Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are all called through what we have received in the Sacred Scriptures, to reflect on our every actions in our own respective lives, on whether we have been good and faithful in exercising the gifts that God has given us, the gifts of His Wisdom and the Holy Spirit that He has sent to us. We have to distance ourselves from sin and from all things that are wicked so that our lives may be inspiration and good models for our fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Numbers about the time when the Lord sent His Spirit down to the seventy elders appointed to be the leaders of the people of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt. The Spirit of God that was upon Moses also came upon the seventy elders who began to prophesy in the Name of God, having received the gift of wisdom from the Lord. And it was then told that two men in the assembly who were not among the seventy elders, named Eldad and Medad also received the Spirit of God and began prophesying amongst the people.
When Moses then chided those who complained and tried to stop the two men’s actions, his words were truly prophetic at that time, as he wished that every single one of God’s children and people could also receive the same gift of the Spirit and has the same wisdom and ability to prophesise. And all these, brothers and sisters in Christ, have in fact came true during the Pentecost. For at Pentecost, God sent down His Holy Spirit on the disciples, which consists of the Twelve Apostles and Mary, but may also number seventy or seventy-two in total, symbolic of the seventy elders of the Israelites.
Then, these disciples of the Lord, having received the Holy Spirit, went forth from that day onwards and proclaimed the truth of God, His Good News and salvation without any more fear, but with great joy and conviction, with the strong desire for the salvation of many souls.
Many people came to believe in the Lord through them, through the efforts of the Apostles and the disciples, and they accepted baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and becoming the members of the Church of God. And in becoming Christians, they received through baptism the same Holy Spirit that God had sent to His disciples.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ourselves as Christians have also therefore received the same Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit having come down and dwelled within us through the gift of our baptism, and then affirmed for those of us who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation. As we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we too have been entrusted by the Lord with the wisdom and the responsibility to make good use of the various gifts and opportunities He has given us to do whatever we can to serve Him and to glorify His Name by our various deeds in life.
Yet, that is not what many of us had done, as St. James in his Epistle which we heard as our second reading today, spoke of the ways in which we have misused and abused the various gifts and talents that we had been given. He detailed how many among the rich and the powerful abused their wealth and power to exploit others and to enrich and make themselves more powerful over the suffering and hard labours of others. He mentioned how the poor and the weak were deceived and exploited by those who held sway and power over them, and implied that such an action was most unbecoming of Christians.
The Lord was not against the rich or the powerful. In fact, was it not by God’s grace and blessings that they had received their riches and opportunities in the first place? But they had chosen to use those for their own selfish purposes and even sought to get more of what they had already possessed a lot of. That is why they exploited others especially those who could not stand for themselves and are vulnerable to exploitation and extortion. This is also the reason for the many sufferings present in our world today, as we misuse the blessings and the opportunities that God had given to us.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and to the people about doing the works for the glory of God, saying that they should not hinder anyone doing the good works of God even if those people did not belong to the same group as them. At that time, the disciples of the Lord saw some people who were doing works in the Name of the Lord, casting out demons and healing in His Name, wanting to stop them for doing so? Why were they doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they felt that having received the gift of power and miracle from the Lord, they wanted to keep these exclusive to themselves.
Such was a selfish action showed by the disciples which the Lord then calmly rebuked by saying that they must not have such a mindset, and that all with the desire to do the work of God, regardless of their affiliations are part of the Lord’s greater work and plans. At the same time, it is also a reminder that we should not aim to use these gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities God has given us for our own selfish purposes, and worse still if we make use of them to exploit others and causing sufferings to those who are less fortunate than us.
As Christians, all of us are called to reflect on the Lord’s words to us in our Sacred Scriptures today. When the Lord told His disciples that if their eyes caused them to sin, and they ought to tear them out, or if their hands and feet had caused them to sin and make them to fall into wickedness that they ought to cut them off, He was in fact calling on all of us to turn away from sin and to resist the temptations to sin to the best of our abilities. He did not literally mean for us to tear out our eyes, or cut off our limbs if they had led us all into sin. Otherwise, everyone would have been without eyes and limbs as inevitably, these would have tempted us to sin.
Our body, our organs and senses are all gifts from God to us, and they can be used for good purposes just as they can also be used for wicked purposes. The matter lies with how we make use of these gifts and how we make use of the other talents and opportunities that God has given to us. We have been given various gifts that are distinct from one another, and yet, many of us are still ignorant of them, or we deliberately did nothing at all to make use of them for the good of all. This is where we need to reflect and see in what way we can do to contribute our efforts for the good of humanity, for all those whom we encounter in life.
That is why, as Christians, we are all called to make good use of our gifts and talents for the benefit of all, to reach out to others around us so that whenever we see someone who is need of help, or hear the pleas and cries of the suffering and sorrowful, we may reach out to them and in various ways offer our help or do something even in the smallest ways to lighten their load, or to cheer them up and support them. We may be surprised just how much this can help in making them feel better and just how much this can benefit them in ways that we ourselves may not realise at first.
This Sunday, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, paying particular attention on all those who have left their homeland or place of birth behind in search of a better life, or for a place of refuge especially for those who have been displaced by famine, by war or by persecution either because of their faith, their race or their background, as diverse as these reasons may be. We remember our fellow brothers and sisters out there who are still suffering daily and having no true place to be called home, especially the refugees.
Many of these unfortunate circumstances came to be because of our own human greed and pride, our egoistic behaviours and our desires, unchecked and unbridled which led to the exploitation of the weak and the poor, as well as the persecution of peoples based on their backgrounds, races and all things that led them to flee their homeland or for various other reasons that made them to wander around. For some who were lucky, they would end up finding a new home and integrate well, but many are still out there, some even after many generations, waiting to find a home that will welcome them and which they can call as home.
Sadly and unfortunately, quite a few among those who have caused these sufferings were those who call themselves as Christians. And not few among us are also biased against these migrants and refugees, and not few among us are also perpetuating these biases and prejudice against those unfortunate people. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, that they too are our fellow brothers and sisters, the same children of God, having the same Father as us, Who loves them just as He loves all of us. If we shut the doors of our hearts to them, then how do you think God will react to His children being treated in this manner?
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called and challenged to live our lives in a more Christian manner, to be more genuine in our Christian love and way of life, and not be hypocrites in faith. We are all called to embrace one another with love and in whatever we do, we have to show God’s love and truth to each other. Are we willing to do this, brethren? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the way of the Lord, and if we are given the opportunity to do more for the benefit of others around us, and more so if we have the chance to encounter migrants and refugees in our midst, to be welcoming towards them and to show them God’s generous love, that they may be strengthened and reminded that God never leaves them but remains with them with us, their own brothers and sisters.
Let us all do whatever we can to be less selfish and be more generous in giving to others, in touching the lives of others and in influencing one another to be more loving and caring especially to the weak and the oppressed, to those who are suffering and unloved, to those who need our care and attention. Let us all do our part, as members of the Church of God, having received the Lord’s Spirit and the commission to love, to be faithful to our calling and mission and to be good brothers and sisters to one another, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.