Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary time year A 2014
There is a beautiful and very inspiring story I have read, you might have heard this before but I’m sure it is worth repeating and you may like to hear it again. This is in fact a Christmas story but I can’t wait to share it with you.
Paul received a new car from his brother as a present. On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a dirty, scruffy little boy was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it.
“Is this your car, mister?” he asked. Paul nodded and said, “Yes, my brother gave it to me for Christmas.” The boy was astonished. “You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn’t cost you nothin’? Boy, I wish…” he hesitated.
Of course, Paul knew or so he thought he knew what the boy was going to wish for. He was going to wish that he had a brother like that. But no, what the little boy said astounded him. “I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.”
Paul looked at the boy in astonishment and said, “Would you like to have a ride in my car?” “Yes, I’d love that,” said the boy. After a short ride, the boy turned and, with his eyes aglow, he said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?” Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the little boy wanted. He wanted to show off his neighbours that he is riding in an expensive and fancy car.
But Paul was wrong again. “Will you stop where those two steps are?” the boy asked. He got out and ran up the steps. A couple of minutes later, Paul heard him coming back, but he wasn’t walking fast – he was carrying his little crippled brother on his back. Then he put his brother down on the bottom step and then squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. “There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn’t cost him a cent. And someday I’m going to give you one just like that…and then you can see for yourself the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.”
Of course the ending of the story was that the brothers had a joyride together in the new car.
This is just an amazing story that I wanted it to be true. I wished I could be a brother like that because that is the kind of person that as St Paul would love the Christians in Philippi to become in our second Reading today (Phil 2:1-11). St Paul wrote urged the Christians, and effectively, he is urging us here and now too, to ‘always consider the other person to be better than [ourselves], so that nobody thinks of his/her own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.”
This is indeed a big challenge for us because we are in the age where consumerism is a trend that motivates us to strive to ‘get something out of anything and to serve ourselves first, before others.’ This is a challenge because in the ladder of life, the topmost step is much sought- for. Sometimes, I wonder: ‘What’s wrong with being in the second place?’
At times, our reason of serving ourselves first may be reasonable when we say: ‘We have to look after ourselves first you know, because, you know, we can’t give what we don’t’ have.
This is true but as a Christian we already have not only ‘something’ but we have ‘someone’ to bring to others- Jesus Christ. And this is the will of God for us Christians to bring His message of love in Christ to all the world.
The question is are we carrying out this will of the Father?
If we are, let’s keep it up. If we have stopped, let’s do it again. If not yet, it is never too late to begin.
How we may carry out in our lives the will of the Father?
Jesus in the gospel taught us that obeying God’s will means we let our actions speak louder than our words. It also means that we make a promise only if we are sure to deliver. But sometimes, we tend to be like the religious leaders whom Jesus criticised- we are only good in promises, in new year’s resolutions but not carrying it out or not exerting effort to realize them in our lives. Doing the will of the Father therefore is to be a person whose mind is like that of Christ as St Paul tells us again in the reading, whose words are true and of God, and whose deeds are good, loving and life-giving. In other words, to do the will of the Father is to have Christ always before us, as our mirror, our window and our point of view, in our thoughts, in our words and in our deeds. But to have Christ before us, we need to know Christ personally, we need to establish a personal and real relationship with him. To make this happen, we make it a habit to meditate on the gospels, love the Church as the body of Christ, and serve Christ who often comes to us in the guise of the poor, needy and even as an asylum seekers.
Today, we Filipinos are celebrating the Feast of our First Filipino Saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, a layman, who was martyred in Japan in 1637. San Lorenzo is one great example of a Christian whose action speaks louder than word, and whose determination to obey God’s will is undeterred. When asked by his persecutor: ‘Deny your faith, and we will spare your life,’ the saint didn’t waver. Instead he said courageously: ‘I will never do it. I am a Catholic and happy to die for God. If I have a thousand lives too offer, I will offer them to God [still].’
To carry out God’s will for us also calls for a conversion of our hearts. This means as we reflect on the first reading (Ezek 18:25-28), renunciation of our sins and turning back to God. This calls for a constant examination of our conscience, humility, asking for forgiveness, and doing the good.
Why obey God’s will?
Because God’s will is for our good, for our sanctification and for our salvation. At times, God’s will is against our will. Sometimes too, it is painful and unbearable. Yet, as Jesus has shown us, if we are obedient to God’s will, God will reward us with eternal life and with glory.
We need to obey God’s will because it is the course, the track that leads to life. If we don’t follow the will of God, we are leading nowhere.
Finally, we need to follow the will of God in our lives, because it is our only assurance of happiness, even if at times we have to face hardships, trials and challenges. Three years ago today, I lay prostrate before the altar of God, the joy of my youth, and was ordained his priest. On that day, I said my utter ‘yes’ to God who called me to work in his vineyard, and I went. That was my way to follow God’s will for me. I’m glad I did, because now I could only, I could never ask for more or for something else. Yes, I have had trials, challenges that seemed insurmountable, and still expecting more to come. Yet I believe this is God’s will for me, I’m sure He is always there to be with me, as he has been showing me ever since I responded to his call to serve him in the priesthood. Join me in thanking God for the gift of the priesthood he has shared with me. Help me pray that I may continue to be faithful to the will of God in my ministry of service. And help me pray as I pray for all of you too that we ‘could be a brother or a sister’ like that of a brother who puts the interests of his brother in need before his own.
San Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us. Amen.