YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE ILLUSION OF POWER AND POSITION
BY: REV FR ANSELM CHIGOZIE AMADI
WIS 2:12,17-20 JAS 3:16-4:3,MK 9:30-37
INTRODUCTION : Power and position of authority belong only to God while stewardship is the lot of men, high and low alike. The conspiracy of the “mighty” is futile, unless their wickedness only serves as instrument at the service of preordained will of the most high as it was in the case of Judas, Pilate and the like. The only way up, is down. Man’s pride renders his enemy of God : “every proud man is an abomination to the Lord (prov. 16:5). To serve God’s will, we are called to be like little children.
THE FOLLY OF CONSPIRACY OF THE WICKED
There is nothing as ridiculous as the arrogance of power in conspiracy against the Lord’s anointed. This is because earthly kings are mere mortals that return to clay should their breath cease. The psalmist says “The Kings of the earth rise up, and princes conspire together against the Lord and against his anointed…. He who is enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord derides them (ps 2:3-4)”. When Pilate claimed he has power to release Jesus and the power to crucify him, Jesus told him to his face “you have no power over me whatever unless if it were given you from above (Jn 19:11)”.
The wickedness of men, though may hold sway, is only permitted to bring the righteous to serve the Supreme will of God and does not mean triumph of evil over good. The son of man will be handed over to men, only because “it is written” . The letter to the Hebrews captures it well, “sacrifice and offerings you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me,…. Then I said, as it is written of me in the book, I have come to do your will O God” (Heb 10:5-7). Jesus is a victim of Divine will and love.
THE TRAGEDY OF AMBITION
As the shadow follows him who flies from it, and as flies fly away from him who pursues it, so glory follows them who fly from it, and flies from them who seek it ” (St. Alphonsus Liguori). This is the paradox of our Christian life. God called us out of nothingness and loved us into being so that our lives will be always an appreciation of the unmerited favors we have received from him, in constant cognizance of our beginning: nothingness.
Our vocation is that of service. The organs of the church are organs of service, but today we have turned them into structures of social rank, dividing the seamless robe of Christ which even the unscrupulous soldiers dared not to rent. It is unthinkable seeing positions of service become class status with rights, privileges and social glamour as unfortunate definition. Even when these unwelcome practices are denied outwardly, the inner motivation is still caught in the Web.
CHILDLIKE SIMPLICITY :THE ONLY REMEDY
Our Lord has given us a shining example in his own self-emptying as St. Paul writes : “Though he was in the form of God…. He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil 2:6-7)”. According to Louw and Nida Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, kenosis (self-emptying) means, to completely remove or eliminate elements of high status or rank by eliminating all privileges or prerogatives associated with such status or rank. To empty oneself is to divest oneself of position.
The fact that Jesus took the form of a slave, first, shows him as our substitute, and secondly shows our true state. When he was sold at the price of a slave (thirty pieces of silver), as was stipulated in Exodus 21:32, it depicted our true worth on the value scale before he raised us by his precious blood, the new price at which we were bought. Hence : ” once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people (1Pet 2:10). Called from nothingness, we owe everything to him that caused our being. ” What do you have that is given (1cor 4:7)”.
Drawing from the above logic, we come to the conclusion that our real identity is in God, in whose image we were made. If God is simple, our real identity is in simplicity. Our essence is not composed of ranks, positions, power and social status. These things only come in when we lose our relationship with God. Having lost our true image which is in God, we then begin to create a false image. To give this false image relevance, we cover it with empty glory, power, position and social class as garments “as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface”. Thomas Merton.
To follow the Lord’s example of self-emptying, we are called to free ourselves from the illusion of this contingent ego that is bound to disappear like smoke. All the titles, ecclesiastical and social, on which we now base our identity, in the words of Merton, “are all destined by their very contingency to be destroyed. And when they are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness, to tell me that I am my own mistake”.
Self knowledge is the fundamental truth of Christian life. Nothingness, poverty and misery define man’s true identity before the incarnation that gave us meaning. Seeking relevance to our identity outside this union that gave us worth is futile and void. The secret of our greatness is in God. When we give up our ego and let him shine through us his glory will give meaning to our mortal lives.
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