– Mission Sunday
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us heard of the reminder that pride and ego, hubris and ambition have no place amongst us Christians and those things will only lead to our downfall and doom, if we allow those to control our lives and our actions. We have been shown and taught what it truly means to be Christians, in our daily living and actions, and if we take heed of what the Lord had reminded us, through the Scripture passages today, we should do our best to do His will, and to be humble and be focused on Him, and not to give in to the temptations of our human pride and desire, which had become the bane and the obstacle for so many of our fellow brothers and sisters, past and present.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Sirach, we heard of the words of the Lord speaking on how He listened to the prayers of the faithful and how He uplifted and strengthened the humble and the just, while at the same time, God condemns and crushes those who were proud and mighty, those who oppressed others and who did not live their lives in accordance with His ways. He judged unworthy those who were merciless and those who have treated their brethren with disdain and lack of respect, those who have acted with violence upon others and those who have exploited their fellow men. All these have no place in God’s Kingdom and Presence.
In the Gospel passage today, we heard the parable which the Lord Jesus mentioned regarding the tax collector and the Pharisee, in which both were praying at the same time at the House of God. We heard how the Pharisee looked down upon his fellow man, the tax collector, considering him as a sinner while praising his own self-righteousness and virtues, as was common at that time. Back then, the Pharisees were considered the elites of the Jewish society, very well-respected and even feared by the other members of the community for their knowledge, intellect, power and influence.
On the other hand, the tax collectors were often ostracised and prejudiced against for their work in collecting taxes for the rulers and for the Romans. They were seen as great sinners and greedy people unworthy of God and His salvation, and they were often shunned by the community, especially hated and rejected by the Pharisees and the elders, who saw them as abominations and traitors to the nation. As such, this prejudice was shown in the Lord’s parable, as He highlighted the folly of such prejudice and narrow-sighted and narrow-minded attitude. The tax collector, fully aware of his sins, was not even willing to look up, embarrassed and shamed by his sins, while the Pharisee, though a sinner himself, lauded his achievements and not only that, but also slandered others before God.
That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is how dangerous pride and ego is for us, as well as human desire and greed. The Pharisee in the parable fell to the trap of his own pride, thinking that he was better than the tax collector, and in doing so, he turned inwards, focusing on himself and his own achievements, which resulted in his prideful and self-congratulatory attitude, which led to him being focused so much on himself and so full of himself, that he failed to see that he himself was also a sinner like the tax collector requiring God’s mercy and redemption. Instead, he thought that everything he did made him worthy of God and that he was superior than others who did less than what he had done.
This is not what each one of us as Christians should be doing. As Christians, all of us have been shown and taught by the Lord, first and foremost to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all of our might, and not to love ourselves more than how we love God and others. As Christians we are called and in fact challenged to show our love to one another, to our fellow brothers and sisters, reminding ourselves that God has been so kind, loving, compassionate and merciful in reaching out to us and in showing us His providence and love. He has never given up on us even whenever we have always been rebellious and disobedient in our attitudes in life and despite how many times we have refused to listen to His servants.
But often times we shut the Lord out of our lives because we were too busy and preoccupied with the many things and matters we have in life, and we were often too full of pride and arrogance to admit that we can be mistaken, imperfect or wrong in our ways, and that we ourselves are in need of help and healing. We tend to lose sight on what truly matters, as we have not allowed the Lord to be the true centre and focus of our lives. Instead, we put our own ego and ambitions, our own pride and desires, our attachments for worldly things and goods on the pedestal, and we end up turning inwards and became like how the Pharisee in the Lord’s parable had behaved. That is not the path that a Christian like us should be following.
Instead, we have to realise first of all that we are sinners in need of God’s help and healing, and through God, all of us can gain the sure passage towards eternal life and glory. We have to trust in the Lord just as we remembered what St. Paul told St. Timothy in his Epistle to him today, in our second reading passage. St. Paul encouraged St. Timothy, reminding him of all that the Lord had done to him, that despite all the challenges and the trials that he had to endure, God has always been by his side, protecting him and providing for him, encouraging him and guiding him through the difficult and hard times. He had done what he had been called to do in evangelisation and proclaiming the Good News of God to people of various nations.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and internalise the message contained within the passages of the Sacred Scriptures which we heard this Sunday, all of us are reminded to focus ourselves on God and not on ourselves and our own vanity and desires. And that is part of why the Church commemorates and celebrates Mission Sunday today, reminding us all that each and every one of us as Christians, all of us are called to be missionary in our lives and attitudes, to be life-giving and to be faithful witnesses of the Lord and our Christian faith at every possible opportunities. Each and every one of us as part of the same Church of God, as part of this same one Body of Christ are expected and called to be evangelising and missionary disciples and followers of Christ.
Now, what does it mean for us to be missionary and to fulfil our missions, brothers and sisters in Christ? It does not mean that we have to go and embark on mission to far away parts of the world, preaching the Good News of the Gospels and the Christian faith. Yes, there were and are still many people who have committed their lives to be full-time missionaries, as priests and religious members of the various orders involved in the missionary works all around the world, operating the various ministries and missions that the Church has placed all around the world, but those are not the only ones who should be involved in the mission of the Church.
On the contrary, it is the responsibility and integral part of being Christians that we have to dedicate our time, effort and attention to be true and living witnesses of our Christian faith and beliefs in God, in our every day moments, in living our best to serve the Lord and to do His will, not for our own glory and fame, but for the greater glory of God. Each and every one of us who partakes in the Body of Christ and are part of this Holy Communion of all the faithful and the saints, all of us are sharing in the same mission that Our Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted to His Church and His disciples, and that is to proclaim the Good News He has revealed to the world and to go forth and baptise all the people of all the nations in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We do not have to do great and marvellous things. What matters is for us to do the best even in the smallest and simplest things we do, such that in all of those, we truly proclaim the Lord not only just by our words, but even more importantly, by our actions and deeds. If we truly embody our faith and beliefs in all of our actions, and do our best to uphold ourselves in virtue and justice, in obedience to God and righteousness, then naturally all those who see us, witness us, hear us and interact with us will come to know the Lord through us, and we may be surprised but our every actions do matter, and they can have great impact on the salvation of many souls.
And we are also reminded not to be elitist and self-righteous, as the example of the Pharisee in the parable of the Lord warned us. We must not let pride and our human greed and desire to be a serious hindrance and obstacle in our path towards God and His salvation. As long as we strive and do our best to resist those many temptations all around us, we will be able to remain faithful to the Lord, remembering as always that we are all sinners after all, all of whom the Lord had shown love, compassion and mercy on. The Lord has loved us all from the very beginning, and He does not mind even our rebellious and our stubbornness, but keep on reaching out to us. Therefore, we too should not be prejudiced against those who we may have deemed to be less than worthy than us. We should not forget that we ourselves have received great grace of God’s forgiveness, and if all even the greatest of sinners receive this love and mercy from God, why we cannot do the same as well?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore live our lives with genuine faith and dedication, and be good Christian missionaries in our every works and actions, so that we may genuinely proclaim the truth of God to the people of all the nations. We have to live our lives worthily and faithfully at all times, and be the beacons of Christ’s light in our world today. Let us all therefore dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord, and may the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in every moments, and in our every good efforts and endeavours, as this Mission Sunday ought to remind us of our calling and mission in life. May God strengthen and empower us to be ever worthy to be in His Presence, now and always. Amen.