BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)



*Hab 1: 2 – 2: 4, 2 Tim 1: 6 – 14, Lk 17: 5 – 10.

The greatest challenge of modern day Christianity is how to increase both the quality and quantity of our faith. We have so many Christians filling up the pews of our Churches everyday yet we don’t feel their positive impact in our society. Whatever made the apostles ask Jesus, in today’s gospel, to increase their faith, must have been very serious existential life challenges: Perhaps the epileptic boy they could not heal, Matt 17, Lk 14? The temptations towards prodigality, Lk 15? Indictment of Christ against their love of money, Lk 16? Or their inability to forgive their neighbour as often as Christ would want, Lk 17?

Christ affirmed their understanding of the importance of faith by telling them that, ‘If you had faith as little as that of a mustard seed, you would have power to command trees to be uprooted and transplanted into the sea’. With faith, we may not literally move trees, but we will have power to overcome obstacles, to do great things for the Lord and the world.
In Nigeria today, we need faith to go through the present challenges of economic recession, political division and social insecurity, especially the recent threat of the Fulani race on peaceful human life here in the Southern part of Nigeria. We need faith to resist all apparatchiks of bribery and corruption and be able to elect a credible leader for Nigeria come 2023.

What is this faith? It is not merely ideological or concept centered but person – centered. Faith is a belief in and dependence on God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus centered. It is trusting ourselves to Jesus; our lives, our jobs, our businesses, our property, our money, our relationships, our health and everything to Him. It is saying like St Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me’, Gal 2: 20. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’, Phil 4: 13. *Imagine a little boy that climbed a mango tree only to discover the branches and leaves breaking. When he was faced with this danger, he told his father who encouraged him to let go everything: ‘Jump, son, I’ ll catch you’. Without hesitation, the boy jumped and was safely caught in his father’s arms. This is faith!

There are 3 things the New Testament calls ‘precious’: The Blood of Christ, 1 Pet 1: 19, The Word of God, 1 Pet 1: 4 and Our Faith in God, 1 Pet 1:7, 2 Pet 1: 1.
Faith is precious because it is the mother of all virtues. It begets love, courage, patience, chastity, sincerity and all other virtues. Eg, it was the faith in Mother Theresa of Calcutta that materialized in form of love, compassion, wisdom and courage.
But Faith has got its dangers; mere faith not accompanied immediately by love could make us become noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, 1 Cor 13: 1. Faith becomes useless without good works, Js 2: 21. It becomes dangerous without knowledge, 2 Pet 1: 3 – 9, eg terrorists who are roaming the world planting bombs and killing people have faith but no love and understanding.

There is also this problem which Christ addresses in today’s gospel found even among Christians: the problem of service without faith. Our world is full of “I must get paid attitude”: Children filling pot holes want to be paid. Boys who rescue a car that falls into a ditch want to get their pay. Even preachers in a bus want to receive offering. Undertakers who help dig the grave or carry the corpse of their dead relative want to be paid. Government workers in offices want to receive money before they can push people’s files. The police wants to receive money before they can check crime. Parents also want to receive money after training their daughters. And now as we draw near to elections, voters who will cast their votes also want to be paid by the Politicians.
Every love without faith is not salutary but mere philanthropy. There are 3 levels of love; doing things for the sake of attraction (eros), doing things for the sake of mutual co-operation (filia), doing things for the sake of God (agape). According to Fr Emma Onuh of blessed memory, ‘Doing something for something is Commerce; doing something for nothing is Christianity, while doing nothing for something is 419 – the anthem of the Nigerian public service’. The Bible says: ‘Without faith, it is impossible to please God so everyone who comes to him should believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him’, Heb 11: 6.

History of philosophy describes the modern period as a period of dialectical and historical materialism When according to philosophers like Karl Marx, religion became the opium of the people; When according to Friedrich Nietzche God is dead and love for money has killed him. Money – mania reduces human life to something lower than animalistic level – a level of ‘thingification of man’ where being is reduced to ‘ontis’; parents have no more joy in training their children just for the sake of love, young men have no true love for women anymore except for the sake of sex, young girls don’t know what to look for in men except for money, etc. Through the parable of today’s gospel, Christ emphasizes the proper servant attitude – work for God and don’t expect reward: ‘When you have done all that you have been told to do, say “We are useless servants: we have done no more than our duty”.

The problem of materialism is the problem of trying to live our life without faith – to live in a spiritual world as if it were merely a material world. Today’s 1st reading reminds us that ‘The just man shall live because of his faith’, Hab 2: 4. Yes, ‘The righteous shall be guided by faith and not by sight’, 2 Cor 5: 7. Emerson encourages us to have faith in God saying: ‘All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen’. Let us ‘fan into flame the gift of faith’ we received at our baptism, confirmation, or ordination, 2 Tim 1: 6. How? By finding more time to listen to the Word of God and meditate on them. By finding more time to pray seriously and fervently about our problem situations. We remind our Parish priests and their parishioners that the 1st Friday adoration is a traditional devotion that can enable us and our christians stay closer with Jesus in the Blessed sacrament and exercise our faith in him over and above our practical existential challenges instead of allowing them to run about from pillar to post in search of solutions from wrong sources. The problem we have today is that many Christians claim to believe in God but do not believe in what God can do. May the Lord increase our faith in him. Happy Sunday dear friends!

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