YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE ULTIMATE CHOICE (AHU IHE KA UBI, EREE OBA).
BY: FR GERALD MUOKA.
HOMILY: R1-1Kgs. 3:5, 7-12
Res. Ps.-Ps.119: 57, 72,76-77,127-130
R2- Rom. 8:28-30
Gospel- Mtt. 13:44-52)
A story was narrated of an acclaimed wise man who lived in a certain community. Everyone revered him for his astute and shrewd talent in making his way, answering every question and proferring solutions for every situation. Except a group of little children who had doubted his proficiency in wisdom and insisted he must pass through their scrutiny inorder to earn their respects and accolades as the community’s wisest man.
One day, these children decided to flaw this man by weighing his competence in wisdom. They ran and got a live grasshopper. Having put it into the palm of one of them, asked the man to tell them whether the grasshopper is alive or dead.
For them, the man’s ability to ascertain the current state of that grasshopper would make him win their admiration and possible accolades.
With fingers crossed, they waited and anticipated to hear the wise man do his magic. The question threw the wise man off balance.
He later cleared his throat and mildly responded: “ukpala ahu ma odi ndu ma onwuru anwu, odi unu na aka.”
(whether that grasshopper is alive or dead, what I know is that, it is in your palm)
Beloved in Christ, the readings of today’s liturgy present us with some gob of celestial wisdom. God, like the wise man in the introit story, wishes to remind us, of all the free will He has given us above all creatures, to choose between wisdom and foolishness; life and death; kingdom of light and darkness of darkness; “nke obula anyi hooro no anyi na aka.” (whichever choice we make, is our palava). Since every action and inaction have a moral consequence.
The first reading describes the ULTIMATE CHOICE Solomon made by preferring Christ (the wisdom of God-1Cor.1:24) to foolishness (shadowy pursuit of worldly riches).
Solomon’s ULTIMATE CHOICE yielded the fulfillment of the words of the second reading in his life and Kingdom: “For those who love and prefer God more than riches, He will turn everything to work for their favour.”
In the Gospel, Jesus presents us with three mini parables of a hidden treasure, a costly pearl, and dragnet which requires TOTAL COMMITMENT AND RENUNCIATION, in order to make an ULTIMATE CHOICE. And by so doing, possess and preserve God’s Kingdom.
We hereby ask ourselves: “Wisdom and foolishness, which one do we prefer?” “Are we ready to make the ULTIMATE CHOICE?” “Are we ready to make hard and costly decisions to follow Jesus?”
“Do we still act bearing parousia-end time (dragnet moment) in mind?”
AFRICAN MODEL OF TODAY’S READINGS
The dispositions and receptivity of most of our early African Christian forefathers serve as a model in resolving those questions and integrating the readings of today’s liturgy.
Africans before the advent of Christianity, were a people with rich and valuable cultural, traditional, customary and religious heritage and practices; most of which were superstitious, barbaric, immoral and inhuman religious and customary practices like: killing of twins, human sacrifice, burying kings with human heads, idol worship, diabolical magic and concoctions, etc
Prominent among them is the Igbo tribe.
Igbos, before the advent of Christianity, had some age-long institutionalized religious orientation and polytheistic beliefs in many deities and gods (chi and arusi), such as Amadioha, Ogidi, Ahajioko, Igweala, Arusi and a host of other community, kindred and family deities and their corresponding shrines and altars, responsible for every aspect of their life: spiritual, social, financial, physical, agricultural, etc.
How come, virtually all these are almost going defunct within the space of 100 years? What has really factored this religious revolution?
Simply put, our African models of Christianity, made the ULTIMATE CHOICE and sought the Kingdom of God. ” HA HURU IHE KA UBI REE OBA, ZUTA YA ”
Just like the proverbial Wise man in the Gospel, they sold and forfeited their rich cultural, traditional, religious and customary values and heritage in order to buy (embrace) Christianity-a religion that preaches peace when the enemy echoes war chants; a religion that speaks love when the environment rings the bell of hatred; the religion that encourages joy and perseverance when the mouth sings dirge over persecutions.
Beloved in Christ, the essence of that brief historical survey, is to enable us understand the weight and magnitude of our forefathers’ wisdom and hard choice of saying ” YES ” to Christianity.
They abandoned some old institutionalized ways of life, religious, social, cultural and traditional in order to make the ULTIMATE CHOICE for us; by showing us the NEW WAY- THE ULTIMATE TRUTH AND THE LIFE OF ETERNITY- CHRIST JESUS (Jn.14:6).
Like Solomon, they preferred wisdom (Christ) to some rich barbaric and superstitious religious practices. And like the wise man in the Gospel reading, they had to forgo and abandon the old normal, in order to embrace a new normal way of life – Christianity.
However, those heroic decisions and choice of African pioneer Christians now look foolish and have been grossly criticized by some youths of our ungodly generation.
The Scripture extols such foolishness as wisdom in the celestial realms: “Indeed, were anyone perfect among the sons of men, if he lacked the Wisdom that comes from you, he would still count for nothing.”(Wis.9:6).
Since our African Christian forefathers have made the ULTIMATE CHOICE for us, ours is to be faithful and make some relevant decisions in order to remain princes and princesses of this great Kingdom of light-Seeking God’s Kingdom first.
SEEK FIRST GOD’S KINGDOM
The scriptural injunction to seek God’s Kingdom first in order to have every other thing (Mtt:6:33), summarises the valued and esteemed actions of both Solomon and the proverbial wise man in the Gospel reading.
They embraced and sought the Kingdom through the following ways.
WAYS OF SEEKING GOD’S KINGDOM
(1) BY DESIRE
According to St Gemma Galgani, “Heaven begins by desire and longing.”
Solomon only saw the Herculean task of ruling his Kingdom, desired the Celestial paradigm of ‘wisdom’. The proverbial wise man in the parable was equally motivated by desire for the treasure and pearl.
Just begin the spiritual journey today by desire. Desire God first. Desire sainthood, holiness, chastity and righteousness first. Even if they keep eluding you. David won God’s heart not by his ability but by his desire, even in his weakness.
Today, majority no longer entertain desire for celestial goals. No more desire for sainthood, the interest is on ungodly desires of becoming like this celebrity or the other. Even the names that come up in the Baptistry these days, reveal the models parents desire for their children.
~It was desire that made Rita of Cassia, yearn for a share of Christ’s thorns and she received it.
~It was desire that led St Catherine of Siena and St Catherine of Alexandria to enter into mystical marriage with Christ and by so doing preserved their perpetual virginity.
~It was desire that led Anthony of Egypt into the desert to become a desert father
~It was desire that led some fully-fledged young men and women to abandon all worldly allurement and perpetuity of their gene to embrace the religious life of obedience, poverty and chastity.
What are your desires and allurement? You can desire and strive like Bishop Ochiagha who said: “I want to be a saint.”
(2) FORGOING THE OLD STATE BY MAKING A SPIRIT LED DECISION
Christ used the astuteness of the man who sold his belonging to purchase the pearl and treasure as a model in the Gospel reading, because of his ability to forgo and let-go.
Desire is accompanied by decision-making, which entails making up the mind not to dwell in the past.
According to E. Stanley Jones:
“If you don’t make up your mind, then your unmade mind will unmake you. God can do anything for the man who has made up his mind; He can do little or nothing for the double minded.”
Decisions cannot be perfected without leaving ones old self or comfort zone as:
~ Abraham’s blessings located him when he decided to leave the comfort of his idolatrous home (Gen.12:1-4).
~ Jacob the cheat, had his ever divine encounter only when he decided to leave his father’s house that kept reminding him that he was a
~ Moses needed to vacate and forgo his Egyptian Princely heritage in order to experience a divine presence (Ex. 3:1-4:19).
Dear Child of God, what are you going to sell or forgo like the proverbial wise man in the Gospel reading?
Only a spirit-led decisions can perfect this long sought for God’s Kingdom.
The Bible says, “for it is not eating and drinking that make the kingdom of God, but the saving justice, the peace and the joy brought by the Holy Spirit.”
(3) STAYING FOCUSED
As we praise Solomon for his wise decisions in today’s liturgy, we equally need to note that he never ended well.
Because he lacked focus when tossed about by ephemerals.
Distractions are bound to come up. Such distractions come from well known 3 Ps, viz: PASSION, POWER AND POSSESSION. Pursuing them are like pursuing elusive shadows.
Solomon’s wisdom was destroyed by passion which lured him into marrying over 700 wives and 300 concubine, who finally led him into idolatry (1Kgs.11:3). He lost focus and God was not pleased with him because his heart had turned away from the Lord (1Kgs.11:9).
The Responsorial Psalm gives us the steps of remaining focused: Heeding to the instructions of the word of God.
Finally, a story was told about a community that found themselves under perennial poverty and disaster. Every attempt to better their condition, proved abortive. Not until some investigations revealed that they were an immigrant community whose forefathers had migrated from a distant community. The proferred solution unveiled that a hidden treasure was to be recovered from their real ancestral home. And no one goes into such region and comes back alive, because of the distractions underway.
For years, no one dared volunteer to bail the cat, because of the risk and hazardous nature of such adventure.
After so many years, a young boy of 23 set out to bail the cat and liberate his people from abject poverty and years of disaster by recovering the hidden treasure.
Such great news set the whole community agog and ablaze with joy, hopes and memorable anticipations.
After some instructional session, which entailed exposition of the huddles and challenges that accompany such feat, he was encouraged that once he meets a beautiful lady in an island, behold he has overcome all stumbling blocks and achieved his goal. The lady will either be a destiny helper or a destiny destroyer; depending on how he manages her goodness.
He set out as his people delved into prayer and fasting while some others began practicing folk and cultural songs on how to jubilate on his arrival.
However, after experiencing a lot of challenges on his adventure, he finally met the said lady at the Island, who was very beautiful, kind, lovely and infact, a 100 yard wife maternal.
The lady was so beautiful and homely that he forgot his mission and got busy reciprocating and loving this lady. He started forgetting that the destiny of a people lies in his hands. He forgot that people staged prayer, fasting, cultural cum traditional songs and dance awaiting to jubilate on his arrival.
After some weeks of forgetting he was on mission, the lady reminded him of his mission and offered him only one option to make a request.
Who knows what he would ask?
I guess you would ask for access to recover the hidden treasure?
But the reverse was the case. He knelt down and asked the lady: “will you marry me?” The response was: “I can’t marry you, since inter marriage is not permitted between my community and yours.” The lady threw him out of her apartment since he had overstayed his welcome. That was how he ended his dreams and never returned.
Oh… stupid him.. foolish him… Such could be our rantings, malicious and abusive words on the said young boy; because, he lost focus and forgot his mission.
Many of us, like this boy, have forgotten that we have a mission here on earth. We may have forgotten that we are on transit in this world; to recover a hidden treasure–salvation of our souls. The celestial inhabitants, angels and saints are awaiting our arrival into the kingdom of God.
Many a time, we have gotten entangled in marrying the fanciful allurement of the world with the proposal, “will you marry me?” Unlike Solomon, we sometimes ask and prefer the foolishness of this world (riches) to the wisdom of the Kingdom of light (Christ).
The world keeps reminding us to wisen up since such inter-marriage is impossible, because “we are in the world but not of the world .” (Jn.17:16).
MAY GOD HELP US TO SEEK THE CELESTIAL WISDOM, WHILE REMAINING FOCUSED IN OUR LONG SOUGHT FOR THE COMING OF HIS KINGDOM.
GOD BLESS YOU
FR GERALD MUOKA.