Sunday, 1 October 2017 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we heard the Word of God from the Sacred Scriptures, speaking to us about doing the will of God and obeying Him, in all the things we say and we do, following the examples of none other but the Lord Jesus Himself, as the example of perfect obedience. All of us as Christians have to devote ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly, and be righteous in all of our deeds.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, God reminded His people that it was not based on our status or prejudices that we are being judged or will be judged by Him. Rather, it is by our every actions that we will be judged by the Lord. For our every righteous deeds we do, we shall be judged to be worthy of God, while for every wicked and sinful deeds we do, we shall be judged to be unworthy of God and instead worthy of condemnation.

Even if the righteous were to commit sins and wickedness, they shall be judged on the accord of their righteous actions and their sins. Should their sins outweighs their righteous deeds, and their faith be found wanting in the presence of God, they will be condemned like all the other sinners. Equally, should the wicked and great sinners commit what is good and righteous, and their good deeds and righteousness be found worthy over all the wickedness they have committed, they may be considered worthy of God’s glory, and that is also why many souls are now in purgatory.

That was precisely what the Lord Jesus also alluded to in His parable to the people, telling them about two sons who said and did differently to his father’s will and orders. One son who voiced out his obedience to the father’s orders, and yet did not do as he had said, and another son who objected and made excuses against the orders, but in the end, did what the father wanted him to do. The son who actually did what the father wanted him to do, is the one who is righteous in the end.

That means, the readings today presented each and every one of us with both a warning and an opportunity each. The passages warned us that should we be lax in the practice of our faith, even those who are good and pious may end up falling into temptations and sins, and through those sins and scandals, they will end up being condemned instead of attaining salvation as they should have.

On the other hand, an opportunity has also been given to all of us, who are sinners and wicked people, to forge for ourselves a new pathway to God, to turn back on our sins and to be righteous, that through our sincere repentance and desire to be forgiven, all of us may be forgiven and be absolved from our sins, for Christ had died for all of us on the cross, and by His loving sacrifice, He has offered each and every one of us the forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often that many of us find this difficult to be done, especially because we encounter many temptations of this world, the temptations to do what we want in life, to do what is easier to be done, what is more convenient for us, rather than to obey the Lord and to follow what His will is for each and every one of us. We tend to take it easy and follow the easier path, and in many of our actions, we often think of the potential profits and benefits for ourselves.

But that is not the path we should be taking, brethren. We may think the path of the Lord is a tough and challenging one, but in the end, through our perseverance and righteousness, we will gain honour and eternal glory from our God, Who sees and knows all that we say and do. And by doing all that He wants each one of us to do, with full sincerity and desire to love Him, we will gain true righteousness and grace from God.

Let us all follow the examples of the holy saint whose feast we celebrate on this day, the saint whose life is an inspiration for each one of us on how we should be good in our lives and be obedient to God’s will. St. Therese of the Child Jesus or St. Therese of Lisieux was a renowned saint, most famously known as the ‘The Little Flower of Jesus’, and in the ‘Little Way’ she propagated.

St. Therese was a sickly young girl who encountered great difficulties early on in her life, having had to constantly grapple with her frail health and physique. Yet, her piety and devotion to God had been noted from a very early age, and as she grew in age, her piety and commitment to God only grew stronger. She experienced many amazing experiences of faith and moments of closeness with God, and wanted to join the Carmelites religious order.

She encountered many difficulties and challenges in entering the congregation, but eventually she was accepted as a Carmelite nun. She wrote extensively and lived a very pious life centred in strong devotion to God. She discovered the ‘Little Way’, in which she explained that she would get to Heaven by the little way, short and straight, through which by little and simple actions, we may discover the path to sanctity.

Many of us think that in order to be good and righteous we have to do great things in order to receive sanctity and approval from God. Yet, that is not true, as St. Therese of Lisieux showed us that even little and seemingly insignificant actions made based on faith, and with full sincerity, will have massive impact altogether towards our salvation and grace. What matters is that we do them sincerely, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to God.

It is important that we do our deeds out of devotion to God, and not to seek human praise and approval. What will be the benefit for us, if we do what God wants us to do, but because we want to be praised by others, and not for the right intentions? Is that not vanity instead? And the pampering of our human ego and greed for fame? Rather, we should be humble, to be as little and meaningless as possible, so that in our humility and love for God, God may uplift us and glorify us in the end.

Ultimately, we should see the examples of the Lord Jesus Himself, Whom in the second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians mentioned as the One Who had obeyed perfectly the will of His Father, despite the great difficulties, pain and suffering that would have caused Him. He was tempted by the devil three times in the desert, in the pursuit of human and worldly glory, but He resisted all of them.

He was also tempted to abandon His mission as He prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His Passion, suffering and death. But He accepted willingly and completely what God His Father has planned for Him and for all mankind, with the words ‘Let Your will be done and not Mine.’ This is the kind of faith and commitment that all of us Christians are called to make, following the example of Christ Himself.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, in conclusion, all of us must make the conscious effort to avoid sin and to repent wholeheartedly and sincerely from all the wicked and unfaithful actions we have done in our lives, for just as small and little acts of faith can bring us on the way to Heaven, even a small little sin can become a great obstacle to our salvation.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of the holy saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, and follow her ‘Little Way’ on our way to the Lord, doing whatever we can, even in small little things we can do in our daily lives, by caring for the needy, by showing love for our fellow brethren, and by forgiving those who have wronged us and caused us discomfort. Let us not keep grudges against one another, but follow the example of Christ, Who forgave His enemies and prayed for their sake.

Let us also follow the Lord Jesus and His example in His perfect obedience to the will of God His Father. Let us pray to God, with this prayer : ‘Lord, I know that I am a sinner and I am unworthy of You, but guide me so that I may not fall any further into the way of sin, but through the Little Way of Your holy saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, and through the perfect obedience of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we may find the most straight and surest path to You. May we be made worthy through our actions, all made out of our love for You, and out of our love for our brothers and sisters. Amen.’

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