Homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: THE REAL FACE OF A WOMAN LIES BENEATH THE MAKEUP
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday February 27 2022
Psalm: 91(92):2-3, 13-16.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
I rarely title my homilies, but I didn’t find it difficult choosing a title for this particular one. This is because; our liturgy today through the readings invites us to true discernment of people’s attitude, character and identity. The book of Sirach says “Just as a sieve reveals the husks, and the clay jar is moulded in the fire, so also a man’s character is revealed when he speaks.” Not be easily taken in by the externalities being shown, one has to look inside in order not to be blinded by the outward appearance (makeup) and behaviour of a person.
This point is buttressed by the Lord in the Gospel, when he challenged all his disciples to avoid all kinds of pride and hypocrisy. Instead, he urges them to regularly look into one’s self and examine his own deficiencies, failures and sins. It is easy to see the faults of others and condemn or ridicule them. But the Lord warns them to resist this temptation and always remain humble, being reminded of their own sins and failings.
The greatest sin of the scribes and Pharisees is hypocrisy. Jesus over and again condemned them because of this. Hypocrisy is derived from a Greek word which means ‘actor’. An actor plays a role that doesn’t portray his true person. He performs only for others to see and be entertained. In the spiritual life, when a person acts contrary to his beliefs and convictions, then he is a hypocrite, a spiritual actor. He may portray an image of holiness and piety, especially when inside the church. This is often to get the admiration and praise of people. But in his daily life, he is actually not the same person others see as holy and pious. Such a person is an abomination to the Lord. His worship is vain, for God looks into the heart. He is just like the Pharisees and scribes whom Jesus condemned.
Nigeria is regarded as a religious country, simply because of proliferation of churches and an overwhelming number of church goers. Yet there is so much corruption, violence and injustice that engulf the country. In other words, if there is personal hypocrisy, Nigeria can also be considered as having national hypocrisy. Hence, there is the challenge and call to personal conversion and religious authenticity for each and every Nigerian Christian. Only then can national conversion and genuine spirituality take place in this country.
Physical blindness is terrible. But spiritual blindness is indisputably worse. Many people are spiritually blind. Not that anything is wrong with their sight, yet, due to their selfish and materialistic values, they fail and refuse to see the value of human life, the innate goodness of everyone, the sufferings and pains of the poor and marginalized, and the harm they do to others because of their greed and selfishness. This blindness is the real cause of so much suffering in our world today, as it has always been. It is the cause of violence and pain in this world. As a quotation attributed to Mahatma Gandhi says, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
Spiritual blindness is caused by pride. It is the ‘plank’ being referred to by Jesus Christ that blocks one’s eyes to his own shortcomings and sins. Basically, pride is making the self the center of one’s life. Interestingly, the letter ‘I’ is in the middle of the word ‘Pride’. Many people have perfect and keen eyesight when they look for other people’s mistakes. But when it comes to their own sins and mistakes, they are blind. It is as if a big plank blocks their eyes. That ‘plank’ is no other than pride. This ‘plank’ has to be removed, and let the humble spirit emerge. Then it becomes easier to admit one’s mistakes, and be more compassionate and understanding of the sins and failures of others. St. Augustine gives this important advice: “There is no sin or crime committed by another which I myself am not capable of committing through my weakness; and if I have not committed it, it is because God, in His mercy, has not allowed me to and has preserved me in good.”
This admonition of Jesus does not mean we have to attain perfect holiness first before we do something to help others. Otherwise, no one will take on the task of leading, guiding and teaching others. After all, nobody is perfect. All of us have our own sins, weaknesses, and failures. Rather, the Lord simply wants us to be reminded always of all these, so that we may avoid falling into the trap of blinding pride.
Needless to say, humility is the most basic and necessary foundation for genuine holiness. This virtue, no matter how unattractive to many people, enables us to see clearly who we truly are – our faults, sins and ugliness, and also our talents, innate goodness, and dignity. Humility is the only antidote to pride and the remedy to spiritual blindness. A humble person is always honest and truthful. He truly knows who he really is: that he is both weak and gifted. He is fully aware of his faults and sins, and so he avoids judging others. At the same time, he also acknowledges and appreciates his giftedness, and so develops the spirit of gratitude and generosity.
The Apostle Paul in the second reading this Sunday reminds us in his Letter to the Corinthians that we are limited, sinful and corruptible. But this is not an excuse to do nothing. There is always certain hope for a better tomorrow, when that which “is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality.” There is always the assurance of our victory: “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Hence, his challenge to all of us to “be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1Cor 15:54-58).
May the Lord bless His words in our hearts, and may a peaceful week ahead be our portion. God bless you.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*