March 30, 2020

Catholic For Life

Preaching the Santity of Human Life and the Gospel Message




BY: Fr Benjamin Agbo

HOMILY: *Neh 8:2-10, 1 Cor 12:12-30, Lk 1 :1-4, 4:14-21.
Biblical history has it that after the edict of King Cyrus, the Persian King, sometime around 538 BC, the Jews were permitted to return from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem in order to rebuild their temple and the walls of their city. Nehemiah, their leader, had been appointed High Commissioner (like present day Minister) and it was a miraculous year of favour for the people of God.
In today’s 1st reading, we are told that with all solemnity, the law was read that day to the people by Ezra the high priest, translating and giving sense (in homily style) so that the people understood what was read. They bowed down (adoration) and face to the ground, prostrated themselves to the Lord. They began to cry because they were touched by the Word of God. They confessed their sins because they realized that the cause of their demise was the breaking of covenant with God by their ancestors and they promised to observe the law again. It was a radical and spontaneous prayer – deep and emotional.
His excellency, Nehemiah, their President, told them not to cry again but to go and eat and drink (in Spiritual Communion) because this day is sacred to their God. He told them that ‘The joy of the Lord is their strength’. Interesting story! Isn’t it?

Exactly 500 years later, a recapitulation of the same event happened in the Jewish synagogue on the sabbath day as we find in today’s gospel. Jesus picks up the Old Testament scriptures and reads from Prophet Isaiah 61:1-2. He told them point black that this prophesy is being fulfilled today in their midst.
It was all about his mission statement and by extension, the mission of the Church – a mission of 5 dimensional empowerment of the people through the good news ;
(i) Good news to the afflicted through counseling /exhortation – PSYCHOLOGICAL EMPOWERMENT.
(ii) Liberty to captives through deliverance ministry – SPIRITUAL EMPOWERMENT.
(iii) Sight to the blind through education – INTELLECTUAL EMPOWERMENT.
(iv) To let the oppressed go free through the era of justice /good governance – POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT.
(v) To proclaim a year of favour and prosperity through the blessings of priests, Num 6:22-27 – ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT.
* Every Priest, every Christian, every Church should to a reasonable degree identify and align itself with this 5 dimensional mission of Christ.

The tragic moments in Israel’s leadership began when their leaders lost the triple anointing as Prophet, Priest and King. Take note that Melchizedek, Gen 14, Moses, Ex 3, Joshua, Josh 1, Samuel, 1Sam 3, etc, like Christ, functioned under this triple anointing as Prophet (teacher and oracle of God), eg Elijah, 1Kg 17 & 19, Priest (ordained for the blessing of the people, Num 6:22-27 and offering their sacrifices to God, Heb 5 :1-3), and King (elected as Leader /Administrative head of the people, 1Sam 10).
The leaders after Samuel lost this triple anointing, eg, Saul, David, Solomon and later the Kingdom of Israel was divided. Now came the prophesy of restoration, Is 1:26, Is 9 :6 announcing the coming of Christ which means ‘anointed one’ – He was anointed with the oil of gladness more than anyone else, Heb 1:9 and rules as ‘Our great High Priest’, Heb 3 :1 and as ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’, Rev 17 :14.

We all (as Christians), share in this triple anointing of Christ by ‘meaningfully’ participating in the Sacraments of the Church, eg, Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist (supported by Penance). As the Word of God promised, ‘The yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing (received through his Word and Sacraments).
The Word of God must therefore be thoroughly espoused in churches as we find in today’s 1st reading (They read the scriptures from morning ’till noon) and Jesus did likewise (He taught them at some length, Mk 6:34). The Church must embrace the true mission of empowerment for the people through education, political enlightenment, economic empowerment, etc. Our job is not merely to pray for Nigeria in distress. We can do much more if the Word of God is given more sense.

Every Parish needs to pray more seriously, addressing the people’s various problems ; do joyful Eucharist adoration, study the scriptures avidly, like they did in Nehemiah’s time and be able to participate in the 5 fold ministry of Christ.
The deliverance ministry should not be left for the Pentecostals and Charismatics alone. It is the proper mission of Christ. The charismatic Ministry should not be left for priests alone. We must realize that Spiritual gifts are variant.
We gather from today’s 2nd reading a kind of hierarchical placement of ecclesiastical gifts ;
(i) Apostles
(ii) Prophets and
(iii) Teachers – These belong to the higher administrative gifts for Church leadership, eg bishops and priests.
(iv) Miraculous powers
(v) Healers – These are special gifts that can manifest both within the clergy and the laity.
(vi) Helpers /Stewards
(vii) Guidance Counsellors
(viii) Intercessors /Prayer warriors gifted with various kinds of tongues – These gifts are seen more predominantly among the laity all for the empowerment of the people of God.
Empowerment is Christ’s mission on earth and the Church must never lose touch of this point. 2 Pet 1 :3-9 says it all – 8 LEVELS OF EMPOWERMENT : (i) Faith (SPIRITUAL), (ii) Goodness (SOCIAL), (iii) Understanding (INTELLECTUAL), (iv) Self Control (MORAL), (v) Perseverance (PSYCHOLOGICAL), (vi) Devotion (RELIGIOUS), (vii) Filial love /Influence (POLITICAL), (viii) Agape Love (PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL). The Bible says that the possession of these gifts will prevent our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ from being ineffectual or unproductive.

Happy Sunday dear friends!

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