HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: MAKE US INSTRUMENTS OF PEACE!
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)
* Is 8: 23 – 9: 3, 1Cor 1: 10 – 17, Matt 4: 12 – 27.
At Christmas we celebrated the coming of the light of Christ, Is 9: 1 – 3. Last Sunday we were reminded to be the light to all nations. This Sunday we are told that the light of Christ is the light of peace. ‘The kingdom of heaven is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’, Rom 14: 17.
*B. CHRISTIAN UNITY*
Today’s 2nd reading admonishes us to be united in our belief and practices and not to have factions among ourselves. Unity does not mean absence of disagreements/ diversity of opinion but St Paul says ‘try to make up the differences between you’.
We can have the following kinds of disagreements among children of God;
(i) Family disagreements,
(ii) Friendly disagreements,
(iii) Official disagreements,
(iv) Doctrinal disagreements,
(v) Political disagreements.
In all these, what proves the quality of our Christianity is our ability to make up our differences (let not one say I am for Paul, Appolos or Cephas) and still have spiritual communion.
Causes of quarrel; Negative emotions like fear, jealousy, envy, rivalry, inordinate ambitions, pride, anger and prejudice. When these emotions are not controlled they readjust our will and lead to temperamental intolerance/incompatibility.
– From St Paul’s magna carta of sins, Gal 5: 19 – 22, we take note of the following sinful tendencies;
(a) Provocative sins; 1. Antagonism, 2. Rivalry – they are behavioural tendencies that act like starters that spark off quarrel between friends and relations.
(b) Temperamental sins; 3. Jealousy, 4. Bad temper, 5. Quarrel – They are part of our temperamental dispositions as cholerics, sanguines, melancholics or phlegmatics and often make us fall into trouble like traps. They are behavioural tendencies that act like growers of quarrel.
(c) Consequential sins; 6. Disagreements, 7. Factions and 8. Malice – these sins have the tendency of making quarrels perdue /last longer than necessary. They are behavioural tendencies that act like finishers in quarrel and make peace and unity impossible.
– Paul quickly gives us their antidotes towards the end of that pericope ; 1. Love , 2. Joy, 3. Peace, 4. Patience, 5. Kindness, 6. Goodness, 7. Trustfulness, 8. Gentleness, 9. Self control.
* Story of David’s encounter with King Saul at the cave of Adulam teaches us a lot of lessons on the dynamics of peace and conflict resolution, 1 Sam 24. He had the breastplate of righteousness, Eph 6: 14 and had perfect control over his emotions, Gal 5: 22. When he finally appealed to Saul, he won his blessings, 1 Sam 24: 2 – 20.
* The capacity for peace is lacking in most primitive religions, especially Islamic religion. Our present spate of Akatakpa and Omabe masquerade promotes the culture of violence and aggression. Only Christianity gives a full dosage on peace and conflict resolution.
*C. THE NEW CIVILIZATION OF LOVE*
In Christ Jesus, all you that used to be far apart have been brought close by the blood of Christ… Jews, Gentiles, Muslim, Christians… by destroying in his own person the hostility of the old man, Eph 2: 13 – 14. According to Emeric Lawrence, ‘the chief enemy of Christianity is divisiveness among Christians’. Vima Dasan therefore opines that ‘The civilization of love must be the true goal of human history’. Thomas Pazayampallil affirms that ‘When there is love earth becomes like heaven’.
In today’s gospel, Jesus brought light in Capernaum – a lake town within the borders of Zebulum and Naphtali. When he told them ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’, he mearnt that they should repent from their selfishness (egotism), anger, pride, jealousy and all divisive tendencies in their old nature (temperaments).
*D. CASE STUDY OF THE APOSTOLIC COLLEGE*
He demonstrated how possible this can be by gathering the weakest of men as his apostles. Yes, the weakest people in the hands of Christ can produce the most excellent of results.
Examining the crop of men that constituted the Apostolic college, we have the following 6 classes;
(i) Ordinary fishermen; Peter, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew – They had no education nor leadership training. They were simply called to follow (ie to copy Christ in character and meaning) and witness (identify with the mission of Christ).
(ii) Sons of thunder; James and John – violent and ambitious.
(iii) Zealots; Simon and Judas Iscariot – Opposition leaders /terrorists.
(iv) Tax collectors; Matthew – Corrupt and undisciplined loyalists of the Roman oppressive government.
(v) Pharisees; James the Son of Alpheus – Pretenders of religiosity.
(vi) Saducees; Thomas and Jude Thaddeus – Didn’t have the potency for believing in the resurrection /the suffering Messiah theology.
* But be that as it may, despite their psychological and sociological differences, a common cause united all of them – the character and mission of Christ. He says to them and to all of us in today’s gospel : ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’.
Pope St John Paul II challenges us to imbibe in Christianity ‘the new civilization of love’. It is a civilization that imbues us with virtues for tolerance and conflict resolution. The challenge today is for Nigerian Christians to ensure Nigerian unity through justice and peace not by promoting divisive tendencies. We need to avoid all forms injustice and cultures of violence.
Let me end with this prayer/hymn of St Francis of Assisi :
‘Lord, make us instruments of your peace, where there is hatred let your love increase. Lord make us instruments of your peace, walls of pride and prejudice shall seize and you will make us instruments of peace.
V. 1: Where there is hatred, we will sow love, where there is injury we will sow pardon. Where there is bitterness we will sow joy and you will make us instruments of peace’.
Happy Sunday dear friends!
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