Sunday, 30 October 2016 : 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard that well known story of Jesus and Zaccheus, one of the stories that many of us must have heard while we were having our catechism classes, where we heard about how Zaccheus, the rich tax collector but a short man, desired to see Jesus and endeavoured to climb a tree just so that he could see Him, and for that, the Lord rewarded him with the privilege of Him coming to his house to eat with him and the other tax collectors.

And through that story, we heard the loving kindness, compassion and mercy of our Lord, Who loves each and every one of us equally, from the greatest of sinners to the greatest of the virtuous and righteous ones. God showed us all His love and mercy even though we have disobeyed Him and have been rebellious and delinquent in our ways. It is His desire that we are able to find our way to His loving mercy and be forgiven for our trespasses and sins.

That is the essence of our Gospel passage today, as well as some other stories of Jesus’ works, where He showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery, whom the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law wanted to stone to death. And that is also what He told His disciples when He related to them the parable of the prodigal son, telling them about a son who have disobeyed his father, and following his own desires, committed wicked lifestyle and eventually after having suffered, decided to repent and return to the house of his father, and the father accepted him back with love.

All of these showed to us the infinite mercy of our Lord, how great an extent He is willing to go in order to regain us back, all of us who have been sundered from Him because of our iniquities and sins, which resulted in our estrangement and fall into sin. But at the same time, as was the case when Jesus forgave the woman caught committing adultery, He told her not to sin anymore and go in peace from then on.

This is a reminder for us that while God’s mercy is given to us freely and unconditionally, but whether we will receive the fullness of His love and mercy depends solely on our desire to be forgiven, that is through genuine repentance and desire to change ourselves. No mercy and forgiveness can take place without repentance just as much as we cannot clap using only one hand. We have to have mercy and repentance working in tandem and only then we will be shown mercy and forgiveness.

After all, let us look at the examples of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the scribes, elders and the chief priests themselves. God came into this world not just to save the prostitutes, tax collectors and all considered as sinners, since it is one misconception that can easily be made when we read today’s Gospel and other passages from the Sacred Scriptures.

Rather, God came to save all, be it those who are righteous or those considered as sinners, or those who have high and noble birth, and those who have low and common birth. He does not look at appearances, status or other worldly classifications of ourselves, but instead, He is looking deep into our hearts in order to see if we are truly worthy of His salvation.

Jesus forgave His enemies and those who have made Him to suffer from the cross, by saying to God His Father, ‘Father, do not hold this sin against them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And through these words we can see that even Jesus came to deliver these people from their sins, and showed mercy as well as compassion to them, instead of cursing them and being angry with them. Now then the question is, did they take up His offer of mercy? Did they change their ways and repent? Or did they go on with their lives as how it was?

Therefore, we can see here that while God came for all of His people, to the Pharisees, to the tax collectors, to the chief priests, to the prostitutes, to people big and small in statures and status in the society, to those who have good appearances and bad appearances, all ultimately depend on their acceptance of that mercy and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the same applies to us as well. We have lots of opportunities given to us by God to be redeemed and to be forgiven our sins in this life we are now enjoying in this earth. However, are we doing something in order to accept that salvation offered freely to us and do what is required of us? As Christians, all of us have been accepted by God to be members of His own Sacred Body, the Church, and we have been brought into one people, to be God’s own chosen ones, and be cleansed of the taints of original sins of our ancestors, but this does not mean that we can be complacent.

In fact, there are many Christians out there who are complacent and lukewarm in their faith, thinking that they are justified on the account of their faith alone, but then let me ask you, ‘What is faith?’ There may be many among us who do not really know or understand what is faith truly about, that is what is our faith is about. Can we truly say that we believe in God if we do not even act in the way that our faith requires of us, and which our Lord had taught us through His Church?

Just as Jesus Himself said, that not all who said ‘Lord, Lord’ will be saved, and also all who claimed to know Him and have indeed sat with Him and knew Him will be saved, just because they did not do as He had commanded them to do, and rather than doing what is good in the sight of God, through their wickedness and evil, they have besmirched and stained the good Name of the Lord in the sight of many people.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, our faith requires active participation in good works and commitment to love, loving our brethren and showing our faith through true and living commitment in our words, actions and deeds, that we then shall be found just and worthy by the Lord, Who will then welcome us into His promise of eternal life, true joy and glory with Him in His heavenly kingdom, where we shall enjoy forever the joy of everlasting life without end.

But all of these, as mentioned earlier today, requires us to devote ourselves to do what is good and righteous before God, shunning evil and repenting from our sins. All of us are sinners, and all of us have disobeyed the Lord in one way or another, but that does not mean that any of us are beyond God’s salvation or hope. As long as we are still alive in this world, and desiring for a complete change of our own sinful life, there is always hope for us.

That is where we as Christians should contribute to the good works of our Lord’s salvation. There are many out there who have given up the hope of God’s salvation, and even many more who are still living in darkness and in ignorance of God’s truth and salvation. It is up to us then to help them, and to guide them that they may find their way to the Lord and thus be saved.

And as such, shall we not, brethren, commit ourselves anew to do the will of God and to obey Him in all things? And as St. Francis of Assisi was famous through his prayer, let us also pray it together, that when there is hatred, let us all sow love, and when there is injury, let us pardon, when there is doubt, let us all bring faith, when there is despair, let us all bring hope to each other, and when there is darkness, let us be light to one another, and finally when there is sadness and sorrow, let us bring joy to each other.

May God help us all to become better Christians and role model for one another, that in all the things we do and say, we always proclaim the Lord’s glory and be ever faithful to His ways and commandments, by showing mercy to sinners, and by seeking genuine repentance and regretting sincerely all of our sins, that all of us may eventually find our way to the Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

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