YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: Love, the One Thing That Never Hurts the Neighbour
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
HOMILY: Ezek 33:7-9; Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Rom 13:8-10; Matt 18:15-20.
- The Sacred Scripture has diverse ways of helping us to understand the immense power of love and loving. The fact that the sacred text qualifies God as love means that love is immeasurable and defies all conclusive definitions. It is at the very centre of the whole teaching of Jesus. In a letter said to be written by Albert Einstein to his daughter, Lieserl, the great scientist says, inter alia: “There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE. When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals. For love we live and die. Love is God and God is Love. This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will.” The readings of this Sunday encourage us to capture this great power and to do everything to restore it whenever it is threatened by the hazards of living.
In the Second reading from Romans 13:8-10, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that love is the one thing that can never hurt your neighbour. This is so because, love is never selfish, as it always seeks for the welfare of the other. No one rejects love. It is the greatest force that conquers and binds together. Paul sees love as a debt that we owe one another and encourages all never to exhaust paying this important debt. It is the sum of all the commandments, and the one who loves is said to have fulfilled every command. If love is this wonderful, why then are people so shy to embrace this greatest force of the universe? This is a question that calls for great reflection. As a matter of fact, many factors in our daily communal existence pose great challenges to loving. The Gospel text addresses the issue.
One unfortunate obstacle to love is the reality of conflict. As long as we live in community, conflict is inevitable. One must offend the other. One must cross the part of the other. Sometimes it can be mild disagreement, but at other times it can be serious violent conflict or hate. All these are part and parcel of our limited human existence. But amidst all these, one is always called upon to restore the fractured love through reconciliation, as disruptive conflict often diminishes our human wholeness. The fact is that without love, we cannot live fully our humanity. So, reconciliation is a sine qua non to realising authentic humanity. The Gospel text proposes different levels of conflict resolution within the Christian community. The most important of all these is the one to one reconciliation. It requires great humility to approach a wronged neighbour and ask for forgiveness just as it equally requires great humility to let bygone be bygone and re-establish communion. To show how important it is to live harmoniously, the text proposes other options should the one to one approach fail. The community must do all it can to reconcile the quarrelling members.
The first reading from Ezekiel can be understood very well within this context. The erring member needs to be corrected before the error destroys the harmony of the community. The prophet is specially called to act as the watchman over the community, to make sure that right conduct is maintained at all times. The disharmony in the group is often promoted by some die-hard wicked members. It is the duty of the prophetic figure to use the force of the divine word to bring them back to sanity or at least to prick their consciences.
In our contemporary context, the duty given to the prophet is given to everyone of us baptized Christians. We have the duty to correct the erring members, but we have to do this with love. In all situations, the aim is to restore love and harmony. Unfortunately, many today do not preach love but hate. They care less about the harmony of the group. Instead of binding estranged brothers and sisters together, they drive them even further apart because their motive is not to heal but to destroy. Any activity of social reconstruction that is not motivated by love and carried out with love ends up dismembering the society and destroying it. As love is the one thing that never hurts a neighbour, it remains the greatest force to bind all together and create a just and happier world. O that today we would listen to His voice, let us not harden our hearts!
Fr. Luke Ijezie