Sunday, 9 September 2018 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the word of God being spoken to us through the Scriptures, about the hope and encouragement that God has given to all of us, His beloved people, in how He has blessed us and given us a new hope, by healing us from our afflictions, our sicknesses and shortcomings. God has promised and fulfilled the promise He has made, to made whole again the people He had created out of love.

First of all, our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah spoke about the coming of God’s healing to His people, as the signs He would show when He sent His Saviour into the world. The prophet Isaiah was sent to the people of Israel at the time when many in Israel have abandoned the Lord and His ways, and they have consequently suffered at the hands of their enemies, scattered and exiled away from their homeland.

The prophet spoke of a new hope for the people of Israel, who were surely downtrodden and despairing, remembering the time of their suffering in Egypt, when they were enslaved by the Pharaoh and the Egyptians for hundreds of years. They longed for the coming of the Deliverer, Whom the Lord has promised for many years through His prophets and messengers, that deliverance would come for them.

The prophet spoke of the signs of what would happen when the Messiah of God came into the world. He would make the blind people see again, the deaf people to be able to hear again, the mute people to be able to speak again, the lame and the paralytic to be able to walk and to be active again. And all of these would happen as signs of the coming of the One Whom God has promised.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when the Lord Jesus healed a man who was both deaf and mute. He touched his ears and mouth, and by His words, “Ephphata!” meaning, “Be opened!”, the Lord healed the deaf and mute man, who could immediately hear and speak once again. The man praised the Lord and the whole people who witnessed the great miracle also were astonished and glorified God.

It was the fulfilment of what God Himself has promised to His people, that through His Saviour, He would restore His people, from all their afflictions and disabilities, from all of their shortcomings, pains and sufferings. It was through the Lord Jesus, God’s own begotten Son, that the plan of Salvation was completed to its perfect fulfilment. But it was not all the physical healing of the people that were the focus of Christ’s objective in this world, but rather, the healing of our true sickness that has made us all to be sick.

What am I referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ? I am referring to the sickness caused by our sins. Sin is caused by our disobedience and refusal to obey God, which have afflicted each and every one of us mankind, ever since Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, were tempted and failed to resist the temptations of Satan, to disobey God’s will and commands.

Ever since then, we have been afflicted by sin, which is truly a disease and corruption upon our entire being. Sin is the disease that affects first the soul, and then from the soul, to the heart and mind, and eventually our physical self and the whole body will be affected as well. We may be physically healthy and unafflicted by any physical diseases or sicknesses, but in truth, deep inside us, we are sick and dying because of this sickness of our sins.

And unlike all other physical diseases and sicknesses, which can be cured or halted to a certain extent by medicines and treatments, there is no cure for sin, save for that of the Lord’s mercy and grace alone. None but the Lord is capable of forgiving our sins, and no one but the Lord is able to free us from the bondage to our sins and therefore, to our fated destruction and death.

What is the significance of all these to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Every single one of us as Christians, who have been baptised in the Name of the Lord, have gone through the rite of the Sacrament of Baptism, in which one part was the symbolic Ephphata Rite, recalling the precise moment mentioned in the Gospel passage today, when the Lord Jesus opened the ears and loosened the tongue of the deaf and mute man.

And more still, that through the holy water of baptism, all of us have been made to be sharers and partakers of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant, which He has made with all of us through the action of His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. By that water of baptism, we have been cleansed of our past sins and our original sins, and we were purified from our wickedness and unworthiness.

Therefore, as all of us have received the inheritance from God, of faith, hope and love, by sharing in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, dying to our past sins, and now, having shared in the hope of the glorious resurrection from the dead that He has shown us, each and every one of us as Christians have been called to be active in our faith, to be the ones to bear the Lord’s truth to all the peoples of all the nations.

For you see, brothers and sisters, our Christian faith is one that requires us to be active, to be missionary and to reach out to others about the faith which we have in God. We cannot be complacent or inactive and passive in the practice of our faith. We have been freed from the tyranny of sin and death, and the veil of sin has been lifted up from us. We have experienced God Himself being present in us, so what is stopping us from truly proclaiming the Lord in our lives?

Very often, it is because of our own lack of faith and our own lukewarm attitude towards what we believe in the Lord. But do we realise that there are still many out there who are still living in the darkness and ignorance of the Lord’s truth and salvation? If we ignore them and do nothing to help them, then they may fall into eternal damnation in hell, a fate which we ourselves will share because the Lord will hold us accountable for our failure to act.

We have received this faith and the promise of eternal life from God, and it is only natural that we should share this hope and faith with all those who have not yet received them. And the way for us to do so, is by being true Christians in our respective lives, meaning that we must practice what we believe in our own life, through our actions and deeds, and not just through words.

Unfortunately, many of us Christians have shown otherwise, as we act in manner that causes divisions and scandals, by our refusal to obey the will of God and continuing to fall into temptations, of pride, of worldly wealth and power, of influence and fame, that even within the Church and in our various ministries, we have seen so many actions that were inconsistent and unbecoming of our faith, in how we jockey for influence and power, and in how we treat each other, not in the manner of our true Christian fellowship.

How can we expect others to believe in God and to receive our Christian faith, if we ourselves are not exemplary in how we live our lives in faith? Instead of bringing the people closer to God, we will instead end up causing more and more people to be turned away from salvation. Thus, it is important that we realise the gravity of our actions in our lives, and how they can be crucial in our role as disciples and bearers of God’s truth.

Let us therefore strive to be true disciples of Christ from now on, by truly living up to our calling as those whom the Lord has chosen out of the world, having been given the truth and the promise of eternal life. Let us go forth and preach this truth to many more people, through our words, our deeds and actions, that in everything we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of God and call many more to come to the Lord and be saved.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in all of our endeavours, and may He continue to watch over us as we continue to carry on living this life with all the zeal and courage to be true Christians in every moment of our lives. Amen.