Sunday, February 8, 2015

Homily for Today

First of all, I would like to wish a good morning to all of you, to the little children and to the adults of our parish. And also to the visitors who are always welcomed to join us in the celebration of the Holy Mass.

Today's Readings echo how the weak human nature often overcomes the spiritual nature that perceives the greater mysteries of God.

Our first example is found in the First Reading from the Book of Job. When reviewing this entire Book of the Old Testament, we come to the realization that the soul of Job was like a yo-yo. One moment, he was uplifted, thinking spiritually; another moment he was down, thinking worldly. One moment, he was like a wave on the ocean; the next moment he was as the calm ocean on which reflects the light of the sun. What did not help Job's ability to reason was that he was surrounded by non-believers who were constantly thinking worldly, those who's lives were as waves on the ocean.

At one time, Job had everything going for him. Blameless and upright, he feared God and turned away from evil. [Job 1:1] He had seven sons and three daughters. [Job 1:2] He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys and very many servants, so that he was the greatest of all the people of the East. [Job 1:3]

During this time, God and Satan were having a little discussion in Heaven regarding the loyalty of Job. Satan alleged that the only reason why Job was loyal to God was because the Lord had been good to him, having blessed him with so many things. Satan said to God, "But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." [Job 1:11] Hearing this, the Lord said to Satan, "Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!" [[Job 1:12]

Following this, within a period of time, Job lost everything that he had, his sons and daughters, all his animals and his servants. But amidst this, Job remained faithful to God. Seeing this, Satan repeated to God, "But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face." [Job 2:5] The Lord told Satan to go ahead but to spare the life of Job. And so Satan inflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. [Job 2:7]

Now, those who knew Job, saw what had happened to him. Suddenly, while functioning at the worldly level, they became overnight experts of spiritual wisdom. Three of Job's friends came to visit him, each one being judgmental and having his own answer as to why Job was suffering as he was. One said that Job had sinned. Another said that Job should repent. The last said that Job's guilt deserved punishment.

Even the wife of Job questioned his integrity, telling him to curse God so he could die. [Job 2:9] But, remaining faithful in the service of the Lord, Job said, "Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" [Job. 1:10]

Now Job was going through hard times like some of us experience at times in life. Speaking to his friends, he was deploring his life, even to the point of cursing the day he was born. [Job 3:1] He viewed life three ways, as service in the armed forces, as a day labourer and as a slave, each of these ways of life being a wretch state of life. Here we see the influence of those around Job, they influencing him to think worldly rather than spiritual. Job no longer remembered the blessings of God that he had received in the past, only seeing what he presently had... that being nothing.

It is obvious from hearing the words of Job that he was depressed, experiencing great loneliness because he had no one to turn to who could uplift him spiritually. While going through this state of mind, Job was questioning the purpose of life. Thinking worldly, he asked, "If mortals die, will they live again?" [Job. 14:14] Thinking spiritually, he said, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God." [Job. 19:25-6]

Now it is interesting to note that Job, while thinking spiritually, believed in a Redeemer and the resurrection of the flesh when in those days, nothing was known of judgment and the eternal happiness after death that awaits those who persevere in their living faith.

Reverting to worldly thinking, Job found the nights long, tossing in his bed all night until dawn. He saw his days coming to an end without hope, his life being but a breath, his eyes never being able to see good again.

In all his suffering, Job did not know what we know, that he was being tested by God to see if he would remain faithful in the service of the Lord. He did not know that Satan was challenging God regarding his loyalty. He did not know that in the end, God would reward his faithful loyalty, blessing him with more than he had in the beginning.

In this reading, there is a lesson for each and everyone of us. No matter what happens in life, we should always think spiritually in order to try to understand the grace of God at work in our lives. We should not curse God as the wife of Job recommended. We should not be judgmental of others, saying that their sufferings are the result of sin. For God alone knows why all things happen to us, be they good or bad as we would say in simple English.

When something happens to us or to our loved ones that we cannot explain with a worldly mind, then we should attempt to embrace a spiritual mind in order to understand the message that God is giving us. Is God sanctifying us? Is He testing our faith? Is He testing our perseverance? Is He testing our love towards others? Is He teaching us self-control, to refrain us from gossiping or judging others? With a prayerful mind, by the power of the Spirit of God, the one who seeks an answer will always be inspired as to why things happen the way they do in life.

During today's Second Reading, we heard how St. Paul also remained faithful in the service of the Lord. Thinking spiritually, he considered himself as a slave who was indebted to Jesus, never being able to repay for the gift of salvation that was promised to him by the grace of God. The fact that he had been chosen by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel was not a reason to boast. It was an obligation as a born again Christian to preach the Word of God in answer to his calling to walk his living faith in Christ.

Also, we must not forget that St. Paul must have known of the reward that awaits those who persevere in their living faith. This reason could have motivated him to preach the Gospel so that he could share in the eternal reward that awaits all those who remain as faithful servants of the Lord Jesus. What is that eternal reward? The Book of Daniels [12:3], tells us that "Those who lead many to righteousness, (they shall shine) like the stars forever and ever."

St. Paul viewed his work for the Lord as he being entrusted with a commission. This is like a king who sends his ambassador to a foreign country with a special message. The ambassador receives a commission that must be fulfilled. He does not have time for himself or to make a side trip. His first and utmost preoccupation is to deliver the message at all cost in complete obedience and service to his king.

In the same way, St. Paul viewed his calling from Jesus. He felt spiritually obligated to fulfill his commission as it had been entrusted to him.

Now, how did St. Paul fulfill his commission? He refused to charge for the service of preaching. He could have charged! In Chapter 9 of the First Letter to the Corinthians, it says, "In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel would get their living by the Gospel." [1 Cor. 9:14] But, Paul felt that if he charged a fee for preaching, he would have his worldly reward, being denied the spiritual reward to come. Since he had been commissioned by Jesus to do this work, he felt that he had no right to take advantage of the others by charging for the service. Having received freely, he gave freely, counting on the Lord God to reward him at the end of his worldly journey.

St. Paul goes on to say that in order to win many over to Christ, he made himself a slave to all. He set aside many of the freedoms that he previously enjoyed in order to make himself acceptable to all men. He followed the teachings of Jesus who said that the greater one is the slave of all, the one who serves at the table. [Lk. 22:25-7] Jesus also said, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you (the Christians); but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." [Mk. 10:42-5]

So, even here, we hear of the Lord Jesus as being a faithful servant to His Heavenly Father, being obedient to the end.

From today's Gospel Reading, we further see how Jesus served the Heavenly Father in answering His Divine Commission to announce that the Kingdom of God on earth was coming. As proof of His Divinity, Jesus performed numerous miracles. Earlier, we heard how he cured the mother-in-law of Simon who had fever. Once cured, Simon's mother-in-law got up and served Jesus and those who were present. This example affirms that those who have been saved by Christ through a spiritual rebirth and healing, are expected to serve the Lord God.

Now, Jesus' ministry at Capernaum was not limited to a few friends. Jesus made Himself available to all those in need who accepted Him as the Son of God. Earlier, we heard that at sundown, the city was gathered around the door where Jesus was present. The people brought the sick and those who were possessed with demons to Jesus. And Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. At the same time, He would not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

Later, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place where He prayed. Consequently, Simon and his companions went out looking for Him.

Here, we see the worldly mind at work again. Simon said, "Everyone is searching for you." This implies that Jesus should remain at Capernaum and gain fame from the popularity of His miracles. But Jesus, being spiritually minded, refuse to limit His ministry to one place or to encourage the belief of a coming worldly Kingdom of God. Responding to Simon, He said, "Let us go to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And Jesus travelled throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message of the spiritual Kingdom of God in the synagogues and casted out demons.

As you have heard during today's Readings, we have different examples of how one can think spiritually versus worldly thinking. We have come to the realization that in order to remain faithful in the service of the Lord, we must embrace a spiritual mind so that we can understand the things of God.

We have learned that no matter how hard life can be at time, by the power of the Holy Spirit and a spiritual approach, we can overcome any obstacles by the grace of God the Father in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

We have learned of the necessity to associate with those who are spiritually minded. If we surround ourselves with those who are worldly, we will begin to think like them, suppressing our spiritual thoughts that are in harmony with the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

We have learned that we have an obligation to serve the Lord Jesus in thanksgiving for the Sacrament of Baptism that has made us children of God, of the godly seed. We receive freely from God and we should give freely to others, not expecting a worldly reward for our spiritual work by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am sure that there are other lessons that can be learned from today's readings. By the grace of God the Father, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to specific lessons that apply to us so we may be sanctified in Christ.

This week, I ask you all to reflect on today's readings and ask yourselves, "What is God's message to me this week from these readings?" Once you perceive God's message, you will know that you have embraced a spiritual heart. You will also come to the realization that the Holy Spirit is working through you because you are becoming faithful in the service of the Lord.

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