Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us of the importance for us to be good and to do good in our respective lives, while we are still able to do so. God has given us a lot of opportunities for us, in order to make good use of the talents and graces given to us, in following what He has commanded us all to do, that is to love Him and one another wholeheartedly.

Yet, many of us have not done what we have been called to do, as we preferred to act in ways that enrich ourselves, benefitting our own lives and even causing others to suffer and ending up in pain, just because we want to preserve our own selfish gains and needs. As long as we put our trust in all these worldly riches, power, glory and all sorts of things that often tempted us, as the prophet Jeremiah had warned, we will find it difficult to be truly faithful to God.

In the Gospel passage today we then heard about the story that the Lord Jesus told to His disciples, on the experience of a rich man as contrasted with a poor man, Lazarus. Both of them lived a very contrasting and different kind of life, with the rich man enjoying all the kinds of pleasures and joys that the world could give, while Lazarus, the poor man, had to suffer from hunger and poverty.

Lazarus hoped that the rich man would share some of the food he had with him, even if that would be the scraps of bread that fell off from the rich man’s table. But even that was not available to him. In the end, both Lazarus and the rich man died, passing away from this world. But their fates could not have been more different, just as in life, they experienced very different kinds of life and treatment.

The rich man went down to hell, suffering for all the sins he had committed in life. The poor man, Lazarus, instead went up to heaven, to be with Abraham and enjoying all the good things that he had not been able to experience in life. And Abraham mentioned to the rich man when he called for help, that there was a chasm between them, between hell and the blessed heavens, that none of them could cross, and no help could be given to the rich man.

This is a reminder to each and every one of us, that unless we live our lives in a righteous and God-fearing manner, we will end up into the trap of sin, and sin will lead us to the eternal separation from the love and grace of God, that is hell. And from that state, there is no escape or any more hope of salvation and liberation. God wants to remind us that the consequence of sin is truly severe, and all those who put their trust in things other than God, is likely to regret like the rich man had done.

In all of these, we must understand and we must be mindful that God is not condemning the rich people or their riches. He does not condemn the powerful or their influence and power. Rather, what He condemns is the attitude that we mankind take with power, glory, and all those worldly things. We are too easily tempted by all these wicked desires, and that is why we end up making use of our wealth, power, fame and abilities for the wrong reasons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded that as Christians, all of us are called to live our lives with faith and genuine dedication to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. In this blessed time of Lent, in particular, we are called to be more generous with our giving and with the sharing of our blessings. Therefore, instead of doing what we have always done in trying to bring glory and good things for ourselves, we should turn away from selfish and proud ways, and be loving and generous in our interactions with others.

We must remember that sin can be caused not just by wicked actions in life, but even by the sin of omission, which is the sin of not doing what we could have done while we are perfectly capable of doing something to bring good to others. When we ignore the plight of the poor and the weak, the oppressed and the ostracised around us, just like how the rich man ignored Lazarus, then we will end up sinning against God just as the rich man has done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to make this Lenten season into a meaningful time for us to seek reconciliation with God? Are we willing and able to commit our time and effort to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with a new commitment, that while once we may have been sinful and disobedient, now, with the spirit of reconciliation and sincere repentance, we may become new in faith, and grow in our love towards God, from now onwards.

May God continue to guide us on our journey, and may He empower us all to live faithfully in accordance with His ways and be obedient to all that He had taught us to do. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (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.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 17 : 5-10

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness.”

“Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.”

“Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, YHVH, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.”

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the vastness and the wonders of God’s love for each and every one of us, especially when we ask for His favours and for His care. He is not One Who does not care about us, His loved ones, but instead He shows concern for us at all times, as a loving Father to all of us. But often we do not realise just how great is the love that He has for each one of us.

Today we heard the first reading passage taken from the Book of Esther, in which the Queen Esther of Persia, who came from among the people of Israel, prayed to the Lord just before she was about to go before the King, with the intention of pleading for the sake of her own people who at that time was faced with certain annihilation at the hands of those who plotted against them. The order of the king to destroy the Israelites have been written into law, and the destruction of Israel seemed to be certain.

But against all odds, Esther was persuaded by Mordechai, her uncle, who knew of the plot against the Israelites, to make use of her position as queen to persuade the king to change his mind. Mordechai himself even said that perhaps God has placed Esther to be in that exact position for this very reason, that at the moment of doom and hopelessness, God would work His wonders through Esther, the one whom God had chosen to be the path of salvation for His people.

But for Esther, she faced a great and troubling prospect, for it was forbidden that the queen should come before the king without being summoned. She could have suffered imprisonment and even death for doing such an action. That was why, Esther prayed to the Lord, in the words she spoke in our first reading passage today, placing her complete trust in God, her Lord and Master, that He would guide her and protect her in all that she was going to do.

She beseeched the Lord to show mercy and love for the sake of her people, the beloved children of God, who were about to be massacred and destroyed without the means to protect themselves. God listened to her pleas and call for mercy, and He put forth into motion His plan of salvation for His people. He softened the heart of the king of Persia when Esther came before him, and he listened to the council of the Lord spoken through Esther.

In the end, the people of Israel were saved and they were allowed to defend themselves against their enemies. The Israelites were saved by the love of God, and because they prayed and asked the Lord for His mercy and compassion, through His servants Mordechai and Esther. He truly is a loving Father and Master to His beloved children and people, and He listened to them and knew what they needed.

This is exactly what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that if only we ask, it shall be given to us, knock, and the door will be opened to us. God will not abandon us in our time of need, and He is always by our side, caring for us and protecting us, each and every days of our life. When we do not realise this, and think that God is not there with us, that is because we are often too preoccupied and distracted by our worldly concerns and desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is ever so loving and merciful towards us, and He is always willing to forgive us and to help us. Now, we were all again at the brink of destruction, because of sin. Sin is caused by our disobedience against God, and we should have been annihilated just as the Israelites were to be destroyed by their enemies in the days of Esther. But God intervened, because Jesus, His Son, has been sent into this world to be our Saviour.

Jesus became our High Priest, Who offered His prayers and petitions for our sake, just as Esther prayed for God to be merciful to His people. And just as Esther came before the king of Persia, risking her own life, thus Christ came between us and our eternal death, baring His own life on the cross, to become our Hope and our Salvation. And God showed His mercy to us through the triumph of the cross, for His Son has triumphed against sin, just as Esther triumphed against the enemy of Israel.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, we are all called to rediscover once again the love of God, the merciful gaze of His eyes which is always upon us. We have often ignored His love and refused to listen to His call in our hearts, calling us to be forgiven from our sins. Let us now no longer do what we have always done, and stop being so stubborn, and allow God to enter into our lives and be forgiven, by our sincere repentance.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love each and every one of us, and may His mercy come down upon us when we ask Him for that mercy, that He will extend His grace and love once again upon us. May God bless us all and all of our actions, from now on, that we may glorify God in everything we say and do. Amen.

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and the door will be opened to him who knocks.”

“Would any of you give a stone to your son, when he asks for bread? Or give him a snake, when he asks for a fish? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there you have the Law and the Prophets.”

Thursday, 14 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 137 : 1-2a, 2bcd-3, 7c-8

I thank You, o Lord, with all my heart, for You have heard the word of my lips. I sing Your praise in the presence of the gods. I bow down towards Your holy Temple and give thanks to Your Name.

For Your love and faithfulness, for Your word which exceeds everything. You answered me when I called; You restored my soul and made me strong.

With Your right hand You deliver me. How the Lord cares for me! Your kindness, o Lord, endures forever. Forsake not the work of Your hands.