Saturday, 21 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that for us to be reconciled with God, what we need is a lot of humility, openness and willingness to listen to God and to change ourselves, to rid ourselves off all pride and ego, of greed and all other things that have kept and prevented us from truly being able to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, as we heard in our Scripture passages today.

In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, again we are reminded of the great mercy of God, which we need to appreciate through our humility and willingness to accept His great love and mercy, by our self-denial and self-control, by our regrets and sincere repentance from all of our faults, mistakes, our selfishness, wickedness, all of our sins and evils. The prophet Hosea has called on us all to return to God with all of our hearts, that He assuredly will restore us and heal us.

At the same time, we are also reminded that the surety of judgment against all our sins is due, because as long as we have sins with us that are not repented and have not been forgiven, then we will be judged and condemned for those sins. We must realise that all kinds of sin are abominations and wicked before God, Who is all good and perfect, and there is nothing imperfect and corrupted like sin can exist in His presence. That is why so far we have been sundered from Him and separated from the fullness of His grace.

What is important is our attitude towards being forgiven by God and our willingness to accept His forgiveness, and all these depend on whether we are able to humble ourselves and recognise our sinfulness, as what we then see in our Gospel today of the comparison between the actions of the tax collector and the Pharisee in the parable told by the Lord Jesus to His disciples and the people to highlight this importance. For the Pharisee was filled with pride and hubris, while the tax collector was utterly sorrowful and humbled himself very deeply.

The Lord used that parable with the context of knowing how the two archetypes of people, Pharisees and tax collectors were viewed in the Jewish community. The Pharisees were very highly respected, honoured and even feared at times because of their great intellect, their great position and prestige in the community, their pious observance and enforcement of the laws of Moses and the other customs and traditions of the Jewish people according to the oral traditions handed down over the generations.

Meanwhile, the tax collectors were reviled and hated by much of the community, and were looked down upon especially by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law because they were considered as traitors to the Jewish people and nation for their nature of work, in collecting the taxes and other monetary demands from the Romans, who were the rulers and overlords of the Jews and much of the Mediterranean world at that time. They were seen as people who were corrupt and wicked, as great sinners together with others like prostitutes and criminals.

And using these common prejudices at the time, the Lord showed how things were not as what many people often thought of, as He showed that it was in fact the tax collector in the parable who humbled himself so much before God, fully aware of his sins and wicked ways that he was forgiven from his sins, as compared to the Pharisee who proudly boasted of his achievements and piety before God and even made a judgment and demeaning comparison between himself and the tax collector. The Pharisee in his pride and hubris did not get the forgiveness for his sins.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the attitude which we often show to our fellow brothers and sisters, both within the Church and to those who are outside of the Church. We often look down on those whom we do not approve of, and we often think that we are better and more worthy than them, that we are closer to God than they are, and that we are more righteous and less of a sinner than they are.

This is exactly what the Pharisee had done, and unless we recognise it, we are likely to end up behaving as the Pharisee has behaved, in allowing our pride and ego, our hubris and attitude to be a great obstacle in the way of our reconciliation with God and our salvation. Instead, we should all come to realise how each and every one of us are fellow sinners before God, and instead of focusing on how we compare with each other in our journey towards God, in our piety and righteousness, let us all be more charitable and be willing to help one another in our respective journeys.

Let us all humble ourselves, knowing that all of us are sinners, no matter whether our sins are large or small, serious or trivial, and instead of being proud and haughty, let us all allow God to enter to us and heal us from our sins through humility, recognising our brokenness and how each and every one of us are in need of God’s healing grace and mercy, and sincerely repent from all the sins which have separated us from God.

May God be with us always in our journey and may He give us the strength and courage to live our lives from now on with faith, dedication and desire to love Him and also to love our fellow brethren sincerely, that we may glorify His Name with our actions and deeds at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 21 March 2020 : 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, 21 March 2020 : 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, 21 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hosea 5 : 15b – 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, 20 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we draw ever closer to the most important time in the entire year, that is the celebration of the Passion of the Lord in the Holy Week and His Resurrection in Easter, all of us are called to embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, as He is truly merciful and kind, compassionate and loving. He wants us all to be reconciled to Him, but this requires us to make the effort to seek Him and to change ourselves to embrace His mercy.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, is that classic reading for this season of Lent, calling all of us God’s people to repentance and to seek forgiveness for our faults and sins. Through that passage we hear the strong reassurance from God through His prophet Hosea, of the Lord’s desire to be reconciled with us, of His kindness and willingness to welcome us back to His presence and to make us worthy once again of Him.

At that time, the prophet Hosea lived through the final years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which had been battered hard by their enemies and all those seeking to conquer them. And all of that were caused by their disobedience against God, generations after generations of following the false prophets and worshipping the false, pagan idols and refusing to follow the Law and the commandments of the Lord that their ancestors had once followed. But despite all of these things, God still loved His people as He revealed to them through Hosea.

Indeed, that is why love is a fundamental reason for our creation and our relationship with God, Who is always ever loving and filled with compassion towards each and every one of us. Without God’s love, there would have been no reason for Him to spare us all when we disobeyed Him, just as the Israelites of old disobeyed Him and chose to worship the pagan idols and commit all sorts of wicked actions and deeds throughout their lives. God could have easily willed them all to destruction and annihilation, but He did not do so because of His great love.

This ties in well with what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in the encounter between the Lord Jesus and a teacher of the Law who asked Him of what is the most important Law of all the commandments and Law God has given to His people, probably to test Him and see His answer. The Lord then answered that the most important Law and truly, the essence of the Law and the commandments can be summarised into two main commandments, that is first of all, to love God with all of our strength and might, and to show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters.

As we can see, love is the foundation of the Law and also the foundation of what we all need to do as God’s people, in being faithful to Him. Unless we have this love within us, sincere and genuine, no matter how many things we do, no matter what piety and pious actions we commit, all the commandments, rules and laws, all these will mean nothing because instead of bringing us closer to God and making us grow deeper and stronger in our love and devotion towards Him, we may end up like many among the Pharisees who were hypocrites in faith, seeking to advance their own personal agenda and desires in their observances of the Law.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to have this love for God and also for our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and fellow men, even strangers and also even those who hated us and had wronged us. This is the challenge that God is giving us this Lent, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the upcoming time of the Holy Week and Easter. Are we able and willing to show genuine, sincere and selfless love in our actions and interactions with our neighbours and all we encounter?

We are all challenged to spend more quality time with God, to love Him and to serve Him with ever greater devotion from now on, that we deepen our relationship with Him through prayer, through regular and meaningful participation at the Holy Mass, through our obedience to the laws and commandments He has entrusted to His Church, and which we ought to follow and obey with understanding and desire to purify ourselves of our sins and faults.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reject sin firmly and endeavour to turn ourselves to the love and mercy of God. Let us all devote more time and attention to be closer to God and to distance ourselves from the many temptations present all around us, being firm in our desire to be reconciled and saved by God’s grace and love. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in our faith, and continue to love us all throughout our lives. Amen.

Friday, 20 March 2020 : 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, 20 March 2020 : 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.