FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THURSDAY OF THE 16TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE II
THEME: RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE: A CANKERWORM BEDEVILLING THE NATION!
BY: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
HOMILY FOR THURSDAY JULY 21 2022
*Jer 2: 1 – 13, Matt 13: 10 – 17.
There is so much religious prejudice in Nigeria today. Indeed, somebody has prophesied that *if the consumerism of the Nigerian politicians does not destroy us, the next thing that will destroy Nigeria will be *RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE*. Bertrand Russell observed quite sagaciously many decades ago that ‘The trouble with the world is that the stupid is cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt’. Just look at how Muslim fanatics, for instance are keeping the whole world in ransom today for the ideas of one Mohammed whose ideologies have not been subjected to any litmus test of objectivity.
Even among Christians, *the Bible is one instrument that is capable of destroying or building our society* depending on how it is approached. While Catholics insist on interpreting it collectively as a Church, Non Catholics insist on individual interpretation. Yet the Bible itself says that ‘the interpretation of scriptural prophesy is never a matter for the individual. For no prophesy ever came from human initiative. When people spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them’, 2 Pet 1: 20. We have seen how far this ‘Holy Spirit’ has actually moved so many individuals today. This is why Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) will often say that *’Dogma is the interpretation of scripture according to tradition’*. Today we are dealing not just with the problem of interpretation of scriptures but *the interpretation of personal revelations*. That is why a good number of Catholics during the CoViD 19 pandemic refused receiving holy communion in the hand for 2 years due to personal revelations. Religious Prejudice is a sickness.
I am personally making an advocacy in today’s Nigerian Christianity for *interdenominational colloquium/ dialogue* ; a prayerful dialogue – an ecumenical dialogue that can gradually open our eyes and ears and heart to the *truth coming from other Churches (and even other devotional devices within a particular Church)* so that we don’t end up acting like the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus addresses in today’s gospel as suffering from religious prejudice. Don’t think you are exempt from this cankerworm of prejudice. Fr Emma Onuh says that ‘There is within each of us a Pharisee, a pagan, a sinner, a saint, name it. Being good or being bad largely depends on which trait we allow to dominate at any given time. That which compels us never to accept the truth from others is the Pharisee in us. That which makes us think that God can be accessed through stones, streams and elemental beings, is the pagan in us. That which prevents us from recognizing the will of God for us and from doing good, is the sinner in us. That which compels us to receive the Word of God and to abide in it, is the Saint in us’. Even among the Orthodox and Pentecostal Churches, even among the Muslims, go and look very well and you will still see a cold war going on between the conservatives and the progressives.
But Jesus continues to tell us that He is the WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. He continues to lament even within our Churches that ‘these people’s heart has grown dull and their eyes are heavy of hearing…Their eyes have closed lest they perceive with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn to me to heal them.. But blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear’. We pray for the gift of knowledge and the truth. Without it we remain under prejudice. As Teillard de Chardin put it ‘Knowledge is mankind’s twin sister. *If you are not informed then you are deformed* and when you are deformed you cannot perform’. May God save us from prejudice!