Sunday, 19 February 2023 : Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Sunday, which marks the last Sunday before the beginning of the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday just this coming Wednesday, all of us are reminded to be holy and loving, to be filled with all righteousness, virtues, goodness and justice so that we may truly become worthy disciples, followers and children of our Lord and God. We are all reminded that as Christians, as God’s followers and people, all of us are expected and called to be His holy people, as the ones to be the examples and beacons of His light and truth in this world, and this call is truly timely and right for us at this moment, just as we are about to enter into this holy season of Lent in preparation for the most solemn and joyful celebration of the Holy Week and Easter.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Leviticus in which God spoke to His people, the Israelites, reminding all of them of the obligations that each and every one of them have as His people, in doing His will and obeying His Law and commandments, in being holy and devout people, that are truly worthy of being called His children and His flock, as the people whom He had rescued by His own hands from their enslavement in Egypt. God reminded all of His people that they all have to be righteous, virtuous, holy and good just as He is holy, or else, if they did not do so, they would scandalise their faith and the Lord Himself. He told them all to be loving to one another as well, which is essentially doing what He has decreed and taught them through His Law and commandments.

Then, in our second reading passage today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, we heard of the call of the Apostle telling all the faithful to keep themselves holy and truly worthy of the Lord, echoing what the Lord Himself had told Moses in the Book of Leviticus. St. Paul told the faithful and hence to all of us that we have to keep in mind that we are all Temple of the Lord’s Holy Presence, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and thus because we are the dwelling place of the Almighty and Most Holy God Himself, we must not defile this Temple that is our body, mind, heart and soul, our whole being with wickedness of sins and our unworthy actions, words and deeds that bring about scandal to our faith and lives as good and dedicated Christians.

Contextually, we must understand that the Temple of God is a most holy and sacrosanct place where God Himself dwelled, His Presence coming down from His Heavenly Throne to be with us all His people. In the earliest days, during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites built the Holy Tent of Meeting as the centre of their entire community, and it was upon the Holy Tent that God’s very own Holy Presence descended upon, to the Ark of the Covenant placed inside the Holy of Holies within the Holy Tent, with God Himself seated upon the Cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy Tent and especially the Holy of Holies was considered so holy only those who were allowed could be permitted entry, and like the later Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God, even the High Priest was only permitted to enter the Holy of Holies only during one solemn occasion in the whole entire year.

Similarly, the Ark of the Covenant was also considered so holy and sacrosanct that touching it is considered taboo, and in fact, an incident happened earlier on in the Scriptures where a priest of the Lord died on the spot the moment he touched the Ark upon trying to hold it and prevent it from slipping and falling down to the ground as it was being transported by King David to Jerusalem. The point that I want to highlight here is that, the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies of the House of God, where historically God’s Holy Presence resided, were all considered so holy and sacrosanct that no imperfections, wickedness and sin can or should ever be in its presence and place. How is it related to us all then, as the aforementioned Temple of the Holy Spirit, as the Temple of God’s Holy Presence?

Each one of us have received the Lord Himself, wholly in the flesh, in His own Most Precious Body and Blood that He has given us all most generously and lovingly in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, that He has instituted Himself at the Last Supper, and passed down to us through His Apostles and other disciples, through their successors in the Church, right up to our Pope, bishops and priests, all those who have been given the faculty and the authority and power, in their role as Alter Christus, in offering the same gifts that the Lord Himself has offered, and turned the bread and wine into the very essence, reality and Holy Presence of God, in the Most Precious Body and Blood, the Most Holy Eucharist that we all have partaken and received.

As we believe that the Lord Himself has come into our midst and dwelled within us through the Eucharist, which is not just mere symbol or reminder, but real Body and Blood of Our Lord, hence, how can we not then endeavour to keep ourselves holy, blameless and spotless just as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies of the House of God were kept holy and sacrosanct? In addition, as St. Paul mentioned, we are also the Temple of the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit has also come upon us through the Church, since the day of the Pentecost right up to now, as all of us who have received the Sacrament of Baptism has also received the Holy Spirit from the Lord Himself, and for all of us who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, this gift of the Holy Spirit has been further reaffirmed and strengthened in us all.

That is why as Christians, all of us must do what we can to keep our lives holy and worthy of the Lord, distancing ourselves from sin and wickedness of the world, from the excesses of worldly desires and ambitions, and from the corrupting nature of sin. We must resist the temptations of sin, and do what we can to help and inspire one another to continue keeping our beings, the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, good and worthy of Him. How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by heeding what we have heard from the Gospel passage today, in which the Lord highlighted to all of His disciples and hence to all of us, what it truly means to become one of His disciples and followers, to be truly filled with love of God, and the righteousness and virtues that He has taught us all.

As we heard from our Gospel passage today, what is important for us as Christians to do with our lives is essentially to love, to be filled with God’s love, which in itself is already obeying God’s Law and commandments. The Lord Jesus Himself in another occasion, before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had summarised the Law as a whole into two main commandments, that is to love God first and foremost with all of our hearts and strength, and then to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way, just as much as we love ourselves. It is our Christian calling and vocation for all of us to be always grounded in love, in our every words, actions and deeds, so that by our love everyone may truly know God’s love and that we truly belong to the Lord, and hopefully more and more people may be inspired to follow our examples and believe in the Lord as well.

We have to love sincerely and generously, and as the Lord mentioned in our Gospel passage today, we should not just love because there is something in it for us, or that we stand to benefit from loving that person, as that kind of love is not the kind of true, Christian love that we are called to show. We have to show what the Lord Himself has shown us by His own examples, that in loving us all so greatly, all of us who have often hurt and betrayed Him, abandoned Him and rebelled against Him, He chose to willingly embrace His Cross, bearing upon Himself the whole burden of the innumerable sins of the world, of all mankind, past, present and future, so that by loving us that way, He may bring us all to eternal life. Christ Himself has shown us how we ought to live our lives with genuine Christian love, as He Himself had done, and now, the question is, what are we going to do then, brothers and sisters?

Let us all therefore embark on a new journey of faith, and renew our conviction to remain faithful to God, as we are about to enter into the season of Lent this Wednesday with the Ash Wednesday. Let us all renew our conviction to love the Lord wholeheartedly once again, and with the resolve to love one another most generously, forgiving those who have hurt or pained us, and helping one another to grow ever stronger in faith, by living our own lives most worthily and by doing what God has taught and shown us all to do. Let us all make good use of whatever time and opportunities that God has given us all, and do our best to make our whole beings truly worthy and holy Temples of His Holy Presence, not just for this upcoming Lent, Holy Week and Easter, but for the rest of our lives, till the day we encounter the Lord once again in His heavenly abode. May God bless us all and be with us always in our journey of faith and life, now and forevermore. Amen.