1st Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 18th February 2018

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

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

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”!

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!

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)

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!

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)

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!

Pope Benedict XVI has a Lenten Message for us! He emphasizes on fasting. He tells 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!

4th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

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)

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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

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)

 

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!

 

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)

 

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!

 

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE TAKE UP OUR CROSSES TO FOLLOW JESUS TO HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION

  • 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; 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 for repentance. Lent is therefore a time when we take up our crosses to follow Jesus to his death and resurrection!

The gospel today tells us about the transfiguration of the Lord! His face shone like the sun and his clothes were as white as light! But more importantly, the gospel today tells us that God the Father spoke from the bright cloud saying:

“This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him”. (Mt 17:5; SM)

That is, Jesus is the Son of God. He is loved by God his Father. He is also the Suffering Servant of God (“he enjoys my favor”; Is 42:1). Listen to him, especially when he tells you about his death and resurrection and your dying and rising with him to a new life! (CSB)

The gospel ends with Jesus telling the disciples not to tell anyone about the transfiguration until he has risen from the dead. The transfiguration is not the resurrection. The transfiguration is only a foreshadower, a foretaste and a prefigurement of the resurrection. The transfiguration is only a glimpse of the resurrection to strengthen the faith of the disciples to prepare them for the death and resurrection of Jesus and their own death and resurrection with Jesus!

That is why in all the three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the transfiguration is found immediately after Jesus’ first prediction of his passion, death and resurrection; and his instructions to the disciples to take up their crosses to follow him to his death and resurrection! (Mt 16:21-25)

 

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. In the first reading God calls Abraham to leave his country, his family and his father’s house in order to go to a land that God will show him; and God will bless him and through him God will bless all the nations of the world!

Abraham was to cut off all earthly ties and go to an unknown land! It was Abraham’s first act of faith! (NJB) Because of Abraham’s faith, God will bless him and through him God will bless all the nations of the world!

Abraham here prefigures Jesus Christ! Because of the faith of Jesus Christ in God his Father, God the Father raised him from the dead and through him God the Father will raise all dead sinners to life!

 

The responsorial psalm is a hymn of hope in God and in his love! Thus we responded three times:

“May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.” (Ps 32:22; SM)

The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza tells us about “God’s creative word”. (vv. 4-5; NJBC) The second stanza tells us that “God alone is savior”. (vv. 18-19; NJBC) In the third stanza “the community of faith expresses its hope in God’s steadfast love”. (vv. 20 & 22; HCSB) Thus we read in the third stanza:

“Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.” (Ps 32:20 & 22; SM)     

 

The second reading tells us to bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, that is, to suffer for the sake of living and preaching the Good News! (Lefrois; CSB) The Good News is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners! Thus we read in the second reading:

    “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News. …. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.” (2 Tm 1:8a. 10b; SM)

 

In this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms, not as a punishment for our sins, but to help us to repent, to help us take up our crosses to follow Jesus to his death and resurrection, so that we will live the new life of Easter! A blessed Lent to all of you! Amen!

1st Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Theme: JESUS CHRIST THE NEW AND SECOND ADAM 

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

Today is the First Sunday of Lent, Liturgical Year A. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter, that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our dying and rising with him in the sacrament of baptism! Lent is therefore a time when our catechumens prepare for baptism and 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!

The first reading tells us that Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit. By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin of Pride. Adam and Eve wanted to be gods and to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. As a result sin and death entered the world. As a result they lost their innocence and were ashamed that they were naked.

 

More importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ the new and second Adam turned back to God! The gospel today tells us that the devil did not only tempt Adam and Eve, but the devil also tempted Jesus Christ! The devil tempted Jesus Christ with three temptations.

In the first temptation the devil tells Jesus to turn stones into bread; in the second temptation the devil tells Jesus to jump from the highest point of the Temple to test God; and in the third temptation, the devil tells Jesus to worship him and he will give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world!

More importantly, are the three responses of Jesus. To the first temptation Jesus responded:

“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4; SM)

To the second temptation Jesus responded:

“You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Mt 4:7; SM) 

To the third temptation Jesus responded:

“You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.” (Mt 4:10; SM)

 

Most importantly, the second reading tells us that sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam; and more importantly, the second reading tells us that grace and life entered the world through one man, Jesus Christ!

Most importantly, the second reading tells us that the grace and life of Jesus Christ far outweighed the sin and death of Adam, so much so that the new life of Easter and Baptism is even better than the life before sin and death! Thus we sing in the Easter Proclamation:

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” (SM)

And thus the caption of the second reading:

“However great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater.” (Rm 5:20; SM)

 

The responsorial psalm is a “Prayer of Repentance”. (CSB) Thus we responded four times:

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

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas ask God to forgive our sins. Thus we read:

“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.

    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.” (vv. 3-6; SM)

The third and fourth stanzas ask God to give us the Holy Spirit so that we will not sin anymore. Thus we read:

“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.

Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me.” (vv. 12-14; SM)

 

During this time of Lent the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not as a punishment for our sins; but to help us to repent and to prepare for the celebration of Easter, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A Blessed Lent to all of you! Amen!

5th SUNDAY OF LENT (A) – 13th March 2016

Theme: IN FAITH WE ARE BAPTISED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WE DIE AND RISE WITH JESUS CHRIST TO THE NEW LIFE OF EASTER

  • Ezekiel 37:12-14
  • Romans 8:8-11
  • John 11:1-45

Today is the 5th Sunday of Lent. Next Sunday will be Passion or Palm Sunday, and the Sunday after that will be Easter Sunday! Originally, Lent was a time of a few days when catechumens prepare for their Baptism on Easter Sunday! But today Lent is also a time for all of us, who have already been baptized, to prepare us to renew our Baptism on Easter Sunday! That is why during this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor!

The Church has chosen the 3 readings of today to tell us about Faith, Resurrection, the Holy Spirit, and Baptism! The gospel reading tells us about faith and resurrection and Baptism! The gospel tells us that the first profession of faith of Martha on the belief that Jesus can cure the sick and thus prevent the sick from dying, and on the resurrection of the dead on the last day, was not good enough! Martha had to make a second profession of faith, that is, to profess that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and that whoever believes in him, even though he dies he will live, and who ever lives and believes in him will never die! It was only after this second profession of faith of Martha that her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead!

The gospel tells us that when Martha met Jesus, she said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now, I believe that whatever you ask of God, he will grant you’. Jesus said to Martha, ‘your brother will rise again’. Martha answered Jesus, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day’. That was Martha’s first profession of faith!

Jesus asked Martha for a second profession of faith: ‘I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ And Martha responded by making her second profession of faith: ‘Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world’.

And Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus and called out to Lazarus, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ And Lazarus who was dead for 4 days came out!

The Church has chosen the gospel of today to tell us that in order to be baptized or to renew our baptism, it is not enough to believe that Jesus can cure the sick and thus prevent the sick from dying, and it is not enough to believe in the resurrection of the dead on the last day, but in order to be baptized and to renew our baptism, we have to believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and that whoever believes in him, even though he dies because of his sins, he will live, and whoever lives and believes in him will never die because of his sins’!

Today the Church asks us this all-important question, ‘Do you believe this’? And we answer with Martha, ‘Yes, we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world’! We make this profession of faith on Easter Vigil Night and on Easter Sunday Morning and our catechumens will be baptized and we who have already been baptized will renew our baptism and we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the New Life of Easter!

But there is more to the gospel of today! In the gospel of today, we see the irony of St. John the Evangelist, that is, in giving life to the dead Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44), Jesus the life-giver receives death from the Jewish leaders (Jn 11:45-54)! But again, irony of ironies, it is in his resurrection from the dead that he pours out his Holy Spirit onto us and raises us from the dead! In life he raised only Lazarus from the dead, but in death he raised all of us from the dead! In the gospel of St. John, the raising of Lazarus is the 7th Sign, the Last Sign, and the Climax Sign of our Resurrection from spiritual death in Baptism!

The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel prophesied in the 6th century BC (Before Christ) in Babylonia to the Exiles! But the Church has chosen the first reading to tell us that in Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will raise us to a new life!

“The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people,……… And 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,…..”! (Ezekiel 37:12-14)

Again, in the second reading from the letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us, “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 his Spirit living in you”.

Again, the Church has chosen this second reading from Romans to tell us that ‘the Spirit of the Father who raised Jesus from the dead is living in us, and that the Father who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our dead bodies through his Spirit living in us’!

Again, in Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will forgive our sins and give life to our dead bodies!

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor, to prepare for our Baptism, and for most of us who have already been baptized, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, to prepare for the renewal of our Baptism, so that we may die and rise with Jesus Christ to the New Life of Easter! A Happy Lent to all of you!

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (A) – 6th March 2016

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN CATECHUMENS PREPARE FOR BAPTISM AND EUCHARIST

  • 1 Samuel 16:1. 6-7. 10-13
  • Psalm 22. R. v. 1
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • John 9:1-41

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent. The 4th Sunday of Lent is also known as “rejoice” or “joyful” Sunday, because we are more than half way through to Easter! Next Sunday will be the 5th Sunday of Lent, and the Sunday after next Sunday will be Passion or Palm Sunday, to be followed by Easter Sunday!

Lent is a time when catechumens prepare to receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist on Easter Vigil Night and on Easter Sunday Morning!

The readings today tell us about the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist! The gospel and the second reading tell us about Baptism. The first reading and the responsorial psalm tell us about Eucharist.

The gospel today is on the curing of the blind man, and this is to illustrate the theme of the gospel, that is, Jesus Christ is the light of the world: “I am the light of the world”! (John 9:5) The gospel acclamation indicates the theme of the gospel: “I am the light of the world, says the Lord; anyone who follows me will have the light of life”! (John 8:12)

In the New Testament, light symbolizes 3 things: (1) Anything that shows us the way to God. (2) Life and happiness. (3) Good over evil. (NJB, John 8:12b)

  • In the New Testament light symbolizes anything that leads us to God. In the Old Testament it was the Law, the Wisdom and the Word of God, but in the New Testament it is Jesus Christ that leads us to God!
  • In the New Testament light also symbolizes life and happiness, contentment and joy, as opposed to darkness, which symbolizes death, unhappiness, and misery. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the life and joy!
  • In the New Testament light also symbolizes good over evil, and God over the Devil! In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the good that overcomes evil, and the God who overcomes the Devil!

In sum, in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the light that leads us to God, Jesus Christ is the light that gives us life and joy, and Jesus Christ is the light that overcomes evil with good!

The Church has chosen the gospel reading of today to tell us about Baptism, to tell us that in Baptism, Jesus Christ shows us the way to God the Father, in Baptism, Jesus Christ gives us life and joy, and in Baptism, Jesus Christ overcomes the evil in us with good!

The second reading from the letter to the Ephesians also tells us about Baptism. The second reading tells us to live the light of Baptism, that is, to live a life of complete goodness, right living, and truth, and to have nothing to do with the works of darkness!

In fact, the second reading ends with a Baptismal hymn: “Wake up from your sleep, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”! (Ephesians 5:14)

The first reading and the responsorial psalm tell us about the Eucharist. The first reading from the first book of Samuel tells us that David was anointed the Shepherd-King of Israel! There is a difference between a shepherd-king and a king! A shepherd-king is like a shepherd who protects his sheep and feeds his sheep! David the Shepherd-King of Israel is a prefigure of Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ is the Shepherd-King par excellence, that is, the best of its kind, who protects and feeds us with his body and blood in the Eucharist!

That is why the responsorial psalm is on the Lord, as the good shepherd (stanzas 1 & 2), and on the Lord as the host of a banquet (stanzas 3 & 4)!

Stanzas 1 & 2   tell us that the Lord is the Good Shepherd: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want (or need). Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me to revive my drooping spirit. If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and staff to give me comfort’! (Psalm 22:1-4)

Stanzas 3 & 4 tell us that the Lord is the host of a banquet: ‘You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil (sign of hospitality). My cup is overflowing. Goodness and kindness will follow me everyday of my life (the blessings of God). In the Lord’s own house (temple) will I live forever and ever’! (Psalm 22:5-6)

During this time of Lent, the Church asks our catechumen brothers and sisters to pray, fast, and give alms, to prepare themselves to receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist at Easter! The Church also asks all of us who have already been baptized to pray, fast, and give alms, to prepare ourselves to renew our Baptism at Easter! A Happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (A) – 28th February 2016

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE OUR FAITH FOR BAPTISM WITH THE LIVING WATER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD’S LOVE

  • Exodus 17:3-7
  • Psalm 94:1-2. 6-9. R. v. 8
  • Romans 5:1-2. 5-8.
  • John 4: 5-42

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent, and the Church has chosen the readings of today, to tell us that Lent is a time when we prepare our faith for Baptism, with the living water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love, for the forgiveness of our sins, so that we may die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

To begin with, the first reading from the book of Exodus tells us that the people of Israel had no faith. They “grumbled” (“Meribah”) against God and they put God to the “test” (“Massah”)! They were looking for material and earthly water that cannot quench their spiritual thirst! They were not looking for the spiritual and living water that can quench their spiritual thirst!

The last sentence of the first reading tells it all, “Is the Lord with us, or not?” They stop short of saying, ‘Does God exits or not?’ They had no faith!

But more importantly, the responsorial psalm tells us to have faith in God, and to praise and worship Him, because he is our Creator and our Shepherd and we are his creatures and his sheep!

The 3rd stanza of the responsorial psalm from which the response is taken, tells us, ‘Today listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, at Massah when they put me to the test though they saw my work!’

The 1st and 2nd stanzas of the responsorial psalm tell us to praise and worship God our Creator and Shepherd!

And most importantly, the gospel tells us that the Samaritan woman had faith in Jesus Christ! What distinguished her from the Jews was not that she was more holy, but that she had faith in Jesus Christ!

The Samaritan woman was not more holy than the Jews, the chosen people of God! On the contrary, she was a woman, a Samaritan and she had 5 husbands! In their morning prayer, the Jews thank God that they are not gentiles, slaves and women! A Samaritan is a “half-Jew” and he is despised by a Jew! In the 8th century BC, the Jews of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were deported to Babylonia, and the gentiles and pagans from Babylonia were imported into Israel. They intermarried with the Jews and their descendents were the Samaritans! The Samaritans worshiped the God of the Jews, but they also worshiped the false gods that they brought in from Babylonia! The 5 husbands of the Samaritan woman may symbolize the Bible of the Samaritan, that is, the first 5 books of the Bible, it may also symbolize the 5 groups of gentiles imported from Babylonia into Israel, but historically, it refers to the 5 husbands of the Samaritan woman!

The gospel also tells us that the faith of the Samaritan woman was dynamic and not static! The gospel tells us that the faith of the Samaritan woman grows and increases! At first she recognized Jesus to be a Jew, then a prophet, then the Messiah, and finally together with the other Samaritans she confessed that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world!

More than that, the Samaritan woman was also the first missionary and apostle of Saint John’s gospel! She was also the first woman evangelizer (proclaimer of the Good News) of Saint John’s gospel!

The Church has chosen the gospel reading of today to tell us that we have to have faith in Jesus Christ, and that our faith have to grow every year, especially at Lent and Easter time, and that like the Samaritan woman we have to share our faith with others by proclaiming the Good News!

Finally, the Church has chosen the second reading of today from the letter to the Romans to tell us that in faith we are baptized with the living water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love for the forgiveness of our sins, so that we may die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

For those of us who have already been baptized, we have to renew our baptismal faith and we will be sprinkled with the living water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love for the forgiveness of our sins, and we will once again die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter!

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms, in order to renew our faith, so that on Easter Vigil Night and on Easter Sunday Morning, we may renew our “baptismal profession of faith”, and so that we will be sprinkled with the living water of the Holy Spirit of God’s love for the forgiveness of our sins, and so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

 

 

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT (A) – 21st February 2016

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE SUFFER AND DIE WITH JESUS CHRIST SO AS TO RISE WITH HIM TO A NEW LIFE AT EASTER 

  • Genesis 12:1-4
  • Matthew 17:1-9
  1. Today is the Second Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time when we prepare for the celebration of Easter! The gospel today tells us that Lent is a time when we suffer and die with Christ so as to rise with him to a new life at Easter!

The gospel today tells us of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The gospel tells us that his face shone like the sun and his clothes was white as light! But more importantly, the gospel tells us that a bright cloud covered them and the voice of God the Father said ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, my favor rest on him, listen to him’!

To understand the gospel of today we have to read chapter 16:21-28 of Matthew, which immediately comes before today’s gospel. In Matthew 16:21-28 Jesus made his first prophecy of his Passion, that is, he had to suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day! But more than that Jesus also spelled out the conditions of discipleship, that is, to be his disciple, one has to take up the cross and follow him. The one who tries to save his own life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it! In other words, not only Jesus had to suffer and die and rise from the dead, but his disciples also had to suffer and die and rise from the dead!

This was a very new teaching, very different to all the miracles, curing of the sick, casting out devils, etc., very different from the “glorious” Messiah they thought him to be! That is why Peter who just professed his faith in Jesus as Messiah, protested to Jesus that he should not suffer and die, and Jesus responded to Peter by calling Satan: ‘Get behind me Satan, you are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think are not God’s way, but man’s way’!

It is easy to believe in a glorious Messiah who work miracles, cure the sick, cast out devils, but it is hard to believe in a Messiah who had to suffer and die and rise from the dead! We need great faith to believe in a Messiah who has to suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day! We need even greater faith to believe that we too have to suffer and die and rise with him from the dead!

The Transfiguration in the gospel today is a heavenly confirmation from God the Father that all that Jesus prophesied about his Passion and our dying and rising with him are true! The Transfiguration is a preview of Jesus’ Resurrection and Glory to show the disciples that the suffering and death of Jesus do indeed lead to Resurrection and Glory!

But more importantly, the gospel tells us that a bright cloud covered them and the voice of God the Father said ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, my favor rests on him, LISTEN TO HIM, that is, listen to him, not anymore to Moses and Elijah, and listen to him, especially on what he prophesied about his Passion and our need to carry the cross and follow him in order to find life!

The Church has chosen this gospel reading today for Lent to tell us during Lent to carry the cross and follow Jesus, to suffer and die with him, so as to rise with him to a new life at Easter! That is why the Church asks us during this time of Lent to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, so as to suffer and die with Christ, so as to rise with him to a new life at Easter!

 

  1. The first reading is from the book of Genesis. It is on the call of Abraham! God said to Abraham, ‘leave your country, your family, and your father’s house and go to a land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and through you I will bless all the nations of the world! And Abraham left Haran (Iraq) and went to Canaan (Palestine) and God made him into a great nation and God blessed him, and through him God blessed all the nations of the world!

The Jews believe that they are that great nation of Abraham, blessed by God and through them God will bless the whole world! But we Christians also believe that we are that great nation – not through geography and politics, but through faith and spirit – blessed by God and through us God will bless the world!

Again, the Church has chosen this first reading today for Lent to tell us to make this journey of faith with Abraham to the promised land and God will make us into a great nation and bless us and through us bless the whole world!

Like Abraham we are to leave our country, family and our father’s house and go to a land God will show us and God will make us into a great nation and bless us and through us bless the world!

Again, during this time of Lent the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, so as to make this journey of faith with Abraham to the promised land, where God will make us into a great nation, and bless us, and through us bless the whole world!

 

  1. Ash Wednesday was the beginning of Lent and the gospel of Ash Wednesday, that is, “Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18” told us to pray, fast and give alms! The Church asks us to pray, fast, and give alms, during this time of Lent, so as to suffer and die with Christ, so as to rise with him to a new life at Easter! A Happy Lent to all of you!

 

Amen!

 

15th March 2015 – 4th Sunday of Lent

Theme:  JESUS CHRIST IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: THE LIGHT OF FAITH, LIFE AND GOOD

  • 1 Samuel 16:1. 6-7. 10-13;
  • Psalm 22 (23): R/ v. 1;
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • Jn 9:1-41 (Shorter Form, verses 1. 6-9. 13-17. 34-38)

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent, Liturgical Year B, but we use the readings from Year A, because there will be Baptisms on Easter Vigil Night! Last Sunday the readings told us about the “water” of Baptism. This Sunday the readings tell us about the “light” of Baptism. The gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ is “the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

Light in the New Testament basically symbolizes three things: (1) Light symbolizes faith as opposed to unbelief which is darkness. (2) Light symbolizes life and happiness as opposed to death and misery which is darkness. (3) Light symbolizes good as opposed to evil which is darkness.

More importantly, the three themes are related, that is, when we have faith in God, we receive life from God, and we do good works! But when we do not believe in God, we experience death and we do evil!

Most importantly, light will overcome darkness, faith will overcome unbelief, life will overcome death, and good will overcome evil! God will overcome the Devil!   

In the gospel today, light symbolizes faith. The gospel today tells us that the cured blind man had faith and his faith grew! At first he saw Jesus as a man, then as a prophet and finally he worshipped Jesus as Lord! The unbelief of the Pharisees on the other hand got from bad to worse! At first they did not believe that Jesus was from God, and then they did not even believe that the man was born blind, and finally they believed that Jesus was a sinner!

We have to renew our faith every year, so that our faith will increase like that of the cured blind man! If we do not renew our faith every year, our faith will decrease like that of the Pharisees! That is why every Easter Vigil Night we stand with candles lighted from the big Easter candle which symbolizes “Christ our Light”; and we renew our faith by answering “I do” to the six questions of faith, three rejecting Satan who tempts us against our faith, and three questions professing our faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! After that the priest will sprinkle us with the “water” of baptism! +

In the “Gospel Acclamation” light symbolizes life, contentment and happiness as opposed to darkness which symbolizes death, unhappiness and misery. (NJB) 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)

In the second reading, light symbolizes good as opposed to darkness which symbolizes evil. 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)

Again, good will overcome evil! So overcome evil with good! Do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good, says St Paul!

Besides the “light” of Baptism, the gospel also tells us about the anointing with oil and the washing with water in Baptism. Thus we read in the gospel today:

“Jesus spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man (anointing) and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself (baptism), and came away with his sight restored (light).” (Jn 9: 6-7; SM)

 

On Easter Vigil Night, our catechumens will receive the sacrament of Baptism, but some of our catechumens will receive all the three sacraments of initiation, that is, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist! And in that proper order!

For practical and pastoral reasons we have changed the order, that is, Baptism at birth, Eucharist at the age of about seven and Confirmation at the age of about fourteen.

Early this month a bishop from America told the Pope in Rome that he has reversed the order back to the original order and our Pope Benedict XVI praised him for doing so! (Internet, Catholic World News (CWN), March 09, 2012) Maybe one day we too will reverse the order back to the original order! We follow the original order of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist on Easter Vigil Night!

The first reading tells us about the sacrament of Confirmation. Thus we read in the first reading:

“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 16:13; SM)

In Baptism we were born again in the Holy Spirit, but in Confirmation we are strengthened in the Holy Spirit! Confirmation completes the process begun at Baptism, and Eucharist completes the three “sacraments of initiation”!

 

The responsorial psalm tells us about the Eucharist! The responsorial psalm is on the “Good Shepherd”, but the second part of the psalm, that is, stanzas three and four, is on “the host of the messianic banquet”! (vv. 5-6; NJB) Thus stanza three of the psalm:

“You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.” (Ps 22 (23): 5; SM)

The “messianic banquet” of the Old Testament anticipates the Eucharist of the New Testament where we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood! And the Eucharist anticipates the “messianic banquet” in heaven!

 

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not to punish us for our sins; but to help us grow in faith, to prepare us to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! Today is also “Rejoice” Sunday or “Joyful” Sunday, because we are more than half way through Lent to Easter! A blessed Lent to all of you!