Sunday, 8 July 2018 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the Scriptures speaking to us about the challenges faced by those who serve the Lord and walk in His path. Throughout today’s readings, the same theme is repeated again and again, that challenges and obstacles will be part of the life of those who seek to obey God’s will, particularly His servants and prophets.

In the first reading today, we heard from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, in which God through His Spirit clearly warned Ezekiel and prepared him for the task which He was to entrust to the prophet, that he would be thrust in the midst of a rebellious people, those who refused to believe in God or to listen to His words. Indeed, the Lord’s words would come true, and the prophet Ezekiel had to struggle for a long time with a people who refused to listen to him and who had hardened their hearts and closed their minds.

Then, in the Gospel today, we heard yet another rejection of God’s messenger, and this time, it was none other than Jesus Himself, the Son of God, and the Messiah of the world. It was likely, based on the context of the Gospel passage, that the incident took place either at Nazareth or near that village, in which the Lord Jesus had lived for many years, together with St. Joseph, His foster-father, and Mary, His mother.

The people questioned His power, wisdom, teaching and authority, based on what they knew of His background, most likely because they had seen Him grow up from His early infancy and childhood, after the Holy Family returned from a temporary exile in Egypt, and they must have seen the Lord growing up in the family of a simple carpenter, just an ordinary man with a most ordinary occupation.

For we have to understand that, a carpenter’s work is one that is often unrecognised and unappreciated. It was often associated with poverty and lack of literacy and education. At the time of the Lord Jesus, most of those who were educated would have been employed either in the secular administration such as the Sadducees, or counted among the religious elite of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

But Jesus was none of these, and He defied all traditional and customary definitions of a wise and educated man. This was what irritated and annoyed the people, who doubted Him and the origin of His teaching authority and miraculous powers. As for them, only people who fit the traditional and customary definition of an educated man, with power and worldly authority, with human intelligence and abilities, could have done such feats.

Essentially, what the people had done, was the commitment of the sin of pride and prejudice. They were too proud to admit that in their midst there was someone with the power and the ability to heal the sick, to perform such miracles, and to speak with the power and authority of God. And they tried to reconcile that by using their prejudice, thinking that in their limited understanding and intellectual capacity, they were able to know and presume to know everything about the Lord Jesus, and thus, were biased against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought to realise that in our own lives, we are also often guilty of the same mistake and sin, as we often judge one another, comparing each other using the standards and judgments of the world. Ultimately, this came about because of the desire that is present within our hearts, the desire for worldly things such as fame, power, influence and all sorts of other parameters, by which we measure worldly success.

But when we are called to the Lord’s path, and embrace the way which God has shown us, we are called to transcend beyond all those worldly and temporary happiness and satisfactions. All of those are in truth, just merely illusions and distractions, that prevent us from finding the true happiness and joy, which we can find in God alone. True wisdom, true understanding and truth itself can be found in God.

In fact, Satan is always at work, busily trying to distract us from this truth, by appealing to our pride, to our greed and desire, twisting us and tricking us by those same pride and desire, in order to lead us further and further away from God. And now that we recognise this fact, we as Christians must be courageous in our faith, and in our dedication, so that regardless of all the challenges and temptations we may encounter, we will always be steadfast in our faith.

As St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle reading taken for today’s reading to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, all of us should in fact take all these challenges, obstacles and temptations as reminders for us to persevere in our faith and not to be complacent in living our lives. The devil will strike at those whose faith are most unstable, and who takes our faith for granted. He knows exactly where to strike, and he will strike us when we are most vulnerable.

Therefore, now, each and every one of us are challenged to live our lives with a renewed faith and zeal, through not just words but also concrete actions. Let us all persevere in our Christian faith, against all sorts of challenges, persecutions, rejections, remembering that none other than Our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, has experienced such rejection and pain.

May the Lord be with each one of us, in our journey of life, so that we may draw ever closer to Him, with each and every passing day. May He bless each and every endeavours we do, guiding us patiently with His Fatherly love, showing us the way forward. Let us all love one another with genuine and tender compassion, and let us love God with all of our hearts. Amen.

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