HOMILY FOR MONDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: SALVATION MADE SIMPLE!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: Feast of St Andrew, apostle
* Rom 10 : 9 – 18, Matt 4 : 18 – 22.
Salvation is one of the simplest but most delicate issues we handle here on earth. It can simply be reduced to the two indices of CALL and RESPONSE as we find in today’s gospel. Simon and Andrew ; James and John , were called by Christ and immediately they left their nets and followed him and were ultimately saved. That is how simple salvation looks. But is it that easy to hear a call and leave everything immediately and respond to that call?
Obedience is not as simple as it looks because it requires some element of ‘stupidity’ and lack of a sense of bearing and focus to leave what one wants to do and follow another leader. Yet, from the time of Abraham till date, it is this kind of spiritual docility that has been reckoned as righteousness.
Even in the 1st reading of today, Salvation is made so easy by this automatic maxim of St Paul : EVERYONE WHO CALLS UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED! The 5 ecclesiastical steps for salvation are not really difficult yet each of them requires some chunk of docility;
1. TESTIMONY ; Everyone who testifies to the lordship of Jesus Christ will be saved. But how can people testify if they have not really believed? Do we not hear a lot of hoodlums testifying to the lordship of Jesus Christ at every feast of Christ the King for example? Or during election time when a number of politicians claim to be good Christians?
2. BELIEVING ; Everyone who testifies with his lips that Jesus is Lord and actually believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead is automatically saved, Rom 10: 9. But how can people believe if they have not heard, listened to or read enough of the Word of God, since ‘faith comes by listening to the Word of God?’ Is that not why many Catholics who cannot afford to come to Church on time on Sundays nor come back in the evening for Bible study end up as very weak Christians? They go to idols at the face of any serious temptation.
3. HEARING ; Another simple but important salvific process is here mentioned. We must submit our ears, eyes and heart daily to the internalization of the Word of God. Kent Hughes (in his book, ‘The Disciplines of a godly man’ calls it ‘Intentional programming’. How can we believe if we do not hear the Word of God? How can we be spiritual with all the pornographic pictures, naked ladies/men and bad music we see and hear everyday?
4. PREACHING ; Without someone preaching, how can we hear? The role of the preacher and the ministers of the Word of God is hereby acknowledged : ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news’. We need preachers not entertainers – believing preachers, not the ones whose lives will contradict what they have said one minute after.
5. SENDING ; Another very vital aspect of this salvation process, as simple as it may be, is that of mission – a preacher must be sent to preach the Word of God – usually by the Church, since ‘No one takes this honour upon himself’, Heb 5 : 4. He should not send himself, otherwise it becomes personal business. How can we hear without a sound preacher? This is also very important because the Word of God is not subject to personal interpretations, 2 Pet 1 : 20. There must be an ecclesiastical mandate /control since the Church remains the pillar and the bulwark of the true Word of God, 1 Tim 3 : 16.
This is how God planned salvation to come simply through the call from the Church and the response by the individual members of the Church. May God give us the wisdom to understand and cooperate with these simple but ecclesiastical steps towards salvation. We celebrate Andrew today as a faithful son of the Church who played a very active part in the ball game of salvation. He learnt of Jesus through John the Baptist and introduced Jesus to a lot of people including his brother Peter. We make salvation so easy by this kind of docility.
But we know as Jesus said that it is not all those who call him ‘Lord, Lord’ that will be saved but those who do the will of God, Matt 7 : 21. Our faith must therefore be placed on the weighing balance of good works before anybody talks authoritatively about salvation. James talks of qualitative faith when he argues that ‘faith without good works is dead’, James 2 : 18. Let me quickly summarize it this way by saying that 3 things that may put us off from the grace of salvation are : 1. Living in unbelief, 2. Living under the law and 3. Breaking the law of love.
In today’s gospel, looking at the good example of apostles like Andrew and his brother Simon Peter, we learn that quick RESPONSE to the CALL of faith remains key to salvation. Believing the gospel makes salvation easier. But this response must be followed by sincerity of purpose and perseverance in integrity. Constant, consistent and comprehensive preaching of the Word of God remains pivotal in every Church of Christ since faith comes by hearing the Word of God and no one hears the Word of God without a preacher being sent by the Church. This is another vital dimension of the message : Without the Church that interpreted the Word and organizes the work of mission, preaching could become private business when it is subjectivized and at such moments salvation may become problematic.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO