FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK OF EASTER
THEME: ABIDE IN ME.
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Act 15 : 1 – 6, Jn 15 : 1 – 8.
We must go beyond the religious instinct in man to the spiritual instinct. The religious instinct emphasizes the ritual and cultural aspects of religion and ends up with the ‘circumcision of the skin’ while the spiritual instinct emphasizes the transformative aspects of religion – the things that make us become holy like God and ends up with the ‘circumcision of the heart’.
In today’s 1st reading, the new arrivals to the Christian faith were greeted with dissension by the Pharisees party who followed their religious instinct to insist that the new converts must pass through the Jewish culture of initiation which is circumcision of the skin. But Paul and Barnabas followed their spiritual instinct to look for the things that really mattered in the journey to holiness and circumcision of the heart. The challenge remains even with the present Church of Christ ; how do we handle our cultural differences in the face of the objective teachings of Christ? Are we still insisting on useless cultural rituals that have little or nothing to do with the real essence of the Christian faith? Should our liturgical music for instance be Western in order to remain sacred? Should our cultural worldview remain idolatrous so that we remain African believers? We must watch these two extremes.
We are bound as Christians in a new relationship with Christ. He supports and supplies our needs like the vine tree supports and supplies its branches. The loyal branches are pruned while the disloyal branches are eliminated. Jesus is the vine tree. The Church is the vineyard. We are the branches. We can’t bear good fruits unless we remain connected in prayer and the sacraments. This is the import of the Eucharist. The Eucharistic life does not allow for individualism in the use of charisms and interpretation of the Word of God. Every Bishop represents Christ the vine tree as planted in each diocese with the Parish priests as major stems and we all as the branches. When we get disconnected through sins like idolatry and disobedience or join other denominations, we bear a different kind of fruit not of the original stock /specie where we were planted or baptised before. When we refuse, for instance , to receive the Holy Communion just because it is given in the hand during a Pandemic like this, we end up listening merely to our religious instincts, not to our spiritual instincts. The truth is that Catholicism, for example, by its foundation is mearnt to produce a different fruit of holiness from Pentecostalism, for example. The latter, it appears, emphasizes pragmatism, prosperity and physical well being as signs of faith while the former appears to emphasize obedience, humility, patience in suffering and overall holiness of life with the final focus on our getting ultimately united with God in heaven. And even within Catholicism, some fanatical sects (let me not mention examples) tend to bear more of the fruits of hypocrisy than authentic spirituality. Christ sustains and nourishes us through the stems to the branches. The root of this tree is the Word of God (as interpreted by the Church’s magisterium not by private revelations). Cut off from the main tree we cannot bear good fruits.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO