Sunday, 12 March 2023 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Third Sunday in the season of Lent, and as such we are reminded again to place our focus on God and not on things of this world. When we allow worldly desires and attachments to lead us in life, more often than not it will lead us down the wrong path that bring us into the slippery slope into sin and more. We have to resist those temptations and trust in the Lord wholeheartedly, allowing the Lord to lead and guide us in our lives. We often hardened our hearts and minds because of our stubbornness and refusal to let go of all those unhealthy attachments in life, all the temptations and wicked things surrounding us that led us to sin. This is why this Sunday, all of us are reminded and called again to turn away from sin and embrace God and His forgiveness fully.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Exodus, we heard of the moment when the Israelites, the people of God, rebelled against God and whined against Him greatly at a place known as Massah and Meribah. Massah and Meribah was infamous for generations afterwards as the place where the people of Israel went into open defiance and rebellion against God, and even Moses, their leader, was driven into despair, for the refusal of the Israelites to budge from their demands. The people of Israel were angry against God and complained that God had led them out of Egypt to die in the desert with their children and cattle, and regretted that they had moved out the land of Egypt, the place where they were enslaved for many decades and treated with disdain and contempt by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. God has liberated them by His own hands from the dominion of the Egyptians, and led them to the land He has promised them and their ancestors.

Yet, the people of Israel were looking with some kind of nostalgia at the kind of life that they had in Egypt, that while they were enslaved but they had what they wanted to eat and even things they wanted to enjoy. When the Lord freed them and led them on the journey towards the Promised Land, quite evidently many of those people were still attached to the life that they had back in Egypt, regardless of their slavery and status there. Hence, although the Lord had provided for them and all their needs throughout their journey, they would always make comparisons and desire for things that they actually did not really need, and began to grow arrogant and greedy in their actions. They disregarded God’s love and kindness, and hardened their hearts against Him even though God had truly cared and provided for them, not only by delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians, but also in giving them what they needed in an empty, lifeless and terrible desert.

If we look through the account of the journey of the Israelites, we see how God provided them all with the bread from Heaven itself, the manna, every single day, and even accounting for the Sabbath day, the Lord provided twice of the manna needed to cover the Sabbath itself. Not only that, but the Lord also sent flocks of large birds every evening to feed the people with more food, and provided crystal clear and good quality water to drink throughout the entire journey in the desert. If we consider just how dry, terrible and lifeless a desert is, to have the whole multitudes of the people of Israel travelling through the desert, and cared for in such a way by the Lord, from our perspective we can only stare in awe at just how wonderful God’s love for them was, and yet, the people refused to acknowledge that love, and still complained for what they have already received in abundance.

Not only that, but the Lord even provided for all of the people after they had rebelled against Him and were punished for a whole period of forty years in the desert, before they could enter the Promised Land. He still cared for them and loved them despite of their many sins, wickedness, lack of gratitude and faith, and disobedience. And then, linking to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, regarding the account of what happened when the Lord Jesus travelled through the region of Samaria, during the Exodus, it was told that a ‘Rock’ always followed the Israelites, providing them with water even in the driest and most barren part of the desert, that everyone had enough water to drink and survive on, despite their constant groaning and complaints. This water is referred to by the Lord Jesus in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, as the ‘spring of the living water’ that will never cease.

In that Gospel account, we heard of the encounter between the Lord and a Samaritan woman, who belonged to the group of people often considered by the Jewish people as pagans and wicked, unworthy of God. The Samaritans inhabited the region where Samaria, the old capital of the northern kingdom of Israel was located at, and they were descended from a mixture of people that the Assyrians brought in to settle in the land after they conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom, and the resulting mingling of those foreigners and some leftover members of the ten northern tribes of Israel eventually became the Samaritans. The Samaritans, based on their practice, also believed in some form of worship of God, although they believed, as the Samaritan woman mentioned, that the correct way of worship was in the mountains that they dwelled in, and not in Jerusalem as the Jews argued. They could not be reconciled as each party proudly maintained their views and ideas as the correct one while the other one was wrong.

The Lord told her that ultimately, seeking the Lord, the true Spring of Life, is what matters, and not how each of the people argued whether their way of doing it was correct. The woman was looking for a water in the well at the area, known as the ‘Well of Jacob’ after the well that Jacob, the patriarch of the Israelites established in that area, and which the Samaritans considered as their forefathers as well. The Lord told her that the water that she sought would not truly satisfy her, as she will become thirsty again, while the ‘Spring of Living Water’ that He has, will provide for eternity, and she will never be thirsty anymore. This was a reference and can be compared to how the Lord provided for His people throughout the period of the Exodus, that Rock that always provided water without cease, that came from the Lord Himself. But in deeper level, this refers to things that the Lord alone can provide, that worldly things cannot.

If we recall back in the First Sunday of Lent, of the account on the temptation of the Lord Jesus by Satan, Satan tried to tempt Him first with food, by asking Him to turn stones in the desert into food, and also by offering Him the glory and power of the world, which were all rejected, as the Lord rebuked Satan, first of all, with the words, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from God.’, as a reminder to all of us that all the things of this world that we often seek, like material possessions, food, wealth, riches, fame, glory and all those things are all superfluous and impermanent in nature. None of those things will last forever, and no one can retain them beyond this world. We come into this world with nothing, and will leave this world without whatever we have gained in this world. But what we truly have is the love of God, the love that comes from God Who loves each and every one of us unconditionally.

However, many people are still distracted by the many temptations found in this world and life, and we often find it hard to resist those temptations, coercions and pressures all around us to do what are against God’s teachings and ways. The Lord has called upon us to resist those wicked things and not to give in to the many temptations we may often face as part of our journey in life. This is why this Sunday, as we approach the halfway point in this season of Lent, each and every one of us are reminded to reflect on our own respective way of life, and our actions. Have we truly put our lives around God, our true focus in life, He Who can provide us all that we need, and Who can give us all things that last forever and not just merely temporary like worldly glory and possessions? Have we put the Lord, the Spring of Living Water and enthrone Him in our hearts, so that from Him we will receive the Wisdom and grace to carry out our lives worthily as Christians?

This season of Lent, all of us are called to redirect our attention in life to follow the Lord and to commit ourselves to Him more wholeheartedly. Each one of us have been given the grace and gift of faith from God, to live our lives in accordance to His path and His truth. If only that we have more faith in Him and not be easily swayed by the temptations around us, we will come closer to Him and get further and further away from the path of damnation, and closer indeed to the path towards eternal life. The choice is ours, brothers and sisters, as God has given us the freedom to choose how we will live our lives, whether we want to follow the examples of the Israelites in the past, who disobeyed the Lord and walked down the path of sin and wickedness, or whether we are willing to embrace God and His path wholeheartedly, in living our every moments in life in accordance to His will?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us spend our time this remaining season and period of Lent carefully, that we do whatever we can to discern our path in life going forward. May all of us deepen our relationship with God and rediscover that faith and love that we ought to have for Him through our Lenten observance. Let us all do our best to be exemplary Christians in our way of life and be good examples and inspiration for one another, that more and more people may come to believe in God as well through us. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, all the work we do for His greater glory, not only just for the duration of this season of Lent, but continuing on for the rest of our lives. Amen!

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