Sunday, 21 March 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the fifth one in the season of Lent we mark the beginning of the Passiontide, the period marking the time remembering the Passion or the suffering and death of Our Lord which will culminate in the celebrations of the Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. As such this Sunday is also known as the Passion Sunday, serving as an important reminder to all of us that we are approaching the end of Lent and are entering the most solemn period in our entire liturgical year.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through His prophet Jeremiah, promising them of a New Covenant that He would establish with them, and how He would reconcile them all to Himself, and that He would forgive them their sins and take them back to His embrace. The New Covenant that He would establish with them would not be like the old Covenant that He had once made, but much more perfect and complete.

At that time, the people of Israel had long disobeyed the Lord and fallen into vile and wicked ways, worshipping the pagan idols and gods, refusing to listen to the prophets and messengers that had been sent to them and remaining defiant in sin. They rebelled against God and were stubborn in challenging God’s authority, and thus, they should have been crushed and destroyed. God could have condemned mankind, but He did not do so because of the love that He has for each and every one of us.

He has always been patient in reaching out to us and in loving us, showing us all His care and compassionate love. And although He might seem to be stern and fierce at times, that was because He loved us sincerely and with the genuine desire to see us grow and become better. He is our loving Father, Who wants us all, His children to learn His ways and to be righteous and good, just as He is good. That is why He sent messengers after messengers, prophets after prophets to reach out to us.

He then sent us the fulfilment of that promise, the promises He had made to all of His beloved ones, through His prophets and messengers, including the one made through Jeremiah. That fulfilment came through Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of all. That God did not even hesitate to give to us His own beloved and only begotten Son is a testament of His enduring love and the dedication He has to the Covenant that He had made with us.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today proclaimed to His disciples and to all the people gathered, of the truth of God that has been revealed through Him, and how He would glorify His Father’s Name through His actions, where He mentioned how He would suffer and eventually die for the sake of our salvation, taking up upon Himself the sins of the whole world and placed them on His own shoulders, enduring all those for our sake, because of the love He has for us.

And just as shown in our Gospel passage today, how there were some Greeks, the non-Jews or the Gentiles who came and wanted to speak with the Lord and know more about Him, today as we heard that passage, we can see the symbolic nature of such an encounter, as God’s voice was heard just like how it was during the time of the baptism of Jesus, proclaiming that ‘I have glorified My Name, and I shall glorify it again’, as a reference to what the Lord Jesus would do to proclaim the glory of God and reveal the fullness of His truth to all.

These were meant therefore for both the Jews and the non-Jews or Gentiles alike, God has called all of them to follow Him and to walk in His path. God wants every single one of us, children of mankind, to come to know Him, to embrace Him and be reconciled with Him. Once we may have been separated from Him by sin, but God wants to show us all that no sin is great enough to come between us and Him, and His grace alone is enough to bridge that gap between us and Him.

In our second reading, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke more of all that the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour had done in order to bring us out of our predicament and enslavement by sin, that by obeying the will of His heavenly Father, He willingly took up His Cross, and by becoming both the High Priest for all of us and also the Lamb of sacrifice, the Paschal Lamb, He became for us the source of salvation and eternal life, the reconciliation with God, our loving Father and Creator.

It was by that action, the perfect and most loving sacrifice offered by Christ, our one and true Eternal High Priest, has offered on the Cross, the Altar of His sacrifice at Calvary that He has both become the High Priest offering on our behalf the sacrificial offering worthy of the forgiveness for our sins and our redemption. And not only that but He is also the Lamb to be sacrificed, the only One perfect and worthy enough, Son of God, incarnate in the Flesh, shedding His Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, in atonement for our sins.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the Passion of Our Lord, the word Passion having the meaning of enduring, suffering and persevering with patience, from the Latin words, ‘passus sum’, referring to all the hardships, trials, and grievous wounds and pains that Our Lord had to endure as He ascended the way of the Cross, the path of suffering from Jerusalem where He was condemned to death by crucifixion, up to the hill of Calvary outside the city, stripped and humiliated, nailed to the Cross, and finally suffered death at the end of all His sufferings.

That is also why we celebrate during this upcoming Holy Week, committing ourselves to the memory of the Lord Who has loved us so much that He has sent us deliverance, hope and salvation through Christ, His beloved Son, Who had to endure all the struggles and pains so that through His suffering and death, we may be freed from the tyranny of sin and death, and by sharing in the same death, we may enter into the glorious Resurrection just as the Lord Himself had risen in glory.

Through His suffering on the Cross, Christ shed His own Most Precious Body and Blood, with the Cross as His Altar, offering Himself freely and establish for us a New Covenant between us and God, with Him as the Mediator of this New Covenant. Christ being both the Son of God and Son of Man, having two distinct natures, human and Divine, united inseparably in His one Person, is perfect for this role of Mediator, bringing the gap that existed between us and God, reconciling us from the rebellion of our sins and wickedness.

According to St. Paul, Christ is the New Adam, which as compared to the old Adam, our first forefather, is perfect and the exemplary Man, that while Adam and Eve once disobeyed the Lord and ate of the fruits of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Christ obeyed His Father’s will so perfectly, that He endured all the sufferings and drank the cup of persecution, bitterness, rejection and humiliation for our sake. Through His obedience, we have been healed and are reconciled with God, establishing a New Covenant, one that is lasting and never-ending, a New and Eternal Covenant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into the time of Passiontide beginning today on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Passion Sunday, let us all therefore deepen our relationship with God and rediscover that faith that we ought to have in Him if we have not already done so yet. The Lord has shown us so much love and patience, enduring the worst of persecutions and challenges, trials and sorrows so that by His suffering we may gain our freedom from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death.

How are we then responding to God’s love, that is ever present and ever enduring in our midst? Are we going to continue to ignore Him, to reject Him and to harden our hearts and close our minds against Him? Or are we going to allow Him to touch our lives and to make us whole once again, healing us from the afflictions of our sins? As we enter into this time of deeper preparation for the upcoming Holy Week and Easter, let us therefore make best use of the time and the opportunities we have received, so that we may come to seek the Lord with a contrite heart, filled with repentance and regret for our sins.

May the Lord, our loving Father and Creator, continue to love us all as He has always done, and remain patient with us as we continue to navigate our way through this world. Let us all strive to turn away from sinful ways, and reject all forms of worldly temptations and evils, remembering just what He has gone through in order to save us and in establishing the New Covenant with us. Let us seek to be ever closer to the Lord in all things, and grow ever stronger in our faith and commitment to Him. Let our remaining observances of Lent be fruitful and help us to be more attuned to God and His will. May God bless us all and our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.