Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast

Qeryana I (Old Testament Reading I): Gen 16: 1-16
Qeryana II (Old Testament Reading II): Josh 9: 15-27
Engarta (Epistle Reading): Rom 12: 1-21
Evangalion (Gospel): John 7: 37-52 + 8: 12-20
Click play to listen the Evangalion (gospel reading) of the day.

The readings of the fifth Sunday of the Great Fast invite us to the core of Christian life. All the four readings inspire us to put on the garb of compassion, the nature of God.  The compassion of the Lord takes us to the shrine of repentance on our sins, returning to God, and renewal of our life. 


The first qeryana, Genesis 16:1-16, recounts the mercy of God on all who are afflicted.  The conception of Ishmael by Hagar is in the providence and promise of God, which sends a clear and comforting signal to all who undergo suffering of one kind or another.  Hagar encounters the angel of the Lord in the wilderness. The angel asks Hagar to return to Sarai.  Along with this command the angel announces the good news of the conception of Ishmael.  This is the way of the Lord – the way of the glad tiding amidst the encircling gloom and wilderness of burden.  But the way of the Lord will be made known to those who may turn to God and listen to His messengers.  Hagar expresses her eagerness to be by a spring of water in the wilderness. It was her moment of salvation, an encounter with the Lord in her moments of sorrow and rejection.  To be at the spring of water marks the turning point in Hagar’s life. The season of Great Fast is a God-given opportunity to be at the wellspring of life, to lift up our hearts to the voice of God, and to return to the house of the loving Father.


The second queryana, Joshua 9:15-27, narrates the operation of loving kindness of Yahweh. People who listen to the command of the Lord will neither condemn anyone nor take revenge.  Rather they will in one voice shout, “now we must not touch them: We will let them live” and find themselves engaged in saving words and deeds.   This is a bold and solid statement on the compassion of God, the very nature of God.  In this season of Great Fast, we are invited to contemplate on the compassionate voice and face of the Lord and become the embodiment of Joshua, one who saves.  This is an invitation to challenge our lifestyle and join the cry of the leaders, “Let them live.”  We are challenged to take up the saving mission of Jesus for our times through concrete acts of mercy. Hence the season of Great Fast is an occasion to change our lifestyle by following the command of the Lord and to communicate the compassionate image of God through a thorough contemplation of the merciful God.


The engarta, Romans 12:1-21, is an appeal of Saint Paul to review our Christian life and renew it in Christ, the hallmark of the Great Fast.  The apostle exhorts all the faithful to advance in offering spiritual worship through a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God.  This is imaginable for those who are ready and willing to undergo the process of transforming one’s mind through proper discernment of the will of God.  Saint Paul is very direct and concrete in his instruction on the will of God.  The will of God does not consist in our whims and fancies.  Instead, it is in configuring our mind to the mind of God.  In other words, the will of God is in the imagination of and action for what is good, acceptable, and perfect.  God is good, acceptable, and perfect.  The perfection of God is illustrated in His great compassion.   This truth is demonstrated in the story of Hagar and in the event of Joshua saving the Gibeonites, saying “Let them live.”  As the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, Saint Paul asks everyone to engage in accomplishing the assignments in the community and to practice compassion in cheerfulness.  The Great Fast is a proper occasion to season our passions with the new life in Christ, the heart of which is in the communication of compassion of the Father. 


The evangalion, John 8:12-20, reveals the greatness of Jesus Christ in guaranteeing the light of life.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  The invitation of Jesus is loud and clear.  He draws the roadmap of human life: to walk the way of life is to see the Light and to follow It. Jesus is the Light.  There is the need to walk in His light and to become the light of the world. In this process of transformation the contemplation on the compassionate image of Jesus Christ is inevitable.  It is in the light of Jesus Christ, the path of life becomes bright and beautiful.  It is in following the path of the Lord, we become shares of the light and the life of God in and through His loving kindness unfolded in the history of salvation and in the mystery of Christ.


Every Christian is called upon and commissioned to be the light, life, and love of God on earth – to protect, preserve, and promote love, life, and light in the world.  The story of Hagar and the story of Joshua retell the story of divine compassion. Saint Paul tells us to offer spiritual worship, qualified by good, acceptable, and perfect sacrifice on the path of compassion in cheerfulness.  Finally, Jesus, Lord our God, directs our minds and hearts to follow His footsteps in order to have the light of life – the essence of which is the path of loving sacrifice on the Cross giving light and life to all.


O Jesus my Lord,
Compassionate Saviour,
Have mercy on me!


Credits: Father Paulachan Kochappilly, CMI

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