Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are yet again reminded of what it means for us to be called as Christians, that is as people who are truly believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Divine Word Incarnate, by Whose deeds and sacrifice on the Cross all of us have been saved and redeemed from certain death. To all of us who have kept our faith in Him, the Lord has given us the reassurance of eternal life and true glory in Him.

Unfortunately, this is what many of us have forgotten in the midst of the hectic life we have in this world, all the experiences we have encountered in life among others. Many of us have forgotten God and ignored Him, and instead of trusting Him and having faith in Him, we worry and focus on the many distractions present in this world. We placed our trust in our own strength and power, and we are therefore bound to fall unless we are able to trust in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Second Book of Kings, about the prophet Elisha who came by the city of Shunem, and a rich woman and her family sheltered him and took good care of him during his stay. First of all, the rich woman recognised Elisha as a holy man of God and treated him nicely, giving him as good as an accommodation possible. At the time when being a follower of God and prophet was truly tough, as many among the people and the king worshipped pagan idols and disobeyed God, such a treatment for the prophet Elisha must have been really rare indeed.

And the Lord knew well what has been done to His faithful servant, and the woman did it without having certain ulterior motive or desire for her own selfish wants or purposes. Not knowing much more from the Scriptural sources, it can safely be assumed that the woman was simply a God-fearing woman and someone who believed in God enough that she respected His prophet Elisha very much, and treated him well. And the result of this was that, as the rich woman and her husband did not have a child of their own, God, through His prophet Elisha, granted them the child of their loving union.

This is related well to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of the matter of following God and becoming His disciples. In the first part, the Lord mentioned how being His followers would require them to give their all, to commit themselves body and soul, and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly, taking up and carrying their crosses together with the Lord, which means that they would face sufferings and difficulties, rejection and challenges just as the Lord Himself had faced these from the world.

But then, in the second part of the Gospel, the Lord said what had been recounted in the first reading, as He spoke of those who welcome the disciples and followers as having welcomed the Lord as well, and those who listened to them and treated them well as having listened and treated the Lord well too. This was clearly related to what had happened to the rich woman who welcomed the prophet Elisha to her home and treated him well, and God blessed her and her whole household because of that.

What then, is the significance of all these passages from the Scriptures today, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is that we must first of all be willing to follow God, and to trust ourselves in His providence and care, not worrying about what will happen to us or what we have to endure during the journey. Whether we will have an easy or difficult time in living up to our Christian calling is not something that we can predict or compare between us. Some of us may have to suffer a lot while others may suffer less or little, but nonetheless, what is important is that we serve God all the same.

Why I mention this is that, there are many of us who are afraid or unsure of following God and His path, and we always tend to delay, postpone and push aside God’s calling for us, and we tend to keep away from those responsibilities and duties we have been called to do as Christians and members of the Church. We are often worried about ourselves and our state in this world, our livelihood and all the things we have. We worry that if we follow the Lord, then we have to abandon whatever we have possessed and whatever we are comfortable with.

But, let us all not forget that, this is first of all, our responsibilities given to us as part of our Christian baptism, which in our second reading today, St. Paul highlighted that through baptism, we share in the death of Christ, that by plunging through the sacred waters of baptism, we go through that passage from death into life, recalling the journey of the ancient Israelites from their slavery in Egypt to their freedom through the Red Sea, and unite us all to the sufferings of Christ, Who took upon Himself all of our sins and the punishments due for those sins.

Through baptism, all of us have been made the members of the Church, and God has made us all His own beloved children, that all of us have become adopted sons and daughters of His, as we share in the death of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and by the common humanity we share with Him. But then, we must not forget, that as we share in the death of Christ, as St. Paul told us, we also share in the new life He has brought us into through His glorious resurrection.

And that is what we need to take note of, as we heard from the closing part of our second reading today, ‘So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus.’ That is exactly why we have to abandon our old fears and uncertainties, and embrace the Lord’s calling for us all with enthusiasm and desire to commit our lives in the service for His greater glory. God has called us all to various purposes in life, and we have received various talents, capabilities, skills and abilities to be used for this purpose.

There is no single calling that is better than the other in the Church and among us the faithful people of God. Some of us might have the misconception and wrong idea thinking that the ordained ministry, priesthood and religious life are better and higher compared to the lay ministry. Some of us glorify the holy orders and those in consecrated life as those who are better and holier than us, and that they are the ones doing all the work and the ministry, and some even misunderstood thinking that we then can be the content, receiving end of all the benefits without contributing much.

But we must forget that the lay ministry is equally as important, and we must dispel from our thoughts any preconceived notion that the lay ministry is anywhere less important. In fact, without active participation from the laity in proclaiming the Gospel in our daily living, then those in the holy orders, and those in religious and consecrated lives will also be affected badly in how they conduct their efforts. They cannot do what they are supposed to do, unless the laity and all work together to achieve the greater aims of the Church in obeying God’s will.

Each and every members of the Church are indivisibly part of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church, and just as how all the organs need to work together to achieve the same purpose of sustaining the body, thus, all of us the faithful people of God must also do our part for the same purpose. Then, at the same time, each and every members of the Church also have their own respective and specific functions, and each can do best in their area of responsibilities, not competing but rather supporting each other.

Just as each organ are best in doing whatever they were designed to work as, thus, each and every one of us in the Church are also bound to do our best in whatever we have been called to, in our respective calling, to be holy priests, deacons and bishops, to be holy religious brothers and sisters, to be good missionaries and friars, prayerful monastics and all dedicating themselves to ascetic lifestyle, and of course to be good as laypeople, as singles or as married couples, as fathers and mothers, as sons and daughters, as members of good Christian families.

As the Lord Himself said, that ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.’, this means that if all of us support one another, and do what we can to serve God in our respective capacities, abilities, talents and opportunities, then just as the rich woman and her husband in our first reading today were blessed by God, then we too will enjoy the wonders of God’s providence and blessings. But we must not desire them or focus ourselves on them, lest we be distracted and fall into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith and conviction to serve God at all times, with all of our strength and with all of our efforts. Let us all be the sources of strength and inspiration for one another, especially all the more important during these days when our world is facing so many troubles and great tragedies. Almost half a million people had lost their lives to the current coronavirus pandemic, and there had been so many acts of violence and divisions in our communities in the past few months alone, and it is our calling as Christians, to do whatever we can, be it as those in holy orders or the laypeople, to show the love and truth of God to all mankind.

Let us all be the light in the darkness for others, and let our words, actions and deeds bring hope and strength, encouragement and renewal for those who have been downtrodden, sorrowful and in despair. May the Lord continue to do His most amazing and wonderful works through our actions in life. May God bless us all in our good endeavours in fulfilling our Christian calling through our baptism, now and always, forevermore. Amen.