Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened and remembered the words of the Sacred Scripture passages on this Sunday, we are all called to reflect on what it means for us to be a Christian, as one who believe in the Lord and in His truth, and as one who are called to walk on the path that He has revealed and shown to us, following Christ’s example in obedience and love. As we remember those words of the Scripture, let us all ponder carefully how we should move forward in life and how we can better live our lives in the way according to the Lord and His will.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of Wisdom the account of the words of the people who plotted against the faithful servants of God. The Book of Wisdom was often known as the Wisdom of Solomon, but was in fact written in Alexandria in Egypt during the period just around the time of Christ in the first century before or after His birth. Thus, as we heard from today’s passage, we heard how there were influences and information contained from the prophets, such as the prophet Isaiah, that detailed in one of his prophecies, the prophecy of the Suffering Messiah and servant of God.

This, coupled with the historical experience of how the prophets of God were treated during their years of ministry, rejected and ridiculed by the people they had been sent to minister to, makes understanding the context of our first reading today very important for us to appreciate just how much mankind had made it difficult for the Lord and all the messengers and servants He had sent to them. They were stubborn in their sinful ways and in refusing to listen to the truth or in embracing the forgiveness that God has offered freely to them.

In our Gospel passage today, which we listened from the Gospel of St. Mark, we heard of the time when the Lord was speaking to His disciples regarding His mission and also what it means for them to be His followers. The Lord spoke plainly before them that He, the Son of Man, would be delivered into the hands of men, to be persecuted and then killed. Then on the third day, He would rise again from the dead. This is a premonition that the Lord made on His eventual Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, and His eventual glorious Resurrection by which He would save all mankind.

Just as the prophets in the earlier times, the Lord Himself would not be spared the same fate of being made to suffer and to be rejected by the people. But why is that, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has offered His people so many good things, blessed them and sent His messengers one after another to remind them of His love and patient mercy, and yet, why did they refuse to listen to Him and follow Him? Why did our ancestors persecute the prophets and messengers of God? And why did they persecute and crucify our Lord? That is because of our pride, our ego and desire, and our refusal to admit our sinfulness and our vulnerabilities.

Let us first look at what happened then in the Gospel passage, as the Lord spoke to His disciples regarding the debate that they, especially the Twelve, the Lord’s own inner circle just had before they had the conversation with the Lord. They were arguing among themselves who among them were the greatest among them, wondering who among them was the one whom the Lord cherished the most or who was the most favourite disciple among them. In another occasion in the Gospels, we even had two of the Twelve, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, who went along with their mother before the Lord asking for special favours and honoured positions from Him.

The Lord then made it very clear before all of them, and made His point by bringing a child before them, pointing out to them how if they want to be His true followers, then they had to welcome the child, and in saying this, He meant that they should learn to be small, insignificant and humble like that of a child. Adults often exclude children from their talks, debates and arguments, dismissing the latter as being immature, unknowledgeable and for other reasons. Yet, a young child is pure in his beliefs and ideals, not yet being tainted by the corruptions of worldly desires and evils.

The Lord also said to the Twelve that all those who sought to be first would be last, while those who were last would be first. This means that the more they argued among them who was the greatest, most superior and honoured among them, and the more they strived and attempted to be the first, in fact, the further away they would end up in the path towards the kingdom of God. As Christians, all of them are expected to be humble in all things, and to put God first and foremost in their lives, and not their personal desires and ambitions.

God has reminded them to do this and He also showed it by His own example. Referring to what He Himself would do for the salvation of mankind, even though He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of the whole Universe, the Almighty God, but He willingly humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory, prestige, power and honour, by first assuming the humble appearance of a Man, born into this world not even of the powerful and mighty, but to a poor carpenter living in a small village on the periphery of the Jewish world back then.

He also humbled Himself and not wanting to make Himself prominent and known in the manner of how some others who claimed to be the Messiah at that time boasted of themselves as the Chosen One of God, only to falter and fail miserably because God was not with them. He has shown the perfect obedience to the will of His Father, to endure for our sake, the burdens of our sins, even though they must have been incredibly heavy, as the weight of the Cross bore down heavily on His shoulders. He obeyed and in His fervent prayers for our sake, He has been heard and through His sacrifice, we have received the assurance of salvation and eternal life.

St. James in his Epistle, part of which is our second reading today, reminded us the faithful of exactly the same thing, as he spoke of how those who follow the Lord ought to have God’s wisdom and truth in them, and that jealousy, discord and hatred all came ultimately from our own desires and wants, from the corrupt temptations of this world and others. And if we allow these things to affect and influence us, then we will end up being divided among ourselves and indulging in our desires, in maintaining our ego and pride, and in being stubborn in refusing to listen to God and to the words of His truth.

This was exactly why the people persecuted the prophets and the messengers of God in the times past, as they refused to admit that they could have been wrong or mistaken in their ways or in their thoughts. They would not admit that they were sinners and in need of help because their pride and ego would not let them to do that. They dwelled in their desires and pride, and they allowed those things to mislead them into the path of sin, in refusing the generous offer of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Let us all reflect on our own lives and how we have lived them thus far. Let us remember each and every moments when we look down on others just because we feel that we are better than them, and at every moments when we refused to admit our faults and ended up in quarrelling and being divided against each other, in our own families and among our relatives and friends, in our schools and workplaces among others. How often has it been that we prioritise our own desires and wants, our ambitions and pride first over that of God and His truth?

We often seek the glory of the world, the pleasure and satisfaction of our bodies, the comfort that we can enjoy from all these temptations in life. The issue is not so much so on the things that tempt us but rather more of our unhealthy attachment to them, or unbridled desire in wanting to gain more and more of those things that ended up causing us to be more and more distant away from God. This is something that as Christians we must consider and discern very carefully, that we do not end up falling into those same temptations and into the wrong path.

Let us all turn ourselves to the Lord, brothers and sisters, with a new heart filled with genuine love for Him, committing ourselves to Him with ever greater devotion from now on. Let us cast out from ourselves the excesses of our human pride and worldly desires, the desire for wealth, fame, glory, power and any other things that are truly impermanent and do not give us true happiness and joy. Instead, let us all seek the true happiness and satisfaction that we can find in the Lord, our God alone.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may find our way to Him and learn to commit ourselves more wholeheartedly from now on. Let us all devote more of our time and effort, our attention and focus on Him, and inspire one another to do the same as well. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”