YEAR II: HOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: AN IDEAL PARISH SETTING!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * 1 Kg 2: 1 – 12, Mk 6: 7 – 13.
If you look into some Parishes today, you cannot but wonder whether Christianity is gradually turning into a social club. Why would you talk to a poor man about becoming a Christian and he tells you that he can’t meet up with the expenses? You cannot but wonder whether the dynamics of structure (all the budgets we raise for projects) have gradually overtaken the essential evangelical mission of our Parishes. I think it is a fatal mistake to sacrifice this mission for the sake of structures. While we need structures (which also is a sign of growing faith), they ought to be servants of our mission. Looking at today’s gospel, I would like to summarily highlight the following points as paradigms of an ideal Parish:
- COLLABORATIVE MINISTRY: Are our parishes keeping the Lord’s commandments? In order to preach the gospel of love he sent out his disciples two by two on a mission. If we consider the ‘Antioch paradigm’, Act 11, we would see that the secret of the evangelical success of that 1st missionary Parish at Antioch was Barnabas’ successful collaborative ministry with his Assistant Parish Priest, Paul. This paradigm of collaborative ministry is gradually being lost. Despite the paucity of priests in some dioceses, and the upsurge of the need for new parishes necessitating that priests sometimes live alone in a Parish, we must not lose sight of the fact that collaborative ministry is an essential aspect of the Parish mission. Priests should not prefer to stay one by one as if resources are being distributed to avoid quarrel. Neither should parishes be created for political but pastoral reasons.
HEALING MINISTRY: The spiritual mandate we hear in the gospel of today is for deliverance and healing, that is, to cast out demons and heal the sick wherever they are. There is no euphemism about this. This ministry is to be exercised as primary assignment whether in form of physical, educational, psychological or spiritual healing… Healing is healing and deliverance is deliverance. Priests and evangelists are sent to parishes to do just this. The staff is the biblical symbol for this mandate.
EVANGELICAL MINISTRY: The real weapon of the preacher is the Word of God. The basic instruction given to the evangelist in this passage is to ‘stay there if any place receives you’. Some degree of evangelical stability is required in an ideal Parish setting; perhaps about 3 years to complete a liturgical calender or at most 6 years to complete 2 liturgical cycles. If the people reject the evangelist, then it is another issue. As John Rose puts it: ‘Rejection of the gospel will be calamitous; gospel received is blessing acquired, gospel rejected is curse embraced’. No wonder the instruction given to the evangelist is: ‘Shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them’. Remember the 6th plague of Moses against the Egyptians – the testimony of the dust will surely bring sores upon a stubborn people, Ex 9: 8.
As David told his son, Solomon in today’s 1st reading, ‘Be strong, show yourself a man and keep the Lord’s commandments’, Christ is telling all Parish Priests, evangelists and parishioners to be faithful to their evangelical mission and maintain the counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, the evangelical mandate for healing and deliverance and the demand for stability and focus on the job. We must never turn this vocation into business. The Parish setting must be a place where 2 or more priests should live together in love and be available to serve the community selflessly and preferably as celibates.
May God bless you today!