YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: REJECTION AND OVER- FAMILIARITY: THE OTHER SIDE OF FAITH.
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
“Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10.
Last Sunday, we saw the faith of Jarius who went to call Jesus to save his dying daughter as well as the faith of the woman who had suffered from the issue of blood for twelve years. In such an atmosphere of faith, Jesus raised a dead girl to life. If last Sunday was all about faith in God’s ability to do even the impossible, today appears to be the very opposite.
When we have faith in God, there is no limit to what we can expect from God but when we reject God, when we despise God or rebel against Him, we place a barrier between ourselves and a free flow of God’s blessings. It is not the case that God’s power weakens when we lack faith, it is rather the case that we prevent ourselves from experiencing it. We become blind to God’s power or we find ways to explain away God’s intervention.
The first lesson our readings teach us today is that FAITH IN GOD IS NEVER FORCED. Religion without freedom is oppression (dehumanization). God will never force his way on us. Why? God takes us as His Children not His Slaves. The only word to describe God’s relationship with mankind is LOVE. And as St. Paul would say: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not… arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. True love does not force its way on anyone.
It is from this perspective that God instructs Ezekiel in today’s first reading: “whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that there has been a prophet among them.” Ezekiel 2:5. God loves us so much that His decision to speak to us doesn’t even depend on our readiness to listen to him. God told Ezekiel that the people’s reception does not matter, what matters is Ezekiel’s obedience to his call.
Here comes the second lesson: MINISTRY IS NOT PEOPLE-DEPENDENT. “Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that there has been a prophet among them.” This command given to Ezekiel should be the motto for every minister. We should be focused on telling the truth not simply telling people what they like to hear. In an attempt to please the people, to make them stay, or to increase the population of our churches, we run the risk of watering the truth, changing our doctrines or even bowing down to satan (recall the temptations of Jesus).
Not too long ago, I read that the Church of England is planning to debate on abolishing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in a bid to include Muslims. There have been stories of men and women of God changing their message for fear of not offending particular persons they see in church in the hope that when they eventually ask for money from these persons, they will be obliged to give. Where are the John the Baptists of our time? Where are those who can speak the truth and damn the consequences?
The third lesson today comes from our second reading: MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TO REJECTION. St. Paul tells us that he is content (happy, satisfied, not- complaining, not feeling bitter or resentful, carrying no grudges, keeping no enemies) with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities which he has to endure for the sake of Christ. In doing God’s work, we cannot escape insults. No matter how good we are, we must have enemies, detractors, and persecutors. Nevertheless, if we allow bitterness in our hearts, we simply spoil the message.
The man or woman of God should NEVER curse the people who refuse to heed God’s message (or fail to pay tithes) because even God will not curse those who reject him. Like a Prodigal Father, God goes in search of the lost, He takes no delight in the death of the sinner. Jesus told us: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” Matthew 10:14.
Once upon a time, Jesus passed by a Samaritan village but the people refused to receive him. James and John saw it and asked: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Guess what Jesus did? He turned around to rebuke James and John instead. Luke 9:52-55. I wonder how God feels when we keep calling fire and reigning curses on those who reject His Message! Some of us shouting fire, fire, fire need to go back and read the Bible again.
The fourth lesson for us this morning is to AVOID OVER-FAMILIARITY (see-finish). Jesus went to his own country and his own town; the very place where he grew up but guess what? The people took offence at him because of their over- familiarity. Jesus could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief. Take note, Jesus did not curse them, He simply left them and went to other towns. In fact, despite their rejection, Jesus still healed a few sick persons.
It is one thing to reject God consciously by deliberately deciding not to go to church or partake in any spiritual activity. It is even a more serious offence to reject God indirectly through over-familiarity (loss of the sacred). In this case, you may be very active in church, you may even belong to all the societies in the church yet even satan will not have the guts to do what you do in secret. As ministers of God, there is always the danger of falling into the trap of over-familiarity with the things God thereby celebrating unworthily, causing scandal and misleading the people.
Like the countrymen of Jesus, there is the danger of becoming too familiar with the priest to the extent of failing to see Jesus in him. This explains why some Catholics find it difficult to go to confession and when in need of prayers, they select the priest they meet or they go looking for pastors, prophets or even Muslim clerics and local juju men and women. Some of us do not even genuflect before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, they use the rosary as chewing gum, they even play with Holy Communion after receiving it; they dress indecently to church and so on. These are signs of over-familiarity and it poses a great danger to our Faith.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, save me from falling into the trap of faithlessness and teach me to accept rejection positively and to stand by the truth always. Amen.
*Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year B. Bible Study: Ezekiel 2:2-5, Psalm 123:1-1, 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10, Mark 6:1-6).