Saturday, 13 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Eighth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the need for us to be humble before God and seek His mercy and forgiveness, as we show genuine and utter regret for all of our sins and past wickedness. The Lord wants to forgive us our sins because of the great love that He has for each and every one of us. However, if we want to be forgiven then we have to truly repent from our sins and turn away from all the evils we have committed, and believing fully in the Lord once again.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Hosea, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through Hosea calling on them all to embrace His mercy and forgiveness. The Lord called on all of them, who had strayed away from His path and who had not obeyed His words and commandments to turn towards Him, that He might forgive them and bring them back into His graceful embrace and love.

At that time, the Israelites had erred and wandered off away from the Lord’s path and Law. They had been scattered all over the nations, and by the time of the ministry of the prophet Hosea, almost nothing left was of the northern kingdom of Israel, beaten, crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians. Many of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel were taken away to exile in far-off lands, and they suffered great humiliation for this.

And this is exactly where the Lord reminded His people that they should put their trust in Him and believe in His path. The Lord wants all of His people, us all included, to see that we have this assurance of forgiveness and mercy, and thus hope and strength through Him. We just need to recognise our own sins and shortcomings, and admit before the Lord that we had been wrong and mistaken in our past way of life.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples through a parable, depicting a tax collector and a Pharisee praying in the Temple of Jerusalem, in God’s Holy Presence. And the Lord reminded the people using the contrast between the attitudes of the Pharisee and the tax collector in their prayers before the Lord. We heard of how the Pharisee boasted about his faith, piety and achievements, while even looking down on the tax collector.

We heard how the tax collector was very regretful and repentant over his sins and actions. And regarding whether it was him or the Pharisee who had greater fault or sin, it did not matter, as God forgives those who seek Him with humility and the desire to be forgiven, no matter how great their sins might have been. By using the example of the Pharisee and the tax collector in His parable however, the Lord was pointing out the stark contrast between the two group of people mentioned, which was at that time filled with lots of prejudices and biases.

First of all, the Pharisees were always seen as being righteous and pious in their actions and behaviour, and the people always highly respected and regarded them in the community. On the other hand, the tax collectors were often hated and reviled as traitors and as those whose lives were corrupt and even evil. They were treated as such because they collected the much hated and despised taxes on behalf of the king and the Roman overlords, and some did get rich while doing that.

Showing this prejudice inside His parable, the Lord wanted to show all of us that the Lord calls on everyone to seek His forgiveness and mercy, and first of all we need to be humble and to realise the depth of our own sin, so that we may be forgiven from our sins. The tax collector was forgiven his sins precisely because he humbled himself before God and wanting to be forgiven for his sins, while the tax collector in his pride did not even show regret for his sins and sinned even more by slandering his own fellow man, when as the guide of the people, he should have extended the tax collector a helping hand rather than condemning him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence we are all reminded this Lent that we should turn away from our sinful ways, embrace the Lord’s forgiveness and love, and be more charitable and generous in loving one another, in showing care and concern for each other rather than comparing ourselves and trying to find out who is better than the other in faith and in life. Let us not allow pride, ego, ambition and vanity from distracting and preventing us from reaching out to the Lord and His salvation.

May the Lord awaken in us the spirit of humility and the spirit of repentance and genuine regret for our many sins. May He strengthen us all and give us the courage to move forward in life with a new commitment and a new dedication to live a more Christian living that we do not sin any more, and strive instead to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

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