Sunday, 2 August 2020 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard one clear message from our Scripture readings today, that God is Love, and God loves each and every one of us so greatly and so wonderfully that we must really appreciate all that He had done for us all these while. Too often we mankind have ignored God’s love, rejected His compassion and mercy and preferring to do things our own way. Imagine how terrible it is for to be so stubborn and to rebel against God Who has loved us all so very much.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke to us all, calling on us to look for Him, that He will provide for us whatever we need, be it food or drink, be it sustenance in other form, as well as love and care, and He will fulfil the Covenant that He had once made with our ancestors, and which He has renewed again and again throughout time, and which He made one final renewal for all eternity in the New Covenant that He has established through Christ, His Son.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, as the Lord was faced with five thousand men and thousands more of women and children, their family members, who followed Him as He taught them and spoke to them of God’s truth and love. As we all know, the Lord miraculously fed all the multitudes of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, blessing them and breaking them for all the people to eat until they were all satisfied.

The Lord fed His people who hungered for food, and not just the physical food as we heard how they all ate of the bread and the fish, but in fact also, the food of the Word of God, as the people listened to the Lord teaching to them. The Lord said, that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’. It is there then the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate in the flesh, became the Bread of Life for all of His people.

Thus, from what we have heard in today’s Gospel and the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of just how God fulfilled His promises and words, that truly, He meant every single words that He had said, and gave us the ultimate gift and the perfect manifestation of His love in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. For through Him we received the guarantee of eternal life and glory with Him, that by our living and genuine faith, we are to be part of this Covenant He has made with us.

As I said earlier on, God is Love, brothers and sisters in Christ, and God’s love is the very reason why the world and all of us exist. God is perfect in all things, and His perfection means that He does not have need for anything. Yet, in the overflowing love that exists between the members of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, God Who is Love created all of us to share in this wonderful love, for that is what love is all about, to show care and concern, passion and desire for the best things for one another.

And God’s love for us is so powerful, great and all-encompassing that St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans in our second reading today said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ and he also said how no power, no matter how great, be it on earth, in heaven or hell, or from wherever in the universe or beyond, will be able to separate us from the love of God, the wonderful, gentle and all-encompassing love of God. God’s love has been provided for us so generously, and which He has shown again and again through the generations, just as our Gospel passage today is just one small example of this Love.

Yet, the question that often then comes to our mind is that, ‘Lord, if You love me so much, why is it then I have to suffer in this world?’ And this question is often the number one reason why we doubt, why we are unsure of God’s love, why we even become angry at God and refuse to believe in Him. We see suffering all around us, and which we also see in ourselves, and we doubt God’s love and even existence, for after all, if God does love us, then shouldn’t all of us be happy and good?

This is then where we need to understand that while God’s love for us have always been genuine, unconditional and true, the same often cannot be said for us. Our love is often conditional, selfish and self-centred, tainted with desire and greed, with jealousy and even with hatred. And that is why we have not been able to experience the fullness of God’s love as all the many temptations and obstacles present in our lives prevented us from truly experiencing this true love.

For example, on the matter of hunger and food, sustenance and providence that we have focused on a lot today, a lot of people may ask, if God truly loves us, then why is it that people are suffering daily from hunger, from famine, from lack of food and from impoverishment? Should all these things be absent if God truly loves us? These are definitely questions that run through our minds if we look at the situation all around us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer is actually simpler than what we think.

God’s love has been abundantly given to us, and He has blessed us wonderfully. In the optimal and expected condition, this would have meant that everyone has enough for themselves, and yet, if we look around carefully, don’t we see plenty of inequalities, as some people dined in great excess and how food wastage is common in many countries, just as others suffered from hunger and famine in other countries? It was in fact our greed that had led to this sad and unfortunate situation.

What do I mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was our misuse and indeed, abuse of God’s wonderful love and also freedom given to us that led to much suffering of all forms all around the world, in the past as it is in the present now and how it will also be in the future. As people succumbed to their greed and the temptations in desiring for more good things for themselves, this led to oppression, manipulation, extortion and even exploitation of others just so that some people can enjoy benefits at the cost to others, those who are less powerful, less wealthy and less privileged.

Alas, this is exactly what I meant when I said that the way we mankind has loved is imperfect, conditional, selfish and self-centred. We allow our ego and pride to mislead us, and greed to pull us into the trap of selfishness and self-centredness, and we have not loved as God loved us, as we were so preoccupied with ourselves and our desires that we ended up hurting others, being unfair, selfish and wicked in our actions in life.

That is why today, all of us as Christians are reminded that as God is Love, and as He has shared His love with us, we too shall love just as the Lord has loved us, in an unconditional, selfless and sincere way. This is true, genuine love that all of us must have within us, and which we must aspire to and spread in our practice towards one another. As children of humanity, and as God’s beloved children, and all the more, as Christians, we need to walk in the path of God’s love.

Therefore, we need to show this love through our every day actions, through every little gestures and interactions we have with one another. We must remember how God fed His multitudes of thousands and everyone had enough, just as in the past, during the Exodus, God fed His people with manna and everyone had enough to eat, with no one lacking or had excess, and as proven by the twelve baskets of leftovers that God had given His people more than enough.

As it was our selfishness and greed that caused hunger, suffering and sorrow for many, then it is our responsibility and calling to be the ones leading the way and show everyone the path of God’s love. Are we willing to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to show God’s wonderful love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and are we willing to challenge the customary ways of this world by rejecting the inherent selfishness and greed present in our current way of life?

As we all share in the one Body of Christ, let us all remember that we are first and foremost brothers and sisters, one family in the same one Lord, and through Him we have been united and have a share in His infinite and amazing love. Let us share God’s blessings by being more generous in giving, in whatever means we are able to, in order to help those who are less fortunate and suffering in our midst, especially this year as we have seen so many people suffered the extended effects of the pandemic and economic troubles in the past few months.

Many people have suffered, lost their jobs and getting retrenched, lost their pay or got their wages and salaries cut or suspended. Many people have fallen sick and suffered, not just from pandemic but also from various other health problems and are facing issues because of the strain being experienced by healthcare systems worldwide. And many lost their loved ones from these illnesses and from other reasons.

And we have seen how during these difficult and challenging times, the stresses and trials caused great friction and conflict within our communities, that we saw all the civil disturbances, riots and troubles that occurred between the divided members of our communities, as people fought one another over matters of racial divisions and prejudices, economic imbalance and insecurities, biases and intolerance. We have seen how people acted selfishly in trying to protect themselves, hoarding for essential goods and items that created scarcity for others who really needed the supplies.

Unfortunately, Christians were among many of those who participated in these actions, these selfishness and lack of compassion which caused even greater anguish and suffering for those who have already suffered. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this and discern in what way that we can share the love of God in our communities beginning from now, if we have not done so yet. Let us all be filled with God’s love and love Him first and foremost, and love one another with genuine love, now and always.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father continue to love us as He has always patiently been doing all these while. May He grant us the strength to continue to show the same love, and the perseverance and compassion in our hearts, to reach out to our less fortunate brethren all around us, to those who were unloved and poor, those who had been marginalised and suffered, especially during these difficult days and times. May God bless us and our good endeavours and works, now and forevermore. Amen.