Fr. Ben’s homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: BLESSED ARE THE SPIRITUAL!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Homily for Sunday February 13 2022
*Jer 17 : 5 – 8, 1 Cor 15 : 12 – 20, Lk 6 : 17 – 26.
Our world has become sick with the erroneous notion that ‘Blessed are the rich for they alone shall enjoy this life’. In Igboland, another name for ‘money’ popular among Youths is ‘mma nwoke’ – literally meaning, ‘the beauty of man’. Wealth is seen as the highest source of power and happiness on earth. And in Nigeria today, it has become virtually impossible for the poor to come to the corridors of political power or even enjoy the basic respect among his peers. Very soon, it may also become impossible for the poor to be educated especially at University level. A University don once made it clear while the Student’s Union were negotiating against increment in school fees with the administration of a University in Nigeria that ‘University education is not for the poor’. Meanwhile, that Professor himself was from a very poor family and was only able to be educated to University stage because of the kind of largesse he was now kicking against. Wealth has an uncanny way of making people blind and insensitive.
Today’s gospel is called by some biblical scholars ‘The sermon on the plain’ because it was specially addressed to His disciples unlike the sermon on the mountain addressed to the crowd. This scenario makes today’s gospel – the Lukan account of the Beatitude to come down to us more like a bomb shell with its barrage of blessings mearnt for the various dimensions of what may be termed ‘worldly poverty’ – it is a consolation package, so to speak for the ‘anawims’ of the society. But the emphasis of blessings in today’s gospel, is actually not on material poverty, as many may think, but on spiritual poverty. According to Fr Osita Asogwa in his commentary on the Nsukka Diocesan Sunday Bulletin for 6th Sunday, 2019, ‘Indeed, the blessings of poverty or riches is not so much about what lies in the pocket, as about how the content of the pocket runs in the mind’. John Rose adds to this view by saying that the disciples were blessed not just because they embraced earthly poverty but because their earthly poverty and misery had opened their hearts to receive Him, unlike the conceited Pharisees and Sadducees. ‘The poor’, according to John Rose, ‘do not always get what they ask for but what they hope’. This hope keeps them spiritual because the Holy Spirit is poured out wherever there is hope, Rom 5 : 5 – 6.
B. THE BEATITUDES
This Lukan version of the beatitudes will be summarized under the following 4 subheadings still containing everything in the other 8 beatitudes of Matthew’s account :
1. SPIRITUAL POVERTY; Blessed are the spiritually poor – the prayerful and the merciful, the people who depend so much on the grace of God. According to Fr Hughes, ‘To be spiritually poor is to know that before God we stand empty handed and even our best spiritual efforts are still inadequate’.
2. SPIRITUAL HUNGER; Blessed are those who hunger now while on earth for the things of the Spirit. Spiritual hunger is hunger for righteousness and for purity of soul.
3. SPIRITUAL MOURNING; Blessed are those who weep now – who mourn in the Lord and those who are gentle and endure provocations for Christ’s sake.
4. SPIRITUAL ENDURANCE; Blessed are you when people hate you – when you make peace with people for Christ’s sake and when people persecute you for Christ’s sake.
C. THE CURSES
Jeremiah says ‘A curse will descend on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord’. And today’s responsorial psalm declares that happy indeed will be the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked. ‘The wicked’, says the Psalmist, ‘are like winnowed chaff that shall be driven away by the wind’, Ps 1. St Paul adds in today’s 2nd reading that if our hope in Christ had been for this life only, we would have been the most unfortunate (cursed) of all people. That is why the greatest enemy of Christianity is this materialistic version of the gospel that is spreading everywhere today. It reduces our hope in Christ to futility and makes a mess of the entire project of Christian spirituality.
Humility is the greatest source of spiritual blessings while pride is the greatest source of spiritual curse. According to St Augustine, ‘It was pride that changed Angels into devils; It is humility that makes men as Angels’. Spiritual poverty is all about humility – depending on God as the source of everything good in us.
Jesus does not idealize or romanticize poverty. Poverty (in its physical sense) is actually an evil. Jesus did not also ever condemn riches qua tale (as such). But he warns us seriously against the dangers of love of riches. St Paul says that ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’, 1 Tim 6 : 10. Fr John Jay Hughes points out that finding security in riches is a kind of ‘practical atheism’. This is the kind of atheism that disguises in the form of religion.
Jesus affirms for our hearing in today’s gospel that BLESSED ARE THE SPIRITUAL – even when they are physically rich because their minds and spirits are focused on God. And even when they are physically poor because their hearts are set on the hopes of the Kingdom of God. Happy Sunday dearly beloved friends as we continue to pray for Nigeria in political and economic distress!