Thursday, 15 February 2018 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings first of all from the Book of Deuteronomy, in which we heard how Moses told the people of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt, the choices that they had, either that they choose to do what is good in accordance to God’s laws and ways, or whether they would rather choose to disobey Him and do things in contrary to His teachings.

What the readings mentioned was that, each of us mankind have been given the free will by God, to choose freely and consciously between God and His blessings, or the devil and his curses. We are given this choice in our own respective lives, and we must make a stand on which way we are to choose in our path forward. We cannot be lukewarm or be indecisive in this matter.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Jesus reiterated once again this choice that we have before us, as He plainly stated before His disciples, that He would be rejected, as the Son of Man condemned to suffer and to die on the cross. That means the disciples themselves would encounter the same rejection and persecution which their Lord and Master has once faced, should they continue to serve Him and to be faithful to Him.

The Lord mentioned that all those who followed Him must be ready to pick up their crosses, following the Lord and walking with Him with those crosses born upon their shoulders. What the Lord mentioned here does not mean that we are to literally shoulder the burden of the physical wooden cross which the Lord had carried all the way from Jerusalem to Calvary, and neither does it mean that we bear the crosses of our sins, as all of our sins have been taken up by the Lord Himself, Who died for us on the cross to redeem us from our sins.

He wanted us to realise that we must be ready to face the consequences should we choose to devote ourselves, our time and attention on the Lord. We cannot expect that becoming Christians and obeying God’s will then allow us to live our lives comfortably without any issues or problems. That is how some of us misunderstood the true essence of being Christians, that is to be ready to be counter-cultural and counter-norm, as the ways of Our Lord are not like those of the world, and what the world approves, may not be what is approved by the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, some of us worry that our crosses are burdens that are too difficult for us to bear, and that is why we tend to be lukewarm with our faith and refuse to stand up for our faith. But do you know that if we carry up our crosses faithfully, the Lord Himself will be with us and He will help us along the way throughout our journey? We are never alone, as God will always be with us.

The way forward for us is not going to be an easy one, and there will be moments when we may be seriously tempted to give up our journey and effort. The devil himself is always active trying to prevent us from finding our way to God, by alluring us to a different pathway, one that seems to be more promising, easier and less inconvenient for us. But we must not be short-sighted and focused only on what is present at the moment.

Ultimately, in God alone we can find true consolation and support. This is because if we choose the seemingly easier path shown to us by the devil, while we may have an easier time in our respective lives, but in the end, because we have not chosen Him, God will reject us and what awaits us will only be eternal damnation and suffering in hell. Rather than this, we should shoulder on and persevere in the path shown to us by the Lord, which may be filled with obstacles, but one in which we may hope because in the end of the day, God will always be faithful to the promises which He made with us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all carry our crosses in life, being ready to accept whatever challenges that the world may throw at us as faithful disciples and followers of the Lord. Let us welcome the Lord into our hearts, especially in this season of Lent, during which we are called to a deeper understanding of ourselves, by means of reflection, prayer, fasting and abstinence.

Let us allow the Lord to enter into our hearts that He may transform our whole being, that we will draw ever closer to His righteous and generous love. Let us be more loving and compassionate beginning from this time of Lent, a time for renewal and spiritual refocusing, for us to draw closer to God, carrying our crosses and journeying together with Him. Let us remember that He will not abandon us, but instead, He will continue to love us and show us His generous mercy.

May the Lord be our source of courage and strength, as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, growing stronger in faith and in love. May we draw ever closer to God, and deepening our faith in Him, may we live ever more attuned to the ways that He has shown us. Let us willingly come to the Lord, seeking for His forgiveness and be reconciled completely with Him in love. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 15 February 2018 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 9 : 22-25

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”

Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of Mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow Me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for My sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you destroy or damage yourself?”

Thursday, 15 February 2018 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 15 February 2018 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 30 : 15-20

See, I set before you on this day life and good, evil and death. I command you to love YHVH, your God and follow His ways. Observe His commandments, His norms and His laws, and you will live and increase, and YHVH will give you His blessing in the land you are going to possess.

But if your heart turns away and does not listen, if you are drawn away and bow before other gods to serve them, I declare on this day that you shall perish. You shall not last in the land you are going to occupy on the other side of the Jordan.

Let the heavens and the earth listen, that they may be witnesses against you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving YHVH, listening to His voice, and being one with Him. In this life for you and length of days in the land which YHVH swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Thursday, 2 March 2017 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures, firstly from the Book of Deuteronomy, about how Moses laid two choices before the people, either to obey the Lord and be righteous, or to disobey the Lord and turn away from the Lord. The choice was made very clearly, between following the Lord and its accompanying actions, with following the ways of the world and wickedness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue through the second day of the season of Lent, we are reminded that in order to follow the Lord, we have to be committed throughout, and we have to dedicate ourselves to His ways. We cannot and we should not be indecisive in this manner, as sooner or later, we will be forced to make a decision and choose between following the ways of God and with following the paths of the world.

We are reminded that Jesus Himself, our Lord, had been rejected by this world, and made to suffer rejection, ridicule, humiliation and eventually death on the cross, by all those who refused to believe in Him and refused to follow Him. Jesus Himself had to endure all the pains and sorrows, and He had to bear the heavy weight of that cross as He made His way from Jerusalem to the hill of Calvary, bearing all the multitudes of our sins and their consequences upon Himself.

This is where all of us Christians are told to share what He had endured and experienced, for just as the Lord had suffered rejection from the world, so we all will also be rejected by the world as well, because of our faith in Him. That is because what is acceptable to God and righteous in the sight of the Lord, is unacceptable for the world. And of course, what is acceptable to the world, is often against the ways of our Lord.

Why is that so? That is because the world had been marred and corrupted by sin, ever since sin entered the world through the sins of mankind. Man had disobeyed the Lord and went away from His ways, and became more and more separated from Him, and Satan became their master instead of their one and true Lord and Master, Who is God. Satan ruled over the world, because he had power over the hearts and minds of many people through sin.

And we know just how busy Satan was in his attempts to undermine the salvation of mankind, as he came to tempt Jesus in the desert in three occasions but without any success, and later on, he would persuade the hearts and minds of the Pharisees and the scribes and elders to rally against Jesus and oppose His works at almost all possible opportunities, before entering into the heart of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to His enemies.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in all of these, we have to understand that the reality of our faith is one that is always come into conflict and opposition with the forces of those who do not want to see us saved from the darkness, those who would rather keep us in our state of sin, chained and kept to the slavery under our sinfulness. But God Who loves us do not want to see us in this way, as He came to rescue us and redeem us from all that had brought us down, and through His own suffering and death, He wants to show us that by following Him, no matter how difficult it will be, that there is a way out of the darkness and into the light.

In this season of Lent, it is important for us to remember what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples, that all those who follow Him must take up their own crosses and follow Him. What does this mean, brothers and sisters? It does not mean that we literally and physically carry up wooden crosses just as Jesus had done. Instead, it rather means that we have to stand up for our faith and commit ourselves to what we believe at all times, even when opposition and challenges come upon us.

Are we able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to remain true to the Lord even amidst challenges and even persecutions? Let us keep in mind our suffering brethren in faith in many different parts of the world, all those who have to even worry about the safety of their very lives just to remain faithful to the Lord, and where to practice the faith may mean costing someone their freedom, their status in the society, as well as their rights.

Let us all spend some time during this season of Lent, to prepare ourselves wholly that we may grow ever closer to the Lord, so that we will not just treat this moment just as any other moments, but spend it well, by the means of abstinence that we practice during this season, abstaining from sin and from all acts that are against the Lord, and also by helping one another to persevere in our faith.

Let us pray for one another, and support each other, so that even though we have to bear the heavy crosses of our faith, and even when difficulties, challenges and even persecutions come our way, we will not give up and will be able to remain true to our faith, and therefore, be found righteous and worthy of the salvation found in our God alone. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 2 March 2017 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Luke 9 : 22-25

At that time, Jesus added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”

Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of Mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow Me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for My sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you destroy or damage yourself?”

Thursday, 2 March 2017 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.