CYCLE II: HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY OF THE 31ST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Phil 2 : 12 – 18, Lk 14 : 25 – 33.
If I tell you that I perfectly understand the meaning of the above statement of St Paul that we should WORK OUT OUR OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling, then I am a liar. Charismatic and Pentecostal influences have taught us how much we can do nothing without the grace of God, while Traditional Catholicism has taught us to make spiritual efforts in the cultivation of virtues knowing that faith without good works is dead, James 2 : 17. Jesus ‘compounds’ the problem for us in today’s gospel by saying that whoever does not bear his own cross and come after him cannot be his disciple after talking about hating one’s own father, wife, children, brothers and sisters and even one’s own life. Let me begin by pointing out that the use of a metaphor (some kind of exaggeration here) calls not for literal interpretation otherwise we end up breeding fanatics out of this passage.
I think Jesus is talking about the cost of discipleship on individual basis. Everybody has his/ her own peculiar circumstances of challenge in the question of discipleship. But the raw truth here is that unless there is a detachment from possessions, obsessions, attachments and relationships, there can be no real attachment to Jesus. The beatitudes we have been discussing since the feast of all saints are all blessings coming from one form of deprivation or the other ( poverty in the spirit, mourning, gentility, hunger for righteousness, purity, mercy, peacemaking and martyrdom). The last of the beatitudes which is a blessing of martyrdom is a blessing that covers a multitude of our sins ; that cancels automatically every sins and faults we have committed and opens the gates of heaven for us. Every martyr has succeeded in working out his/ her salvation by hating his/ her own life for the sake of the kingdom.
By extension, the 3 evangelical counsels, relate with martyrdom in a sense ; Poverty is the sacrifice of worldly possessions for the sake of the kingdom ; Chastity is the sacrifice of illicit sexual pleasures for the sake of the kingdom ; Obedience is the sacrifice of our personal will to that of our superiors for the sake of the kingdom. Our generation seems to be fast discarding the evangelical counsels and ipso facto discarding the crux of Christianity. Many Christians now want to read more about how God blessed Jacob and every business he did prospered ; how Elijah consumed the prophets of Baal with the Holy Ghost fire ; how Jesus turned water into wine at Cana, multiplied loaves for the 5000 hungry people but not how he fasted for 40 days and night or how he suffered on the cross.
Even some modern day priests would like to enjoy the privileges of the priesthood without the pains of celibacy, poverty and obedience. According to C W Lewis, ‘In a civilization like ours, I feel that everyone has come to terms with the claims of Jesus Christ upon his/ her life, or else be guilty of inattention or of evading the question’. I think we are becoming guilty of both inattention to the Word of God about the demands of Christianity and/ or evading the question completely. May God help us to be truly and really Christians.
May God bless you today!