Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 26 : 14 – Matthew 27 : 66

Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand Him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver, and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says : My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with My disciples in your house.'”

The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you : one of you will betray Me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You, Lord?”

He answered, “The one who dips his bread with Me will betray Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scripture says He will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man : better for him not to have been born.” Judas, who was betraying Him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do You?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said a blessing and broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat : this is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and gave thanks, and passed it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you, for this is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, I say to you : From now on I will not taste the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink new wine with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will falter tonight because of Me, and all will fall. For the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after My resurrection, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

Peter responded, “Even though all doubt You and fall, I will never fall.” Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you : this very night before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and He began to be filled with anguish and distress. And He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell to the ground, with His face touching the earth, and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from Me. Yet not what I want, but what You want.” He went back to His disciples and found them asleep, and He said to Peter, “Could you not stay awake with Me for even an hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is eager, but the body is weak.”

He again went away, and prayed, “Father, if this cup cannot be taken away from Me without My drinking it, let Your will be done.” When He came back to His disciples, He again found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them again, and went to pray the third time, saying the same words.

Then He came back to His disciples and said to them, “You can sleep on now and take your rest! The hour has come, and the Son of Man will be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look : the betrayer is here!” Jesus was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests and the Jewish authorities.

The traitor had arranged a signal for them : “The One I kiss, He is the Man; arrest Him.” Judas went directly to Jesus and said, “Good evening, Master”; and he gave Him a kiss. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then they laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

One of those who were with Jesus drew his sword, and struck at the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear. So Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for he who uses the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not know that I could call on My Father, and He would at once send Me more than twelve legions of Angels. If Scripture says that this has to be, should it not be fulfilled?”

At that moment, Jesus said to the crowd, “Why do you come to arrest Me with swords and clubs, as if I were a robber? Day after day I was seated among you teaching in the Temple, yet you did not arrest Me. But all this has come about in fulfilment of what the Prophets said.” Then all His disciples deserted Him and fled.

Those who had arrested Jesus brought Him to the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where the teachers of the Law and the elders were assembled. Peter followed Jesus at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the High Priest; he entered and sat with the guards, waiting to see the end. The chief priests and the whole Supreme Council needed some false evidence against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

But they were unable to find any, even though false witnesses came forward. At last, two men came up and declared, “This Man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'” The High Priest then stood up and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What is this evidence against You?” But Jesus kept silent.

So the High Priest said to Him, “In the Name of the living God, I command You to tell us : Are You the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus answered, “It is just as you say. I tell you more : from now on, you will see the Son of Man, seated at the right hand of God most powerful, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the High Priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has blasphemed. What more evidence do we need? You have just heard these blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They answered, “He must die!” Then they began to spit on Jesus and slap Him, while others hit Him with their fists, saying, “Messiah, prophesy! Who hit You?”

Meanwhile, as Peter sat outside in the courtyard, a young servant-girl of the house said to Him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” And as Peter was going out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and told the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter denied it again with an oath, swearing, “I do not know that Man.”

After a little while, those who were standing there approached Peter and said to him, “Of course you are one of the Galileans : your accent gives you away.” Peter began justifying himself with curses and oaths, protesting that he did not know Jesus. Just then a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the words of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went away weeping bitterly.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met together to look for ways of putting Jesus to death. They had Him bound, and led Him away to be handed over to Pilate, the governor. When Judas, the traitor, realised that Jesus had been condemned, he was filled with remorse, and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying an innocent Man to death.”

They answered, “What does it matter to us? That is your concern.” So throwing down the money in the Temple, he went away and hanged himself. The priests picked up the money and said, “This money cannot be put into the Temple treasury, for this is the price of blood.” So they met together, and decided to buy the Potter’s Field with the money, and to make it a cemetery for foreigners. That is why, to this day, that place has been called Field of Blood.

So what the prophet Jeremiah said was fulfilled : They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price which the Sons of Israel set in Him, and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord commanded me. Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.”

The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.” There were also some women there, who watched from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had seen to His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

It was now evening, and there came a wealthy man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus, and the governor ordered that the Body be given to him. So Joseph took the Body of Jesus, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, and laid it in his own new tomb, which had been cut out of the rock.

Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and left. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there in front of the tomb. On the following day, the day after the Preparation for the Sabbath observance, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said to him, “Sir, we remember that when that Impostor was still alive, He said, ‘I will rise after three days.'”

“Therefore, have His tomb secured until the third day, lest His disciples come and steal the body, and say to the people : He is risen from the dead. This would be a worse lie than the first.” Pilate answered them, “You have soldiers, go and take all the necessary precautions.” So they went to the tomb and secured it, sealing the stone, and placed it under guard.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 27 : 11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, who asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” The chief priests and the elders of the people accused Him, but He made no answer. Pilate said to Him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against You?” But He did not answer even a single question so that the governor wondered greatly.

At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas. When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free : Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” For he realised that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy.

As Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy Man. Because of Him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.

When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify Him!” Pilate insisted, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate realised that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He then asked for water, and washed his hands before the people, saying, “I am not responsible for His Blood, it is your doing.” And all the people answered, “Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around Him. They stripped Him and dressed Him in a purple military cloak. Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head, and placed a reed in His right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked Him, saying, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, took the reed from His hand and struck Him on the head with it.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed Him in His own clothes again, and led Him out to be crucified. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with gall. Jesus tasted it but would not drink it.

There they crucified Him, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard Him. The statement of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also crucified two bandits with Him, one on His right hand and one on His left.

People passing by shook their heads and insulted Him, saying, “Aha! You Who destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it, save Yourself – if You are God’s Son – and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law mocked Him.

They said, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let the King of Israel now come down from His cross and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let God rescue Him if God wants to, for He Himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him insulted Him.

From midday, darkness fell over the whole land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means : My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.”

And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave Him to drink. Others said, “Leave Him alone, let us see whether Elijah comes to His rescue.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up His Spirit.

Just then the curtain of the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many.

The captain and the soldiers who guarded Jesus were greatly terrified, and when they saw the earthquake and all that had happened, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.”

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 21 : 8-9, 17-18a, 19-20, 23-24

All who see Me make a jest of Me; they sneer and shake their heads. “He put His trust in the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him! If the Lord is His friend, let Him help Him!”

Round about Me are vicious dogs, villainous rogues encircling Me. They have tied up My hands and feet. They can count all My bones.

Dividing My garments among them and casting lots for My raiment. O Lord, be not far from Me! O My strength, come quickly to My help.

I will proclaim Your Name to My brothers. I will praise You in the assembly. “All you who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him! All you sons of Israel, revere Him!

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 50 : 4-7

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 21 : 1-11

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples drew near Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage, on the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go to the village in front of you, and there you will find a donkey tied up, with its colt by her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says something to you, say that the Lord needs them, and that He will send them back immediately.”

This happened in fulfilment of what the prophet said : Say to the daughter of Zion : See, your King comes to you in all simplicity, riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, with its colt. The disciples went, as Jesus had instructed them, and they brought the donkey with its colt. Then they threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat on them.

Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The people who walked ahead of Jesus, and those who followed Him, began to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this Man?” And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Saturday, 4 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we are about to enter into the time of the Holy Week beginning tomorrow on Palm Sunday, we heard of the promises of God’s salvation as He spoke to them through the prophet Ezekiel, as well as the conspiracies and efforts that were being raised up against the Lord in our Gospel passage, preparing ourselves for what we are going to celebrate during the Holy Week.

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of God’s assurance that He would save His people and deliver them from all of their troubles then, as at that time they were all troubled after having been humiliated by the destruction of their kingdom and homeland, both the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed and most of the people carried off into exile in far-off lands.

God promised His people that He would restore them and bring them back to the lands of their ancestors, and He fulfilled this promise later on when the descendants of Israel were allowed to return to their homeland by the king of Persia, Cyrus. God restored their honour as a nation and showed them once again that He has loved them all the while despite the disobedience and sins they have committed. Nonetheless, He still wanted them to change and to repent from their sinful ways.

Then in the Gospel today, we heard of the discussions and plans among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council to arrest Jesus and hand Him over to the Romans. And as many of the members of the Sanhedrin belonged to the Pharisees, most of whom were opposed to Jesus, the voices of those who called for the arrest and punishment for Jesus easily overcome those who wanted to listen to Him more carefully and those who supported Him.

This reading is setting us up for the coming of the Holy Week in which the final moments of the Lord’s most important mission was about to be celebrated, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and later on, how the plans of the Sanhedrin came to fruition with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin, and eventually how He was handed over to the Romans, sentenced to death by crucifixion and died on the Cross which we celebrate on Good Friday. And finally He rose from the dead in glory, and we celebrate this gloriously in Easter.

This is how the Lord showed us His salvation and fulfilled all the promises He had made to us earlier on, that by enduring the immense suffering of the Cross and by dying for us, He restored us all into a new life, no longer bound by the tyranny of sin, but through Him we become eligible of the wonderful inheritance of God’s grace. This is the fulfilment of God’s love and promise to all of us which He has made to us and reminded us again and again through time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard in these readings today, we have seen how fortunate we are to have such a wonderful and loving God by our side. God has been so patient with us and so caring and loving, willing to forgive us our trespasses and sins although they may be so plenty. But we need to be willing to receive God’s forgiveness too, for unless we are open to God’s mercy working in our lives, we will not enjoy the fullness of God’s forgiveness and redemption.

Are we able to prepare ourselves well to celebrate the upcoming mysteries of the Holy Week? Are we willing to make this Holy Week a meaningful one by living through it with openness to God’s mercy and through our renewed faith and obedience to God’s will? Let us all spend some time to reflect on how we can better live through our upcoming few days, as we enter into the most sacred time of the year, so that we may truly grow in our spiritual beings, and draw ever closer to God in all things.

Today, we also should look at the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Isidore of Seville, who was the Bishop of Seville in what is now southern part of Spain, renowned for his great piety and dedication to God. St. Isidore championed the efforts to propagate the faith through education and purification of the faith. He convened several Church councils to overcome the falsehoods of heresies, particularly Arianism, and he did his best to help the spiritual growth of his flock. We can definitely learn from his dedication and commitment to God.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen us in faith, and may He guide us in our journey, now and forevermore. May all of us be strong in our faith like that of St. Isidore of Seville, holy servant of God and defender of the faith. Amen.

Saturday, 4 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 11 : 45-56

At that time, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what He did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council.

They said, “What are we to do? For this Man keeps on giving miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, all the people will believe in Him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all, nor do you see clearly what you need. It is better to have one Man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill Him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with His disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the Temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will He come to the festival?”