Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, each and every one of us as Christians received the Word of God being spoken unto us through the Scripture passages, beginning from the passage taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah, telling us how Jonah was sent to Nineveh in order to warn it of the impending catastrophe which God planned to send to the city because of their wickedness.

In that passage, we heard of how the prophet Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, telling them of the impending doom and destruction, and the people of Nineveh believed in him. Even the king of Nineveh itself, the mighty ruler of Assyrian Empire and conqueror of many nations believed in whatever Jonah said, and ordered a general repentance, mourning and penitential efforts, where everyone humbly admitted their sins and sought the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy.

And God saw their sincerity and desire to be forgiven, and He withheld the destruction He had intended for the city of Nineveh and its inhabitants. He showed His mercy to the people. Had the prophet Jonah not gone to them and warned them about their sins, they would not have turned away from their sins, and they would have fallen further into wickedness, and destruction would have been unavoidable for them.

In the second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we heard of the exhortation by St. Paul, calling the people to live a holy life, to live a fully devout life abandoning all sorts of worldliness and even relationships. This has to be understood in the context of how the faithful at that time understood the message about the imminent coming of the Lord.

At that time, many of the faithful including that of St. Paul believed that the Lord would be coming soon, and that the end of time would come in a short period of time. As such, he exhorted the faithful to abandon all of their earthly attachments and even married life and families, so as to prepare for the imminent second coming of the Lord. And although this did not happen as he had foreseen, but in truth, thanks to what St. Paul had done, many of the people abandoned their vices and committed themselves to God.

Then, finally, in the Gospel today, we heard about the calling of the Apostles by the Lord Jesus, Who came by the region of Galilee and saw four fishermen who were fishing by the lake of Galilee. They were two sets of brothers, St. Andrew and St. Peter, as well as the sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John. Jesus saw them and called them from their boats to follow Him and become His disciples.

They left behind their nets and their boats and followed Him, leaving behind even their families and friends. From then on, they would serve the Lord and His purpose for many years and many decades, becoming the instruments of God’s work of mercy and salvation. Through them, many were saved from damnation in hell, and many souls were reconciled with God, even though these poor fishermen were truly of no significance and had little respect among the people at that time.

And after hearing all of these passages from the Scriptures, now it is time for us to think carefully about what we have just heard and received, and look into our own respective lives and ask ourselves, what is it that we, who are the followers of Christ, can do, in order to become ever more dedicated and true disciples of His? All of us as Christians are by default, Christ’s followers and disciples.

First of all, all of us have been called to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and the Apostles, all those whom God had called and chosen to be the bearers of His Good News to the people. They have been called to minister to those who have been lost from the Lord, those who have disobeyed Him, those who have fallen into sin and wickedness.

That was why Jonah was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, and that was also why St. Paul was sent to the people of God, writing to the many churches throughout Christendom and exhorting them to live their lives faithfully, and lastly, the Apostles, members of the Twelve and many other disciples called by the Lord Jesus, to minister to the people and to preach His Good News to them.

If we then think that those people were great saints and servants of God, as those who we deem to be beyond our league, then we are truly mistaken. Let us all look at those whom the Lord called from among those we heard of today. The prophet Jonah was not eager in the beginning to obey the Lord, and in fact, I am sure we are familiar with the story how Jonah tried to run away from the Lord.

He travelled by ship to a faraway land, only for the ship to be struck with a great storm, and he had no choice but to throw himself into the sea to spare the other passengers and the ship, and carried in the belly of a great whale, he was brought to the seashore, from where he eventually decided to follow the Lord’s commands. It was not an easy journey from the beginning, and he was a reluctant follower at best.

Then, St. Paul was once Saul, the great enemy of the Church and all the faithful people of God, greatly feared by all Christians, as he went from place to place, violently rounding up all those who believed in Jesus and arresting them, bringing about much sorrow to the faithful. And yet, God called Saul and converted him, on the way to Damascus, where the revelation of truth was given to him, and he turned his back to his past as a great sinner, into a great defender of the faith.

And lastly, the Apostles themselves were not perfect either, they came from various background, called by the Lord to be His followers and chosen to be their leaders. Yet we know how even one among them betrayed the Lord, Judas Iscariot, who sold off his Master for a mere thirty pieces of silver to the high priests. And the other Apostles fled out of fear when the Lord Jesus was arrested, each to their own hiding places.

What is the lesson that all of us as Christians can learn from these? It is the realisation that God calls those who He deems to be worthy, not those who deem themselves to be worthy. That was why He did not call those who were proud and haughty, including the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on the sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes and more.

Instead, God reached out His hands and brought all those who were sinners and considered unworthy, and called His servants from all kinds of people, from all backgrounds and not withstanding any worldly considerations. Those whom He called and accepted the calling, He would make them to be worthy of His Name, and He would be with them, even though they may indeed face difficulties, persecution and rejection.

This is a reminder for us that when the Lord calls us, we should not reject His call or pretend not to hear what He has called us for. Rather, we should listen to Him and pray, asking the Lord to tell us, what it is that He wants from each one of us. We are all called to walk in His ways and devote ourselves to Him in whatever way we can, giving our time, effort and attention.

Therefore, today, it is also a good time for us to remember our priests and all those who have dedicated themselves, their whole lives for the sake of the Lord. Let us pray for them that they may continue to persevere faithfully throughout their vocation and mission, as those to whom the Lord entrusted the governance and guidance over His people.

Let us all work together that the whole Church of God, all the faithful people of God will be able to coordinate our efforts as one united people, devoted to the Lord, and helping all of our priests and bishops, in their mission and works, that in the end, the Lord’s mercy and compassion may reach all those who are in need of that mercy, and therefore like the people of Nineveh, they may be saved from damnation and destruction.

May the Lord strengthen us all, that each and every one of us as Christians may be able to courageously carry out the mission entrusted to us, to be the bearers of the Good News of the Lord, through our words and even more importantly, through our actions. Let us inspire one another to walk faithfully in the way of the Lord, and be ever more committed to live a life consecrated and devoted to Him, loving Him through all of our every actions and deeds. May God bless us all. Amen.

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