July 23, 2019 – Tuesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
From the Book of Exodus (14:21-15:1)
Homily on the second day of the Gathering of Youth Ministers from the Conference of Asia-Oceania at Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
How important really is our family for us? For most of us, our families are the source of our joy, security, identity, confidence and assurance. But for some of us also, our family can be the source of our deepest pain, traumas and bitterness in life. Thus, we cannot deny that it is in the context of our families that we also first experience “being loved” and “being rejected.”
Moreover, in the growth and development of our Christian faith it is also within the context of our families that we first experience God and we first imagine God. Thus, when I was growing up I was introduced to a God who was rather strict. God was someone that everybody should fear. I was told that this God punishes a naughty boy and rewards a good boy. As a young boy, I tried to be good to avoid God getting angry at me and punish me later on. Unconsciously, I also became fearful to God.
What motivated me then, to do good was out of fear from being punished rather than out of love. I imagined God like an old man holding a stick who is ready to strike a boy who has been naughty. This image of God definitely haunted me. This was my very experience also at home from my parents who were ready to strike me with a stick whenever I become naughty and disobedient.
However, later on when I became conscious of my faith-relationship with God, then, I realized that God’s true character is not the one that I first thought of. Experiences would actually tell me that God is kind and generous, loving and forgiving. This again is my experience of God with my family. I came to know and became confident that God loves, and in His kindness, God reveals his gift of presence to us in the most intimate way where we could feel Him. When we allow God to reveal himself to us, then God brings healing and reconciliation, freedom and peace.
Talking about family, this reminds me of today’s Gospel. Jesus brought out a new idea of being a family where we too shall experience deeper God’s presence and invitations for us.
Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers and sisters?” In a way, Jesus expanded the meaning of family relationship by pointing out the members of his family. These were those people listening to him, gathered around him to do the will of his Father. Jesus did not reject his immediate family but expanded its essence.
Obviously, this family is beyond blood relationship. This is toward a deeper spiritual family relationship. This calls us to identify ourselves and others to be part of a bigger family of God.
But how do we really belong to this family? Jesus told us that it is by doing the will of his Father. And the first step of doing the Father’s will is to LISTEN to the Son. Indeed, it is in listening that we also realize and become aware of God’s invitation for us.
It is also clear that Jesus pointed out that his mother, brothers and sisters are those who were gathered around him and together listening to him. Certainly, there is wisdom in listening together, as a community or as family because the process of discernment becomes deeper, more realistic, clearer and empowering when we listen together and discern together on what God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.
This is what we are basically doing in this gathering of Youth Ministers. As a family, we are called to discern and listen carefully to Jesus and at the same time to the voices of the youth to whom we are sent. This allows us also to have the opportunity of sharing our ideas, reflections and creativity in making ourselves witnesses of God’s peace and joy.
As we recall also today the story of Exodus and particularly the crossing of the Hebrew people in the midst of the sea. This story tells us that the people crossed the sea not just as individuals but as a family. This calls us also to cross together and to leave behind whatever that enslave us to go forward.
Our Egyptians today may take the form of our biases and judgments over others, or our unhealthy attitudes such as self-centeredness, self-entitlement, arrogance, bitterness, hatred and anger. Our Egyptians could also be forms of addictions or compulsive behaviors that prevent us from bringing healing, life and peace in our ministry.
God promises us today that if we trust him, the, he will accompany us to cross over and be liberated from those that enslaved us, preventing us to be free, joyful and alive persons.
Then, having this experience of liberation as individuals and as a family, we too shall become witnesses of the liberating power of God through the gift of our person and presence.
To sum up my sharing, there are three invitations that I would like you to dwell.
First, be in touched with our personal God-experience. This will help us to have grounding in our faith-relationship with the Lord.
Second, allow ourselves to be part of God’s family by listening to Jesus through the scriptures and experiencing again his presence through the grace of the sacraments and through us and among us.
Third, allow the Lord to accompany us today to cross over from the sea of our differences, doubts and shyness, fears and biases so that together we will be transformed into living witnesses of God’s joyful presence. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR