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!

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) – 3rd March 2019

Theme: A MAN’S WORDS FLOW OUT OF WHAT FILLS HIS HEART

  • Ecclesiasticus 27: 4-7
  • Luke 6:39 – 45 

Dear Friends,

Today is the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year C. The readings today tell us that a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart!

The First Reading today tells us that “the defects of a man appear in his talk. ….the test of a man is in his conversation. …. A man’s words betray what he feels. …. Do not praise a man before he has spoken, since this is the test of men.”

More importantly, the Gospel today tells us that “There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. …. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.”

Most importantly, the Gospel Acclamations today tell us to open our hearts to accept the words of God’s Son and to offer the world the word of life!

Thus we read in the Gospel Acclamations: “Open our hearts, O Lord, to accept the words of your Son.” (Acts 16:14) “You will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life.” (Phil 2:15-16)

In this Extraordinary Missionary Year for Malaysia, the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia exhorts us to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). But before we proclaim the Good News, the Bishops of Malaysia exhorts us “First, to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ living in His Church through the Eucharist, in the Word of God and in our personal and communitarian prayer.” (Herald, 13.1.2019)

We Catholics tend to value the Eucharist more than the Word of God, but both are important! The Sunday Mass consists of two essential parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist! The Word gives us faith and when we celebrate the Eucharist with faith, the Holy Spirit will come and build the Community, the Church and the Kingdom of God! The Liturgy of the Word consists of the Readings, the Homily and the Prayer of the Faithful. The Prayer of the faithful is a response to the Word of God, asking God to help us act on His Word and to proclaim His Word to all creation!

In the Neo-Catechumenal Communities in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Lahad Datu, etc., Sabah, Malaysia, they not only celebrate the Eucharist once in two weeks on Saturdays and have their convivence (retreat) once a month, but they also celebrate the Word of God every week on Tuesdays or Wednesdays! In the celebration of the Word, they listen to four readings, two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament! They also respond to God’s Word in prayer, asking God to help them keep the Word of God and to proclaim it to the nations! After that, especially during the Easter season, they are sent out two by two to announce the Good News in their own parishes, in other parishes in their own diocese, in other dioceses and in the world! May the Good Lord bless you with a fruitful Extraordinary Missionary Year 2019! Amen!

Fr. Nicholas Ong, Holy Trinity Church, Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia.