Theme: REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS
Today is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us to repent and believe the good news! To repent is to turn away from sin and from the world; and to believe the good news is to believe not only in God, but in a God of love, mercy, forgiveness and salvation! The God of Jesus Christ!
In fact the first words of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Mark which is the first and most original gospel are “Repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mk 1:15; NJB) And in fact we begin the most important season of the Liturgical Year, that is, Lent-Easter with these words as we are signed with ashes on Ash-Wednesday: “Repent and believe the gospel.”!
Again, the readings today tell us to repent and believe the gospel! The gospel today tells us that a man had two sons. He told the first son to work in his vineyard, but he refused, but later he relented and he worked in the vineyard! He said the same thing to the second son and he consented immediately, but did not work in the vineyard! Which of the two sons did the father’s will? The first of course!
The gospel continues to tell us that the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders of the people! This is because the tax collectors and prostitutes repented and believed the good news, but the chief priests and the elders of the people did not repent and believe the good news!
As in Mt 3:15; 5:6; and 6:33, the word “righteousness” means the “saving activity of God”.
(CSB; Mt 3:14-15) The righteousness of John points to the “saving activity of God” in Jesus Christ!
The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us that when a good man renounces his good and does bad, he will die; but when a wicked man renounces his wickedness and does good, he will live! To begin with, the first reading tells us about individual/personal responsibility, that is, we will not be punished for the sins of our parents or grandparents, but we will be punished for our own sins!
More than that the first reading tells us about five other important things:
(i) In every good man there is evil and in every evil man there is good. (ii) Good man can become bad and bad man can become good. (iii) Be good, do not become bad. (iv) Good brings life, but evil brings death. (v) Repent from evil and be good!
The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm is a prayer of repentance. It is a “prayer for forgiveness and guidance” (CSB) Thus we responded three times:
“Remember your mercy, Lord.” (Ps 24:6; Sunday Missal (SM))
As in the Eucharist, that is, make present, real and effective your mercy, Lord!
The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first and third stanzas (vv. 4-5. 8-9) ask for God’s guidance and the second stanza (vv. 6-7) asks for God’s forgiveness. Thus the second stanza from which the response is taken:
“Remember your mercy, Lord, and the love you have shown from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth. In your love remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord.” (Ps 24:6-7; SM)
The second reading also has something important to tell us. The second reading tells us to be united! More importantly, the second reading tells us that pride divides us, that is, when we think of ourselves first, when we think of our interest first, when we think that we are better than others, when we compete and compare ourselves with others, etc; but humility unites us, that is, when we think of others first, when we think that others are better than us, when we think of others interest first, when we do not compete or compare with others, etc.
Most importantly, the second reading tells us to be humble as Jesus Christ was humble!
Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but he humbled himself and became the Servant of God,
the Suffering Servant of God. That is why he became man and became lower than man by accepting death, death on the cross; but God raised him up high and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall acclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!
Three years ago, same Sunday as today, we celebrated the “World Day of Migrants and Refugees” and the theme was “Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World”! That is, Migrants and Refugees can make the world better economically, politically, culturally and spiritually! That is why both our Pope and Bishop welcome migrants and refugees! Both our Pope and Bishop have a special message for us! We will quote from the Pope first, and then we will quote from our Bishop.
“Dear migrants and refugees! Never lose the hope that you too are facing a more secure future, that on your journey you will encounter an outstretched hand, and that you can experience fraternal solidarity and the warmth of friendship! To all of you, and to those who have devoted their lives and their efforts to helping you, I give the assurance of my prayers and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.”
Pope Francis, Vatican, 5 August 2013.
“Dear migrants, your presence here in the Diocese of Sandakan has not just brought about tremendous economic growth, through your dedication in the various sectors.
You have added colors to our church. Your involvement in the many activities of the local church is an indication of your strong faith and desire to participate and to belong.
You have blended well into the community of faith. You are an integral part of the Body of Christ. Church life has been greatly enriched by your presence. I urge you to remain as one so that together, as brothers and sisters, we may stride forth on a journey of hope.
Jesus fully identifies with the sojourner and to welcome the sojourner is to welcome Jesus himself. Jesus teaches us to show concern for the poor and oppressed who come to our land seeking for a better tomorrow.
As we celebrate today’s occasion, let us be mindful that the warmth of welcome and acceptance that flows in this venue should not be confined within the walls and within the moment. Let us continue to reach out generously with an open heart to our brothers and sisters on the move that there is always a better tomorrow, a better world for all.”
Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom
Dear migrants, our Pope welcomes you, our Bishop welcomes you, and all of us welcome you! A happy and blessed “Migrant Sunday” to all of you! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.