Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded yet again in the duration of this penitential season of Lent, not to be sinful or to disobey the Lord and His commandments. All of us are reminded to seek the Lord to be forgiven from our many sins and wickedness, to be healed by God from the affliction of sin that has been corrupting and affecting us all these while. Each one of us are called to turn away from the path of sin and to do what God has told and commanded us to do, to be holy just as He is Holy. This is our calling as Christians especially during this time and season of Lent, and hopefully, more and more of us, holy people of God can truly live our lives in the manner and way that God has shown and taught us to do.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the call from the prophet in which he called on the people of God to turn away from their wicked and sinful ways. He purposefully referred to them all as the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, as a reminder of what had happened to those two cities in the ancient past. Sodom and Gomorrah were infamous for their great wickedness and sins, their immoral and evil behaviours, and were crushed and destroyed by God by a rain of brimstone and fire from Heaven. God gave them a chance when He sent His Angel to them to save Lot, the nephew of His servant Abraham, our father in faith, and as Abraham had also earlier on pleaded with Him to spare the two cities if just a few of the righteous could be found there. Unfortunately, only Lot and his immediate family alone were righteous among all of the people dwelling in Sodom and Gomorrah, and all were destroyed.
God wants us to know once again that He truly loves each one of us most generously and tenderly, but He does not condone our sins and wickedness. He despises those sins and chastised us for all those wicked deeds and things that are unbecoming of us being His followers and disciples. Disobedience and sin are our greatest downfall, as it was through those that we have been sundered and separated from the fullness of God’s love and grace, cast out from the bliss and joy of Eden, and having to suffer the consequences of our sins in this world. Yet, He gave us all help and guidance along the way at the same time, in order to help us to find our way to Him, to seek for His forgiveness and mercy. But many people still resisted God’s mercy and love, especially because their hearts and minds were still full of wickedness, evil, pride, greed and many other things that prevented us from finding our path to the Lord and His saving grace.
In our Gospel passage today, the Lord told His disciples not to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often liked to make a show of their faith, by parading their piety and prayers in the public, in the Temple and the marketplaces so that they could be seen by everyone and be praised for their actions. They wore the widest of prayer bands and made a show of their faith, and yet, as the Lord often mentioned, they had little faith in their hearts, and little love for God. They were so full of their own pride and arrogance that they could not bring it to humble themselves and realise that their way of practicing their faith had been wrong, and their way of life had been wicked and sinful, perhaps without them even realising it. They imposed harsh standards on others and persecuted those who disagreed with them and those whom they deemed to be inferior to them simply because they did not do what they themselves had done.
They had actually been entrusted with the responsibilities and calling to help lead and guide others from their sinful paths, by their faithful observance and preservation of the Law of God as it had been revealed and passed down to them through the generations. But, instead of faithfully carrying out their obligations and works, they fell into the temptation of pride, ego and human ambition. They chose to indulge in praise and adulations, seeking for fame and glory instead of true obedience to God. They sought for popularity and power, and as a result, they lost sight of the true destination and aim of their lives, substituting the true joy and glory that they can find and gain in the Lord alone, with temporary and fleeting gains in this world, which do not last and are superficial in nature.
That is why the Lord reminded all of His people to be careful and to guard themselves against the temptations of worldly glory, fame and the threats from our own pride, ego, ambition and desires. All these things are truly great obstacles in the path of our reconciliation with God, and unless we do our best to resist them, we may find it difficult for us to resist the temptations to sin, just as how many of our predecessors had fallen into sin. This is why during this season of Lent, the Lord continually reminded us that there is a need for us to have the genuine conversion of heart, so that we may truly change our way of life and our actions, that we do not live in ways that are against the Lord and His path anymore, but instead, following Him with greater zeal and sincerity from now on, and do our best to be great role models and sources of inspiration to others all around us.
Today, we all can also be inspired and strengthened by the good examples set by our holy predecessors, the holy martyrs and saints, St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, who were renowned martyrs of the Church, honoured and venerated for their righteousness, holiness and dedication to God, even in the face of suffering and martyrdom. According to the Church traditions and hagiography, St. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who was recently married and was a mother to a young infant son, while St. Felicity was a slave who were arrested with St. Perpetua for their Christian faith during the reign of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. It was told that this happened because St. Perpetua had a conflict with her father because he wanted her to abandon her Christian faith, and St. Perpetua refused to do so. It was likely that St. Perpetua met with St. Felicity and other fellow martyrs in prison, and they all endured the trials and hardships, resisting the temptations and pressures to abandon their faith in God.
The courage and dedication that those martyrs showed us all ought to remind us of the love and commitment that we ourselves ought to have for the Lord, and we are all reminded of how many of our predecessors have given their lives for the sake of the Lord. God has been calling on us to follow on their examples and He has shown us the path towards eternal life and true joy through Him. Now what matters is for us to make the conscious choice and decision to follow the Lord and to commit ourselves to Him, doing whatever we can to glorify the Lord and to live our lives worthily to the best of our abilities, as those who follow the Lord and believe in Him. This season of Lent should be a time for us to recalibrate our lives and to redirect our focus and attention back towards the Lord, so that we may grow ever closer to Him, and we may find our path towards His love and grace. Let us all remember His great love and compassion which He has always given to us, all these while.
May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our journey that we may live our lives in the most Christ-like way, and in obeying His Law, commandments and precepts, at all times. May God be with us always and may He empower each one of us that we may continue to persevere in faith and dedicate our lives for His greater glory, much like the glorious saints and martyrs, like St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, now and always, forevermore. Amen.