Sunday, 15 September 2019 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday a very powerful recurring theme throughout the readings of the Scripture is reminding us all that God is so great in His forgiveness and mercy, in His desire to be reconciled with us by forgiving us from our many sins and wicked actions and deeds throughout our lives. There is no sin that God cannot forgive, but when we mankind refuse God’s free and generous offer of love and mercy, then we are truly not going to be forgiven.

God has always been ready to welcome us back and He has always been patient, trying again and again hoping that we will have a change of heart and turn back to Him. He knows just how stubborn and how attached we are to our sinful and wicked ways, but He also know that each and every one of us are not yet lost as long as we have not completely rejected and refused His love. God still loves each and every one of us as dearly as always.

If He has not loved us so much, then He would not have created us in the first place, as God has never had any need in His perfection and perfect love, and He created us because He wanted to share that perfection of love that is in Him with us. And that love He has for us remains even after we have betrayed Him and abandoned Him for Satan and his many temptations. Had His love been diminished or been gone after we have sinned against Him, then God would have destroyed and crushed us very easily with a mere thought of His will.

But He did not do so, and instead He gave us chances one after another, again and again despite us being so stubborn and so rebellious that we continuously disobeyed Him even after He has forgiven us many, many times and sent us reminders again and again, wanting us all to be reconciled to Him by forgiving us our sins. And there is no sinner, no man in this world that has sins too numerous or too great for Him to forgive, as after all, God is all powerful, Almighty and omnipotent, and He can do everything including forgiving us of all of our sins.

That was what happened in the time of the Exodus as our first reading passage today taken from the Book of Exodus tells us. At that time, the people of Israel had been so wicked in their actions, just right after God had brought them out of the land of Egypt and just after He had punished the Egyptians and their Pharaoh so severely for refusing to let the Israelites go free. Instead of being thankful and being deeper in commitment towards God, the Israelites became wayward.

They built for themselves a golden calf, crafted likely in the image of the pagan Egyptian idol, which they took for themselves to be the ‘god’ who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. Rather than putting their trust in God and in His servant Moses through whom He has revealed His plans for them and His assurances of the promise that He has given them, in bringing them to the rich lands promised to them and to their ancestors.

They chose to follow the whims of their desires and the temptations of worldly pleasures, worshipping pagan idols and gods, following their ways and thoughts, and in succumbing to the demands and ways of the world. They abandoned their faith in God in exchange for temporary satisfaction and joy, for worldly comfort and satisfaction of their stomachs and bodies. And even after that occasion, the Israelites would go on to disobey and betray the Lord many more times.

That is why it is understandable why God’s anger was directed at His people, for their constant faithlessness and stubbornness. Yet, He still loved them all and wanted them to be forgiven despite His anger against them. Moses was the one who also stood by the people before the anger of God and the sinful Israelites, beseeching God to reconsider when He wanted to bring destruction upon them and to wipe out the whole nation save for Moses who remained faithful.

God forgave His people and made a Covenant with them, forgiving their disobedience and sins, except for all those who willingly and consciously rejected Him totally and refused to repent. And that was in fact a prelude to a far greater act of mercy and love that God has done for us, in the renewal of the Covenant He had made, and how He established forever a New Covenant that is everlasting, by the sending of His own Son to be our Saviour.

And much like that of Moses in the time of the Exodus, the Lord Jesus also stood by the breach between God and us mankind. And just like the Israelites of that time, all of us mankind have disobeyed God and sinned against Him. Because of this, we should have been doomed to destruction and eternal damnation that was our certain fate, for because of sin we have been cast out of God’s grace and love.

Yet, it was His constant and infinite love for each and every one of us as illustrated in our Gospel passage today which allowed Him to continue to love us and to forgive us, and through what He has shown us by the sending of His own Beloved Son, He wants to forgive us and to be reconciled with us just as what Christ Himself has revealed to the people through the use of the parable of the prodigal son in our Gospel passage today.

In that parable, which we are surely quite familiar with, the prodigal son left behind his father after demanding his portion of the inheritance and squandered off all of his wealth and possessions in sinful living, and only when he had nothing left then the prodigal son came to realise just how meaningless and useless all of his pursuits for worldly things had been, as all those who were his friends were only befriending him for his money and possessions.

In the end, in the midst of his suffering, the prodigal son remembered his father and the love which he used to enjoy from his father, and comparing it to the then miserable and despicable state he was in at that time, having to stoop down to the worst possible condition, being a helper in a pig farm, feeding food to the pigs, food that not even he could take, essentially being treated less in importance even to the pigs, an animal which was already treated badly in the Jewish traditions.

It was at that time when the prodigal son was at his lowest that he decided, definitely after going through a lot of thinking and struggles, to go back to his father and humbling himself like a servant, beseeching and begging him to take him in not as a son, but rather as a servant and slave. He would rather be taken in as a servant and slave rather than to suffer forever in the distant place away from his father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the prodigal son is a representation of all of us, each and every one of us who have sinned against God. The father of the prodigal son is God Himself, Who constantly loves His beloved children, but truly is saddened to see the prodigal son going off with his inheritance, tempted by the temptations of worldly goods and things, fame and glory, wealth and pride. This is what we have experienced ourselves, as those temptations pulled us away from God and His righteous path.

But this is then that we have to realise through the story of the prodigal son, and also looking back at the story of the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, when they built the golden calf idol for their own, on how we should proceed from now on, in our journey to be reconciled back with God. As I mentioned earlier, God, our loving Father and Creator is always full and rich of mercy and love, compassion and tenderness. He is just like the father who immediately embraced the prodigal son the moment when he saw the son returning from the faraway lands.

In that same passage we also heard of a similar comparison with that of the lost sheep, whom the shepherd naturally looked for, leaving behind the other sheep which were already safe in the flock. That He was willing to go all out looking for us is proof enough of His dedication and love for us all. Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often we who reject His generous offer of mercy and love, and that is because of the ego and pride within us.

Look at the prodigal son again, brethren, and let us all discern why he did what he had done. He could have remained proud and stubborn even in his moment of distress, thinking that he could not have done anything wrong, and he could have tried to resolve everything by his own power. Yet, he chose to humble himself and throw away all of his ego and pride, and returning to the father in shame, he won for himself instead true and lasting happiness.

And this is where Our Lord Jesus Christ comes in again. Remember that God has sent Him into the world to be our Saviour? He was in fact assuming the role of the prodigal son in the moment of His Passion, death and resurrection, and this whole parable is in fact a premonition of what He was going to do in order to save all of us. Through the humanity which He has assumed in the flesh, He took up upon Himself, all of the punishment and sufferings due for our sins, and put it on Himself through the Cross.

He emptied Himself of all glory and dignity, power and respect, and became the lowest of all beings, treated far less than that of a human, rejected and made to suffer the most humiliating and painful death. He was stripped almost naked and made an example before all who saw Him, a bloodied and battered Body, as the ultimate supplicant on our behalf before God His Father in heaven.

It is then by offering Himself in perfect love and humility that Christ won for us, like that of the prodigal son, a reconciliation between us and God our loving Father. Through His Cross, Christ has rediscovered for us the path that lies between us and God, which had once been destroyed by our sins and rebelliousness. Through Him, God has restored hope for us and showed us the path to full reconciliation and true happiness in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all ready to follow the path that Christ has shown us all? Are we ready and able to follow Him in all humility and throwing away all of the ego, pride and greed in our hearts and minds just like what the prodigal son had done? As I mentioned at the start of today’s discourse, God is always generous with His love and is always willing to forgive us, and yet, unless we truly repent from our sins and desire to turn away from those wickedness, we cannot be truly forgiven.

Let us all spend some time to think about this and discern well what we are going to do from now on. Let us all remind ourselves if we are still living in the state of sin and doing whatever it is that God has forbidden us to do or taught us to avoid, all sorts of fornications and sinful conduct, all sorts of selfish and immoral behaviours, and all things that are against His truth and His love. God has given us all these many opportunities again and again and He is always ever patient in waiting for us to return to Him.

Thus, what are we waiting for, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is indeed easier said than done for us to humble ourselves and to throw away the great ego and pride in our hearts, but let us all begin from those small sins and all the hurtful and wicked things we have done in our daily lives. Let us all recognise that through these and many other sins we have committed, we have been made corrupted, dirty, unworthy and deserving to be destroyed, and yet, God through His infinite love for us continues to love us all the same.

Let us all renew our conviction and faith in God from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ. And let us all turn our hearts, minds and indeed our whole being towards God with love, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly from now on to Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us all in our daily lives, and may His loving mercy continue to come down upon us, His beloved children. Amen.

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