Tuesday, 20 February 2018 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the unique relationship that Our Lord Jesus Christ has with His Father in heaven, as we listened to the reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, speaking to us about the Word which came from God, and which would not return to Him until that Word has accomplished all that God had willed to do through the Word.

We know that Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour is the Divine Word Incarnate, Son of God, through Whom the Father willed all creation into being, including all of us mankind at the beginning of time. And when the Father sent Him into the world, as we remember from the Gospel of St. John, ‘For He so loved the world, that He gave us His only beloved Son, that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have eternal life’, we gain for ourselves a loving Saviour and Lord.

And Jesus showed us all the example of a faithful and obedient Son, obeying the Father’s will in everything, which is summarised in His short but exceedingly beautiful prayer, which we pray as the Lord’s Prayer, Pater Noster, a prayer which we heard as part of our Gospel reading today, which summarises everything that a prayer should be and ought to be.

First of all, a prayer is a way for us to communicate with God, and that was what Our Lord did, speaking directly to the Father, calling upon Him and praising Him, for we have been given this great privilege, having shared in Christ’s humanity, to be able to call God as our Father. And as a child addressing and talking to his or her father, we too ought to speak to God through prayer, directly to Him, and He will listen to us.

However, many of us forget that the essence of prayer is not for us to demand from God anything, or to have our wishes and wants fulfilled. This is what many of us have misunderstood from prayer and from our devotions, as many of us think of God as a wonder worker Who can satisfy all of our needs and fulfil all of those things which we want and desire. No, this is not true prayer, as a true prayer is in essence, opening a two-way communication between us and God.

Many of us are able to speak with God, through our prayers and petitions. However, how many of us are actually able to listen to Him? It is too often that we are preoccupied in our concerns, our desires and thoughts, that we failed to listen to the Lord speaking in the depths of our hearts. The noise of this world, all of its temptations and concerns deafened us to the Lord’s words in our hearts.

And a prayer is not just about ourselves, as if we often notice that what truly distracted us from being able to listen to God was because we are so self-centred, thinking only about ourselves, about what we want in life, and we sometimes even demanded that God take action for our sake. This ego and desire, the focus on the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ are all that caused us to drift away from God and into sin.

Prayer is also about thanksgiving, for Jesus Himself thanked His Father for all the goodness He has blessed all of us with, but in our own prayers, how many of us remembered to thank God first for all the blessings which He had given us? We always remember God only when we are in need of His providence and help, and when He has given us all that we wanted and desired, we are very quick in forgetting Him and never thanked Him as we all should have.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we proceed through the season of Lent, let us all strengthen our relationship with God, through prayerful life and committing ourselves to acts of charity and love for others. It is important that we learn how to pray in the right way, as we have just discussed, not prayer focused on ourselves and our selfish interests and desires, but prayer that is truly allowing us to speak to God and to have a proper conversation, that we also put forth a listening ear, open mind and open heart to listen to God speaking in our deepest selves.

Let us all follow the examples of Our Lord Jesus Himself, Who obeyed the will of His Father perfectly, doing what He had commanded Him to do and even to the cross at Calvary, by which we were saved. Let us learn to get ourselves rid off our pride, arrogance, stubbornness, and all the things which have become obstacles in our journey of faith towards the Lord. Let us instead grow to be humbler and more dedicated in our faith, doing whatever we can to live ever more in accordance with what the Lord had taught us.

May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to watch over us and protect us, every day of our lives. May our Lenten observance and efforts be good and meaningful to our spiritual growth, that we may grow ever closer to God, day after day. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

The eyes of YHVH are fixed on the righteous; His ears are inclined to their cries. But His face is set against the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.

YHVH hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles. YHVH is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 55 : 10-11

As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : it will not return to Me idle, but it shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as today marks the last day in the season of the Ordinary Time prior to the season of Lent, in which we prepare ourselves in our heart, mind, body and soul to celebrate the most important occasions in our faith during the Holy Week and Easter, let us make use of the Scripture readings we heard today as reminders for us how we should live a good Christian life.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle written by St. James the Apostle, we heard his exhortation to the faithful reminding them to be careful of the temptations that came about with their evil desires, and how they ought to guard themselves against such desires or else they would fall onto sin. He also reminded them that in God alone can be found all things that are good, while if we depend on ourselves, it is likely that we will end up falling into temptation.

In the Gospel passage we heard today, Jesus warned His disciples in the same manner, by telling them to be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. Why did He mentioned these two people with such a tone? Yeast at that time according to the Lord, has two connotations. One as used in the parable of the kingdom of God, mentioned as yeast hidden within three measures of flour allowing the whole mixture to rise, represents the gifts of God given to us.

The other connotation refers to the impurities and wickedness that causes corruption of the whole being, as when yeast is added to unleavened bread, it rises and becomes leavened. In the Book of Exodus, during the time just before Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land, they were all told not to leaven their bread, and they were to eat only unleavened bread for a period of two weeks.

It is likely the second and latter mentioned connotation is in force for this case. The Pharisees and the mention of Herod represent the two extremes which Jesus was unhappy against. The Pharisees represent the extreme and puritanical observances of the laws of Moses, who enforced a strict adherence to those laws among the people, and they did not hesitate to strike at those whom they deemed to have violated the laws.

But Jesus rebuked them because most of them were hypocrites, who did all that they did because they were concerned with their own prestige and image in the society, their influence and teaching authority, and not because they wanted the people of God to follow the right path. They did not make the people to follow the right ways and misled the people into sin.

On the other hand, the mention of Herod, the king and ruler of the lands of Judea and Galilee referred to the secular leaders and the influential members of the society at the time, which also represent the Sadducees, another group which came to oppose Jesus as the Pharisees had done. These people had also been corrupt in their exercise and assumption of power and responsibility over the people.

The Lord rebuked these groups because they gave in to the temptations of worldly desires, of pride, of greed, of hunger for power and praise, of vanity and many others that led them into sin and disobedience against God. To that extent they also caused great bitterness and difficulties to happen against the Lord and His disciples even as they went about doing God’s works among the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that we have to resist those same temptations that will surely come our way, or else we will end up doing things in contrary to what the Lord had taught us to do, and therefore we end up falling into sin. Let us all strive to be better Christians by practicing what we believe in our daily work and actions, following the examples of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who loved His people, and as mentioned in today’s Gospel, fed them when they were hungry.

May the Lord strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, and may we make the best use of the Lenten season which begins with Ash Wednesday tomorrow. May all of us come to greater realisation of our responsibilities and our place in God’s plan of salvation. Let us all go towards God, with hearts open to Him and seeking His love and mercy all the time. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 93 : 12-13a, 14-15, 18-19

Fortunate the one You correct, o YHVH, the one You teach Your Law; You give them relief from distress.

YHVH will not reject His people, nor will He forsake His heritage. Justice will return to the just; and the upright will follow, in its wake.

No sooner did I say, “My foot is slipping,” Your kindness, o YHVH, held me up. The more worries and trouble assailed me, the more You consoled me.