Wednesday, 13 March 2019 : 1st Week of Lent, Sixth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us about the need for us to listen to the words of the Lord and repent from our sinful ways. He has called us through His many messengers and prophets, and finally, through His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, He has revealed to us what it means for us to be Christians, to abandon our past way of sin and embracing the new wisdom and truth in God.

Today’s readings are centred on repentance of sins and the forgiveness that God will give to all those who have willingly abandoned their past waywardness and sincerely desiring to be forgiven. God did not desire our destruction but our salvation, not our suffering and pain, but rather our reconciliation with Him. That is why, in our first reading today we heard of the story of the redemption of Nineveh.

At that time, the prophet Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. The prophet Jonah initially refused to obey the Lord’s commands and tried to flee away from Him. But the Lord made it such that Jonah encountered a great storm on his way in a boat, and he had to ask to be thrown into the sea, and swallowed by a large whale. The whale brought him safely back to land, and the prophet obeyed the Lord’s commands to bring His message to the people of Nineveh.

Nineveh was a great city, as the capital city of the great Empire of the Assyrians, which covered most of the known world at that time. It is also the embodiment of what is evil and wicked, as the Assyrians were known to be a warlike nation, and how the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and brought its people into exile. One of its kings, Sennacherib even attempted to conquer and destroy Jerusalem, and boasted that he has destroyed many idols of the people conquered by Assyria’s armies, and how God’s people would be no different.

Therefore, Assyria and especially Nineveh, where its kings and nobles lived, was the embodiment of evil and wickedness, in the sight and thoughts of the people of God. That was what the prophet Jonah must also have had in mind, when he came to Nineveh bearing God’s warning of destruction and annihilation. Then, unexpectedly, the king, the nobles and the entire people of Nineveh repented from their sins and humbled themselves before God.

They mourned before the Lord, humbled themselves, wearing sackcloth and showing sincere regret for the wicked deeds that they have committed. And God saw their sincere desire to be forgiven, and they were forgiven from their sins. God held back the destruction that He had planned to bring upon them, as ultimately, God loves every single one of His children, without exception, even the greatest of sinners.

The prophet Jonah became angry, and was fuming over the Lord’s decision to spare the people of Nineveh. But God explained to Jonah, how His mercy and love is extended freely to all, even to the worst among sinners, as long as they desire to be forgiven and has the sincere desire to turn away from their sins. God despises not the sinners, but the sins they have committed, and their stubbornness in pursuing that path of sin.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded of this generous mercy and love that God has given to each and every one of us. In this season of Lent in particular, we are called to reflect on our own sinfulness, our own wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God. God wants us to turn away from those sins, and to be reconciled to Himself. And we should not be wasting this opportunity that God has provided to us.

Are we willing to make that commitment to embrace a new life, not of sin but of righteousness and justice? Are we willing to put the effort to renew our lives, that while once we may have acted out of selfishness and wicked desires in our hearts and minds, now we are able to turn away from those sins and enter into a new existence of faith with God? This requires a lot of effort and commitment from us, but if we are able to put our effort into it, and with God’s guidance nothing is impossible.

Today, we also commemorate the sixth anniversary of the election of our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis as the leader of the entire Universal Church. Let us all spend some time to pray for our Pope, that God will always guide and protect His Vicar, in all the work and the leadership he has shown in the management of the entire universal Church of God. Let us all pray together, and work together, with the intention of our Holy Father the Pope, for the salvation of all of God’s people. Amen.

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