Sunday, 11 September 2022 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are presented with clear message from the Sacred Scriptures of the power of God’s compassion, mercy and love. Each and every one of us have been shown the proof of God’s ever enduring love and patience with us throughout history, and through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, all of us are reminded just how fortunate we are and how thankful we should have been, because we have this most loving and patient God by our side, Who still loves us even when He chastised and punished us for our sins, like that of a loving father cares for his children as indeed, He is our Father.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Exodus we heard from the story of the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord just shortly after they had been freed from the tyranny and enslavement by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh in Egypt. The Lord had shown His great might and wonders, His miraculous deeds and powers, delivering His people Israel from the land of Egypt by sending Ten Great Plagues on the Egyptians and forced them and their Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free. The Lord opened the sea itself for the people of Israel to walk through and crushed the army and chariots of the Egyptians sent to chase after them.

Despite all these signs and wonders, some among the Israelites failed to have faith in the Lord, and many were swayed by those faithless ones to turn towards wickedness, as they built up for themselves a golden calf idol, no doubt modelled after the pagan deities they witnessed in the land of Egypt and elsewhere, treating that golden calf idol as the one who had liberated them and delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians. They acted on their own volition, in a foolish manner, despite the Lord having spoken on several occasions through Moses that they were not to have any other gods beside Him, and how He, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one and only True God.

Ironically, this happened at that moment when the Lord was granting His Ten Commandments and Law to His people through Moses, and the very First commandment stated that, ‘I am the Lord your God, and you are not to have any other gods, or to have any graven images before you.’ The Lord was reminding the people again of their obligation to Him since He has established a new Covenant with them, and brought them to that place, the holy mountain, Mount Sinai to make that Covenant, which He had just established not long before the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord. Unfortunately, they slid down into that rebellion, and disobeyed the Lord in the worst way possible.

God was just and right in His justification to punish the people who had rebelled against Him, in betraying Him for the pagan idol, the golden calf. He could indeed have crushed and destroyed all of them who have betrayed and abandoned Him, at the mere whim of His will, but that would not be according to what He wanted. While God is good and just, and does not tolerate any sin, but at the same time He is also full of love and compassion towards us, His beloved children and people, those whom He loved from the very beginning and created as the pinnacle of His creation in this world and universe.

If God wanted to crush and destroy us, He could have done that immediately right after we have sinned against Him first in the days of our very first ancestors, Adam and Eve, when they first disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But God, although He punished mankind to wander and suffer in the world as a consequence for their sins, at the same time, He also prepared the path for the eventual redemption of all of the same people, to whom He promised the coming of His deliverance, which all came true through Jesus Christ, the Saviour born into the world, God Himself incarnate in the flesh.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and to the people using several parables to explain the love that God has for each and every one of us, and how fortunate we are to have been beloved in such a manner by our loving Father and Creator. Through the parable of the lost sheep and the lost silver coin, the Lord Himself highlighted just how precious all of us who have been lost to our loving God and Father, that just as a shepherd would do all he could to go, find and gather his lost sheep, or for someone to go and find the lost silver coin, hence the Lord would go all out to find us all and to return us back to Himself.

And that was exactly what He had done as He reached out to us through Jesus Christ, His own beloved and begotten Son, Who came into this world in the flesh, to show us all the ever-enduring and ever-wonderful love that God has always had for us. Through Christ, God’s love had been made real, tangible and manifest, and we can see His love in Christ, Who did not just show how dear and beloved we are through these parables, but He also showed this love through His most loving sacrifice on the Cross, as a very tangible and real manifestation of His love. It is a love so great that as He Himself said that there is no love greater than for one to give his or her life for a friend.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just how great God’s love for each one of us is. He has always generously loved us all, and desired for all of us to come back to Him with repentance and sincere desire to be reunited with Him. Just as highlighted in another parable that the Lord mentioned in our Gospel today, the well-known parable of the prodigal son, we can hear how the Lord is represented to us all in the person of the father in the parable, who had two sons, one of whom, the elder one, was more responsible and dutiful, obeying his father and remaining close to him, representing those who have always kept their faith in God.

On the other hand, the prodigal younger son, who wanted to take his share of inheritance and then went off to a far-off land, squandering his money and possessions in the process, represent all those who have become wayward and become lost from the Lord, and that is essentially all of us, just as how all of us have sinned and fallen into sin, been tempted and fell into disobedience against God, much as how the people of Israel had disobeyed the Lord, betrayed and abandoned Him for an idol made from gold by human hands, the golden calf idol. The Lord reminded the people through this story of the prodigal son, how He still loved us all nonetheless, despite our sins and wickedness, our disobedience and evils.

However, as we recall again the story of the prodigal son, we have to remind ourselves an important fact that is often missed out by those who listened to this story, and even among those who are familiar with this story. The prodigal son, by his own volition and willpower, chose to commit himself to return to his father, swallowing his pride and ego, humbling himself and admitting his own weaknesses, mistakes and faults. He must have had such great struggle within himself, especially when he realised that he had the choice to remain in that far-off place as a beggar, or to retun to his father, though in shame. He had decided to take his portion of the inheritance, and yet, he squandered it all off. For those who are concerned about their image and ‘face’, it must be tough to decide to return to his father.

Yet, that was what the prodigal son committed to do, and he returned to his father with great and sincere contrition, repentance and the desire to right the wrongs he had done and committed. That is the attitude that all of us sinners have to take heed of and adopt as well. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because one of the greatest and most common reason why people failed to return to the Lord and remained in the state of sin is because they were too proud and could not let go of their pride and ego, and they chose to hide away from the Lord, keeping themselves distant from God, the only One Who can help them and free them from the bondage and slavery to those sins and evils.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow the path of the prodigal son, in turning away from his pride and ego, from his attachments to sin and to learn humility and obedience once again, in repenting from his sins, faults and mistakes, and in admitting them before his own father? The Lord has provided the channel for us to do so through His Church through the Sacraments, particularly that of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And this serves as a good reminder for us, to ask ourselves, when was the last time we went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation? When was the last time we went to confess our sins to a priest?

We are also called to be more attuned to the state of our souls, and how sinful we are. We are reminded that God’s mercy, love and compassion are boundless, but we need to come to Him and make the commitment to leave behind that wretched state, our sinful existence. The Lord has provided us with means and ways to come back to Him, and it is now then up to us to embrace His loving mercy and compassion, as He is always ever ready to welcome us back to Himself, like how the father in the parable of the prodigal son welcomed back his prodigal son with open arms, and restored him to a state of grace and honour, forgiving him fully of his mistakes and faults.

Let us all therefore do our part, brothers and sisters, to entrust ourselves more to the Lord in our daily living. Let us abandon all sorts of wicked and unworthy attitudes which had always become stumbling blocks in our path and journey towards the Lord. Let us all abandon all the idols present all around us, not just those idols of false gods, but even more importantly, the idols of our pride and ego, the idols of our greed, attachments to the world, of jealousy and wrath, and of worldly desires, among many others. Let us return to our most loving God and Father with a heart full of love for Him and genuine contrition for our many sins, and with the hope that God’s love will cleanse us from all those sins and wickedness.

May the Lord, our loving God and Creator, be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen and encourage us all to persevere through the many trials and challenges of life. May He continue to bless our every endeavours and good deeds, all for His greater glory. Let us all Christians glorify the Lord and proclaim His truth and Good News among all the peoples, through our own worthy lives, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

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