the New Eve but also the Ark of the New Covenant, the Covenant to be made and established by Jesus, her Son, Who resided in her womb for nine months. However, although she was made immaculate and free from the taint of original sin, to prepare her for her role, this did not strip from her the free will to choose. She chose consciously to follow God, to obey Him and to listen to Him instead of following the path of the evil one.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ. Just as we heard from our second reading passage today, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of that Epistle spoke of the worthy offering offered to the Lord, and highlighted how the offerings of blood and animals of old cannot fully satisfy these offerings and requirements to the Lord. But the perfect and most worthy offering has then been made by none other than Christ Himself, the perfect offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, offered willingly and out of perfect and total obedience to the will of God, His heavenly Father.

In that way, Christ has become the New Adam much as His mother Mary is the New Eve. As the old Adam disobeyed the Lord and refused to follow His commands, and instead listened to the lies of Satan to satisfy his own desires and in seeking worldly achievements, thus Christ has rebuked and rejected Satan, showing us that we can break free from the power and domination of evil, from his lies and falsehoods, from all of his temptations and the pressures that he had placed on us in trying to mislead us and to distract us to fall into the path of sin. And not only that, but Christ also showed His perfect obedience to the will of His Father as a model for us all to follow.

Today, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, all of us are reminded of the assurances that God has given to us all these time, all that He had done for our sake and everything He has promised to us. If we are faithful to Him, we truly have nothing to fear. For He has shown us the path forward to eternal life, true happiness and joy with Him. Unfortunately, more often than not it is we who have faltered, stubbornly refusing to follow the Lord and all that He has shown us. The Lord has always patiently led us to Himself, and He wants us to know that all of us are beloved to Him, and He loves us all dearly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remind ourselves today not to succumb to the temptations to sin, but instead be inspired by Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, and Our Lord Himself, who as the New Eve and New Adam respectively have shown us all the path out of the darkness of sin and evil, into the light of righteousness and faith. They have shown us that sin and death do not have the final say or power over us, as long as we have faith in God, walk in His path and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

The question is, are we all willing to walk down this path that God has shown us? Are we willing to walk down the path with God Who has always been with us, reassured us again and again, and Who has come down into our midst, to live with us and to be Emmanuel, God Who is with us, tangible and approachable? He has shown us all His light, the path and hope amidst the darkness of this world. Are we all willing to follow Him? Or are we still stuck in living in the darkness of this world and in following the temptations and pressures to disobey Him and to sin?

On this great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord therefore, let us all reflect on these and discern carefully our path forward in life. Let us all follow the obedience showed by Mary, the Mother of God as she obeyed the will of God so perfectly, entrusting herself to the care of her Lord, and followed Him in all things. And let us all also follow the example of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in His faith and total obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. May all of us draw ever closer to God and may He strengthen us all to live ever more worthily in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 25 March 2022 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Friday, 25 March 2022 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Friday, 25 March 2022 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness; I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Friday, 25 March 2022 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Thursday, 24 March 2022 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the love of God and all that He had done for the sake of His beloved people, for all of us whom the Lord has always cared for since the beginning of time. The Lord will not abandon us His people, although we have often disappointed and angered Him with our various disobedience and lack of trust and faith in Him. We have often preferred to follow the false idols and guides in life, instead of entrusting ourselves wholeheartedly in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the Lord spoke to His people through Jeremiah, telling His prophet to remind and even rebuke the people for their disobedience and lack of faith. He reminded them all through Jeremiah how He had shown them the path to His righteousness and justice, and how He has presented them with His Law and commandments, all that He had done to guide them and help them find their way to Him, and yet, they still stubbornly refused to follow and disobeyed Him.

And not only that, but they have also persecuted the Lord’s prophets and messengers, refusing to listen to them and making their lives and works very difficult, much as what Jeremiah himself would also endure during his time working and ministering to the people of God in Judah. They would accuse Jeremiah of wrongdoing and even treason, for speaking the truth and the words of God, when the people preferred to listen instead to the false prophets who brought forth their false words and lies to tempt and misguide the people of God into the path of sin.

That was exactly what the Lord experienced as we heard in our Gospel passage today. In that occasion, we heard how the Lord Jesus was criticised and even wrongly accused of colluding and working with the prince of demons, Beelzebul, by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who opposed and had done a lot in resisting the Lord and His works among the people of God. Not only that they made it difficult for Him to perform His works, but they even made such false accusations and slander to discredit Him in the eyes of the people and to prevent Him from doing the good works of God.

That was where the Lord immediately rebuked those faithless and unreasonable people who had often pestered and made His works difficult, by pointing out how unreasonable and foolish their false accusations had been, by arguing that the Lord had colluded with the prince of demons in order to drive out evil spirits. He pointed out how the devil and all of his allies, namely all the evil spirits, demons and all the forces of evil and wickedness are all ought not to be divided against each other, or they would have destroyed each other and would not have been able to harm us.

Instead, on the contrary, the Lord wanted to point out that the devil and his allies were in fact strongly united in their common desire to see about our downfall and annihilation. They would do all they could and unite their efforts to bring us down and to drag us into the path of condemnation and destruction. It was in fact we mankind who are divided among ourselves by our allowance and complicity in allowing these wicked spirits and forces from dividing us and misleading us through their lies and efforts, much as what the people had done to the prophets and Jeremiah, and what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Lent, all of us are called through these readings of the Sacred Scriptures we have heard today to discern carefully our path in life and ask ourselves well, if we have done the same as those who had little faith in the Lord. Have we treated the Lord and His servants, all those whom He had called and chosen to be the ones to lay the path of righteousness before us, with contempt and opposition, or have we instead humbly and willingly listened to them speaking the words of truth in our hearts and minds?

Let us all consider our path carefully in this life going forward, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all not allow the devil and all of his forces of evil and wickedness from misleading us and tempting us away from God and His righteousness, from His salvation and grace. Let us all make the conscious effort to resist all of their lies and evil, and strive to do our best in following God and in living our lives to the best of our abilities in doing His will and obeying His Law and commandments, and being exemplary in all things we say and do in life. May God be with us all always and may He bless our works and efforts, that we may inspire many others to do the same as well. Amen.