Sunday, 12 March 2017 : Second Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together to celebrate the occasion of the Second Sunday of Lent, each and every one of us are reminded by the passages from the Scriptures today that we have been called as Christians, to follow the Lord and walk in His path, following the examples of our forefathers in faith, in the footsteps of Abraham the just, the examples of the prophets, as well as the Apostles and disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the examples we heard from the Scripture passages today, we have been given many examples of how God called His people, choosing them out of the world, calling them towards Himself, and in the process, transforming each and every one of them to be His servants, to be those who are worthy to be called the people of God, and indeed, to become His own children.

Let us begin from the example of Abraham, our father in faith. Out of the many people who have descended from Noah after the Great Flood, God called Abram, from the land of Ur in Babylonia and Mesopotamia. He was just a normal man, who had a wife and a family, living amongst his people in that area of Ur, a decently wealthy man with possessions of many animals and lands.

And most importantly, he did not have any child to continue his name or to inherit his wealth and possessions. At that time, all the other people would have looked down on Abram because he did not have a child. It was considered a curse and something bad not to have a child and to be barren, a shame and curse which surely also fell on Sara his wife. But Abram is faithful to God, and he believed in God when God called him and revealed to him what He had intended for him.

Otherwise we would be wondering why God chose such a man, who was without a child and merely just a man, not choosing the kings and the mighty ones among those who lived during the time of Abram. This is because God saw what is inside the heart and not by appearances, and He saw in Abram, something that is different from all the others. And that thing which differentiated him from others is faith.

God called Abram and he listened to that call. He followed the Lord, leaving everything behind and went on with his wife, Lot, his cousin and his belongings to the land of Canaan, far away from his ancestral land of Ur. He could have ignored the calling of the Lord, as it is much easier for him to remain in the land of his ancestors, and with what he had at that time, surely he had more than enough in order to make himself a comfortable life.

Instead, he travelled the perilous road on the journey towards the land which God promised to him and to his descendants, taking into account the difficulty of travel at that time, when travel was not as efficient and easy as it is today. He followed the Lord’s commands wherever He wanted him to go, and he remained faithful to Him. It was only in one occasion that he faltered, when he was impatient of getting a child for himself, and tried a shortcut by having a child with his slave Hagar. But God chastised Abram for his lack of faith, and reassured him that He would fulfil His promise.

Abram was rewarded for his faith with the gift of the promised child, Isaac, through whom Abram would become the father of many nations, from a man who was considered barren most of his life, to become the ancestor of many people, of kings and lords, and even of the Lord and Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, born the Son of Abraham through His mother Mary. And as a sign of the fulfilment of that covenant, Abram received a new name, that is Abraham.

Let us then link this to our baptism, the moment when each and every one of us received our faith and become part of the Church, either as an infant or as an adult. Each of us received the baptism of water that cleansed us from the taints and corruptions of our original sins, and were received into the Church of God, becoming God’s own children, His own sons and daughters. And we also receive a new name, in honour of the holy saints and martyrs of God.

The saints and martyrs were themselves just like us, brothers and sisters in Christ. They were sinners just as we are. However, they have been called and chosen by God, and they answered God’s call much in the same way as Abram had done, and were transformed by that faith he had in God. God transformed His servants from the creatures of sin and darkness, into the creatures of the light.

In that process, we may have to leave behind the comfort of the life we know of, just as Abram had once done, leaving behind the comfort of his past life, all certainties and goodness in life, and instead following the Lord to the unknown future he was being led into. This is what we also heard in the Gospel today, the account on the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In that account, we heard how the glory of our Lord Jesus was revealed to the world through His disciples on Mount Tabor, when He was shown in the fullness of His Divine glory and majesty, before His disciples. The glory of God was revealed in all of its fullness, and Moses and Elijah appeared and talked to Jesus on that mountain. This is the first message that we can learn from this Gospel passage, that just as Christ has been transfigured in His glory, all of us therefore will also be transformed by the Lord when we answer His call and obey Him, and we shall share in the glory of all of His saints.

But then we should also take note of what happened next. It contains an equally important message and reminder for us all. As the glory of God was so great, the disciples were awed by what they had seen, and St. Peter suggested to Jesus that they all ought to remain there up on the mountain, and three tents should be established each for Him, and for Elijah and Moses.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? At that time, as Jesus continued through His earthly ministry, He knew that He would eventually be betrayed by one of His own disciples, and handed Him to the hands of His enemies, to all those who cried out for His death. And He knew just how much He had to suffer as He went through all of that, and yet despite all these, He obeyed the will of His Father completely and perfectly.

He knew that if He were to descend that mountain, He would go on to Jerusalem, and from there to His Passion and suffering, and death on the cross. To remain on that mountain in His glory is something that He could have done. After all, He did not have to go and suffer for the sake of all mankind, for they have disobeyed Him and became wayward through sin. He is God, and He could just destroy all those who have sinned against Him by His will alone.

But that was not what He had decided to do, brothers and sisters in Christ. He was so filled with love for the sake of each and every one of us that He was willing to empty Himself and humble Himself, emptying Himself from all the glory of His divinity and embark on the path of His Passion, that is the path of the cross. And although mankind had disobeyed Him and sinned, He showed an example for all, through love and perfect obedience, following the will of His Father. And through Him, all have been saved.

That is what God had done for us, obedient even unto death so that He may undo from us the damages caused by our disobedience, our sins. And He has called each one of us, all of His beloved children scattered throughout the world, that we may come to believe in Him, that we may follow Him, abandon our past ways of sin and wickedness, embracing the righteousness and justice found in God alone.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the passages and words from the Scriptures today, each of us as Christians must know that all of us have been called from the world. We have been called by God to follow Him, to embark on a great journey with Him, to go into the unknown, to the destination which only the Lord alone knows. And we need that faith to go forth and embark on this journey, putting our complete trust in God as Abram had once done.

All of us have been called to follow in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, those who have dared to venture forth and go to the places that God had called them to go to, remaining faithful and true to Him to the very end, even when the whole world itself was against them. Jesus Himself showed by example, stepping down from His glory at Mount Tabor and descending with His disciples, who were following Him to His Passion and death at Jerusalem, the complete fulfilment of His mission in this world, that is our salvation.

And how do we then respond, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by taking up our crosses and follow the Lord Jesus, not in terms of physical crosses, but to be true and faithful to the teachings of our Lord, and to stand up for our faith in Him, being true and faithful witnesses to Him and to His truth by our actions, by our words and by our deeds. This means for us to practice love, compassion, grace and mercy in all that we say and do.

Through all that we have faithfully said and done in accordance with the will of God, obeying the Lord as Jesus had once done Himself, all of us will be transformed from the creatures of darkness and sin that were once all of us, into beings of light and righteousness, worthy to be called sons and daughters of God. We all will share in all the glory and the inheritance God had promised Abraham and more, and we will revel in the eternal glory of His saints and holy Angels.

Therefore, in this time of Lent, let us begin if we have not begun, to be charitable and loving to others, especially to those who are in need, not just in terms of material goods, but even more importantly in terms of spiritual needs and the need to be loved and cared. There are many people out there who are in need of our love. Let our Lenten season be meaningful and fruitful, by our actions, through which not only that we restrain our desires and temptations, but also by doing more in what we can do to help others, to love others, and to give ourselves for the sake of all those who need us, just as Jesus Himself had done.

May the Lord be with us in this season of Lent, and may He help us in our journey of faith, so that each and every one of us whom He had called, may listen to His call, and do something that we walk in His path ever more faithfully, putting our complete trust in Him, so that in the end, we may merit to share in the glory which God had prepared for all those who are faithful and true to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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