Sunday, 10 September 2017 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard from the Scriptures about the importance for each one of us as Christians to be good listeners, and to pay close attention to what the Lord had taught us, that we will not fall into the temptations of the devil, and that we will be able to live harmoniously and in peace with one another.

This is important because each and every one of us make up the living Body of Christ, the Church. And in the ages past, and even until today, disagreements and lack of peace and harmony among the faithful has become a great source of sorrow for the Lord and for all of us. We have witnessed so many periods of disunity and divisions to the Church because of the falsehoods and the heresies that the devil had struck the Church with, tempting its members to deviate away from the Lord and His truth.

Divisions in the Church has happened many times, and it is often due to the disagreements coming from personal preferences and ego, the pride and ambition of the members of the Church who refused to let go of their ego that they might listen to the voice of reason and the truth as espoused in the teachings of the Church. Instead, we saw how many people broke away from the Church over their disagreements.

Many people refused to listen to reason, and they closed their hearts and minds to the words of truth, because they felt that their way and their thoughts, opinions and methods alone were correct and others were wrong. That was exactly how and why the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to believe in Jesus, as they were adamant in keeping their beliefs about the laws of Moses, and to them, Jesus and His teachings were unacceptable.

That was how many of the people embraced heresies and went into open rebellion against the teachings of the Lord in His Church, and even decided to make their own ‘churches’, as splinters being forcefully torn apart from the holy Body of Christ, His Church. Yet, from time to time again, the Lord and His Church prevailed, and all those who tried to impose their falsehoods on the faithful faltered, because God was not with them.

How should we handle these matters then, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, if we refer back to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, we will see that violence or anger is not the way for us to adopt, as none of these will end up in good results. As I have just mentioned, one of the main reasons why the divisions and disagreements have occurred was because of the stubbornness and the ego of the parties involved, that they refused to listen to the reason and the truth.

If we ourselves also end up being filled with anger, violence and hatred against others simply because they disagree with us or because they believe in falsehoods of the devil and in the heresies mentioned, then it may be difficult for us to reconcile our differences and for us to show them the way to the truth of God. Instead, as what the Gospel has shown us, we should seek to communicate and have dialogue with the ones involved, through prayer and seeking guidance from the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is easy for us to lose ourselves to our emotions, anger and hatred if we do not let God to take charge of our actions. We should open our hearts first and listen to the Lord, asking Him what is His will for us, and how we should proceed forward, especially when dealing with those who disagree with us, or with those who espouse the false teachings and ways of heresy. That is why I emphasised earlier on the importance of listening, and not just listening, but attentive listening in all of us.

Many of us are too ready and willing to shout out our ideas and proposals, our suggestions and demands, and yet we are not ready to allow our ears and our minds to listen to what others have to say. And if we are not even able to listen to what others are saying, how can we then convince them to listen to us? How can we convince them to believe in our true faith if we do not lend them a listening ear and mind first?

I am not saying that we should compromise on our faith or allow those who have fallen into heresy to continue in their sinful ways, as that is in itself a great sin, for then we will not just end up condemning them to the fires of hell, but also ourselves for having failed to help them and by compromising our faith. Rather, what we all need to do is to show an open-minded and welcoming attitude, and through that, to bring everyone to the invitation to prayer and discernment.

That is also how we ought to resolve the disagreements that will surely come up from time to time amongst the different members in the Church, between the priests and priests, between the priests and the laity, and amongst the laity themselves. As Jesus Himself said that, when two or more are gathered together in His Name, He Himself will come among them and be with them. How can we go wrong if God is with us, and His Spirit gave us His wisdom?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time today to think through carefully about how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we have acted in our dealings with one another. Have we thus far acted with pride and ego in our actions, and have we refused to listen to the words of others but instead being stubborn and unreasonable?

Can we heed what the Lord had told us all through the Scriptures? Shall we all restrain our ego, our pride, and the desire to be the first and the greatest in everything? Let us all also learn from the examples of our Lord Jesus Himself, Who even though He was the Almighty God and King of all kings, but He willingly lowered Himself and came upon us, that He might serve us His people and show His everlasting love.

Shall we all overcome our innate reluctance and unwillingness to be attentive listeners and open our minds and hearts to others? Shall we then do our best to bring together all the scattered children of God, all those who have been separated from God’s loving Church, by welcoming them back with love and compassion, and by gathering them to the Lord in prayer, by showing them through our own examples, that in prayer, they may come to realise the errors of their ways and come back to the Lord in repentance?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our very best from now on, that we may be able to listen to God as well to listen to our brethren, let us all throw far, far away all forms of ego and pride, all the things that have become obstacles on our path, all that have caused divisions and disagreements among the faithful people of God. Let us all reject all that Satan was trying to do in order to detract us and to snatch us away from God’s salvation.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He give us the strength and the courage to do His will, to surrender ourselves to what He wants us to be, and to be faithful disciples, who are concerned about our brethren, especially those who have fallen away from the path towards God’s salvation. Let us all be good and attentive listeners while at the same time being good evangelisers, through our gentle and loving actions showing the truth about God.

May the Lord bless us all and every endeavour we make, that eventually all the faithful people of God may be united together once again in His Church, without any more divisions or disagreements. May He continue to guide His Church and empower all of its members to always walk faithfully in His ways. Amen.

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