Homily for the 21st Sunday in the Ordinary Time – Year B:
Homily Theme: WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Josh 24 : 1 – 18, Eph 5 : 21 – 32, Jn 6 : 60 – 69.
The Credo is a vital aspect of liturgical worship. It is necessary every Sunday for us to confess with our hearts and lips that we still believe in what the Church says and that ‘We & our families will continue to serve the living God’. There are a number of what St Paul calls “presumptuous notions set up against the Word of God”, 2 Cor 10 : 4 which sometimes even our so called “theologians” themselves may not know when they are affected by them; Wrong notion of inculturation, Wrong notion of feminism, Wrong notion of Eucharistic theology, etc. By the time the Devil succeeds in feeding us with these notions, even when we think we are believers or even Priests, we may not know that we have become mere rolling stones gathering no moss in the Vineyard of the Lord.
B. WE WILL SERVE THE LORD
We need to always make this fundamental option to serve the Lord. Joshua told the Israelites in today’s 1st reading to choose between worshipping the gods their forefathers worshipped beyond the river ( like our own ‘Lolo Uhere’, ‘Api Opi’, ‘Iyi Akpa’, ‘Ogudinama’, ‘Ezenokpo’, ‘Adoru Ero’, to mention but a few) or to serve the Living God that rescued them from Egypt. According to Robert Wetmore, ‘There are two kinds of idolatry today; one is having a true image of a false god, and the other is having a false image of a true God’. I don’t know which one is worse. When our people still try to access God through sacrifices made to ancestral spirits, idols and deities, we are talking about the former. But when our people try to invoke God like an inter ballistic missile ; ‘Die, die, die!!! By fire, by fire, by fire’, this one is another case of idolatry in the latter sense because they are perceiving God as what he is not.
When we have the wrong notion of Inculturation; thinking for instance that masquerades like Odo, Akatakpa and Omabe which represents ancestral spirit manifests can be tolerated by Christianity, we may fall into the trap of compromise. Proponents of inculturation here argue quite erroneously that “tapping into our people’s belief in ancestors to advance the cause of the gospel ” would be theologically expedient but they would often repeat the mistake of St Paul at Areopagus. He wanted to move them from the known gods to the unknown gods but failed woefully, Act 17 : 23 – 34. It is always better, like he did in Corinth, to confront the people with the raw truth of the gospel – the message of the Cross, 1 Cor 1 : 12 – 19. It may be rejected at first but when we remain fervent and consistent with the unadulterated message, people are gradually converted. The entire idea of masquerade cult both with its ancestral spirit connotation and its cult of violence are inimical to basic Christian teaching and should be outrightly condemned more so now that our boys are using it for a different clandestine motive.
C. WIVES, DEFER TO YOUR HUSBANDS!
Another controversial area of Pauline (and of course scriptural) teaching, is his position against negative feminism. Paul opines in today’s 2nd reading that the mystery of 1 + 1 remaining 1 in marriage has got many existential implications; Both husband and wife must defer to each other but he specifically requests wives to defer (submit) to their husbands especially in crical moments of disagreement since in every human society (family inclusive) there must be the superordinate. Then in order to avoid the pagan practice of women subjugation, he requests that Christian men should love their wives like Christ loved the Church and died for her. For me, this is even a harder request. But feminists think that Paul was being hard on the women in this passage. But that is the Word of God!
Check the numerous cases of divorce we have today and see that it is the disobedience of the above ‘One – flesh theory’ of St Paul that has rocked the boat of peace in their homes. It is a wrong notion of feminism to teach that men and women have equal authority in the Christian home. No, they are equal in dignity but not equal in authority. The husband must be the administrative head of the home (all things being equal) with few exceptions however where nature stipulates otherwise.
D. AN INTOLERABLE LANGUAGE
‘It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh’. Jesus says that ‘The Words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’. Friends, it is always dangerous to protest against any infinitesimal aspect of the Word of God. There are some of us who do not believe in the Church’s teachings. The truth is that some of us (Priests inclusive) are already victims of compromise of the Word of God. But Christ said : ‘By their fruits you shall know them’, Matt 7 : 15. They compromise (either by word, action or inaction) the hard teachings of the Church against Idolatry, against divorce, on Eucharistic integrity, on chastity and celibacy, etc.
People have not stopped seeing these teachings as intolerable language. Theologians have tried to play around the Word of God through the paraphernalia of Canon law, Moral theology, Inculturation, Liberation theology, etc. Good as these may be, the danger remains that of compromise.
Compromise is the greatest caveat in today’s readings. As Joshua in the 1st reading was not ready to compromise the truth about idolatry; As St Paul was not ready in the 2nd reading to compromise the hard teachings about happy family dynamics; As Jesus in the gospel was not ready to compromise his hard teachings on the Eucharist, we modern day priests and lay faithful must never be ready to do the same.
The temptation now is to neutralize our faith in the name of inculturation and end up tolerating virtually every occult practices of our forefathers; We still want to bury the dead the way they did (with compulsory killing of cows representing the old concept of return to their ancestors as terminus ad quem); We still want to take titles exactly as they did in the past accompanied with dangerous initiation rites that link people with the spirit of their ancestors (using “arua” as sacramental symbol instead of the crucifix); We still want to reverence the ancestral spirits ( “Inyam ogbenje”, for example), witchcraft spirit ( “amosu”, for example) and keep the shrines and deities intact but still claim to be Christians; We still want to continue the culture of women subjugation (through “nso alu”, “ishu” and other rituals that keep only women under the bondage of marital fidelity while their husbands remain free to be frolicking from one woman to another.
The Word of God still reechoes today in our hearing; ‘Choose today whom you shall serve’. And as Joshua chose for both himself and his family, I call on all Christian fathers (priests inclusive) and mothers here to choose for their families and parishioners whom they shall serve. How can you claim to be a CMO or CWO member when your grown up sons are wearing “Akatakpa” or “Odo” masks and doing daylight armed robbery on the roads? You can imagine a whole University town of Nsukka overridden by Akatakpa boys? Then our ‘Christians’ cheer and jeer at them in appreciation of “culture”? Brothers and Sisters, I have never seen ‘modern day madness’ such as this! If you don’t know who these Akatakpa boys are then let me tell you: They are “mobile temples of demonized children of God” who feel frustrated with the Nigerian society with no plans for their future; they are “masks irates” – angry boys who use drugs like marijuana to make themselves high, put on masks and practice a more acceptable form of armed robbery which some of them find risky to do at nights and they are now wounding even priests of God. You see? An enemy has done this and we cannot surrender to it. We will serve the Lord! Happy Sunday dear friends!