Sunday, 20 March 2022 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all reminded of the call that the Lord had made to all of us, His beloved ones, to follow Him and to dedicate ourselves to Him. All of us have been called to leave behind our past lives and our state of sin, and enter into a new existence with God through grace, and by His ever generous love, mercy and forgiveness. Each and every one of us are God’s chosen people, His beloved children, whom He had called from this world to be with Him. Our Scripture passages this Sunday remind us of this reality and truth, and we are reminded to turn towards the Lord with renewed love, zeal and vigour.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus the account of the calling of Moses at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, during the time when Moses was in the land of the Midianites while in exile from Egypt. At that time, Moses, who had been raised by the Pharaoh’s sister as her own son after having been rescued from the River Nile, had been accused of misconduct and treason for having killed an Egyptian that persecuted an Israelite slave worker. Moses then fled away from Egypt to avoid being punished and killed although what he did was truly right and just.

In the land of the Midianites, Moses had become a shepherd and was eventually married to the daughter of his benefactor, Jethro the Midianite. And then, as we heard in our first reading today, Moses witnessed a great vision from God at Mount Horeb, as he saw a great burning bush, which an Angel of God set fire on and Moses went up the mountain to see the marvellous sight when God spoke to him, calling on him to go back to the land of Egypt and be the bearer of God’s words to the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, proclaiming the liberation of the Israelites who had long been enslaved by the former.

Through what we heard in our first reading today, we are all presented with the enduring love and compassion that God has for His people, as He told Moses of what He would do for His beloved people, as He has always remembered the Covenant He made with their forefathers, and He would bring them out from the place of their sufferings and agony, into the new place He would lead them towards, a land flowing with milk and honey, the Promised Land of Canaan that He has promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the forefathers of the Israelites.

In our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, we heard of the accounts of St. Paul reminding the faithful of all that God had done for the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt. He reminded all of them how God had provided for the Israelites during the time of their long sojourn in the desert, as they journeyed from place to place, God always going before them and leading them to where they were brought to go to. And despite the rebelliousness and disobedience that they had shown at the time, that led them to endure forty years of suffering and atonement, God still cared for them all daily.

The Lord has always showed His love and mercy, which He has patiently and generously offered to His people despite their constant rebelliousness, their lack of faith in Him, the betrayal and all the other wicked deeds that they had committed. He could have annihilated us all the moment that our first ancestors fell into sin, and He could have destroyed us there and then. Yet, He gave us all a chance, because He believed in us and He loved us, which was why He created us all in the first place. He would not have created us if He did not love us. He showed us that while we may have frequently been unfaithful to Him, but He never ceased to be faithful to the promises that He had made to us since the very beginning.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to the people regarding of what had then happened regarding a group of Galileans who were massacred by the Romans under the governor, Pontius Pilate and also of another accident involving a group of people in the town of Shiloh who had perished due to that accident. He told all those assembled that those who perished were sinners just as they who listened to the Lord were sinners too. However, He pointed out how unless they repented, then they would perish as well in the end.

What the Lord wanted to point out through this particular encounter was that we are all mortals and we will eventually reach the end of our worldly life and existence. All of us will face death sooner or later, and this is one certainty that will happen to us. Due to sin we have to face the consequences and that is we have to experience death. Yet, at the same time, the most uncertain thing in life for us is the exact time and moment of our death and passing from this world. No one knew, knows and will ever know the exact time and moment of their death, and yet, all will die and go through the gates of death.

However, the Lord has also provided us His mercy and compassionate love, and through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, He has given us the sure path out of the darkness and the tyranny of sin. He took upon Himself the burden of our sins, and He did the most marvellous thing in reaching out to us with love and compassion, that through Him we may receive the assurance of eternal life and true happiness, by His most loving and selfless sacrifice on the Cross for our sake. We are reminded again and again that all of us are really very fortunate to have been beloved so much by the Lord, and we must not take it for granted that we have been given this grace and the many opportunities presented to us, as God has always been ever patient in calling on us to return to Him.

However, we must also remember that in the end, sin is a corruption of our mind, body, heart and soul, and no sin can remain in us unforgiven and not repented upon. For God Who is perfect and all good and great cannot have sin existent before Him, or else, those sins would have brought us down to our doom and annihilation. Essentially, while God has always ever been merciful and loving towards us, but there is a limit and boundary that we must always be aware of, and that is, as long as we still reject God’s mercy and forgiveness, freely and generously given to us, then our sins shall remain and we shall be judged and condemned by those same sins.

This Lent, all of us are called and reminded of God’s ever generous love and how each and every one of us have a share in this love and generous mercy. Unfortunately, it is very often that our pride and ego, our human desires and inability to resist the temptations of the world have led to us faltering again and again, delaying our return towards the Lord, hardening our hearts against Him and closing off the doors of His mercy when He has extended it so openly and freely towards us. It is often us who have spurned His advances of love and mercy, all the generous kindness that He has presented to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these words from the Sacred Scriptures this Sunday, already the Third one in the season of Lent, are we all still idling by in our lives and not heeding God’s calling, His constant invitations and pleas for us to return to Him with contrite and repentant hearts? Are we still going to allow our pride, ego, our sinfulness and our refusal to listen to the Lord’s words be serious obstacles in the way of our reconciliation with Him? Are we going to continue to rebel against the Lord just as how the people of Israel in the past have always often disobeyed Him, doubted and even betrayed Him for other gods and idols?

That is why we have to make good use of the opportunities we have been given most generously this Lent to reconnect ourselves with God, and to rediscover the unity which we once had with Him, but which had been ruined and broken due to our sins. That is why this Lent all of us are called to deepen our relationship with God, remove from our hearts and minds the temptation of pride and ego, and of all negativities and the various obstacles that have often prevented us from returning to God with faith. This Lent, all of us should do our best to reach out to one another, and to help each other in our journey back towards the Lord.

Let us all strive therefore to renew the relationship we have with God and endeavour to overcome the temptations and pressures of the world that are always pulling us away from God and His path. Let us put our focus on God and His love for each and every one of us, and remember to be grateful and thankful for everything that He had done for us. May He continue to watch over us and bless us in our Lenten journey and observances. May He remain with us always and strengthen us with faith, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 20 March 2022 : Third Sunday of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 13 : 1-9

At that time, one day, some people told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple : Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish, as they did.”

“And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you : no. But unless you change your ways, you will perish as they did.” And Jesus continued, “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it continue to deplete the soil?’”

“The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertiliser; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it does not, you can cut it down.’”

Alternative reading (Readings from Year A)

John 4 : 5-42

At that time, Jesus came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there. Tired from His journey, Jesus sat down by the well; it was about noon. Now a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” His disciples had just gone into town to buy some food.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” (For Jews, in fact, have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift of God! If you knew Who it is, Who is asking you for a drink, you yourself would have asked Me, and I would have given you living water.”

The woman answered, “Sir, You have no bucket, and this well is deep; where is Your living water? Are You greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, together with his sons and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Those who drink of this water will be thirsty again; but those, who drink of the water that I shall give, will never be thirsty; for the water, that I shall give, will become in them a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to Him, “Give me this water, that I may never be thirsty, and never have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said, “Go, call your husband, and come back here.” The woman answered, “I have no husband.” And Jesus replied, “You are right to say, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you said is true.”

The woman then said to Him, “I see You are a Prophet; tell me this : Our ancestors came to this mountain to worship God; but you Jews, do you not claim that Jerusalem is the only place to worship God?” Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, the hour is coming when you shall worship the Father, but that will not be on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is even now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for that is the kind of worshippers the Father wants. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit, and truth.”

The woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah (that is the Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will tell us everything.” And Jesus said, “I Who am talking to you, I am He.”

At this point the disciples returned, and were surprised that Jesus was speaking with a woman, however, no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and ran to the town. There she said to the people, “Come and see a Man Who told me everything I did! Could He not be the Christ?” So they left the town and went to meet Him.

In the meantime the disciples urged Jesus, “Master, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” And the disciples wondered, “Has anyone brought Him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the One Who sent Me, and to carry out His work.”

“You say that in four months there will be the harvest; now, I say to you, look up and see the fields white and ready for harvesting. People who reap the harvest are paid for their work, and the fruit is gathered for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. Indeed the saying holds true : One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap where you did not work or suffer; others have worked, and you are now sharing in their labours.”

In that town many Samaritans believed in Him when they heard the woman who declared, “He told me everything I did.” So, when they came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days. After that, many more believed because of His own words, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you told us: we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is the Saviour of the world.”

Alternative reading (shorter version of the Reading from Year A)

John 4 : 5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42

At that time, Jesus came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there. Tired from His journey, Jesus sat down by the well; it was about noon. Now a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” His disciples had just gone into town to buy some food.

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” (For Jews, in fact, have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift of God! If you knew Who it is, Who is asking you for a drink, you yourself would have asked Me, and I would have given you living water.”

The woman answered, “Sir, You have no bucket, and this well is deep; where is Your living water? Are You greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, together with his sons and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Those who drink of this water will be thirsty again; but those, who drink of the water that I shall give, will never be thirsty; for the water, that I shall give, will become in them a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to Him, “Give me this water, that I may never be thirsty, and never have to come here to draw water. I see You are a Prophet; tell me this : Our ancestors came to this mountain to worship God; but you Jews, do you not claim that Jerusalem is the only place to worship God?” Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, the hour is coming when you shall worship the Father, but that will not be on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is even now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for that is the kind of worshippers the Father wants. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit, and truth.”

The woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah (that is the Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will tell us everything.” And Jesus said, “I Who am talking to you, I am He.”

In that town many Samaritans believed in Him, so, when they came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days. After that, many more believed because of His own words, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you told us: we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is the Saviour of the world.”