Sunday, 13 November 2022 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard the words of the Lord through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures telling us that there are plenty for all of us as Christians to do and prepare, for the coming of the end of days or the last days will be swift and unexpected by anyone, and we certainly do not want to end up being judged on the wrong side, with those who have been deemed unworthy and due to be damned for eternity. This Sunday we heard these reminders just as we approach the end of this current liturgical year, and just as the flow of time continues on, we are reminded of the eventual end of our earthly existence, as we are all going to have to account for our earthly experiences, actions and all that we say and do before the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard of the prophet Malachi speaking the words of the Lord to the people of God, regarding of the coming of the Messiah and also the coming of the end times, the time of judgment. In that short passage, the message for us all is very clear, that those who live righteously and in accordance with God’s will shall be blessed and be found worthy of God and His eternal dominion, to live and exist with Him in eternal happiness and bliss, while all those who live wickedly and refused to obey God’s will shall face the just punishment and consequences due to their wickedness and evil actions, and will be judged as unworthy and cast out into eternal darkness and damnation, all just for their lack of faith and wickedness.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel of St. Luke the words of the Lord to His disciples, followers and all the people, before the Temple of God in Jerusalem, proclaiming the coming of the time of strife and evil for all the people of God, as they all will endure the hardships, challenges, trials and many would have to suffer many losses and even losses of life and deaths, to be endured in the midst of the persecutions and destructions that would come for the faithful people of God. At a glance, the Lord was speaking of the time of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the fall of that city to the Romans, which would happen just less than forty years after the Lord has spoken about all those things.

In the years leading to that event, caused by the rebellion of fanatical Jews against the Romans, the faithful Christians, the people of God also suffered because of repressions from the Jewish authorities and also from the local governors and the Roman overlords alike. There were great tumults and revolts, destructions and sufferings, which culminated in the great Jewish Revolt, which led to the deaths of many thousands upon thousands of people, from both sides in the conflict, and ultimately, the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of that city and the Temple of God itself, and the Jewish people scattered away from their homeland. Amidst all those strife and destruction, it was indeed easy for anyone to claim that the time of the end of the world, the coming of the final judgment was imminent.

What the Lord made known to His disciples and followers was that, in the end of time, at a time that He alone knows, He will come again to judge all the people, all the living and the dead, from the past, the present, and also the future, of all time. No one can foresee or know when the exact timing of this moment that the Lord has spoken of. And He also rightly warned against all those false prophets and all the false messengers and preachers who would try to subvert the message of God’s truth for their own selfish ideas and desires, as the history of the Church and mankind had shown us in these past two millennia. There had been many occasions where people claimed that the calamities and events happening in the world heralded the end of times and the Last Judgment, and some of them even claimed to be the Messiah returned in glory, all of whom proved to be false.

Hence, what we are reminded this Sunday is that, while we have to be vigilant and ever ready for the Lord’s coming, we also should not easily give in to those who promote false ideas and teachings contrary to the truth that the Lord alone has taught to us and revealed to us through His Church, and which had been preserved by the Church with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the past two millennia as the deposit of our Christian faith and truth. That is why we have to live our lives worthily of the Lord and do whatever we can to obey the Lord and His commandments, a sentiment that is echoed by what we heard in our second reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city and area of Thessalonica.

St. Paul spoke of how all of those who preached the word of God and the leaders of the Church all laboured tirelessly for the sake of God and His people, and doing whatever they could to serve the needs of the people, in doing what they could to do the will of God and to glorify Him by their every actions. He told the people that it is what is expected of all Christians to do, to be active in doing their part in whatever ministry, vocation or calling that each one of them had been called into, and all of them should do whatever they can to do what the Lord had commanded them all to do, and not be idle in their lives. That is because being idle is not what our calling as Christians is all about, and we cannot be ignorant of what the Lord Himself has taught and revealed to us, in how we should commit ourselves to the Lord and His Law and commandments.

What is God’s Law? As the Lord Himself had told us, that in essence the whole entirety of the Law can be summarised in two main commandments, that is first of all of our obligation and mission to love the Lord our God, as the only God with all of our strength and might, with all of our abilities and focus, our whole effort and attention, and then at the same time, we should also love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow mankind, in whatever way we can and in whatever capacity we are in. And yes, it is our Christian calling to love, loving God and loving our brethren, be it our family members, our parents, our siblings and our children, and also our extended family and relatives, or our friends and acquaintances, and even strangers and even more so, those who hated us and persecuted us.

We do not have to look far for example, brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord Jesus Himself, our Saviour, has shown us the perfect example, of how He reached out to us with most generous and enduring love, despite our lack of interest in Him, and despite our stubbornness and constant rebellions against Him, and also despite our easily succumbing nature, as we fell again and again into temptations and chose sin over obedience to God. He loves us all nonetheless, and reached out even to the worst of sinners, journeying with them and caring for them, calling on them to embrace God’s love and mercy, to sin no more and follow Him. He healed their sickness and wounds, and cast out evil spirits and demons from them. He patiently showed His love even to those who persecuted Him.

He endured the worst and most painful sufferings for our sake, enduring bitter rejections and persecutions, humiliations and torture, having His flesh torn from His Precious Body and Precious Blood spilled over as He endured each wound with patience, and took His Cross upon His shoulder with love, love for each and every one of us. And yes, that includes even those who have persecuted and condemned Him to death, those Pharisees, teachers of the Law, elders and chief priests who were opposed to Him and persecuted Him and His disciples. From His Cross, the Lord Himself prayed on their behalf before the Father, asking Him to forgive them their sins and not to hold what they did against them. Truly I am sure we can see just how beloved we are by God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if God has loved us all so much, that He willingly do all that for us, even to die for our sake, that we may be saved and spared our fate of destruction and damnation, then should we not be stubborn anymore and should emulate His love in our own actions and way of life as well. We should learn to fill ourselves up with more of God’s love, embracing Him with devotion and love, thanking Him for His patience and ever generous love, and also His compassion and mercy in forgiving us our sins. We should also love one another, and learn to forgive one another our mistakes and faults to each other, just as the Lord has forgiven us even the greatest of our sins if we sincerely seek to repent and be forgiven from them. Can we do this, brothers and sisters? Certainly we can. The question is whether we want to do it or not.

Now, on this thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time and the second last Sunday of this current liturgical year, we also commemorate the World Day of the Poor as instituted a few years ago by our currently reigning Pope, Pope Francis. On this day, we are reminded of the poor in our midst, and we are called as Christians to remember our call to love and charity, that each one of us may be more generous in loving those who are poor, caring for them and reaching out for those who have no means to provide for themselves. And not only that, being poor in fact is not just being poor in material wealth and possessions only, as there are also other kinds of poverty that we may not be aware of, and yet are also important for us as Christians to reach out to these people suffering from other forms of poverty.

What am I referring to? The poverty for love and care, as there are those who have adequate or even plenty of material possessions, and yet are lacking in love and care. There are those who are ostracised and rejected for various reasons, and it is to all these that we are called to reach out to as well. There are even those who are poor, because they have no love in them, or have little in the means of empathy, care and compassion for others. As Christians, it is our calling and mission, that each one of us, in our respective areas and capacities, show God’s love embodied in our actions, words and deeds, and through our interactions, so that we may hopefully touch the heart and reveal God’s truth and love to those who are still poor in faith, and love for God and their fellow brethren.

Let us all therefore remember to do our best, in whatever we say and do, to reach out to our less fortunate brethren, those who are poor, be it in material, or love or faith or whatever it is that they are poor in. Let us share with them and help them in whatever way we can. Let us journey together with them and show them that they are truly part of our communities, especially those who are also members of our Church. It is indeed often sad to see how many Christians were so aloof and ignorant of the plight of their fellow Christians. Some of them were even those who manipulated and gained from the sufferings of others, and their fellow brothers and sisters. This is not what we should be doing as Christians, and as those whom God had called and chosen from this world to be His own children, people and flock.

Let us all discern how we can be better Christians, to be more committed and loving disciples of our Lord, so that in all the things we say and do, we may continue to show more of our Lord’s love, and be ever more generous in reaching out to the less fortunate around us, be more selfless in our way of life and turning away from sin and all the temptations to sin. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He empower us all to be good and true disciples, faithful and committed witnesses to His truth and love at all times. Let us help one another, especially the poor among us, to come ever closer to God. Amen.

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