Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we are preparing for the coming of the penitential season Lent which will begin this Wednesday with the commemoration of Ash Wednesday, all of us are reminded in good time through our Scripture passages today, of the need for us as Christians to be faithful to God in the manner which He Himself had revealed to us and taught us through His Church, passed down through generations from the time of the Apostles.
The essence of our faith and how we ought to live our lives according to that same faith are at the centre of our Scripture reflection today, as we heard of the reminders from God for His people in the Book of Leviticus to be holy and good, loving and caring towards one another, and then followed by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth exhorting them to be loving and good, and to maintain the sanctity of their Temple of the Holy Spirit, and followed finally by the same reminder by the Lord Himself in our Gospel passage, to do exactly the same in our lives.
All of the readings spoke of the need of us mankind and people of God to show love for one another just as God has loved us, that each and every one of us may love our fellow brothers and sisters without making distinction or prejudices, and to show this love, care and concern in every moments of our lives. Beginning with the words we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of Leviticus, was an injunction and commandment from God to His people, telling them to be holy just as He is holy.
And the path to this holiness come from love, that the people ought to love and not hate, to be compassionate and not be filled with anger and jealousy, to show care and concern for others instead of being selfish and greedy. This is something that the Lord has given to His people in order to guide them in His ways, and to break free from their constant attachments and obsessions over selfish desires and worldly temptations of power, wealth, glory and fame among others.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians all of us are called by the Lord to show love in everything we say and do, and in our Gospel today, the Lord Himself said that we should love even our enemies and show that love to those who hate us and persecute us. That is the measure of our Christian love, which is to love unconditionally and without prejudice, the same love which Our Lord Himself has shown to us in many occasions.
The Lord showed us all His love and mercy, and blessed all of us regardless of who we are, and He mentioned how God blessed all and let the sun shine and the rain to fall on everyone, be it that they were righteous or wicked. In the same way, we must remember how the Lord Jesus Himself loved every single one of us without any exception. It is easy for us to remember how He loved the sinners rejected by the society, like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, but it is difficult for us to remember how He has also loved even those people who persecuted Him and condemned Him to suffering and death.
Do you remember how Jesus forgave those who condemned Him to die even as He hung from the Cross? He prayed to His Father in heaven, saying, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ and He did not want to hold them accountable for what they have done out of their ignorance for the truth. In the end, Christ suffered and died on the Cross for everyone, including those chief priests, elders, Pharisees and all His enemies who had worked to condemn Him to such humiliation and death.
Indeed, it is not easy for us to love one another, less still to love even those who have hated us and persecuted us. But we must all realise how God created every single one of us out of love, and He loves each one of us regardless of our sins and our different natures and backgrounds. He recognises in all of us that there is good in each one of us because ultimately as all creation are, all of us have been created good and wonderful by God as described in the Book of Genesis, although tainted by sin.
Take for example, the Apostle St. Paul, a classic example of sinner turned saint. As Saul, in the early years of his life, Saul was not just a sinner but a great enemy of the Church and the faith, who caused countless and untold sufferings for many of the early Christian communities. As described in the Acts of the Apostles, in his blind obedience to the Law as a Pharisee and in misplaced and misguided zeal, he persecuted many Christians and brought many to prison and misery.
Yet, God called the same Saul to be His servant and to follow Him. Saul had a great change of heart and from a great and zealous enemy of the faithful, he became one of the greatest and most courageous defenders of the Christian faith and the champion of Christ, enduring many years of suffering, challenges, persecutions and trials himself. Here we can see the great power of God’s wonderful providence, how He showed us that even the worst of our enemies and the most despicable of men can even become a great saint.
This is no different for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Each and every one of us are sinners, in our various ways of sins and disobedience against God. We are all delinquents, rebels and people who have been tainted by sin throughout our lives. And yet, many of us often like to compare with each other, be biased and prejudiced against one another, even thinking that we are better or more worthy than some others just because they seem to be more sinful and more wicked than we are.
This is where then divisions and conflicts came from, that we end up despising and hating one another, and from there, most un-Christian behaviours came from, even among us Christians. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have just discussed, God has called us to be loving and be filled with love for everyone, and yet, let us think, how many times have we, in our own lives, caused hurt to others just because we gossip about people, because we backstab people behind their back, betraying friends and relatives alike, and by doing things that cause suffering and pain for others just because it can satisfy us our desires and wants?
All of these are caused by the selfishness, greed and desire in us, and that is why, when we love others, it is often that we love because we have ulterior motives in our hearts. This is the most common kind of love that we see around us in the world today. We love because we desire something from the other person, and when we do not get what we wanted, that is when we end up bickering and disagreeing, and often times, disagreements are also caused by the times when our desires and wants, our pride and ego clashed with each other.
This is not the kind of Christian love that we are called to be witnesses of, brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, this is what we have often done daily, as it is indeed much easier for us to indulge in ourselves and to satisfy our selfish desires, as well as to get what we want rather than to give our love and to be generous, even when we have nothing in return. That is exactly what the Lord has done, that He loves each and every one of us so much that even when we are still sinners and rebels, rejecting His love and kindness, He loves us all nonetheless.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to the Lord’s call for us to be more Christian-like in our way of life? It is by opening ourselves to God and His love, and allow God to transform our lives as we conduct our way of life in a manner that is more Christ-like, that when we were once filled with prejudice and bias against other people, let us realise that all of us are equal before God and that there is good in everyone. And while we were once filled with selfish desires and the temptations to satisfy ourselves, let us all learn to restrain ourselves and purge from ourselves unhealthy attachments and obsessions, that we may overcome this selfishness of ours, and learn to be more selfless like Christ.
And while we were once filled with selfish love, love that demands from other people, love that seek satisfaction of oneself and thinking of what we can gain from that love which we give, let us all now have a change of mindset and outlook, that when we love, instead of wondering of what we can gain and receive from the love and relationship, we think instead of what we can give into that relationship and love. For true, selfless and purest love is love that gives and still gives even without expecting any returns, as what Our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself had done.
Are we able to love one another in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is the challenge that God has given us today that as we carry on living our lives from now on as Christians, we should be first of all, seek to be holy just as the Lord is holy, for we are His children and His people, and it is just right that we live in holiness as sons and daughters of God. But in order for us to be truly holy and good, then we need to embrace this pure Christian way of living and also Christian love, as we live our lives focusing not on our own personal desires and ambitions, but rather on glorifying God through our love for Him and also our love for our fellow men.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on this matter and consider how we can, in each of our own distinctive and unique way of life, fulfil this calling of Our Lord in loving one another more sincerely and tenderly, showing true love from our hearts towards others, including even those who have hurt us, persecuted us and made our lives miserable, forgiving our enemies and seeing that even they are our brothers and sisters, whom God also loves just like us, and that there is indeed good in every man.
May the Lord be with us always, His blessed and holy people, that we may aspire and achieve this sanctity in life, through our following of the examples which Christ has set before us, the love that is selfless, pure and true. May God bless us all and our many good works, bless His Church and may He bless even those who hate us and are still opposed to us, that they too may have a change of heart and mind, and may experience God’s love through us. Amen.