Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day, we heard the readings from the Holy Scriptures about the importance of maintaining one’s purity and obedience to the Law of God, doing good and avoiding all sorts of wickedness and sin. And then it is also important that we help one another in the mission that God had given to us, that is to evangelise to the peoples of the nations, and bring to many the revelation of truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is important that we heed what we heard in the first reading today from the Book of Numbers, where Moses chided Joshua fro protesting against two men who received the Holy Spirit of God even when they were not gathered among the other elders. And the way he spoke to Joshua made it clear to us that we should not see each other as rivals and enemies in our effort to spread the words of the Gospel to the nations.
Indeed, what the Lord is trying to warn us, as He once again repeated the same effort with His disciples, when they tried to stop someone else from healing and curing the sick, and casting out demons using the Name of Jesus, is that we should not give in to our own selfishness and the desire to preserve ourselves or to aggrandise ourselves over that of others, which is unfortunately our human nature.
It is in our tendency to fall into the trap of our own vanity and pride, thinking that we are better than others, and we have that tendency to defend our own actions and deeds, trying to explain the reason why what we have done were justifiable even though they were truly wrong and mistaken. And we all know that it is not easy for us to admit that we have been mistaken or made an error. No one would readily admit that he or she is wrong, before someone pointed it out to them plainly.
And how is it relevant to what we have heard in the Scripture readings today? That is because Joshua as well as the disciples of Jesus were affected by what we know as jealousy, by the desire to not be outshone by others, and therefore, they despised the fact that someone else got what they also desired, but did not get. This is the heart and the root of jealousy, when someone covets what another has, so that they may have it for themselves.
When Joshua saw the two men getting the glory and power of the Holy Spirit, deep down in his heart, he too desired such blessing and grace from God. Similarly, the disciples of Jesus also had in their hearts the desire for the power to heal the sick, and as they have it, they do not want anyone else to share in what they thought as their own prerogatives to give.
But Jesus reminded them, that all of these human frailties and human emotions were detrimental in their path to salvation, just as Moses chastised Joshua with words in similar meaning and purpose. That was why Jesus spoke about cutting one’s own hands if the hands had brought them to sin, and cutting off one’s eye out if these eyes had brought them to sin.
What Jesus meant is not that we literally have to do what He had mentioned. He did not mean that we should really literally cut off our hands and feet, or our eyes and our tongue, should any of these lead us into sin. He spoke figuratively, to show the people the true meaning which He tried to convey to them through parables. What He truly meant is that we have to really make the effort to carve out that part of ourselves which had hindered us on the path towards salvation.
And what are these parts that He was referring to? It is our ego, our pride, our desire, our selfishness, all those that had made us to be blind to our own faults, our own vulnerabilities, and to others’ needs and thoughts, and all these made us to look solely into ourselves, and trying to satisfy ourselves and our needs, becoming selfish and unloving in our actions and attitudes towards others.
It is all these that had brought about so much misery in the world through time and history. If we look back at history, then we certainly should realise how often it was that wars and conflicts were fought over the ambition and pride of men, when one or more people desire to have more of something, be it gold, wealth, land, praise, fame and many other worldly forms of pleasure and recognition.
We should realise how often it was too for oppression and injustice, for pain, suffering and sorrow to be born from the selfishness of men, where the rich and those who have more refused to share what they had and refused to help those who had little or none. And then, even greater misery were born out of the jealousy and the desire of those who have less to possess more, if need by force from those who have more.
This is the great obstacle that barred our path towards salvation in God. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, that unless we mankind die to ourselves and carry up our cross, then we would not have any part with Him, and we would not receive the everlasting grace of our Lord. It is important to take note that what Jesus meant was that we must first die to our pride, our ego, and our selfish desires, crush these and carve these out of our hearts and minds.
This was what Jesus meant when he said in the Gospel today when He said of cutting off the parts thar brought us to sin. What He meant is that we have to carve out those selfish things and thoughts from deep inside us, that the hindrance and obstacle to our salvation may be removed. Our limbs and our flesh did not bring us to sin, for all these are controlled by none other than our heart and our mind, the desires in them which lead us to either do good or to commit evil.
Yes, in fact, our limbs and body can be used for doing good things beneficial for others who are around us. If we cut them off hastily without understanding, then we would lose the potential that they have in bringing good things upon others. What we have to cut out is indeed instead all the dark things that lie inside our hearts, namely selfishness, pride and greed.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today shall we all reflect deep into ourselves and think of our own actions, words and deeds, all the things we have said and done in the past, remembering whether we have done what is right and just, helping others who are in need, helping and loving those who were unloved and lonely, or whether we have dwelled in our pride and arrogance, and in our reluctance to do anything for the benefit of others.
Let us all grow smaller and weaker in our pride and selfish attitudes, and grow more in our loving attitude and care upon one another. May the Lord help us and guide us on our way, so that we may know the way to seek Him is through humility and commitment to love, loving both the Lord and our brethren around us, and not to put ourselves above them.
Let us cast out our ego and pride, and with humility, let us approach the Lord, and love Him with all our might. Let us be charitable and loving in all our actions, helping especially those who are poor, sick and dying, those rejected by the society, that through us and our works, we may bring each other closer to God our Father. God bless us all. Amen.