YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER
THEME: UPPER ROOM MINISTRATION: He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: *Act 3:13-19, 1 Jn 2:1-5, Lk 24:35-48.
Even before the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Christ needed to minister “peace” back to the hearts of his followers. They must have been shattered by the pangs of guilt, fear and faithlessness after the demise of Christ. He needed to restore again their confidence in God and also in themselves. Without this basic release of PEACE, nobody can operate efficiently here on earth.
B. UPPER ROOM MINISTRATION
There are 3 essential demands for effective discipleship mentioned in today’s readings and which were especially ministered to the disciples at Upper room:
1. REPENTANCE-Act 3:13-19- ‘You demanded the release of a murder while you killed the Prince of Life…Now you must repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out’. It is not possible to carry our heavy baggage of sin along in our walk with Christ. Every past negative choices we have made against the truth and against the LIFE IN THE SPIRIT must be repented of ; Excess drinking, smoking, flirting, all forms of immorality/ defilement of our body, theft, stealing, quarrelling, fighting, murder and all bad actions, envy, pride, greed and all bad thoughts, deceit, malice, avarice and all bad hearts, slander, gossip, folly and all bad mouths, etc, Mk 7:21-22.
2. OBEDIENCE-1 Jn 2:1-5- ‘Anyone who says ‘I know him’ and does not keep his commandments is a liar (hypocrite), Mtt 7:21…When anybody does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him’. Obedience is the litmus test of authentic followership. No more, no less.
3. KNOWLEDGE-Lk 24:35-48- ‘Everything written about me in the scriptures has to be fulfilled…He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures. This logo therapy is quintessential for every Christian / disciple.
The UPPER ROOM MINISTRATION was targeted at the realization of the above 3 demands before effective witnessing could commence and the effect of their complete conversion is found in the statement ‘PEACE BE WITH YOU’.
Our failure today to be demonstratively Christian accounts for the minimal success of the gospel in Nigeria and the maximal presence of neo-paganism even among us Christians. In places like Aku in Nsukka North Senatorial zone and indeed many other places including Nsukka urban, many ‘Christians’ still involve themselves in ‘Odo and Omabe cult’ and some theologians are busy rationalizing it away as cultural entertainment. The fact remains that the concept of masquerades as ‘spirit manifests’ and its links to the ancestral cult are African traditional elements that we may not very easily inculturate without “putting new wine into old wine skin”, Mk 2 : 22. According to Fr Emma Onuh of blessed memory, ‘Most people have left the shrines but have not reached the church. They drop on the way’.
In Nigeria today, our greatest challenge is lack of practical approach to Christianity. We preach a lot but act less. Pope Paul VI said that the modern man needs more witnesses than preachers. Unfortunately, our Seminary formation currently seems to be tailored more towards producing preachers than witnesses. We need the courage as a Church to boldly confront corruption in all its ramifications all around us. .
We need to continue the UPPER ROOM MINISTRATION if we would produce real Christians. We need more devotion to the Word of God – experiential not just theoretical knowledge of the Word of God. Christ reminded them at the Upper room today: ‘These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you…Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’. Yes, we need a lot of reminders and repetitions of the Word of God. Our childhood Catechism is not enough for on-going Christian life. Yet we are too busy on Sundays for real teaching. Friends, rushing Sunday mass without coming back in the evening will not help the infant Church of Nigeria.
We need deeper touch for deeper repentance. Today’s 2nd reading says that the Word of God is there to guide us that we may not sin, 2 Tim 3 : 16, but in case we happen to sin, we have an advocate with the Father’, 1 Jn 2 : 1 – 5. But if we are not sufficiently emersed in His Word, we keep falling into sin to an extent that we begin to live in it. That will turn into hypocrisy. Sin must remain only accidents in the life of believers and not what Fr Eugene Odo calls “planned emergency”. We need to tarry a while at the UPPER ROOM especially during this season and make our encounter with the risen Christ a little bit more experiential.
Routine/perfunctory religiousity is the bane of modern day Christianity.
Happy Sunday dear friends!
FR BEN AGBO.