CYCLE II: HOMILY FOR FRIDAY OF THE 18TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: MORTIFICATION VS BEATIFICATION: THE LAW OF TRUE DICIPLESHIP.
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: *Nah 1 :15 – 3:7, Matt 16 :24 – 28.
Is heaven actually merited or inherited? If it were to be inherited, many of these noisy churches we find today would claim it. Is it achieved through grace or human effort? If our upright deeds are like filthy rags before God, Is 64 :5 and we are justified by faith not by works then where lies the merits of our works of piety? I just posed these questions so that we see the confusion which superficial reading of Bible texts can put us into. Faith without good works is dead, Js 2 :17. We therefore insist on qualitative faith – the type Abraham had that was reckoned to him as righteousness, Rom 4.
Let us listen carefully to Christ in today’s gospel because there will be payback time when the Son of man comes like an account officer with his pay roll to ‘repay every man for what he has done’. Christ says : ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’. Mortification is synonymous with beatification. It is the practice of denying oneself to please God and neighbour and finally merit eternal salvation. Bishop Michael Eneje of blessed memory spoke so much of holiness as a function of liking one’s dislikes and hating one’s likes. Christ sings this like a song in today’s gospel stating the law of discipleship as taking up your cross and following him. We are called to accept our crosses not to construct one for ourselves. Accept implies that it comes from God not from us or the devil. Our challenge is to turn them into objects of glorification. He makes our crosses light because his yoke is easy and his burden is light, Matt 11 :28 – 30.
The ‘It – is – not – my – portion syndrome’ is becoming too much in modern day Christianity. If we do what we desire, pray for what we desire and go for what we desire, then religion becomes business not discipleship. That is why, even our Lord Jesus Christ, although he was God, learnt obedience through suffering, Heb 5 :8. The whole life of Jesus – His birth, life and death is a continuum of suffering and self denial (kenosis), Phil 2 :4 – 11.
It is not suffering in itself (masochism) that redeems us but the detachment and love that accompanies it. The love of Jesus can turn every cross into a crown. As St Paul puts it : Who can separate us from the love of Christ…suffering, hardships, persecution, sicknesses or death…?, Rom 8 :31 – 35. Our blessed assurance is that ‘whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’, Matt 16 :25. So many priests and religious are dying of stress related sicknesses ; ulcer, malaria, typhoid fever, prostrate, fibroid, hypertension, road accident in the course of our priestly work, etc. But we are consoled by this blessed assurance of beatification coming after our mortification. May modern day Christians still see the need for mortification as a demand of true discipleship.
May God bless you today!