Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we have heard from the readings of the Sacred Scriptures of the calling for us all to follow the path of the Lord, to listen to Him and obey His commandments, to follow His examples and to be faithful in our Christian way of life, and be genuine in how we live up to our faith by real actions and interactions with one another, and not just by mere words alone.

This means that we cannot have a faith that is empty and without real application in our lives, as a faith that is without application in good works and deeds, as St. James the Apostle put it, is a dead faith. It does not mean that by our deeds alone that we are earning our salvation, but rather, one who has faith cannot possibly be truly faithful without being committed in action in accordance to that faith.

Neither can one be good and do good, without that seed of faith planted in that person by God growing in him or her. Do all of us remember the parable of the sower? The different places where the seeds spread by the sower fell on determine whether those seeds grow and produce fruits or not. Only in those who has received the faith and acted on it, that the faith bear rich fruits, the fruits of our salvation.

As Christians, we are God’s chosen people, whom He has called and brought into His Church through Baptism. We have been made His own adopted and beloved children, and because of that, we are all expected to follow His will, to obey His Law and commandments. How can we do this if we do not live up our faith and if we do not act in ways that are in accordance to His teachings?

That is exactly the point that the Lord Jesus is trying to point out to His disciples and thus to all of us as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord spoke to His disciples asking them who between two children were truly faithful, between one of them who said to their father that he would obey but did not obey by action in the end, and another who said that he would not obey but in the end, still did what the father asked for.

This is related to our first reading today, in which the prophet Ezekiel spoke of how the righteous would perish by their sins and disobedience, or how the wicked would be saved by their obedience and faith. This was a reminder from God to His people through Ezekiel, a prophet sent to the people of God at the time of their lowest and most sorrowful, having lost their Promised Land, conquered and humiliated among the nations, that should they change their attitudes and obey the Lord once again, they would be forgiven and be worthy of God’s love and grace again.

Similarly, it is a reminder that no one should be pretentious thinking that they had been chosen and saved, without the need for action, taking it for granted that they have received such a grace from God and therefore can just enjoy its benefits and without the need to do anything. Faith like that is merely superficial and for show, and not a genuine, living faith that God wants from us. And it is even worse still if we use this as an excuse for us to be judgmental on others as well, to look down on others just because we think that we are better or more faithful and pious than them.

That is why, we are reminded again and again, to be loving and to show care and compassion on one another, and to be Christians means that we should follow what St. Paul told the Church and the faithful in Philippi, to be filled with the love of Christ, not to despise or look down on others, not to be judgmental and vicious or harsh on those who are in need of our love and attention. We are called to love as Christ Our Lord Himself has loved.

In that same passage, we heard the famous lines from the Epistle to the Philippians, highlighting the humble obedience and the great love that the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour had shown, that He willingly humbled Himself and took upon Himself to bear the most painful burden of the Cross, on which lies our sins, the whole multitude of it, the punishment due for those sins. That is the kind of selfless love that each and every one of us have been called to show in our daily lives, as the sign of our living and true Christian faith.

Do we remember the Lord’s words, “All that you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me?” And He said before this, how these people were the least among the people, those who were naked, suffering, imprisoned, lonely, all those who were encountering misfortune in life. That is why this Sunday, as it coincides with the World Day of Migrant and Refugees, we remember all the plight of those suffering, especially the migrants and refugees in the world today.

Migrants are all those who have left their place of birth or the place where they used to live in, and moved to another place or country from various reasons. Some had to leave because they looked for better opportunities elsewhere, to have a better life for themselves and for their families, while others had to move because of unfortunate circumstances, separated from their family members, and in which it may overlap with refugees, who are those displaced and forced to leave their countries because of conflict, wars and even persecution and genocides.

Many of these migrants and refugees are suffering as they had suffered previously, throughout their time spent away from their homeland. Majority did not have much to survive on, and many had to sustain their families and children, while having to fend various challenges. Those who chose to settle permanently in their new homeland and countries faced rejection and prejudice, injustice and even attacks, having to endure racist attitudes and inequality at work among other things.

Refugees in particular often had to live in cramped and unsanitary refugee camps, with thousands packed in place that they had no choice but live in, for if they had remained in their original places, they might have suffered even worse or killed. And similarly, many of them are suffering from prejudice and injustice, and they are often rejected and shunned by the rest of the society in general.

Some of us argued that they deserved such treatment because they are different from us, or that there might be some bad people among them, which became especially worrisome in the recent years due to the rise of religious fundamentalism. But this has happened throughout history, and while some of them might indeed be bad, but let us all not forget in our first reading today, that the Lord said, even the righteous will die, perish and be condemned into hell if they sin and refused to turn away from that sin, and how the wicked would be saved if they embraced God’s forgiveness.

How are we acting as Christians then if we do not embrace those who are in need of love and help, compassion and assistance? And how Christ-like are we if we look down upon and condemn those whom we despise as our enemies and dismiss as hardline fundamentalists when Our Lord Himself has forgiven His enemies and prayed for them? This is why it is so difficult for us to be true and genuine Christians, for to be a true and genuine Christians, we need to reach out to these suffering brothers and sisters of ours, and overcome whatever prejudices and fears we have.

And we must not forget that we ourselves are migrants in this world, and in fact even refugees. After all, wasn’t it Adam and Eve, our very first ancestors who had been banished from Eden because of their disobedience and sins? They had to endure hardships and sufferings in this world just as those migrants and refugees suffer now. And many of our forefathers were probably migrants themselves, or even refugees fleeing from war and destruction.

We have to consider ourselves lucky and blessed if we have a good life, but before we become prejudiced against others, or treat some worse than how we treat our loved ones, then let us remember that perhaps, our own forefathers, our grandparents, ancestors and all of them somewhere and sometime had once endured the other end of the prejudice and injustice, inequality and even persecution, even though they were all equally human beings, children of God all the same.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore keep these in mind and discern how we, as Christians can better live up to our Christian faith and calling, to be genuine and faithful as the followers of Christ, He Who loves us all equally and Who has lowered Himself to be in the position of a slave, bearing His Cross and suffering for us out of love, that we may be saved. Can’t we do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are really in need of our help, those migrants and refugees?

Let us all be more empathetic to their suffering and listen more to their story and understand them better, rather than easily being swayed by false rhetorics and ideas that are unfortunately rampant in our increasingly xenophobic and individualistic world. Remember, that we too, are migrants and refugees in this world as I mentioned earlier, and what we do not want to happen to us, then let us not do on those who need our love and empathy, and not hurtful words, prejudices and worse still, persecution.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father, guide us in our journey of faith so that each and every one of us as Christians may come to walk more faithfully in His path, to be righteous in all of our deeds, avoiding actions of prejudice, showing hatred or being hurtful against others, and instead, to show genuine Christian love, showing the same love of Christ, pure and selfless love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

They may look different, talk in different language, has different cultural practices than ours, but they are our brothers, our sisters, our family, the same God’s beloved children. May God help us to love selflessly and generously, to give without counting the cost, and to show mercy when we are able to. May God guide us always, now and forevermore. Amen.