HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: The Inconvenient Prophetic Voice
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 14 2022
Prophets are usually minority voices in the society. One hardly finds real true prophets who are celebrities in the society or the toast of the majority. This is because they have a way of disturbing the status quo. They do not play to the gallery. They remain on the truth without unduly insulting anybody or peddling false accusation against anyone. Yet, they condemn whatever should be condemned, no matter what. Because of this they are usually hated. Their voices are considered inconvenient. But all the things they say remain true and never fail to happen.
This 20th Sunday of the year presents to us the figure of Jeremiah, who appears as an inconvenient prophetic voice to his society. He attacked the complacency and false confidence of the mob and the cabal of Judah, who believed that their country would never be destroyed by the external forces, even when they were found wanting on all articles of the covenantal ethos. Jeremiah advised them to abandon their false hopes and illusions of power and surrender to the superior Babylonian superpower so that they would not be destroyed. The majority of the Judeans and their local leaders believed that they had enough strength to fight against the Babylonians, hoping also that God would fight on their side. The voice of the mob overpowered that of the king, Zedekiah, who became afraid to take a decision as advised by Prophet Jeremiah.
Most times unreflecting and irrational forces in a society can overpower the resolve of the ruler. Jeremiah continued to oppose the rebellious forces within Judah because he knew they were only being naive and God was not even on their side. As a prophet ,he already saw the disaster that would befall his people if they continued with their intransigence against Babylon.
In the first reading of today from Jer 38:4-10, the people could no longer tolerate the inconvenient voice of the prophet and they threw him into a miry well, a well filled with poto poto, as Nigerians would describe it. He was only saved from death by an African, a Cushite who ran to the weakened King Zedekiah to deliver him in secret.
The lot of Jeremiah is the lot of many inconvenient prophetic voices in our time. They are usually hated and persecuted and remain abandoned as enemies of the masses in their differentvillages, communitiesand families. One is often deceived by the noises of many other false prophets who say only what the public and majority want to hear and are hailed.
In the Gospel of today from Luke 12:49-53, Jesus paints a picture of the Christian life akin to the Jeremiad pattern. All who follow the way of Jesus cannot but be contradicted by many in their community. If peace means saying and doing what everyone approves, Jesus warns his disciples that he has not come to bring that type of peace. He has rather come with fire and division because he dangles the truth which is the only liberating force. It requires great courage to follow this type of Jesus.
The second reading from Hebrews 12:1-4, however, encourages us to forge ahead as we have many witnesses in a great cloud on every side. Our model should always be Jesus himself who endured the Cross disregarding the shamefulness if it.
Fear of opposition can easily make us enemies of the Cross of Christ, as such fear makes us to compromise the truth so as to appear in the good books of the mob and influential worldly forces.
Our Christian life is lived within communities and societies filled with powerful cabals and irrational mobs who see only the appearances. They see corruption as the order of the day and make mockery of one who tries to rise above it. If one has the effrontery to remain different or to oppose them, he or she is treated worse than Jeremiah.
The readings of today encourage us to remain on the path of truth even when our voices sound inconvenient. In all situations, the Lord is our rescuer and our help, as the psalmist of Psalm 40 (or 39 in some versions) sings. Only such conviction can keep us afloat when all contrary forces try to sink us. The Lord will continue to draw us from the deadly pit and from the miry clay.
May the same God keep sustaining us with His truth in moments of crisis!
Fr. Luke Ijezie.