Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are approaching the end of the current liturgical year, as usual, this Sunday’s readings are on the theme of the upcoming end of times, the Apocalypse and time of the Final Judgment of the whole creation. All of us heard of these reminders from the readings of today’s Scriptures so that we may discern carefully how we are to live our lives from now on and strive to be more faithful and genuine in following the Lord as Christians, those who believe in Him.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Daniel the revelation of God to Daniel how the end of times will come, and St. Michael the Archangel, the great Prince of Heavenly Host and leader of the Angels of God was also mentioned. Echoing what would later on be revealed further in the Book of Revelations by St. John the Apostle, we heard how trials and tribulations will come for those who are faithful to God, and how they, all of us will suffer because of our faith and commitment to God.

Yet, at the same time, the Lord reassured all of us that He will not leave us all alone without any help or protection, for He will send unto us the great Heavenly Host, His Angels, led by St. Michael the Archangel himself, to guide and protect us. God will not abandon us to total destruction and annihilation, and while we may suffer persecution and oppression, enduring hardships and trials, but in the end, we will be triumphant together with God.

That is the sentiment presented to us by the Gospel passage today taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, as we heard how God will send His Angels to gather all His faithful ones from all over the world, and will provide for them on the end of days, when the Son of Man comes again in His glory, as He Himself has promised. Christ, the Son of Man, will come again at the end of time, the time of the Final Judgment, to destroy sin and evil, winning a final triumph against them while gathering all the faithful, the living and the dead into the eternal glory and joy of the kingdom of God.

All of these messages and reminders, as well as what we know from the Book of Revelations are evidence for us to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and not to be distracted by the temptations to sin and to follow the path of evil in this world. And we have also heard that the coming of this time of reckoning, of the Final Judgment and the end of times is something that will be most unpredictable and unknown to us, as no one but the Lord Himself knows the exact time of His second coming into this world.

This means that we must not be complacent in living our lives, thinking that we have the time to repent and change our ways. Certainly none of us want to be caught unprepared, when the time comes, and even more so, closer to us, we know that all of us will die one day, and do we want to wait until death claims us before we repent and change our sinful ways? Some are fortunate enough to have the opportunity and time for conversion and change, but many others did not and will not have that privilege.

As we listened to these words of the Scriptures presented to us at the end of each liturgical year cycle, we are all constantly being reminded of the fragile nature of our human existence and lives, and how close we can be to either Heaven or Hell, just by our choice of actions in life. And this month of November, as we dedicate it to the holy souls in Purgatory, we are constantly being reminded of what will happen to us after death. Those in Purgatory are still the lucky ones, as they will all eventually go to Heaven. However, what if we end up in Hell instead?

Then, we may be wondering based on what we heard in our second reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the author highlighted in today’s segment in particular, of how the Lord Jesus Christ, frequently presented as the High Priest to all mankind in that Epistle, has already offered the perfect and everlasting sacrifice that surpassed any other sacrifices of animals of the old times. His own Sacrifice was His own Most Precious Body and Blood which He offered Himself from the Cross at Calvary.

Indeed, the Lord has already made that Sacrifice once and for all, which is the same Sacrifice that we celebrate at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the same Sacrifice at Calvary. And every time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the very same Most Precious Body and Blood that the Lord has given us from the Cross, that He has willingly done for us, to provide for us and to free and redeem us from our innumerable sins, faults and trespasses. And we have received salvation through our faith in Him.

However, if that makes us think that we have been saved and then we can do whatever we want in our lives, in indulging ourselves in worldly desires and sinful things, then we will have no part in the Lord’s promise and inheritance. And that is because as St. James mentioned in his Epistle, that faith without good works is the same as dead. This is the opinion shared by the other Apostles and the Lord Himself, as faith alone without us living genuinely according to that faith we have in God is meaningless and empty.

That is why many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often criticised by the Lord for their lack of real and genuine faith, as they were outwardly faithful and pious, and yet they did not have true love for the Lord. Many of them showed their piety in action to gain more fame and prestige for themselves, and to satisfy their own ego and pride. As such, they had not been truly faithful to the Lord and ended up doing things that in fact brought about obstacles and challenges to the Lord and His mission.

In the same way therefore, all of us are called to follow the Lord faithfully not just in mere words and formality only, but also through genuine actions and deeds, through real and growing love that we have for Him, and not just that, but also for our fellow brothers and sisters whom the Lord also loves as much as He loves each and every one of us. And we must also distance ourselves from sin and wicked things in life, striving our best to turn away from those unworthy things that have often kept many away from the Lord and His salvation.

Today, we also celebrate the World Day of the Poor, in which all of us are reminded of the poor and all those who are suffering from neglect and lack of care in our various communities. The poor are all around us, and often we may not realise that there are poverty present in our midst, even ironically from those who are close to us. Why is that so? That is because we are often too self-centred and often think only about ourselves without much regards to others around us.

Then, we often hear this, that if God is so kind and loving, then why would He have allowed people to be poor and to suffer from poverty? Should He not have cared for everyone and all those people so that they would not have to suffer? This is where we must understand that poverty and suffering in this world happen because of the abuse of our free will and freedom of actions, in which we misused the opportunities and time given to us to advance our own selfish desires and ambitions, and as a result, caused suffering on others, whether directly or indirectly, and whether unintended or deliberate.

Poverty is often caused by the culture of exploitation and the unbridled desires of man who sought more of what they already had aplenty. And when man acted in this manner, that ended up causing those who already have plenty to amass even more of what they already had, while those who were poor became even poorer. Note however that I am not saying that God is against the rich and powerful or that those who are rich, powerful, famous and privileged are evil and wicked. That is not the case.

As a matter of fact, in many countries, there are many cases even of those who are poor who oppressed and made life difficult, exploiting those who are poorer, weaker and less capable than they are. Again, they did this for many reasons, but all these are reminders for all of us that all of us have to be grateful with the blessings that we have received and be generous if we have extra and are given the opportunity to help others who are not as fortunate as us. Let us remember that everything we have are gifts and blessings from God, and not something that we should hoard or boast about.

And let us also be reminded of the Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of those who are poor in spirit and how blessed they are. All of us are called to be poor in spirit, and that means for us to abandon our pride and arrogance, all of our stubbornness and greed, all the things that prevented us from seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness for our many sins. Let us all be humble before the Lord, allowing the Lord to guide us in our path through life, and let us allow the Lord to fill our hearts with love and generosity, so that we may be more generous in giving and loving others, especially those who are poorer and less fortunate than us.

Therefore, through our genuine deeds and actions, our generosity in love and care for our fellow brothers and sisters, let us all live our lives as Christians to the best of our abilities so that all of us may be worthy of the Lord and when He comes again at the end of time, all of us will not be found wanting and lacking in true faith. May God, our loving Lord and Master, continue to bless us and love us all, especially the poor in our midst, and may He help them through our generous hands and deeds. Amen.