Tuesday, 2 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to seek the Lord with contrite heart and to seek forgiveness for our many sins before it is too late for us to do so. This season of Lent is the perfect time for us to reorganise our lives and to reflect on our lives thus far, on whether we have lived our lives in accordance to the Lord’s way or not, or whether we have strayed away from His path and fell into the sway of worldly temptations.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah at the very beginning of that Book in which the prophet Isaiah spoke of the very grim words of reality, of the Lord speaking to the rulers and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah that if they persist in their sinful and wicked ways that they would be crushed and judged to damnation by those sins. But there was also words of hope and consolation that if they were to change their ways and turn towards the Lord, they would be forgiven and be blessed by the Lord.

Contextually, when the prophet Isaiah was speaking about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, both cities as per how they were referred to were no longer existent by the time of Isaiah’s life and ministry. In truth, when the Lord spoke of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a figurative reference to those cities that had been destroyed a long time before because of their wickedness, which was so infamous that Sodom and Gomorrah until today were almost synonymous to vice and evil in reference.

The Lord therefore made a mention of those two cities as a reminder to the people of Israel back then how they would end up if they continued on persisting in refusing to follow His ways and in rebelling against Him. He wanted them to repent and change their ways, and seek to be reconciled to Him or else they might face condemnation and destruction for their faults and mistakes. He did not want them to be stubborn and be lost from Him as a result.

By the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians, their cities destroyed and their home region depopulated, with most of the people brought off into exile in faraway lands of Mesopotamia and Assyria, while the foreigners were sent in to stay at where the people of God used to live in. This was therefore a stark reminder of what the Lord had just said, that should the people continue to live in sin, they would be destroyed and be condemned for those sins, much like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which the northern tribes of Israel had suffered.

The Lord is indeed most loving and merciful, but we must not take His love and mercy for granted. As long as we are still drawing breath, then there is still hope for each and every one of us in this world. But if we delay and tarry, wait and are indecisive, then we may come to regret not having acted earlier on and for delaying when we could have done something to bring ourselves closer to God. It is not too late for us to heed the Lord’s call, repent and change our sinful ways, before it is too late for us.

What we heard then from our Gospel passage today is a reminder for us that the great obstacle for us in the path we traverse on the way to the Lord’s salvation and grace is that of our pride and worldly desires, as the Lord told His disciples how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were entrusted with the guardianship of the Law and also the responsibility over the people had not been truly faithful in how they have lived their lives, as they were focused and concerned more over their own desires and their own prestige and status over that of others’ well-being.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Gospel passage today the Lord is reminding us not to give in to the temptations of pride and vanity, the desire and temptation to be important and be recognised by others, to indulge in the many pursuits of this world, the pursuit of money and happiness, of pleasure and worldly joy. Let us instead be humble and be filled with the meekness and charity in our hearts. Let us love the Lord with ever greater devotion and show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters as well.

May the Lord continue to guide us throughout this journey of life and may He strengthen and bless us all in life, that we may truly be able to follow Him and dedicate ourselves anew to Him especially through this time of renewal and reconciliation in Lent. Let us all not be afraid and hesitant anymore to follow the Lord and His path, and be good and virtuous Christians from now on. May the Lord forgive us our sins and may He continue to love us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Tuesday, 2 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 1 : 10, 16-20

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good.

Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow. “Come,” says the Lord, “let us reason together. Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they be as crimson red, they will be white as wool.”

“If you will obey Me, you will eat the goods of the earth; but if you resist and rebel, the sword will eat you instead.” Truly the Lord has spoken.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of God’s amazing and most wonderful love by which He generously cared for us and provided for us and our needs. He has loved us all as a father loves all of his children, and to that extent, He has given us the assurance of true happiness and eternal joy through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Lord and Saviour.

And in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard the prophecy of the coming of Christ, Who is indeed the very Word of God mentioned in that passage of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet spoke of the Lord sending His Word into the world and how the Word would not return to Him before He has done the will of His heavenly Father, which is to bring about the salvation to all peoples of all the nations. The Lord sent His Son to reveal to us His most wonderful mercy and love, and to gather us all in, as a Shepherd gathering all of the lost sheep.

And thus, we have seen the glory and love of God revealed to us through Christ, the Son of God and the Divine Word Incarnate, Who by assuming our humble human nature and existence, united us to Himself, and by sharing in our humanity, has made us all the adopted sons and daughters of God, our heavenly Father. Just as Christ is the Son of God, and as the Son of Man is like a brother to us, that we have shared in the relationship that He has with His Father in heaven, and thus, become those whom God had favoured and called to be His own ones.

And gathering us all in, the Lord Jesus also taught us what it means for us to be a true disciple and a follower of His, to be devoted to God, His laws, ways and commandments. Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and teaching them all how to pray to their heavenly Father, to the Lord, their God. This is the prayer that we now know as the Lord’s Prayer, being taught by the Lord Himself, or the Pater Noster in various languages, which means ‘Our Father’.

Through the prayer that the Lord taught us, He wanted to teach us that to pray is for us to speak, communicate and interact with our own beloved Father, the One Who had loved us so much. And the essence of prayer is one of communication and the willingness to engage in a meaningful conversation and spending time with God, to praise Him and to thank Him for all the wonderful things that He had done for us, and to seek His forgiveness for our many faults and wrongdoings.

All these were contained in the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that is all of thanksgiving, petition, glorification of God and communication all in one. Through that prayer, the Lord Jesus wanted to teach us to pray in the right way, not to pray as if we are seeking for things to magically and miraculously happen to us by asking the Lord to do things for us. The Lord is not a miracle granter or wish granter that we can just ask for something or even worse still, demand for something.

And with this, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded and asked to reflect on our own faith and lives thus far. Have our way of life thus far been truly reflective of true Christian discipleship? Have we had a good and healthy relationship with the Lord, a regular life of prayer and constant communication with God? Or have we allowed our faith to wither and go to waste, to remain idle and lacking in genuine commitment to love the Lord?

Have we remembered God only in times of desperation and great need, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we consistently and constantly been making the effort to strengthen our relationship with Him through prayer and charity, by listening to Him in the depth of our hearts and in speaking to Him, to know what it is that He has been calling us to do with our lives? Today we are all called to reflect on this carefully as we discern how to move forward in life.

As we progress through the season of Lent, we have been given this excellent opportunity to reevaluate our lives and to reconsider how our way of living our Christian faith has been. Are we willing to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, by deepening our spiritual existence through prayer, through generosity and charity in all of our dealings in life? Today we are all called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Polycarp, in how he had lived his life virtuously and courageously.

St. Polycarp was one of the early Church fathers and the Bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, renowned for his links to the early leaders of the Church such as St. John the Apostle, who was still alive during the lifetime of St. Polycarp, as well as St. Ignatius of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter in the important See of Antioch. St. Polycarp himself was also remembered for his interactions with the then Pope and Bishop of Rome, Pope St. Anicetus, for his writings and correspondences with other bishops in the region.

Then, St. Polycarp was remembered for his courageous faith and defence of his beliefs in martyrdom, when he in his old age he was martyred for refusing to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor under the pain of suffering and death. He remained firm and resolute in staying true to his conviction and dedication to the Lord to the very end, and his example in faith inspired many others who came after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the same courage and faith showed by St. Polycarp, in all that he had done for the sake of the Church and the faithful. Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed faith and zeal, and strive to dedicate ourselves to glorify the Lord by our lives, through our actions and deeds in life. Let us all deepen our relationship with the Lord, and let us be ever better Christians in life, making best use of this season of Lent to bring ourselves ever closer to God, to be His beloved and worthy children.

May God bless us always, and may He strengthen our faith and may He guide us all to the path to eternal life, true happiness and joy with Him. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (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, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (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, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (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.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 : Ash Wednesday (Second 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, 16 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Word of God, the story of the Great Flood that happened during the early history of mankind, which came about due to the sins and wickedness committed by man, so much so that out of all humanity, only Noah and his immediate family alone were considered righteous and just. Then in the Gospel passage today, the Lord reminded His disciples of everything He had done in the past two miracles He performed in feeding five thousand men and four thousand men respectively.

Through these Scripture readings, the Lord wanted to remind us that while we may be so stubborn and hard-hearted in refusing to accept Him and His truth, in our constant disobedience and rebellion against His will, He still remembers us and wants us to be reconciled to Him. He loved us all even when we disobeyed Him and ignored Him from time to time, again and again. Of course there is a limit to God’s patience, and if we continued on to reject Him, eventually it will be too late for us. But meanwhile, God keeps on trying to reach out to us.

To that extent, He has rescued Noah and his family, and entrusted to him the future of man, when He wiped the world clean of all the wickedness of the other sons and daughters of mankind, all who have consistently and persistently rejected God and His patient offer of mercy and love. He wanted to show us that He does not condemn us because we are human beings, but rather it was because of our sins that we have been condemned for.

He rescued Noah and instructed him to build the Ark because in the end of the day, it was not His desire to see us mankind being destroyed. However, at the same time, our sins and wickedness are great obstacles and barriers that prevent us from finding our way towards the Lord. As long as we persist in our sinful and rebellious ways, we will be constantly resisting Him, rejecting Him and abandoning Him for all sorts of worldly pursuits, ambitions and desires.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples with regards to the miracles He performed in feeding the five thousand men and four thousand men respectively, in which He fed the people until fully satisfied with just five loaves of bread and two fishes in the former, and seven loaves of bread in the latter, revealing that truly He loved His people that He wanted to take care of them and provide for them, and that was why He asked His disciples if they truly had believed in Him in whatever He had done before them.

Many of the people, including even the disciples were still lacking in faith, and they had not fully put their trust in the Lord either. As a result, they failed to appreciate the full meaning of the miraculous things that had happened before them. The Lord wanted them all to know that the love He has for them endures, and He patiently waited for all of us to return to Him and to be reconciled to Him. But we must allow Him to reach out to us and to touch us in our lives. He has given us plenty of opportunities and chances to do this, and it is unfortunately we who procrastinate, unwilling to commit and unwilling to follow Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, tomorrow we mark the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of reflection and recollection of our lives. During this period of holy reconciliation, we have been given yet another opportunity to be thankful for the Lord and all that He had done for us. Had He not intervened for our sake and devoted Himself to rescue us from our predicament, we would have perished and be consigned to eternal damnation.

Instead, God emptied and humbled Himself by becoming a Man, and reached out to us through His loving Cross, not just in feeding the multitudes of men and women with bread, but with the Bread of His own Precious Body and Blood, that Bread of Life broken for us and given to us freely, and the Lamb of God, sacrificed and offered for our sake, for the atonement of our sins.

In this upcoming season of Lent, we are all called once again to recall the great love of God which He has generously extended upon us. He has never wavered in His commitment to us, and if only we put our trust and faith in Him, we shall not be disappointed. That is why we have to make good use of this time of Lent to prepare ourselves wholeheartedly and turn with a new spirit and love towards God.

May the Lord be our strength and may He guide us in our journey, that He will help us to persevere well against all the temptations and challenges that may come our way. Let us all commit ourselves to the Covenant that God has made with us out of love, His most generous love, and prepare ourselves, heart and mind that we may make best use of this season of Lent to be ever closer to God. Amen.