YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * Jonah 3 : 1 – 10, 1Cor 7 : 29 – 31, Mk 1 : 14 – 20.
The two fold demands of Christianity are summarized by Jesus’ statement in today’s gospel : ‘Repent and believe in the gospel’. All the problems we have in Christianity today stem from the attempts by Christians to either evade this injuction of Christ completely or to affect it partially by either trying to believe in the gospel without repentance or repenting without believing in the gospel. To repent (‘ncheghari’ in Igbo) is have a change of mind and return back to the right direction (‘nchighari’) as we find in the story of the Prodigal son, Lk 15 : 11 – 33 . In the Greek language, two words are used : ‘metanoia’ is change of mind while ‘metamelomia’ is to have a remorse or sorrow for one’s sin sometimes because of its negative consequence. The latter is not sufficient. For example, fornication is evil whether it results in pregnancy, infection, scandal or not.
To believe in the gospel has 2 dimensions; example, believing in the truth about the divinity of Christ, Col 1: 5, Gal 2 : 5 etc and applying this belief existentially, example, taking Jesus at his Word in practical day to day challenges, Jn 3 : 16, Lk 4 : 18. The meaning of the Good news (‘evangelion’ in Greek) are as follows : (i) Good news of faith in Christ Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour, Phil 3 : 8, (ii) Good news of hope – the hope that his call holds for us, Eph 1 : 19, (iii) Good news of love – perfect love casts out all fear, 1 Jn 4 : 11 – 18, (iv) Good news of peace – eagerness to spread the gospel of peace, Eph 6 : 15 and love of the enemy, Matt 5 : 45, (v) Good news of salvation even for the Gentiles, Eph 3 : 6, (vi) Good news of immortality – He has abolished death and brought immortality and life through the gospel, 2 Tim 1 : 10.
B. CONTENT ANALYSIS
Nineveh (whether real or imaginary) is the biblical symbol of a great city / country like Nigeria endowed with numerous potentials but ravished in the quicksands of corruption, poor leadership, ethnic /selfish interests, religious madness /hypocrisy, immorality, bribery and corruption, etc. Jonah is the biblical symbol of the selfish /unrefined Prophet /man of God who warns the people of imminent danger, example rapture without caring to know or come to terms with the resultant change or outburst in the magnanimity of God. In the gospel, Jesus preaches a more positive message and makes a higher demand than Jonah. Jonah demanded only repentance out of fear but Jesus demands that we repent and believe in the gospel. The 3 ‘R’ s of salvation are : Redemption, Repentance and Regeneration.
To repent is to change our ways but to believe in the gospel is to change our perspective to God’s perspective. Many Christians in modern times believe in the gospel for prosperity reasons but do not really make effort to change their lives, Matt 6 :33. St Jerome said that ‘Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ’. There is no way we can be good Christians without knowing the gospel as it is written in the scriptures and interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium.
In Nigeria today, people are calling for change in a so called democratic dispensation where there is no more internal democracy; where the madness of concensus candidacy, stake holder vs godfatherism and born to rule mentality have completely raped the democratic process; where there is gross insecurity of lives, and we are all keeping quiet, while those who speak resonate on deaf ears; where the interests of the poor have been sacrificed completely for the interest of the few political cabals ruling Nigeria.
To say that we need corporate repentance in Nigeria today is to say the least. We need a spiritual and political revolution. Christianity in Nigeria has unfortunately stopped preaching repentance and the Churches are busy with structural projects and prosperity preaching – a snag which the devil uses to make us remain ‘this worldly’. But Jesus is still telling us today : ‘Repent and believe in the gospel’.
Happy Sunday dear friends!
FR BEN AGBO.