Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures we are all called by God to be dedicated to Him through real actions and good works, to follow Him wholeheartedly and to endure challenges for His sake. We have to trust the Lord and walk down the path that He has shown us, living our lives as righteous and as virtuous as possible, to be exemplary in all things and be role models and inspiration for each other in our Christian faith and life.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah, as he spoke the words of prophecy regarding the One Whom God would send into the world as His servant and deliverer for all the people, the identity of Whom was not yet known to Isaiah. This Servant of God would suffer, be rejected and endure all sorts of punishments and humiliations, to be scourged and beaten, all so that through Him, all of us could see the truth of God’s love for each and every one of us, not just through words and proclamations only, but through real and concrete action.

It is a reference and prophecy on what the Messiah or Saviour of God would do for the sake of the people of God, for all of mankind, the promise that God would save all of His people, despite all the disobedience and sins that they had committed in a lot of the occasions past. And all these would come to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God born into this world to be its Saviour, revealing the long promised salvation of God at long last. The Lord Jesus Himself also revealed that He was that Saviour that God had sent into the world.

And in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Himself revealing to the people and His disciples on what He was going to do, to bring about the salvation of all mankind, as He spoke in response to St. Peter’s courageous proclamation that He is the Messiah of God, amidst people wondering Who He really truly was. Some believed that He was one of the prophets, or even confused Him with St. John the Baptist. But the Twelve and the Lord’s closest disciples, led by St. Peter truly believed that Jesus was the One promised by God, the Messiah or Saviour Who would lead all of God’s people to freedom.

However, what all of them did not know was the manner in which the Lord would save His people, even though the prophecy of Isaiah has explicitly stated what would happen to the Messiah, Who would suffer and endure bitter punishment and sufferings, all so that the people of God may receive through Him the consolation and redemption that God has promised and endeavoured to bring into our midst. He did not just offer them mere empty words and unfulfilled promises.

Instead, He gave us His all, as He sent us no less than His own Son, the Divine Word and Son of God incarnate, taking up our existence and nature in the flesh, becoming the Son of Man, and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, making Himself the tangible expression of God’s true and enduring love for each and every one of us. Through Christ, God has reached out to us and called us out of the darkness and into the light, showing us the path that He revealed before us, that by following Him we may find our way to eternal life and salvation.

But the people, including the disciples would find it hard to believe what the Lord and Saviour of this world would have to go through in order to save all of us, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, how St. Peter reacted strongly and protested against the Lord when He said that He would be rejected, especially by the chief priests, condemned and put to death, a most painful and humiliating death before rising up on the third day in the glorious Resurrection.

At that time, St. Peter echoed the opinion that everyone else also shared, on how they expected the Messiah to be the Saviour who would lead them to freedom from their enemies and from tyranny, which could at that time be equated to the freedom from the Roman yoke. Many of them expected Him to be their King and to lead them into glorious victory and triumph against their enemies. Thus, when the Lord revealed such a terrible and sad fate that would happen to Him, some could not avoid hearing in disbelief at what He had just told them, including that of St. Peter.

The Lord rebuked Satan who used St. Peter to try to sow doubt in His commitment to see the mission of the Lord and the salvation to completion. Satan himself also did not fully know what the Lord would do for the salvation of mankind, as the truth would remain elusive to him until the day of Our Lord death on the Cross, when everything He said came to be true, and Satan was defeated. Yet, back then when St. Peter tried to dissuade and protest against the Lord, Satan was hoping to prevent whatever it was that the Lord Jesus was trying to do.

But the Lord was resolute and firmly rebuked Satan who tried to lead Him astray, and reiterated all the things that He would do for the sake of His beloved ones. He showed through concrete deeds and action that He loved each and every one of us without exception, even to the point of laying down His life for us, just as He Himself said that there is no love greater than for someone to willingly lie down His life for a friend, and there Jesus showed us all the ultimate love of God, by His ultimate and most selfless sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that corresponds to what St. James also mentioned in our second reading today, that our faith must be in tandem with good works and actions, and we cannot truly be genuinely faithful unless we can show this faith through real action based upon the faith we have in God. It means that we should not just pay lip service or empty gestures for our faith in the Lord, or treat it as a mere formality.

In our world today, we often see many among us Christians who do not act in the way that we believe, as we often behave in ways that are contrary to our beliefs, and we did things, or said things that were against the Law and commandments of God. And many of us are also often idle and complacent, in not doing what the Lord had told us to do, or in not listening to the teachings and exhortations of the Church, of our bishops and priests.

Many of us profess to be faithful to God and loving Him, and yet, we spent a lot more time in seeking worldly pursuits and desires, and spent little time for Him, besides the usual prayers and attending the Holy Mass, which even many of us felt dreaded to do, or even considering as a waste of time. Many of us treat the Holy Mass and our faith life as no more than just a mere formality or even as a side afterthought, which is the sad reality of what is happening to many of our Christian communities all over the world.

There are even more people out there who no longer attend the Holy Mass or receive any of the Sacraments, among many other things. These are things that prevented us from becoming true Christians, as the true and genuine disciples of Christ. As St. James mentioned in his Epistle, faith without genuine good works and actions are dead, and meaningless for us. This means that we should truly commit ourselves to the Lord and follow Him and His examples in love, in giving of ourselves to God just as He has given Himself to us with utmost love.

As mentioned just earlier on, the Lord has showered us with such great love and compassion, that He has not even held back giving us everything, even in laying down His life for us. By His scourges and wounds, we have been healed, and by His sacrifice and death on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He, our Paschal Lamb, shedding His Most Precious Blood and laying down His Most Precious Body, has given us all the promise of eternal life and redemption from all of our sins.

If God has shown us such a great love, not just by words and promises only, but through real and concrete action, even in going through the worst of sufferings and death for our sake, then why can’t we do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? In fact, we should be most ashamed by our attitudes towards the Lord, His love and compassion towards us, and at how we treat our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, our faith in God and our participation at the Holy Mass among other things. Many of us have failed miserably in living up to our faith, and yet, God still patiently reached out to us and hoped for us to find our way to Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having received from the Lord such generous and constant love, compassion and mercy, are we able and willing to show the same love and commitment to Him as we should have done? Are we able to live up our Christian faith through genuine actions and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments of our lives that we may be truly and genuinely faithful, in our every actions and deeds, in our every words and in all things, that all those who see us, interact with us and journey with us may know the Lord through us and learn more of the truth of God and His love through our own love? Let us all bring hope and light wherever we may be, and be the beacons of God’s truth and light to all men.

May the Lord give us the strength and the courage to be always faithful in all occasions and that we may always strive to do our best, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to love Him just as much as He has loved us and cared for us. Let us all be genuine Christians, loving God and loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and giving hope and strength to all those who are suffering and sorrowful, that our actions may bring life and strength to them. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good works, and guide us through the journey of our lives in faith. Amen.