If we were to reflect on the experiences of human living and on what is happening in the world, I think it is not too pessimistic to say that every person has faced, and many are facing and continues to face and struggle with different forms of pains, trials and tribulations in life.
And when we reflect on the bigger picture of the world we discover immense suffering of millions of people in the world; for example, there are the voiceless foetuses, the faceless masses of migrants and refugees who are considered to be “burdens of society” instead of as fellow human beings whom we should relate and respect with dignity.
The suffering that I am reflecting on is more than our need to feed the hungry, medicate the sick and care for the lonely and aged. All these are basic and essential humanitarian responses. In other words, when someone is hungry, sick, lonely or aged, as a human person with a heart of flesh instead of stone, the basic human thing to do is to care for these people, instead of marginalising them. Not to care for them because we need to provide for our own needs is to be inhumane. Sadly, in the history of humanity, and our world today, there is the great evil of cruel injustices that systematically and structurally destroy the lives and dignity of human persons, and God’s creation of the environment.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we call ourselves fellow Christians and disciples of Jesus, the important question that we should ask ourselves is, “Can these evil trends of the world be reversed? What is today’s Gospel saying to you and to me? On a personal level, “Is there real and lasting hope in our personal lives that will give us the needed strength and light to continue to persevere, and live the Gospel?
In each of my last two Sunday homilies, I shared about the true story of “Maribeth” and I quote. “When I was studying in our Jesuit university in Manila for my priesthood, some 25 years ago, a Singaporean family who lived in an HDB flat willingly and without persuasion sent me $1,200 for the desperate need of Maribeth a two year old baby girl who was dying, and whose family was too poor to afford any medical expenses. This family, whom I call the “Wong family” (not their real name), decided to part with their hard earned savings, for a baby that they never even met or knew. They said that they were willing to share the little they had for Maribeth because she needed their help desperately, and they were happy to live a simple lifestyle. To cut a long story short, in spite of the frantic help we tried to give to Maribeth, she eventually caught a fever and died.”
My sisters and Brothers in Christ, people like the “Wong family” are witnesses of this real and lasting hope that Jesus is proclaiming to you and to me and to our secular world today. If we are truly authentic to God and ourselves, we cannot deny that deep in your hearts and my heart, we each long to be and become people like the “Wong family;” people who are truly Christ-like. However, the sad reality is that we struggle with putting into practice what we hear as proclaimed in the Gospel of Christ. We constantly and daily fall short of the ideals of loving, caring and sharing with one another in the way that Jesus has shown us.
Why is this so? One of the main reasons why we find it difficult to live the Gospel as fully as Jesus has proclaimed to us is that we are influenced into loving, sharing and caring for our own needs first. Even on airlines, we are told in times of emergency, please put on your oxygen mask first, only then help your child and others. In our homes, children are often taught, “Take care of yourself before you care for others.” All these sound perfectly logical. But, if we truly want to love God and others, then should our love be confined to loving them within our comfort zones and in a logical manner?
Please note that I am not saying that the Gospel of Jesus is not logical. God’s Love in the Gospel of Jesus is beyond logic; it calls us to love in a “self-sacrificing way that Jesus has shown us. If the “Wong family” did not love in Christ-like ways, they would NOT have stepped forward to care for Maribeth’s needs. They would have come up with a string of reasons and excuses that are all very logical like they need to care for themselves before others. And if this type of “logical” reasoning were to happen frequently enough to you and me, we will end up paying lip service to the Gospel of Christ and instead, develop a secular culture where we give and share only what we have in “excess;” our loose change, our free time, our retirement energy instead of our youthful zest and creativity of making an effective difference in the lives of others and the world.
How many of us know of people like the “Wong family” who are moved by Christ’ Self Sacrificing love that they willingly parted with their hard earned savings for someone they do not even know? Is this not what we find in Jesus’ preaching throughout the Gospel? Was this not the price that Jesus paid, and of which He ended up on the Cross and was Crucified for our sake and salvation?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer to all our personal pains and the evils that pervade the world is found in the two parables that Jesus proclaimed in the Gospel today. Jesus Christ is our true and lasting Hope! In the first parable, Jesus tells us how when the seed is planted by the farmer, it is left on its own to grow till the harvest time. “Night and day, while (the farmer) sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know.”
In this parable, Jesus is reminding us that God His Father is at work in our lives, at all times and in all situations of the world. He is caring for us, protecting us and providing us in all our needs. Regardless of how dark, desperate and destructive our life’s experiences are and regardless of how pervasive the evil is in the world, we need to entrust our lives even more wholeheartedly to God, Our Lord, the Creator of our lives and the universe, the Saviour of the all humankind will surely triumph.
In the second parable, Jesus’ answer is found in His explanation of the mustard seed; the smallest of all seeds at the time of sowing in the soil, can grow into the biggest shrub for all the birds of the air to take shelter in its shade. In this parable, Jesus reminds us that even as the pains, problems and pervading injustices in the world can create a pessimistic outlook on our lives and the world, we should never despair. Insofar as we trust in God more wholeheartedly, He will triumph in our lives and in the world. All the evils of this world will eventually be destroyed and the divine gift of Peace, Joy and Happiness will prevail for all eternity, in God’s Time and Ways.
And so my brothers and sisters in Christ, as I as I conclude and sum up, let us remind ourselves that even though we live in a secular world that is painful and merciless, dark and destructive, we are never alone, as God’s Kingdom is also already present; the Christian faith is a faith of True Hope, Peace and Everlasting Happiness. In the first parable today, Jesus affirms and assures us that God is always there for us; night and day, He will give us growth in our faith, hope and love in Him.
And this is further emphasised by Jesus assuring us that when we are truly open to His Gospel Truth and His Compassionate Love, as the “Wong family” did, even if our faith is the size of a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, our faith can truly grow into becoming a Christ-like faith that knows no bounds. The Wong family and the thousands of saints that we have in over the centuries of the Church, gives us clear evidences that, the Gospel of Christ is True and with God’s strength, it is possible that we live the Gospel to the full.
Let us remember that we merely need to water the seed, and God will give the growth; as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we merely need to return home, and God our Father will restore and embrace us in His Love; as in the Wedding Feast at Cana, we merely need to fill the jars with water, and God will turn it into wine. In short, we merely need to open our hearts and seek God’s Will and He will fill us with His Compassionate Love, Peace and Truth, which the secular world cannot give, and of which the pains, sufferings and evils of this world cannot destroy.
What is our response to Christ today? Will we open our hearts sincerely and daily to God’s Will in our lives and for the world?
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
visitors since 20 June 2015