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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Abounding in Mercy, Rich in Kindness!

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai, FMH
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 24, 2017
St. John the Apostle Awasi Catholic Church, Kisumu Archdiocese, Kenya

Happy Sunday!

Today's readings show us that God is
outrageously generous and merciful, and that His wisdom surpasses our human categories of value and judgment.

In the first reading (Isaiah 55:6-9), Isaiah exhorts the people of Israel, returned from exile in Babylon, to sincerely search for the Lord who is merciful and generous. Dispirited by the experience of a devastated homeland, they have become weary of their faith and their vaunted heritage. He reminds them that the Lord’s ways are not obvious to us, and need to be actively sought while we have the opportunity.

In the second reading (Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a), St. Paul shows us the spirit of true Christian service. He asserts that he would bring honor to Christ, whether by life or death. Death for him is gain for he would relish the heavenly reward. To continue to live in this world, however, would mean a more fruitful labor for the Gospel. This would benefit more greatly the community of faith and encourage them to live a life worthy of the Gospel.

The gospel reading(Matt 20:1-16a), presents us with the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. It demonstrates the difference between our spontaneous judgements and God’s thinking. In the Kingdom of Heaven, all are equally loved. Human standards are not to be used to measure God’s generosity
which is founded on His mercy and
compassion. His ideals of justice, concern and love for all can never be matched by any purely human program. It is God’s will and wisdom to save all who want to work for Him, and that should be our intention too.

Several things stand out for our understanding.

First, equality -- as we understand it -- may convey justice. But it is goodness, generosity and love as personified by Jesus Himself that enable us to go beyond justice and share with those who are marginal, unfortunate and abandoned members of society. And lest we forget, even these virtues are gifts from God.

In fact, there is nothing that we are and have that has not come from God. We cannot be envious or jealous because God is generous to someone else. The tender compassion of
God is all visible for us to see and emulate. A person out of work is a tragic figure and all the late comers wanted some opportunity to work and God out of his generosity gives it.

Second, a life of generosity reflects God’s nature in a special way. Surely, God is just; but He is also outrageously generous and merciful at the same time. We do not get what we deserve. Rather God gives us more than we deserve. Today, He calls each one of us to be a generous people. We know forgiveness is hard, but we see that real generosity is even harder than forgiveness. 

Generosity is a fight with human nature, with what we like to call fairness, but which can often turn into resentment -- not resentment against injustice, but against the grace God throws around to other people. When it happens to us, we praise God for his grace to us and our families. When it happens to someone else, as often as not, we get out the calculator, and switch on the lamentation mode.

Finally, we all are welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven; where new comers belong; where 
the last are first and the excluded are included; because God's thoughts are not our thoughts. God's standards are not our standards. Each one of us must feel at home. We can therefore begin to mirror heaven in our homes, in our jumuias (African online shopping), in our Churches and let all our brothers and sisters feel welcome. 

There are not tribal or political or social affiliations in heaven. At the table of God, we all belong. We who will live in eternity together in heaven, ought to begin here on earth, embracing those who are different from us, loving those whom we have been taught to hate, in imitation of God Himself.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures
(Psalm 145)

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