Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are reminded of the Lord Who has given us His wisdom and His words of truth, as He revealed through His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into this world bearing the revelation of the divine truth, and then later on, by the sending of the Holy Spirit into this world, to be with the Apostles and the disciples, and therefore, to be with His Church.

God’s wisdom and truth are indeed so wonderful, that He has desired to give us this wisdom and truth, because of the great love which He has for each and every one of us. Through His wisdom and truth, God revealed to us what it is that He desires from each one of us, and how we should live our lives, in accordance with His will, and with the way that He has shown us. And that is what He presented before us through our Gospel passage today.

In that Gospel passage, we heard of a young, rich man, who came to the Lord Jesus, with the desire to gain eternal life. The Lord then told the young man first, whether he has obeyed and fulfilled the commandments of the Law as revealed through Moses. The young man replied that he has fulfilled the many commandments and kept them closely throughout his life, having been an obedient member of the Jewish community.

But then, the Lord asked him to do something that he could not bear doing, that is, to sell away all of his riches and to give them all to the poor, leaving everything behind and follow Him as His disciple. The young man immediately went away in sorrow, not being able to do what the Lord had asked of him, because he had great amount of wealth with him. It is likely that he could not bear to be separated from all those worldly achievements that he had gained and possessed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is then the significance of what we have just heard in the Scripture passages, particularly that of the Gospel? First of all, we must not interpret the meaning of the Scripture literally, thinking that we should equate following the Lord with the total abandonment and selling of all of our worldly possessions and goods, for this is called interpreting God’s words without understanding the context.

Yes, indeed, there are those among us who are called to do so as part of their vocation, as religious nuns and monks, who left behind everything to live a life of total commitment to God, but that does not mean for the rest of us, we should just follow what we heard to the letter without understanding its meaning. Instead, we are called to listen to the word of God, speaking in the depth of our hearts and minds, and discern carefully on what it is that He wants us to do in our lives.

The issue which the Lord brought up in our Gospel occasion today, is that we mankind, even though we may be able to fulfil our obligations and our duties in our faith in God, but we can precisely do such efforts even without truly appreciating the true purpose and intention of why we do what we are doing, as part of our faith. The young and rich man fulfilled all the obligations of the Law, but in truth, he was not able to dedicate himself fully to the Lord, as shown when he was called by the Lord to dedicate himself fully to Him.

He was not able to commit, and left in sorrow because ultimately, he loved his riches and goods more than that of the Lord, and given the choice between those things and God, ultimately, God was secondary in importance to him. Then, if we carefully scrutinise what the young man said, he asked the Lord Jesus, “Good Master, what must I do in order to gain eternal life?”, in this question lies a desire from the man to want something for his own satisfaction.

What do I mean by this? The man asked Jesus in that manner, out of desire to gain for himself eternal life, and probably not because he truly loves God. This is a reality that exists even within our Church, where there are many among us faithful who have our faith and practice things within our faith, the various devotions, prayers and actions, because we want something for ourselves, be it for personal glory and fame, or for personal salvation and benefit.

It is not wrong that we want to be saved, for indeed, if we want to be saved, then we must seek it and desire it, otherwise, how will we then attain salvation if we ourselves do not want it in the first place? But we must not let that desire to supersede first and foremost, our love for God. Ultimately, we want to be saved and gain eternal life, not because we are afraid of hell or punishment from God, but rather, because we want to be together again with God and be reconciled with Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to rediscover this purpose of our faith and our lives. If we have been wayward all these while, failing to recognise these shortcomings of our lives, and if we have been disobedient and been unable to give our best in serving the Lord, putting Him in secondary and even worse places in our hearts and minds, then perhaps, we should really consider spending some time in prayer and in the quietness of our hearts, in order to find out what it is that we can do, in order to become closer to God.

The Lord reminds us through the same Gospel passage, that the path to enter the kingdom of heaven is narrow and difficult, but at the same time, also manageable and accessible, given that we put our trust not in the human wisdom, power and intellect, but instead, in the wisdom and the power of God. Many of us failed to make progress because we are not having the correct focus in life, and we are easily distracted, as we depend too much on our worldly possessions, power and other achievements, and we end up becoming too attached to all of them.

Let us look at these examples, brothers and sisters in Christ, beginning with those who think that just by doing what we are supposed to do for our faith, by coming to Mass every Sundays, and yet, we are not focused at all on the Lord and become easily distracted, because instead of focusing our attention on God, we cannot wait for the Mass to end so that we can go back to our various worldly commitments and activities.

And then, some of us profess to believe in God and followed all obligations of the Church, coming regularly for Mass and also become active part of various ministries in our parishes, but then, in how we behave towards one another, towards our fellow Christians, we scandalise our faith by our actions. Many of us brought slander and gossip into our interactions, even within the ministries and Church groups we are part of. We bicker and fight even over the smallest of matters and over trivial things.

That is exactly what happens when we allow our so called human wisdom, intellect, power and ability to take over and control us in what we say and do. The clashes and incompatibilities between our varying human desires and wants will end up tearing us apart and causing divisions among us. This is what we cannot and should not do with our lives. And as the example of the young and rich man in the Gospel passage today has shown us, we should strive to overcome our human desires and attachments to all sorts of temptations present in this world.

And this means that we must resist the temptation of worldly pleasures, power, prestige, honour, fame, glory, wealth and all sorts of things that can bring about unhealthy attachment and desire. It is not wrong for us to possess wealth or possessions, or to achieve something in our lives, but we cannot be overtaken and swallowed by our desires for those things.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the Lord has called us all, each and every one of us, to be His true disciples. And that means, each and every one of us should respond with a thorough and genuine conversion of heart, changing our attitudes in life, from one that is world-centric and self-centric into one that is centred on God alone. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed faith, and with a renewed zeal, from now on. May the Lord be our guide in our journey towards Him and His everlasting life. Amen.

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