Homily for Wednesday of the 18th Week in the Ordinary Time – Year B
Homily Theme: A WICKED CONGREGATION!
I will like to begin my reflections on today’s readings with the climatic /tragic end of today’s 1st reading: God was very angry with his people – the ‘wicked congregation that are gathered against him’. Mhhh! God forbid that we should ever gather against God! Every Church gathering is a gathering of believers, not mere wayfarers, who must affirm their trust in God as their leader before God can move with them. We are all pilgrims on our journey to heaven just as the Isrealites were on their journey to the promised land. Heaven therefore is our common project.
But in every serious project, there must be a leader (who inspires the people positively) and a devil’s advocate (who inspires the people negatively). There are different characters among the congregation; Some are good leaders while some are bad leaders, some are good followers while some are bad followers. Imagine, like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a den of animals where we have the lion (playing the bossy leader), the fox (the wise diplomatic leader), the gorilla (the initiator of reformation), the elephant (the big opponent to new ideas), the dog (the aggressive fighters among them), the sheep (the obedient followers), and the goat (stubborn followers). Such is the amalgamation of characters we find in today’s 1st reading; Some played the role of wise spies to the land of Canaan, some played the role of discouragement (negative confessions), some, like Caleb gave them hope (positive confessions). Mentality is very instrumental to success. Some had a failure mentality and said: ‘We are not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we.. We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so they we seemed to them’. People wept that night instead of praying for grace and God was very angry and disappointed with them.
The sin of the Isrealites in today’s 1st reading is lack of trust in God. Having brought them through the long expeditious journey to the edge of the promised land, how dared them succumb to the demonic spirit of fear /negative confessions. No! God couldn’t take that anymore. A whole generation had to perish – everybody from the age of 20 and above who were supposed to have witnessed and seen the mighty deeds of the Lord and still decided to doubt God had to die in that desert, Ps 95 :21.
The Canaanite woman in the gospel presents us a contrast of faith. Even though by her pedigree, she belonged to the pagan people the Isrealites defeated -the woman was an ‘Osu’ going by modern day parlance but she refused to take ‘No’ for an answer to her prayer for the deliverance of her daughter. An advanced exegesis of Jesus’ reply to her prayer reveals what I call ‘spiritual midwifery’ on the part of Christ. According to Fr Oliver Eze in his commentary on the Shepherd Monthly Bulletin of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, 2019, ‘The faith of the woman benumbed Christ who had to wait for a while to know if that woman did not know of the social tag that she bore. She should be out of contact with the Jews. But the woman knew. For when Christ coaxed her into more faith by spiting her pedigree, she remained staunch in demonstrating to Christ that even those at the fringe of the society at times enjoyed the benefaction of the very privileged ‘. When she began by addressing Jesus as ‘Son of David’, she got no response (because the Jews see them as ‘dogs’), but when she addressed Jesus as ‘Lord and Saviour’, she got the answer to her prayer.
We must allow ourselves to be led by Christ and his ministers on this journey of faith. We must avoid all negative confessions even when we meet the greatest of obstacles because those obstacles can be turned by Christ into stepping stones. Any congregation that is guilty of trusting in God as their leader is a wicked congregation! May God bless you today!
– Rev Fr Ben Agbo