14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the Scripture passages in which we heard of the coming of God’s salvation as prophesied and spoken in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, which was fulfilled in the time of the New Testament, with the coming of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, fulfilling all the promises which God had promised to all of His people from the beginning of time.
In our first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God spoke to His people through His prophet, speaking of the coming of a joyous and good time when God will bless Jerusalem, which represent the people of God, once again, and will give them the fullness of His grace and loving care again. And this must be understood in the context of what had happened at that time, in the land of Israel and Judah.
At that time, the kingdom of Israel and Judah, which were long separated for many centuries due to the divisions caused by the sins of the people and their kings, had been in great decline and experienced many sufferings and ruin, and in fact, right at the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel fell into the hands of the conquering Assyrian Empire. The cities of the northerners were destroyed and many of the people were brought away to exile in far-off lands.
In their place, foreigners were brought to stay in the northern lands, lands used to be populated by the ten tribes of Israel. Over time, the people there intermingled, between the remnants of the Israelites and the foreigners who were put to take their place by the Assyrians. These were the ancestors and the origin of the people later known by the time of Jesus as the Samaritans, as those people who inhabited the land of Samaria, the ancient capital of the northern Israelite kingdom.
At that time, the remnants of Israel living in the southern kingdom of Judah would not have realized what the Lord meant in what He spoke through the prophet Isaiah, but the time would indeed come, when at the time of the coming of the Lord’s Savior, Jesus Christ, all is revealed and God’s true intentions were made clear to everyone. And this beautiful truth is that God loves each and every one of His children that is all mankind.
Unfortunately, by the time of the Lord Jesus, the people had become bitterly divided, in what is typical of ‘us against them’ mentality, in which the Jewish people, the descendants of mainly the old exiles from the fallen kingdom of Judah, thought that they alone out of all people that deserved God’s love and inheritance. They took great pride in themselves being the descendants of Abraham and as the inheritors of the chosen people of God.
That ended up in them looking down and despising the other people whom they thought to be unworthy of God and His love and salvation, chief of which were the Samaritans, and then also the Greeks and the Romans, as well as other non-Jewish peoples and all those who did not preserve and follow the laws of Moses under the strict interpretation of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
But they failed to understand God’s true intentions and desire to love everyone, regardless of their nationalities or origins, language or background, culture or history. Each and every one of us mankind are God’s beloved creation and children, the fruits of His generous love for each and every one of us, without exception. Everyone is precious and important before the Lord, equal and without distinction.
That was what St. Paul wrote about in this day’s second reading, the part taken from his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the region of Galatia. St. Paul spoke of how the faithful has been united by their common faith and love for God, and how there was no more distinction between the Jews and the non-Jews, as everyone has experienced the same love of God, and have been brought into a new existence in God.
They all received the same faith through the hard work of the disciples and the Apostles, whom God had sent to propagate His truth and salvation to all those who are willing to listen to the truth and those who are willing to believe in Him and follow Him. Without the dedication of those faithful servants of the Lord, many would not have heard the truth of God and not be saved.
In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the sending of the seventy-two disciples by the Lord, who were sent in addition to the Apostles to the various places that the Lord Himself was to visit, to proclaim the Good News of God before those people and to call them to believe in the Lord’s salvation through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. They were sent to the people with the expectation that their missions and works would not be an easy one.
Yet, the Lord also encouraged them that they would not be working alone. For the Lord Himself would guide them on their way. He told them of what they should do and what they should bring, essentially to put themselves completely in the hands of God, trusting in Him rather than in their own abilities or in whatever things they have brought with them. He sent them two-by-two to His people in order to save them all, because He loves everyone, without exception.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on our own lives as Christians. Do we realize that we are the modern day successors of those disciples whom the Lord had sent? We are all called, as Christians, to be witnesses of our faith for the Lord as well, in whatever capacity we are in, in whichever community or opportunity we have, to bring forth God’s truth and love to the people He has loved so much.
Are we able to be good role models in faith as the disciples of the Lord had been in theirs? It is through our exemplary and righteous life that we become inspirations for others to follow, in reaching out to everyone and to bring them to the same faith which we now have. Let us all therefore be courageous and be inspired to follow and walk in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, and be witnesses of our faith in God.
May the Lord bless us always and may He guide us in all of our actions, so that in everything we say and do in our respective lives, we will lead more people towards God. Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN