Lenten reflection: Week 1

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Fr Cosmas Lee blessing the young candidates as they are seen here with their sponsors. – pix by Douglas Yu

Jesus is Lord – the Lord of Mercy

During the Lenten season in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the St Simon Church Likas rector Fr Cosmas Lee’s sermon/catechesis will be published online to help the people understand God’s mercy and the faith better. Below is his sermon: –

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First of a series

“WHEN the committee discussed about how best to help our people to know and celebrate the mercy of God in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we thought that apart from whatever our usual activities that could be organised, Sunday should be the foundation – because Sunday is that Holy Day. This catechesis (instructions) in the faith to lead us to know more deeply, and to celebrate it more joyfully. The mercy of God must begin on Sunday.

Yes, we will have a day of retreat for everyone on March 5, but how many will come? It will be opened to everyone. Thank God, people still come on Sundays. So every Sunday in my homily, I will do my best to help all of us to understand better and to celebrate God’s mercy better. Pay attention on Sundays – especially the Sundays of Lent.

Lent is a preparation of Easter. The resurrection of the Lord, the one Miracle that is inevitable. On which our life depends, and on which our faith rests. We prepare because we want to believe in Him who rose from the dead.

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These so-called 40 days of special grace, are structured on the Word of Sunday.

The readings of Scripture during Lent time is extremely important. What does the Word say to us, as it prepares all of us for our personal revision of our baptism? To prepare those who will be baptised as well, that they may once more ‘die’ with the Lord, and rise with Him in Easter.

What does the Lord say today? If we had to give a theme to the readings today, then we may say today we celebrate “Jesus is Lord – the Lord of Mercy. He alone is our victory and our salvation”.

It’s dangerous to give a theme to any celebration of God’s Word because God’s Word cannot be confined to a theme. Because God’s Word is beyond that. But with this little theme, we can understand the mercy of God much better. And we begin our first week lesson towards Easter. 

Let’s look at the readings. In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, we see the priest instructing the one who offers the first fruits from the land what he should say. When the Israelites, having entered, the land flowing with milk and honey, they are to give the first fruits to the Lord – a sign that they belong to the Lord. The Saviour who saved them in His mercy from Egypt.

When everyone, once he’s handed his big basket of first fruits to the priest, will have to say, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, he went down to Egypt to find refuge there…’

It is a thanksgiving prayer to God’s mercy. God, who saw them being harshly treated as slaves in Egypt. Appreciation because it would be impossible to be delivered and freed from Egypt, but God did it. With power and outstretched arms, with terror and signs. That’s why must appreciate something that could not be done – the Lord did! And He brought us out of Egypt, out of harsh slavery.

Every Easter I have to say this, not for the sake of something that happened (years) ago… They’re still saying this prayer today. We should also say this at every Mass.

But first we must name the ‘Egypt’ in our life.

We must name the harsh slavery in our life. We must recognise our misery. People think there’s only one Egypt – somewhere in the Middle East. “Egypt” is found in KK (Kota Kinabalu), you know.

And in this globalised world, ‘Egypt’ is found everywhere! We are made slaves of Egypt… you fill in the blank. Where is your Egypt? Do I feel miserable, or do I enjoy being enslaved? You fill in the blank today…

Because this is the first step towards the Resurrection – to name our sins.

Secondly, even if we cannot do it, the Lord with outstretched hands and with terror and wonders, He alone can save. He alone is merciful for He hears the cry of His people. This reality, that the merciful God hears the cries of slaves and can free them, is even more elaborated in the Gospel.

There, we find Jesus being tempted like all of us by the Devil, tempted to face THREE fundamental, sinful instincts in our life.

First temptation – “Turn these stones into loaf”. 

(Based on St Luke’s Gospel)

Lesson: “Man does not live on bread alone”. Do you like sourdough or the Chinese bread – the soft ones? The whole world tells us that we live on bread alone: Things of the world, material things. We live for that! We live by our stomach. It’s what people say, ‘The man is won through the stomach by the woman’. Not just eating and drinking but all those material things where we find entertainment, when we find joy. And we live seeking for bread because of bread alone. Plenty of reflections for us: What’s your ‘bread’?

What do we live for? Cari roti only kah? Heineken, you know, nourishes the parts of body that other beers cannot. Bread cannot nourish every part of our humanity – no! Our mind, our spirit need God – His Word.  Otherwise, we will only get ‘fat’. That’s not a very good way to live because it will be a very short life.

How many of us can say ‘no’ and you will live by the Word of God? Jesus said it. He is our mercy, He is our victory, He is our salvation.

Second temptation – Wealth, power, status.

Lesson: “You shall worship the Lord your God alone”. Every moment we’re tempted to think of ‘what would people think of me if I wear these shoes on Sunday’. How do people think of me if this Sunday I put different colour of lipstick? From the tiniest to biggest, we’re always worried about how much we have, where we stand before the world. We worship these things. We cannot say ‘no’… Jesus alone said ‘no’. We can only hide under His cassock – in His mercy and shared in His victory.

Third temptation – Testing God.

Lesson: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”. The devil said, ‘Jump down because God will guarantee to send His angels when you go down’… And do you know who is the ‘referee’ of this test? ‘I’ – I tell God whether you ‘pass’ or you ‘fail’, let me test you. There is only one Judge – God. The rest of us, trust Him. Do not put the Lord your God to the test. How often do we do that? All the time… ‘God, I will not pray tomorrow unless you heal my boy this afternoon’. ‘I will not forgive them unless no trouble tomorrow when I talk to my wife.’ All the time, we test God.

Pope Francis tells us that it is mercy that saves – perfect mercy of Jesus that saves. When we were at the parish renewal, there was one talk that they will always ask a priest to speak on – that talk is on Salvation. Jesus is Lord – He is our Salvation, He is our Victory because no one has ever risen from the dead.

Let’s today celebrate Jesus as we begin Lent, celebrate Jesus who is Lord, Jesus the Lord of mercy, our only salvation, our only victory.”

 

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