TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY
First Reading ( Is 50:5-9 ):
With the Lord's support we need not fear disgrace
The disciples answered Jesus' question politely and with the words people with conviction had said about Jesus. But at the time, there were others who had different comments and criticisms about Jesus. Some said , “Is not this the carpenter's son?” ( See Mt 13:55 ). What good is to be found in someone who does manual labor? Some said he was a person who ‘liked to drink and eat and is a friend of sinners.’ In other words, he was not a socially prominent person, or from the upper classes nor a leader in society; he is only suitable to be with people of the lower classes.
Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) later became an apostle. When he first met this Jesus from Nazareth, he did not see anything extraordinary about him. His rather scornful comment was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” ( Jn 1:46 ) How could anyone with such a poor background be of any great worth? Even more derogatory, some said Jesus consorted with the devil because his power to cast out devils came from Beelzebub, the ‘Prince of Devils.’
In the hearts and minds of people, each one judges Jesus differently. Some like him very much, others strongly dislike him. He is really a very controversial person, thus fulfilling Simeon's prophecy, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed” ( Lk 2:34 )
Today, though in the hearts of Christians Jesus is God and Savior, there are some Hong Kong people who have a very negative impression of him. They call any remark about Jesus they consider exaggerated or unrealistic, ‘talking about Jesus,’ which is a derogatory phrase. To them, ‘ talking about Jesus’ is equivalent to talking nonsense. In the eyes of many modern people, Jesus is not even worth a penny!
So today if Jesus stood before us and asked us, or asked you, who would you say Jesus is ? You may have many ‘standard answers’ which you learned from other people. For example, you may say Jesus is God, Savior, brother, friend, bread of life, vine, shepherd. Or he is almighty, he is Lord of history; he is everywhere, he will come again to judge the living and the dead… and so on. But if I ask you seriously ‘ Do you really believe these answers?’ how would you answer? Would you answer courageously ‘I truly believe’ or ‘I believe completely’?
But if Jesus has really saved you and has enabled you to stand up and lift up your head, why would you still feel inferior ? If Jesus is really your brother, your friend, why is your relationship with him so tepid? If Jesus is really our spiritual food, nourishing our spirit, why are we so indifferent when we receive Holy Communion, or so seldom go into Church to adore the Blessed Sacrament? Or after receiving this ‘spiritual food, why is it we do not have the strength to face life's challenges?
If you believe Jesus is really a shepherd why do you not turn to him after sinning, lack the spiritual energy to turn to him and rely on him? If you believe Jesus is almighty and is the Lord of history, why do you think that those who control history are the political leaders of Beijing or Taipei or Britain or the United States? Why do you not have full confidence in China and Hong Kong's future? If you really believe that Jesus is everywhere, why do you dare to sin in secret? If in the presence of companions you dare not try use trickery, why would you do so in the presence of Jesus? Do you not know that Jesus sees the ‘secrets of the heart’? If Jesus is to come again to judge humankind, why do you not make efforts now to build up treasure for eternal life?
Some say knowledge is difficult, but action is easy. Others say knowledge is easy, but action is difficult. Some people try to combine knowledge and action. But they are two different realities and cannot be taken together. To be able to unify the two is the highest kind of wisdom. Faith is also like that.
In the “Doctrine of the Mean” Confucius says, “To be fond of learning is near to knowledge, to practice vigorously is near to magnanimity, to acknowledge shame is near to energy.” (1) That is to say, if we study hard we get closer to being wise, if we practice to the best of our ability we get closer to having a kind heart, if we acknowledge shame we get closer to being courageous. Knowledge, kindness and courage are three virtues which can only be achieved with continuous practice
A Sung scholar went on to say, “Only with practice is there true knowledge.”(2) We can say also that only with practice will we have true faith. That is to say, we can attain true faith in Jesus only if we carry it out in our daily lives.
Let us not only have faith in Jesus but also carry out his words in our everyday lives, and in this way be in contact with Jesus, grow in knowledge of him and build up a strong relationship with him.
When Jesus one day comes to ask us who he is, let us be able to say in all truth and sincerity, ‘You are Christ, our Savior. We have loved you already and want to love you for all eternity.’