BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo


HOMILY: * Is 1 : 10 – 20, Matt 23 : 1 – 12.

The devil is very intelligent. He perfects in the art of adulteration of holy systems of religiosity and often converts them into their parodies. He permeates the best of pious organizations and associations and subtly and surreptitiously effects a paradigm shift in their pristine focus, and by the time they know it, they have become the very opposites of the very values they initially stood for. He enters into the very best of Churches and changes their focus gradually from the liberation of the poor and the afflicted , Lk 4 : 18 to the oppression of the same people. He transforms their leaders into ‘lords’ and turns their religious rituals into empty perfunctory incantations. He corrupts the bests among them and turns them into hypocrites – pretenders who deep down them are a mockery of the very virtues they stand for. According to Vima Dasan, ‘The Bible teaches that we are opposed by a living, intelligent, deceptive and cunning spirit, who can outlive the oldest Christian, outwork the busiest, outfight the strongest and outwit the wisest. The usual name by which the scripture calls Satan is ‘liar’ – for he can make human beings dance upon the brinks of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven’.

Jesus chides the Scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel for their showy practices and extrinsic spirituality – observing all the ritual rules and regulations of the Judaic religion ; prayer, fasting and almsgiving but lacked humility, sincerity and integrity. As Fr Daniel Akubue sometime put it in ‘The Shepherd Weekly Bulletin’ of Nsukka Diocese, ‘In their misguided zeal for religion they sought respect and honour for themselves rather than for God and for his Word. They made the practice of their faith a burden rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to serve’. They preached but did not practice. They loved to be seen by men as holy, to be greeted as ‘Men of God’, to answer ‘Rabbi’ or its equivalent today : ‘Doctor’, ‘Professor’, ‘Very Reverend Fr’…. But Christ insists that the greatest among his Church leaders must be the servant of others.. Must go to the poorest of parishes, must accept the lowest of conditions. According to David Diebel, ‘Integrity is being what you said you are and doing what you said you will do’. The Scribes and Pharisees were simply not men of integrity. Charles Colton says : ‘If the devil ever laughs, it must be at hypocrites ; they are the greatest dupes he has ; they serve him better than others, but receive no wages’.

The devil is so real in our midst today, subtly and surreptitiously penetrating all Churches and religious organizations. Just shine your eyes! You may be the ‘Scribe’ or the ‘Pharisee’ of today! Your Church may be turning into a mere ‘religious’ cult!. But all I know is that ‘The gates of the underworld shall never prevail against the Church that was handed over to St Peter’, Matt 16 : 18 – Call that Church whatever you like! Any Church that has lost the care for the poor has lost the soul of that religion. Any Church that has stopped preaching vehemently against abortion and other forms of immorality, bribery, corruption and all forms of oppression of the poor has lost it. Any Church that has hypocrites as its leaders has become a ‘religious’ but clandestine cult group! Come, let us talk this over! Is it not time for the Church in Rome, America, Africa, Europe and all parts of the world to tighten its belts again on the true and unadulterated teachings of Christ? I think it is time for the Church leaders to embrace more tenaciously the practical ( not merely intellectual) and exemplary life of holiness that Christ laid down for us and eschew all forms of hypocrisy.

May God bless you today!

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