Sunday, 13 March 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Lent, Third Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings spoke clearly to us the fact, the reality and the truth that in God alone there is hope, there is life, and there is the path to our future, and elsewhere, we can only find death, destruction and eternal desolation away from God and His light. In God alone can we find the help and the rescue from the darkness and the sins that are swallowing us whole and trying to pull us deep into the damnation of hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God does not desire the destruction and damnation of His most beloved creation, that is all of us mankind. He wants all of us to be redeemed from our sins, be freed from all the chains and bonds of sin that separated us from Him and be made righteous and just, worthy once again to be in His presence and to receive from Him the gift of everlasting life with Him forever.

And He does not blame us or condemn us for our sins, as long as we are willing to change ourselves and be freed from those sins that are plaguing us. God is in fact giving us plenty of opportunities for us to turn away from our sinful ways and to reject all forms of wickedness and evil, and follow a new path and a new life founded on faith and love for the Lord.

In the Gospel reading we heard today, we heard how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were working together to trap Jesus and to find blame in Him so that they might arrest Him. And therefore they brought upon Him an adulterous woman who had been caught in the act hoping that Jesus would side with her and thus they would find a reason to frame Him, or if He sided with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law instead, then they could discredit His teachings as an attempt to usurp their authority and as a mere copycat.

But Jesus did not entertain their attempts to trap Him, and He did not budge even though these people stubbornly tried to disturb and undermine His works openly in many occasions. And He plainly and simply mentioned a basic and simple truth, that many of them failed to see themselves, that they are all sinners, big or small, young or old, without exception. And as sinners as they were, they had no right to judge or condemn others for their sins, because then they themselves would be judged according to their own sins.

And this is why when Jesus told the people wanting to stone the adulterous woman, that the one who is without sin may cast the first stone, everyone eventually left the place, beginning from the older one and last to leave were the younger ones. The more years we live in this world, the more sins, unfaithfulness, wickedness and vile things we have committed before God and men alike.

And just as the adulterous woman was condemned to suffering and painful death, certainly the people wanting to stone her to death also felt the pangs and pain in their hearts knowing that for all that they have committed in life, either openly or secretly, they would be judged in the same manner, and thus fear appeared in their minds and they fled, knowing that if they judged her and cast the stone at her, then they would just add even more sins to themselves, and that would make them to be judged even more.

This is an important lesson for all of us, that no matter how wicked someone we know are, we should not be quick to judge and to dismiss that person as hopeless. We should remember that we ourselves were without hope and were certain of damnation before the Lord Jesus came into the world and showed us that there is indeed a path out of the darkness and into the light.

And just as the Lord had shown mercy on all of us, then we too, imperfect and sinful as we are, all the more that we should show mercy on one another too. God had shown mercy on His people, even though they were sinners, dirty, corrupted and unworthy in the presence of He Who is perfect and all good. And He did not give up on us, no matter how far it was that we have fallen into sin.

But are we all realising what we must do in order to accept God’s rich offer of mercy? He has given us so many opportunities and paths through which we may find our way to Him, but many of us have yet to realise the urgency of such a move as is necessary for us to attain salvation and liberation from the fate of destruction that is awaiting all those who are still living in the state of sin.

We cannot be passive or be ignorant about our sins, and we have to do something if we are going to free ourselves from the trap of sin. This means that we have to take heed of what Jesus had said to the adulterous woman, that while He does not condemn her but she must sin no more. If she continues to live in sin and refuse to change her ways, then eventually she has to bear consequences for her sins and be responsible and accountable for it.

That is why in this season of Lent, the Church is helping us to control ourselves and to make ourselves more disciplined in our lives. Through fasting we control the desires of our body, by learning to control our desire for food and for pleasures of the flesh. And through abstinence, we limit and control the urges our bodies, our minds and our hearts have, to do things that are not in accordance with the Lord.

In the Gospel which is read today when there are catechumens or candidates preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, it is about the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, when Jesus our Lord brought him back from death into life, and restored hope to his sisters, Martha and Mary, and brought joy to many others. Jesus showed clearly in this example, how He is the Lord of life, the Source of all living things.

Therefore, if we only put our trust in our own human strength, in our desires and in the strength of our bodies and minds, we will surely fail, for without God, we are truly nothing and without true life. And when we sin, we make ourselves go further away from the Lord, and we distance ourselves from the life that we can only gain in Him. And if we do not turn around, we shall be lost forever, and endure eternal death and suffering in hell.

In this season of Lent, thus, let us all reflect on our own lives, on our actions, words and deeds. Have we been faithful to God in all things? And have we devoted our time to God and obey Him in all of His laws and commandments? This means that have we been truly faithful in our actions, through which we can bring good things or pain and suffering for others? It is the choice that we now have, and the opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

Let us all renew our faith and commit ourselves to God once again, and let us turn ourselves into a new life, that with the approaching celebration of Easter, we may celebrate it with full vigour and with full faith in our Lord, and be made righteous by our faith, and by our actions and deeds that validate that faith we have in God. God bless us all. Amen.

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