Community Word: Obedience to God’s will keeps us growing in holiness.
Order: “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and seen in me.” (Phil 4:9a)
Holiness is the crowning virtue of a Christian. To be holy is to come to the perfection of God and is reached by our complete obedience to God and by modelling our character after the character of God. It points to the common bond by which all the Redeemed are united, the bond of sincere love among all brothers and sisters. Our lives are then characterized by holiness like that of God when we experience Him by our faith through our salvation in Christ. “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy,” (Lev 11:45). The Sunday readings for the month provide us with insights on how we can continue in our journey towards holiness.
The theme for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time is – We grow in holiness when we focus our minds on what God wants us to do. In the book of Ezekiel it says: “Free yourselves from all offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit,” (Ez 18:31). To be filled mightily with the Spirit, we must first be emptied of self for pride and arrogance hinder holiness. Then our hearts will be open in obedience to what God wants us to do. In the gospel, Jesus presents the Parable of Two Sons where He challenges sinners and rebels to turn away from sin and walk in the newness of life, to proclaim a sincere “Yes, Lord” that cancels a wavering “No.” We are always confronted with these two choices. Part of us cannot live up to our promise to be faithful to God. Thus, we cannot take anything for granted. On the other hand, we can admit that we have been wrong and see ourselves in need of conversion. After all, this is what Christian holiness means, to be in the process of continued conversion. In this awareness, we can received the promise this week which says: “If he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life,” (Ez 18:27).
For the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the theme is – We grow in holiness when we use our God-given gifts and talents to prosper God’s kingdom. As Christians and followers of Christ, God will ask us on Judgement Day what we have done to spread the gospel of salvation and promote justice and well-being to His people. We are given time, talent and treasure not necessarily for our benefit alone, but for those whom the Lord has given to us to nurture, to minister to and to share fullness of life that God has gifted us with. He has chosen us from the world to go and bear fruit that will remain. What have we done to prosper the vineyard of the Lord and make it fruitful? Have we learned from Jesus and use His words to evangelize so that more people may come to believe in His mercy and compassion? The way to holiness calls us to live a fruitful life and then receive the Lord’s promise for the week: “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds,” (Phil 4:7).
We grow in holiness when we heed God’s invitation to commune with Him, is the theme for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In our Christian faith, all men are gathered under the Fatherhood of God to fellowship with Him and experience His unconditional love. But not everyone respond in a positive way. Some are too busy to pay attention to any spiritual invitation, as they are involved in worldly preoccupation. Some are rich but selfish, refusing to share their resources with the needy and treat the poor as equals. The lure of immediate pleasures, though temporary, are too strong to accept God’s invitation to a lavish banquet of blessings and favors. The book of Isaiah reminds us that “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces” and “save us!” (Is 25:8a, 9b). We know that being in communion with God gives us the assurance of strength in our distress and suffering. Then we can claim His promise and say, “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” (Phil 4:19). But we must understand that God does not force His invitation for “many are invited, but few are chosen,” (Mt 22:14).
The theme for the 29thSunday in Ordinary Time is – We grow in holiness when we give to God what is due His Holy Name. God said: “I am the Lord and there is no other, there is no God beside me,” (Is 45:5). There is no authority on earth higher than God’s authority. In the gospel, there were those who, with malice in their hearts, tried to entrap Jesus. But the wisdom of Jesus disarmed them before men and instead showed them the truth about the way of God. Firstly, God can see what’s in our hearts and therefore, we cannot tempt God by our pretentions. Secondly, God deserves the highest honor and adoration and therefore, our priorities and our actions should glorify His Holy Name. Everything that we cling to is powerless unless we have the power of the Holy Spirit (1Thes 1:5). In this, we recognize God’s promise for the week: “… I have called you by your name … It is I who arm you.” (Is 45:4b, 5b).
Finally, the theme for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time is – We grow in holiness when we manifest love of God and neighbor through our actions. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives us a very clear expression of the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandant. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mt. 22:37 – 39). Loving God is always clear to us as the foremost commandment, but at the same time loving our neighbors and self is like loving God. Jesus connects the two commandments into one great commandment. While distinct from one another, they are equal in importance and necessity. All other commandments are derived from these two. If we live our lives in honoring these two greatest commands, we are truly doing God’s will. How are we going to be judged at the end of time? By how we live these commandments; what we do to others is doing it to the Lord. Thus, the Lord has given this promise to the poor: “If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate,” (Ex 22:26b).
Lord Jesus, you continue to show us the way to the Father. We are you branches and you are the Vine. We want to remain with and in you, Lord. Grant us the grace to persevere in our journey towards holiness and to keep doing what we have learned, received and seen in you. We pray this in your mighty and holy name, Jesus. Amen.