Sep. 23, 2017

Twenty-Fifth Sunday


Readings: 1st- Is. 55:6-9; 2nd- Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Gospel: Matt. 20:1-16

The prophet Isaiah’s message fits into our contemporary situation; “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near”. This is a call to the people of Israel at a time of political and economic hopelessness characterized by injustice and waywardness. Those situations are still real today.

There are two strong verbs in that invitation: “seek and call”, words that command action. Isaiah tells each of us, “seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near”. He seems to foreshadow what Jesus would say in the gospel, “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt.7:7). Those statements seem the same, demand us to take active steps in recognizing God’s will in our Christian life. I recall here, the response from the King of Nineveh after Jonah had proclaimed destruction for the city. The king of Nineveh realized that God’s word demanded action. He took responsibility as a leader and proclaimed throughout Nineveh, “Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall eat anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish” (Jonah 3:7-10).

For the past few months, we have witnessed devastation of cities, pounding of islands and coastlands by natural disasters of unprecedented magnitude. From hurricane Harvey, to Hurricane Irma, from Hurricane Matthew to Hurricane Maria. The cities of Houston, Florida are in very bad shape since after that. News described Puerto Rico this way, “Puerto Rico remained in the throes of chaos and devastation Thursday as the remnants of Hurricane Maria”. The sight of these hurricanes definitely raise great concerns, numerous human and animal lives have been lost, properties have been destroyed. The media said for instance, that the Dominican Republic will never be the same following the catastrophe done by hurricane Maria. Scientists talk about climate change which has now been over politicized, while varying spiritual interpretations have followed from the behemoth. One thing is clear, “God’s ways are not our ways”

We need to recognize the relationship between seeking the Lord and understanding that his ways are not ours. Why has science not been able to sort out the mysteries of nature sufficiently? Why couldn’t scientific and technological discoveries find a way to prevent hurricanes from happening? That would be our human desire because no human being would want to experience these calamities. Are they meant to make us humble? Do they teach us of our human limitations? Are they pointing toward apocalyptic times? Those are questions we cannot completely answer. The response however is this, if we recognize that God is in absolute control of the universe, then we must seek his will in our lives. The Psalm makes it clear, “God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3; 135:6-7); “Your ways are not my ways”. Therefore, scientists, astronomers, politicians, etc.; all must seek God.

Prophet Isaiah goes further to say, “…while he is still near…, while he is to be found”. How do we seek the Lord? We seek him by doing his will. We seek him in prayer. We seek him, like the king of Nineveh said, by desisting from evil. We seek him by shunning wickedness, hatred, acrimony, and by respecting the dignity of the human person created in his image. We seek him by being good people whether poor or rich.

Presidents and leaders of nations must seek God- lead in the fear of God; respect the constitution of their lands; recognize the plight of the poor; enhance good working conditions; make policies that are beyond partisan or tribal interests. They seek God when they listen to the masses, take corrections; seek wisdom in governance, promote peace, justice and development.

Teachers and guardians must seek God. As guides for children and students, teachers have great responsibilities. They seek God by being mentors who live by the truth. They must seek God by teaching children that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. They must seek God by teaching children respect for others, letting them know that education is beyond reading and writing; that the dignity of the educated lies in appreciating the value and dignity of the human person and promoting its course. Teachers must seek God by teaching with commitment, love and justice.

Parents must seek God by being the pillar of human development. They must seek God by being physically, spiritually, and morally present for their family. As husband and wife, parents must seek God by being first and foremost good couple. Good couple will surely make good parents. Seek God by making him the center of your family lives. Seek God by directing your children in the manner that uplifts God’s name in your home. Seek God by courageously counseling and admonishing your family against bad and negative technological and media influences of our time. Seek the Lord by making out more family time and less screen time. You must seek God by recognizing that the first point of education is the home.

Priests, pastors and religious leaders must seek God; be shepherds after the mind of God. Religious leaders seek God by being pastorally available. We must seek God by inspiring the flock to turn to God in prayer. We must seek God by living honest, and committed Christian life. We must seek God by being prophetic, speaking hope, faith and charity against the increasingly negative and hate speeches out in today’s world. We must seek God by supporting the married, the single, the young adults, the youths, the sick, the depressed, the suffering, and all God’s children in a Christ-centered manner.

The world today must realize the need to seek the Lord, to call out to him. The Psalm says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon him” (Ps. 145:18). In as far back as 1995, Pope John Paul 11 decried what he called, “the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenseless”. The Holy Father wrote, “In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale”. That’s what we see today, the great reason to seek and call on God. Pope Francis tells us, “Whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms… How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost” (Evangelium Gaudium, 3).

My dear friends, the prophet’s invitation should be taken home today, “Your thoughts are not my thoughts”. That statement is not intended to merely dismiss or rationalize the reasons for our failures, disappointments, pains and suffering. It is an invitation to ask ourselves to what extent we align to the will of God. Are we failing because we are not trying or are we trying just the way we want to? Christ gives us the answer in his response to the laborers in the gospel, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own? Are you envious because I am generous” (Matt. 20:15). God is near each time we do his will. Let’s tell our families, friends, colleagues to seek God. Let’s tell our children to seek God. If we seek the Lord, we not be put to shame and destruction.