Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this night we begin the solemn three days of great celebration and commemoration of the most important events in the history of the salvation of all mankind, collectively called the Easter Triduum. On this night we remember that Last Supper which the Lord Jesus had with His disciples, as He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is why today’s celebration is truly very significant, as it established one of the core tenets of our faith, believing that the Lord has given us His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the bread and wine turned into this Body and Blood of the Lord.

Today’s important celebration cannot be overlooked as we have the Lord Jesus, as the Eternal High Priest of all, offering His own Body and Blood, in the form of bread and wine He had at the Last Supper, the very first Sacrifice of the Mass, lifted up as offering to God the Father, and which is turned into the essence and substance of His own Body and Blood offered on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, where this Sacrifice is finally completed. The Lord Jesus Himself indicated this just before He was about to die with the words, ‘It is accomplished’.

On this day, we also remember the ‘Mandate’ from the Lord to His disciples, which is the reason why today is also known as Maundy Thursday, the word ‘Maundy’ originating from the Latin word ‘Mandatum’ which means ‘Mandate’ and commission that the Lord had given to His disciples, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. That we practice the custom of the washing of the feet during the Mass today came about from the action that the Lord Himself took, as He humbled Himself like a servant, even a slave, before His disciples and washed their feet.

This is something which only a slave would do to his master, and that was why St. Peter was so reluctant to accept that the Lord would do such a denigrating and humiliating thing before his own eyes. Yet, the Lord told him to obey, and to follow, as in the end, whatever He has done to them, they were to do to each other as well. What this means is that, just as the Master has loved His disciples that is all of us so much, that He was willing to do everything for us, then we too should love one another in a genuinely Christian way and show authentic love, care and compassion.

Through this institution of the Holy Eucharist today, the Lord has established the institution of priesthood as well, as He instituted and made His own disciples to be priests just like Him as the High Priest. To them, He has given the power and authority to celebrate and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as He has done, which is why He also commanded them to ‘Do this in the memory of Me’. Every time the Holy Mass is celebrated, it is not a new sacrifice being celebrated, but the same sacrifice which our Lord has offered on the Cross.

That is why we all truly believe that the bread and wine offered in the Mass has been completely transformed and changed in essence and substance to the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, although their appearance may still be that of bread and wine. We believe that by the hands of our priests, who have received the same power and authority passed onto them from the Apostles and their successors, our bishops, we have received the Lord Himself, Body and Blood, in the Eucharist.

Today therefore we are called to reflect on this great gift of God for us, that He has willingly shed His own Body and Blood that we who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ, may be united to Him, and share in His death on the Cross, and by dying to our past existence, we may then have a share too in His glorious Resurrection. If we do not receive Him worthily and with faith, then we will not have part in Him just as the Lord had said. We will remain separated and sundered from Him.

We should not treat the celebrations of today and the upcoming Good Friday and Easter Vigil separately, but instead as one unity, which is why they are celebrated together as the Easter Triduum. It is this supreme moment of our human history and existence that we celebrate that time when the Lord saved us all by His perfect, loving and willing sacrifice, emptying Himself of all things and taking up upon Himself all the punishments, burdens and sufferings for the redemption of our sins.

And as we enter into these most sacred moments in the entire liturgical year, let us all have this renewed faith in God, that particularly amidst our current difficult situation all around us, the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic among other things, all the economic downturn and instabilities, all the despair and darkness all around, we still have hope in the Lord. In God is the light that is ever present and ever trustworthy even in the most challenging moments of our lives, and we need to hold on to this faith.

Let us all spend these three days of the Easter Triduum deepening our faith and dedication to the Lord, making good use of the time to reflect on how fortunate all of us to have been beloved by God so much that He was willing to go through all the troubles and sufferings for our sake. Let us all also spend the time to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how we can live our lives in a more Christian and Christ-like way, in serving others and in loving our fellow brethren, like how the Lord Jesus Himself taught us and His disciples, in being humble and obedient at all times.

And let us also not forget our brothers and sisters who are now suffering, either because they are sick and dying from the pandemic and from other diseases and ailments, or because they are separated from their loved ones and families, particularly our frontline healthcare staffs and peoples involved in various efforts to restore normalcy in our communities. Let us all keep them in our prayers and do whatever we can do to help and support them.

Of course, lastly we must also continue to support our priests, our bishops, our Pope and the Church, that they will continue to be faithful and strong in their dedication to serve the flock of the Lord according to the Mandate that the Lord had passed on to His disciples. Let us pray for them, our shepherds that they may remain strong and courageous in leading us and serving us even through these very difficult times. Let us be united with them and the whole Church in our renewed faith and obedience to God from now onwards.

May the Lord help us and guide us through this Easter Triduum beginning today that we may benefit as much as possible from this time of reorientation of our focus in life towards God. May God strengthen us all in faith and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to Me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. Truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s Son. You have freed Me from My bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out My vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 12 : 1-8, 11-14

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons, and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat. That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all of the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt.”

“This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Chrism Mass which is the time when all the holy oils are blessed and made ready for the use in the diocese. On this day also all priests ordained to serve the Lord in sacred ordination renew their commitment to God and are called to remember the sacred vow and promise they have made before God and their bishops, to obey the laws of the Church and to be dedicated in their works and ministry of the Sacraments to the people of God.

The Lord has called those priests to serve Him, that those who responded to this call to the holy order of priesthood be endowed with the Holy Spirit of God, consecrated and made holy, set apart from others to be the ones to shepherd His people. The Lord has brought His light to the people He loved through these priests, as these are called to reflect His light and love, and bring them to the people who are still living in the darkness of this world.

And especially for this year, the significance of what we celebrate this morning at the Chrism Mass is even greater, in light of the current terrible pandemic that had engulfed most of the world and caused so many deaths and many more people who are sick because of this pandemic. It is not just because the holy oils are used for many good purposes, one of which, the Oil for the Sick or Oleum Infirmarum is used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, but also because many of our priests are also at the frontline tending to many of the people.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not just the doctors and nurses who are at the forefront of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic and other diseases. The priests and all the servants of God are also at the forefront of an even greater battle, the battle against despair and against falsehoods, against all sorts of wickedness that already exist in this world and more of others that have sprung up because of this current dire situation. We have seen how people suffer in despair, losing hope and acting irrationally because of all these, a lot of selfish and terrible attitudes shown all these past few weeks.

We have seen how people can be so nasty against each other, and we have seen how people are divided against each other. And all these are caused by the lack of faith in many, and our priests are still on the forefront of that spiritual battle, the battle of faith for those souls. It is not enough that we just save the person physically but also spiritually as well. Of course the current efforts done by the doctors, nurses and other healthcare warriors are extremely important, but we must not forget our spiritual healthcare warriors, that is our priests and all the ordained ministers of God.

We may have heard how priests in various places around the world tried their best to reach out to their flock through various means, some through online conferencing and meetings, some through online activities, or even arranging smaller scale activities. We heard of how priests travelled around the empty roads and streets, bringing the Blessed Sacrament on the monstrance, that people who are locked in their homes due to quarantine may still feel the presence of God in their midst and not lose hope.

And we may have heard also how many priests have even died because of the pandemic. Some of them died from the disease while they ministered to the people whom they cared for so much, those who were without hope and those who were sick and dying. That is the reality of the works and the lives of our priests, brothers and sisters in Christ. To follow the Lord as how our priests have been called to, is truly a great cross to be carried, in the footsteps of the Lord Himself. Many had indeed responded to this call, as we have just discussed.

It is important therefore that today we spend some time to pray for our brave and courageous priests, all those who have given their lives for the service of the Lord and His Church. Let us all pray that they may be given the strength, the courage and the energy to continue to serve the people of God despite all the challenges and difficulties that they may be facing. Let us always give them our support and encouragement, for they are indeed the pillars that support the Church and our Christian communities together in this difficult time.

We should give encouragement to our priests, as many of them are definitely stressed up with many concerns and works at the moment. Many of them had to make many sacrifices of time and energy to support us in turn during this difficult moment. They are using the same holy oils blessed today to bless many of our houses and hospitals, and more importantly to anoint the sick and the dying ones among us. They need our prayer and support, and we should be more united with them and the whole Church during this time of crisis.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore today at this celebration of the Chrism Mass implore the Lord to send His Holy Spirit to all of our priests to sanctify them and to strengthen them, that they may remain strong and resolute despite all the challenges that they may face. Let us all stay united with them in prayer, and work together to keep up hope despite all the darkness, fears and uncertainties. Let us also prepare ourselves wholeheartedly to prepare for the celebration of the Easter Triduum beginning tonight and be ready to celebrate the upcoming glory of Easter.

May the Lord also give us His strength and hope that we too may be strong and courageous like our brave and faithful priests, that we too may be bearers of hope and the light of God to encourage our fellow brethren in this time of great need. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 16-21

At that time, when Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 1 : 5-8

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has washed away our sins with His own Blood, making us a kingdom and priests for God His Father, to Him be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

See He comes with the clouds and everyone will see Him, even those who pierced Him; on His account all the nations of the earth will beat his breast. Yes. It will be so. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, He Who is, Who was and Who is to come : the Master of the universe.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 21-22, 25 and 27

I have found David my servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. He will call on Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 61 : 1-3a, 6a, 8b-9

The Spirit of the Lord YHVH is upon Me, because YHVH has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to the captives, freedom to those languishing in prison; to announce the year of YHVH’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God; to give comfort to all who grieve; (to comfort those who mourn in Zion) and give them a garland instead of ashes.

But you will be named priests of YHVH, you will be called ministers of our God. I will give them their due reward and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a race YHVH has blessed.