*HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR A*
THEME: *LEGACY THROUGH INTEGRITY.*
BY: REV FR GERALD MUOKA
Homily for Sunday August 23 2020
R1 – Is. 22:19-23
Resp. Ps. – Ps. 138: 1-3, 6, 8
R2 – Rom. 11: 33-36
Gospel – Matt. 16: 13-20
In 1867, Alfred Nobel, a Swedish Scientist, invented a new explosive, the dynamite (a bomb), that is capable of killing in thousands. As a arm dealer, people hated and disliked him, but he never knew the legacies and impressions he left in the eyes of people.
In 1888, Alfred Nobel’s younger brother, Ludvig Nobel died while in France. A French newspaper erroneously published Alfred Nobel’s obituary instead of Ludvig’s and condemned Alfred Nobel for his invention of dynamite and being a dealer of equipments of mass destruction.
People happily reacted to his erroneous obituary with chants of joy and songs of jubilation along the streets, with the slogan, ” the merchant of death is dead, (ogbu ara obara anwuola), without knowing it was his brother that died.
Having sat down and watched people jubilate over his death(erroneous obituary), he was provoked by the event and disappointed with how he felt he might be remembered.
Consequently, Alfred Nobel set aside a bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Peace Prizes to honor men and women for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and for working toward peace; Our brother Chinua Achebe in a beneficiary. Today the name, Alfred Nobel, is not known globally for Nobel Peace Award, instead of “merchant of death” (ogbu ara obara).
What a legacy!
Beloved in Christ, the readings of today’s liturgy invite each of us, to take a break and look back, in order to ascertain whether we have left positive or negative legacies and blueprints in the eyes of the people; just as Alfred Nobel at the introit story.
In the Gospel reading, we see Jesus stopping at the midday of his public ministry to ask some multifaceted question: “Who do people say I am?” “And you, who do you think the son of man is?”
The above questions seem to suggest that Jesus too was worried about His public image. Many have different answers when they asked who Jesus is to them. That is why He made His own survey and the respondents were His disciples.
However, their responses were quite different and amazing. Even though, Peter gave the most correct and Spirit-driven answer, it is worthy of note that, all other incorrect answers linked Jesus with great men of moral probity, ardent character, great reputation, outstanding integrity and spiritual giants like, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or any of the prophets; who had similar mission with Jesus.
Here, there are two sides of the coin. Sometimes, we are adviced not to listen to what people say. But on the other side of the coin, there are people or group of friends who will really tell us the truth about ourselves.
I guess, some people in leadership positions really need not sycophants, but people with objective views of reality, who will always tell them the truth about who they are.
Jesus’ interrogation of his apostles today, leave us with the questions of:
(a) *IDENTITY* = What are people saying about me?
*(b)RECOGNITION* = Who is Jesus to me?
But we are paying more attention to IDENTITY because we had deliberated extensively on RECOGNITION last Sunday with the Canaanite woman.
**VOX POPULI VOX DEI:*
*INTEGRITY VERSUS REPUTATION*
Vox populi box Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God), is an aspect of today’s reading that answers the question of true and genuine identity, based on an individual’s public image, when juxtaposed with *INTEGRITY VERSUS REPUTATION; AND CHARACTER VERSUS PACKAGING.*
Jesus set the pace at the midday hour of his ministry in order to seek clarifications on the voice of the people.
By so doing, Jesus exhorts and encourages us to always take a break and look back to ask: How far have I gone? How well have I run the race? Who do people say I am? What public image do I command? Are my legacies and blueprints positive or negative?
The question of integrity and reputation tends to confuse at times, owing to the fact that so many who have reputation before men, lack integrity because God.
*INTEGRITY:* is what you do when you are not aware that people, your superiors, parents, children, wife, husband, friends and colleagues are not watching or listening. A person of integrity behaves himself/herself when no one is watching.
More often, we are more intoxicated about our reputation than character and integrity
*REPUTATION:* is nonetheless, what people think you are, that might not be true, because we are forced to hide away in committing certain atrocities under the guise of PACKAGING.
The first reading describes how God hates and abhors rotten-men of fake repute and packaging. We see how Shebna, a reputable man of honour and packaging, with high office in the eyes of the people, was reduced to nothing by God and demoted, because, he was interested in self glory and false packaging.
IN THE FIRST READING, WE REALIZE THAT OUR OFTEN DESIRED REPUTABLE TITLES AS CHIEF/DR/REV/BISHOP/PROF/DIBIA/HRH/HRM/NATIVE DR/ICHIE/NZE/NNEOMA/NNAOMA/EZINNE/EZINNA/GO/CEO/GM/BARR/ENGR/HIGH CHIEF/LOW CHIEF, ETC., ADD NO VALUE OR POINT TO OUR ONTOLOGICAL VALUE AND EXISTENCE BEFORE GOD.
THIS IS BECAUSE, ST PAUL TELLS US IN THE SECOND READING THAT, GOD’S MODUS OPERANDI, TOGETHER WITH HIS MOTIVES AND WAYS IS BEYOND US.
THESE TITLES CAN ONLY BE MAINTAINED AND VALUED BY MAN, THROUGH PACKAGING. IT IS ONLY INTEGRITY WHICH IS MAINTAINED BY STURDY CHARACTER THAT AVAILS OUR TRUE IDENTITY AS ANOINTED SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD, CREATED IN HIS OWN IMAGE AND LIKENESS (GEN. 1:26).
These are four psycho-spiritual windows, created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingha, which helps to give some degree of feedback evaluation of who we truly are. They are: OPEN, HIDDEN, BLIND, AND UNKNOWN.
(1) *OPEN or ARENA*
They are those things, actions, behaviors and information that are known to God, the individual and those around them.
(2) *BLIND OR BLIND SPOT*
They are those things, actions and behaviors that are known to God, others, but the individual is not aware of them.
(3) *HIDDEN OR FACADE.*
They are those things, actions, and information that are known to God and the individual alone, but not known to anyone else.
They are those things, actions, information and behaviors, known by God alone, that are unknown to the individual and to others.
However, the most startling point of the above Johari Window is that, God’s omniscience and omnipresence are manifested and cannot be underestimated. He sees and knows all (Psalm 139:1-13).
More so, in as much as God is involved, character and integrity play more than reputation and packaging. Reputable men of packaging and ⁴have killed and destroyed the fabrics of the society.
So, the measure of a man is what you do when you knew it would never be found out. What defines a man are not his deeds in public, but deeds in private.
● Some come to the church as lambs and turn lions at home and in their different walks of life.
● Some wear the countenance of Innocent “odinkemelu” with heavy ladened medals, scapulas or crucifix, but become cheats and deceivers in their various walks of life.
● Some are respectful to the man of God or prophet and turn rude and disrespectful at home to their husbands.
● Some look so faithful that their wives can vouch for them, only to turn promiscuous in their business trips in hotels and chalets.
● Some are single at home and married in school.
● Some are leaders in various organisations in the church, and still bow to shrines and occultic temples.
● Some are holy nwaeje in public but rotten in morality.
● Some are revered and reverend gentleman in the church and ministries, but turn wolves in the secret places.
Yet, we are reputable, honourable, his excellency, reverend GO and dignified VIPs in the churches and the society at large.
Finally, Fr Chidubem Ohaeri, once narrated a story of a woman, called Daada, popularly known for her notoriety in making troubles and advancing quarrels from Eke to Afor to Nkwo and Orie (obata osubiri).
It happened that Daada died few weeks after the transfer of their Parish Priest, who had know her as a troublesome chorister.
Lo and behold, at her funeral Mass, was the new Parish Priest, who never knew her and who believed in the western style of not saying anything bad about the dead.
The priest innocently read the good and wonderful accolades and tributes in the brochure and started making Daada a saint at the pulpit.
As the preaching was going on, people, especially, members of the choir who had had a great chunk of Daada’s trouble as a co-chorister, started murmuring, “who are we burying today?; Are you sure it is Daada?
The climax of the story took at the graveside. The moment the priest finished the final prayers, the whole atmospheric conditions changed like a dreaded heavy downpour. A heavy thunder struck immediately that almost left everyone running for safety.
At this spot, members of the choir started telling each other, “asikwam, ma obukwa Daada ka ana eli…in fact, Daada agaruola na eluigwe were mee ihe eji mara ya as troublekokomoko.. immediately Daada garuru, Obata Osu, trouble started in heaven. (They explained that the thunder strike was an indication that Daada just arrived heaven for judgement…and as a trouble maker, she started with trouble immediately that wrought the thunder)
This is very funny, but we need to ask ourselves, “What legacies have I or am I leaving behind?”; “What will I be remembered for, just like Alfred Nobel at the introit story?” “Is what people think of me, a product of integrity and proven character or well-packeged-rotten-reputation that weighs nothing in the sight of God?
REMEMBER, IT IS INTEGRITY AND CHARACTER, NOT REPUTATION AND PACKAGING THAT MERIT US THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, WHICH PETER RECEIVED TODAY AND THE KEYS OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID FOUNDED ON INTEGRITY AND CHARACTER BY THE MASTER JESUS.
MAY GOD HELP US TO CHERISH INTEGRITY, AUTHENTICITY AND CHARACTER MORE THAN REPUTATION AND PACKAGING. AND BY SO DOING, MAY WE BECOME PARTAKERS OF GOD’S ETERNAL HERITAGE IN HIS KINGDOM.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
FR GERALD MUOKA