Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us reminding us not to dwell in our worldly desires, temptations and the many other things that may distract us and keep us away from the path of God and His salvation, from His righteousness and justice, just as our predecessors had done, in their failure to resist those temptations and instead, allowing those things to cloud their judgment and made them to commit grievous errors and sins.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Genesis in which we were told of what happened to the sons of Jacob, also known as Israel, the ones who would become the progenitors of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. Jacob had a total of twelve sons, born from different wives and from the servants of his wives. The most beloved among all those sons were naturally Joseph and Benjamin, who were born to Jacob through his most beloved wife Rachel.

This led to the preferential treatments that Joseph enjoyed over that of his brothers, which made them to be angry against their younger brother, and all these despite each of them still enjoying the great bounty of the riches of Jacob and his family. They became even angrier when Joseph, who received many visions and dreams began speaking of how his own brothers and even father would come to bow down before him. All these were in fact premonitions of what would happen in the future, but no one, including Joseph knew what they were all about.

Despite the urgings of some of the brothers from restraint, the older brothers of Joseph plotted against him, and planned to have him killed. But at the coming of a Midianite caravan on the way to Egypt, the more moderate brothers managed to persuade all of them to spare his life and sell him to the merchants instead. And that was how Joseph would end up in slavery and then sent up to Egypt, as part of his mission to prepare the path for his family, though no one then knew of this yet.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord spoke using the parable of the evil tenants before the people and the Pharisees who have often made His works difficult, placing a lot of obstacles and barriers in His path. Through that parable, the Lord related a story to all that the greed and wicked desires of the evil and ungrateful tenants had led them to persecute, oppress and even kill the servants of the owner of the vineyard who had every right to remind those tenants to pay their due to him.

In the end, this even led to them killing the son of the owner himself who was sent at long last to remind them. This was in fact a veiled criticism and rebuke by the Lord at the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all those ‘tenants’ whom God, represented by the owner of the vineyard, had entrusted with the care of His ‘vineyard’, namely His people, His flock, the people of Israel. They and their ancestors had not been truly faithful to God and instead, they often served their own interests, persecuting those whom God had sent into their midst, and up to and including the Lord Himself.

It was also a premonition of what would happen to the Lord at His Passion, His suffering and death, when by the actions of the same leaders and elders of the people, the Lord would face rejection, condemnation, forced to endure the most humiliating and painful punishment on behalf of all of us, His beloved ones. All that happened because those who condemned the Lord, were all swayed and tempted by their worldly desires, pride, ego and ambition among other things.

That is why, through the examples of Joseph and his brothers, what they had done, and what the Lord had reminded all of us through the example of the parable of the evil tenants, we are all called to remember the importance to resist the many temptations of the world, and to remain true to Him in faith. We must not easily give in to the temptations of the evil ones, and we must not give in to the pressure for us to follow the whims of our desires and the want for pleasure and temporary satisfaction.

Instead, as we continue to walk through this journey of life with faith, particularly through this season of Lent, we are all reminded to follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, one of whom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose feast we celebrate today, ought to inspire us with his enduring faith and dedication to the Lord. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem who was remembered for his great love for both the Lord and the people entrusted under his care, as well as his dedication to the truth and the well-being of the whole entire Universal Church then threatened by various heresies and divisions.

He resisted the many oppositions, attacks and pressure from the Arian heretics and all those who supported them, including even the powerful nobles and the Roman Emperors themselves, suffering multiple exiles and persecutions, having to endure many false accusations among other hardships during his ministry. Yet, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remained steadfast in faith and did not give in to those who sought to undermine the unity and identity of the Church, holding his flock firm in his hands, leading them towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all walk in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and the innumerable other saints who had walked faithfully before us towards the Lord. Let us follow them and be inspired by their good examples in how we should live our own lives with faith as well. May God be with us always, and may He continue to watch over us and strengthen us, that we may always be vigilant, and be ready to guard ourselves against any temptations of evil. Amen.

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