Homily for Wednesday of the 6th Week of Easter Year A
Theme: AREOPAGITE TENDENCIES IN OUR CHURCH!
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Wednesday May 20 2020
* Act 17: 15 – 18: 1, Jn 16: 12 – 15.
Athens and Corinth produced 2 extreme kinds of religious people during the time of Paul; the former was very religious but critical; the latter was very religious but fanatical. The former used their head too much in constructing all parameters of worship; the latter used their sentiments in worship to the point of excessive outflow and emphasis of charismatic gifts like tongues and prophesies that Paul had to remind them that even if they speak in tongues of men and of angels but had not love, they were nothing, 1 Cor 13: 1 – 3. In both Athens and Corinth, Paul seemed to have failed evangelically; In Athens, he got very few converts such that there was no letter to the Athenians since there was no formidable Church there. In Corinth, he had a most charismatic but theologically problematic Church. ‘In evangelization’, says VimaDasan, ‘we are called to be faithful rather than successful’. The Holy Spirit alone brings the increase while we only sow the seeds.
When the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you. It is neither the method of induction (moving from known to the unknown) which Paul tried at Athens, nor the method of deduction (moving from the basic message of Christ’s death and resurrection to the specifics) which Paul used in Corinth that guarantees true conversion but the Spirit of truth. Many evangelists in our Churches today (especially the Orthodox Churches) in the name of inculturation are indirectly encouraging Christians especially in Africa to continue to cling to their fetish traditions in matters like masquerade cults, burial rites, title taking, etc. The negative impact is that we still find even some Knights of the Church who receive Holy Communion everyday but resort back to the fetish dibias when they have serious problems. Many others who try to be very charismatic end up doing very weird spiritual things that one may not really associate with the Christian faith today.
There are a lot of people with ‘Areopagite tendencies’ seated in our Church pews and Sanctuaries today – who approach religion like tourism and entertainment industry using merely the bar of reason rather than the habitus of faith. But the unfortunate thing, as Plummer said is that ‘The heart, not the head is the true home of the gospel’. And so, such people do not go far in spirituality. At Corinth, Paul had to change method immediately and presented the facts of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ as the principal motif of the gospel. He called the message of the Cross ‘a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles but to us who believe, the power of God to save’, 1 Cor 1: 22 – 25. His approach was deductive, more or less. He didn’t move from the known to the unknown again but bombarded them straight with the message of the death and resurrection of Christ. He understood that every other thing we talk about in Christian religion flows from this leitmotif.
We ask the Spirit of truth to reveal to us and our generation of Christians how much idolatry and romance with our traditional religion is affecting and destroying our Christian faith. Why do we still use cows , instead of chickens during our funeral ceremonies inspite of the health and security dangers this is bringing to our people? Why has our traditional faith continued to affect our cultural worldview even after over 100 years of Christianity in our land? As water and fuel cannot pass through the same pipe, so will idolatry and Christianity never go together. As the Areopagites refused to believe in the resurrection so has many Christians today refused to believe in the Church teachings about the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments and life after death. When believers surrender to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, he guides them onto the heart of God’s Word. Let us not quench the Holy Spirit as the Areopagites did. But let us not abuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit as the Corinthians did. Rather, let us pray for the indwelling transforming Spirit of holiness.
May God bless you today!