26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel - Mk 9:38-43. 45. 47-48
“Don’t Forget – Ultimate Purpose of Life!”

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 27 September 2015

In today’s Gospel that we just heard proclaimed, Jesus explicitly reminds us, very bluntly, that the ultimate purpose of life is to “enter into the Kingdom of God”. 

Jesus emphasizes very strongly and graphically that “if our hands should cause us to sin, cut it off . . . it is better to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell; into the fire that cannot be put out.  Likewise, if our foot should cause us to sin cut it off . . . so also, if our eyes were to cause us to sin, tear them out . . .

Through such strong words, Jesus is saying to you and to me, that that is only way to live our lives daily and at all times.  Jesus is reminding you and I very clearly that whatever we have in our lives, whether it is our bodies or whatever we possess as positions or power, talents or time, wealth or health, family or fame, all that we have must be all be used and lived in such a way that they help us reach the final goal and purpose of our lives which is the eternal life of heaven.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent - 12 century Icon

My brothers and sisters in Christ, such powerful and prophetic proclamation of Jesus in today’s Gospel should notcome across to us as a warning or worse still as a threat or condemnation from Jesus.  On the contrary, these words of Jesus should be welcomed with great joy.  Why?  We have to face the truth that you and I need regular reminders to help us stay on the path of life that leads to eternal life of heaven.  Without such reminders and challenges, it is so easy for you and me to stray from the path through all the different temptations of our daily living? 

Have we not heard of people or perhaps ourselves intending to leave our homes for a few minutes to buy some household items like hand towels or shampoo, but ending up returning only several hours later with all kinds of things except what we had originally set out to buy?  And when your family asked you, “Why did you take so long to buy the bread and shampoo?  Well, I saw this handbag that was on sale . . . it was fantastic; I saved $500!  But, then in the distraction or temptation we forget that we had actually spent $2,000 for something that we may not even need. . . as there are probably another ten other handbags that are hardly used!

My sisters and brothers in Christ, this common examplein many ways do remind us too that while God who had created us out of His infinite Love and intended that we live our lives meaningfully in our love for one another, so that at the end of our lives, we will all return to Him and live with Him for all eternity in joy, love and peace, yet, how often have we found ourselves, tempted away from the true path of life that Jesus has shown us, and finding ourselves straying and attracted by the many other things of life that are superficial and superfluous, like the eleventh handbag that we bought on sale. . .

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are not focused on the final destination of where our lives are meant to lead us, then we most probably have forgotten our true identity.  In being tempted and swayed by the many superficial and superfluous attractions of life that may feed our ego and flame our pride, we may have forgotten the fundamental question, “Who am I?” 

Today’s Gospel’s challenge of Jesus to you and I should bring us joy in our hearts, light to our minds and hope in our life’s journey.  This is indeed a joyful proclamation of the divine Gift of eternal life in heaven that awaits us when we die.

Our Jesuit, Fr Antoni Ponnudurai who passed away peacefully five days ago lived his life to the full.  He shared his love of Christ passionately through his life of great simplicity, deep compassion and selfless service to all who needed his spiritual guidance and care especially those who were poor, sick and dying.  Fr Antoni mirrored Christ’s Compassionate Love to all peoples regardless of their race, rank and religion.  His clear witness of Christ is a reminder to us to remain focused on the goal of our lives. 

In the homily that His Grace Archbishop William Goh preached at the Funeral Mass yesterday, he said that when we mourn for Fr Antoni, we must remember that we are mourning for ourselves because we have lost the physical presence of a loved one.  However, we should not mourn for Fr Antoni, but instead rejoice with him because he has achieved his goal in life.  Fr Antoni has lived his life to the full in God’s Love and Ways and is now reaping his reward of the eternal life of heaven.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, in reminding us about our eternal destination, Jesus in today’s Gospel is also proclaiming a lifestyle and attitude that we Christians should have and livedaily.  Jesus’ apostles were mistaken when they tried to stop people from doing much good, just because they were using Jesus’ Name.  In other words, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is reminding us of the importance to be inclusive in the way we live. 

Over the last six and a half years, our Parish Goal constantly reminded us to be inclusive.  The spiritual dimension of our Parish goal called us to worship in the Eucharist in such a way that every person, regardless of who they are is precious in the eyes of God.  The Social Mission dimension of our Parish goal challenged us to reach out to the poor, needy, sick and bereaved in our parish family; they too are our precious brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Communitarian dimension of our Parish Goal reaffirmed our identity by urging us not only to build NCC communities, but to become communities of evangelising disciples.   In doing so, we are obliged to build unity amongst our Christian brothers and sisters and reaffirm our need to foster greater religious harmony amongst different religions in Singapore. 

And so, let me conclude by reminding ourselves that what Jesus is challenging His disciples in today’s Gospel is very fundamental to The Good News of Salvation.  Jesus is pointing out to us and reminding us not to forget the Truth and reality that our final destination and everlasting home is not of this world but in the next; in heaven with Him in Glory, Joy and Peace. 

Fr Antoni Ponnudurai has shown us through his life that we are to live our faith fully and passionately in accordance to God’s Love and Ways, and never take each day that is given to us as God’s gift for granted.  In fact, we are each called to value all the blessings that God has given to you and to me and with God’s gift of wisdom use our time, talents, health, wealth and life the God has given us, for the sole purpose of preparing ourselves to draw others to meet God and live with Him for all eternity in heaven. 

In other words, where we end up after we die, depends on how much love we have shown and shared in our lives . . . as Christ has taught us.

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

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