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.

Friday, 20 March 2020 : 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, 19 March 2020 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Church celebrates together the great Solemnity of the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Foster-Father of Our Lord Jesus, that is St. Joseph. On this day we rejoice in the memory of this great saint who had been made the Patron and Protector of the Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX in the mid-nineteenth century, invoking his intercession and protection for the Church just as he protected the Lord and His mother Mary as the Holy Family.

St. Joseph was a humble and simple carpenter in the small town of Nazareth, who married the young virgin Mary, and he was remembered as a righteous and God-fearing man, obedient to the Law and the commandments, and was upright in all of his dealings and actions. He acted with faith and justice, caring for others as shown in how he tried to preserve Mary’s life and dignity when he wanted to divorce her in secret because she was found to be with a Child before their marriage.

St. Joseph cared for her because had he let it be known to others of Mary’s condition, she would have been stoned to death by the prevailing Jewish laws and customs as she would have been considered as an adulterer and wicked woman. Her whole family would have also been shamed and disgraced. This was not what St. Joseph would have wanted as he certainly knew that Mary could not have cheated on him by her character, which shows us just how righteous and caring he was, not being selfish or egoistic, but putting the needs and concerns of others before that of his.

And it was St. Joseph who cared for Mary and the Lord Jesus, as they travelled while Jesus was still in His mother’s womb on the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a difficult journey for a heavily pregnant woman, and in securing an accommodation for them at the time when all the inns and accommodations in Bethlehem were full. St. Joseph also protected Mary and the Baby Jesus when they fled to Egypt away from the hands of king Herod who wanted to kill the Child.

It was likely also St. Joseph, as the Foster-Father of the Lord, who guided the Lord Jesus during His early years, caring for Him and teaching Him the necessary skills and ways to survive and do well in the world. It was even possible that the Lord Jesus was also taught on carpentry and other skills of the trade from St. Joseph, among others, which was why He indeed grew up so well in wisdom in the eyes of men, not only because He is indeed the Divine Son of God, but also likely because of the patience and the perseverance of St. Joseph together with Mary, His Mother.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate this great Solemnity of St. Joseph, all of us are called to look upon the great examples shown by this faithful, righteous and wonderful saint, whose life was truly an inspiration for all of us as Christians, in how he had lived his life, in the way he has acted towards others, in his commitment to the mission which God had entrusted to him as the head, caretaker and protector of the Holy Family, and as a role model in fatherhood and family for many of our own Christian families.

Today, we all live in a world where the virtues upheld by St. Joseph were no longer honoured and these virtues were often forgotten and ignored, as many were focused on attaining selfish desires and aims, the pursuits of personal satisfaction and glory, the emphasis on personal pride and ambition, that we enjoy and be happy even at the cost of hurting others. And we have also seen how many of us Christians are no longer obedient to God and not following His laws and commandments, and we also see divisions in the families and breaking down in meaningful and genuine Christian relationships.

This is why it is all the more important that today we direct our attention to look upon St. Joseph and invoke him as the Patron and Protector of the Church, that we may look upon his examples of faith and devotion, his upright life and virtues so that we may once again be faithful to God and commit ourselves to Him anew, by following the example and inspirations from St. Joseph, and see how we can be true Christians through our actions and sincerity in following God from now on.

As we celebrate this Solemnity of St. Joseph today, let us all spend some time to reflect on our lives especially in the midst of this season of Lent. As we still continue our busy lives and schedules, our daily activities and all, let us all remind ourselves to be faithful and to be good in our actions and deeds, so that inspired by the good examples of St. Joseph, we may indeed become more like him and be more righteous and devoted to God. In the end, we will then be more worthy of God and His salvation, through our changed life.

Let us all turn away from sin, and embrace God’s love more willingly, and strive to be obedient to the Law of God, to be more generous in love, to be more selfless and less selfish, to be less attached to the many tempting desires of this life. Let us all share our love and blessings with one another, be more welcoming to those who are unloved and rejected, be more forgiving on those who have hurt and caused us pain and troubles. Let us all be committed in our faith like that of St. Joseph, our great role model.

Let us ask for the intercession of St. Joseph, that he may pray for us and help to lead us in our way, so that we may be strengthened by God in our faith and in being more courageous to live our lives with greater fidelity, righteousness and love for God from now on. O St. Joseph, Holy Patron and Protector of the Church, our great role model and intercessor, pray for us all sinners, and show us the way forward in faith towards your Foster-Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, 19 March 2020 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 1 : 16, 18-21, 24a

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus Who is called the Christ – the Messiah.

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her.

While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ for He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do.

Alternative reading

Luke 2 : 41-51a

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them.