Homily for the Seventh Sunday of the Year (A) (19th February, 2017) on the Gospel
Lev 19:1-2. 17-18;
Ps 102:1-126.96.36.199-13 (R. v.8);
You must have heard the story of a notorious wife beater. He was later converted to Christianity and accordingly was instructed on the way of the Lord. One day his wife provoked him. He has raised his hand before someone called him Brother Peter. He stopped with his hand still in the air and turned towards the voice. The voice went on to remind him that he has become a new person in Christ. His hand remained in the air for minutes as if suspended by something before lowering it. He murmured bitterly as he went away: “Christianity has turned a man into a woman”. That voice was that of his parish priest who came to see how he was doing in the new way of life. They later discussed for long.
Topic: Between oneself and God.
Just like last Sunday’s gospel, today’s gospel can be divided into two parts: the teaching Concerning Retaliation (Matt 5:38-42) and Love of Enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Although the homily as we have noted is on the gospel as a whole but specifically it will focus more on the first part.
By nature, it seems that human beings are inclined toward defending themselves; each person protecting him/herself and whatever one considers as his or hers. Whenever one cannot stand against the perceived traitor/s he or she at least runs away. Sometimes some even go against the will of God just to do this. This self and whatever one considers dear to him or her that we naturally tend towards protecting are what we ought to have denied to become Christians. Christ enjoins us thus: “… If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23, cf. Matt 10:38; 16:24; Mk 8:34). If we do not deny this body, different passions at war in it will lead us astray, cf. Jas 4:1. This is because where one’s treasure is, there will his or her heart be also, cf. Matt 6:21.
So to be a Christian, one ought to surrender his or her will to God. It will no longer be question of what does one or community wants but what does God wants, cf. Acts 5:29. Hence St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians writes: “You are not your own” (1Cor 6:19). No true Christian can talk of his or hers not even one’s self. Everything ought to have been consecrated to God at conversion. We are just mere custodians of whatever we possess here on earth, cf. 2Cor 4:7. God has put his seal upon us at Baptism and given us his Holy Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee, cf. 2Cor 1:22. This God’s seal on Christians which is the mark of ownership is to remind us of all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after our own heart and our own eyes, which we are inclined to go after wantonly, cf. Num 15:39.
Saint Paul citing the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 32 verse 35 wrote: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom 12:19; cf. Heb 10:30). God whose properties we are will surely fight for us but it will be at His own time not ours. It is not right to take the place of God.
The declaration Joshua made to the people of Israel is still relevant today:
And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Josh 24:15).
We should remember always what Jesus asks us: “… what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Matt 16:26). There is an Igbo adage: ọkpọ onye kpọ ya literally meaning a person who leads his or her guide. We tend to see ourselves as more knowledgeable and powerful than God who created us. To be a Christian, one has to decide: Between oneself and God. That is either you follow God or yourself. It is important to take a definitive stand today. It is either one is for God or one is not. There is no midway, cf. Rev 3:16.
It is only when one surrenders his or her will before God that one can say with the Psalmist: “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear. What can flesh do to me?” (Ps 56:4, cf. v. 11). And then does one’s spirit rejoices in God who will be his or her Saviour, cf. Lk 1:47. We have died and our life is hid with Christ in God, cf. Col 3:3. As a result, what that man who was well-known for beating his wife said must be true in our lives. Christ must turn us into whatever that is good we are not.
Bible Readings: 2Chr 20:1-30; Prov 20:22; 25:21-22; Matt 10:34-39; 16:24-27; Lk 14:25-33; Ps 23.
Thought for today: Remember that you are God’s and allow Him to act on your behalf, cf. 2Chr 20:17.
Let us pray: Lord, may we always be conscious of the fact that you are God and that it is you who made us. May we live entirely as your people and the sheep of your pasture (Ps 100:3) – Amen.
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