Sunday, 23 September 2018 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are presented with the sad reality of our world today, and especially within our Church itself. It was the sad reality of the conflict, infighting and divisions that often plague our human communities, the clashes between our human pride and ambitions, our desires for worldly glory, wealth, power, fame, influence, and all sorts of things that end up becoming stumbling blocks in our communities, including even within the Church itself.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard from the event during the Lord’s ministry, when even in that early stage of God’s work of salvation, there has been divisions and rivalries among the disciples, especially those who were the closest to the Lord. They were bickering, arguing and quarrelling among themselves, about who among them was the most preeminent, greatest and preferred by the Lord. Each of them wanted to be that special disciple whom the Lord treasured and praised to be His best.

This is also linked to what two of the disciples, St. James and St. John did together with their mother, in another occasion, when they came up to the Lord and asking for His personal and exceptional favour. They wanted Him to grant them the favour of being able to sit at the right and the left hand side of the Lord in His triumphant and kingly glory. At that time, as is often still today, to be able to sit beside a lord or a king is considered as a tremendous honour and privilege.

In what St. James himself mentioned in his own Epistle which is our second reading today, all of these reveal to us the ugly nature of human ambition, pride, desire and greed, for worldly power, for wealth, for privileges, for fame and glory, which end up in causing divisions and hatred, anger and jealousy, because of the clashes and frictions between each person’s different desires and ambitions.

This is the way of the world, the way of those who followed the desires and the paths of Satan and his evil allies. This is the way of those who succumbed to the temptations of their greed and their pride, which had indeed led many to fall into sin and disobedience against God. And it is the source of much pain, suffering and sorrow in the Church, and as well as in the human society in general.

There had been many occasions in this world, of how mankind have been greatly scandalised by the actions of some, who in the pursuit of worldly glory, power, wealth, recognition and fame, ended up causing others to suffer in order to satisfy their own selfish desires and greed. This is what happened when men tried to prop up their own ego and pride, and refused to look beyond their selfishness.

Many wars, conflicts and persecutions have occurred because of the desire which some of those in power had, for more power, for more honour, for more glory, for more riches, for more resources, for a place of honour in history, for glorification and worship and praise by the people, and many more. And millions and more had died in the process, and many more suffered and endured hunger, pain and loss, because of the actions of those who thought only of themselves and their own wants and desires.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we also heard another example from long ago in Biblical history, of the time when the people of God persecuted the prophets and messengers that were sent to them, in order to remind them to be faithful and to turn away from their sins. Instead, the people hardened their hearts and kept doing what were sinful in the sight of God. They plotted to silence the prophets and made them suffer for having rebuked them for their wicked ways.

Again, this is another example of how we mankind are often tempted by our own desires for worldly things and glory, and how easily we can slip into this wickedness if we are not careful or if we are not actively restraining the pull of temptation on us. And still, it is, as I mentioned earlier, very sad to see how all these things happened even within our Church, and how it had caused even people to lose their faith in God, and leave the Church.

How many of us have experienced being treated badly or unequally within our Church ministries, or when people gossiped behind our back or played for power and influence within the ministries and within the parishes? How many of us have seen people being discarded and rejected, from within Church groups and ministries just because they were deemed to be rivals and threats in the battle of influence within the groups and ministries?

All of these things are too real for us to ignore or to pretend that everything is good within the Church today. The Church has experienced many of these unfortunate occurrences throughout its history, when even the leaders and elders of the Church vied for power, glory, political and worldly influence, even for wealth and all other things that we think should not have happened to the Church, but they did.

There had been many occasions when the faithful, even within the priesthood, who were wounded, disheartened and even scandalised by what they have seen and experienced, the kind of treatment that they have received, and often when they were speaking the truth and the right thing. There had been many occasions when this led to unfortunate divisions and sufferings within the Church, and caused many to lose their faith in God and His Church.

But if we look carefully into this matter, and reflect again on the Scripture readings we have read today, we will see just how all these have been foretold to us, as I have mentioned on what was written in the Book of Wisdom. All of these bitterness and unbecoming attitudes of Christians ultimately came from our own frail humanity, where we have been often tempted and pressured to turn towards these ways of sin and disobedience against God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise that while the Church is indeed a divine institution established by none other than the Lord Himself, but it is also made up of human elements, all of the people that are part of the Church including each and every one of us as Christians. And as humans, it is part of our imperfect nature for us to be tempted and to be corrupted by these sinful ways.

However, it does not mean that we should allow these temptations of pride, of greed and of human and worldly desires to run rampant without control. We must instead do our best to get rid of all these wicked and sinful temptations, by turning ourselves wholeheartedly towards God, and by truly living our Christian faith with genuine dedication and devotion to God. The Lord Himself has shown us how we should do this.

He mentioned in the Gospel today, that if someone wants to be the first, he must be the last and the servant of all. And then, He also took a child and put the child in their midst, saying that, if they welcome the child, they are welcoming Him, and the One Who sent Him into the world. What does this mean? The Lord wants each and every one of His disciples to be true in their faith and in their dedication, like that of a child, pure and humble, innocent and genuine in all things they think and do.

Are we able to follow that teaching which the Lord had taught and shown us? He Himself showed the example, by how humble and dedicated He was to the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. He did not allow pride or greed to overcome Him, when Satan tempted Him with all sorts of worldly pleasures and glories. When the people wanted to make Him as their king, He walked away and secluded Himself in a secret, quiet place.

Are we able to follow Our Lord’s examples? And indeed, are we willing to do so? It will require our effort, willpower and the commitment which we need to give, if we decide to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. And we must realise that all the troubles and wicked things that happen around us will not disappear, but unless we begin from ourselves, and be role models for our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, how can we encourage all Christians to abandon their sinful attitudes in life?

Let us all renew our efforts to live our lives with faith, and that is, with genuine faith and dedication. We must be filled with sincere and strong passion in our lives, to be ever more faithful and to be ever more humble, no matter what we have achieved in life, for in everything we do and say, we are in fact glorifying God, and for all of our successes and blessings, we owe it to God, the One Who made it all possible for us.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our way and in this journey of life. May He continue to provide for us and may He remain by our side as we continue to walk down this path of life, each and every one of us, that as members of the Church, we may overcome the sin of pride, the sin of greed and all sorts of wickedness that remain with us. May God bless us all and bless His Church, now and forevermore. Amen.

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