Sunday, 20 October 2019 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are reminded of God’s love and providence for each and every one of us as He has shown throughout all the time and history. And we are called to reflect on that love which God has lavished on us each and every moments of our lives. That is why He wants us to know that we are beloved and blessed because of this.

God brought His people to victory even against difficult odds as we heard in our first reading passage today how He led them to victory in the battle against the Amalekites, the sworn and bitter enemy of the Israelites, who were a powerful nation and a warlike people that could have subjugated the Israelites if not for God’s help and providence. This is symbolised by the acts of Moses who followed God’s instructions and raised his staff on a hill above the battle.

Since a long time ago, the staff is a symbolic tool used by the shepherds who took care of his many sheep and goats and other animals. As those animals often fed and grazed on hillsides and mountainous terrains as was common throughout the land, the shepherds used the staff both as a tool to guide them in their movement around as well as a visible sign for the flock of where the shepherd was and for the flock to follow. The staff guided the flock and made sure that the animals complied.

And in this case, by lifting up the staff high, visible for all the people to see, God wants all of His people to know that He was there with them, as their Shepherd and Guide, as their Master and King. Those Amalekites wanted to destroy the Israelites, subjugate and enslave them, much like the ravenous wolves seeking to hunt and consume the sheep and animals. But the shepherd is there to protect, and in this case, God Himself stood by His people.

When sheep or any other animals are in danger or are in need of something, they will make noises to alert the shepherd of the incoming danger. Then any good and committed shepherds will come and rescue their flock, and if necessary, they will even risk themselves to be hurt to protect their flock because they love their sheep and all those animals. Shepherds often spend so much time with their flock that they developed strong loving relationship with them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all God’s beloved people, the sheep of His vast and innumerable flock. He through Christ His Son revealed that He Himself is our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, Who lays down His life for His sheep. This phrase is a very significant one, especially in the context of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. And how is this so? That is because the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites is a mere microcosm of what the battle raging daily about us is.

For just as we are the sheep of the Lord’s flock, there are many of those seeking our destruction and suffering just as the Amalekites preyed on the Israelites. And these enemies of ours are the wicked and evil forces led by the devil, consisting of his fellow fallen angels and the demons ruling in this world. They are constantly active, waiting for the opportunity to strike at us and drag us with them into damnation in hell.

But we must not be afraid brothers and sisters in Christ, for God our Shepherd Himself is by our side, standing by us and being with us. If those shepherds can protect their sheep and their flock against those wolves and all seeking the destruction of their flock, all the more that God, the one and true Good Shepherd will be with us and protecting us, providing for us the help from our enemies because of His infinitely great love for each and every single one of us.

Now, let us all look at our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus used a parable to explain about God’s love for us, that is so great beyond anyone’s love and any other love we may have known. He compared the love of God to that of the evil judge who was pestered by a woman who wanted the judge to adjudicate for her case and to give her what her rightful claim has dictated.

The Lord used that parable as a comparison to prove the point that if that evil judge could give in to the demands of the old woman when she incessantly sought for his help, then all the more that God Who is filled with love for us will provide for us when we ask Him for help. And linking to what we have just discussed earlier on, we cannot fight alone in this constant battle raging about us, the spiritual conflict between us and the devil.

God is ever loving and generous with us, and we just have to ask and He will listen to us. But are we having enough faith and love for Him that we want to call on Him? In our Gospel passage today, we heard in the last part of that passage how God said that if we ask Him, He will listen to us and heed us. Of course whether He will act in accordance with what we have asked of Him is a different matter, as He will act according to His will and not ours, but nonetheless, God as our loving Father and Creator always listens to us, just like the shepherds are always keeping a close watch on their sheep and flock.

But this then comes to the last sentence of the Lord’s words today, that when the Son of Man comes into this world, will He find faith on earth? And this is important because unless we have faith, we will not be able to ask God or seek God, either because we are too proud to admit that we have shortcomings, that we are weak and are in need of help and therefore we try to solve everything on our own and with our own strength and judgments, or that we are too preoccupied and distracted that we cannot even recognise God’s presence in our midst.

Many times we have misunderstood God, thinking that we are perfectly alright by ourselves, or that we can do everything with our own power and ability, or that we only seek Him when we are in need of help and then forget about Him when we no longer need Him, treating Him like a means to achieve what we wanted rather than to put our complete trust in Him and to love Him just as He has first loved us.

And when we try to do everything on our own, that is when things go badly for us because we tend to make flawed judgments and choices in life, and are easily tempted by the devil and all those seeking our destruction as we are cutting ourselves off our Lord and Shepherd just as if a sheep decides to run away on its own and isolating itself from the flock and the shepherd. And that is the perfect opportunity for the wolves and all the predators to strike at the lone sheep.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray that God will give us the grace to have a stronger faith in Him, that our hardened hearts and stubborn minds can be softened and opened to allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us. Let us all pray for the grace of better faith and to be able to love God more in our daily lives, that we may draw ever closer to Him with each and every passing moments of our lives.

And as St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy in our second reading passage today, one of the best ways for us to move forward in faith is by focusing on the Word of God in the Scriptures, in which are contained the truth of God as He has revealed it to us. It is by deepening our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures that we can know more about God. If we do not know a person well how can we then build a strong and meaningful relationship with that person?

In the same way therefore, unless we know God well and from then, building up a good and healthy and living relationship with Him, how can we then be close to God? How can we know what His will is for us if we do not know him well? As I mentioned earlier, we have to open ourselves up to the Lord, love Him and putting our trust in Him as our Lord and Shepherd then we can truly depend on Him and be close to Him.

The Lord knows us all very well, and He knows each and every one of us because He Himself created us all out of His great love. But do we love Him just as He has loved us? Have we spent the time and effort for Him just as He has done so for us? And how do we show that we love Him? It is by living our lives with faith and genuine commitment, by proclaiming the Word of God as His witnesses, not just by words but through real action in our lives.

That is what St. Paul had written to St. Timothy, urging us all the faithful people of God to preach the Word of God through our lives, at each and every moments of our daily living, through our every actions and deeds, our interactions and good works. This is how we stand by our ground in this ever challenging conflict with the devil and all those seeking our destruction. We have to put our focus on God, our Shepherd and Guide, and through Him, we must be beacons of light in this darkened world, as God’s warriors of faith.

This is how we will triumph in the end, like the Israelites crushing the Amalekites. We will triumph against the evil one and his forces, and God will guide us through to the eternal life and glory in Him that lies in the end of our journey. Our journey may be challenging and difficult, but as long as we stay by the Lord and remain faithful to Him, we will triumph in the end. But if we choose to cut ourselves off from God, then we will likely fall and end up in eternal damnation, something that we surely do not want.

And we must not forget that our triumph came through Christ and His act of ultimate love for us on the Cross. Just as Moses lifted high up his staff high up and bring victory against the Amalekites, Christ Himself was lifted up high on the Cross before us all, that all of us who saw Him will gain the same reassurance of ultimate victory against the devil and all of his forces. And we must remember how He went through all the pain and sufferings for our sake, and because He loves us all so much. The Cross is our hope and strength amidst even the greatest darkness, and we must always focus our attention on Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect and discern well what we can do with our lives to serve God ever better, devoting our time and attention to Him, deepening our relationship with Him by spending our time reading the Scriptures and in prayer, and living our lives as according to what He has taught us. Let us all be true disciples of Christ from now on, and be His willing and exemplary witnesses and evangelisers in our respective communities. May God bless us all and be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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