Sunday, 6 September 2020 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard a very important message from the Scriptures, which lay at the very centre and heart of our Christian faith, that is love, compassion, forgiveness and kindness. On this day we remember God’s such great love for us that He is willing to forgive us all our sins, even as great and many as our sins are, provided that we are willing to repent and turn away from those sins.

God has remembered His people, even when they have betrayed Him, abandoned Him and left Him behind for other, false gods and idols. As shown in our first reading today, taken from the prophet Ezekiel, was a remark of just how God loved His people so much even when they have sinned and fallen. At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, the nation and kingdom of Israel and Judah have both fallen, and its people humiliated and brought into exile in far-off lands, all because of their constant refusal to obey God or listen to Him.

But through His prophet Ezekiel, God expressed great sorrow at this, showed metaphorically with how He would darken the sun, the moon and the star, and veil everything in darkness. All of these attribute to mourning attitude, and God rightfully did so, because a people whom He loved, had been lost to Him and suffered as a consequence of their own disobedience and delinquency. Had God not loved or cared about His people, we would never have heard such sorrowful expression from Him.

That is why He wants all of us to be reconciled to Him, as rebellious and delinquent children to be reconciled to their father, so God is our loving Father Who desires above all else, our redemption and liberation from the tyranny of sin. We have been enslaved by sin, and through sin we have been brought low and we ought to have been crushed and destroyed. Yet, this is not what the Lord wanted to happen to us.

For we all must remember that God created us all with a reason, and that reason is love. God creates us all because He wants to share His love with us, and it was because of that love which allowed Him to forgive us when we come humbly before Him, honestly and genuinely seeking His mercy and forgiveness. The Lord reaches out to us as a loving Father, Who wants us to recognised our errors and the mistakes of our ways.

It was this great love God has showered us with, from the very beginning which gave us that ‘gift’ of love which we spurned through sin. And thus because of our sins, we became indebted to God, the debts of our sins, all the evil and wicked things we have done to God Who loved us so much. St. Paul spoke of this in his Epistle to the Romans, our second reading today, when he exhorted us not to be in debt to anything, but to the debt of love. Essentially, he exhorted all of us the faithful to abandon our sinful ways and to avoid evil and wickedness.

And he also reminded all of us of the Law and Commandments of God, which are essentially about love, and to live righteously and justly, free from the shackles of sin. But in this world, there are indeed plenty of temptations that can lead us astray and prevent us from finding our way to God. And to this extent, God did all He could to give us chance after chance, opportunity one after another, calling us through His messengers and servants, to turn us into His righteous path once more.

He has also laid it out clearly in our Gospel passage today, as He mentioned how the Church and the community of the faithful had very important role to play in all of these. The Lord Himself said that all of us the faithful has the responsibility and obligation to help, seek and assist our brethren who have erred and fallen into the wrong path in life. He said that if our brother or sister in faith erred and walked down the wrong path, then we ought to persuade him or her, to abandon the path of sin and return to the faith in God.

But as mentioned, although the Lord has generously extended His love, mercy and compassion to sinners and all those who have abandoned Him, but it all depends on our acceptance and willingness to cooperate and receive that offer of mercy. If we are stubborn in refusing God’s mercy and forgiveness, and are unwilling to abandon our path of sin, our attachments to the wickedness of this world and to the temptations of Satan, then it is by our own conscious choice that we reject God and His salvation.

The Lord gave great authority to His Church, in the hands of St. Peter, His Vicar as the first Pope and his successors, and together with his brother bishops, the authority to bind or loosen the bonds between mankind and the kingdom of Heaven. Through this authority, and by the conferral of the Sacrament of Baptism and other Sacraments of Initiation such as the Confirmation and Eucharist, the Church has called many to the Lord, and many had indeed responded to the call, received the faith and be united in the Church, as we are.

And to those who constantly and persistently refused to repent and be converted to the truth, the Church has also been given the power to loosen, which is most evident in the practice of ‘excommunication’ that had unfortunately been imposed on some of those who persistently refused to turn to the faith. But all these were done, by casting them out from the Communion of the Church, with the intention that this is temporary, and as a ‘wake-up call’ to encourage and persuade the offender to return to the Lord, repent and change his or her ways.

Thus it is also a constant reminder that we must not take God’s love for granted, His patience and compassion for us. Many of us Christians tend to take our faith lightly and even lived in ways contrary to our faith, and doing so means that we choose to disobey God and sin against Him despite of our faith. What is faith if we are not faithful? And many of us yet still live our faith in a very lukewarm manner, treating it as merely a formality and even as a chore. And that is the sad reality of the state of our Christian faith these days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday therefore, through the readings of the Scriptures we have just heard today, all of us are called to do a deep self-introspection in our lives, looking at how each and every one of us can turn away from sin and from our wicked past and embrace instead the path of God’s love. And this is not easy, as following God’s path often requires us to make self-sacrifices, sacrifices of time and energy, and a lot of effort that often can be thankless and difficult.

Yet, as members of the Church, as Christians, this is what we are expected to do, to be bearers of the true faith, and to show love in all and every one of our actions in life. This is why we are called to show the ‘debt’ of love instead of having the ‘debt’ of sin. Let us all love each other, forgive one another our trespasses and faults, just as we ask the Lord to forgive us our sins, as we often say it in the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster we pray.

Let us be thankful to God, our loving Father for His constant love and providence, for His enduring compassion and His persistent mercy showed towards us. Let us all, in these difficult moments and times, show the love of God, our loving Father, through our actions and interactions with one another, that more and more people may come to know of the love of God, be touched by His love, and grow to have faith in Him just as we have believed in Him.

Let us bring forth the light of God’s hope and providence to this darkened world, giving hope and strength to our brethren who are suffering amidst all the effects of the continued global pandemic, economic instability and the collapse of many sectors of our world economy, the loss of many jobs and the loss of many sources of income for countless people all around the world. Let us share one another’s burden and bring some consolation, hope and love to each other, that through everything we do, we become true disciples and witnesses of Christ’s love in our world today.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all to be His faithful disciples, to love with all of our hearts and strength, loving Him and loving our fellow brothers and sisters, all brethren in the same Lord, helping and reminding each other to be faithful at all times by our actions and deeds. Let us never take God’s love for granted anymore and appreciate the love that He grant us each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, in our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 6 September 2020 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 18 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you : whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound.”

“In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by My heavenly Father; for where two or there are gathered in My Name, I am there, among them.”

Sunday, 6 September 2020 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 13 : 8-10

Do not be in debt to anyone. Let this be the only debt of one to another : Love. The one who loves his or her neighbour fulfils the Law. For the commandments : Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not covet, and whatever else, are summarised in this one : You will love your neighbour as yourself.

Love cannot do the neighbour any harm; so love fulfils the whole Law.

Sunday, 6 September 2020 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to YHVH, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before YHVH, our Maker. He is our God, and we, His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would, that today, you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Sunday, 6 September 2020 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 33 : 7-9

The skies will darken and the stars become dim; I will veil the sun with a cloud and the moon shall not give its light. Because of you, I will darken all the lights in the sky and cover the earth in darkness, word of YHVH.

Many nations will grieve when I spread the news of your fall, even people you do not know.