Homily for 27th Sunday in Ordinary time year A 2014
An epitaph found in a cemetery has a caption that’s really interesting. I even now plan to have it in my tombstone too. I should add it as a post-script in my last will. It says:
Remember man, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now, so shall you be,
Remember this and follow me.
It was a stark reminder of the reality of death. But someone noticed that it lacks something. So a reply on these words was written underneath the caption saying:
To follow you I’ll not consent,
Until I know which way you went.
I like this little comment because it points to us of the reality that death has not the final say on us. There is something on the other side of death- and we Christians, believe this to either be eternal life or death of our souls.
Our God though doesn’t will us to die forever because he loves us so much. We know this as our faith tells us that when we were on the brink of death because of our sins, God sent us his only Son to save us from eternal death. But this is not a licence for us to take God’s love for granted, nor do whatever we want to do, and falsely assure ourselves that God’s love will save us in the end anyway. No. When St John tells us of this great love of God for us, the evangelist points out one important thing for us. St John says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). John notes ‘that everyone who believes in him’, so this calls us to re-affirm, and renew our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
So to believe in Jesus Christ is to follow him and we need to make it our daily decision because in him we find the way to life. Through him we find the way to salvation. In him, we’ll be saved from the way of eternal damnation.
It is a big call, because as Jesus says: ‘The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’ (Mt 7:13-14).
But here’s a good news for us, in Christ, we see that though the gate to life is narrow, or difficult to enter, it is not impossible.
To enter the narrow gate to life is respect life as Christ respects life himself. Respecting life means we promote life, value it, uphold the dignity of human life. In other words, let us celebrate the gift of life. Jesus has shown this in many instances in his human life. He cured the sick, he fed the hungry, he exorcised the possessed, he raised the dead back to life, he even died to save us from eternal death-to give us life. He didn’t discriminate. As Christians, this is our call too, to uphold the dignity of human life, no matter who we are, where we come from, whatever we do. Let us be reminded that if we don’t respect life, like those tenants in the parable in our gospel today, God will eventually take it away from us and everything that we have, and what a loss it would be.
To follow Christ is to be humble before God and to be grateful for God’s unconditional love for us. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less’, says C.S. Lewis. This is one strong point implicit in the gospel we heard today- because in there we heard of the tenants (the leaders of the Jewish people) who took pride of their being ‘God’s chosen people by taking this great privilege for granted. They only thought of themselves. They took matters into their hands. They killed the servants sent by the owner (i.e. the prophets). As the parable tells us, they wanted to own the vineyard themselves, by killing the son of the owner (i.e. Christ, the son of God). In other words, they wanted to take over the control from God himself. They thought they can take God out of the picture and make things work as they want. But no matter what we do, if God is out of the picture, the picture wouldn’t be as beautiful, wouldn’t be as wonderful, wouldn’t be complete, wouldn’t be as meaningful, wouldn’t be lasting, and wouldn’t be life-giving.
To follow Christ and to truly live a Christian life and to enter into life, is to bear fruit, and not just any fruit, it is to be a good one. To bear a good fruit is to do the good, to stand up for what is true in the eyes of God. St Paul in our second reading would offer us few tips here. ‘Brothers [and sisters],’ he says, ‘ fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, everything that can be though virtuous or worthy of praise.’
Abraham Lincoln sums this up very well saying: ‘Whatever you are, be a good one!’
Jesus has shown us that there is life after death, and it is also what God wishes all of us to get in the end. Like Christ, let us live our lives fully in humility, respect for our lives and lives of others, as well as striving to live a fruitful life- a good fruit for that matter.
To remind ourselves always to follow Jesus let us imagine Jesus saying to us:
Remember man [and woman], as you walk by,
As you are now [on earth], so once was I,
As I am now [in heaven], so shall you be,
Remember this [love God and one another as you love yourself] and follow me.