FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR FRIDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK OF LENT
THEME: LEAVE YOUR GIFTS THERE AT THE ALTAR…
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Ezek 18 : 21 – 28, Matt 5 : 20 – 26.
Reconciliation is the life wire of Christianity. It is the engine house of spirituality. Without it, religion degenerates into hypocrisy and we become like a rolling stone gathering no moss. And so, Jesus says emphatically in today’s gospel : LEAVE YOUR OFFERINGS AT THE ALTAR…if you discover that there is somebody you need to reconcile with because going ahead does not make sense. We worship God in communion as OUR FATHER not as a disrupted or divided community.
Anger is one vice that disrupts the equilibrium of communion. It scatters the commonwealth of our righteousness before God. There are actually 4 passions of youth ( spiritual immaturity) ; Anger, Lust, Pride and Vanity. But anger is the worst of them all. Lust loves wrongly. Pride fails to love. Vanity loves the wrong things. But Anger douses the whole fire of love. Anger is therefore, the fire extinguisher of righteousness and devotion. Whenever it is uncontrolled, the endpoint is hell. Anger is momentary madness.
- Story of the Zen master and the belligerent Samurai soldier who wanted a clear picture of heaven and hell. As soon as he was insulted and he went into a rage, the Zen master told him ‘That is hell!’.
- I once watched a watsap video of two ladies that fought a lethal war and ended up smashing themselves with their cars just because one in the bid to open her door hit the other and failed to say sorry.
Ability to say sorry is one step that makes reconciliation easy. Jesus tells us during this Lenten season that our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. We must learn how to control our anger and quicken the process of reconciliation. Anger is inevitable and sometimes unavoidable. We also need the gift of righteous anger without which the whole world will spoil in a minute. Failure to be angry in the face of evil becomes another greater tragedy.
Our righteousness should also exceed that of our forefathers. Like the Jews of Ezekiel’s era who used to quote a proverb disowning personal responsibility for their calamity : ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge’, ours is a generation that is morally evasive – often pushing the causes of our calamity to ancestors. But God made it clear to Ezekiel in today’s 1st reading : ‘If a son of a wicked man turns from all the sins which his father has committed and does what is right, he shall not die…for the righteousness which he has done he shall live’.
But the real tragedy we see today is the tragedy of negative conversion : ‘When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and does abominable acts, shall he live?’ What we are seeing in today’s society looks more like negative repentance. Many are ‘being born against’ their parents’ ways. Look at the immoral lives our Youths are embracing in broad daylight – the music they play and enjoy : Flavours and Finos – with all the vulgarity of language, exalting the most immoral of values. Our Youths consume this music and willy nilly, it affects their lives.
I don’t know what many think today about salvation but Christ has not, to the best of my knowledge, reduced the standards. In today’s gospel, he makes it clear : ‘Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’. Those people claimed to be religious but their moral lives were hypocritical and extrinsic. Christ wants us Christians to go deeper in eradicating sin – a kind of ‘sanatio ad radice’ – cleansing from the root of every sin. For example, the root of murder is anger and malice. The root of adultery is impure thoughts. The root of stealing is avarice. The root of slandering is lack of charity and humility in judgment.
Only a positive process of repentance / conversion will save us, especially during this lenten season. We can’t afford to be worse in morality than our parents. That tantamounts to spiritual retrogression. We can’t afford to commit sins at a young age that our parents never dreamt of committing at an older age. We must beware of turning away from a background of righteousness to wickedness. I think this is the greatest tragedy of our time! May God help us to acquire the skills for conflict resolution and reconciliation especially during this Lenten season and be able to live a more righteous life than our ancestors lived if we want a more blessed life than theirs.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO