24th Ordinary Sunday - Year C
Luke 15: 1 - 10

God feels our pain

When I was reflecting on what to preach for this homily, what was foremost in my mind and was the constant topic of conversation with my Jesuit community was the terror that had struck the Pentagon and the American World Trade Centre two years ago. The terror that reduced 220 stories of offices into a pile of rubble and decimated within minutes thousands of lives. This most horrendous attack by terrorists has shaken not only America but all nations of the world.

My brothers and sisters, as such a tragedy has shocked the world and our lives, we as Christians must not allow this tragedy to pass by without seeing its significance on us and on our faith. As we find ourselves saddened by the loss of thousands of lives, we are also shaken in our confidence and shattered in our dreams of desiring to live in a peaceful world. We can no longer hide from the reality that our present world exists on a fragile peace.

"What is our world coming to? Some of us may ask, "Where is God in all this?" "Could He have prevented this terror from happening and thus saved the lives of thousands of people who had families and children?" "Why must such senseless evil succeed?" To such questions, we have to admit that we are confronted with a painful silence. No superficial answers can soothe the pain of the surviving families whose loved ones have been murdered in such merciless attacks. In all these events, evil seems to have prevailed. But, as a Christian community of believers, we must have an even stronger belief that God has not abandoned the world to our evil ways. We must believe that God is still present. We must believe that He is in the midst of such pain, suffering and fragile peace. God too is feeling our pain and especially the pain of the families of the victims.

This is precisely why in today's Gospel we hear of how the shepherd who represents God leaves his ninety-nine sheep to search for the one sheep that was lost. This shepherd, and thus this God of ours, knows what it means to be lost and lonely. He knows and feels our helplessness and pain. He Himself has suffered all this human pain and tragedy while he was on earth with us. When He tried to teach us the truth, He was rebuked and rejected as a fraud. When His life was threatened, He was abandoned, disowned and even sold by one of His very own Apostles. And when He was mocked, spat upon and crucified as a criminal, only His mother stood by Him till the end. This very same God who had felt the full blow of human suffering and pain is now with us, and will continue to be with us. This is our faith and we must believe in it.

And as we believe and hang on to this God, we must not doubt for a moment that this God also wants to give us the strength to live in the hope that the world's fragile peace can be restored. This is a hope that is built on the belief that God will eventually triumph over all evil forces of destruction in this world. And as God presides over this crisis, we must also remember that our hearts too must be open and receptive to what He wants of us Christians. We cannot simply sit back because these events are real.

We are all, regardless of our rank and race, children of God. And our common bond is that we have God as our Father, His Son as our Saviour and His Holy Spirit as our guide and protector of our lives. If we are truly firm believers of this common bond of ours, then we must acknowledge the present fragile peace in our world and do something for God and for one another. For this we need to bring this reality into the very fabric of our daily living. We need to be ambassadors of God's peace to our homes, work place and our church. Otherwise, my brothers and sisters, our Christian faith in God can become a ritualistic belief or a routine behaviour that is detached from and numbed to the reality of our world. We cannot be a Christian who knows the laws of the faith, but sadly does not know the God of the faith who wants us to live in peace and unity.

My brothers and sisters, life is fragile. The passengers on board the plane who crashed into Pentagon and the World Trade Centre could easily have been us. God is challenging us to take our lives more seriously and live it more fully as He wants us to live. And so, let us search our hearts and ask ourselves how God is challenging us to be His ambassadors of peace. We can ask ourselves questions like: In my daily living at home, am I a person who brings joy, love and peace to my family or am I a person who sows division, causes hurts and refuses reconciliation to those who have harmed me? Do I live my life for myself and not lift a finger to care for the needs of people who are depressed and in pain? Am I blind to my self-centred ways and cannot see my own narrowness and pride, but can only see the faults and failures of others?

My sisters and brothers, this list can go on, but as I conclude, let us remember that our point in today's homily is this: Jesus in today's Gospel of St Luke is challenging each of us to recognise that in one way or another, we are the "lost sheep" of today's world. We have in a personal way deviated from God and have through our faults, failures and sinfulness contributed to the division and destruction, pain and suffering in today's world. And as we take responsibilities for such evil in the world, we must not forget how we may have also brought pain and division to our families, work place and church. Indeed, as the "lost sheep", we must admit that we need God to rescue us and restore us once again to where we belong; the sheepfold that is united in God's love and peace. Do we want such peace that God is longing to give us? Do we also want to bring this peace to others? God is waiting. Do we want Him to find us?


Fr Philip Heng, S.J.