CATHOLIC HOMILY FOR 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR A)
HOMILY THEME: SET YOURSELVES CLOSE TO HIM!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * Act 6 : 1 – 7, 1 Pet 2 : 4 – 9, Jn 14 : 1 – 12.
Economic problems can sometimes, distract the spiritual life of believers that they lose their firm connection to Jesus Christ as the vine source of our nourishment, Jn 15 : 1 – 5. It is said that a hungry man is an angry man and an angry man cannot pray. Yet we make the greatest mistake by looking for the food first and sometimes offend God in the process so that even when we have eaten, we are still angry and hungry. That is why people talk of putting body and soul together since ‘man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’, Matt 4 : 4. Economic problems set in when there is scarcity of resources or corruption/impatience in the distribution of the available resources. Today’s readings offer us the following pieces of advice ;
B. AVOID DISTRACTIONS.
In today’s 1st reading, the early Christians, practising a kind of socialist system of government, had the economic problem of distribution of resources and the Hellenist widows complained of being neglected. The apostles could have found themselves, like Martha, distracted with the sacrifice of tables, Lk 10 : 38 – 42, but they resisted that temptation and concentrated on prayer and service of the Word. They therefore elected seven deacons to handle such temporal affairs.
Prayer is the soul of the Christian life. It is through prayer that we set ourselves close to Jesus Christ who is the living stone rejected by men and chosen by God. According to Vima Dasan, ‘Prayer is the pillow of religion. Only the self sufficient do not pray, the self satisfied will not pray and the self righteous cannot pray’. Fr Emma Onuh also said that ‘Prayer is the dialect of salvation and all those who cannot speak it are dumb, near dead and near dammed’.
Today’s 2nd reading therefore encourages us to set ourselves close to him so that we become the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices : ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God…’. Holiness is a universal call for everyone to partake of in the Church through the universal priesthood of all believers spoken of so vividly in this passage. Both clerical and lay priests must unite together in this one mission of prayer and offering of spiritual sacrifices.
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C. AVOID FEAR
Fear is the opposite of faith. It is the greatest strategy of the devil to take us away from the Lord’s arm during the time of crises. The devil uses financial crises, health problems, quarrels, etc to put fear in believers and make them lose/compromise their faith.
Today’s gospel says : ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God and believe also in me’. Fear is the only weapon which witches and wizards use against us. Fear makes us backslide into idolatry. It makes us get back to the ‘corns and cucumbers of Egypt’ and sets us back to slavery. But when we trust God and tarry awhile in prayer his Word says : ‘Be still and know that I am God’, Ps 46 : 10.
D. SET YOURSELVES CLOSE TO HIM
Jesus assures us to set ourselves close to him because of these 3 reasons ;
(a) He is the way ; The way he taught us is the way of gentility and humility , Matt 11 : 29. That way does not lead anybody astray.
(b) He is the truth ; The greatest truth about Jesus Christ is that he is the Son of God – the truth about his divinity. The devil has continued to fight this revelation, Jn 18 : 38. He is the Word that was made flesh and has dwelt among us, Jn 1 : 14. He was crucified but he is risen and so death has been swallowed up in his victory, 1 Cor 15 : 55.
(c) He is the life ; He is the greatest source of human happiness and through the Eucharist he feeds us and makes us contended. St Augustine says : ‘You have made us for yourselves O God and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee’.
Examine the way you are following now ; is it the way of darkness or light, is it the way of truth or deceit, is it the road of illicit sexual pleasures , drugs, alcoholism, is it the way of materialism, stealing, cheating, selfishness, is it the way of violence, fighting and hatred?
Only prayer and devotion to the Word of God can bring you back gradually to the way of divinity. The Word of God keeps you connected to the will of God and the Eucharist sustains you in perfect communion with him. We must ply this way through a renewed devotion to Sunday Masses, evening Sunday Bible studies, daily morning Masses and attendance to our Pious societies.
If you are a priest, examine yourself and be sure that you have not left prayer and the ministry of the Word for the ‘service of tables’ – it could be secular businesses, jobs, football attachment (especially European league) even academics, friendly relationships and all forms of worldly pursuits. Every society that is religiously sensitive, separates clearly these two sets of service providers ; ‘My Lords, spiritual and temporal’. Let there be no role confusion. Let there be no transgression of domain. Any secular jobs we are doing as priests is not mearnt to make us richer or more comfortable but to alleviate our burdens on the people of God or to encounter them more directly and show more charity.
Let those who are handling our secular affairs be more devoted to egalitarian distribution of resources. Let jobs and University admissions be given to the most qualified not the most connected. Let the interest of the poor widows not be forgotten by the Church of our own generation. Let those who are handling our secular affairs do their work diligently at all levels (Community, Local Government, State and Federal) .
Let our priests not be distracted by secular affairs. Let them remain faithful to their divine office with deep devotion to the Eucharist and let them prayerfully prepare their homilies and deliver them with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Their lives must speak even louder than their words.
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