Monday, August 10, 2009

Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday Year B

Listening to so many confessions have taught me an important lesson: the greatest temptation is not the temptation to lie, to steal, to murder, to commit adultery or to do this or that, but to despair. Many people who come for confessions have told me how they feel like giving up. After coming repeatedly for confessions, they see themselves falling into the same kind of sins. They tell me: “What’s the point of coming for confession at all, I’ll continue to commit the same sins?”I will always explain to them that the greatest temptation is to despair and wanting to give up. This is coming from the devil. We are not perfect and until we die, there will always be the chance for us to repent and seek forgiveness from God. If we are already perfect, then we don’t need repentance, which means that we don’t need God.

We can also feel despair in respect of others, especially to those who hurt us. We have given them ample chances for conversion and change and yet they repeat their faults again and again. There are times when we also feel despair over our own personal situation. We are faced with a particular big problem or with many problems and we feel like giving up, ending it all and even taking our own lives.

Today, the readings give us a message of hope and consolation. The Lord is telling us today, “Do not give up. Press on. I will give you the strength.” In the first reading, we hear the story of the great prophet Elijah and how he felt like ending his own life out of despair. But God gives him the strength in the form of physical food and spiritual encouragement in order for him to continue his mission. I always believe that God will never abandon us as he has not abandoned Elijah when he was really ‘down and out.’ Perhaps, some of you may be feeling like Elijah or would have felt like him at one time or other. Remember this, God gives us the strength to carry on. God will pick us up when we are down. He will raise us up when we feel like giving up. He will strengthen us when we feel that we have no strength left for ourselves.

What about feeling despair in respect of others? What happens when we feel like letting go of a relationship or a friendship with someone who constantly hurts us and disappoints us? St. Paul gives us the remedy. “Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.”

All this is beautiful and nice but is it possible? I would say that sometimes it is humanly impossible. But with God everything is possible. God will give us the grace to do so. God will give us the courage and the strength to forgive others and accept their limitations. God will seal and strengthen the bond of friendship between us. God will allow us to bounce back when we feel like giving up. Jesus himself has promised in today’s gospel: “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

This is why we need to come to celebrate mass every Sunday and as frequent as possible. It is at the mass that we receive the life giving bread of Jesus, his own body. It is at the mass that we come as broken people, sinners, people who have experienced failure and despair. It is at the mass that we will receive nourishment for our hunger, strength for our weakness, hope for our despair, and consolation for our sorrow. It is at the mass that we can receive the Spirit of God to begin once again. It is at the mass that we meet this God who draws us to himself and to Jesus. It is at the mass that we will receive new life.

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