Sunday, 16 September 2018 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we listen to the readings taken from the Scriptures, surely we will realise that being Christians does not seem as easy as it seems to be. Being Christians require us to be committed and to be ready to face challenges, difficulties and even persecutions for what we believe in, and often times, we will encounter these challenges from even those who are close and dear to us.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we listened to the prophecy which Isaiah spoke on the suffering of the Servant of God, which would later on be interpreted as the prophecy which he made on the coming and the future works of the Messiah, the One Whom the Lord sent into the world in order to bring the long promised salvation to His people.

The Messiah of God would suffer greatly, suffering rejection and even physical blows and being spat on, being humiliated to such a degree that not even His humanity was preserved. This is what the prophet Isaiah prophesied regarding what the Lord Jesus would face during His ministry, all the pain and rejection He would receive from His people. The Lord was rejected by His own hometown neighbours in Nazareth, hounded on by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law throughout His journeys.

And in the Gospel passage today, we listened to the Lord Jesus speaking about His own impending suffering and tribulation at the hands of His enemies. It is essentially an affirmation of what the prophet Isaiah had mentioned in his Book. The Lord would suffer persecution, and then death at the hands of all of His enemies, those who rejected Him and wanted Him to be killed. That was the stark reality which the Lord Jesus presented before His disciples, in fact, not just once, but a few times.

But then we heard of how the Apostle, St. Peter pulled the Lord aside and rebuked Him for saying such ominous and bad things. The Lord rebuked St. Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!”, implying that it was under the influence of Satan and his temptations that St. Peter had made such a remark. The Lord also mentioned that he was thinking not as God does, but as man does. This is representing us the nature of human and worldly temptations that often get in the way of our true devotion and dedication to God.

The same temptations had been presented before the Lord by Satan himself, just after the Lord was baptised by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. In the desert, Satan came to Jesus and tempted Him three things, firstly with the temptation of hunger and food, and then with the temptation of pride and worldly glory, when he asked Jesus to jump from the top of the Temple of Jerusalem, and lastly, the temptation of desire and greed, when he presented the whole world’s wealth and glory, if only Jesus would worship Satan.

In all of these temptations, Satan was speaking through himself and through some others, including that of the Apostles, as recorded in today’s passage, and in another, when during the Transfiguration, St. Peter asked the Lord that they remained on the Mount Tabor and not to go down away from the Lord’s Transfigured glory. But the Lord again spoke to His disciples, by means of a voice from the Father, “This is My Son, My Beloved. Listen to Him.”

And Jesus therefore mentioned it again and again to His disciples, that He needed to suffer, to endure pain and trials, to be rejected and to be humiliated, to be crushed with the burden of our sins, and gathering them all on the Cross which He was about to bear. Of course that burden of the Cross was so great, and so unbearable, that in His humanity, the Lord Jesus endured a final temptation at the hour of His agony, when He was in the garden of Gethsemane, praying to His Father, even asking Him to take away the cup of suffering away from Him.

But in the end, the Lord Jesus was perfectly and completely obedient to the will of His Father. He was tempted through the flesh of His humanity, the vulnerabilities of His human existence and nature, but He did not sin because He completely trusted His Father’s will, and He surrendered everything to Him. That was why the Lord Jesus took up His Cross willingly, bearing it all the way to Calvary, being nailed on it and died on it.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what Christ has done, His actions and commitment to the will of His Father. And let us all remember what St. James mentioned in His Epistle, which is our second reading today. Faith, according to St. James, without works, is dead. Faith without the evidence of good works, done according to that faith, is meaningless and empty, and is useless for us.

What does this mean? It means that we may have faith in God, but we will not be saved and will not be worthy in God, unless our faith is truly real and genuine. There are those who have wrongly thought that we mankind are saved by faith alone, that our works have no part to play in our salvation, but they are wrong. For the Church has taught that, by the teachings of the Apostles, including that of St. James, good works must accompany our faith.

The Lord Himself showed us by the perfect example of His crucifixion and death. He has such great and deep love for us, such devotion and dedication to the will of His Father, that He willingly took up His Cross and did all that was necessary, in order to save us from the impending destruction caused by our sins, through His own death on the cross. He showed us that His love for us is not just empty and meaningless words, but also real and true.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also what the Lord meant, when He said that for all those who want to follow Him, they must take up their crosses and follow Him. If we truly are faithful to God, then we must substantiate that faith through our actions, deeds and words, in everything we say and do. How can we say that we are faithful to God and yet, our actions show otherwise?

If we have done so, then we have in fact scandalised our faith and scandalised God Himself. And that is a great sin which we have committed against God. Is this what we want to be with our life? Have we been truly faithful or are we still ensnared by the many temptations of this life, that we have failed to show our true obedience to God? This is when we need to make the firm stand and put the effort, for each and every one of us to be true Christians from now on.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore from now on, have a new resolve in ourselves, that we want to bear our crosses in life, by doing what we can in living up to our faith, its expectation and obligations. Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed zeal and courage, to live our lives daily with conviction, to show love and Christian way of compassion to all those who have need of them.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of life, and may He empower each and every one of us to live faithfully, that we may become true disciples of His, and be worthy of the eternal life and glory He promised to all of those who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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