HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: Show them equal concern and treat them without discrimination because they are all children of God
BY: Fr. Clem Chimezie Aladi
GOSPEL: MK 7:31-37
My dearest Child of God, peace be with you in God’s house and may your ears be open to hear His words, your tongue untied to proclaim His wonderful deeds and your eyes open to see the beauty of God’s creation in the poor, the handicapped and those in need.
The ideology of ‘preferential treatment’ to those who are special to us or those who are related to us is what is destroying social justice in the world today and breeding all form of injustices. A lady once told me how his brother a regional director of a Bank reserved a work for her at one of the banks in the region when she was still in her third year in the university (in the department of linguistics). This is exactly the situation today. A job was already secured for her even before graduation, while many graduates who are out there seeking for a job are not getting any because ‘vacancies are already reserved’ for special people, family and friends. Furthermore, Preferential treatment to the wealthy and influential which we experience daily in the church and in social gatherings, deepens the gap between the poor and the rich. Have you taught about the idea of ‘VIP’s’, personally I am not very comfortable with that VERY IMPORTANT PERSON (VIP) nomenclature or acronym because these are a linguistic instrument of societal injustice, discrimination, segregation and exploitation of the poor and less influential. That acronym must be dropped from our vocabulary and prudence maintained in the way we treat people at gatherings. But let me ask, Who is not a very important person? every one is, sure, you and I, the rich and the poor alike. We must shun any form of discrimination and preferential treatment to any human being, this is what James remarked in the second reading when he says ” *have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?”*
Today Jesus shows us those who deserve our preferential treatment, namely the poor, the disabled and less privileged. The first reading (Is 35:4-7), reminds us that God’s eyes are constantly focused on the helpless. God especially cares for “the frightened, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute,” and He encourages the powerless to “be strong and fearless. One thing I admire about America is their concern for the disabled people, integrating them fully into the society by considering their welfare in infrastructural and architectural designs and developments. Every public building has a disabled parking space, a special disabled entrance door usually automated, a designated restroom and etc. Fines usually accompany violations of this preference for the disabled by the bodily abled persons. This is an example of what it means to make the society a comfortable place for all. It is high time we also integrated this structural considerations for the disabled in building our churches and public places.
The preferential option for the poor has been at the core of the Church’s’ missionary agenda. They deserve preference because we not equally privileged in life. Being poor here does not imply only material poverty, because you may be rich but spiritually kwashiorkored. Spiritual poverty is part of Jesus’ mission. He came to draw us closer to the knowledge of God which enriches our souls and make us spiritually rich. All the miracles of Christ are simply avenues of showing how much love God has for us in order to draw us closer to Him. Some may ask why are some poor and others rich, some sick and others healthy, some successful and others less successful, why all these inequalities in nature and in life? My answer is that these inequalities actually creates a balance in nature and life that without them life will be boring. All seasons cannot be rainy season or Winter, each comes and goes at its own time thus creating a balance in nature. Some are rich to help those who are poor. Some are healthy today to help those who are sick. We all cannot be sick and healthy at the same time. Our mission is a helping and a supporting mission. Remember *”it is not from your own possessions that you are bestowing aims on the poor, you are but restoring to them what is theirs by right. For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. Thus, far from giving lavishly, you are but paying part of your debt* ” St Ambrose.
Jesus fulfilled his missionary manifesto (cf Lk 4:18) and the messianic prophecy of Isaiah by healing a deaf man with a speech impediment in the first reading. Isaiah says ” _The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.”_ ( Isaiah 35:5-6) The ailments listed by Isaiah are symbolic of our interior illnesses: blindness to the needs of our neighbour, unwillingness to hear God’s voice and the inability to speak words of praise and gratitude. Through this miracle story, Mark also reminds us that no one can be a follower of the Lord without reaching out to the helpless (“preferential option for the poor”). Let us change our negative perception of life and work to add value to it by caring for and supporting those who truly need our love. Let us more human before we struggle to be saints. Remember *”I am because you are”. We live for each other. Without you, there is no me and without me there is no you. No man or woman lives for himself or herself we live for each other, we live for others. Let us become instruments of healing and caring for others in the hands of God.*
May God strengthen your good resolve to show preference to the poor. May your ears be open to hearing the word of God and your tongues untied to praise and glorify Him in your life.
I keep you and your family always in my prayers.
Fr. Clem Chimezie Aladi