Wednesday, 1 April 2015 : Wednesday of the Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with simple, clear and undeniable fact of how we are so weak so as to be corrupted by sin, to the point of even betraying our Lord, who had endeavoured to love us and to carry us out from the pit of darkness and back into the light. What Judas had done, is also what we have often done in our own lives, albeit one that is of lesser severity, but yet all the same in nature.

As we draw ever closer to the celebration of the Easter Triduum, of our Lord’s Passion and death, and also His resurrection from the dead, all of us should be jolted and be awakened from our slumber, from our apathy and ignorance. Many of us today live as if we do not care what has happened to us, and especially what our Lord had done for us two millennia ago.

It is the time now for us to realise that our Lord had done so much for us, for the simple reason that He does not wish for us to be lost forever in the darkness. He desires for all of us to receive His grace and goodness, and He wants us all to be changed for the better. Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why Jesus came into the world, and why He came into our lives.

He did not come to gloat over our sins and our faults, and neither did He come to expect our praise and glorification. Instead, He came into this world, fully knowing that He would suffer and be rejected by the world and by His own people, betrayed by His own disciple, loathed and cursed by the same ones who adored and glorified Him when He entered into Jerusalem in triumph, and to be crucified like a sinner with thieves and criminals.

Such was the great price that our Lord has paid in order to deliver us from sin and from the domination of the evil one. In Him lies our salvation, and in Him lies our only hope. Without Him, then our lives would be meaningless, for no matter whatever we do in this life, we know that because of our sins, we are forever separated from God, as it had been in the days of Adam, when our first ancestors were cast out of Eden, out of God’s presence because of their sins.

Jesus had become our Bridge, the one and only bridge linking us back to God our Lord and Father. It is because of Him that we have hope once again, because He allowed us the chance to return to our Father, with repentance and humility, knowing that we are sinners and yet we have been given the great grace of God, forgiven from our sins and welcomed with open hands to return once again to His embrace.

What more can we ask from Him? He has given us so much, and yet it is so often that we do not show gratitude for the care and love which He had given us. We are often so indignant in our ways and ungrateful, that this is why we remain in sin. It is important that as we prepare to enter into the celebration of the most important aspect of our faith, we have to be ready for it.

What can we do? We can begin from small things and take small steps, from something as simple as changing our bad habits in life. If we once often loathed against our brethren and said bad things to them, or if we have done injustice to our brethren and slandered against them, then I say that we take the chance and put in a lot of effort to change our ways.

I am certain that if we do so, slowly we will grow stronger in God’s grace, and as long as we are sincere in our desire to serve the Lord and to walk in His ways, we will triumph. May Almighty God keep us in His ways, and may He enlighten us all and show us the path to redemption, so that we may no longer be lost in the darkness but return to the light. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015 : Wednesday of the Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 26 : 14-25

At that time, 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 Scriptures say 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.”

Wednesday, 1 April 2015 : Wednesday of the Holy Week (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 68 : 8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34

Since I am held in contempt for Your sake, and shame has covered My face. I have become a stranger to My kindred, an alien to My mother’s sons. Zeal for Your house consumes Me as fire and those who insult You insult Me as well.

Dishonour has driven Me to despair; I looked for sympathy and there was none, for comforters and there was none. They gave Me poison for food and vinegar to drink.

I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving. Let the lowly witness this and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise those in captivity.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015 : Wednesday of the Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 50 : 4-9a

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 offer 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.

He who avenges Me is near. Who then will accuse Me? Let us confront each other. Who is now My accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord YHVH is My help, who will condemn Me?

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 : Tuesday of the Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about first the Lord who sent His Saviour in the first reading, in a prophecy which the prophet Isaiah gave to the people as a sign of hope, at a time when the fortunes of Israel was really going down, where wickedness and sin were rampant, and where the society were no longer putting the Lord as the heart of their society.

The people of Israel were scattered and the northern kingdom, which had seceded since the days of the son of Solomon, had just been destroyed and conquered by the mighty Assyrians. They were carried off from their homes and ancestral lands, and they were brought to slavery in foreign and distant lands. They were separated and treated as nobody, and yet, the Lord promised His people that He never forget about them.

And that was where He sent His deliverer into the world, to be the One who would save all of His scattered people, not just because of the acts of the Assyrians, but also because of the consequences of sin, the disobedience which had separated us from our Lord’s love and care. The salvation which God had shown us through Jesus is the concrete example and clear manifestation of His mercy and love, which He showers upon all those who are devoted to Him.

Yet, as the Gospel today showed us, that we mankind are often filled with so much negativities and the temptations of the world so that we are unable to appreciate the love that the Lord had shown us, and just like Judas Iscariot, we often betray the Lord for other things we deem to be more important. And just like Peter, we often falter in our faith simply because of the fear that is within us, the fear of being rejected and refused by the world.

All of these stemmed from the fact that we value the things of this world very, very much, and we often cannot part ourselves from those things, and that is the reason why we did not do as what we are supposed to do, and why we disobeyed the Lord and His commandments. And in our disobedience we sinned before the Lord and was cast away from His presence, scattered in this darkened world.

Judas was always tempted by money, and that temptation further fueled his wickedness, which eventually led to his betrayal of his own Lord and Master. Only when it was already too late, after his betrayal of Jesus caused Him to be condemned to death, then Judas repented his mistakes, and to no avail. The Lord had given him many chances, but he refused to take them into account and change his ways.

How about Peter then? Peter was faithful to the Lord, but his faith was not solid, and he was sorely tempted when he was in the garden, sleeping because he was too tired to stand vigil with the Lord. Indeed, as Jesus said, that the flesh is weak even though the spirit is willing. Thus it is also the same with us, as we are often weak in the flesh and tempted by the many things in the world, affected by fear and uncertainty.

But God saw Peter’s faith in him, even as wavering as it was. Peter’s faith was true and sincere faith for the Lord. And ever since that moment of weakness and denial, Peter had been ever faithful, and God entrusted him with the care of all His flock on earth, and he became the first of the Popes, the Lord’s Vicar on this world. To those who are faithful, God will not be far from them, and He will show them His love and grace.

Thus today, all of us should be challenged to start anew and begin a new life, a life no longer bound by sins and evil, but instead challenge ourselves to walk in the path of the Lord. It will be difficult and opposition from the world will become part of our lives, but what are we going to lose? If we fear of losing world’s approval, fame and human praise, then I say that all these are not worth it, and indeed they are useless, if our souls are to be condemned to eternal damnation.

May Almighty God guide us and help us to walk on a righteous path, and may His blessings be with us always, that we may remain ever faithful and ever strong in our lives dedicated to Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 : Tuesday of the Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 13 : 21-33, 36-38

At that time, Jesus was distressed in Spirit, and said plainly, “Truly, one of you will betray Me.” The disciples then looked at one another, wondering whom He meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining near Jesus; so Simon Peter signalled him to ask Jesus whom He meant.

And the disciple, who was reclining near Jesus, asked Him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.”

So Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And as Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

None of the others, reclining at the table, understood why Jesus said this to Judas. As Judas had the common purse, they may have thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or, “Give something to the poor.” Judas left as soon as he had eaten the bread. It was night.

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon. My children, I am with you only a little while; you will look for Me, but as I already told the Jews, so now I tell you : where I am going you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but afterwards you will.” Peter said, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I am ready to give my life for You.”

“To give your life for Me?” Jesus asked Peter, “Truly I tell you, the cock will not crow, before you have denied Me three times.”

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 : Tuesday of the Holy Week (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my hope, my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015 : Tuesday of the Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 49 : 1-6

Listen to Me, o islands, pay attention, peoples from distant lands. YHVH called Me from My mother’s womb; He pronounced My Name before I was born. He made My mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid Me in the shadow of His hand. He made Me into a polished arrow set apart in His quiver.

He said to Me, “You are Israel, My servant, through You I will be known.” “I have laboured in vain,” I thought, and spent My strength for nothing. Yet what is due Me was in the hand of YHVH, and My reward was with My God. I am important in the sight of YHVH, and My God is My strength.

And now YHVH has spoken, He who formed Me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that You be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make You the Light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Monday, 30 March 2015 : Monday of the Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to proceed into the Holy Week, and in a few days’ time we shall be commemorating the three days of Easter Triduum, the heart of our faith, when we commemorate the time when our Lord instituted the Eucharist, and giving up His Body and Blood, He suffered and died for us, so that by His resurrection from the dead, He gave us a new life and a new hope that sin and death can be overcome.

Today we heard the hypocrisy of Judas, who criticised Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who had poured a whole jar of very expensive perfume made of pure spikenard on the feet of Jesus and wiped it dry with her hair. In another account, the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume also anointed His head with the same perfume, and she was criticised all the same.

As mentioned, Judas did not do so because he cared for the poor in any way, and he did it because he was a thief and a cheater, who stole the money from the common fund of the Apostles, which was meant for the poor and the needy. Thus, he spoke a lie and brought about calumny and injustice to another. His inability to resist the temptation of money, desire and the impurities in his heart led him to do what he had done, that is to betray his own Lord and Master, for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

Just for your knowledge, that when Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold by his brothers out of jealousy into slavery, he was priced at about the same price. And at that price, they were valued at even lower than animals. A good quality animal would have fetched far higher prices than those which Judas received for betraying his Lord and which the brothers sold Joseph with.

Thus we value so low the Lord who had loved us all completely and sincerely with all of His heart, we looked down on He who was tortured, mocked and rejected for our sake, who died for us on the cross, so that we might be saved. We did not appreciate the things which He had done for us, and all the hard works which He had undertaken for our own good.

We are often tempted and our minds and hearts clouded with worldly things such as greed, pride, pleasures of the flesh and many others. The Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests were all infected with the disease of greed and jealousy, as well as fear and insecurity. They were all concerned only with preserving themselves and their own livelihoods. This is why, even though they were supposed to be the ones with wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, they refused to believe in Jesus and instead trying to undermine His works by plotting against Lazarus whom Jesus had resurrected from the dead.

They were manipulated by the wickedness and malice that Satan had planted in their hearts, which also exist in all of us. They were afraid of losing their position of honour and the respect which they have been accorded with by the society. They did not want to take a risk with the Romans, whom they were afraid that they would destroy all of their livelihood. And similarly with Judas, Satan manipulated his greed and desire for money, and in the end they destroyed and condemned only themselves.

It is a lesson for all of us that we cannot be hypocrites in our faith. Instead, we truly have to live out our faith, through our own actions. And we cannot be divided in our faith, just as we cannot have two masters. We cannot both serve God and worldly things, and as Jesus mentioned, that we will either despise one and love the other or we will not be sincere in our faith as a whole.

Therefore, let us all reflect on this occasion, and take steps to change our lives for the better. We can make a difference by committing ourselves more and more to the cause of the Lord. Now the choice is in our hands to make that difference. Let us therefore emerge from this Lenten observation, a better, more dedicated and more faithful servant of God. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 30 March 2015 : Monday of the Holy Week (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 12 : 1-11

At that time, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where He had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for Him, and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus.

Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume, made from genuine spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Judas Iscariot – the disciple who was to betray Jesus – remarked, “This perfume could have been sold for three hundred silver coins, and the money given to the poor.” Judas, indeed, had no concern for the poor; he was a thief, and as he held the common purse, he used to help himself to the funds.

But Jesus spoke up, “Leave her alone. Was she not keeping it for the day of My burial? The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”

Many Jews heard that Jesus was there and they came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests thought about killing Lazarus as well, for many of the Jews were drifting away because of Him, and believing in Jesus.