Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: COURAGE IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTIONS
By: Fr. Clem Mezie Aladi.
GOSPEL: LK 4:21-30
” _If you are not persecuted, know that you may not be doing much or you are simply silent when things are going wrong_ .”
My dearest people of God, I joyfully welcome to this 4th Sunday and Pray that God will give you the courage to be fearless in the face of criticisms and persecutions against your Christian life and faith.
The reading of today challenges us to be courageous in our Christian convictions; in our faith and in its practice, even when we face hatred and rejection because of them.
Last Sunday we heard the inaugural speech of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. Jesus came to offer liberation and He began by telling them the truth that will bring about that liberation. He was vehemently opposed and persecuted for telling the truth about the kingdom of God. This opposition which had already begun at the synagogue of Nazareth will end with His suffering and death on the cross. He will die for the truth. We too shall die with Him for upholding the truth of our Christian faith and convictions, if we are truly His.
Persecution seems to be a litmus test for courage. *The ultimate standard of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and pleasure but where he stands in moments of persecutions and controversy*. A gullible and indecisive person can hardly be a good Christian. Jeremiah and Paul were true examples of those who were convinced of what they were saying and doing and stood firm on it without compromises.
It was St. Augustine who says:
*If you see that you have not yet suffered tribulations, consider it certain that you have not begun to be a true servant of God; for Saint Paul says plainly that all who chose to live piously in Christ, shall suffer persecutions*
The first reading tells us how God called Jeremiah as His prophet and equipped him to face opposition and rejection. In living out his prophetic vocation while encountering rejection and persecution, Jeremiah prefigured Jesus, the greatest of all prophets.
In the second reading, we hear Paul speaking with the courage of his convictions in correcting the Corinthian Christian community where the exercise of God’s gifts was causing competition, jealousy and divisiveness. He courageously presents to them a “way” which surpasses all others, namely, the way of love, and instructs them to exercise their gifts with love. Love keeps us strong in the face of opposition, if not for the love and passion for God’s word, Jeremiah and Paul would not be the courageous prophet and apostle we know today. *Our innermost conviction drives our passion for courage in the face of oppositions*
The Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel presenting his own people’s negative reaction to Jesus’ “Inaugural Address” at the synagogue of Nazareth when he applies to Himself the words of Isaiah 61, announcing a new time of jubilee, liberation and healing in God’s name. The passage shows us how Jesus faced scepticism and criticism with prophetic courage. Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus believed that they were commissioned by God to proclaim a disturbing prophetic message (Jer 1:4-5, 17-19). *No matter how strong the opposition, the three had the conviction that God was with them.*
As Christians, we are not immune to persecution. A person who struggles to live uprightly or who tries to obey the rules will always encounter oppositions and persecution from those who feel threatened by his or her way of life. Jesus was perceived by Jews as a threat to their national and religious safety and security. He was seen as a revolutionary and was charged for treason. We all know that Jesus did nothing wrong but why do they want to hurt Him?. I know many of you would be asking the same question about your own experiences in life. If you are suffering for righteousness sake great is your reward in this life and in heaven. It takes courage to change the status quo. People are resistance to change and to the truth, so we need the conviction of faith to stand by the truth at all times.
Our persecution can come from our families or from our relationship with the outside world. In moments of opposition and criticism we must ask ourselves the following questions: am I doing the right thing? Am I saying the right thing? Am I telling the truth? Am I doing the right thing? If all is in the affirmative, then ask yourself why would I quit saying the right thing, doing the right thing and standing by the truth. Must you join them if you can’t beat them as some would uphold? My dear child of God. Never give up no matter what the oppositions are. If you seek to please men then you are making yourself an enemy of God. *”Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God* – James 4: 4.
We need to follow Christ, not political correctness, and to speak the truth of Christ without being hypocritical or disrespectful. We must never remain silent in the face of evil for fear of being thought “politically incorrect” *because the greatest part of the hell will be reserved for those who are the face of moral crises remain neutral* – Dante
Jesus taught us to love and respect others without condoning or encouraging sinful behaviour. We need to be kind, charitable, honest and forgiving, but clear in speaking out our Christian convictions as Jesus was when he spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth.
Our world needs courageous people to challenge moral evils and societal ills of our time. _We need the courage to stand on our decisions to vote the right candidate in the forthcoming elections in Nigeria. It is an abuse of one’s civic responsibility and a betrayal of one’s conscience to sell your vote._ If you cannot be convinced in little things like voting for a preferred candidate, I wonder if you can really be convinced in serving God. Let no one force you or lure you with material gifts against your convictions. If we make little truthful decisions and stand by them daily then we become better equipped to embrace the challenges of our Christian faith.
You may have experienced the pain of rejection,
betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect or abuse, even from friends and family members, when we reached out to them as God’s agents of healing and saving grace. Perhaps we ourselves are guilty of such rejection. Perhaps we, too, have been guilty of ignoring or humiliating people with our arrogance and prejudice. Let us learn to correct our mistakes and face rejection from others with courage.
May God strengthen us in the face of trials and tribulations of faih. His grace is sufficient for you.
I keep you and your family always in my prayers.
Fr. Clem Mezie Aladi.