Sunday, 7 February 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to focus on the love and merciful compassion by which the Lord has shown to each and every one of us, the healing and the wonders He has brought upon us, to our darkened world and wretched state of life. All of us have been so fortunate to have been so beloved by God, and we should really be thankful for all that He had done for us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the reading from the Book of Job in which Job, the servant of God well-known to us for his many unfortunate sufferings, lamented his fate and his misery, all that he had endured due to the test and attacks of the devil who wanted to show God that he could lure this faithful man of God through the many trials and sufferings that he had to endure, all the losses he had received, the humiliation he got.

Yet in the darkest of moments, Job remained faithful to God and did not blame God for all of his misfortunes. Instead, he blamed himself and the circumstances for having placed him in such a predicament, lamenting and wondering why he had to live on and persevere through amidst those difficult moments. But he still kept the faith and held fast to the assurance in God, and he did not fall completely into despair.

This is then we heard afterwards the Psalm used this Sunday, that certainly sounded like a great relief after all the sorrowful and despair-filled words of the Book of Job. The Psalm chosen for this Sunday is filled with messages of hope, of deliverance and salvation, of how God saved His people and restored them all from their fallen state. This was referred to when the Lord rebuilt Jerusalem and brought back the people from their exile, a reference to the Lord’s fulfilled promise that He would not abandon them to their enemies and suffering.

Contextually, the people of Israel had suffered humiliation and great suffering when they were banished from their lands, evicted and forced to endure bitter humiliation when the Assyrians and the Babylonians came over and crushed them, destroyed their cities and conquered their lands. The Temple of God, the centrepiece and heart of the people’s worship and God’s dwelling among His people was destroyed.

Yet, amidst all of that, the Lord promised and reassured His people, the remnants of those who were still faithful to Him, and He fulfilled that promise, restoring the people their lands and the Temple of God was rebuilt and reconsecrated to God. He renewed the Covenant He had made with them and blessed them once again. This was exactly the same as what He did to Job at the end of his sufferings.

God praised Job for his faith and for remaining in His side despite all the efforts the devil had placed in trying to subvert him and putting him against God, hoping that Job would blame God for all of his misfortunes. Job remained true to the Lord to the very end, and although God did chastise him for having doubts and for his despair, but God blessed Job wonderfully and restored all that he had once lost and even gave him double and more of what he had.

It was often said by biblical scholars and historians that Job might not have been a real person, but a metaphor and representation of the people of God. Nonetheless, whether Job was real or not, what was true is that God saved His people, freed them from their troubles and healed them from their sickness, imperfections and shortcomings, and led them into a new life and existence, blessed and filled with His wonderful grace.

God has always cared for all of us even when we have constantly and consistently been disobedient and difficult to handle, like those wayward children who preferred to do things their way and refused to obey their parents. Yet, the Lord was like a patient Father, Who indeed as our loving Father genuinely cared for us despite our rebellion and sins, and wished for us to be saved, to be free from our bondage to sin and to be healed from our corruptions due to those sins and disobedience.

That was why He has given us Jesus, His only Begotten and Most Beloved Son, to be our Saviour, just as we have heard the Lord Himself performing His wonders and miracles in our Gospel passage today, in how He had pity and mercy on all those who came to Him, seeking Him for consolation, healing and guidance. The Lord touched them all, their lives and their hearts and minds, and healed them in body and soul.

And as we heard in that same Gospel passage, the Lord did not allow Himself to be swayed by pride, ambition and desire, for glory or for renown, for wealth or for any other worldly causes. When the disciples came to Him saying that many people were looking for Him and were waiting for Him, He told all of them that they had to move on to other places, for He was sent into the world for all mankind. He would not dwell in a place for long and be tempted by ambition and glory.

The Lord instead devoted Himself and His ministry in reaching out to the marginalised and the poor, those who were often ignored and abandoned, overlooked and forgotten. Do not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Lord Himself has shown His love and compassion to us, when we were still sinners and He still shows the same compassion and love to us even now when we ourselves are still testing His patience, refusing to follow Him and believe in Him.

When we were in the worst of conditions like Job and the people of Israel were, He did not forget about us, but journeyed with us and showed us the way forward, even when that path forward may indeed be littered with many trials and challenges. God’s love has been made so apparent before us, in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, Who has made Himself available and approachable to all, bridging the gap between us and God, leading us down the path of reconciliation.

When St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, our second reading today, spoke of the phrase of ‘becoming all things to all people’ and in becoming the ‘slave of everyone else’ he was in fact following in the footsteps of the Lord Himself, Who has made Himself all things to all of us. He has given everything for us, even His life and suffered for us, willingly enduring the punishments meant for us, all so that we can be saved and will not perish due to our sins.

What can we all learn from these then, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, we must not allow despair, fear or doubt to cloud our judgment and vision of the path ahead. We need to have faith in God and wholeheartedly believe in Him just like what Job had done, and we need to have more faith and trust in Him, and be more hopeful no matter how difficult things may be for us. Of course, this is easier said than done, but we have to remember that no matter what, the Lord is always by our side, supporting us.

And then, we should also remember that as Christians all of us are called to be ‘all things to all people’ that is to make ourselves available to others, and to show our love to those who need it, those who are unloved and without hope. During this period of the pandemic, when the world are still reeling from its effects and from all the associated problems, it takes great courage for us as Christians to be the bearers of God’s light and hope, to inspire and to touch the lives of others positively. And even when we ourselves are suffering, we can still be happy and show that smile to others who have even lesser or no happiness at all.

Are we willing and able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to follow in the Lord’s example and the inspiration showed by His innumerable saints, our holy predecessors in faith? Let us all discern this carefully today, brothers and sisters, and see in what way that each and every one of us can contribute, in reaching out to our fellow men and women, especially those who may have been downtrodden, sorrowful and without hope.

Let us all be genuine witnesses of the Lord in our daily living and at every single moments of our lives, that our every actions, words and deeds will glorify God and reveal His love and truth to even more people, that more and more will be saved and share in the joy and the true happiness found in the Lord, our loving God alone. May God bless us all and our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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