Homily for Midnight and New Year Mass
Theme: WHEN THE APPOINTED TIME CAME…
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Friday January 1 2021
*Num 6:22-27, Gal 4:4-7, Lk 2 :16-21.1.
The operative phrase of today’s liturgical celebration is: ‘When the appointed time came… ‘. And our question in this homily for you is: ‘When is this ‘kairotic’ moment going to come in your life as a Christian?’. The Pentecostal era is the appointed time of the Church – the fulness of time when the people of God are supposed to be historically enriched with all the spiritual and material blessings in Christ Jesus. But one thing about progress is that it is both dynamic and retrogressive. Every positive change must recognize the good things in the past. Fanaticism does not allow us do this and that is the only reason why the Church has not yet arrived at where she should be.
B. HISTORICAL EXCURSUS
I want to look at today’s readings on this last day of the year from a historical perspective. Church history chronicles 4 major eras of grace;
1. The Apostolic period; The Church was being planted through the vigorous labours of the apostles. Christ needed to support them with miracles, yet left them to suffer hard times when necessary. All of them ended as Martyrs. There was no Bible yet but the Old Testament scriptures, the teachings and actions of Christ were fresh in their minds and guided their actions.
2. The Structuralization period; The Church became an organized institution. Its liturgical actions needed to be organized in form of Sacraments. Its organs of leadership/hierachy had to be structuralized. There were ofcourse several mistakes, challenges and oppositions here and there. But God’s grace was prevailing as promised, Matt 28:20.
3. The Evangelical period; The Word of God (especially the collated ones, the Bible) became the resource material for evangelization. Variant understandings of the Scriptural passages became the hurricane that rocked the boat of Church unity till today.
4. The Pentecostal era; Existential problems had to be confronted by the hammer of faith especially in America and Africa. Healing and Deliverance ministeries began to flourish. Christianity became more pragmatic than idealistic. Unfortunately, Salvation was no longer the main focus but Prosperity. Amidst these historical precedents, I want you to examine your position this year as a Child of God.
Today’s 2nd reading says that ‘When the appointed time came, God sent His Son born of a woman (Mary) to redeem… and enable us to be adopted as sons. V. 5. The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit that cries ‘Abba father’ – a spirit that makes you not a slave anymore but a son and if a son then an heir of spiritual blessings’. Elsewhere, the scriptures elucidate these blessings as follows : ‘He has blessed us in Christ with all the Spiritual blessings of heaven (not earth) ; (i) Holiness, (ii) Adoption as sons, (iii) Redemption through his blood, (iv) Freedom, (v) Forgiveness of sins, (vi) Wisdom, (vii) Insight, Eph 1:3-8.
Mary is the model of this blessedness, Lk 1 :48 and that is why every new year the Church liturgically showcases her at the centre stage after the celebration of the birth of her son, Jesus.
* Scott Hann’s confession : ‘I now see Mary as the perfect work of Christ and greatest revelation of his glory. She no more steals the Son’ s glory than the moon steals the sun’s glory’.
* Cardinal Henry Newman says that ‘She is the new Eve, the earned grace, obedient and believing, cause of salvation and made room for our Lord’s reparation’.
*For them (both are heavy weight theologians and all Catholic converts from the Anglican Communion), Christology (theological study of the mysteries of Christ’s incarnation) is also Mariology (theological study of the mysteries of the Divine elevation of Mary) because ‘When the fulness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman (Mary)’, Gal 4 :4. Mary helped in the dramatic ending of the Old testament and the beginning of the new when she brought forth Jesus and presented him to the Shepherds. She will also help us end our past mistakes (of the old year) and begin a new life (in the new year).
I see the present era (the Pentecostal era), inspite of the abuses, as the appointed time:
(i) 1st reading, An era of blessings ; Priestly blessings, well enunciated in Numbers 6:22-27 must be well tapped into by modern Christians.
(ii) 2nd reading, An era of Sonship/ Praying in the Spirit ; We can no longer afford to pray as slaves (following very rigid and sometimes lifeless formulae) but as Sons of God in the Spirit, Gal 4 :4-7, Rom 8 :14-17 and co-heirs of the multiple blessings in Christ.
(iii) 3rd reading, Era of Revelation ; Example, as it came to the Shepherds in today’s gospel and they hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby lying in a manger, confirming also what the scriptures had said about him. We can no longer afford to be ignorant of the scriptures containing the will of God for us in all situations.
(iv) Era of Praise Worship ; As the Shepherds went back glorifying and praising God, the Pentecostal era should be an era of Praise Worship. Our Churches must be vibrant with praises in honour of God ; not cold, rigid, old and lifeless tunes.
C. NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS
(a) What to examine;
(i) Our Habitual sins, Weaknesses and their effects on our progress; Drinking, Smoking, Immorality, quarreling, bearing grudges, avarice, lying and cheating, etc.
(ii) Devotional habits ; Visit of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, Morning Mass, Quiet time, Devotion to Mary, Bible study, Sunday Evening Instruction, Pious Societies, etc.
(iii) Relationship with people; Examine the virtues /vices you have that help /destroy your relationships.
(iv) Extent of hardwork; Examine your time management, investments /savings, charity, offerings to the Church and to the poor, etc.
* January is a time of stock taking . From ‘Janus’ , the Roman god with 2 heads and 2 eyes for looking front and back.
Our understanding, decisions and actions can affect God’s blessings in our lives in the new year . We must always remember that as we make our beds, so shall we lie on it.
* Story of an architect who built a house carelessly without knowing that he was building his retirement house.
Our generation is wasting a lot of our resources in what does not give us blessings. We waste a lot of money during funerals of our dead parents just trying to show that we belong even when we failed to care for them very well when they were alive. We promote the Fulani cattle business and gradually make them take over our forests sending away our farmers making our future bleak. We promote corrupt politicians and help to keep returning them to power with very short memories of how poorly they performed before.
We no longer have time to teach our children basic things like our mother tongue and simple manners and discipline. All these and more call for individual and collective rethinking as we enter the precincts of a new year. You and I can help rewrite our narrative and destiny.
Happy New Year dear friends!
FR BEN AGBO.