Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Lent, we have come to the midway of this season of preparation for the coming of Holy Week and Easter. And from the Holy Scriptures we continue to hear about God’s wonderful works among His people, especially with regards to the Covenants which He had made with us and our ancestors.
In the first Sunday of Lent, we heard of God’s Covenant with Noah, who have been saved from the great flood that cleansed the earth from all the sinful man, descendants of Adam and Eve who have disobeyed God. With Adam and Eve themselves God had made a Covenant, that they and their descendants would be blessed and be given the rule over all the earth. Yet, they have fallen from grace because of sin.
And thus through Noah, the Covenant was renewed, and yet, broken once again, as the people of God continued to sin, and therefore fell into the darkness once again. Then, last Sunday, we heard of the Covenant which God made with Abraham His servant, as shown through the obedience that Abraham had, in offering even his own beloved son, Isaac, to the Lord as a sacrifice when He asked for it in a test of Abraham’s faith. God rewarded Abraham for his faith, and renewed His Covenant with him and his descendants.
Now, this Sunday, we listen to the continuation of that Covenant story, with the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, who have been brought out of their enslavement in Egypt. The Lord renewed the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors, and made them His own people. And He showed His love towards them by giving them His Laws and Commandments, the Ten Commandments that we heard in our first reading passage today.
The laws which God gave to His people were meant to guide them to Him, to show them the way to obey the Lord and to be righteous and just in His presence. But unfortunately, the people refused to obey and fell into sin and disobedience just as they have done before in the days of their ancestors. As we all know, Moses received the Ten Commandments above the Mount Sinai, where God spoke with him and revealed to Him all that He wanted His people to know.
But before Moses even came down from the mountain, the people abandoned God and established a horrible, pagan idol to be god over them, the golden calf which they have built using the gold and other goods they have brought over from Egypt. They refused to trust in God’s providence and love, and instead, they took matter into their own hands and decided to walk down the path of sin.
Why did they do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is because they trusted in their own human intellect and understanding, in their own desires and strengths that led them to disobedience and to sin. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to trust in Satan and believed in him, desiring the knowledge and understanding like God, they ate from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, mankind have fallen into sin because of their unquenchable desires.
They trusted in their own wealth and power, and thus worshipped beings of this world, glorifying material goods and wealth. The golden calf itself is rich in symbolism, and the reality of how mankind’s greed can lead to its downfall. A calf is an important commodity in those days, especially because the people of Israel were mostly farmers and shepherds by occupation. A calf can fetch a lot of money when brought up properly and later sold in the markets.
Meanwhile gold has been used for many millennia as the most precious among all noble metals, used since the earliest days of our human civilisation as the means of financial transactions and exchanges, as sources of wealth and possessions. The more gold a person has, the wealthier he or she was and the more prestige and glory he or she possessed in the community. People desired for gold and other precious goods greatly.
Thus the symbolism of the golden calf is indeed very powerful, as the epitome of the people’s greed and worldly desires. They worshipped what they desired, and as we all know, when we desire something, we cannot be satisfied until we have what we wanted. And indeed, when we already have what we wanted, we still desire to have even more and can never be satisfied.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where we need to take a step back in our own respective lives, and reflect on whether we have been living our lives in the right way thus far. Have we been seeking the glory and wealth of this world, like our ancestors often had been, and disobeying God in the process? Have we lived well in accordance to the laws and commandments that God has given us?
Let us look deeper into the Ten Commandments God has given to His people Israel. The first three set of the Ten Commandments remind all of us that we have to love God, with all of our hearts, with all of our efforts, and we have to give Him the best of our attention, and not to have any other gods beside Him. He alone is worthy of worship, glory and honour.
Then, the other seven sets of the Ten Commandments remind us that we need to love our brethren, our fellow neighbours, relatives, family members and indeed, all those whom we encounter in our own daily lives. We are called to love our parents, and respect each other as fellow brothers and sisters, children of God. We should not covet what others have, or steal or kill.
This is against what the world has exposed us to since our youth. In a world filled with greed, desires, and all other worldly pursuits, of power, ambition, glory and many others, it is difficult for us to love others, as we are bound to put our own interests ahead that of others, and when interests clash, more often than not, we are willing to sacrifice others, or even hurt others in our pursuit to satisfy our desired and ambitions.
That is why we easily became jealous at others for what they have which we did not have ourselves. We desire and covet others’ possessions, and for that reason, man has caused hurt on other man, or kill and murder in some cases. And wars and conflicts have risen up because of the insatiable desires of the rulers and kings of this world. And we put those desires above everything else, above all sense of respect and love for others, and even above God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all during this season of Lent rediscover our faith and grow stronger in it. Through what we have reflected thus far today, let us see how we mankind have fallen again and again into sin, simply because we are so stubborn in our hearts and minds, that we refuse to allow God and His love to be in our hearts, just because of our pride and ego.
We are so full of desires and ego, that we want everything to go according to how we want it to be, and we are not happy when others get ahead of us. As long as we are filled with these desires and the ego in our hearts, we will not be able to proceed further in the way to achieve salvation in God. In order for us to be better Christians, thus, it is important that we walk through this season and time of Lent with greater understanding of what we need to do.
We need to get rid of all of our pride and ego, and die to ourselves. I am not referring to the killing of oneself, but rather, to our desires and wants, to all the mentality of putting ourselves above others. And in this, as Christians, we should be following and imitating the example of Our Lord Himself, who in the Gospel passage we heard today, is the perfect fulfilment of all the prophecies and the promises God had made with us and our ancestors, the New and Everlasting Covenant.
Yes, through Christ, He has renewed the Covenant He made with us mankind, but this time, it is one that will never end, everlasting in nature. He sealed this Covenant with His own Blood, and being both equally Man and God, He became the bridge that bring together once again God and His people, who have long been separated because of disobedience and sin. By His cross, and by His selfless and loving sacrifice on that cross at Calvary, He has become the perfect obedience and the perfect Man, our role model. And by His Blood, a New Covenant had been made, one that will never end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Our Lord Jesus emptied Himself from His glory and divinity, as He took up that cross, which is our sins and the sum of all our disobedience and wickedness. He willingly made Himself to be punished for our sins, so that by that action, we may be brought to reconciliation with God. He has obeyed the Father’s will in everything, so that by His obedience, He may erase from us the disobedience we have in our hearts.
And He showed us all, that the essence of the Law and the Ten Commandments, is love. Pure love for God, and pure love for one another. As I have mentioned earlier, this is what the Ten Commandments is truly about. It calls upon us to love God and our brothers and sisters around us, at least as much as we love ourselves. Therefore, during this season of Lent, let us strive to live our lives filled with love, with greater charity and compassion for one another.
Let us all look around us and see if there are those who are in need of our love, care and attention. Let us no longer be blind and deaf to the cries and the pleas of the poor, the weak, those who are oppressed and without help, those who are lonely and without hope. Let us do our best, in whatever way we can, to help them, to show them love, that by doing so, we may indeed be like Christ, and through His example of love and obedience, we may find for ourselves, the way forward to reach out to God and to His salvation. Let us sin no more and be forgiven from our sins. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.