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Be God’s ambassadors

Homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time year A 2014

Last week, when I learned that we would have few very hot days coming up, I was hoping and silently praying that I would never have funerals to officiate. It was a very selfish desire of me, I must admit, but a day with 40 degrees heat or more is just very hard for me. However, as many of you could attest, sometimes our prayers are answered not the way we like it to be. I ended up with 2 funerals, one for a 97 year old and one for an 86 year-old mother. I survived though, even if it was 44 degrees when we got the cemetery for the graveside prayers. Yet, there was something in those days that gave me comfort, the faith of those two women I buried. Such was the impact of faith in their lives that as the son of one of those deceased women remarked as he delivered his eulogy for his mother, “Her faith was the cornerstone of all her values.

They were old women, and their faith sustained them till the end.

Looking at all of you here today too, I could say that there are not many young people around here in this mass. Most are jubilarians I have to be honest. However, I don’t mean this to be a negative connotation, because I believed in the words of my former wise spiritual director in the seminary, that there is a very positive side, in fact worth immolating, in being a ‘jubilarian’ in being an ‘old face’ if you like. This is what he wrote: “For just as young people are so important for any enterprise, to generate energy, enthusiasm and creativity, so are older people- jubilarians- because they are a sign the enterprise is worth giving one’s life to; they are a sign of fidelity. But the fidelity we jubilarians witness to is not ours; it is to the fidelity of Jesus.” He continues, “In other words, the fact that we jubilarians are here together is not a sign of how faithful we have been to our call, but of how faithful Jesus has been to each one of us in calling and accompanying us right up to the present moment.[1]

In a manner of speaking, by getting old and still coming to Church week after week, for many years now, you are DOING the same thing that John the Baptist did in our gospel today. When he saw Jesus, he pointed him to the world. “Look”, he said, “here is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” In more or less the same way, by your fidelity to the Church and your commitment to attend Mass week after week, is a way for you to show to the world that Christ, that God has been very faithful in his love and care for all of you.

So by the grace of God, please let us keep up being a witness for him in the world. Let us continue to tell the  world of God’s love. Let us continue to tell the world that faith matters. Let us continue to tell  the world by the way we live that God matters.

And to sustain this noble mission and witnessing for Christ, we need to know Jesus more, because  to “know him is to love him, and to love him and is to serve him” to paraphrase a line of Fr Robert Galea’s song ‘To the Ends of the Earth.’ And the more we know Jesus, the more we come to love him, then the more we become his avid witnesses and more loyal to his service.

To know Jesus more personally and intimately we need not try to understand everything about him. He is God, and He is too big to be completely understood. What can we do however is that we can focus on a specific aspect or aspects in the life of Jesus that draws us closer to him or attracts us more to follow him.

For me, personally, there are four aspects in Jesus’ life that draw me closer to him and these have helped me so much to know him more personally and more intimately. I’m sharing this with you with hope and prayers that you will in turn discover his personal invitation to be your personal  friend too.

First, is through his coming as a child– an image of innocence, simplicity and beauty. I would say this certain fondness of the Child Jesus is greatly shaped by one of our strong Filipino traditions of honouring the Holy Child. Every third Sunday of January is the big feast of the Holy Child or the Santo Nino de Cebu, Philippines. Millions of people would flock to honour the Holy Child. Historically, the Holy Infant of Prague was given as a gift to the village chief in Cebu by the Portuguese Explorers and missionaries when they got there in 1521. That, historically was the origin of our devotion and strong affection to the Holy Child.  One explanation of this is that we Filipinos would identify ourselves so much with the Holy Child in terms of his being simple and being raised in a poor human family. We could also reflect on his being weak, his being  vulnerable, and his being in need of care and support as a child. Such is our association and affection to him, that it even seemed we don’t like Him to grow up. We just wanted him to stay a child.

The second aspect that helped me draw closer to Christ is his mother. I am always reminded of the episode in the wedding at Cana. Everyone was busy and enjoying the banquet. But Mary kept her eyes open. When she noticed that the wine was running out, she just couldn’t stand there without doing anything. She knows her Son can do something, so she came up to him and told him of the situation-no-wine. And we know the rest of the story, Jesus made his first miracle then. This showed us that Mary couldn’t just look at us in our need. She would do her best also to help us in anyway by interceding for us to his Son. I could attest Mary’s powerful intercession when I was growing up too. We had this statue of Our Lady of Fatima, going from house to house evening morning at Dawn, while walking in a procession, praying the rosary and singing Marian Hymns. And I could see how much stability and peace our village had enjoyed  since we started our devotion to our Lady.

The third aspect that draw me closer to Jesus is by acknowledging my sinfulness and asking God’s forgiveness always. By acknowledging my sinfulness before God though makes Jesus more real to me because he came to save sinners, he came to save us all. And by this, I come to realize how much God loved me, by coming down from heaven to save us all from our sins. By knowing I am a sinner, I become more acquainted with Jesus in the gospels who are always in search of the lost, and sinners like me.

And the final aspect that draw me closer to Jesus and makes him more real in my life is through helping the poor and needy. By doing the best I can to help others, no matter how much it costs, helped me appreciate more of the abundant blessings of God I have received (in time, resources, skills and abilities) even me without asking them. By doing this, I could also see the living presence of Christ as he identified himself with those who are in need and with those who are poor.

So as we continue our celebration of the mass today, let us reflect on this: Jesus is inviting us to be part of his circle of friends, because in this way, we can know him more and love him more, and be his witnesses in the world today, what is our response to his personal invitation?

[1] Patrick O,Sullivan, S.J.  Prayer and Relationship, pp117-118.

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