5th Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 21st March 2021

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)

Theme: IN BAPTISM JESUS RAISES US FROM DEATH AND IN BAPTISM

1. 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)      

2. 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!

3. 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)

4. 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)

5. 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) – 14th March 2021

Theme: THE LIGHT OF CHRIST: THE LIGHT OF FAITH, THE LIGHT OF LIFE AND THE LIGHT OF GOODNESS

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

1. Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent; Liturgical Year A. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter! Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our death and resurrection with him 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 prepare to receive the light of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of baptism! The light of Christ is the light of faith, the light of life and the light of goodness!

The three themes are related, that is, with faith in God, we receive new life from God, and the life from God is good, because God is good! In fact God alone is good! More importantly, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life will overcome death, and good will overcome evil!

Because Jesus has overcome the devil! And Jesus will overcome the devil in us through his death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of baptism and we will receive the light of Christ, the light of faith, the light of life and the light of goodness!

2. The gospel today tells us about the light of faith. The gospel tells us that Jesus is the light of the world! (Jn 9:5b) The gospel tells us that Jesus anointed the eyes of the blind man and told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. After washing, the blind man could see! He could see with the eyes of faith!

In the sacrament of baptism we will also be anointed with the Oil of Chrism and we will also be washed in the waters of baptism and we will also be able to see with the eyes of faith!

The gospel also tells us that the faith of the blind man grew! At the beginning he believed Jesus to be a man, then he believed Jesus to be a prophet, then finally he worshiped Jesus as Lord! The Pharisees on the other hand decreased in faith! At first they did not believe that Jesus is from God, and then they did not even believe that the man was born blind, and then finally, they believed Jesus to be a sinner!

After baptism we must continue to grow in faith like the blind man by attending Mass every Sunday; if not, we will be like the Pharisees, we will lose our faith!

3. The Gospel Acclamation tells us about the light of life! Thus we read:

“I am the light of the world, says the Lord; anyone who follows me will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12; SM)

Anyone who follows Jesus to his death and resurrection in the sacrament of baptism will have the light of life!

4. The second reading tells us about the light of goodness! 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)

The second reading “distinguishes children of light from children of darkness on the basis of their deeds.” (Vat.IISM)

5. The first reading tells us about the sacrament of Confirmation. The first reading tells us that Samuel anointed David with oil and the Spirit of the Lord seized on David! Thus we read:

“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 Sam 16:13; SM)  

“David’s success was due to the presence of Yahweh’s spirit with him.” (NJBC)

In the same way, the priest will administer the sacrament of confirmation to you by anointing you with the Oil of Chrism with these words: “N., be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit”. And you answer: “Amen”.

And like David, you will be made strong in the Spirit of the Lord! That is what the word “confirmation” means!

6. The responsorial psalm tells us about the sacrament of the Eucharist, that is, the sacrament of sacraments! The responsorial psalm tells us that the Lord God is the Good Shepherd who provides us with food and drink! Thus we read:

“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.” (First Stanza; vv. 1-3a; SM)

The responsorial psalm also tells us that the Lord God is the Host of the messianic banquet! (NJB) Thus we read:

“You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.” (Third Stanza; v. 5; SM)

In the Eucharist, the Lord God gives us his body and blood to eat and drink to give us eternal life! (Jn 6: 51-58; Eucharist; CSB)   

7. During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor and needy; not as a punishment for our sins, but to help us to repent. To help us to receive the light of Jesus Christ; the light of faith, life and goodness! To help us to receive the three sacraments of initiation, that is, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist! A Blessed Lent to all of you! Today is also “rejoice” Sunday or “joyful or joyous” Sunday, because we are more than half way through to Easter! That is why we use rose/pink color vestments, etc.! A joyous and joyful Sunday to all of you! Amen!

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 7th March 2021

Theme: IT IS IN FAITH THAT WE ARE BAPTIZED AND IT IS IN BAPTISM THAT WE RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD’S LOVE, LIFE AND HAPPINESS  

  • Exodus 17:3-7;
  • Psalm 94 (95): 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)

1. Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent. 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! It is in faith that we are baptized and it is in baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit of God’s love, life and happiness!

    The readings today tell us about these two most important themes of baptism, namely, faith and the Holy Spirit!

    The readings today tell us about faith. The first reading tells us that the people of Israel lost faith in God because there was no water in the desert. They quarreled (Meribah) with God and they put God to the test (Massah) saying, “Is the Lord with us, or not?”

    The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us not to be like the people of Israel who quarreled with God and tested God. The responsorial psalm tells us to trust in God, to believe in God, and to have faith in God. Thus the third stanza of the psalm from which the response is taken:

    “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 (95): 8-9; SM)    

    The first stanza of the responsorial psalm tells us to praise and worship God because he is our savior. The second stanza tells us to praise and worship God because he is our creator and shepherd/savior. (NJBC) 

    The second reading tells us that it is through Jesus Christ by faith that we are made righteous and at peace with God, and it is by faith and through Jesus Christ that we have entered the state of grace! In short, it is by faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved!

    Finally, the gospel today tells us that the Samaritan woman had faith in Jesus Christ! Like Abraham the father of faith, the Samaritan woman had nothing, but faith. She was a Samaritan (half-Jew), a woman, and a sinner who had five husbands and living with a sixth man (NJBC; IBC), but she had the most important thing, that is, faith in Jesus Christ!

    Not only did the Samaritan woman have faith, but her faith grew as she encountered Jesus. She first saw Jesus as a Jew, then she recognized Jesus to be a prophet, then she believed that Jesus was the Messiah (HCSB), and finally she became a missionary and an apostle and brought other Samaritans to believe in Jesus!      

2. The readings today also tell us about the Holy Spirit. The first reading tells us that the people of Israel were dying of thirst in the desert, but more importantly, the first reading tells us that God gave them water from the rock to quench their thirst and saved them from death! The water symbolizes the Holy Spirit, because only the Holy Spirit can quench our thirst and save us from death!

    More importantly, the gospel today tells us that the Lord will give us living water so that we will not be thirsty anymore, because this living water will turn into a spring inside us welling up to eternal life!

    The Samaritan woman had five husbands and living with a sixth man who was not her husband, but she was still thirsting for the living water of eternal life. She was still thirsting for love, life and happiness. Only the living water of the Holy Spirit (NJB; NJBC; IBC; CCB) which Jesus gives can quench her thirst and give her the love, life and happiness that she was looking for!

    We may not have five husbands or wives, but we may have five million dollars, five houses, five cars, five jobs, five pieces of property, etc. But these cannot give us love, life and happiness. Only the living water of the Holy Spirit can give us the love, life and happiness that we are looking for!

    Indeed, the second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God’s love. The second tells us that what proves that God loves us is that Jesus Christ died for us while we were still sinners. It is hard to die even for a good man, but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners!     

    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, it is in faith that we are baptized and it is in baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit of God’s love, life and happiness.  

    Lent is therefore a time for us to renew and strengthen our faith. 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!

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 28th Feb 2021

Theme: FAITH IN THE SUFFERING, DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

  • 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 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A. Year A because there are catechumens preparing for Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter in the sacrament of Baptism and in the renewal of our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night! Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance, and conversion.

    Conversion is turning away from sin, but more than that, conversion is also turning away from the world, but more than that, conversion is also turning to God, but more than that, conversion is also turning to the God of love, mercy and forgiveness, the God of Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism, so that we will die and rise with him to the new life of Easter. Lent is therefore a time when we prepare to die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter in the sacrament of baptism and in the renewal of our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night!

The readings today tell us about faith; particularly, faith in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! The gospel today tells us about the transfiguration of the Lord. The gospel tells us that Jesus took with him Peter, James and John to a mountain and there he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun and his clothes were as bright as light. And a voice from heaven said: this is my Son, the Beloved, my favor rest on him. Listen to him!

    Listen to his teaching, particularly when he teaches you about his suffering, death and resurrection. Today’s gospel is placed immediately after Jesus’ first prophesy of his passion, death and resurrection; and immediately after Jesus taught his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him!   

    The transfiguration was a preview and a foretaste of the resurrection. The transfiguration was to strengthen the faith of the apostles for the coming suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus! The transfiguration was to strengthen the faith of the apostles for their own suffering, death and resurrection as followers of Jesus! Thus St. Paul tells Timothy in the second reading: With me, bear the sufferings for the sake of preaching the Good News, relying on the power of God who saved us and called us to be holy!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us about faith; the faith of Abraham, the father of faith. Abraham was a nomad. He had no land and no children and he was 75 years old and his wife was childless; but Abraham had faith and because of his faith God blessed him with land and with children; as many children as the stars in heaven and as many children as the grains of sand on the seashore. (Gn 22:17) And through Abraham all the nations of the world will also be blessed!        

    Thus we read in the first reading: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing. I will bless those who bless you: I will curse those who slight you. All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.’ So Abram went as the Lord told him.” (Gn 12:1-4/SM)

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us to hope in the faithful love of God. 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 (33):22/SM)

    God created us out of nothing but love, and when we sinned he loved us even more, he came to save us, and when we killed him, he loved us even more, he rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit to love us from within us and inside us until we love him back and until we love one another and until we love ourselves! He loves us not from heaven nor from earth but from within us and inside us! He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. He loves us more than we love ourselves. (St. Augustine) And he knows us more than we know ourselves! Hope therefore in the faithful love of God! Do not hope in the unfaithful love of human beings!

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 strengthen our faith for Baptism and for the renewal of our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! Immediately before Baptism and before renewing our Baptism we have to answer the 6 questions of faith, that is, we have to profess our faith!

    Prayer includes Sunday Mass, “Lectio Divina” (spiritual reading of the Scriptures), going to confession, etc. Fasting (one full meal a day) is obligatory for those over 18 and below 60 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory for those over 14 years old. We can of course fast and abstain voluntarily!

    Again, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us in his message for Lent that fasting helps us to avoid sin, to restore friendship with God, to do the will of God, to love God and neighbor, and to help the poor. I conclude that if we do not fast, we cannot avoid sin, we cannot restore our friendship with God, we cannot do the will of God, we cannot love God and neighbor, and we cannot help the poor!

    Almsgiving is to help the poor. Our Bishop Julius emphasizes in his Lenten message that we must help the poor. “Lenten Appeal” envelopes are available at the church’s entrance. Almsgiving also helps us to trust in providence! God provides! That is why our religious take the “vow of poverty”! Our priests should also voluntarily take the vow of poverty!               

    A Happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

                                                                                                

1st Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 21st Feb 2021

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE TO DIE AND RISE WITH JESUS CHRIST TO THE NEW LIFE OF EASTER

1. Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter in the sacrament of Baptism and in the renewal of our Baptism at Easter.

    Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance and conversion. Conversion is turning away from sin, from oneself, and from the world; and turning to God, to the God of love, mercy and forgiveness, to the God of Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism. Lent is therefore a time when we prepare to die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter in the sacrament of Baptism and in the renewal of our Baptism at Easter! The readings today tell us to repent and to convert! The word “convert” comes from a Latin word convertere meaning “to turn around”!       

2. The first reading tells us that Adam and Eve turned away from God and turned to themselves. They wanted to be like gods. They did not want to depend on God; they wanted to depend on themselves. They wanted to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. As a result sin and death entered the world!

3. More importantly, the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ the second Adam, the new Adam, turned back to God! Thus the three replies of Jesus to the three temptations of the devil:

    To the temptation of changing stones into bread, Jesus replied: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4/Dt 8:3)

    To the temptation of throwing himself down from the top of the temple, Jesus replied: “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Mt 4:7/Dt 6:16)

    To the temptation of worshiping the devil for all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus replied: “Be off, Satan! For scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.” (Mt 4:10/Dt 6:13)  

4. Most importantly, the second reading tells us that just as Adam brought sin and death into the world; Jesus Christ the second Adam, the new Adam brought grace, justification/salvation and life into the world! Thus we read in the second reading:

    “For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.” (Rm 5:17/CSB)  

    It is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we repent, convert, and turn back to God this Lent!   

5. Thus we can make the responsorial psalm our own “Prayer of Repentance”! (CSB) The “historical heading” (NJBC) of the responsorial psalm associates it with David when the prophet Nathan came to him after he committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband.

    The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas are a prayer for the forgiveness of our sins. The third and fourth stanzas ask God to give us his holy spirit to give us new life so that we will not sin anymore! (CSB/NJBC) Thus the responsorial psalm:

    “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. (Stanza 1)

    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. (Stanza 2)

    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. (Stanza 3)

    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.” (Stanza 4)   

6. During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to do penance, to pray, to fast and to give alms. Penance is not a punishment. Penance helps us to repent and to convert. Prayer includes Lectio Divina (spiritual reading of the Bible), attending Sunday Mass, going to confession, etc. Fasting, that is, eating one full meal a day, is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday for those over 18 years old and under 60 years old. Abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory for those over 14 years old. However we can voluntarily fast every Friday of Lent. Our religion is not a religion of the law, but a religion of love, a religion of the Spirit, a religion of freedom! Almsgiving is to help the poor and to help ourselves to trust in providence. God provides! Thus the religious take the vow of poverty! They depend on God! They do not depend on money!

7. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his past Lenten Message emphasized on fasting. He told us that fasting helps us to avoid sin, to restore friendship with God, to do the will of God, to love God and neighbor, and to help the poor.     

    The Consequences of Not Fasting: cannot avoid sin, cannot restore friendship with God, cannot do God’s will, cannot love God and neighbor, and cannot help the poor.

    Bishop Julius also has a Lenten Message for us! He tells us that Lent is a time of repentance, reconciliation and conversion. Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to prepare for the celebration of Easter. He emphasizes that Lent is a time to help the poor. He also tells us that Lent is a time when our catechumens prepare for their Baptism at Easter.

    A Happy Lent to all of you!                                                                       Amen!

Ash Wednesday (Year A, B, C)

Theme: REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL

  • Joel 2:12-18;
  • Psalm 50 (51):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 the Lenten season of forty days. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, because the Sundays of Lent are not days of penance!

Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter! Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the baptism of our Catechumens and the renewal of our own baptism on Easter Vigil Night!

Lent is therefore a time of penance, repentance and conversion! The word conversion comes from a Latin word meaning an about turn, a U turn, a 180 degree turn! A turning away from sin, from the world, from oneself and a turning to God and neighbor!

The gospel today tells us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor, not for show, as the hypocrites do, but for penance, repentance, and conversion!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us to repent. More importantly, the first reading tells us to repent because God is merciful. He will forgive us our sins!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm asks God to forgive our sins. More importantly, the responsorial psalm asks God to give us a new heart so that we will not sin anymore!

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas (vv. 3-6) ask God to forgive us our sins. The third and fourth stanzas (vv. 12-14. 17) ask God to give us a new heart so that we will not sin anymore!

The second reading follows the theme of the gospel. The second reading tells us to be reconciled to God, because God has already reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ! And the time for reconciliation is now! The favorable time is now! The time for salvation is now!

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor to help us do penance, repent and convert. The word Convert means to turn.

Prayer helps us to turn to God. Fasting helps us to turn away from ourselves and to turn to God, because fasting helps us in our prayers! Fasting also helps us to turn to our neighbor, because the money saved from fasting is given to the poor! Almsgiving to the poor and the needy helps us to turn away from the world and to turn to our neighbor.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to turn away from sin, from the world, from oneself, and to turn to God and neighbor!

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to prepare for the celebration of Easter, particularly for the baptism of our catechumens on Easter Vigil Night, and the renewal of our own baptism on Easter Vigil Night!

We shall now proceed to bless and distribute the ashes! The ashes are a sign of our penance and repentance! As the priest distributes the ashes he says, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (cf. Mk 1:15) In the old Missal the priest says, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

Repentance is not only turning away from sin, but it is also turning away from the world and from oneself. Believing in the gospel is not only being faithful to the gospel, but having faith in the gospel! Having faith in Jesus Christ and having faith in God!

The second formula is “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (cf. Gn 3:19) This was what God said to Adam when he sinned against God!

Without God we are indeed dust and death, but with God we are spirit and life and eternal life! That is why we have to “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”!

We shall now proceed with the blessing and distribution of the ashes! A happy Lent to all of you!

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!

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!