YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: We must work to enter into that strong City.
BY: Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
HOMILY: READINGS: Isaiah 26: 1-6, Ps. 118, Matthew 7: 21.24-27
It is part of the inclination of man to improve on what he has and what is available to him. This is taken from the mandate at creation when God asked man to increase and multiply and conquer the earth. It is to make better what is given. Improvement and progress are necessary values for man. The world where we live is a city but earthly and has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Reason, revelation and experience teach us that there exists another city that is stronger than what we have on earth. This city needs effort to fight and gain entrance into it. The people of Israel were taken from the time of their fore-fathers into the city of the Egyptians that was seen to be better than theirs. They were still struggling while living there with inhibitions and limitations. God’s love for them made him reveal to one of them Moses by name that there is a better city he has prepared for them to inhabit. They were to work for it with patience, faith, trust, hope and obedience. It will take them the life of many; it will take them many days and later many years due to disobedience. They were to suffer for it before getting there. That city was called Canaan. On their exodus event there was the need for reassurance and certainty that what Moses told them that God said about that city was true. Men were selected from every tribe to go and spy the place. It was only when Joshua and Caleb gave a convincing and encouraging with courageous report that they moved forward to possess a stronger and better city.
Beloved, if the people of Israel spent all their time, energy and resources and life of many to enter that better earthly city that is destructible, what are we to spend and to sacrifice and suffer to behold the City that is really strong per excellent? If it is to be compared with other cities we know and can think of, it is the strongest. Suffice it to call it Strong City from the point of view of Isaiah the prophet since it connotes that other cities are weak and destructible. This City that is strong is the City of God, and then called the heavenly Jerusalem where millions of angels are gathered with each of us called the citizens. (Hebrews 12: 22ff).
Beloved, this City shall be the reward of those who sincerely labour for it and adhered to the rules and discipline of it. On that Day they shall gather at the entrance of that City and hear it as a song of victory and thanksgiving saying: We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. This City shall be a place where salvation is gained, it shall be a City where no souls are lost; it shall be the City where recompense is made and excellence rewarded. It is the same City where the reproach that the world levied against the beneficiaries is taken away and the veil covering the eyes will be removed. Implicitly and as clearly written by Isaiah it would be the righteous that will have the gate of that City opened for them. Anyone who wishes to be in that City must work for it in righteousness. In that City they will be kept in perfect peace because they trusted in the Lord and placed their mind on him. It is worthy to note that Isaiah mentioned that the proud, the lofty and the arrogant would be cast down to the dust on that day and cannot be part of the inhabitants of that City.
Beloved, Jesus gives us a clue of what it takes to enter into that City in today’s gospel. Our life must not be mere oral declaration of faith and doctrine but practicality of their ideals. Oral profession of faith alone does not translate into merit for that City. This is why Jesus said that it is not all those who call God Father, Father that would enter into the kingdom which is the city we are working for. There must be the practice of keeping the commandments. By keeping his commandments we do his will and that is a ticket to that City of our desire. Our strength in working for that City is determined by our ability to do his will and that would make our foundation formidable and rewarding. Not keeping his commandments and in effect his will, makes us build on shaky foundation and leaky cistern that cannot hold anything and we end up being the laughing stock of many and a caricature of the devil on the last day.
We pray that we may by grace open the gate of justice among people and ask God to grant success to our efforts and works towards this City/Kingdom. Let the mercy of the Lord save us and bring us to that City by crowing our efforts with success and good rewards. We pray that the saints may intercede for us to learn from their preaching and emulate their pastoral zeal with desire for holiness and serious effort to enter the Holy City, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf