Sunday, 17 November 2019 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all finally at the thirty-third and last of the Ordinary Sundays in the year, as we approach the end of this current liturgical year. Next Sunday we shall be celebrating the great Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, the final cap to this current liturgical year. As we reach this stage in time, we heard of the constant reminders through the Scripture of what is to come and what we should expect in our journey of faith as one of the many disciples of the Lord.

As we approach the end of this liturgical year, the readings remind us of the reality of what God Himself has promised to us and which we also believe firmly as we always repeat through every time we recite the Creed, that He will come again in glory at the appointed time, and as He comes again, He will gather us all to Himself and will judge all the peoples, all the nations for their own deeds and actions, be it good or be it bad and evil.

We do not know when is the exact moment that this will happen, but it is perfectly certain that His coming will be a surprise to everyone, at a time when everyone least expect it. It is perfectly certain that the Lord will come as He has promised. But in the meanwhile, as we look forward to His coming, and as we expect Him to gather us all into His eternal and glorious kingdom, we have to live our lives according to how He has taught us, through the way that He has shown us.

The Lord presented to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, and therefore through to us all, the reality of being a follower of His. To be a disciple of the Lord means that we have to be prepared for the trials and challenges that will likely be in our path, as we will encounter all sorts of difficulties, even as the Lord said, false prophets and guides who will try to lead us astray from the faith in God.

What the Lord had said, has actually happened throughout the long history of the Church. There had been many moments when the faithful had to endure bitter suffering and persecutions, from the Romans, the pagans, the enemies of the Church, from the worldly authorities and governments, and from many others who sought the destruction of the Church and the faith. That was how the innumerable martyrs of the Church came to be, all those who have suffered and died for the Lord.

Yet, they suffered with courage and conviction, faith and commitment to God. They went through all sorts of difficulties, torture and pain, encountering all sorts of painful deaths, because they refused to give up their faith in God. They remained true to their faith even amidst great pressure and persecution, even opposition from their own friends and families. They were faithful to the very end.

This is what the Lord Himself had said to His disciples as He prepared them all for the eventual suffering and persecution they had to encounter. Just as the world has persecuted their Lord and Master, His disciples and followers would also suffer as He had suffered. But He also then reassured them that they would not be alone, as God would be with them, suffering with them, carrying His Cross with them. He would guide them through those difficult moments and strengthen them.

That was probably how many of the holy martyrs were able to persevere through those difficult moments, and how they endured all the bitterness of the world. That was because they put their faith and trust in God, knowing that He was with them through all the way. The Lord encouraged and strengthened them through His Holy Spirit, that they remained true to their dedication even through the darkest moments.

That is why He called on His disciples to remain strong and to put their trust in Him, that no matter what, He will guide them and show them the way. And He said this because He wanted them all to do His works and to be the witnesses of His truth at all times, even at the most difficult moments, so that they would not worry about themselves or about what they would do, because no matter what, God would be with them.

That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the essence of what we have to do with our lives as Christians. We are all called to be witnesses for Christ, for His truth and for the Gospel of His salvation. We are all called to glorify Him by our lives and be the bearers of His truth to the nations, for He has given us this Great Commission, that we go to all the nations, bearing His truth and baptise all the peoples in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Then, in the second reading passage today, taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Thessalonica, we heard of how St. Paul mentioned that he and his fellow disciples worked hard for the sake of the faithful, doing all that they could to serve the people and living their lives to the best of their abilities. They did their work and laboured as an example to the rest of the faithful.

And why is that so? That is because at that time, there were those who believed that the Lord’s coming was imminent, and that therefore they needed nothing else than to wait for His coming and be idle, for they have already been saved after all. But that was not what the Lord wanted them to do, for as I have just mentioned, He sent us all into the world, to bear witness to His truth, His resurrection and to His salvation for all mankind.

How do we then bear witness to God’s truth and love? It is by doing what He has Himself done, in reaching out to our fellow men, showing our own love, care and concern for others around us, in particular those among us who have few or even none to care for them and love them. It is indeed most fitting that on this Sunday, the thirty-third one in Ordinary Time, which has recently been declared as the World Day of the Poor, we remember the poor in our midst, those who have little or none to pass the day by, and also all those who have been treated unjustly and even without basic human dignity in our society.

As this current liturgical year comes to an end, it is perhaps time for us to look upon the year that has just passed, and discern how our lives will proceed from now on, even as we look back and take note of what we have done in this past one year cycle in serving God and His people, what we have failed to do or have not yet done, and how we can proceed from now on, as we enter the new liturgical year cycle, and from then on and on again, in living the lives as true Christian disciples.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on what we can do as Christians, to bear true witness to Christ and show our faith by our words and actions in life. We should love one another and share our joys and blessings if we have more of these to those who have little or none, so that all those who see us, know that we truly belong to God, because not just that we have done what God Himself had done, in seeking the last, the lost and the least among us.

We have to remember what the Lord had said, that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we are doing it to the Lord Himself. Therefore, if we hurt or make those who are poor and needy to suffer even more, then our reckoning before God will indeed be truly terrible, while if we reach out to them in love as we should, then God too will reach out to us with the same if not even greater love. This is how the world knows that we are His disciples, when we love one another, just as He loves us, and even more so, towards those who have known little or no love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we live in a Christ-like manner, by reaching out to one another with love, especially to the poor and the needy, we will likely go against the norms and customs of this world. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, there will inevitably be frictions and inconveniences, troubles and trials ahead in our journey. But should we let all these trials and challenges to deter us, or should we rather make these as the reasons why we want to be even more determined to do what we should as Christians?

Let us all be true Christians in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our every actions, words and deeds truly breathe the very essence of our Christian beliefs, that everyone may know the Lord through us and see His love and compassion, His mercy and salvation, His truth and glory through our lives and actions. May the Lord continue to bless us all, and guide us all, His Church and His people in our journey of faith, day by day, to the end of time. Amen.

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