Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: Being useful to Christ
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Sunday September 8 2019
Indeed, the Lord has been our refuge from generation to generation (Psalm 90:1). He has never ceased to hide us under the shadow of His wings. As we continue our journey of faith, may we all find refuge in God’s love through Christ our Lord; Amen.
This Sunday we are blessed with a rare passage (Philemon 9-10, 12-17) in the Liturgical life of the Church. Saint Paul’s Letter to Philemon is the shortest of all the Pauline Letters and of course one of the shortest books of the Bible. Its shortness in length never means shortness in content. One is always enriched spiritually whenever we have the opportunity of reading this text.
This letter bearing the name of Philemon is about Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, who was formerly useless (Philem 11) and who even went to prison because of his uselessness to his master; but now has become useful. His name ‘Onesimus’ means “someone who is useful.” This is what his encounter with Christ through the ministry of Saint Paul has changed him to be. Saint Paul affirms “he will be useful both to you and to me…and you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother” (Philem 11, 16). Our usefulness depends on our encounter with Christ. Outside Jesus Christ, we are useless; imprisoned behind the bars of our uselessness.
Being useful in Christ Jesus has to do with the decision to detach from everything in our past that leads us through the path of uselessness. In the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel (Luke 14:25-33), we must hate every distraction, we must carry our crosses, we must plan, lay the foundation and necessarily map out the strategies that will ensure our success. This is exactly what the power of God did in the life of Onesimus through the ministry of Saint Paul.
In different ways and forms, human wisdom will always suggest otherwise to us. Our reasoning will always open to our imagination many paths that enrich our uselessness. In the Book of Wisdom 9:13-18, which was read to us in the First Reading, “the reasoning of mortals is worthless, and our designs are likely to fail, for a perishable body weighs down the soul.” It is only the wisdom from on high which is infused in us by the power of the Holy Spirit that can set out paths right and teach us what pleases God. This was the wisdom that transformed the life of Onesimus.
The absence of Jesus Christ means a stable presence of uselessness! Without the presence of the power of the risen Lord in us; you are just useless; I am simply useless. Have you encountered Jesus Christ? Are you humble enough like Onesimus and courageous to open your heart and your past to allow Jesus Christ to make you useful?
May God make us useful in all our endeavours as we continue to encounter Him every day of our lives in His word and the Sacraments; Amen. Happy Sunday; Fr Cyril CCE