Fr. Ben’s homily for Thursday of the 13th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: A MAN OF ALTARS!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Thursday July 1 2021
* Gen 22 : 1 – 19, Matt 9 : 1 – 8.
Abraham is our father in faith for so many reasons :
1. He was the 1st person to impress God in faithful obedience showing his detachment from his fatherland ( 1st missionary), his wealth ( 1st religious) and even the 1st person to attempt to offer his only begotten son ( 1st papa fada).
2. He was the 1st person to pay his tithe to the priest Melchizedek and so receive priestly blessings of prosperity.
3. He was one of the 1st examples of a humble and peace loving child of God which manifested in the way he handled his brother Lot when a land dispute nearly ensued between them.
4. He was the 1st person to distinguish himself in the area of hospitality to strangers and he showed a perfect example of how a rich man should dispense his wealth for the service of others.
5. He was the 1st person, after Abel’s tragic attempt, to offer sacrifice to God and establish an altar for the most high God at Moriah. He was also the 1st person to attempt to offer his only begotten son as a sacrifice to God. God later gave humanity the correct picture of religion by offering his only begotten son Jesus Christ in place of Isaac the only begotten son of Abraham, Gen 22 : 13 so that most of these secret cults ( like Ogboni) who still believe in human sacrifice may repent. He was indeed “a man of altars”.
When we celebrate mass today, therefore, we must think of what happened at Moriah which looks like the 1st primitive attempt at the sacrifice of the Mass : In that very intelligent question of Isaac to his father, ‘ My father, behold the fire and the wood ; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’, I can feel the pain and anxiety which Jesus Christ went through at the garden of Gethsemane when he said : ‘Father, if this cup can pass over, let it…But let your will be done’, Matt 26 : 39. In that very confident answer of Abraham, ‘God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering, was Abraham not setting for us a sublime standard of faith and resignation to the will of God which even Christ had to learn at Gethsemane?, Heb 5 : 8.
And when Isaac was made to carry the wood of the sacrifice, was that not a theological preview of Christ’s carrying of the wood of the Cross? In that very dramatic replacement of Isaac with a ram, Abraham offered that day the 1st primitive sacrifice of the mass using not the ‘Lamb of God’ but the ‘Lamb from God’. What a beautiful cross carpeting of theological history!
Abraham, from that day entered a new level of covenant relationship with Yahweh ; a unilateral covenant pact where God had to swear to Abraham that he will bless him and his descendants to the extent that all nations shall be blessed through him and his descendants. What a serious downpour of divine favour on a human being! – ‘Because you have obeyed my Word’, because God saw his faith.
In today’s gospel, we also see Christ’s reaction when he saw the faith of the people who brought their paralyzed brother. He forgave his sins and healed his sicknesses. Whenever Jesus sees faith, especially in the sacrifice of the Mass, he forgives our sins and heals our infirmities. As God was impressed by the faith of Abraham, so is he impressed by our faith especially when it is accompanied with sacrifice. Bishop Okobo once said that ‘Without the sacrifice of the Mass, it is difficult to understand why a Catholic priest should not marry’. Yes, if Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son, Catholic priests must be ready to sacrifice what they cherish most – wife, children or wealth! There can be no Christianity without sacrifice and no love without the cross. As the paralytic of today’s gospel received a lot of love and care from his relations and friends, let us be more willing to make serious sacrifices for our loved ones who are sick. Where do we go to and where do we take them to when life’s situations get tough? To the altar of God or altar of idols? We are seeing a growing rise in the patronage of shrines ( Api Opi, Adoro Ero, Ube Ihunowere, Lolo Uhere, etc) as our young men and women are going back to these old ways. Let us put back our faith in Jesus Christ as a healer and problem solver. As Jesus took care of the paralytic in today’s gospel, he is ever there to do both spiritual (forgiveness of sins) and physical miracles of healing ( healing the paralytic) for us.
May God bless you today!
FR BEN AGBO