Catholic homily for Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Lent
Theme: PAGAN RULERSHIP VS CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP : THE SIN OF FAVOURITISM!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Wednesday March 3 2021
*Jer 18 : 18 – 20, Matt 20 : 17 – 28.
Pagan rulership is always characterized by the inflicting of injuries against priests, widows and orphans – the three most vulnerable classes of people. Priests make themselves vulnerable by sacrificing sometimes their source of livelihood and protection, finding themselves in a strange land without security just for the good of the people. The widows and orphans are made vulnerable by the loss of their husbands and caregivers. Their cry for justice before God, ipso facto, often receive priority consideration.
The condemnation of Jeremiah in today’s 1st reading and the condemnation of Jesus by the Chief priests and Scribes of the primitive religion to be mocked, scourged and crucified, was the highest perpetuation of atrocities of the time. Pagan rulership is always characterized by this kind of plot against men of God and people of God. The rulers of the Gentile world lord it over and perpetrate a lot of evil and favoritism against the poor and vulnerable but Christ wants the Christian leaders to be servants of the poor.
When Christianity becomes completely socialized with mundane preoccupations, it can be very attractive for the rich who will want to occupy the front seats and send the poor backwards. They will make every Sunday a project Sunday so that the poor will continue to shift their seats back. They will even hijack the Junior Seminaries and make it difficult for the children of the poor to get there through high tuition fees.
In today’s gospel, Christ teaches a very big lesson about favoritism and discipleship. He makes us understand that the things that matter in discipleship is service /sacrifice not the privileges. It is the cross and not the crown. The plea for favoritism from the mother of the Sons of Zebedee was returned with the question : ‘Are you able to drink the chalice that I will drink?’. Christ does not refuse the request of his Aunty, Salome but insists on a reality check to avoid shift of emphasis. This is the fundamental difference between pagan rulership and Christian leadership. Positions are given to people not because of their connection to the leader but their qualification for service. Of course, James and John were qualified and had to pay the price.
Grace and favour do not mean exactly the same things. In the divine econometrics of spiritual dispensations, grace is completely unmerited but favour/ blessing is partly merited and partly unmerited. In today’s gospel, the mother of the sons of Zebedee ( James and John) wanted a favour from Jesus, perhaps due to her biological relationship with his mother ( Mary) or due to the meritorious devotion which these two boys have hitherto shown in their followership of Jesus. But Jesus asked a vital question : DO THEY MERIT THIS FAVOUR? Are they able to drink the chalice of suffering which I will drink? And even when they proved capable, he told them that the favour they were asking belonged to God the father to grant and not to him. Although Jesus said : ‘ Ask and you shall receive…’, this promise should be submitted to his will and should not be abused. Ours is to perform our duties and leave the granting of favours and privileges to God.
Favouritism is the sin of giving a special privilege to someone who has not merited it at the expense of those who merit it. It is one of the greatest sins we find in our society today especially in places like the higher institutions where so many graduates who had 1st class are looking for employment while those who should be selling groundnuts in the market are hired as lecturers just because they were opportuned to be professor’s wife/relation or something like that. Basic questions, the kind that Jesus asked in today’s gospel, must be asked before favours are granted : IS HE/ SHE QUALIFIED FOR THIS JOB OR POSITION? ARE THERE OTHERS BETTER QUALIFIED THAN HIM/ HER WHO HAVE BEEN APPLYING FOR THE SAME JOB/ POSITION?
The Christian message is that political and administrative appointments should be by merit and not by favour ; Leadership is a call for service not a privileged position of dictatorship or something to be struggled for. Let the priests continue to teach this ; let the wise continue to give this counsel and let the prophets continue to direct Nigerians aright ; ‘The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them…but it shall not be so among you’. Where we are heading back to right now in this country is back to military dictatorship in civilian uniforms ; back to foreign debts ( quasi colonization) and terrible economic recession ; back to the original state of nature ( as we see in Southern Kaduna, Borno, Benue States and other terrorized regions of Nigeria) where life is nasty, brutish and short ; back to the terrorism of Boko haram and Fulani herdsmen ; back to the militarization and rigging of elections in broad daylight – all because of the selfishness of our big politicians, the silence of our prophets and the cowardice of the masses. Only God can save us now.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO