Tuesday, 21 March 2017 : 3rd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard about the great mercy of God, which He had shown to all of us mankind throughout time, from time to time, again and again, even though we have constantly sinned against Him. Forgiveness is the theme of today’s readings, and it is just perfect given that now we are in the midst of the season of Lent, the season and time for repentance and seeking for forgiveness.

It is a time for us to turn away from our sins and from our wickedness, as Azariah in the first reading today, taken from the Book of Daniel had mentioned before God, that the people of Israel had sinned grievously before the Lord, having failed to fulfil and obey His commandments, becoming wayward and fell into the temptations of the world, resulting in their own destruction and banishment from the lands which God had given to them and their ancestors.

Azariah made his prayer along with his two compatriots during the time when the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar persecuted the faithful, especially the three of them, who were servants to the king, but refused the king’s commands to worship him and the golden statue of himself as their god. They were thrown into a huge fire chamber, expected to perish in the flames, alone in the foreign land, having no rights for themselves, for they have sinned against God and God supposedly had abandoned them.

But Azariah prayed for God to forgive them for their sins, and he prayed on behalf of the people of Israel, who sought to repent from their sinful ways and turn once more to the ways of the Lord. And God did listen to their prayers, for even though He was angry at the sins of the people of Israel and Judah, for all their wickedness and rebelliousness, He still loved all of them just as much as He has loved and were pleased with the faith of Abraham, their forefather.

And we see just the very real representation of that mercy which God extended to His people. Not only that He rescued Azariah and his two compatriots from danger, not allowing the flame to harm them, but He also extended His mercy to all of His people, bringing them back from their exile and returning them to their own lands under Cyrus the Persian Emperor, but eventually, He fulfilled the promise that He Himself had made to all mankind at the beginning of time.

Mankind had fallen into sin by disobedience, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and listened instead to the sweet lies of Satan. They should have deserved complete annihilation, but God gave them a second chance, a new lease of life. Even though they suffered in the world and death had reigned over them, but God promised them all a Saviour Who would deliver all of them from their sufferings and back into His grace.

Thus, Jesus came into the world in order to save it, as it was mentioned in the famous passage from the Gospel of St. John, that God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, into this world so that He may save it and all of us mankind, and redeem us from our sins, liberating us from death and annihilation, into the eternal glory and life He has prepared for all of us.

In the Gospel today, He told His disciples to forgive the sins and mistakes that others had made unto us, echoing what He Himself said in His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, with the words, “Forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” This is a reminder for us that, as the parable Jesus told His disciples showed, that we have to forgive each other first, then God will forgive us our sins as well.

Why is this so? In the parable, we heard how the lord forgave the debts of the man who owed him a lot of money, but then that same man refused to forgive the debts of those who owed him money, which is a lot less than what he himself owed to his lord. First of all, what he had done is hypocritical, he did not do what his master had done. Then, he did not show appreciation of just how great is the grace which had been shown him, as the lord angrily pointed out to him.

How does this relate to us? Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, whenever we are angry at our friends who have hurt us, we must remember that we ourselves in one way or another may have hurt others, be it the same person or different. If we cannot overcome this anger and choose to persecute or make others suffer because of our anger, then we have to remember that whatever sins we have, God is willing to forgive all of them, provided that we are willing to repent.

Our sins are so much greater than whatever wicked things we have done to each other. And yet, God is willing to forgive us when we desire to be forgiven. Shall we not do the same for our brethren who wants us to forgive them? And shall we also seek forgiveness for all the wrongs that we have done? Much sorrows and pain has been caused by the desire for people to revenge each other, and if we can only overcome our anger and desire for vengeance, then this world will indeed become so much better.

Let us all follow in the example of Azariah, who humbly sought for forgiveness from God. Let us all use this perfect opportunity during this season of Lent, first of all to repent from our sins and to change our ways, and also to forgive each other all that we have inflicted upon the other, be it pain, sorrow, anguish, and any forms of discomfort that we have either consciously or unconsciously caused to one another.

Let us grow stronger in our love both for one another and also for God, and let us be sincere in our desire and effort to be forgiven. Let us all sin no more, but from now on put our complete trust in God and in His merciful heart. He will forgive us all surely, and He will bless us and bring us to His eternal glory. May God be with us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 : 3rd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Matthew 18 : 21-35

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants.”

“Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.'”

“The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When the servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now his fellow servants saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 : 3rd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Daniel 3 : 25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : Do not abandon us forever, do not reject Your covenant for Your Name’s sake. Do not withdraw Your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, Your friend, of Isaac, Your servant, of Israel, Your holy one, to whom You promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea.

Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer You holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense. We have no place to present to You the first-fruits of our crops, and so obtain Your favour.

But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to You, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us Your favour for we know that those who trust in You shall never be disappointed.

And now, we serve You with our whole heart, we fear You and we seek Your face. Do not leave us in our humiliation, but treat us according to Your kindness and Your great mercy. Free us in keeping with Your wonders, and give us the glory of Your Name, Lord.