Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us as we go deeper through the season of Lent, we are called to reflect on God’s forgiveness and mercy, His compassionate love and the wonderful providence and care that He has shown us all, His people, all throughout history. We heard from our first reading today, the prayer of Azariah, one of the three friends of Daniel, the prophet of God at the time of the Babylonian exile, and from the Gospel we heard the Lord’s parable of the unforgiving servant. Through these, God wants us to learn about forgiveness ourselves, that we may forgive our brothers and sisters, despite of the pain and troubles they may have done to us.
In our first reading today, Azariah and his companions prayed to God asking for His help and protection, at the time when the exiles of Israel in Babylon were suffering as they had lost their homeland and their Temple, shamed and suffering the consequences of their disobedience and refusal to obey the Lord. Their ancestors had rejected the many prophets and messengers that were sent in order to remind them to turn away from their sins and embrace once again God’s righteousness and justice.
When the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered all of his subjects to worship a great, golden statue made in the image of himself or to be executed, almost everyone obeyed out of fear for their lives except for the three young men of the exiled Israelites, the three friends, Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael. The three of them remained firm in their faith in God and refused to worship the golden idol which was a direct violation of their faith. They did not fear death and remained faithful as they knew that God would be with them no matter what might happen to them.
Azariah made his prayer to God, showing exactly that faith which he held firmly even when he and his two companions were thrown into a blazing furnace that was made much, much hotter on the orders of the king, who was very angry at the firm faith of the three young men. Azariah trusted in God and asked Him to remember His Covenant with His people, the descendants of His servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the love which He has shown to all of them. And by showing the remorse that all of the people had for their past sinfulness, Azariah hoped that God would spare His people and help them in their hour of need.
God saved the three men from harm, protected them and showed them that He has forgiven His people, as He later would help them and let them all go home to their ancestral lands. And that is what He expect of them all to do as well, to be merciful and forgiving just as He has been merciful and forgiving towards us. And this is reiterated very well in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord speaking to us on the parabloe of the unforgiving servant. In that parable, using the example of a servant who did not follow his master’s good example, God wants to teach us to be merciful and good towards others.
In that parable, the master represents the Lord, our God, Who is the Lord and Master over all of us. Those servants of the master represent all of us mankind, who indeed have been indebted to the master, as those debts represent our sins, with some of us having more and some of us having less, but all of us are sinners nonetheless. And everyone ought to suffer punishments because of those debts, but the master generously forgave the servant who begged to be given more time to pay off his debts. This actually showed just how loving and merciful our God has been to us, that even when we have sinned so greatly against Him, He will still forgive us and love us if we truly mean to repent from our sins.
God has always been kind to us, but it is usually we ourselves who have not appreciated this kindness, and we have often been mean towards our felllow brethren. That was shown in the Gospel parable, as the servant who had been forgiven his relatively immense debt, refused to forgive his fellow servant who had owed him a much smaller sum of debt. This represent how we mankind often ask to be forgiven our sins, but we forget to forgive our fellow brothers and sisters the debts we have made to one another.
We are therefore called to reflect and discern how we can be more loving and forgiving to one another, as we progress through this season of Lent, this time of renewal and rejuvenation of our faith. We are called to be more Christ-like in all of our actions, interactions with each other and deeds. That means, we should learn to forgive each others’ faults, remembering that all of us after all have been forgiven our sins and debts by God, even though they were much more serious than what we have owed one another.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should focus our attention on one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Patrick of Ireland, the famous patron saint of that island country and many people of Irish descent all around the world. St. Patrick, his faith, dedication and love for God can be a great source of inspiration for all of us in how we live our lives as Christians. For his courage and dedication as a great missionary in Ireland still inspire many of our modern day missionaries and also many among us Christians.
St. Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates at a young age, but he managed to escape slavery and returned to his family. After becoming a priest, his past bitter experiences in Ireland did not prevent him from returning to that same island to spread the Word of God and the message of the Gospels to the islanders who were then still mostly pagan. St. Patrick performed many wonderful miracles and also remembered for his precious teachings to the pagans, many of whom turned to the Christian faith because of him, and he was also appointed the first Bishop in Ireland.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to love the Lord and our fellow men like St. Patrick? He has definitely suffered at the hands of those Irish pirates who brought him to slavery for a good six years or so, and yet, his return to Ireland and his dedication to serve the people of that island showed that he must have forgiven all those who have wronged him earlier on in his life, and instead worked hard to convert them all to the faith in Christ, teaching them about the love, mercy and compassion of God.
Let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, in how we live our lives with faith from now on. Let us dedicate ourselves to serve God with all of our hearts and our might, and love Him and all of our fellow brothers and sisters with sincere love and compassion, showing mercy and forgiveness to those who wronged us, asking for forgiveness for our own shortcomings and faults, and showing care and love for those who need them. May God bless us all, and may St. Patrick, holy servant of God, intercede for us sinners. Amen.