Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: THE MISSION OF THE LAITY
By: Fr Ben Agbo
Homily for Sunday July 7 2019
*Is 66 :10 – 14, Gal 6 :14 – 18, Lk 10 :1-20.
The mission of the 72 disciples is Luke’s way of emphasizing the universal scope of evangelization ; it is the mission of the Laity. The German theologian, Hans Kung calls it ‘The Priesthood of all believers’,1Pet 2 :9.
The greatest challenge of the Roman Catholic Church since after the Vatican II has been the need to effect a change over of mentality from extreme clericalism (‘uka fada’ mentality) to a sober empowerment of all believers in the universal mission of evangelization. Today is a day we see from the readings how this can be made possible.
B. THE MARK OF A CHRISTIAN.
Today’s 2nd reading argues that it does not matter if a person is circumcised or not ; what matters is for him to become an altogether new creature. This new mode of existence is brought about by a new configuration to the cross, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why in every liturgical celebration, the greatest prayer of the Church is for us to be filled by the Holy Spirit. St Paul says : ‘May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit’. Baptism (and other sacraments) now saves you – not by washing off of physical dirt (automatically) but by the pledge of a good conscience given to God through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet 3 : 21.
C. THE MISSION OF THE LAITY
The proper evangelization of the Laity so that they too can become evangelizers would do the whole magic of evangelization of the whole world under a very short time. This is because the lay members of the Church are actually the ones in the battle field of corruption. Jesus says in today’s gospel that he is sending them out like lambs (holy and innocent people) in the midst of wolves ( corrupt, occultic and dangerous people).
Therefore, they should take note of the following 7 instructions ;
(i) Be detached ; Carry no haversack, purse or sandals.
(ii) Be serious ; Salute no one on the road ie don’t allow friendly entanglements to distract your evangelical ministry.
NB : This is one of the locus standi for priestly celibacy.
(iii) Be a peace giver ; Your 1st words wherever you enter must be ‘Peace be to this house’.
* Christ’s birthday gift, resurrection day gift and mission day gift to the world is peace. Every Christian must therefore be a peace giver.
(iv) Be focused ; Do not move from house to house. Pastoral stability helps consolidate our ministry and checkmates fluidity, superficiality and sometimes the exploitative tendencies of ‘itinerant evangelists’.
(v) Be a healer ; Whatever house you enter, cure those in it who are sick. The healing ministry is too universal to be domesticated by few individual ministers. It cuts across the domain of the physical, psychological and spiritual.
(vi) Never be discouraged ; If you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go elsewhere. That town will be under judgment for rejecting the Word of life.
(vii) Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you ; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.
* When I watch these pastors who spend time on television showing how many people (purported to be possessed by demons) they are able to push down in the name of deliverance, I remember this passage and wonder whether they ever really study the Bible.
The leitmotif of today’s message is that we should not rejoice that demons obey us but we should rejoice rather that our names are written in the kingdom of heaven. Kingdom ministry should be the primary target of Christianity not prosperity ministry. Kingdom ministry places emphasis on conversion of souls, devotion, transformation of behaviour, peace and justice in the community while Prosperity ministry is a crusade ground spirituality with its emphasis on deliverance, financial breakthrough, fake healings and miracles. Christ says ‘by their fruits you shall know them ‘, Matt 7 :24.
The cross remains the mark of true Christianity. St Paul says ‘through it the world is crucified to me’, Gal 6 :14 and through it those who are far apart are brought together by the peace of Christ, Eph 2 :13 – 15. According to Vima Dasan ‘As peace without truth is poison, peace without justice is an illusion’. The world progress rests upon these 3 pillars of Christian teaching : Truth, Justice and Peace. Today’s 1st reading says ‘Towards Jerusalem I shall send peace flowing like a river’, Is 66 :10 – 14.
* Story of a car snatcher who noticed the sticker inside somebody’s car written ‘PEACE BE WITH YOU’. He was touched and dropped a note : ‘I felt you would not be at peace if I steal this car, neither would I, as this was my 1st job. So, peace be to you and to me. Drive carefully and next time, lock your car ‘. He signed : WOULD – BE – CAR THIEF’.
The organization of the Laity in the Catholic Church of today, especially in the Eastern part of Nigeria remains problematic. There seems to be some kind of unnecessary administrative duplication, for instance, between the activities of the CMO and the Laity.
Sometimes, it looks as if the emphasis of the latter is on the social and structural than the spiritual concerns of the faithful. Emphasis on high impact projects like construction of Secretariat, purchase of vehicles, etc with the resultant levies seems to scare people away from associating fully with the Laity Council. But the fact remains that unless this council becomes more spiritually and evangelically formidable the Church may not be able to rise to the occasion of overcoming the present threat of Islamization and Fulanization of this country. When we talk about the problem of RUGA SETTLEMENT for example, is it not the lay members of the faithful who will release or not release their lands? This period calls for stronger regional and state leadership both among the clergy and the laity.
May the Lord help us ever to be conscious of disseminating the gospel of Christ whether as priests or laymen. Happy Sunday beloved friends!
-Fr Ben Agbo