Homily for the 22nd Sunday in the Ordinary Time Year B:
Sunday Homily Theme: Observing the Laws of God
Two missionaries were sent to a remote area for evangelization. They went out daily to preach to people on the streets. They shared their experiences together and went along well. After some time, one started getting jealous of the other because he attracted more followers and got more converts. This began affecting their relationship and mission negatively. Soon, the jealous one grew much hatred for the other that he would not discuss anything with him again. Yet, the jealous missionary was very meticulous in his mission work which he performed with much devotion and piety. He would preach, pray, sing and exhort like a perfect missionary but he would record no success. One day, the other missionary fell ill and begged the jealous missionary to help him buy some medications but he refused because he wouldn’t want to miss a prayer meeting beginning in the next few minutes. Later at night, he also begged the jealous missionary to let him know when it will be 5am the next morning and he accepted. At 5am the next day, the jealous missionary wrote on a piece of paper “It is 5am” and dropped it beside the other missionary’s pillow and went for morning prayer because he could not afford to break the silence before communing with God.
Today we see this condemnable attitude of the jealous missionary in the way we practice our Christianity and observe the laws of God. Most of us have a very dark side we try to cover with our external religious observances and rituals instead of working to correct them. Others obey the letters of the law without applying the spirit of the law. Some use religious observances as excuses to be wicked to others or to be insensitive to other people’s plights, etc. In this age, there are more Christians than ever, yet people still act like those who have never known God. More Churches erupt daily but more styles of criminal activities evolve as well. There is no reconciliation between our faith and our actions. What could be the reason for this?
Jesus in the Gospel reading (Mark 7:1–8.14–15.21–23) says “These people honour me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrine they teach are only human regulations.” This invites us to question our religious observances. Do we do them out of sincere love for God or do we do them in pretence? Christianity is a religion with so many laws to obey. What motivates us when we obey those laws? Do we encounter God in keeping His laws? Do we keep them sincerely just as Moses in the first reading (Deuteronomy 4:1-2:6–8) exhorts us to “take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you”.
Nevertheless, our problem is not taking notice of the laws and customs neither is it in observing them but in observing them correctly. That is why Jesus summarizes the entire law into love: love of God and love of neighbour. To truly observe the law means to truly love God who is the lawgiver and to truly love God means to truly love our neighbour who is created in the image and likeness of God and is the God we see. That is why in the second reading (James 1:17-18, 21-22,27), St. James advices us to practice “pure and unspoilt religion in the eyes of God our Father” which is “coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” As Christians, we can examine how far we keep the law by knowing how far we come to the help of orphans, widows and those in need when they need our help and by knowing how far we keep ourselves uncontaminated by the world. That is what the psalmist answered when he asked “Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent?”
Beloved friends, let us not be like the Pharisees in the gospel reading who will keep all external observances but habour evil and all forms of impurity in their hearts. Let us not be like the missionary who is faithful to his Church duties but has no love in his heart. Instead let ours heart be filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, charity, etc instead of avarice, murder, fornication, etc. As we practice our religious observances and duties, let us endeavour to reach out to those who need our help and let them know we have really encountered God in our worship for our actions portray our level of faith. Happy Sunday. God loves you.
Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe