22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 28, 2016.
Sir 3:17-18,20,28-29; Heb 12:18-19,22-24; Lk 14:1,7-14
Being Accepted by God
Extrajudicial killings have been in the news here in the Philippines in the last few months as the new administration intensifies its war on illegal drugs. Suspected drug pushers and addicts are being found dead daily. Many people have justified such killing by stating that the menace of illegal drugs must be curbed at all cost, even if it requires the summary execution of suspected drug addicts and pushers.
One possible reason why anyone or group may support such killings or prefer to be indifferent or uncaring towards the victims is the failure or refusal to really appreciate the fact that we all have been accepted by God just as we are. Our attitude to extrajudicial killings will be different if we really appreciated the fact that every single one of us has been unconditionally accepted by God irrespective of our sins or virtues.
The letter to the Hebrews in today’s reading draws a stark contrast between the Old and New covenants to encourage the Jews who had recently converted to Christianity and were missing the solemn Jewish worship in the Jerusalem temple. The old covenant worship was marked by fear and reverence such that the worshipers were not sure that they were good enough to be acceptable or accepted by a terrifying God, “You have not approached…a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them.” The Jews had even begged that Moses and not God speak to them directly lest they died at the fearful inauguration of the covenant in Sinai. (Ex 20:19)
On the other hand, the new covenant worship is based on the confidence of being accepted by God as His own children just as we are and enrolled in the community of saints in heaven:
You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect.
We are accepted by God just as we are not because of what we have or what we do. In truth, we have been accepted by God just as we are because of the blood of Jesus Christ, “the mediator of the new covenant.., the blood that speaks more eloquently than the blood of Abel.” The blood of the slain Abel had called out to God for justice and vengeance against his murderous brother Cain. God heard this cry but He did not kill Cain but rather mercifully placed a mark on his head to keep him from being killed while he suffered banishment from the land because of his fratricide. (Gen 4) The blood of Jesus shed on the cross did not beg for vengeance but eloquently called out to God for mercy and obtained for us our unconditional acceptance by the Father. Jesus did not wait for our conversion or repentance before He shed His blood for us on the cross, “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8)
Now that we are in communion with Christ and His blood, we are brought into communion with all those souls for whom Christ shed His blood. This is how true Christian worship brings us into relationship Mama Mary and all the saints in heaven, the heavenly angels, the souls in purgatory, and off course, all the souls on this earth, past, present and future whether they are saints or sinners. Every single one of us have been accepted by the Father because of the blood of Jesus.
Jesus commands us in today’s Gospel to invite to our banquets the poor, crippled, lame and the blind instead of our friends, relatives or wealthy neighbors. This is a call to accept others just as they are without discriminating or thinking about how or if we are going to be repaid for our generosity towards them. But we cannot accept them all as they are and open our hearts to them completely unless we are certain that we too have been accepted just as we are and destined to be partakers of Christ’s own Resurrection. Rewards from others will always be uncertain and insufficient but, as certain as the resurrection, there is always certainty of beatifying divine reward, “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we all have been accepted by God as sinful, blind, weak and unfaithful as we are not because of the good that we do or are but simply because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Our souls are inebriated with this accepting blood of Jesus and gives us hope of our own glorious resurrection. This blood is a pledge that God is still working in our lives to transform us into His own glorious children. How then can we refuse to accept others just as they are? How can we demand change from them before we accept them? How can we close our eyes and pretend that things are okay as suspected drug dealers and addicts are being slaughtered right before us? If the blood of Jesus has made us accepted as God’s own children, how then can we act like Cain and speak in defiance, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” When we fail to deeply appreciate our being accepted by God just as we are, we begin to discriminate and categorize others as deserving of our rejection or outright death.
To accept others as they are does not mean that we accept or condone the evil that they are doing. True acceptance of others says, “I may not accept or approve of your actions and lifestyle choices but I accept you as a person redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and made acceptable to God with the possibility of conversion and growth in holiness.” It means that we do not wait for their conversion before we can accept them. This is the type of acceptance of others that we must have if we are going to enjoy the reward of joy in Christ’s kingdom.
In our Eucharist today, we enter into the perfect and complete Christian worship. By the blood of Jesus, we are irrevocably accepted by God and brought into communion with the angels and saints, Mother Mary and the souls in Purgatory. We are also brought into communion with all our brothers and sisters who are perpetrators or victims of evil in any form. They may be the drug pushers and addicts in our country, the suicide bombers in the Middle East or Africa, the abortionists and the unborn children, the sexual predators and their victims, etc. Jesus Christ shed His blood for them all that they be accepted by the Father. What they need are our sincere prayers, constant sacrifices, and strong and united voice in defense of life in all its stages based on the conviction that by the blood of Jesus that accepts us all as we are, there is always hope for conversion and healing.
We welcome all into our own hearts when we accept all people as they are and not because of what we can get from them. Let us do this now and always simply because we too have been accepted by God just as we are and He will surely reward us with His own endless joy in the heavenly kingdom if only we accept all people just as they are.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!