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Monday, 21 September 2015

Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp

Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp

Numbers 11:16-17,25-29, James 5:1-6, Mark 9:38-43,47-48

-          on the Gospel - Let God Be God

Ned goes over to see his neighbour who has a very ferocious-looking dog. As Ned approaches the door the dog begins to bark wildly and his neighbour says to him, "Come on in, Ned! Don't be afraid of my dog. You know the old proverb: A barking dog never bites." "Yes," replied Ned, "I know the proverb, and you know the proverb, but does your dog know it?" Before we have an agreement on when a dog can bite and when it cannot, we must first make sure the dog is party to the agreement. In the same vein, any attempt by humans to legislate on where and through whom God can act or cannot act is nothing but a futile attempt to limit God. For God cannot be limited.

In one diocese in Nigeria a priest began a high-profile prayer ministry in the diocesan pastoral centre. Many other priests had similar prayer ministries in their parishes, but on a smaller scale. Now this priest goes to the bishop and makes him sign a declaration that his prayer ministry is the only officially recognised one in the diocese. Any person in the diocese who needed the healing ministry must, therefore, go nowhere else but to his centre. What that document says, in effect, is that God has no right to heal anybody in the diocese except in the pastoral centre. Such attempts to limit God do not work. God never allows Himself to be so limited by human narrow-mindedness.

Moses, more than 3000 years ago, knew this. The Israelites, whom he was leading to the Promised Land, had clear ideas about God's holiness. They made their camp in the valley, far from the mountain where they believed God lived. Halfway between the camp and the mountain they built a special tent, a place of meeting between God and their leader Moses. Anyone who strayed to the mountain was put to death; he or she had trespassed into God's territory. Similarly, they believed that God would not trespass into their own territory by coming into the camp. The lines were clearly drawn. Everything was neatly worked out. They believed they knew where God belonged and where He did not belong.

But God cannot be limited. This bitter truth dawned on them the day they were consecrating seventy elders as Moses' assistants. As we read in the first reading, the seventy elders had been selected beforehand. On the day of their consecration they were to present themselves in the Tent of Meeting where the Lord would impose on them some of the spirit that was in Moses. On the appointed day they all turned up except two, Eldad and Medad. Who knows why they failed to turn up? Did they oversleep, were they drunk, or did they simply forget? It doesn't matter. The important thing is that when the spirit of the Lord descended on the sixty-eight men in the Tent of Meeting, it also descended on these two who were still in the camp. And they began to prophesy just as the other sixty-eight in the Tent were doing. 

That God could cross the lines that were so neatly drawn in their minds regarding where God could or could not operate was a shock to the Israelites. Immediately they ran to tell Moses, and Joshua asked Moses to stop them. Suppress the evidence and deny the fact. But Moses knew better. He simply smiled and said, "Are you jealous for my sake? How I wish all God's people were prophets and that God would put his Spirit on them all!" (Numbers 11:29). Wouldn't that make the job a bit lighter?

Narrow-minded control freaks like Joshua have never been wanting among God's people. In the Gospels we see them in the persons of James and John, the Sons of Thunder, who wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume some conscientious objectors to the Jesus movement (Luke 9:52-56). In the gospel it is John who reports to Jesus how he tried to stop a man who did not belong to their group casting out demons in Jesus' name. Why did he do that? Because, according to his poor theology, God should limit himself to the Jesus group. But Jesus, the new Moses, was there to correct him, "Do not stop him. ... Whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39-40). Do not stop him. He is doing a good job. It is by their fruit you will know them, not by their foliage.

Many Christian people lament that God no longer has a place in our world today. Maybe we are looking in the wrong places. If we looked beyond the Tent of Meeting and beyond those who belong to our group, it might surprise us to see that God is as active in our world today as He has always been. He may be working with those we regard as the wrong people, and in places we deem to be the wrong places. Our prayer today is that God may give us the humility and common sense to acknowledge and welcome Him wherever and through whomsoever He chooses to make Himself known in our world today.

-          on the Epistle – Money Matters

One of the astonishing signs of the times today is the popularity of what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel. This is the gospel that you hear in most mega churches and ministries on the television, a gospel that promises the true believer instant prosperity. Material wealth, good health and enviable relationships are dangled like a carrot before prospective believers as God's unfailing blessings to all who believe. One reason why prosperity gospel has become so popular today is that traditional Christianity has for a long time embraced and preached an anti-prosperity gospel. That too is wrong. God is not anti-prosperity. Today's second reading from the Letter of James is one of the Scripture passages that, if not properly understood, could lead one to conclude that the Christian gospel is opposed to wealth.

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. (James 5:1-3)

This sounds like a direct denunciation of wealth, a condemnation of the rich. The rich are told to weep for the misery that is in store for them. The image of rust eating the flesh of the rich like fire is frightening. This is enough to make the committed Christian believe that there is something seriously wrong with being rich. Many of our Christians would be better off today financially were it not for such a deep seated belief that money is evil and that to be very wealthy is to be very evil. Yet this belief that money is essentially evil is found neither in the Letter of James nor in the rest of the Bible.
But wait a minute, preacher. Doesn't the Bible say that money is the root of all evil? Not at all. The Bible does not say that money is the root of all evil. What the Bible says is (now listen carefully):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Money is not the root of all evil, it is people's love and craving for money that is the root of all evil. The problem is not with the money, the problem is in a person's inordinate desire for wealth.

There is a Latin adage that says, "Abusus non tollit usum," meaning "The abuse of something does not take away its rightful use." This wise saying applies in the area of faith and money matters. The Bible roundly condemns the abuse of wealth. Abuse of wealth can take three forms: a) how one acquires it, b) how one uses it, and c) how one invests one's heart in it.

The first form of abuse is seen in those who exploit the poor to get rich. Apparently, the rich who are condemned by James belong to this class. As the passage goes on to make clear:
Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. ... 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. (James 5:4-6)

Wealth is good when one does a clean and honest hard work to earn it. When one gets it through dishonesty and fraud, then the wealth has been abused. This is what James is condemning. The second form of abuse is found in those who may have gotten their wealth by honest means but who use the wealth just to indulge themselves. Jesus gives us an example of this form of abuse in the Parable of the Rich Fool who laid up his wealth and said to his soul,

"Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." 20 But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" (Luke 12:19-20)

Wealth, like every other blessing of God, is given to us in trust so that we may serve God with it. God does not give us His blessings for our self-gratification. And this includes wealth. To use wealth simply for self-indulgence is an abuse of wealth.

Finally, there are those who see wealth as the most important thing in life. They trust in wealth for security rather that in God. For such people wealth has become another god. It is of such people that Jesus gave the teaching that "No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Luke 16:13). Materialism and the Christian faith cannot go together, it is either the one or the other.

Today, James warns us against the abuse of wealth. He does not warn us against wealth but against its abuse. Let us ask God to give us a balanced Christian attitude to wealth: in the way we acquire it, in the way we use it, and in the way we invest our hearts in it.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:49 am

    Thank you Fr Munachi for your great homily, it is really inspirable


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