Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as today marks the last day in the season of the Ordinary Time prior to the season of Lent, in which we prepare ourselves in our heart, mind, body and soul to celebrate the most important occasions in our faith during the Holy Week and Easter, let us make use of the Scripture readings we heard today as reminders for us how we should live a good Christian life.
In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle written by St. James the Apostle, we heard his exhortation to the faithful reminding them to be careful of the temptations that came about with their evil desires, and how they ought to guard themselves against such desires or else they would fall onto sin. He also reminded them that in God alone can be found all things that are good, while if we depend on ourselves, it is likely that we will end up falling into temptation.
In the Gospel passage we heard today, Jesus warned His disciples in the same manner, by telling them to be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. Why did He mentioned these two people with such a tone? Yeast at that time according to the Lord, has two connotations. One as used in the parable of the kingdom of God, mentioned as yeast hidden within three measures of flour allowing the whole mixture to rise, represents the gifts of God given to us.
The other connotation refers to the impurities and wickedness that causes corruption of the whole being, as when yeast is added to unleavened bread, it rises and becomes leavened. In the Book of Exodus, during the time just before Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land, they were all told not to leaven their bread, and they were to eat only unleavened bread for a period of two weeks.
It is likely the second and latter mentioned connotation is in force for this case. The Pharisees and the mention of Herod represent the two extremes which Jesus was unhappy against. The Pharisees represent the extreme and puritanical observances of the laws of Moses, who enforced a strict adherence to those laws among the people, and they did not hesitate to strike at those whom they deemed to have violated the laws.
But Jesus rebuked them because most of them were hypocrites, who did all that they did because they were concerned with their own prestige and image in the society, their influence and teaching authority, and not because they wanted the people of God to follow the right path. They did not make the people to follow the right ways and misled the people into sin.
On the other hand, the mention of Herod, the king and ruler of the lands of Judea and Galilee referred to the secular leaders and the influential members of the society at the time, which also represent the Sadducees, another group which came to oppose Jesus as the Pharisees had done. These people had also been corrupt in their exercise and assumption of power and responsibility over the people.
The Lord rebuked these groups because they gave in to the temptations of worldly desires, of pride, of greed, of hunger for power and praise, of vanity and many others that led them into sin and disobedience against God. To that extent they also caused great bitterness and difficulties to happen against the Lord and His disciples even as they went about doing God’s works among the people.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that we have to resist those same temptations that will surely come our way, or else we will end up doing things in contrary to what the Lord had taught us to do, and therefore we end up falling into sin. Let us all strive to be better Christians by practicing what we believe in our daily work and actions, following the examples of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who loved His people, and as mentioned in today’s Gospel, fed them when they were hungry.
May the Lord strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, and may we make the best use of the Lenten season which begins with Ash Wednesday tomorrow. May all of us come to greater realisation of our responsibilities and our place in God’s plan of salvation. Let us all go towards God, with hearts open to Him and seeking His love and mercy all the time. May God bless us all. Amen.