Friday, 24 March 2017 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture passages, the call to repentance and reconciliation between us and our God. In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, we heard the call to repentance and forgiveness from God, Who wants each and every one of us to find our way back to Him, and wants us to be healed from our afflictions, from all of our sins.

That pronunciation made by the prophet Hosea must be understood in the context of the history of the people of Israel, so that we may appreciate just how much is the mercy of God given to the people, who have disobeyed the Lord and therefore lost for a while, the inheritance that God had given to them and to their ancestors. The prophet Hosea lived after the exile of the northern kingdom of Israel to Assyria.

The people of the northern kingdom have disobeyed God, led by their wayward kings who worshipped the pagan idols and gods, who established new rules in defiance of the laws and precepts that God had given to His people, because of their pride and because of their fear, that the people would turn back towards the southern kingdom of Judah, the kingdom of the house of David.

In their sinful ways, in their idolatry and in their lack of faith, the people of the northern kingdom had fallen into the state of sin, and unrepentant, God had withdrawn His blessings and grace from them, allowing their enemies to rise over them, and eventually for the Assyrians to conquer them and deport them from the lands of their ancestors. The people of God had to live far away in the lands of their exile, with no land to call as their own home.

It is this destitute situation that existed at the time of the prophet Hosea, who then preached God’s mercy and forgiveness that He would extend to all of His people, provided that they all turn their backs to their sinful past, and renew their commitment to their loving God. And this means for each and every one of them to abandon their waywardness, and embrace once again in sincerity, God’s laws and precepts.

How does all of these relate to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? In truth, all of us are just like the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, who have been tempted, persuaded and convinced by the devil and all of his tempting forces, into sin and all sorts of disobedience against God. All of us who have sinned had been sundered and separated from God’s love, much as the Israelites had fallen from grace then.

We should have ended up in annihilation, humiliation and despair just as how the Israelites had once suffered. But God in His rich and bountiful mercy, in His loving and forgiving heart is willing to forgive us all our sins, as after all, He Who created all of us, and He Who knows all of us by name and Who knows the depths of our hearts, will not hate us but love us with all of His heart and strength.

Yet, it is often we ourselves who refused to be forgiven. God wanted to forgive us our sins, but it is us who placed obstacles and made it difficult for Him to do so, because of our stubbornness, and because of our inability to resist the temptation to sin, to do what is wicked and immoral and wrong in the sight of our God Who loves each and every one of us. That is why many of us are often far from God’s mercy, not because He did not want to forgive us, but rather because we ourselves hesitate or even refuse to be forgiven.

In this time of Lent, all of us have been called by the Lord through His Church to reflect on our own lives and to reevaluate all our actions, words and deeds. When we remember all that we have done thus far, can we consider ourselves to be among those who have listened to the Lord and obeyed His will, laws and commandments? Or have we instead lived persistently in the state of sin and refusing to allow God to forgive us by His mercy?

Let us all renew our commitment to God, one way or another, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us deepen our relationship with Him, and learn to understand what is it that He truly wants from us. He wants us to love Him back just as much as He had loved us first with unconditional love. And then He wants us to show the same love to our fellow brethren, to be genuine and sincere in our compassion and love for those around us who are in need of our love and care.

May the Lord help us all to persevere in faith and to grow stronger in love, both for our brethren and for our loving God. May He empower each and every one of us that we may truly be worthy of being called the children of God, God’s beloved people. Amen.

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