Tuesday, 18 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 reminded of the Lord’s steadfastness in protecting all those who are faithful to Him, and how those who are wicked and unfaithful, those who oppress the faithful will not have their way forever, as sooner or later, the day of reckoning will come for them, justice will be served to them, and the righteous ones will triumph in the end together with God. This is what we can be sure of, as God Himself has guaranteed it, and history has also proven this right.

First of all, we heard of the story from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, in which we heard of the prophecy and also the warning regarding the prince of the city of Tyre. Contextually and historically, the city of Tyre was the heartland of the Phoenicians and the centre of their vast maritime empire that spread far and wide. Tyre itself was very rich and the centre of a great trading network which earned its rulers vast fortune and great power.

That great wealth and power, coupled with the fact that the city of Tyre stood on an island separated by a stretch of sea from the land, with its strong maritime forces made Tyre and its rulers to be almost invincible and had nothing to fear from its enemies. And this is where then our first reading passage came in, as God revealed for all of its power and might, Tyre would also still falter and fail, as what was to be proven a few centuries afterwards when Tyre was conquered and destroyed by the forces of King Alexander the Great of Macedon.

Many of us know about Alexander the Great, his life and conquests, and his amazing military victories, in which he led his armies in defeating and conquering the entirety of the vast Persian Empire, and in the midst of that, he laid siege to the city of Tyre, destroyed its navy and other forces, starved the city and eventually, built a land bridge that ever since then connected Tyre to the mainland, and the city was eventually conquered, its people subjugated and enslaved, its buildings and riches destroyed and plundered. All happened just as the Lord had revealed about it earlier.

All of these are reminders for each and every one of us that we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by earthly goods and pleasures, by worldly desires and material concerns, by all sorts of things and temptations that will often prevent us from living righteously before God, and end up suffering like what Tyre and its proud people suffered. Tyre and its might depended on itself and its worldly glory, and they dwelled in their hubris and ego, and in the end, they were humbled and crushed.

This is related to what we then heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord spoke of how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and how it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. This is not referring to an actual eye of a needle, but a metaphor that related to the fact that there is an actual gate called the Needle’s Eye gate in Jerusalem that is so small that a camel had to had its burdens and loads removed, and then stoop down its head and neck to be able to pass through the gate.

The reference to the camel passing through the gate called the ‘Needle’s Eye Gate’ is a symbolic message to the people that as the camel had to be rid of its burdens and stoop down to pass through the gate, thus, we mankind had to divest ourselves off our many ‘baggages’ in life and humble ourselves before we can enter into the kingdom of God. And when the Lord said that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven, it is not a condemnation of the rich, but rather, as I often mentioned, the attachments that we have to worldly things, and the rich are usually all the more susceptible to these.

Yes, the Lord did not say that the rich are bad, terrible or wicked, but rather, because they have more of these ‘baggages’, the ‘baggages’ of material possessions, of fame and influence, of worldly concerns, of worldly glory, of pride and ego, of our many desires in life, all these ‘baggages’, which are obstacles in our path towards God, are even more difficult to overcome for those who are rich and powerful. Yet, there are those who have managed to overcome, as we certainly know throughout history, those who are rich and powerful who were kind and generous, and there were saints that came from their midst.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us are reminded by today’s words of God to be ever vigilant and to guard ourselves against the temptations of pride and greed, that we will not be easily swayed by those that sought to bring us down by tempting us with all sorts of worldly pleasures I mentioned earlier on. Do not let the devil from manipulating us and attacking us by using all these against us. Instead, let us remove ourselves from any unhealthy attachments and obsessions in life, that we may be able to overcome the obstacles in our path towards God.

May the Lord continue to guide us all in this journey of life, and may He strengthen us all and give us the necessary strength and courage in life that we may persevere in faith despite the challenges we encounter and that we may be worthy of God and the eternal life He has prepared for each and every one of us who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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