Monday, 17 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that all these while, by our many sins, our disobedience and refusal to believe in God and in His laws and commandments, we have incurred God’s wrath and anger, just as how He had been angry at His people Israel, as described in our first reading today, as well as our Psalm, and how He chastised and disciplined them that they all might learn their lesson.

We heard from the first reading today, the words of the Lord addressed to His people in exile through the prophet Ezekiel, as the prophet showed them what would happen to the remnants of Israel in Judah and Jerusalem, how the whole kingdom, its king and people, the city and the proud Temple of God built by king Solomon, would all be crushed and conquered by the Babylonians. What was once the pride of all Israel, were to be torn down and destroyed, all because of their infidelity and disobedience.

This however does not mean that God did not care about His people, as if He truly did not care about us, or even hate us, then it would have been a simple matter for Him to let us all be destroyed, as such is the just punishment and consequences for our sins. On the contrary, it was exactly because He cares for us and loves us all dearly that He chastised and punished His people in the past, just as a loving father who truly loved his children would discipline his children while still loving them with all of his heart.

Let us all look at it from this perspective, brothers and sisters. God does not want us to fall deeper and deeper into sin, and that is why, where possible, He calls us, He guides us, and at times, if necessary, chastises and disciplines us, so that we will realise the errors of our ways. After all, in the end, which is better for us, to be suffering for a short while and realising the errors in our ways and turning back to the right path, or to enjoy the life as we know of and embrace all sorts of sins and wickedness, only to suffer for eternity?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, He gave us all His Law and commandments. But the Law by itself is not enough, as we also must have the heart and the right attitude in our lives. And this is what we focus on in our Gospel passage today. When a man came up to the Lord Jesus and asked Him what he ought to do in order to attain eternal life, the Lord told him to obey the commandments of God and which the man, likely being a faithful adherent to the Law, obeyed in full, all the commandments that God had given in the Ten Commandments.

But then, when the Lord told him to leave behind his possessions and give them all to the poor, and follow Him wholeheartedly, the man suddenly became very sad and dejected, and went away in sorrow. All these are examples and what the Lord highlighted in the case when we may obey the Law of God, do what He has taught us to do, and yet, we have no genuine love and devotion to Him. It is possible to obey the Law of God and yet, having no genuine faith.

That is because, one can fulfil an act even without meaning what he or she had done. The man who came to the Lord obviously obeyed and followed the Law well, but when the Lord asked him to leave behind his worldly possessions and he immediately slumped and became dejected, these showed that the man loved those things more than God, that he could not even consider leaving one for the other. And this is also why many of us were unable to follow the Lord faithfully, erred and fell into sin as the Israelites had done in the old days.

The Lord does not mean literally that we must sell everything and abandon everything that we have and give them all to the poor. There are indeed those who chose to follow that path, as they gave everything and entered into religious life or other forms of vocations that dedicated themselves completely to God. Rather, what He wanted to convey to us is that we must not allow ourselves be easily swayed by the temptations of earthly goods and worldly possessions, of pleasures and comfort we have in life.

It is not the possessions and material goods themselves that are bad, brothers and sisters in Christ. For we can indeed use them for both good and evil purposes alike, and the choice lies on our hands on how we decide to make use of them. It is the attachments and indeed, the unhealthy obsessions we have over all of those things that are bad for us. The Lord does not want us to be owned and controlled by our desires for worldly materials and pleasures.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on all these which we have heard from the Scripture passages today, let us all discern how we are to proceed moving on in our lives. Are we able to follow the Lord wholeheartedly as we should have, giving ourselves in deep devotion and commitment to Him, no longer shackled by the temptations of worldly pleasures and desires, but instead, dedicating ourselves that in each and every moments of our lives, in our respective capacities, we will always glorify God by our actions and deeds?

Let us all draw ever closer to God and remain faithful as always to His laws and commandments. Let us all seek Him with ever greater devotion, and give ourselves to His cause from now on. May the Lord, our loving Father forgive us our sins and gather us all, His scattered children, back into His embrace, and welcome us all into the glorious new and eternal life that we will receive in the kingdom of Heaven. May God bless us, now and forevermore. Amen.

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