6TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
Theme: BEYOND PHARISEEISM TO PERFECTIONISM : A CALL TO SAINTHOOD!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Sir 15 : 15 – 20, 1Cor 2 : 6 – 10, Matt 5 : 17 – 37.
‘For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’
That was a categorical imperative from the master Jesus that must be taken seriously by us Christians. The Scribes and the Pharisees were slaves of law, rules and regulations without indebt understanding of the spirit behind the laws.
Christ insists that he has not come with a liberalistic mindset to allow us break the rules freely. No, the law is necessary and spiritual but Christ insists that we must understand the ultimate causes (philosophy, for Aristotle) behind the rules (jurisprudence) and be able to turn them into principles of life that shows our deepest convictions.
B. HUMAN FREEDOM
This is where human freedom becomes necessary in ethical /moral formation. Today’s 1st reading makes it clear that ‘If you wish you can keep the commandments… Before a man are life and death, good and evil and whichever he chooses has its own consequences’, Sir 15 : 15 – 20.
In music pedagogy, we study the rules of harmony in order to break them more wisely through the resolution of discords. And that is advanced harmony (judicious use of 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th chords, suspensions and anticipations, chromatic and atonal harmony). That was why Jesus looked like a law breaker before the Scribes and Pharisees ; his disciples sometimes did not wash their hands before eating according to Jewish traditions, he turned the water mearnt for the purification ceremony into wine at a wedding feast, healed a Mason /labourer with a withered hand on a Sabbath day and raised Lazarus from the dead after 4 days.
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According to Fr Emma Onuh, the greatest problem we have today in our Churches is the problem of ‘Christianism’ – It is the religion of the baptized who have been baptized but not converted ; who have left the shrines at their backyards but relocated it in their hearts. ‘Christianism is the crusade – ground – Christianity where Christ is made to look like that infamous fig tree of Jesus’ disgust, having loud shoots yet no fruits, cf Matt 21 : 19. It is the Christianity of imagination and not of faith. For this reason Jesus began the Sermon on the mountain with ‘Do not imagine…. cf Matt 5 : 17 ‘(Nsukka Diocesan Sunday Bulletin Reflection of 6th Sunday of Yr A, 13 /2/11).
C. CALL TO PERFECTION
Christ embarks in today’s gospel the project of perfecting the 5th, 6th and 2nd commandments by taking us deep down to the root causes /sources of our sins, faults and crime. For example, anybody that wants to keep the 5th commandment against murder must watch against against anger, Eph 4 : 25 – 30. Anybody that wants to keep the 6th commandment against adultery must avoid impure thoughts, masturbation, caressing and romancing, pornography, immodest dressing and fornication, Gal 5 : 19 – 25. Anybody that wants to keep the 2nd commandment against swearing falsely must desist from unnecessary oath taking /Igba ndu at the slightest provocation of the enemy and emphasize sincerity, 2 Cor 1 : 20. We can try the same approach for the rest of the commandments looking both at the thought side, word side, action and omission side of the law, Mk 7 : 14 – 22.
The problem of modern day Christianity is lack of perfectionists among Christian leaders. Without going to its extreme, we know that our ancestors in faith did not tolerate the kind of nonsense we see today among Christians both clergy and the laity, 1Cor 5, Act 5. In marriage for example, so many Catholic tribunals on the question of annulment have gone beyond diriment impediments, defects of form or ethical issues like intention against fidelity to grant annulment to all forms of cases. We are beginning to see compromise and different faces of liberalism here and there. Many celebrations of Marriages today have become more of a caricature of the sacrament of matrimony since the ladies intentionally get pregnant. The wedding ceremony is gradually becoming more of a Thanksgiving for fruit of the womb than a prayer for union of couples.
Today’s 2nd reading insists that the hidden wisdom of the Cross remains the pivotal source of the Holy Spirit among believers. We are therefore faced with 2 challenges ; vision (wisdom of God) and determination (grace of God). Saints are Christians who have a clear vision for perfection and are very determined relying on the grace of God, for the realization of this vision.
* A story was once told of a blind man who was determined to go to Church groping along the road with his walking stick. A disoriented young man collided with him and shouted : ‘My friend, why don’t you look where you are going?’. The embittered blind man retorted immediately : ‘My friend, why don’t you go where you are looking?’
You are becoming holy /perfect when you learn to look where you are going and go where you are looking ; When you become a little more patient with people ; When you criticize others less and correct yourself more ; When you monitor your thoughts more and keep custody of your senses ; When you get more firm with your spiritual principles and more humble in the use of your talents ; When you apply more wisdom in your actions and put more strength in your duties ; When you get more cheerful with people especially when they hurt you ; When you get less selfish with your ideas and more sensitive to know the feelings of others ; When you get more prayerful with God in private and less noisy in the midst of people.
Always remember that your faults, sins and crimes can affect your offering and worship to God . Christ says : ‘If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you (not viz versa)…. You know what to do! Happy Sunday dear friends!
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