Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th 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 Lord through the Scriptures which highlighted to us what it truly means for us all to be followers of God, as Christians who believe in the Lord and in His salvation. Through the Scripture passages beginning with the tale of the three friends of Daniel in the first reading today, and then to the confrontation and the strife that existed between the Lord and the Jewish people of Judea, we are reminded yet again that to follow Christ, it requires us to have a sincerity of heart in faith.

In our first reading, we heard about the three friends of Daniel, the exiles of Israel who were in Babylon then, under the rule of king Nebuchadnezzar who conquered the kingdom of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar built for himself a great golden statue in his own image and ordered all of his subjects and people to worship that golden statue under the pain of death. But the three friends of Daniel refused to do so, and when the king confronted them under the pain of death, they stood by their faith in God.

This is the kind of faith that we all need to have. It is however not that we have to be confrontational or suffer in the way that those three friends of Daniel had suffered, or that necessarily we will encounter persecution in any way. Rather, it means that we must have that strong and genuine faith in God, so much so that we will be willing to even choose death over life rather than to betray the Lord and sell our souls to the evil one.

It means that we put God as the focus and the priority over our lives, and we have to be sincere in that faith, genuinely loving God and desiring to follow Him and to walk with Him, and not just giving Him a lip service or treat our faith as a mere formality. That was what the Jews in our Gospel passage had done, as these people were descended from the Israelites of old, especially those who were once part of the kingdom of Judah and they saw themselves as the privileged people and a chosen race, looking down on others.

They took great pride in themselves as the direct descendants of Abraham and the sons and daughters of Israel, but yet, in their hearts, many among them only paid lip service to the Lord and superficially obeyed His laws and commandments rather than keeping true to the spirit of the Law and truly love God with all of their hearts and minds. Especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them always took great pride in their way of observing the laws and commandments, and looked down on others they deemed to be inferior to them.

It was these people whom the Lord rebuked in today’s Gospel passage, all those who were proud of their ancestry and status, and yet, compared to the three friends of Daniel, they did not have true and genuine faith. They were focused much on themselves in how they lived their faith, they turned inwards and became fascinated with their own pride and ego, failing to see and realise how they are in need of healing from their sins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, are we able to change our way of life and heed what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples and the people, that is to be truly faithful to God and to devote more of our time and effort to serve the Lord, to focus our attention on Him more and to dedicate ourselves with greater reverence and commitment? Are we able to overcome the temptations of pride and worldly desires that we may be more Christ-like in our lives from now on?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith so that we may walk in His path and trust in Him more. We must put God as the priority of our lives, and we must put a focus on Him in each and every moments of our lives from now on. Are we able to do that, brethren? Are we able to trust Him with all of our hearts just like how the three friends of Daniel trusted in the Lord so much that they were even willing to endure great sufferings and death, defying a great king for His sake?

May the Lord bless us all and may He be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives more faithfully, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 31-42

At that time, Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in Him, “You will be My true disciples, if you keep My word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do you mean by saying : You will be free?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave does not stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. For My part, I speak of what I have seen in My Father’s presence, but you do what you have learnt from your father.”

They answered Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill Me, the One Who tells you the truth – the truth that I have learnt from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.”

The Jews said to Him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I did not come by My own decision, but it was He Himself Who sent Me.”

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever. Blessed is Your holy and glorious Name, celebrated and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You Who fathom the depths, who are enthroned on the Cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 14-20, 24-25, 28

King Nebuchadnezzar questioned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up? If you hear now the sound of horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you will not, you know the punishment : you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if He will not, we would like you to know, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace.

They walked in the midst of the flames, singing to God and praising the Lord. Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “You have indeed given a just sentence in bringing evil upon us and upon Jerusalem, the Holy City of our fathers. You have acted in accordance with truth and justice, as punishment for our sins.”

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, at the moment exactly nine months before the date of Christmas, as this date commemorates the very moment when Our Lord and Saviour was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary, when she responded to the revelation of God’s Good News through the Archangel Gabriel which marked this moment of the Annunciation, when God finally revealed the arrival of His long awaited Saviour into the world.

On this day we rejoice greatly because of this event which heralded the beginning of the whole process of the story of salvation, as the long awaited salvation promised by God has finally come, through a humble and young Virgin in the small and backwater village of Nazareth in Galilee. The Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of the Saviour, and since He is also the Son of God Most High, she would also become the Mother of God.

Such a news brought by a great Angel to that young woman would have surprised and rocked anyone’s lives tremendously, and evidently Mary was also surprised and did not expect to hear such a revelation. Yet, it is her response to the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel that we need to pay close attention to, as she humbly listened to the Archangel and obeyed the Lord’s words and will, with her now famous words of acceptance and total submission to God’s will, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me as you have said’.

It is indeed interesting to see how God chose to come into this world in such a way. But this is because He wants to share in our humanity, by His incarnation in the flesh, assuming our fullness of humanity in Jesus Christ, born of Mary, His mother, to bring forth the fullness of God’s salvation to all of His people. And we focus our attention today to this wonderful occasion and especially on the amazing woman whose faith in the Lord can truly inspire us all in how we live our own lives.

We compare the response of Mary to the response of Ahaz, the king of Judah that we heard in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. At that time, the king Ahaz also received revelation from God through Isaiah, of the coming of God’s salvation to His people. But Ahaz refused to accept the sign, saying that he would not put God to the test even when the prophet Isaiah had specifically said that God had asked Ahaz to ask Him of anything. This shows a lack of faith and obedience on king Ahaz’s side, and contrasted him to Mary.

King Ahaz of Judah led the people of Judah further into sin, as according to the Chronicles and the Book of Kings, he did not follow or obey God’s laws and ways unlike some among his forefathers. Thus, his lack of faith can indeed be contrasted to Mary’s total submission to God, his pride and false humility contrasted against Mary’s humility and devotion to God. Mary is the role model for all of us, as her obedience and willingness to accept her role as the Mother of God and Saviour is something that all of us as Christians should also emulate in our own lives.

In this season of Lent, which the Solemnity of the Annunciation’s date often falls within, all of us go through this time of renewal and purification as we prepare ourselves for the celebrations during the joyous season of Easter. And especially this year, our Lenten season have been filled with lots of uncertainty, sorrow and grief, challenges and trials, obstacles and difficulties as most of the world has, and is now still currently suffering from the current coronavirus pandemic and the disease it caused, COVID-19.

More than ten thousand people had died over the past few months and hundreds of thousands are suffering from this sickness, with millions and tens of millions more being affected in various ways, many have lost their jobs and means of living, many have been affected because of the impact this pandemic had on the economy and much of global movement and dynamics of peoples. Many people suffered, and suffering, and will suffer because of this current plague that is claiming more and more victims with every passing moment.

However, despite the darkness and sorrow that surrounded us, despite all the seemingly difficult and tough challenges that are suffocating us with their tight grip, we must realise that we must have faith in God and put our trust in Him while obeying His will and entrust our lives and our whole existence to His care. On this day of the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we are reminded once again that despite the darkness and all the uncertainties in our world, God’s promise of salvation is a reality, and He will always fulfil what He has promised to us.

On this day we celebrate God Who willingly assumed our human existence and chose to be incarnate in the flesh, dwelling in the womb of Mary, His mother, that through Him, Our Lord Jesus Christ, a new Light of hope may be born into this world, dispelling the darkness and all the evils that have been surrounding us, affecting us and enslaving us under their power. We are called today to look upon this Hope and Light we have in Christ, and put our trust in Him even in these difficult and darkened times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, amidst this difficult crisis and this terrible pandemic, let us all entrust ourselves to God just as Mary had done, and humble ourselves before God, seeking His forgiveness and mercy, and also forgiving each other our faults and shortcomings to one another. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and in our love and devotion to God, and let us all have no fear of what is to come, knowing that God is always by our side. Let us all take good care of one another and pray for each other in this turbulent times, that the darkness will soon pass and everything will be fine again.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all and our families, and may He be with all those who are currently sick and dying, and be with those whose loved ones have been afflicted, that He will comfort them, console them, guide them and heal those who are sick. May God bless our world and His Church, and dispel the darkness and evils from our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.