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Tips for the Kingdom & for our salvation

Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

The Great BanquetLast year, together with the Filipino Community in Bendigo and some Australian friends and parishioners, I organized a Philippine outreach project. I invited the parishioners to donate whatever they can give. I am amazed of the response of the people in the parish. Some gave us money to pay for the transport of the goods. And many gave us their used clothing, kitchen utensils, dinner sets, toys, books, children’s shoes, and many others. We have sent about 40 boxes out of those donations to some needy families and schools in the Philippines. When I went home last year, I met one of the recipients and he just thanked me for thinking of his family and for the box of clothes, toys, and shoes for his children. But then he said to me something that it’s hard to forget. He said: ‘You know Father, my children were very happy for the shoes they have received, because that’s the first time they ever have shoes.’ I felt like crying upon hearing that because I know those shoes are just passed on to them. They are not new. In fact, they have been taken for granted. They are given away because the owners have got new pair of shoes. Those shoes have been used or even overused before by the previous owners but even then, it gave those Filipino children so much joy to receive them.

I just wanted to share you this experience because one of the strong messages in our gospel today is that: ‘We must not take things for granted’ and in this context our salvation.’ This means we have to take every opportunity not to waste it but to cooperate in God’s grace. True, salvation is a pure gift, a pure grace of God. We don’t earn it. But it doesn’t mean we just have to sit down, do nothing, and let God do everything for us. As Catholics we believed in the value of good works, not to earn our salvation, but as an effect of fruit of grace.[1] One Jesuit priest jokingly puts it this way: ‘If you claim you are saved, at least show it in your face.’ Humour aside this means, we need to work with God for our salvation for as St Augustine would say: ‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you.’ This also means we need to take our salvation seriously because it’s not matter of preserving our life now, but it’s a matter of attaining eternal life.

So what can we do to cooperate with God’s grace for our salvation?

Let us reflect on our Readings today to get a few tips if you like.

Tip # 1 is from our gospel today (Lk 13:22-30): Be less in lip service and more in service of God and of others.

It’s not enough for us to say we believe in Christ or have faith in God or have been baptized Christians. It is also not enough for us to say we have ‘eaten and drank in the company of Christ or have heard him teaching in our streets’ as we do in every mass we attend to. Rather, Jesus is warning us to test our Sunday worship by looking at how we live at home, how we behave at work, and how we treat our neighbours. If we claim to be Christians, then let us go out of our comfort zones and work with Christ, work like Christ, and be the presence of Christ to others and to the world. Let us serve our community in whatever way we can do and in whatever capacity we can offer bringing with us the values and the qualities of Christ.

Tip # 2 is from our second reading today (Heb 12:5-13): Let God be God in our lives.

The Letter to the Hebrews that we just have heard, has explained to us how can we allow God be our only God. It says: ‘My son [ & daughter] when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those he acknowledges as his sons [& daughters]. This is a proof for us that God cares for us and that he wants all of us to be saved by correcting us if we do wrong and training us that we may become worthy to be citizens in his kingdom.

Tip # 3 is again from our gospel today: Let us not take our faith for granted.

Faith is not a guarantee that we have the privileged position in the kingdom of God. Faith is not an assurance that we get to heaven in the end of earthly journey. Being baptized might get us to Catholic schools, but if we don’t express in the way we love and in the way we live the faith we profess, we are the ones that Jesus meant in our gospel today: ‘The first now who will be last.’ We have to remember that there are still many people out there who may not have heard about Christ and the gospel (not of their own faults) but are living their lives in the values of Christ and the kingdom. They might be the last to  hear about Christ but when time comes, they would be the first to get to the kingdom. It would be unsettling or unfair for us but not if we  don’t take our faith for granted. To take our faith seriously, let us celebrate it, let us live it out, let’s keep it up, and show to the world how meaningful a life would be if we have faith in God.

To young people: A way to keep our faith seriously is by going to Church to show that we are part of the Christian community as often as we can. You might say: ‘I don’t like going to Church because I don’t get anything out of it. I’m the only young person in the pew. It’s intimidating, you know.’ But I have to tell you, ‘we are to go to Church not mainly because we get something out of it, but because of what we give in there. I’m not talking about the collection here. I’m talking about the time that we give back to God after a week long study or work.

This Sunday we also celebrate the Refugees and Migrants Sunday. And again the refugees, the migrants, the asylum seekers are a stark reminder for us of the many things we have taken for granted. Wasting so much food, complaining about broken heating units, or leaking roof, etc. while these people have risked their lives to come to Australia because they wanted to enjoy the kind of life we are living now. So today, let’s pray for Australia, for the government for us all that we may not take many things for granted especially if human life, rights and dignity are at stake. Let us pray that all of us in Australia be united in upholding the rights of each person no matter where we are coming from, what capacity we are in, and in what contribution to the country we can offer.

[1] Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church0 No 19-20.

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