Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we approach quickly the coming of Holy Week and Easter, we recall with joy the salvation which God had brought upon His people, time and again, throughout the history of our salvation, how He renews with us His promises and the loving relationship we ought to have with Him, through the Covenants He made with us.

That is why today rose vestments are used, as we mark Laetare Sunday, with the word Laetare coming from this Sunday’s Introit, ‘ Laetare Jerusalem, remembering that in the midst of difficulties and challenges, we ought to rejoice because of the salvation and consolation that has come upon us from God. This is the time in Lent when we do not just focus on our sinfulness and our regret for those sins, in penance and almsgiving, but also look forward to the joy which is to come, when we are fully reconciled with God.

In the first reading today, we listened to the tale of destruction of the last remnants of the kingdom of Israel, when the southern kingdom of Judah centred in Jerusalem, ruled by David’s descendants, was destroyed by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. That was because of their lack of faith and commitment to the Lord, even though the Lord had commanded them to obey His laws and commandments.

They have installed foreign and pagan gods and idols in their midst, and even desecrating the sanctity of the House of God, the Temple in Jerusalem on occasions. Thus God punished them for their refusal to obey His will, and for their wickedness and their sins. But what God truly hated was their sins and disobedience, and not their persons. God still loved them all dearly even though their sins were numerous.

It is proven by what God subsequently did for His people. In the same first reading we heard today, even though we heard to a story of despair and humiliation, but the subsequent passage in fact spoke of hope and gladness, relief and happiness, when God called upon Cyrus, the great King of Persia, to let the people of Israel go back to their own land, after he conquered the Babylonians in the year 538 BC.

And that is the reality of God’s love, that even though we mankind have sinned many, many times and refused repeatedly to follow Him, preferring our own sinful ways and habits, but the Lord is equally generous with His mercy, love and forgiveness. He is always ready to forgive us our sins and trespasses, but more often than not, we are unwilling to accept His generous offer of mercy, because we are often too proud, thinking that we are in no need for forgiveness or healing.

And we are often too preoccupied by the many temptations in life which swayed us away from the ways of the Lord, and we end up falling deeper into the trap of sin, which the devil is pulling us into, through his many persuasions and temptations. We often put our priority in our worldly cares and concerns, worrying about money, about having financial security, about our relationships and how we can maintain a good and comfortable lifestyle, about having career advancements, or having a good house to stay in, and many more.

But in the midst of all that, we often ended up forgetting about God, as we become too focused on satisfying our needs and wants, our desires and ambitions. We no longer put God as the priority of our lives, but instead we glorify and idolise money, worldly possessions, fame, prestige and many other worldly glories. We may think that we obey the laws and rules of the Church by coming to Sunday Mass regularly, but are we truly having a genuine faith in God?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we come to the Mass and celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Why do we spend our time to do the devotions and the prayers? Is it because we truly want to be with God and to communicate with Him? Is it because we think that we have to do it because the Church commands us to do it, or because we are afraid of the punishment God will inflict on us if we do not do what the Church asked us to do?

Do we realise that God has done so much for us, trying to call us to Himself and to reconcile us to Him? He has done His very best, even to the point of giving us the best and the ultimate of all gifts, namely the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. That is what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus. St. Paul wrote about God’s rich grace through Christ, by which many people are saved.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Himself made it plain to us, that because of God’s great and everlasting love for us, He gave us His own beloved Son, by Whom and through Whom we are saved, and by Whose sacrifice and death on the cross, all of us are made whole again and be made worthy of His eternal life and the inheritance and glory He has promised to all of us. He came into this world not to condemn us, but to save us, and that is the reality that we must be aware of.

Again, I want to emphasise that God does not hate us and neither is He angry with us in person. Rather, He despises our sins and our disobedience. Those sins and disobedience are the obstacles that prevent us from being able to achieve perfect reconciliation with God. As long as we continue to sin and refuse to repent from those sins, we will continue to be separated from God, and the eventual consequences may be dire, as we may end up falling into eternal damnation in hell.

He has given us very generously the gift of His Son, because of His love for us, that all those who believe in His Son, will receive true joy, happiness and salvation, freed from the sorrows and the sufferings caused by our sins and disobedience against God. But now, it is up to us, whether we want to embrace His loving mercy and compassionate heart, or whether we arrogantly reject His offer of salvation and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, let us rededicate ourselves to live our lives according to God’s will, if we have not done so. Let us develop a strong relationship with God, through our commitment to prayerful life, and also to deepen our efforts in various charitable activities. Let us remember how God has loved us so much, that He should indeed be the centre of our lives, and not all the worldly temptations of power, ambition, glory, wealth and many others.

Let us have a genuine faith in God, shown through our loving devotion, as well as by sharing the love He had shown us and blessed us with, with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor, weak, oppressed, lonely and unloved. May the Lord be with us, that in our Lenten journey, we may draw ever closer to Him and be ever more righteous and just in all the things that we say and do. Let us truly rejoice because of all the wonders that God has done for us. Amen.

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