Fr. Ben’s homily for Friday of the 25th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Homily: * Haggai 2 : 1 – 9, Lk 9 : 18 – 22.
The prosperity gospel is the brand of Christianity that sees Jesus primarily as a harbinger of wealth and riches. This ideology, championed mainly by the Pentecostals has a lot of attractions and has drawn plenty of followers in contemporary times. But recently, Pastor Benny Hiln, one of the strongest and most popular Pentecostal ministers of our generation, decided to decamp from this ideology. The prosperity gospel has a lot of scriptural basis. Going by primitive Old Testament theology, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is a God of prosperity. The revolution later came in the deutro – canonical books when through stories like the story of Job, the Maccabees, Esther and the Wisdom books, the Israelites had to be made to understand that God was still present among his people even in the midst of their sufferings, captivity and slavery in a foreign land. So, are you surprised that up till now, the deuterocanonical books have been rejected by Protestants as apocryphal? It is because their language and content are actually revolutionary to and against the prosperity gospel. The revelation of the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel in today’s 1st reading is that the treasuries of all nations shall come in and that the glory of God would still manifest in Israel and the splendour of this house shall even be greater than the former.
Early Christianity therefore went through a lot of conflicting theological ideologies. Even among the apostles, their concept of Christ and his mission were divided. When Jesus was asking this question: ‘Who do the people say that I am?’, he knew there would be so many theological understandings about his person and mission. In each strand of answer lies an ideology about Christ as follows:
1. Asceticism; Those who say that he is John the Baptist are ascetics, thinking of a Christ that will live a desert life, praying and fasting as John did.
2. Prophetism; Those who say that he is Elijah or one of the old prophets are thinking of a Christ that will give them new revelations about God and perhaps challenge the status quo as prophets like Elijah and Jeremiah did.
3. Welfarism; Those who said, like Peter that he is Christ of God were actually thinking of the Messiah who will rescue Israel from suffering and take care of their needs.
4. Martyrdom; When Christ now told Peter that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, it became clear that although Christ was all the above, he was beyond all these going to be a wounded Messiah and those who wish to follow him were expected to carry their crosses and follow him.
Jesus must have in prayer asked God to reveal to his disciples who he was. And this was the aftermath of everything. We need to understand that our people are yet to understand really who Christ is. Every priest/ minister of God represents Christ to the people and so, their understanding of who Christ is determines their expectations/ disappointments from the priest; Is he an ascetic priest or does he drink and have many friends? Is he a charismatic priest – does he “do prayer” (ime ekpere) and tell people what is the cause and solutions to their problems? Is he a miracle worker? Or one who gives his life for the gospel as some priests have done in recent times? The prosperity gospel, correct as it is does not exhaust the mission of Christ.
May God bless you today!