(Proper 14 / 9th Sunday after Pentecost)
by Fr. Herbert F. Fadriquela Jr., Chaplain to the Filipino Community in the Diocese of Leicester in the Church of England
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
The readings today speak of faith, hope and action.
The Letter to the Hebrews cited the faith experience and journey of Abraham and Sarah. In the Gospel, Jesus encourages his disciples to have a firm hope in waiting for the coming of the master by being ready. The Old Testament reading speaks of action: “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
We can reflect on this in relation to Sustainable Development Goal 16 which looks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. This is an important element in reconciling ecology, economy, society and God.
Every year Filipino churches produce pastoral statements about peace which if followed would make the country a just and peaceful place for all. But despite public show of respect for the voice of the church in the Philippines, one thing is quite clear: leaders of the national government in the Philippines conduct their business as though the church does not exist.
This is evidenced by the growing number of Church leaders who are being harassed, intimidated and at worst, even killed, for speaking with grave concern to the alarming and worsening human rights situation. This includes the government’s brutal war on drugs and against social and environmental defenders, lawyers and human rights defenders and leaders of indigenous people’s communities people who are standing up for the integrity of God’s creation and for a just and peaceful society.
The government’s brutal campaigns that have claimed thousands of lives and left thousands of widows and orphans.
The Most Revd Rhee Timbang, Archbishop of the IFI, says, “These killings are gruesome and the attacks to human lives are horrendous. They characterize a society in deep violence and a nation wallowing in death and grief and whose soul is slowly disintegrating. These killings and attacks eloquently speak that the road to war is not the way to build up a nation.” The Filipino people are not merely dealing with the fact of a growing number of individual cases of human rights violation, rather an endemic situation where human rights don’t matter anymore because in the ordinary run of things they aren’t respected as they ought to be. The integrity of all of creation is not being respected as it ought to be.
Reflecting on these things and the readings today we are challenged on the following:
- As Church in obedience to the God of life do we raise our voice against human rights violations? Do we raise our voice against injustice that put power and profit above our planet and its people? In being silent, the Church gives the impression to the poor, deprived and oppressed (and all) that it is allowing this evil.
- The Church needs to engage in proclaiming the saving act of God to awaken and sustain hope in all people. We can work to mobilise our faith resources, to help our communities to understand their situation and to enhance our capacity to address these.
- The Church should urge authorities to attend to the needs of people and to support them in encouragement, moral support and material support. Especially for families who have lost loved ones. We must listen to their cries for justice.
With faith and hope translated into action, let us journey together in the fellowship of the church, where we receive God’s forgiveness when we fall into sin, where we get inspired by the examples of those who are strong, where we hear the mystery and wonder of God’s grace, where we experience a foretaste of life in glory. Amen!
Old Testament reading / Psalm
The Old Testament reading speaks of action: “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
Christian mission is introducing Jesus Christ to the people and attending to their physical and social hence Christian mission must involve concerns for justice, peace and human rights.
We cannot speak of the mission of the church without asking ourselves how we are relating and ought to relate to the poor, powerless and the marginalized.
Jesus also demonstrated this love by his actions to people and by his choice of friends – poor folks, despised women, persons who suffered from illness and disabilities and those who hunger for justice.
New Testament reading
The Letter to the Hebrews cited the faith experience and journey of Abraham and Sarah. The early Christians of the apostolic times regarded Abraham as the father of faith. It’s not in the sense of being the author of faith that Abraham gets the honour of being its father. It simply means that the journey of our faith began with this man and his household.
The God who called Abraham was not introduced to him by his parents. His parents worshipped the god or gods of the family and tribe for many generations. Abraham, therefore, couldn’t stay in the same place in the midst of his clan and worship a new god. By changing gods, Abraham must have to cut himself off from his clan and make a new start. When Abraham left Ur, he also left an old life in order to begin a new life.
Faith’s journey, therefore, begins with conversion – leaving an old life in order to carve out a new life. The new life is not something finished; faith begins a new life, nurtures it through time and perfects it in the course of living. It means being “born again”, as evangelical Christians call it. In the light of Abraham’s own conversion what does being born again mean? It means leaving behind a life that is secured by the things of this earth to a new life that is solely secured and sustained by God’s grace.
The journey of faith is a journey towards the maturity and perfection of the new life that the Spirit gives us through Jesus Christ. This journey takes place in the ordinary course of living as we carry out our duties in the family, in our workplaces and in society.
In the Gospel, Jesus encourages his disciples to have a firm hope in waiting for the coming of the master by being ready. Christianity is not only about faith; it is also about hope. This hope is about a wonderful reality that awaits the faithful in the future. One must have to ready ‘for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Throughout history, Christians sing about this hope through trials and tribulations.
Christian faith is founded upon a firm hope that God is leading the faithful to a glorious future, both in heaven and on earth. Jesus said: “32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Christian mission calls Christians to move from the center to the periphery. This means that those who stand at the center are called to divest themselves of power and privilege and become free to move towards the periphery. Jesus told someone who stood at the center, “Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor.” (Mark 10:21) It goes without saying that everything that the church has should be shared and used for the benefit of those who are in need. That is the meaning of Christian stewardship. Just as Peter said, “silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6), so must the church declare its poverty and offer what the Lord has given it to the poor, the sick and oppressed. For the church’s true possession is nothing else but its faith in Jesus Christ and its hope in his return in glory.
Further reading (books / websites / videos etc.)
Further information on the growing human rights situation in the Philippines:
by Fr. Herbert F. Fadriquela Jr., Leicester