Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, which is the fifth and the last one in the season of Lent before the beginning of the Holy Week, we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of a new Covenant forged between God and His people, which would come to be realised during the events of the Passion of Our Lord that we commemorate in this upcoming Holy Week.

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing about the Covenants that God had made with His people, which then ended up being broken by the same people with whom He had made those Covenants with. Now, what is a Covenant in the first place? A Covenant is not just like any promises or pacts, even though it may sound very similar to a promise or a pact between peoples. A Covenant is a very formal agreement and contract between two parties, where each party is expected to obey to certain rules of the Covenant.

And it is God Who made His Covenants with us, with God as one party of the Covenant, and us mankind as the other party of the Covenant. But while God has always been faithful to His part in the Covenants He made, it has always been us who failed to honour our part of the Covenant. The descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and all those with whom God made His Covenants had sinned, by disobeying His laws, worshipping pagan idols and committing wicked acts such as murder, adultery and simony and many more.

A prominent part of the Covenant in the past during the time of the Old Testament was the sacrifice of animals such as lambs or bulls or pigeons, which blood was then divided into half, half poured onto the altar while the other half is sprinkled onto the people as a sign of the renewal of the Covenant. They were always conducted in the most formal and solemn circumstances to highlight just how serious God is at establishing a loving relationship with us.

Whenever we disobey God and do what is wicked and against His ways, we sin before Him, and by that sin, we have been disgraced and sundered from God’s love. And therefore we break the Covenant that God had made with us by our sins. When that happened in the past, the people who sinned must come to a priest, who would then sacrifice the animals brought onto the Temple, and sprinkle the blood on the sinner as a sign of God’s forgiveness.

Essentially, this is a very symbolic gesture of God’s forgiveness of our sins, which is then linked to the renewal of the Covenant He had established with us. But as we can see, mankind is a very stubborn race of people, who often failed to resist the temptation to sin, and we continue to do what we prefer to do rather than to obey the ways and the laws of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise the extent of the love which God has shown to us all, to each and every one of us, from the least among us to the greatest and the mightiest among us. All of us are equally loved by God, and none of us can say that God does not love us or hate us. He loves each and every one of us for who we are, His beloved children and creation, but it was our sins that He despised. It was our sins which come in between us from our loving relationship with God.

It was never in God’s intention to punish us or to make our lives miserable. If souls fell and ended up in hell, in the state of eternal despair and hopelessness, that was not God’s doing, but the mistakes committed by the fallen beings themselves. God has always offered His love, forgiveness and compassion freely without the need for us to pay for them. But it is us mankind who have willingly refused to accept God’s offer of mercy, love and compassion.

For the love of worldly things, our greed and ambition, our ego and desires, we have chosen to walk in our own path, instead of obeying and following God. We ended up disobeying God and living in sin, and that is why many of us mankind, throughout the ages are truly in a sad state, defiled and corrupted by our sins and wickedness. Had the Lord not done anything to help us, hell would have been full with all of us and our ancestors.

No, that is not what God wanted to happen, and that is why, He resolved to end the continuing cycle of sin and damnation once and for all, by forging with us a renewed Covenant, the greatest among all the Covenants, one that will never end and will never be broken, because it is sealed not with any animal sacrifices or any forms of animal blood, but by the most precious Blood of all, the Blood of Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it was by His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the cross, that Jesus Christ Our Lord sealed the New Covenant which He made with us all, as the Mediator of that New Covenant, between God and mankind, His beloved ones. Christ’s loving sacrifice and His voluntary shedding of His Blood from the cross, on the perfect altar that is Calvary, marks the beginning of a new era, of reconciliation between God and His people, all of us.

Before Christ, we mankind and Our Lord have been separated because of sin, such that in between us and Him there is an uncrossable chasm and sundering, that prevented us from being able to be with Our God. Our sins should have merited us eternal damnation and suffering in hell, separated forever from God. However, as mentioned, God did not want that to happen to us, because of His love, and thus, He gave us Christ as our Saviour, that all of us who believe in Him will be saved.

Through Christ, Who is both God and Man, all of us find a new hope, by the bridge that Christ Himself had built through His cross, to bring man back to the loving embrace of their Creator. This new and everlasting Covenant will never be broken, for God Himself guaranteed it by His own Most Precious Blood, sealed for all eternity. Now, it is the matter of whether we are willing to be a part of that Covenant or not.

God has always given us the freedom to choose whether we want to obey Him or not. However, the consequences of our choice is ours alone to bear. If we decide to follow the examples of the Israelites of the past, who disobeyed God and preferred to live in sin, enjoying all the good fruits and the desires of this world, then we have to know that we have chosen all these over all that God has offered us.

But if we choose to be faithful to Him and partake in the Covenant He had made with us through Christ, then we can call ourselves as Christians, in body, heart, mind and spirit. Yet, we cannot be half-hearted in our faith and commitment, or else, it is likely that we will be tempted and fall. Being a true Christian requires effort and commitment from us, as the Lord Himself said, that in order for us to follow Him, we must take up our crosses and follow Him.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, reflecting and remembering upon all the good things that God had done for us, His insistent love and compassion for us, and all that He had given us, even to the point of giving us His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and to die for us on the cross for our salvation, just so that He can bond us all to a new and everlasting Covenant that superseded all previous ones, then we should indeed think of how we can be part of this wonderful Covenant.

As we approach the Holy Week beginning next Sunday with the Palm Sunday, let us recall the Passion of Our Lord Jesus, Who took up that cross and suffered for us, so that by gathering all of our sins to Himself, He might redeem all of us, His beloved people. Let us all shun all of our past sins and wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God, and walk from now on in His ways.

Let us now be an active partner of the Lord in the Covenant He made with us, by devoting ourselves, our time, our effort, our actions and our words for the greater glory of God. And how do we do this? First of all, we need to put God as the priority in our lives, by obeying His laws and commandments, and by doing our actions with our love for God in mind. That means, we should not treat our brothers and sisters with contempt or hatred, or selfishly trying to preserve our own needs and attain our desires over the sufferings of others.

Let us be more charitable in all of our dealings, in our every actions and deeds. Let us all have pity and compassion on those who are not as fortunate as us in our midst, and do whatever we can to help, or to alleviate their sufferings, or to share our joy with them. This is how we show others the same love that God has shown us, a selfless and compassionate love.

Let us also draw closer to God, by deepening our relationship with Him through prayer, that in everything we do, we do it prayerfully, knowing that God is with us, and that we exist to be with God, to love Him and to serve Him with love. Let us all show our commitment to Him by devoting our lives more wholeheartedly to Him. May all of us find our way to reach God’s saving grace, and receive the gift of eternal life and glory, as part of the Covenant He has established with us.

May all of us be more committed to live up to the Covenant God made with us, by proactively seeking to be righteous and just in His presence, by our compassion to the poor and to the needy around us, by listening to the pleas of the hungry and by showing comfort and love for the lonely and for those who were without love. May God be with all of our actions and endeavours, and may He bring us ever closer to Him, and bless us all of our days. Amen.