FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR TUESDAY OF THE 3RD WEEK OF EASTER
THEME: RADICAL VS DIPLOMATIC EVANGELISM!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Act 7 : 51 – 8 :1, Jn 6 : 30 – 35.
How best can we confront a stiff necked society full of greed, selfishness and violence, with the message of our Lord Jesus Christ? Homiletic experts of the modern day extraction will certainly not find favour at all with St Stephen’s style of preaching recorded in today’s 1st reading. He was just too raw and too hot for comfort. He used very offensive words like calling them ‘stiff – necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears…’ He so bombarded his enemies with the raw truth that at a point ‘they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him’. He was a man of the heavens, not very fitted to earthly diplomacies and linguistic niceties and so had to take a bow too quickly from earth’s corrupt influences and confluences.
There is always a big conflict whenever there is a very big gap between the message, the messenger and the receiver of the Word of God. Such is what we find both in the 1st and 2nd readings of today ;
In Stephen’s case, he needed to let the Jewish elders and scribes know that the person they crucified was the Lord of life. He wasn’t diplomatic enough perhaps. And he ended up using very offensive words like calling them ‘stiff – necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears, always resisting the Holy Spirit’. The end result was that they stoned him.
In Jesus’ case, he needed to let them know that he was both the Son of God and Bread of Life. But that generation was too naive to understand the intricacies of Eucharistic/ Sacramental theology. Yet the truth needed to be told. He lost a big chunk of his followers at the end of that day because there were far more Protestants in number than the Loyalists who accepted his teaching, Jn 6 : 67.
Jesus was also as radical, though not as offensive and undiplomatic as St Stephen. He told the erring materialistic Jewish crowd point blank that it was not Moses who gave them bread but his father who gives us the true bread from heaven. He told them the simple truth : ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall not hunger’. That generation was too naive to understand the intricacies of Eucharistic /sacramental theology yet the truth needed to be told. He lost a big chunk of his followers at the end of that day because there were more Protestants than loyalists to his teaching, Jn 6 : 67.
How best can we confront a ‘stiff necked society….uncircumcised in heart and ears’, a society full of stubborn and hardened criminals many of whom seat in the front pews of our Churches and listen to the Word of God only to step out and do the opposite? How best can we confront a Muslim dominated society full of fanatics like Paul himself? We must always remember that St Paul was a terrorist leader. It was only the blood of innocent and radical Christians like St Stephen that could bring Saul to conversion. No wonder why Tertullian put it straight that ‘The blood of martyrs is the seed bed of Christianity’. Christ gave us his flesh and blood to purify us and imbue us with the same spiritual power of innocence and radical evangelism that Saints like Stephen had.We learn from him the virtues of courage, forgiveness of enemies and the grace of a peaceful death. In the face of terrible oppositions to the gospel in Nigeria today by such forces as Islamization and traditionalization, we need some bit of the spirit of St Stephen to carry on with radical evangelism.
Today, with the kind of leadership Nigeria has, there is a rise in insecurity even in States like Enugu State that has hitherto been a peaceful State. The increase in kidnap and terrorism especially as purported to be sponsored by the so called Miyetti Allah group is alarming.
The rise in neopaganism is becoming also terrible. Our Youths are going back to the religious belief of our forefathers ( manifesting in different kinds of masquerade cult, swearing, witchcraft and sorcery. And a new brand of Christianity is fast emerging to fan the embers of this unhealthy religious whirlwind.
It is however becoming glaringly clear that the only thing that can save our society is a radical but diplomatic Christian evangelism – an evangelism that is not money – minded but soul – minded. Christians who receive Jesus everyday as the bread of life can bring love and forgiveness into the world where there is so much hatred and violence. We could give our world a better servant – leader perspective to leadership and reduce the level of greed and selfishness among our leaders. Jesus Christ is the gift of God the father to our famished world. He is the true bread that nourishes the soul. He is the prophylactic drug that our soul needs. Let’s learn to spread his message of good news with love and diplomacy wherever we are without compromise of the true faith.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO
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