PASSION SUNDAY / PALM SUNDAY (Year A, B, C) – 5th April 2020

Theme: THE PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS VICTORIOUS AND GLORIOUS

  • Mathew 21:1-11;
  • Isaiah 50:4-7;
  • Psalm 21:8-9. 17-20. 23-24. R. v. 2;
  • Philippians 2:6-11
  • Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 (Shorter form 27:11-54)

Today is “Passion Sunday” or “Palm Sunday” or “Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion”! The readings today tell us that the passion (suffering and death) of our Lord is victorious, glorious, triumphant, resurrection, life, and life-giving! The palm symbolizes glory, life, hope, victory, triumph, and resurrection! (HWK, CG, Penang)

The gospel today tells us that immediately after the death of our Lord Jesus Christ the veil of the temple was torn in two, that is, the Holy of Holies where God is present will not be accessible only to the High Priest and only once a year on the day of Atonement; but it will be accessible to all and everyday of the year! (CSB/HCSB)

The gospel also tells us that immediately after the death of Jesus the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead! And finally the gospel tells us that the pagan centurion and his soldiers believed in Jesus and professed their faith: “In truth this was a son of God.”!

Thus we read: “But Jesus again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit. At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people. Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God.’”! (Mt 27:51-54)

Again, the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is victorious, glorious, triumphant, resurrection, life, and life-giving!

The second reading also tells us that the passion of Jesus Christ is victorious and glorious! Thus we read in the second reading:

“His state was divine, yet Christ Jesus did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are, and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.

But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”! (Ph 2:6-11)

Finally, the first gospel (Mt 21:1-11/Blessing of the palms) also tells us that the passion of Jesus is victorious and glorious! The first gospel tells us that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to undergo his passion is triumphant, victorious and glorious! (HCSB/NJBC): “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna (Praise/HCSB) to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” (Mt 21:8-9)

The palms are to be put close to the crucifix to show that the cross is glorious!! 

Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) begins Holy Week! On Holy Thursday we will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Washing of feet)! On Good Friday we will celebrate the Lord’s Passion (Veneration/Kissing of the Cross)! And on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday we will celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord (Baptism and Renewal of Baptism)! A Happy and Holy Week to all of you! Amen!

5th Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 29th March 2020

Theme: IN BAPTISM JESUS RAISES US FROM DEATH AND IN BAPTISM JESUS PREVENTS US FROM SIN AND DEATH WITH HIS GRACE SO THAT WE WILL NOT SIN AND DIE ANYMORE

  • Ezekiel 37:12-14;
  • Psalm 129 (130). R/ v. 7;
  • Romans 8:8-11
  • John 11:1-45 (Shorter Form, verses 3-7. 17. 20-27. 33-45)

Today is the 5th Sunday of Lent, and next Sunday will be Passion/Palm Sunday, and the Sunday after that will be Easter Sunday! Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night! Again, the readings today tell us about baptism. The readings today tell us about the great themes of baptism, namely, faith, resurrection, life, the Holy Spirit and repentance.

The gospel today tells us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in him even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in him will never die! The gospel tells us that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the one who was to come into the world will be raised from death!

Again, Jesus is the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in him even though he dies he will live and whoever lives and believes in him will never die.

The gospel today tells us that Jesus will raise us up from the dead on the last day. But more than that, the gospel tells us that Jesus will raise us up from the dead here and now in the sacrament of baptism.

And more than that, the gospel tells us that Jesus will not only raise us up from the dead here and now, but he will also prevent us from sin and death here and now with the grace of baptism, so that we will not sin and die anymore!

Mary was prevented from sin and death by the grace of Jesus Christ! That is why we Catholics believe in the “Immaculate conception”, that is, Mary was conceived without sin to prepare her to be the Mother of God!

Again, in baptism, Jesus raises us up from death, here and now; and in baptism Jesus Christ also prevents us from sin and death by his grace, so that we will not sin and die anymore!

Thus we read in the gospel today:

“Jesus said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes Lord,’ Martha said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’ Jesus cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out.” (Jn 11: 25-27. 43-44; SM)

The second reading follows the theme of the gospel. The second reading tells us that Jesus Christ raises us from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit. The second reading tells us that just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will also raise us from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus we read in the second reading:

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through the Spirit living in you.” (Rm 8:11; SM)

The waters of baptism are not just holy water, but the waters of baptism are waters of the Holy Spirit! Only the Holy Spirit can destroy sin and death and give us new life! We enter and leave the church by signing ourselves with the sign of the cross and with holy water to remind ourselves of our baptism!

The first reading also follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us that we are raised to life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first reading is a prediction of the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian exile, but more importantly, for us Christians, it is a prophecy of the resurrection from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit! Thus we read in the first reading:

“You will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live.” (Ezk 37:13-14; SM)

The responsorial psalm is a penitential psalm. It is a prayer for pardon and mercy. The responsorial psalm has four stanzas.

The first stanza tells us that the psalmist cries to God (vv. 1-2). The second stanza tells us that the psalmist prays for God’s mercy and forgiveness (vv. 3-4). The third stanza tells us that the psalmist trusts in God’s mercy and forgiveness (vv. 5-6). The fourth stanza tells us that the whole community must trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness (vv. 7-8). (CSB)

Thus the response of the responsorial psalm which is taken from the fourth stanza:

“With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.” (Ps 129 (130): 7; SM)

Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night. That is why during this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor. A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

4th Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 22nd March 2020

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE TO CELEBRATE THE SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION: BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION AND EUCHARIST

  • 1 Samuel 16:1. 6-7. 10-13;
  • Psalm 22. R/ v. 1;
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • John 9:1-41 (Shorter Form, verses 1. 6-9. 13-17. 34-38)

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent. Today is also “Rejoice” Sunday or joyful Sunday! We are joyful because we are more than half way through to Easter! That is why today we use rose vestments instead of purple vestments!

Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night! Besides receiving the sacrament of baptism, some of us are also receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist! These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into full communion with the Catholic Church!

The readings today tell us about these three sacraments of initiation, namely, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.

The gospel today tells us about the sacrament of baptism. The gospel today tells us that Jesus “anointed” (Lefrois; Brown) the blind man with saliva mixed with earth and told the blind man to wash himself in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam means ‘sent’. Jesus was sent by the Father. After washing himself, the blind man could see, that is, see with the eyes of faith! He could see God in creation, in salvation, and in sanctification!

Washing, anointing and faith are three important themes of baptism. When we are baptized, we are washed with the waters of baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cleanses us of our sins and gives us new life! A new life that is even better than the life before sin! Paul tells us that the grace of Jesus Christ more than compensated for the sin of Adam! When sin increased, grace increased all the more!

After that we are anointed with the oil of Chrism as Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king. We share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. As a priest, I share in the “ministerial priesthood” of Christ in the “parish church”. You share in the “common priesthood” of Christ. This is especially evident in the “BECs” (Basic Ecclesial Communities), that is, in the “community church” and in the “domestic church” where the head of the house presides in prayer and worship. You are also prophets. You proclaim the word of God and you share and pray and act on the word of God in the BECs! You are also kings. You build the kingdom of God and you build the Church by building BECs of love and unity, and of justice and peace!

After washing himself, the blind man could see with the eyes of faith! The gospel tells us that not only the blind man had faith, but that his faith also grew. At first he saw Jesus as a man, then he recognized Jesus to be a prophet, and finally he believed in the Son of Man, Jesus and worshipped him as Lord! The Pharisees on the other hand did not believe in Jesus, then they did not even believe that the blind man was blind, and finally they believed that Jesus was a sinner! Even today there are those who believe that Jesus was a sinner! Indeed, they have lost their faith!

After baptism, we have to renew our baptism every year, so that like the blind man, our faith will grow stronger and stronger every year! Otherwise like the Pharisees our faith will grow weaker and weaker every year!

There is another important theme of baptism found in the longer form of the gospel today, that is, light! It is related to the theme of faith, particularly to the faith of the blind man. Light in the New Testament basically, symbolizes three things, namely, faith, life and good. (NJB; Jn 8:12) The three themes are related, that is, if we have faith in God, we will receive new life, and this new life is a life of good and good works!

The gospel today tells us about the light of faith. Thus we read in the long form of the gospel: “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” (Jn 9:5; SM)

The Gospel Acclamation today tells us about the light of life. Thus we read in the Gospel Acclamation: “I am the light of the world, says the Lord; anyone who follows me will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12; SM)

Finally the second reading tells us about the light of good and good works. Thus we read in the second reading: “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” (Ep 5:8-9; SM)

After baptism and after being anointed with the oil of Chrism, we will be given candles lighted from the big Easter candle symbolizing the light of Jesus Christ, the light of faith, life and goodness!

The first reading tells us about the sacrament of confirmation. To confirm is to strengthen, to make strong. In the sacrament of baptism we are born again in the Holy Spirit. In the sacrament of confirmation we are made strong in the Holy Spirit! David was a youth, but he was made strong in the Spirit so he could defeat the giant Goliath! We read this in the next chapter (1 S 17). Thus we read in the first reading:

“The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.” (1 S 16:12-13; SM) In the next chapter, David defeats the giant Goliath! (1 S 17)

The responsorial psalm today tells us about the Eucharist! Just as we are born again in baptism and we are made strong in confirmation, we continue to grow stronger and stronger in the Eucharist by eating the body of Christ and drinking the blood of Christ every Sunday! That is why it is important to come to Mass every Sunday after baptism! If we do not eat and drink, we die! Our faith will die! That is why not coming to Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin! The word mortal is from a Latin word meaning death!

Again, it is the Lord who provides – providence! The Lord provides us with both material food and drink, and spiritual food and drink! Thus we read in the first and third stanzas of the responsorial psalm depicting the Lord as Shepherd and Host respectively:

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.” (Stanza 1; SM)

“You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.” (Stanza 3; SM)

Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night. Besides receiving the sacrament of baptism, some of us are also receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist.

Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacraments of initiation, namely, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. That is why the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor during this time of Lent. A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 15th March 2020

Theme: IN FAITH AND BAPTISM WE RECEIVE THE LIVING WATER OF  THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WE DIE AND RISE WITH JESUS CHRIST TO  THE NEW LIFE OF EASTER

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

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A. The readings today tell us that in faith and Baptism we receive the living water of the Holy Spirit and we die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

The first reading tells us that the people of Israel did not have faith in God and grumbled against Moses: ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die of thirst, and our children too and our cattle too?’ The place was called Meribah and Massah because the people of Israel quarreled with God and tested God saying: ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

The responsorial psalm is a call to praise and obedience. The first two stanzas is a call to praise God the Shepherd of Israel.

The third stanza follows the theme of the first reading, “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.’

In other words, do not test God, do not try God; but trust God and have faith in God!

The gospel tells us that the Samaritan woman had faith in Jesus, but more than that the gospel tells us that her faith in Jesus grew from believing Jesus to be a man, to believing Jesus to be a prophet, and to believing Jesus to be the Messiah! And more than that she became a missionary of Jesus and she brought many Samaritans to Jesus and the Samaritans believed that Jesus is the savior of the world!

Finally, the second reading tells us that we are justified by faith through Jesus Christ! Thus we read in the second reading: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory.” (5:1-2)

But more importantly, the readings today tell us that in faith and Baptism we receive the living water of the Holy Spirit and we die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

The first reading tells us that God gave the people of Israel water to drink in the desert so that the people of Israel will not die of thirst in the desert!

In Baptism God gives us the living water of the Holy Spirit to forgive our sins, so that we will not die in our sins, but live a new life!

The gospel tells us that Jesus gave living water to the Samaritan woman who although has had five husbands was thirsting for the living water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love!

In Baptism God gives us the living water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love to forgive our sins and to give us new life!

Finally, the second reading tells us that the living water is the love of God poured into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit!

Again, in Baptism God pours the living water of his love into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive our sins and to give us new life!

The readings today have been chosen by the Church to prepare our catechumens for Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! These readings from Year A are read whenever there will be Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! During this time of Lent the Church has also asked our catechumens to pray, to fast, and to give alms, in order to prepare themselves for Baptism on Easter Vigil Night!

We will now celebrate the Rite of the First Scrutiny with our Catechumens and we will pray for them so that they will be prepared to receive the sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night and die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A Happy Lent to all of you, especially to our Catechumens! Amen!

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 8th March 2020

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 A) – 1st March 2020

Theme: LENT IS A TIME OF PENANCE, REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION

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

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. 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!

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 in our conversion! Conversion is not only turning away from sin, but conversion is also turning away from oneself and from the world, but above all conversion is turning to God!

On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the priest distributed the ashes with these or similar words: “Repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mk 1:15/HCSB) In other words, turn away from sin, from oneself and from the world, and turn to God!

The first reading tells us that Adam and Eve turned away from God and turned towards themselves! They wanted to “be like gods”! The wanted to be independent of God and they wanted to be dependent on themselves. They committed the Original Sin of Pride. They committed the radical sin of self-reliance, and of self-sufficiency! They brought death to the world! The very words of the tempter, the devil, tell us of the very nature of the Sin of Adam and Eve!

Thus we read in the first reading: “The serpent asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death”.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’” (Gn 3:1-5)

But more importantly, the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ turned away from the world and turned to God! To begin with, the 40 days of Jesus Christ in the desert correspond to the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert; and the 3 temptations of Jesus Christ correspond to the 3 temptations of the Israelites in the desert and later in the Promised Land, namely, the temptations of bread, water, and idol worship! The temptations of bread and water were in the desert and the temptation of worshiping idols was in Canaan, the Promised Land. (NJB/CSB/Craghan) The 3 answers of Jesus Christ to the 3 temptations tell us that Jesus Christ turned away from the world and turned to God!

Thus we read in the gospel: (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.” (iii) “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”

But most importantly, the second reading tells us that in Adam, we turned away from God and sinned and we experienced death, but in Jesus Christ and through his grace, we turned back to God and we live!

Thus we read in the second reading: “It was by one man’s offence that death came to reign over all, but how much greater the reign in life of those who receive the fullness of grace and the gift of saving justice, through the one man Jesus Christ.”! (Rm 5:17/NJB)

The responsorial psalm is a prayer of repentance and conversion! (CSB) Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Ps 50:3)

The responsorial psalm has 4 stanzas. In the first and second stanzas, the psalmist asks God to forgive his sins. (Ps 50:3-6) In the third and fourth stanzas, the psalmist asks God to transform him so that he will not sin anymore! (Ps 50:12-14. 17/CSB/IBC)

King David prayed this psalm after taking someone’s wife and killing the husband. (NJB) Today we make this responsorial psalm our own prayer of repentance and conversion!

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, to help us during this time of Lent, to do penance, to repent and to convert, so that we may be prepared to celebrate Easter, and particularly, so that we may be prepared to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, or renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, and die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

Ash Wednesday – 26th February 2020

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE “REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL”

  • Joel 2:12-18 (SSC)
  • Psalm 50:3-6. 12-14. 17. R. v. 3
  • 2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:2
  • Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18 

Today is Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent. Lent is a time of retreat and renewal of the Church, when we prepare ourselves to renew our Baptismal faith, and celebrate Easter, and rise with Jesus Christ from the dead to the new life of Easter! The word Lent means “springtime”! This is the time of the year when the countries in the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun and the days become longer and warmer! It is springtime as opposed to wintertime! It is a time of new life! In the same way, when we are turned towards God we experience new life, but when we are turned towards ourselves or towards the world, we experience sin and death!

The traditional formula for administering the ashes is “remember man that you are dust and unto dust you will return”! These were the words God said to Adam when he Sinned! It was no ordinary actual sin, big or small, it was Original Sin! The sin of believing in oneself rather than believing in God! In Genesis 3:5 the Devil tempted Adam to be like God and Adam fell for the temptation and after the fall in Genesis 3:19 God said to Adam “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”! Dust and ashes cannot give life, only God can give life! If we turn on ourselves and on the world we will not find life!

Lent is a time when we turn away from ourselves and from the world and from our sins and more importantly, we turn towards God for love, mercy, forgiveness and life! Thus the new formula for administering the ashes “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”! But I prefer the original text in Mark 1:15 from which it was taken, that is, “repent and believe the good news”! These were the first words of Jesus in Mark’s gospel!

The word repent comes from the Greek word “metanoia” which means to convert! It means not only a turning away from sin, but more importantly it means a turning towards God! It means an about turn, a 180% turn, a U turn! And the word believe means putting our faith in God and not in ourselves and not in the world! On Easter Vigil Night before we celebrate the Eucharist, we will be asked to renew our Baptismal faith. I do not like the words Baptismal promises. We will be asked the following 6 questions. Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises? And the second 3 questions are even more important. Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church? And we will answer, “I do”! And the priest will sprinkle you with the newly blessed water of Baptism! And after that we will celebrate the Eucharist of Easter Vigil Night and rise with Jesus Christ from the dead to the New Life of Easter!

The Church has chosen the first reading from the Prophet Joel to tell us to repent with communal prayer and fasting, for our God is a merciful and forgiving God! The first reading was written in 400 B.C. when Judah was plagued by locust, which ate up the crops. The prophet Joel told the Israelites to repent and to do penance and to pray and to fast, and God will relent and will drive the locust far away, and the crops will grow again!

The Church has edited the responsorial psalm to go with the first reading! The responsorial psalm is a penitential psalm. It is a prayer of a repentant sinner! The response is “have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned”! The psalm continues (1) “have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. (2) My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned: what is evil in your sight I have done. (3) A pure heart create for me, O god, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. (4) Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me. O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise”!

The Church has chosen the second reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians to tell us to make peace with God now, to reconcile with God now! Now is the favorable time! This is the day of salvation!

God has made the sinless one into sin so that we may become the goodness of God! Do not let this grace pass us by! God has reconciled us to himself! Let us respond to God’s reconciliation by reconciling ourselves to God! Now is the favorable time to be reconciled to God! Lent time is the favorable time to be reconciled to God! This is the day of salvation!

The Church has chosen the gospel today from Matthew to tell us to do 3 things during this time of Lent, to help us turn away from the world and from sin, and to turn to God who is love, mercy, forgiveness, and new life! The gospel today tells us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor! In prayer we turn to God, in fasting we turn away from ourselves and we turn to God, and in alms giving we not only help the poor, but we also help ourselves by turning away from money and from the world and turning to God! Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the 3 things done by a pious Jew! The Christians took over these practices from the pious Jews. The Church asks us to pray, fast, and give alms to the poor, to help us “repent and believe in the gospel”!

Again, the 3 formulas for administering ashes on Ash Wednesday are: (1) “remember man that you are dust and unto dust you will return”. Man is dust and ashes, man is not God, dust and ashes have no life; only God can give us life! (2) “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”. This is taken from Mark 1:15. (3) “Repent and believe the gospel”, Mark 1:15! I will use this third formula when I give you the ashes, because this third formula expresses the spirit of Lent best! A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) – 23rd Feb 2020

Theme: WE HAVE TO LOVE BEYOND THE LAW

  • Leviticus 19:1-2. 17-18;
  • Psalm 102:1-4. 8. 10. 12-13. R/ v. 8;
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
  • Matthew 5:38-48

Today is the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that love is the spirit of the law and love is the fulfillment of the law! That is why we have to love beyond the law! Indeed the gospel today tells us to love beyond the law! Thus we read in the gospel today:

(i) “If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well. …. (ii) Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

(iii) Love your enemies (do good to those who hate you; NJB) and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. …. (iv) You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:39. 42. 44-45. 48; SM)

That is, you must love just as your heavenly Father loves! (NJB; Lk 6:36)

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us to be holy just as the Lord our God is holy! That is, we must not hate our brother, we must not take revenge on our brother, we must not hold a grudge against our brother; instead, we must love our brother as we love ourselves! (HCSB) Thus we read in the first reading:

“Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.

You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. …. You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lv 19:2. 17a. 18a; SM)

But brotherly love also means brotherly/fraternal correction! (NJBC) Thus we read in the first reading:

“You must openly tell him, your neighbor, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself.” (Lv 19: 17b; SM)  

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the gospel and the first reading. The responsorial psalm also tells us that the Lord is compassion and love! Thus we responded four times:

“The Lord is compassion and love.” (Ps 102:8; SM)

And thus the third and fourth stanzas of the psalm from which the response is taken and which praise and thank God for his compassion and love:

“The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.

As far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our sins. As a father has compassion on his sons, the Lord has pity on those who fear him.” (Ps 102:8. 10. 12-23; SM) 

In the second reading, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians to be united in Christ and in God! The Corinthians were divided, with some belonging to Paul, some to Peter and some to Apollos. (1 Co 1:12)

Saint Paul tells them that Paul, Peter and Apollos belong to them instead. Paul, Peter and Apollos are their servants to serve them; in fact, the whole of creation is their servant to serve them, so that they belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God! (NJB) They are therefore to be united in Christ and in God! Thus we read in the second reading:

“So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.” (1 Co 3:21-23; SM)

The readings today tell us about love and unity! These are the two most important themes of the Church. The Church is a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the world!

That is why in the renewal of our Church we build small Christian communities of love and unity, like the BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities), the Neo-Catechumenal Communities, the Prayer-Groups, the Bible-Sharing Groups, and the Support-Groups, like the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), the NA (Narcotics Anonymous), the GA (Gamblers Anonymous), OA (Over-Eaters Anonymous), SA (Sex Addicts Anonymous), EA (Emotions Anonymous), etc., where we share and pray personally and spiritually on the Bible, the Sunday Mass readings, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and our personal and spiritual experiences, etc.! God bless you!    Amen!

 

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) – 16th Feb 2020

Theme: THE LAW IS LOVE, LIFE AND HAPPINESS!

  • Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 15:15-20;
  • Psalm 118:1-2. 4-5. 17-18. 33-34. R/ v. 1;
  • 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
  • Matthew 5:17-22. 27-28. 33-34. 37. (Shorter Form)

Today is the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that the Law is love, life and happiness! God is love, life and happiness. God gives us the law to give us his love, life and happiness! In heaven there is only love, life and happiness! Love, life and happiness are the three most important things and they are eternal!

The gospel today tells us that the Law is love, that is, the spirit of the law is love, and the fulfillment of the law is love. That is why we have to go beyond the law to love! (CSB; NJB)

That is why the gospel today tells us that it is not enough not to kill, but we must also not get angry with our brother! We must love our brother! The gospel also tells us that it is not enough not to commit adultery, but we must also not look at a woman lustfully! We must look at a woman lovingly! Finally, the gospel tells us that it is not enough not to take false oaths, but we must not swear at all! (CSB) We must just tell the truth! Thus we read in the gospel today:

“You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.” (Mt 5:21-22; SM)

“You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:27-28; SM)

“Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfill your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all.” (Mt 5:33-35; SM) 

Again, the spirit of the Law is love and the fulfillment of the Law is love! Love is the only law and the only law is love! Love is the greatest commandment of the Law! (Mt 22:34-40) Jesus fulfilled the Law in love and through his death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he fulfilled the law in us! Let us then fulfill the law in love by loving God and by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves! (Mt 22:34-40)

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us that the law is life! The first reading tells us that we can choose between keeping the law and not keeping the law. If we choose to keep the law, we choose life (water), but if we choose not to keep the law, we choose destruction (fire) and death! Thus we read in the first reading:

“If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power. He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.” (Si 15:15-17; SM)         

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us that the law is happiness! Thus we responded four times:

“They are happy who follow God’s law!” (Ps 118:1; SM)

And thus the first stanza of the responsorial psalm:

“They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God’s law! They are happy those who do his will, seeking him with all their hearts.” (Ps 118:1-2; SM)

The opposite is also true, that is, they are unhappy who do not follow God’s law! If we are unhappy, we are not following God’s law!

The second reading is a continuation of the second reading of last Sunday. The second reading of last Sunday (1 Co 2:1-5) tells us not to preach human wisdom, but to preach the crucified Christ! Human wisdom cannot save us, only the crucified Christ can save us!

The second reading this Sunday tells us not to preach human wisdom, but to preach the wisdom of God! The wisdom of God is “God’s plan for our salvation”! (CSB) Again, human wisdom cannot save us, only the wisdom of God can save us!

God bless you!    Amen!

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) -9th Feb 2020

Theme: WE CHRISTIANS ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

  • Isaiah 58:7-10
  • Psalm 111:4-9
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
  • Matthew 5:13-16 

The Church has chosen the readings of today to tell us that we are the light of the world! The gospel tells us that we are the light of the world and that like the light we are to shine so that others seeing our good works will give praise to God our Father.

This short sentence from the gospel also tells us that we are not to be proud and arrogant and take credit for what we have done, but credit and praise are to go to God the Father!

In the first place we are all sinners before God, incapable of doing good works! But God our Father is merciful! He has sent us his Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can do good works!

The Christian is not a social worker! He does not only do good works, but he does God’s work!  His works are not only good for society, but his works are salvific and redemptive!

The good works of the Christian do not come from himself, but they come from God! The good works of the Christian is filled with God’s love and mercy and salvation!

The Christian may fail and feel frustrated and disappointed and may even suffer and die, but like Jesus Christ he will rise again from the dead and pour out his Spirit for the salvation of the world!

The gospel tells us that we are the light of the world, but the gospel does not tell us how we are to be the light of the world. The Church has therefore chosen the first reading from the prophet Isaiah to tell us how we are to be the light of the world!

The first reading taken from the prophet Isaiah was addressing a situation in Israel in about the year 500 B.C. when the Jews have just returned from their exile in Babylon. There were social injustices where the rich and powerful exploited the poor and the weak, etc.. The poor and the weak had no power, no food, no shelter, no clothing, etc..

The prophet Isaiah tells them to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the naked. These are the three basic necessities of a human being: food, housing and clothing. By feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked they will become the light of the world! They will shine like the sun at dawn!

As Christians we often do charitable works, but sometimes we forget that social justice is equally important if not more important. In charity we give to others what belongs to us, but in justice we give to others what belongs to them by right, e.g. a just and fair wage, holidays, health benefits, working hours that are not too long, sick leaves, bonuses, etc..

That is why Isaiah ends this first reading by telling the Jews to take away the yoke of oppression from their fellow Jews and no clenched fist, i.e. no oppression. Isaiah also tells them to give their bread to the hungry and to free the oppressed! Isaiah tells them that in this way they will become light shining in the darkness! They will shine like the noonday sun!

The Responsorial Psalm also tells us how we can be light of the world! The Responsorial Psalm tells us to be generous, merciful and just; to take pity and lend to those in need and to practice justice. In these ways we can become light for the world!

But more than that the Responsorial Psalm tells us that we can also be light to the world not only by our good works, but also by our faith! In the second stanza, the Responsorial Psalm tells us that the just man will never waver! He will never be shaken! He has no fear of evil news; with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord!

The Responsorial Psalm ends by telling us that the just man has no fear. With open hands he gives to the poor. He is just and glorious!

The second reading taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians does not strictly follow the theme of the other readings, but it has something very important to tell us! As I have mentioned at the very beginning, our good works are not from us! They are from God! They are not merely good works, but they are God’s works!

St. Paul tells us in this second reading that he proclaimed the good news not on his own, nor on the power of man, but he proclaimed the good news relying on the power of God! He preached Jesus Christ crucified, a dead man, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God!

And St. Paul tells us that he did that so that our faith will not depend on the power of men, but on the power of God!

Our good works too have to depend not on the power of men, but on the power of God!

That is why we have to pray, we have to have faith, and that is why today we celebrate this Eucharist! Today we come here in our human weaknesses like St. Paul and we celebrate the crucified Christ, a dead man, but it is the power of God! It is the power of the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit will make us shine, so that seeing our good works, men will give praise to God our Father in heaven!                                                                                                              Amen!