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June 17, 2020
June 19, 2020

Homily for Thursday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, 18 June 2020, Mt 6:7-15

I know we have gotten used to calling our Gospel reading today, “The Lord’s Prayer”. But I prefer to call it the Vision and Mission Statement of Jesus in the form of a prayer.
Jesus goes beyond the Jewish idea of humankind “created in God’s image and likeness”, which—by the way— is our common Biblical basis for upholding the intrinsic dignity of every human being, regardless of race, color, or creed. More than image of God, he envisions us to become sons and daughters of God. Therefore he teaches us to call God “Our Father”, so that we also learn to treat each other as “brothers and sisters”.
I know that there are people who criticize Christianity for its doctrine of the afterlife. They accuse us of using religion as an “opium for the masses”. They think we are offering hope in an afterlife as a kind of anesthesia to deaden the consciousness and make it easy for people to endure their sufferings while remaining submissive to the ruling classes. They say we keep people in servitude by promising them a reward for their oppression in this world, what they call “a pie in the sky when you die.”
I would advise people who think this way to pay close attention to Gospel for today. They would be surprised to find out that Jesus actually takes this world very seriously. I have never been of the impression that Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God as an lllusory heaven for disembodied souls after they die. What he actually invites us to do is to live life ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. Meaning, to begin heaven already here on earth! How? By hallowing God’s name, allowing God’s kingdom to come and letting God’s will be done among us. Where? Here on earth, so that our lives on earth become already a beginning of heaven! In short, there is no hope of a hereafter for those who don’t aspire for it already in the here and now. No heaven for those who cannot begin it already in this world!
I do not hear Jesus talking about us going to heaven but rather about heaven coming to us, changing the course of the world’s history, of renewing creation and transforming our relationship with each other. And heaven did come to us, the moment God humbled himself, the moment he emptied himself and allowed himself to take flesh in Jesus Christ. He allowed himself to become a member of the human family, so that we could in turn become members of God’s family. John’s Gospel says, “He came unto his own people but his own people did not accept him. But to those who accepted him, those who believe in his name, he bestowed the grace of becoming children of God.” (John 1:11-12)
Jesus made it very simple. To become children of God, we have to learn to love each other as his Son Jesus Christ has loved us. But wait. You’ve heard only the Vision so far; and for now, brace yourself for the mission part. The Kingdom of God is something we must constantly seek, something we must ask for, something that only God can give us. Therefore the second half begins with GIVE US. Meaning, it is a gift; it is grace, but we must seek it. What is this grace about? Three things: Food, Forgiveness and Deliverance from Evil.
We cannot grow into God’s children, unless we learn to nourish ourselves properly with the food that we need, not just every Sunday, but everyday! There is more to us that needs nourishing than just our stomachs; our souls get hungry too. And we will starve spiritually, if the only food we care about is that which fills us physically. We will end up like empty grains of wheat that have no hope of growing and bearing fruit when they fall and die. That food is the Word of God; that Bread of Life is the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, the food which transforms us into Christ when we receive him.
Wait, there is more. We are sons and daughters of a humanity that is damaged and broken by sin. But the good news is, he can restore us into his image and likeness and transform us into his children if we learn to seek forgiveness in all humility and to be forgiving of others as we are forgiven.
Only if we are well nourished by his word, and healed by his mercy can we now be strong enough for the spiritual battle with the Evil One. And for this, the only grace that we seek is for him to stay with us, to never abandon us when we are tested.
There is your summary of Christianity in a nutshell. It is a message of hope. We’re not doomed; we are redeemed. For God has already promised us the kingdom, the power and the glory, if in Jesus his Son, we learn to live and move and have our being.

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