Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: HE TAUGHT THEM AS ONE WHO HAD AUTHORITY!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
Homily for Sunday January 31 2021
* Deut 18 : 15 – 20, 1 Cor 7 : 32 – 35, Mk 1 : 21 – 28.
One of the greatest problems facing the world today is the tragedy of bad teachers and false prophets. Because of that the Word of God says ‘Let not many of you become teachers… for they that teach shall be judged with a greater judgment’, Js 3 : 1. The scriptures warn that there will be so many false prophets in the last days and ‘people will reject sound teaching and collect for themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes…. and then people will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths’, 2 Tim 4 : 3. Our greatest menace in Nigeria is the preponderance of false prophets, bad priests and selfish kings. And so, the Word of God laments : ‘Is there no balm in Gilead any more? Is no doctor there? Then why is there no progress in the cure of the daughter of my people?’, Jer 8 : 22.
As we find in today’s 1st reading, Moses and Elijah were model prophets who taught and fought for the realization of the will of God with conviction. After them, many other fake prophets began to emerge from time to time. William Barclay defines a Prophet as ‘a man who has the wisdom of God in his mind, the truth of God on his lips and the courage of God in his heart’. This courage comes from the power of righteousness. According to Pope Paul VI, ‘A man teaches with moral authority only that which he does and practices but when the conscience becomes an obstacle to speech, then what is preached becomes difficult to accept’.
B. POWER VS AUTHORITY
Power is often different from authority. One may have a power to perform an action but without the requisite authority. For example, an assistant Parish Priest has the power to celebrate a mass but only gets the authority from his Bishop through his Parish Priest. According to Vima Dasan, ‘Power without authority looks dangerous. Authority without power looks comical. Jesus had both to confront evil’. When teaching and action go together ; When preaching and healing go together, then that is the ‘new teaching’ you hear people talk about Jesus in today’s gospel. Unlike the Scribes and the Pharisees, ‘he taught them as one who had authority’. Authority (‘exousia’ in Greek) is the ability to perform an action without hindrance. Our spiritual authority flows from our undivided attention to our vocation.
Today’s 2nd reading gives example with celibates. A celibate is not supposed to be saddled with worldly worries. Celibates are therefore supposed to be more devoted to the affairs of the Lord – worrying about how to be holy in body and spirit. Reluctant /loveless celibacy is useless to the Church. Celibacy is all about detachment from worldly distractions and availability for service. And this detachment is our greatest source of spiritual authority.
C. KINDS OF AUTHORITY
1. Moral authority – flows from certainty about the probity of our actions.
2. Prophetic/pulpit authority – flows from certainty about our message as coming from God.
3. Celibate authority – flows from fidelity to our celibate vows.
4. Spiritual authority – flows from certainty about our holiness.
5. Ecclesiastical authority – flows from certainty that our ministry as priests is coming from the right ecclesiastical mandate.
6. Parental authority – flows from the certainty about our parental responsibility.
7. Political authority – flows from the certainty about our selflessness in leadership.
8. Teaching authority – flows from certainty about the truth which we are passing on.
In summary, our spiritual authority comes from God the giver of all graces of authority, civil or ecclesiastical, Rom 13 : 1. It comes from our holiness of life and from our knowledge. Francis Bacon says that knowledge is power.
We need sound teaching today, driven by passion for the salvation of our people (body and soul). We need spiritual authority to drive out the ‘unclean spirits’ of ignorance and spiritual coldness bedevilling the Nigerian Christian populace today. As the 2023 elections gradually draw near, the 1st process of disenfranchisement begins at the party primaries through the so called consensus candidacy, stakeholderism, godfatherism and so on.
We need Spiritual authority to drive out the unclean spirits of bribery and corruption in University admissions and Job employments. We need spiritual authority to drive out the unclean spirits of false prophesy. We need spiritual authority to combat the unclean spirits of divorce in Christian marriages. According to Fr Emma Onuh of blessed memory, ‘In marriage, the God of happiness is the God I see in my spouse but in celibacy it is the unmediated God’. We need the authority of celibates to save our country Nigeria especially these days when people are afraid of dictatorial governments with their ‘python and crocodile dances’ and kidnap threats and harrasments. We need also the authority of strong married men /women who are fully devoted to their spouses. Yes, when the righteous are in authority, the people smile.
Happy Sunday dear friends!
FR BEN AGBO.