Sunday, 11 September 2016 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day of our Lord we heard the very compelling message and reminder from the Scripture passages we have listened to, that is about mercy, forgiveness and God’s everlasting grace and love for all of us, His most beloved ones. That we all should really come to appreciate the vastness of God’s great and boundless mercy, and understand His desire to bring us all into His loving embrace.

In the first reading, this is shown by the exchange that happened between Moses and God, Who was angry at the people of Israel for their sins and disobedience. To put it into context, we have to understand what had transpired and occurred before this event. At that time, the people of Israel had just left the land of their slavery, Egypt after God has freed them with His mighty hand, delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

They have been delivered with great miracles and wonders. God Himself showed pity on His beloved people who have been made to suffer and labour in great pain for many years, bringing them out and leading them through the desert, even opening up the sea in front of them and destroying the forces of their oppressors, casting the sea itself upon them. And yet, despite all these, the people of God disobeyed Him and spurned His love.

We all know what happened, brethren, how the Israelites rejected God and abandoned Him for the golden calf which they forced Aaron, the brother of Moses to make for them. They worshipped that golden calf as their god, even though God had done so much for them, showing His miraculous deeds in liberating them from their oppressors and casting out their chains.

Is it not thus just for God to be angry at His people? He has given them so much, and that was what He got back in return. Well, if God thinks as we humans do, then probably He would be angry at us, showed His wrath and destroyed us. But no, for God loves us all just as He hates our sins. It is a reminder to us all that, first, God is not happy with our sins, just as He showed His anger to His people through Moses, but it does not mean that He is also considering our destruction without reason either.

Rather, it is we ourselves who have chosen to bring the destruction and the troubles upon ourselves. God gave His people His love unconditionally and yet they refused to obey Him and listen to Him, much like what we also heard in the Gospel passage today, the well-known parable of the lost sheep, the lost silver coin, and finally that of the prodigal son.

Through those parables and stories Jesus our Lord wanted to make it clear to all those who listened to Him, and indeed, to all mankind, how great is God’s love that He is willing to forgive our sins and disobedience, and willing to welcome us back into His loving embrace once again, that is His great and boundless mercy. That great love is shown by the joy that comes about when a shepherd discovered a lost sheep, and when someone found the lost coin, and when someone beloved was thought to be lost, but found again.

It is all too easy for us to think that God is all merciful and ever forgiving, that He will always overlook our sins and wickedness in these lives we are living now in this world. We should not forget that He is our Father and Lord, Who is responsible for us and Who truly cares for us from His heart. Which father will want his children to grow up wrongly or to become a bad and wicked person? A good father will want to guide his children to become good people, and God is no exception to this.

We as God’s children have often become wayward and lost our way. Just as sheep that became distracted by its surroundings, went its own way and became lost, or like that younger son, the prodigal son, who followed his own desires and the wishes of the world, and therefore became lost to his father. And when these are separated, they are in danger, the danger of death and destruction.

Wolves and danger are always around, threatening to strike at the lost sheep, which is without protection and guidance from the shepherd. Alone and separated from the herd, wolves and other predators have an easy time to pick on the lost sheep. Similarly, the prodigal son suffered in the foreign land, having squandered off all of his money on worldly pleasures and desires, and had to even wanting to eat the waste food and scraps that were fed to the pigs.

Let us all think and internalise all of these as we remember the passages which we have just heard. Let us look at our own actions, our own words and how we have interacted with others around us. Have we been acting like that of the prodigal son ourselves? Let us remember all the times when we turned our backs to the Lord and chose to follow our own desires and wants. Let us all remember all the times and moments when we have stumbled in our faith, in our lack of faith and commitment to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Gospel is a reminder for us all that God is merciful, is kind, loving and compassionate, especially towards each and every one of us. However, if we do not act on His offer of mercy, forgiveness and love, then there is no way forward for us, as God’s mercy and love is a two-way thing, that is between us and Him. After all, let us ask ourselves, if someone loves another and yet another person do not return the same love, then is there real love there?

And accepting God’s mercy and forgiveness require us to make a profound change upon ourselves, on our way of life, on our attitude and interactions with one another, that we are like the prodigal son, who truly did not remain prodigal and lost but instead he chose to return to his father, despite fully knowing the great extent of his unworthiness as he had sinned and committed wickedness against his own father.

Let us all think carefully about this, and think of what we can do from now on if we have not started yet on our path to seek God’s merciful heart. First of all, we must not be afraid to seek out the Lord, for fear and doubt are often what prevented many people from being able to discover that path upon which they ought to walk on in order to attain the salvation in God.

Then, we must be able and we must be ready to commit ourselves a hundred percent into a thorough and complete change of ourselves, our lifestyle and our way of interacting with one another. If we are ready to do all these, then we are on our way to receive the Lord and His mercy. Otherwise, we are still far away, and the danger is there that we will not reach the Lord’s mercy at all, because we ourselves are barring our own path to that salvation.

Mercy without repentance does not exist, as God’s mercy is offered freely to all, but only those who respond to it positively, and with genuine and sincere intention from the heart will receive the grace and the forgiveness from God, and returned to be one in His embrace. Let us all consider these even as we embark on this journey to reach out to the Lord and His mercy.

Then, let us all each and every one of us, members of the Church, through our Christian faith, help one another and devote ourselves to help each other to find our way to the Lord, by showing in our own actions, how we can love instead of hate, how we can forgive instead of keeping grudges and seeking vengeance, and how to bring peace and harmony instead of conflict and war. God is always ready for us, but are we ready for Him? Do our actions show that we are ready?

Today, let us all also spare some thoughts to all those who are victims of violence and conflict. The tragedy of the terrorist attack fifteen years ago today, followed by many other related miseries and sufferings for many should show us all how important it is for us to truly bring ourselves closer to God, seek to bring peace and harmony in all things. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of the world, but instead renew that special relationship we have with our God.

May God help us and keep us in His love, that His mercy will be extended to us and that we may be ready to welcome that same mercy, willing to be forgiven and to repent from all of our faults and sins. God bless us all. Amen.

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