FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF SS SIMON AND JUDE
THEME: THE CHURCH AS THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IN THE SPIRIT!*
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr).
HOMILY FOR FRIDAY OCTOBER 28 2022.
* Eph 2 : 19 – 22, Lk 6 : 12 – 19.
*PREAMBLE: THE MARK OF THE TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST*
Today’s 1st reading makes it clear that the Church is the ‘household of God built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure (ecclesia) is joined together and grows into a holy temple for the dwelling place of God in the Spirit’. In ecclesiology, these marks of the true Church of Christ has been succinctly amplified into the following 4 parameters:
1. CATHOLICITY: The Church of Christ, starting from its priesthood, is not a private or personal enterprise but universal (Catholic). The letter to the Hebrews, speaking about the priesthood of Christ, emphatically said that ‘no one takes this honour upon himself but is called by God (through the Church), Heb 5: 4. The Church of Christ is everywhere not limited to a particular culture or elements of individualism. It’s rites, rituals, doctrines and teachings are uniform. Paul says ‘If anyone, even if it is an angel preaches to you a different doctrine from these, let him be accursed’.
2. APOSTOLICITY: Every Church of Christ has its practices, teachings and rituals built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. It is this historical connection that gives any Church its authenticity.
3. UNITY IN SACRAMENTALITY: St Paul warns that ‘there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism (sacraments)’, Eph 4: 5. The uniformity of sacramental rites and rituals remain one mark of the true Church of Christ.
4. HOLINESS OF SPIRIT (PENTECOSTALITY): It is not a question of spirit operating in a church that matters but which spirit? Many spirits operate today in churches flooding people with gifts according as their hearts’ desires. There are ancestral spirits from our forefathers, inherited from the primitive traditional religion enabling many people to heal the sick, cast out lower demons (temporally), see into the future and past (fortune telling ) and divinations, Matt 8, Lk 11, Act 8. There was this particular slave girl who had spiritual powers which her masters were using for business but when Paul encountered her, he knew that spirit was fake and challenged it. We must be sensitive about which spirit operates in the so called man or women of God to ensure that it is the Holy Spirit. Christ said ‘You will come to know them by their fruits’, Matt 7: 14.
In the gospel, we see the life of Jesus epitomized by quiet time: ‘All night he continued in prayer to God and when it was day, He chose his disciples’. A holy and charismatic Church is a praying Church; not mere celebration of perfunctory rituals but a worship of God in spirit and truth, Jn 4: 24. We are told that ‘a great multitude of people came to hear him (Word of God) and to be healed of their diseases and those troubled with evil spirits got delivered…’. That is the kind of ministry that Jesus ran … ‘All the crowd sought to touch him for power came forth from him and healed them all ‘. That is the personality of Jesus that mirrors the ideal personality of all priests. But the devil has never rested in trying to mimick and fake this image in a number of priests and pastors, many of whom operate with ancestral spirits from African traditional religion without the fruits of holiness. ‘You will still know them by their fruits’.
CONCLUSION: We need the Holy Spirit and not any spirit to operate in the Church; spirit of love not spirit of materialism, spirit of humility not spirit of arrogance and all the braggadacio we see in present day ministers, spirit of true worship, not cold and dead rituals. According to Cardinal Suenens: ‘Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away, Christ stays in the past, the gospel is a dead letter, the Church is simply an organization, authority is matter of domination…. the Liturgy is no more than an evocation… But with the Holy Spirit … the Church shows forth the Trinity, authority is a liberating service, mission is a Pentecost, the Liturgy is both memorial and anticipation, human action is deified’. May God bless you today!