Sunday, 13 November 2016 : 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the second last or the penultimate Sunday of this current liturgical year and next Sunday is the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe. And as we come to the close of this liturgical year, all the Scripture readings speak about the coming of the Lord at the end of time, His second coming, which He Himself had prophesied and proclaimed, as the long-awaited time when God would right everything and bring all of His people to Himself.

But this time that is to come will not be known to us, not in its details, for the Lord Himself said that His coming will be like that of a thief hidden and coming to rob a house, which is entirely unexpected to the owners of the house. Otherwise, had the owners knew beforehand that the house would be robbed, then he would be prepared and the house would not be robbed, as the owners would ensure the best security available to keep it secure.

Instead, what the Lord Jesus reminded us His people is that, His coming will be sudden, and catch us by surprise. No man on earth will know the time of this happening, and if one says that he or she knows the time of this occurrence, then likely he or she is a false prophet, spreading lies and pretences to confuse us the faithful people of God. This is what we must be careful of, that we are not to believe such lies or sweet words designed to trick us into false ways.

But on the other hand, we cannot be ignorant either on the fact that the Lord is coming again, and when He comes, those whom He will find to be righteous shall receive great rewards and joy, an eternity of happiness and glory with our God. And meanwhile, those who were caught in their wickedness and in the state of grievous sins will regret, because the Lord will reject them and cast them out of His grace and into eternal darkness, despair and damnation.

This has been clearly illustrated in another occasion in the Gospel, when Jesus our Lord spoke about the Last Judgment, when He Himself, Who is the one and true Great Judge over all, over all spirits and souls, over all of creation, will judge each and every one of us without exception, and those who He deems to be good, faithful and true to His ways will be separated from those who have not obeyed Him and who have been wayward in their ways.

And if we read that passage, which is related to what we heard today, then we will truly understand how we ought to prepare ourselves in order to make ourselves worthy of the Lord. For today, our Lord Jesus in the Gospel spoke about the Temple of God in Jerusalem, which was adored and praised by many for its grandeur and beauty, taking more than forty-six years since it was built by king Herod the Great, and yet by then had not been completed yet.

He spoke about how that Temple would be destroyed, the earthly and worldly residence and house of God, which was built from stone, wood, gold and silver, but all these would not last forever. Instead, Jesus also spoke about how He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. And this Temple refers to the Temple of His Body, which through the crucifixion and the resurrection would become the source of life for many others, all those who have shared in His death and resurrection.

In the same manner therefore, all of us who share in the Lord through our baptism also share in the Temple of our Lord, which is our own bodies, our own beings, hearts, minds and souls. It is just like the comparison which our Lord Jesus made between the earthly Temple of Jerusalem with the heavenly, true and everlasting Temple of His Body, which will outlast all forms of worldliness.

The Temple of Jerusalem eventually was destroyed by the Romans just a mere few years after it was completed, approximately thirty years or so after Jesus our Lord predicted its destruction. All of its worldly beauty and appearance were all for nothing as it was relegated to history and was lost, as fire and destruction came over it, and it was no more. And yet, the Lord, the true Temple of all, remain established, and is still established today, through us all, the Body of Christ, His Church.

There are a few symbolisms and a few lessons all of us should take note of here, particularly because, first, as I have mentioned at the start of today’s discourse, the Lord will come at the time of His choosing, and we will have zero knowledge of when this will exactly happen. Therefore, it is important that we should not fall into the trap of the devil, he who tries every single day in trying to make us fall into our weaknesses and fail.

And what does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is about this world and all of its temptations, all of the persuasions, worldly pleasures and all the things that can distract us from finding our true way to the Lord. And we tend to be distracted by these, spending our time trying to gather for ourselves money, possessions, worldly goods and things such as fame, human praise, pleasures and delights of the flesh and many others, and yet, we forget about what we really need to find for ourselves.

We build for ourselves a truly beautiful Temple, which from the exterior looks very nice to those who see it. But in the end, they are truly empty and meaningless. Let us spend some time to reflect on ourselves and our own actions. How many of us try to show off our wealth, possessions, our achievements and our greatness to others, by trying to make us seem as well-to-do as possible? How many of us built or bought or made the best looking and the most amazing houses, getting the best and most expensive looking cars, or wearing the best looking and most expensive clothes and apparels so that all who see us will praise us?

It is called our human ego, brothers and sisters in Christ, the desire in our hearts to be praised, to be acknowledged, to be adored, to receive the adulation and recognition from others, all about I, about myself, and not about others. We are swallowed by our own ego, our own pride and desire, and that is why we forget about the Lord our God, about what we truly need to do for ourselves in order to attain salvation through Him, and about those who are around us, because we are too busy thinking about ourselves, looking for ourselves and into ourselves, thinking about ‘me’, about ‘I’ and not about ‘him’ or ‘her’.

And this was exactly why Jesus lamented about that Temple, which was a grand edifice built by king Herod the Great, designed to show off his majesty and greatness, built from the best materials and most lavish styles possible, with the best workmanship and with the best available spaces given to it, and yet, in how the chief priests, the priests, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law used it, it had been squandered for worldly purposes.

Jesus had to clear out the corruptions that defiled the Temple of the Lord, the House of God, where all the merchants, money-changers, all those who tricked the people, the poor and common people from their money in order to sell them Temple offerings at elevated and marked-up prices, all the wickedness in the plain sight of the Lord at His own House. All these are how ugly things had become in reality, despite all the beautiful wonders of the Temple building, besmirched and corrupted by how it had been misused.

Thus, first, just now, I have spoken about how we should not be like this, that we should not become obsessed with worldly possessions, trying to gather for ourselves worldly things and praise, and glory and all that this world has made us accustomed to, that we end up being distracted, being too self-centred, thinking about ourselves, and about how we can maximise profit to ourselves, that we lose our sight on the bigger picture.

And thus, secondly, we should heed the lesson from our Lord Jesus Who spoke of the Last Judgment. At that time, He rebuked all those who have been found to be unworthy, and these asked Him when and why they have failed Him. They have failed Him because they have not moved their hands to help, and their hearts to show love and empathy, whenever their brethren, their own brothers and sisters are in need of help. Instead, they look to themselves first and ignored their plight.

In Jesus’ own words, that ‘I am hungry, and you did not feed Me, thirsty, and you did not give Me water to drink, in prison and you did not visit Me, naked, and you did not clothe Me,’ and so on and so forth. Those who are worthy, are found to be so by our Lord, precisely because they have done all these to those who are in need, sharing with their own less fortunate brethren, who have less food, less drink, less materials than their own.

We Christians should not be people who are closed to ourselves, spending so much time thinking about ourselves, about what we are to wear, about what we are to show off to our friends and relatives, that we forget about the poor, the suffering, and those who are sick, those who are unloved, ostracised and neglected around us. There are many things that we can do in order to help them.

We have to understand that besides sins of action, when we commit things that are wrong and wicked in the eyes of God and men, there are also sins of omission, when we are perfectly capable of doing what is good and what is expected from us, and yet, we choose to ignore them, and instead carry on living our own lives as if nothing has happened. This cannot be our way, brethren.

And to summarise what we have discussed today, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look at the gist of the matter, that the Lord is coming again soon, and He will not let us know when this will happen. And if we are so distracted and tempted with ourselves, closing ourselves off from others, and failing to do, ignoring what we can do to help others around us, and instead focusing on ourselves, we will fail, and will be rejected by the Lord at the end.

Rather, what we must do, is as the Lord had said in one occasion, that we should not build up for ourselves earthly treasures, but seek instead true treasures that will last. As we prepare for the coming of the Lord, we should prioritise what we need to do, so that we will not be caught red-handed failing to build up a good account for ourselves. For God, wealth, possession and all these means nothing, as He values rather our heart’s love, care and compassion for each other.

As we come again to the end of this current liturgical year, let us spend plenty of time, taking stock of what the past year had been for us. Let us think about what we have failed to do, the moments when we are able to give of ourselves to our brethren, and yet we did not do so, perhaps because of reluctance, perhaps because we did not see clearly enough that there is a need for our help there. And this is the time for us to make a new resolution, that we will give more of ourselves, that as Christians, we give ourselves, heart, mind, soul and body for the sake of those who need our help.

Let us all build together for ourselves the true, everlasting treasures of heaven that will last forever and will never perish, by showing the world what it truly means to be a Christian. A Christian person loves others, their own brethren, and even strangers, showing the care and concern for those who are weak, ostracised, to the elderly and all who are in need of love.

May all of us be beacons of light guiding each other to God, and may through our examples, more and more souls may be called to repentance and may thus find their way to God through us, so that together, all of us may rejoice at the end with our God forevermore. Amen.

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