HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A (3rd HOMILY)
HOMILY: DIFFERENT MESSENGERS, ONE MESSAGE!
One day in school, a teacher was explaining to students how gossips and rumours metamorphose into various versions as they are being passed on from one person to another. So he took about 15 boys out of the class, he wrote out a sentence about himself on paper which he read in class to the hearing of one of the boys. He then instructed him to go out and whisper exactly the same words into the ear of another boy, who in turn would whisper to another person until that exact information with the same words gets to the last person. And then the boys were asked to come and relay what they heard to the whole class. It was so hilarious when they all gave completely different versions from what was written on the teacher’s paper!
How difficult it is to carry on words without error from one person to another! The Word of God has been passed on from one generation to the next for so many centuries, how has Christianity fared with this? Have Christians retained the purity of the Word entrusted to them even in trying moments?
In the Gospel reading of today, when John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus withdrew into Galilee and stayed in Capernaum, where he started preaching the one message of the kingdom, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The arrest of John the Baptist did not stop Jesus from proclaiming the message of the Kingdom. Jesus’ withdrawal into Galilee had been interpreted by some as going into the Lion’s den since Herod the Antipas who imprisoned John resided in Galilee. As dangerous as that was, Jesus had to preach the Word undiluted. And definitely he had to pay the ultimate price like John.
To be effective in proclaiming the Word of God implies a lot of discomfort. One must be ready to leave one’s comfort zone. That nature of discomfort was not new to Jesus. This would be the third time Jesus had to move because of worldly leaders. First time, family of Jesus escaped Bethlehem to Egypt to evade the fury of Herod, second time, the family returned to Israel at the death of Herod, and now Jesus had to move to Capernaum in fulfilment of the prophecy. Jesus is the light of the World. His movement into the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that those who dwell in darkness have seen the light. Zebulun and Naphtali were the first cities to be deported during the deportation and suffered some dark moments in the history of Israel. That prophecy is what is contained in the first reading.
The foremost disciples invited by Jesus, Peter and his brother Andrew, and the twins James and John, all had to leave their comfort zones, left possessions, the twins left their father to follow Jesus.
Seeking worldly comfort and appeal are among the foremost causes of disunity among preachers today and a major cause of distorting the Word of God. Today Churches and preachers are greatly divided on moral, political and social issues. Different families are also divided on moral grounds. There seems not to be an absolute truth! The Christian message has become truncated, relative and confusing. With the lack of authentic witnessing by many Christians and the truncated messages they give to the world, the eternal Word entrusted to believers is beginning to sound more like rumour to unbelievers. Men and women of God have allotted themselves to various Politicians and to the rich using the Word of God to back evil deeds. While some are pointing accusing fingers at different groups and individuals, others are canonizing same people! Are all these words still the Word of God?
In the second reading from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Paul tries to settle issues of division resulting among the Corinthians. Some of the Corinthians had started placing emphases on the messengers, rather than the message. Options were Peter, Paul, Apollos, and then Jesus! Jesus had become just an option! When men of God divide the people according to individual interests, they are trying to divide the body of Christ. They are not working for Christ.
The Word of God is a revelation which finds ultimate fulfilment in Christ. John 1:1 says “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. Again, Matt. 24:35 Luke 21:33, Mark 13:31 state that heavens and earth shall pass away but the Word of God susbists to fulfil its purpose. All these show that the Word of God suffers no contingency. The heavens and the earth are awesomely magnificent but less certain, consistent or valuable than the Word of God!
Thus, looking at all the readings today, the following lessons become manifest: 1. Even though the messengers of God’s Word may be different, the Word of God is ONE. 2. The messenger is not greater than the message. 3. For the messenger to be effective, he must be ready to bear discomfort while witnessing.
Many Christians today have become disenchanted with the great mandate given by Christ “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. This mandate has become a cliche for many preachers of our time who prefer to preach prosperity and rather than accept the discomfort of preaching repentance, they concentrate on giving their self-made appealing messages in order to receive worldly gains. Those are their words and not the Word of God!
May the Word of God bring unity to the Body of Christ, to all the families and to all the nations of the World through Christ our Lord, amen.
Fr. Precious Ezeh