Sunday, 28 July 2019 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard from the Scripture passages on the matter of trusting in God and how each and every one of us can ask Him and approach Him, seeking for Him to help us and to provide us with what we need. This is in fact something that many of us as Christians may have taken for granted throughout our lives, not realising that God has always been by our side all these while without fail.

In our first reading today, we heard of the encounter and exchange between Abraham and God Himself, as He revealed to him what He had planned for the great wickedness of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He would destroy the two cities for all the sins the people in them had committed and their stubborn refusal to repent from those sins and continuous living in wickedness and corruption.

Abraham naturally asked the Lord to show mercy, because first of all, we have to remember that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were also the places where Lot, Abraham’s relative has been living at that time after he and Abraham went on their separate ways. Surely Abraham wanted his relative and his whole family to be saved from such a destruction, and that was why Abraham pleaded for the sake of him and for the people of the city.

But at the same time, we have to also take note that Abraham could have just asked God directly to spare the lives of Lot and his family, instead of asking God to spare the lives of everyone in the two cities. After all, weren’t the people living in those cities very wicked and sinful? They surely had deserved death while Lot and his family deserved to be saved. Why is that, brothers and sisters in Christ?

That is because Abraham must have firmly believed that God is so loving and merciful that He would not have done what He had revealed to Abraham He would do to Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as Abraham himself had been so beloved by God, he must not have been able to believe that God wanted to bring such a fate of destruction on so many people living those two cities. That was why, he continued to plead for the sake of the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, asking God to spare the city should there be fifty, forty-five, forty, and so on until if there were even only ten righteous people living there.

And God did listen to Abraham, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as He was patient listening to his many pleas in His presence. Linking with what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus taught His disciples who asked Him how they ought to pray, and making comparison of God as One Who will listen to those who ask of Him, Abraham in our first reading today is truly like a child asking for favours from his father.

The Lord Jesus was making a comparison between God and His actions with those of a friend and to a father of a child. He was mentioning to His disciples how even a friend, no matter what happens, will move to help should we ask for help, even when that causes that friend discomfort and unhappiness, just because by helping that friend of ours can get rid of our constant nagging and requests. And God, in truth, is much more than just a friend to us.

And a father, no matter what, will not give something that will harm his child, or give whatever that is totally contrary to what the child has been asking for. And God indeed is our Father, our heavenly Father and Creator, Who created us all out of His perfect love for each and every one of us. He is far more than all of our earthly fathers, and because of that, His love for us is truly genuine, true and powerful beyond comparison.

Now, as highlighted just earlier, prayer is the way how we communicate and ask God, our loving Father and Creator. But then now, we need to spend some time reflecting on prayer, on how we pray and if we have even made our prayers faithfully in our own respective lives so far. Have we made our prayers with the right intentions and purposes in mind? Or have we fallen into the same mistake that so many of us have done in making our prayers?

Many of us have this misconception and misunderstanding that prayer is like a magic and works like magic, fulfilling whatever we wanted. And many of us may have thought that God will listen to us no matter what and that He will fulfil every single one of our prayers. Consequently, we reduced our prayers into the ones consisting of litanies of requests or even demands. And when God did not fulfil what we wanted, we ended up being angry at God or left Him behind for other ‘gods’.

We have to understand that, first of all, we cannot reduce God into One that is subservient to us, since He is after all, the Creator, Lord and Master of all the universe, and He is the Master of us all. How can we act in our prayers as if He is our slave that will heed all of our every biddings and demands? This is a wrong attitude and way of praying, and if we are guilty of this, then we should reflect again on the Scripture passages today.

If we read on after the part taken for today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis, we should know that eventually, Sodom and Gomorrah would still be destroyed by God, with a rain of fire and brimstone from the heavens. Then we may be wondering, did Abraham not ask the Lord to spare those two cities for the righteous who lived in them and for the sake of Lot and his family, Abraham’s own relatives?

We must then understand that everything that happens in this world and indeed, in the whole universe and creation, must follow the will of God and all that God had intended everything to be. It does not mean that God does not listen to His people and to our prayers. He did listen and He is a much better listener than all of us are. He answered Abraham’s prayers by rescuing Lot and his family through His Angels that He Himself sent to Sodom and Gomorrah to rescue them.

But it was fated and by God’s will that the two cities were destroyed because not even ten righteous people could be found in them, like Abraham requested from God. Only Lot and his family, who were less than ten in number, could be considered as righteous, from what we read on from the Book of Genesis’ accounts. And in that occasion, when Lot begged God through His Angel to spare the small town of Zoar because he was afraid that he would not be able to reach safety in time, God listened to him and spared the small town.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us then recall what the Apostle St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Colossae, our second reading today, when he mentioned about our baptism and the wonderful gifts that God had given us from that baptism. This is significant because by baptism, all of us have not just received pardon and forgiveness from all of our sins as mentioned in that Epistle, but even more so, that we have been made nothing less than sons and daughters of God Himself.

And that is because through baptism, we become sharers in Christ’s Passion, suffering, death and Resurrection. We share in the glory of the Cross, by dying to our past sins and by embracing Christ and believing in the glory of His Resurrection. Just as Christ is the Son of God, we share through His humanity as the Son of Man, the same relationship with God, our loving heavenly Father.

Today, let us all realise that the best way to pray and communicate to God, our loving Father, is to follow the example of Christ, Who prayed to His heavenly Father in the purest and best prayer known to us, which we all know as the Pater Noster, or the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer, all the four essence and intentions of prayer is covered, namely that of ‘Adoration’, ‘Thanksgiving’, ‘Atonement’ and ‘Petition’.

Rather than beginning His prayer with petition after petition, or request or demand one after another, the Lord showed us all that we begin by glorifying and adoring God, thanking God for everything that He has done for us, for all the wonders and glories He had shown us, and also admitting that after all, God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, not our own will or desire.

The Lord’s Prayer is a model upon which our personal prayers should be made, as prayer is in its pure essence, as all of us must realise, is an intimate form of communication between God and us, much like how Abraham communicated in private with God as shown in our first reading today. A true communication is two-way between the two parties, and not unidirectional. That was why, in prayers, we must open our hearts and minds to God just as God listens to us.

Even with all of our concerns and petitions that we wish to make in our prayers, first and foremost we must understand and realise that everything will ultimately be in God’s hands, and His will shall be done. And we must make our petitions with the openness in mind and heart at all times, allowing God to make known to us what His will is for us, just as we pray and ask Him to intervene for our sake, whatever it may be.

Can we trust in God and believe in Him wholeheartedly from now on? God will never abandon us, and He will always provide for us, as the Lord Jesus Himself assured us all. If an evil person, or any ordinary person, or any fathers know how to do good and take care of those who are dear to them, what more will the Lord will do for us, as each and every one of us are truly dear to Him? Remember all that He had lovingly done for His servants throughout history, and what He had done to Abraham and in rescuing Lot and his family from destruction.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is always listening to us, and in truth, we do not even need to say anything at all. Of course God Who knows everything, has already known everything in our hearts and minds, even our deepest secrets and thoughts. But are we opening our hearts and minds to listen to God? Are we allowing Him to speak to us just as we speak to Him? Let us all reflect on this, and strive to improve our prayer life, so that we may truly spend the time in quality prayer with God, our loving Father.

Let us be ever more faithful from now on, and do not let the business of our life in this world, all sorts of worldly concerns and temptations to distract us from God. Let us all be open to God’s grace and be willing to listen to Him, by being ever more prayerful in our daily living. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us all in faith, and may He empower us all to live in accordance with His will, as Abraham, our father in faith, has done. Amen.

Sunday, 28 July 2019 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 11 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place; and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”

Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is travelling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’ Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Do not bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I cannot get up and give you anything.'”

“But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a bother to him, and he will give you all you need. And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

“If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if your child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

Sunday, 28 July 2019 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Colossians 2 : 12-14

I refer to baptism. On receiving it, you were buried with Christ; and you also rose with Him, for having believed in the power of God, Who raised Him from the dead.

You were dead. You were in sin and uncircumcised at the same time. But God gave you life with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of our debts, those regulations which accused us. He did away with all that, and nailed it to the cross.