YEAR B: HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY OF THE 23RD WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: Rejoice, Leap for Joy, for Behold Your Reward is in Heaven.
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
_“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!” *(Luke 6:22)*_
How do you feel when you get an alert? How do you feel when you get called to resume your dream job? How do you feel when your business gets a big lift? Jesus is telling us today that this is just how we should feel when people hate us, exclude us or punish us for the sake of our Christian identity.
However, you would admit that this is not so easy to do. If we are very honest with ourselves, we would admit that most of our prayers are directed against the very things that Jesus is asking us to rejoice about.
For instance, yesterday we read about how a priest from Orlu diocese was gunned down by unknown persons while he went to cut his hair. Not too long ago, we heard of how a priest in Abuja diocese who was shot by unknown gunmen while he simply went to pick up groceries. We are still bleeding over the death of two Catholic priests and nineteen others killed in Benue State while mass was going on. Could these attacks be on account of their Christian identity? If that is the case, then how come we are not rejoicing? Why are we not leaping for joy? Why are we railing curses on those behind these crimes?
Yesterday, St. Paul writing to the Corinthians said it is better for us to be wronged, to suffer injustice than to carry our case before unbelievers. This by itself is a very hard injunction to keep yet, coming down to today’s Gospel passage, we hear Jesus saying: “Woe to you that are rich… woe to you that are full now… woe to you when all men speak well of you.” In other words, not only is it a blessing to suffer unjustly for Christ’s sake, we shouldn’t consider riches, pleasure and power (good name) as blessings.
When we look carefully at these three statements, “Woe to the rich, woe to those who are full and woe to those well-spoken of by others” we would discover that Jesus actually punctures the three pillars of the Gospel of prosperity; riches, pleasure and power. Now, does this mean that being rich, happy or powerful is a sin? Of course, No! Jesus is simply saying that these should not be our top priorities in life. Indeed, when we juxtapose this passage with that of James in the second reading of Sunday, who said God prefers the poor, the message which emanates is simple: POVERTY IS NOT A CURSE.
The fact that you do not have all your desires for riches, pleasure and fame should never be interpreted as a punishment from God. Indeed, you should be grateful that you are not so rich, full, powerful or popular. These are the very things the world (and our prosperity preachers) make us aspire for and Jesus is asking us to turn the other way; to direct our gaze to some other higher values; values such as love for our neighbours, longing for heaven, contentment, holiness, truthfulness, forgiveness, etc. Jesus is not saying riches are sinful, rather, he wants us to consider riches as the lowest of all our priorities.
As a small boy growing up in an area surrounded by very wealthy people wherein we were the only ones who did not have taps freely flowing with water right inside the bathroom, I was determined to work hard in school, to excel beyond every expectation to become the richest man on earth. But as I grew older, I came to discover that being a Christian meant changing my dreams from earthly riches to heavenly riches. It meant being in the world, yet not of the world. It meant living your life as if you are just on an excursion to planet earth.
This is the point St. Paul seeks to drive home when he said: “let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
Don’t you think it is time to reflect on your top priorities in this life?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my love for heaven. Amen. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Wednesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31, Psalm 45:11-17 and Luke 6:20-26).