Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded of the need for us to return to the Lord and to remember His love and mercy, particularly during this blessed penitential time and season of Lent, when we prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Holy Week and Easter. We are all called to remember our responsibility and obligations as Christians, to be exemplary in our way of life and to obey the Law and commandments of God in all things. We are reminded to love God and our neighbours above all else, and even perhaps more than how we love ourselves. Definitely we should not allow our own selfishness and self-love to end up causing us to forget about our duties and responsibilities as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own.
In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord made to His people through His prophet Hosea, calling on them to repent from their wicked and sinful ways, embracing His love and mercy, and returning to His loving grace and compassion. The prophet Hosea back then lived and ministered to the people of God during the final decades and years of the northern kingdom of Israel, which were made of much of the ten of the twelve tribes of the Israelites that broke off from the rule of the House of David. That northern kingdom had spent most of its history and time in rebellion and disobedience against God, as their kings did not obey God and His Law, refusing to follow His commandments and words, and as such led the people down the path of sin and evil. They had been misled by their own wicked desires and the inability to resist the temptations of the world.
That was why the Lord was angry at those people who had repeatedly rejected His kindness and love, hardened their hearts and minds and refused to listen to Him. Not only that, but they also even persecuted those prophets and messengers that God had sent into their midst to help and guide them down the right path. They had no regard for God and His truth, and preferred to live their lives in their own terms and ways. That led them further and further into the path of sin, and into their downfall. They were punished for their delinquence and stubbornness, and their enemies fell upon them one after another, as God pronounced His judgment over them, telling them how they would be scattered and having their homeland and kingdom destroyed by their own actions. But then, the Lord also told them that in the end, despite all that, God still loved them and cared for them.
God did not want them all to end up being cast out into the utter darkness and destruction, as after all, He loves each and every single one of us, without exception, even to the worst of sinners among us. However, what He truly despises is our many sins and wickedness, and our refusal to listen to His words and reminders, our stubbornness and arrogance among other things. Those are the things that have often led many among us to continue to walk down the path of rebellion and evil, and hence, He calls on every one of us through what we have heard from the prophet Hosea, to turn away from all sorts of wickedness and evils, all the things that can often lead us down the path of sin and destruction. He wants us all to remember His Law and commandments, which He has presented before us so that they may become our guide and help in our journey towards His salvation and grace.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the conversation between a teacher of the Law and the Lord Jesus in which the former asked the Lord what among the commandments of God is the most important commandment in the Law of God. Whether the intention was to test the Lord or out of pure curiosity is open to interpretation, but essentially, the Lord told the teacher of the Law that the whole entire Law of God, its commandments and precepts, all of them can be summarised completely into two main Law, that is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and with all of our might, and to love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, in the same manner as well. The whole entire Ten Commandments indeed describe these two Law perfectly, and also the many other commandments and precepts of God’s Law, as revealed through Moses and the prophets.
Unfortunately, as time went on, the knowledge and understanding of the Law of God, its true intention and purpose had become warped and altered, as the Law of God no longer became the means by which the people of God came to be closer to Him, and instead, the people became focused more on how the Law was to be practiced and enforced, the rituals and the practices, the details and the intricacies of those rites became paramount and more important than the meaning and the intention of the Law. This was why so many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were criticised by the Lord for their irrational and particularly strict interpretation of the Law, which was also warped by the many additions and alterations done throughout the centuries which did not always remain faithful to the original intent and purpose of the Law as God taught and revealed it to His people.
The Law was meant to teach the people to remember God first and foremost in their lives, and to place Him as the main centre of attention and focus of their lives. It is a reminder that first of all, God loves us all, and He wants us all to be with Him, and to be with Him, Who is full of love, we too must be filled with the same kind of love, love that is unconditional and selfless, which brings us to love God Himself first, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, just as the Lord wanted us to do in our lives. Unfortunately, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees made the Law to be such an oppressive and rigid set of rules, that it even drove people away from the path of the Lord, as many found it hard to follow such a way, and many others still were even openly discriminated against by those same people whom the Lord had entrusted with the care of His Law, commandments, precepts and teachings.
That was why the Lord came into our midst to reveal before us the true intention of His actions, His Law and commandments, and remind us yet again of His desire to be reconciled with each and every one of us. As mentioned earlier, that while we may have indeed greatly sinned against God, but God wants us to seek Him and to be reconciled with Him, to be forgiven from our many faults and sins. He wants us to learn again how to love Him and how to love one another, distancing ourselves from the kind of selfishness and pride, the greed and jealousy, lust and all the attachments we had to worldly desires and things which often became great obstacles in our path towards Him and His salvation. That is why today we should remind ourselves that we should get rid from our midst all those things that kept us away from God, and follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and a great saint, whose feast we celebrate today.
St. Patrick was a well-known missionary of the faith, who was born in the area of Britain in the fifth century, and it was told that he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates in his youth, before he managed to flee and eventually made his way back to his homeland, where he studied to become a missionary and a priest. He went to the mainland Europe and was then appointed as a priest and missionary, sent to the region of Ireland, and became the first bishop of the land, where there were still mainly pagan populations throughout the whole island. St. Patrick ministered faithfully and patiently to the people of Ireland, spending many years reaching out to them, to the kings, the nobles and the commoners alike, and managed to touch many hearts and many lives, convincing quite a lot of people to turn away from sins and their old idols, and became followers of Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take the good examples of the life and the works of St. Patrick to inspire us in how we should live our own lives as Christians, loving God first and foremost, and dedicating ourselves to Him and His cause, and also loving one another in the same manner, remembering the patient love that both God and St. Patrick had shown to those who were beloved to them. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and grace that we may follow Him with great faith and commitment, from now on, and walk always ever in His path. May God continue to guide us and bless us in our journey of faith throughout this life. May God bless us always, in all of our good efforts and endeavours. Amen.