Fr. Ben’s homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: WHO ARE THE REAL ENEMIES OF THE CHURCH?
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Homily for Sunday September 26 2021
* Num 11 : 25 – 29, Js 5 : 1 – 6, Mk 9 : 38 – 48.
No man, woman or even Church has complete understanding of the Truth. Truth is always bigger than anyone’s understanding of it. Intolerance is a sign of ignorance and arrogance. It is a sign that a man believes that there is no truth beyond the one he sees. St Thomas Aquinas warned that we should ‘fear the man of one book’ and I add, ‘even if that book is the Bible’.
Freedom of opinion and speech is the hallmark of any democracy. That’s why the brilliant French Philosopher and Scientist, Voltaire, was once vehemently opposed and criticized by one of his subordinates. He was very angry with the young man but said to him : ‘I hate what you have said but I can die for your right to say it’. He allowed his critic to become one of his closest associates till he died. In today’s gospel and 1st reading, God seems to be so generous with the charismatic gifts of prophesy or what looks like our so – called gifts of tongues today that those of us suffering from ‘stopmania’ – the sickness of stopping this and that abuse in the Church may need to learn quite a chunk of lessons!
B. JEALOUSY ON BEHALF OF GOD?
Complaint about the exorcist in today’s gospel who was not in the apostolic fold but casting demons in Jesus’ name could still be likened to the priest, pastor, charismatic brother or sister doing ‘ministrations’ in a queer unorthodox way. He/ she may not be the real enemy of the Church provided he/ she is working in Jesus’ name. But we may need to ask a number of critical questions: Why is he/ she ministering? What results is he/ she getting and what fruits do these bear on the growth of the Church? Why are those complaining doing so? Are they complaining because they are jealous of the minister (who may be attracting more attention than themselves) or because they have true love for God and his Church?
Christ seems to say today that ‘Anyone who is not against us is for us’ (The Principle of Inclusive Tolerance) and that it is wrong to say that ‘Anyone who is not with us (ie doing it in our own way) is against us (Principle of Exclusive Tolerance). The Christian/ Church leader with the mind of Christ is one who can recognize human needs and minister to them as Jesus did irrespective of race, creed or denominational restrictions.
C. WHO ARE THE REAL ENEMIES OF THE CHURCH?
1. THE UNCHARITABLE: Today’s 2nd reading identifies the uncharitable rich people as the real enemies of the Church; those who cannot share what they have with the poor. Burning fire awaits them and their wealth is gonno rot and rust uselessly.
2. THE EXPLOITERS OF THE POOR: The exploiters of the poor wherever they are found whether outside or inside the Church are the real enemies of the Church; The rich politicians and rulers who loot our public treasuries and refuse to hand over power to others who will do better than them are the real enemies.
3. THE SCANDALIZERS OF THE WEAK: Ministers who confuse and corrupt their flock and abuse the minors sexually are the real enemies of the Church. Teachers who exploit and harass their weak students sexually and through other ways are the real enemies of the Church.
4. THE MURDERERS & THE VIOLENT: Those who promote abortion, cults of violence (like Odo, Omabe, Akatakpa) and any form of killing/ molestation of the innocent preventing them from going about their legitimate businesses are the real enemies of the Church.
5. PERPETRATORS OF INJUSTICE: Those who prosecute wrong judgment or bear false witnesses; those who seat upon the patrimony of orphans and widows are the real enemies of the Church.
D. UNIVERSALITY OF THE SPIRIT
The first lesson we must learn from today’s readings is that salvation is not for any reserved group alone. The Holy Spirit is not the property of any denomination. As the Lord took some of Moses’ spirit and put on the 70 elders and they prophesied, he is still putting his Spirit in many unconventional places and people. The complaints against Eldad and Medad are still rife among us as evidences of jealousy and religious intolerance. Religious intolerance is ruining the world today and it has both internal (when it is against members of our own faith) and external (when it against members of other faith) dimensions. We are not suggesting doctrinal compromise but spiritual expansivity and maturity of judgment especially in the light of Vatican II’s spirit of ecumenism and inculturation.
We need not worry so much about what we will stop in others as much as what we will stop in ourselves. We must stop all obstacles to our salvation and most importantly, we must stop ourselves from becoming obstacles to others’ salvation especially the minors and vulnerable adults (Christ calls them ‘these little ones of mine), the altar boys and girls around us, the junior Seminarians working under us, our father’s boys and girls, our maids and children, our students and apprentices. We must stop all corrupt influences we exert on them directly or indirectly, covertly or overtly, by commission or by omission.
We should worry more about those we prevent from seeing God because of the way we see him; those we ban/ debar from the sacraments and those we scare away from the Church through our stringent financial, moral or even liturgical rules. We need to worry more about the real enemies of the Church than the weak/ imperfect members of the Church who are making effort in the ministry. Happy Sunday dear friends!