Saturday, 21 March 2020 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that for us to be reconciled with God, what we need is a lot of humility, openness and willingness to listen to God and to change ourselves, to rid ourselves off all pride and ego, of greed and all other things that have kept and prevented us from truly being able to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, as we heard in our Scripture passages today.

In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, again we are reminded of the great mercy of God, which we need to appreciate through our humility and willingness to accept His great love and mercy, by our self-denial and self-control, by our regrets and sincere repentance from all of our faults, mistakes, our selfishness, wickedness, all of our sins and evils. The prophet Hosea has called on us all to return to God with all of our hearts, that He assuredly will restore us and heal us.

At the same time, we are also reminded that the surety of judgment against all our sins is due, because as long as we have sins with us that are not repented and have not been forgiven, then we will be judged and condemned for those sins. We must realise that all kinds of sin are abominations and wicked before God, Who is all good and perfect, and there is nothing imperfect and corrupted like sin can exist in His presence. That is why so far we have been sundered from Him and separated from the fullness of His grace.

What is important is our attitude towards being forgiven by God and our willingness to accept His forgiveness, and all these depend on whether we are able to humble ourselves and recognise our sinfulness, as what we then see in our Gospel today of the comparison between the actions of the tax collector and the Pharisee in the parable told by the Lord Jesus to His disciples and the people to highlight this importance. For the Pharisee was filled with pride and hubris, while the tax collector was utterly sorrowful and humbled himself very deeply.

The Lord used that parable with the context of knowing how the two archetypes of people, Pharisees and tax collectors were viewed in the Jewish community. The Pharisees were very highly respected, honoured and even feared at times because of their great intellect, their great position and prestige in the community, their pious observance and enforcement of the laws of Moses and the other customs and traditions of the Jewish people according to the oral traditions handed down over the generations.

Meanwhile, the tax collectors were reviled and hated by much of the community, and were looked down upon especially by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law because they were considered as traitors to the Jewish people and nation for their nature of work, in collecting the taxes and other monetary demands from the Romans, who were the rulers and overlords of the Jews and much of the Mediterranean world at that time. They were seen as people who were corrupt and wicked, as great sinners together with others like prostitutes and criminals.

And using these common prejudices at the time, the Lord showed how things were not as what many people often thought of, as He showed that it was in fact the tax collector in the parable who humbled himself so much before God, fully aware of his sins and wicked ways that he was forgiven from his sins, as compared to the Pharisee who proudly boasted of his achievements and piety before God and even made a judgment and demeaning comparison between himself and the tax collector. The Pharisee in his pride and hubris did not get the forgiveness for his sins.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the attitude which we often show to our fellow brothers and sisters, both within the Church and to those who are outside of the Church. We often look down on those whom we do not approve of, and we often think that we are better and more worthy than them, that we are closer to God than they are, and that we are more righteous and less of a sinner than they are.

This is exactly what the Pharisee had done, and unless we recognise it, we are likely to end up behaving as the Pharisee has behaved, in allowing our pride and ego, our hubris and attitude to be a great obstacle in the way of our reconciliation with God and our salvation. Instead, we should all come to realise how each and every one of us are fellow sinners before God, and instead of focusing on how we compare with each other in our journey towards God, in our piety and righteousness, let us all be more charitable and be willing to help one another in our respective journeys.

Let us all humble ourselves, knowing that all of us are sinners, no matter whether our sins are large or small, serious or trivial, and instead of being proud and haughty, let us all allow God to enter to us and heal us from our sins through humility, recognising our brokenness and how each and every one of us are in need of God’s healing grace and mercy, and sincerely repent from all the sins which have separated us from God.

May God be with us always in our journey and may He give us the strength and courage to live our lives from now on with faith, dedication and desire to love Him and also to love our fellow brethren sincerely, that we may glorify His Name with our actions and deeds at all times. Amen.

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