Sunday, 15 July 2018 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to what happened to the prophet Amos, whom God sent to His people in the breakaway northern kingdom of Israel, to be His spokesperson and to deliver to them what God wanted them to know, that they must repent from their sinful ways and turn away from their rebelliousness. But the prophet Amos received a cold shoulder treatment, and was contemptuously treated by Amaziah, the king’s priest in today’s first reading passage.

In order to understand the context of what happened better, we should understand the background of the events that led to that conversation between the prophet Amos and Amaziah. At that time, the northern kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel broke free from the rest of the kingdom of Israel of kings David and Solomon, because of Solomon’s sins and disobedience against God. As a result, God raised Jeroboam to be king over the northern tribes of Israel.

But Jeroboam did not remain faithful to God, and instead, he committed the same sins that Solomon had committed, by commissioning two golden calves in his kingdom, because he was afraid that as the people still went regularly to Jerusalem to worship God, then eventually the people’s heart would turn away from him and back to the family of David and Solomon, the House of David. Essentially, he was afraid of losing the power and glory that God has given him.

Therefore, in order to preserve himself and retain all worldly glory and goodness he has possessed, Jeroboam led the people into sin, and caused many more people to fall into great danger for their souls. And they hardened their hearts and minds against God’s words, spoken through His prophets, including the prophet Amos. Essentially, what we heard in today’s first reading was how they were unreceptive to the message of God, that they made the prophet Amos felt so unwelcome in their land.

Many more prophets would be sent to the land of Israel, including the famous prophets Elijah and Elisha, the prophet Hosea and many others. Yet, the people treated them with the same contempt and with the same prejudice that Amaziah and the other wicked ones have shown to the prophet Amos. They would not want to listen to reason and they closed their hearts and minds all the more, persecuting the good servants of God.

This is what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in today’s Gospel reading, showing them the truth and the reality of what it means to be His disciples and followers. They cannot hope to escape difficulties, challenges, rejection and persecution, just as the prophets of the Old Testament had faced many times during their missions. That is why He said to them, that whoever wants to be His disciples must take up their crosses and follow Him.

When the people of God disobeyed and rebelled against Him, they had rejected Him and chose other false idols and gods as their master instead. They had rejected His prophets and messengers, and therefore, whatever they have treated these servants, they would also do to others who follow God. Well, that was exactly how the Lord Himself had been treated. He was rejected by His own people, was doubted and betrayed, and ridiculed by the priests and the Pharisees.

And yet, despite all of that, He continued to love His people, even all those who have despised Him and rejected Him, by not stopping to send, one after another, prophets and messengers to call His wayward people back to Him. The reason for this is in our second reading passage, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. From the very beginning, God has destined for us to become His beloved children.

To that extent, He sent us His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the One through Whom He made us to be His adopted sons and daughters. It was by His assumption of our humanity and human existence, that by being truly Man and truly God at the same time, He fulfilled God’s purpose and plan for us. As He is Man, He is our Brother and a fellow Man to us, and because He is God and Son, we too share in His Sonship to God, Our Father.

God, Our Lord and Father is always ever patient with us, despite our constant disobedience, whining and lack of faith. He is patient and faithful just as a good father will always be patient and committed in the upbringing and in the care of his children. And for all of this, He showed us the perfect example of His ultimate love for us through His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, by His suffering and death on the cross.

If He had endured such great pain, suffering, humiliation and rejection by His own loved ones as the price and burden of His Cross, then why can’t His disciples and followers do the same? Suffering and persecution has been part of our Christian faith for many eras and generations. But if not for the faith and perseverance of many faithful and devoted servants of God, like the prophets and the Apostles, the messengers and disciples of God, then I am afraid many would have been condemned to eternal damnation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been called by God to do the same work which He has entrusted and commanded His Apostles and disciples to do, that is to go forth proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation, and calling all the people to repent from their sins and accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord, Master and Saviour. We have to continue the work of the Apostles and the prophets, as there are still yet many more people and many more souls in this world that are still lost to the Lord.

Ultimately, as the Lord had said, there will always be those who refuse to listen to Him and His words, spoken through us. This is just as how the prophets and the Apostles had been rejected before, many, many times. Those who continued to reject the Lord and refuse to repent, will then be judged and be condemned by their own refusal and stubbornness of heart. But we cannot give up, as just as there are many of those who rejected the Lord, there are also many who heard the Lord’s call, and turned towards Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all able to show this through our lives, our dedication and desire to love and serve God all of our days? It is by our words, deeds and actions that we preach about the Lord, Our God, through our love and compassion for those who have sinned, and have walked in the darkness, our pity and mercy for those who have wronged us and persecuted us, and our care for those who are weak, poor, and unloved.

Are we able to live out an exemplary Christian life, as best as we are able to, so that through us, many more people can see God’s truth and love, and thus, be called to repentance and to the faith? Let us all therefore do our best, from now on, to give it all to God, in everything we do in our lives.

May God be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in our path. May He strengthen us with faith, resolve and courage to carry on our lives with devotion and love for Him, despite all the challenges and difficulties we may encounter along this journey. May the inspiration of the Apostles and the courageous prophets be in our minds and our hearts at all times, that we too may strive to be like them, each and every day of our lives. Amen.

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