3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C) -24th Mar 2019

Theme: IN FAITH WE ARE BAPTIZED AND IN BAPTISM WE RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD’S LOVE

  • Exodus 17:3-7;
  • Psalm 94:1-2. 6-9. R/ v. 8;
  • Romans 5:1-2. 5-8
  • John 4:5-42 (Shorter Form, 4:5-16. 19-26. 39-42)

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter; when we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and when we prepare to celebrate our death and resurrection with Jesus Christ in the sacrament of baptism!

Lent is therefore a time when our catechumens prepare for their baptism and when we who are baptized prepare to renew our baptism on Easter Vigil Night, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the New Life of Easter! Lent is therefore a time of repentance! Lent is therefore a time when we grow in faith!

Indeed the gospel today tells us that the Samaritan woman grew in faith! At first she believed Jesus to be a man, then she believed Jesus to be a prophet, then she believed Jesus to be the Messiah, then she became the first missionary and the first apostle of Jesus to evangelize the other Samaritans, then finally the other Samaritans believed Jesus to be the Savior of the world!

More importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus gives her living water that will turn into a spring inside her welling up to eternal life and she will never be thirsty again!

The gospel today symbolizes our baptism! In this time of Lent we grow in faith like the Samaritan woman. On Easter Vigil Night we will be baptized with the waters of baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit, the Holy water! The Holy water is the living water that will turn into a spring inside us welling up to eternal life and we will not be thirsty again!

The first reading tells us that the people of Israel had no faith in God! They complained against Moses for taking them out of Egypt into the desert to die of thirst! They, their children and their cattle will all die of thirst! They tested God by doubting if God was with them or not! The place was called Meribah (quarreling) and Massah (test) because the people of Israel quarreled with God and tested God!

The responsorial psalm tells us to have faith in God! Thus we responded three times:

“O that today you would listen to his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts.’” (Ps 94:8; SM)

The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza tells us that God is our Savior (vv. 1-2)! The second stanza tells us that God is our Creator and Savior (vv. 6-7; NJBC)! The third stanza tells us to have faith in God and not to be like the people of Israel who had no faith in God! Thus the third stanza:

“O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the desert when your fathers put me to the test; when they tried me, though they saw my work.’” (Ps 94:7c-9; SM)

The second reading tells us that it is in faith that we are baptized in Jesus Christ and it is in baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit of God’s love; the love of God that loves sinners, the love of God that is merciful towards sinners, the love of God that forgives sinners, the love of God that saves sinners!

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not as a punishment for our sins; but to help us to repent; to help us to grow in faith, so that on Easter Vigil Night in the sacrament of baptism and in the renewal of our baptism, we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A blessed Lent to all of you! Amen!

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C) – 17th Mar 2019

Theme: REPENT: TURN AWAY FROM THE WORLD AND TURN TO GOD AND FIND LIFE

  • Genesis 12:1-4;
  • Psalm 32:4-5. 18-20. 22. R. v. 22;
  • 2 Timothy 1:8-10
  • Matthew 17:1-9

Today is the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter, particularly, when we prepare to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance and conversion.

That is why during this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms; not to punish us for our sins, but to help us to covert and find life! Conversion is not only turning away from sin, but conversion is also turning away from oneself and from the world; but most importantly, conversion is turning to God and consequently to neighbor!

That is why on giving Ashes on Ash Wednesday, the priest says: “Repent and believe the Good News.”! (BM/Mk 1:15) In other words, ‘Turn away from sin, self, and world; and turn to God and consequently, to neighbor and find life.’!

The alternative formula for the administration of Ashes is: “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.”! (Gn 3:19) In other words, if we turn away from God like Adam did, we will become dust, that is, death as Adam was; but if we turn back to God we will find life! That is why I used the first formula!

The readings today tell us to turn away from the world and to turn to God and find life! The first reading tells us that Abraham turned away from the world and turned to God and found life! The first reading tells us that God called Abraham to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house; and go to a land God will show him, and God will bless him and through him God will bless all the nations and all the peoples of the world! Abraham was 75 years old and he was blessed with a son – Isaac! And through him the whole world was blessed! Again, turn away from the world and turn to God and you will find life!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us to hope in God for He loves us! Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”! (Ps 32:22)

The responsorial psalm has 3 stanzas. The first stanza tells us that God created the universe with his word. (Ps 32:4-5) This becomes clearer when we read up to verse 9. The second stanza tells us that God alone is the savior. (Ps 32:18-19) And that is why the third stanza – which is also the response – tells us to put all our hope in God for he alone loves us! (Ps 32:20. 22/NJBC/CSB/HCSB)

God created us out of love (Father)! God saved us out of love! (Son) And God continues to sanctify us out of love! (Holy Spirit) The “Mystery of the Holy Trinity” is the Mystery of the God of love! The God of law is not the “Mystery of the Holy Trinity”, because the God of law is not the God of love!

The gospel follows the theme of the first reading and the responsorial psalm. The gospel also tells us to turn away from the world and to turn to God to find life! The gospel is on the Transfiguration and it is placed immediately after Jesus’ first prophesy of his suffering, death and resurrection; and Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him in order to find life! (Mt 16:21-26)

The transfiguration is only a prefigure and a foreshadow of the Resurrection to affirm and confirm the faith of the disciples for the impending death of Jesus and for their own deaths as followers of Jesus! The Transfiguration is to strengthen the faith of the disciples so that they will believe that in the death of Jesus is resurrection and new life! (NJB/Raas/Lefrois) Again, the gospel tells us to turn away from the world and to turn to God to find life!

Thus the hymn: I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS (N32):

“I have decided to follow Jesus (3x) No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me (3x) No turning back, no turning back.

Take the whole world, but give me Jesus (3x) I’ll follow Him, I’ll follow Him.”!

Indeed, the Lord has risen from the dead! The second reading follows the theme of the day, that is, turn away from the world and turn to God to find life! In the second reading Paul tells Timothy: “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News.”! (2 Timothy 1:8) Or in the words of Jesus, “Take up your cross and follow me.”! (Mt 16:24/Raas) Again, the second reading tells us to turn away from the world and to turn to God to find life!

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, to help us during this time of Lent, to do penance, to pray, to fast, and to give alms; and to repent and to convert. The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare for Easter and for the Sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A happy Lent to all of you!

Amen!

1st Sunday of Lent (Year C) – 10th Mar 2019

Theme: ADAM BROUGHT SIN AND DEATH, BUT JESUS CHRIST THE NEW ADAM BROUGHT GRACE AND LIFE

  • Genesis 2:7-9. 3:1-7;
  • Psalm 50 (51): 3-6. 12-14. 17. R/ cf. v. 3;
  • Romans 5:12-19
  • Matthew 4:1-11

Today is the First Sunday of Lent, Liturgical Year A. We use the readings of Liturgical Year A instead of Year C, because there will be catechumens for Baptism on Easter Vigil Night!

Lent is a time when we prepare for the celebration of Easter, that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world!

Lent is also a time when our catechumens prepare for Baptism on Easter Vigil Night so that they will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter through the waters of Baptism and through the power of the Holy Spirit!

Lent is also a time when we who are baptized prepare to renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night so that we too may die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new Life of Easter through the waters of Baptism and through the power of the Holy Spirit! That is why on Easter Vigil Night after renewing our Baptism we will be sprinkled with the waters of Baptism!

Lent is therefore a time of repentance, that is, to turn away from sin, from oneself and from the world; and to turn to God, to the God of Jesus Christ, who is love, mercy and forgiveness, and to our neighbor in love, mercy and forgiveness!

That is why during this time of Lent the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor in order to help us repent and prepare for the celebration of Easter!

The first reading tells us that our first parents Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin of pride by eating the forbidden fruit! They wanted to be gods themselves and decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. They did not believe in God, they did not want to depend on God and they did not want God to tell them what is good and what is evil. As a result sin and death entered the world!

Today too there are people who do not believe in God. They believe in themselves. They decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. They have decided for themselves that abortion is good. As a result there are 43.8 million abortions worldwide every year! (Internet, Catholic World News, January 20, 2012) Making the mother’s womb the most dangerous place in the world! And introducing the culture of death! Indeed sin and death have entered the world!

More importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ the new Adam was also tempted by the devil! Again, the devil tells Jesus Christ not to believe in God his Father, not to depend on God and not to do the will of God; but to believe in oneself, to depend on oneself and to do one’s own will!

The devil tempted Jesus Christ three times. In the first temptation the devil tells Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. In the second temptation the devil tells Jesus to jump down from the top of the Temple to test God. And in the third temptation the devil tells Jesus to worship him and he will give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.

But more importantly are the three faith responses of Jesus! Just as the first Adam turned away from God, Jesus the second Adam turned back to God. Just as the first Adam depended on himself, Jesus the second Adam depended on God his Father. Thus the three faith responses of Jesus:

(i) “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

(ii) “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”

(ii) “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”

And most importantly, the second reading tells us that it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we turn back to God and find life! Indeed the second reading tells us that it is through Adam that sin and death entered the world and it is through Jesus Christ the new Adam that grace and life entered the world! And more importantly, the second reading tells us that the grace of Jesus Christ more than compensates for the sin of Adam! And it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we turn back to God and find life!

Indeed the responsorial psalm is a “prayer of repentance”! (CSB) Thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Ps 50 (51): 3; Sunday Missal)

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas ask God to forgive us our sins. The third and fourth stanzas ask God to give us the Holy Spirit so that we will not sin anymore! (CSB; IBC)

Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter! Lent is therefore a time of repentance. During this time of Lent the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor in order to help us to repent and to prepare for the celebration of Easter when we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A happy and blessed Lent to all of you! Amen!

ASH WEDNESDAY (Year A, B, C) – 6th Mar 2019

Theme: REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL

  • Joel 2:12-18;
  • Psalm 50:3-6. 12-14. 17. R/ v. 3;
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
  • Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18

Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent! Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter, that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our resurrection with him in the sacrament of Baptism! That is why Lent is a time when our catechumens prepare for their Baptism and when we prepare to renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! That is why Lent is a time of repentance!

Indeed, the first reading is “a call to repentance”! (NJB) Thus we read in the first reading:

    “‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’ Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.” (Jl 2:12-13; SM)     

The responsorial psalm is a “prayer of repentance”! (CSB) Thus we responded four times:

“Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Ps 50:3; SM)

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas ask God to forgive our sins. The third and fourth stanzas ask God to give us the Holy Spirit so that we will not sin anymore!

The second reading tells us to be reconciled to God now, because God has already reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ! Thus the caption of the second reading:

“Be reconciled to God …. now is the favorable time.”   

The gospel today tells us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not as a punishment for our sins, but to help us to repent during this time of Lent! That is why during this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor! That is why in giving the ashes, the priest says:

“Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:15)

 

Fr. Nicholas Ong, Holy Trinity Catholic Church (HTCC), Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia,