Friday, 31 March 2023 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come ever closer to the end of the season of Lent and the coming of Holy Week, through the Scripture readings we have received, all of us are reminded ever more each day of the need for all of us to turn towards the Lord and place our trust in Him, so that we return to Him and being faithful once again, resisting the temptations of worldly desires and attachments, and embracing wholeheartedly the Lord Who has always provided us with whatever we need and with all the protection and guidance along our path and journey. Each and every one of us are reminded of the hope we have in God that will be our path towards salvation, amidst a world filled with darkness and evil, trials and challenges, hardships and difficulties. As long as we keep our focus in the Lord and trust in Him, our path forward is clear.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah in which the persecutions and hardships that the prophet Jeremiah faced were highlighted and detailed to us. Jeremiah was sent to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, to minister to them and to pass to the people the words of the Lord during the last years of that kingdom’s existence. He had to bear the hard work of telling those rebellious and hard-hearted people to repent from their sins and to warn them of the impending disasters and sufferings that they would have to endure because of their continued sins and wickedness. Jeremiah often spoke of the upcoming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, and hence was often ostracised, hated and persecuted although he was really telling the truth. There were many false prophets and false guides who tried to spread their falsehoods and steer the people to their own agenda, who were also likely the same ones that plotted against Jeremiah.

They made the people to resent Jeremiah for his usual tirades and speeches, which kept on calling out the people for their sins and wickedness, while those same false prophets used sweet words and lies to mollify and persuade the people of God to continue in their sinful way of life. They sought worldly glory and satisfaction, and chose to mislead the people for their own advantages and benefits. Those who were faithful like Jeremiah were persecuted and oppressed instead, but God never forgot about all those who faithfully believed in Him and trusted in Him. He cared for all of them and provided for them, guided and strengthened them with His Spirit and strength. Although they had to suffer for being God’s true disciples and followers, but He kept reassuring them of His ever present love and grace, and that He was with them through all those difficult moments and times.

That was what the Lord Himself has experienced as we heard ourselves in our Gospel passage today, detailing the moment when the Lord Jesus was confronted with resistance and opposition from many of the Jewish people living in Jerusalem. Back then, those Jewish people were those who followed the precepts and laws of the Lord as passed down to them from Moses and their ancestors most rigorously and devotedly, particularly the Jewish elites of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the scribes. Many among those people often criticised and opposed the Lord and His works as they saw what He taught and did as in opposition to their own interpretation and understanding of the Law and the ways of observing the commandments of God. They hardened their hearts and minds against Him such that although the Lord had taught and revealed the truth with such clarity and Wisdom, they still refused to believe.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s reflection, many of the Jews still could accept the fact that this upstart, the Son of a mere carpenter originating from the remote village of Nazareth in Galilee, which itself was at the periphery of the Jewish world then, could be the Holy One, the Messiah and Saviour that God had promised them, despite all the signs and wonders they themselves had witnessed pointing towards such a conclusion. That was why they rejected the Lord and persecuted Him, made His life, work and ministry to be very difficult, and the Lord had to hide Himself from their anger, as not a few amongst those people wanted Him dead and destroyed. Then, we heard how the Lord retreated to the wilderness, and it was there that many of those who were more open-minded and willing to listen to God’s truth and words, came to the Lord in droves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard it earlier on, we can see how persecution, hardships and challenges are often part and parcel of our lives and ministry as Christians, in whichever manner and area that we are moving in, and in whichever era and time, just as our many holy predecessors and ancestors can easily testify, by their own lives and also sufferings. Not few suffered grievously for their faith, and many even suffered martyrdom, most painful death and trials in their journey of faith. Yet, many if not most of them endured all of those sufferings with faith and trust in the Lord, committing themselves ever more to the Lord, and persevering with patience and grace, following the examples of their own predecessors, and not least, the Lord Jesus Himself, Who has also been cast out, rejected and persecuted, and condemned to die a most humiliating and painful death on the Cross.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we draw ever closer to the Holy Week and the momentous events of Easter Triduum, let us all deepen our understanding of all those events and everything that the Lord Himself had done for us and on our behalf. Let us all remind ourselves of the great and ever enduring love that God has shown each and every one of us, that He gave us His own beloved Son, the Divine Word and Son of God Incarnate, that we may see and reach out to His love, made tangible by the Incarnation of Christ in the flesh, and that by uniting His humanity to our own humanity, He might deliver us all from the certainty of damnation and destruction due to our many sins and wickedness, by showing us the example of perfect obedience and faith, and by bearing upon His own shoulders, all the burdens and punishments that should have been ours. He chose to be punished Himself, that through Him we may gain forgiveness and grace, and find the path to eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect carefully on our way of life and actions, especially as we continue to progress through this Lenten season and as we are about to begin Holy Week this Sunday. Let us all spend some time with the Lord, to reconnect ourselves to Him and grow ever more in love with Him. Let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord with renewed zeal and love for Him, and let us all draw ever closer to Him, with each and every moments we have. May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our journey of faith and life, and help us to lead a life that is truly holy, exemplary and worthy of Him. May all of us have a blessed upcoming Holy Week and Easter Triduum, and be ever prepared to welcome the Lord into our hearts. Amen.

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