Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday being the last of the Sundays before the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, the second last Sunday in our current liturgical year, we celebrate the occasion of the World Day of the Poor for the fourth time after it was instituted by our current Pope and Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis in the year of our Lord 2017.

On this Sunday therefore we are all reminded of the poor, those among us in our community who are often lacking basic needs and provisions, those who do not have enough to live comfortably without assistance from others. Poverty had been a great issue facing our community and the world since time immemorial, and as long as there are inequalities and injustices in our society, poverty will always be around, unless the whole community work together selflessly for the benefit of everyone.

We may be wondering then why there is so much poverty in the world today, just as it had been in the past, and just as how it will be in the future. That is because of our own selfishness and the abuse of the freedom that God had given to each and every one of us. We are all free to choose how we are to act in life, and how we interact with one another. Yet, we are often tempted by the many temptations of this world, the temptations of money and material possessions, the temptations of fame and glory among others.

And it does not help that we live in a world where we are accustomed and encouraged to satisfy our needs and wants first, to be selfish and individualistic and not be bothered by the plight and sufferings of others. In addition, in many occasions, we ended up being the sources of others’ sufferings and poverty, when people manipulated and exploited others who were less fortunate, weaker and poorer than they were.

As a result, many people who were poor remained poor. Many of them were unable to escape the vicious cycle of poverty and remain poor due to various circumstances. It is often the case that the rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer. This is unfortunately how things are in the world today, and on this Sunday, the World Day of the Poor, as Christians our attention is brought closely to this matter at hand.

In our first reading passage today taken from the Book of Proverbs we heard the author writing about an archetypal woman who was exemplary and good in all of her actions, worthy of praise and good in the sight of God and mankind alike. And we have to pay attention to the fact that this woman reached out to the helpless and cared for the poor. Through this particular passage to begin the series of this Sunday’s readings we are called to reflect on what it really means for us to be Christians.

It means that as Christians we should not be ignorant of the sufferings and plight of the poor in our community. We should not turn a deaf ear to their cries for help, and we should not be blind to their needs, especially when we are in the position to help and are able to alleviate their sufferings even in small, little ways. And this is summarised even better by the Lord Jesus Himself in our Gospel passage today in the parable of the silver talents.

In that parable, we heard of a master who entrusted his servants with different numbers of silver talents for them to make good use of during the time when he was away. A silver talent refers to a fixed mass of silver measured in ‘talent’ at the time, which was also a rather significant amount. Nonetheless we heard how two of the servants invested and made good use of the silver talents that by the time the master returned, the silver talents had earned double its original value.

And one of the servants instead chose to hide his talent of silver, and did not do anything to it at all, that when he returned the silver talent he had not earned anything at all. Why did this servant behave in this way, brothers and sisters? From his response and remark to his master upon returning the silver talent we can paint a good picture of his thoughts and ideas relating to this matter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that last servant refused to do anything with the silver talent and feared his master and even spoke of his exacting nature because he feared that he might be blamed for not gaining good returns or even if he made a loss instead. He did not want to be responsible over what he has been entrusted with by his master and thus he chose to hide the silver talent without doing anything at all.

How does this then relate to us and to our commemoration today of the World Day of the Poor? The master represents the Lord Himself while the servants represent all of us, each and every one of us as the followers of the Lord. And just as the master entrusted the silver talents to his servants, God has also entrusted to us the ‘talents’ that is the blessings, gifts, abilities and other things that had been with us.

Just as each servants received different amounts of the silver talents from the master thus the Lord has also blessed some of us with more while others have less. But we often forgot the fact that all these we have received is not for ours to keep and hide, but to be put into good use for the benefit of all. We should not be selfish and thinking of our own benefits, satisfaction and pleasure, because as Christians we must first think of the good of the whole community.

And just like the ones who received five talents and two talents of silver each invested their silver well, whether we have more or less, we should not compare or worse still complain, but we should dedicate ourselves to do what we can to help one another especially those who are the poorest and had nothing to keep them struggling on the many challenges of life. The Lord has taught us all these and showed us what it means for us to be genuine Christians especially in how we show our love towards one another particularly the poor and the underprivileged, those who are persecuted and suffering in any forms.

As Christians we have to reach out to one another, to be generous in giving and caring, not only in terms of material goods and money, but even more importantly in terms of how we genuinely love everyone without exception. It is indeed possible for someone to help the poor such as with generous donations but with ulterior motives such as for publicity and to gain benefits for oneself such as through fame and glory among other things. While this may not sound as bad as not giving anything at all, as Christians this is not our true calling.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday let us carefully reflect on our calling and responsibilities as the children of the Light as St. Paul had spoken of in his Epistle to the Thessalonians in our second reading passage today. We have all been entrusted by God with different abilities and gifts, blessings and good things that we should make good use of for everyone’s benefit. And one common obstacle to this is that we often compare with one another.

We often ask why those who are richer or having more have not given to the poor or be generous in their giving. For our information, just because we have not seen the generous act in display does not mean that the person is not generous or selfish. Many people who gives, does not give because they want to be seen or acknowledged just as there are those who give for ulterior motives. Therefore, rather than comparing and complaining, we really should begin from ourselves, by being generous ourselves, to help whenever there is a need, to touch the lives of others positively whenever there is a chance to do so.

And we do not have to be afraid that our actions are small, insignificant or too little to make a difference. This is yet another obstacle preventing us from giving from our heart and helping others who are in need. We do not have to think about this, brethren, for no action done in good intention and for the benefit of others is ever too small. We must not forget that we are not doing this alone but together with everyone else. If everyone just do whatever they can, in their respective capabilities, certainly all the combined efforts will make a great difference.

Especially this year, with the still raging Covid-19 pandemic and all the many issues and uncertainties we have been facing, we heard more and more people facing financial difficulties and inabilities to make ends meet, even those who once had been able to do so comfortably and easily. Many had lost their jobs and sources of income, and many more were suffering from sickness, the pandemic or otherwise, and from other maladies and issues.

Therefore as Christians, we are all called today to reach out and touch the lives of others positively. In whatever way we can, in whatever we have been called to do, with our various and unique talents, abilities, gifts and blessings, much like those servants in the Gospel parable today, let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord and to His people, doing our very best to make good use of what God has given to us and blessed us all with.

May the Lord awaken in us all a spirit of true charity and generosity, to be the examples of true love and goodness, compassion and care for one another especially for the poor and the underprivileged, for those who have been ostracised and lacking in love. Let us all bring happiness and joy to them, and share in their burden and help even in small ways, to alleviate their burdens and hardships as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. May God bless us all in our every generous efforts and works, now and always, and may He have mercy on those who are poor and suffering. Amen.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the talents, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered. You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return.'”

“Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, thrown him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 25 : 14-15, 19-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-6

You do not need anyone to write to you about the delay, and the appointed time for these events. You know, that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people feel secure, and at peace, the disaster will suddenly come upon them, as the birth pangs of a woman in labour, and they will not escape.

But you, beloved, are not in darkness; so that day will not surprise you like a thief. All of you are citizens of the light and the day; we do not belong to night and darkness. Let us not, therefore, sleep as others do, but remain alert and sober.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear YHVH and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots, will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears YHVH. May YHVH praise you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Proverbs 31 : 10-13, 19-20, 30-31

The woman of character, where is she to be found? She is more precious than any jewel. Her husband has complete confidence in her; she will be of great benefit to him. She brings him only good and not evil, all the days of her life. She has obtained wool and flax, and works them with skilful hands.

She puts her hand to the distaff and her fingers hold the spindle. She reaches out her hand to the helpless and gives to the poor. Charm is deceptive and beauty useless; the woman who is wise is the one to praise. May she enjoy the fruits of her labour and may all praise her for her works.