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Saturday, 9 January 2016

Homily for 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, By Fr. Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp

Isaiah 62:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, John 2:1-12

On the Epistle - Christian Unity

The three tenors Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti were performing together in Los Angeles. A reporter asked them about rivalry among them, and they said there was none. But the reporter was not satisfied and kept coming back to the issue of rivalry among the three superstars. Then Domingo explained, “You have to put all of your concentration into opening your heart to the music. You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music. You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music.” As Christians are we called to be rivals or are we called to make music together?

This week we begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, more simply known as Christian Unity Week (January 18-25). That the different Christian churches together agree to set aside one week for intensive prayer and action in view of Christian unity shows that they all feel the need for more unity among believers in Christ. The World Christian Encyclopedia has documented 34,000 different Christian denominations. The figure keeps rising. Many Christian churches today spend much of their resources not in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth but in fighting and cannibalizing other Christian churches. To maintain their identity and show that they are distinct from other Christian churches, they emphasize their differences rather that the things they have in common. They fight each other and forget that as Christians we are called to make music together in the world. This is a misunderstanding of what Christianity is all about, as Paul tells us in the second reading.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

The varieties of gifts God gives to His daughters and sons for the common good, we have selfishly used as grounds for rivalry. As a parent, how do you feel when you bring home gifts for your children as a way of making the whole family happy, and they start a fight. Imagine then how God feels at the way His children are using His gifts as cause for sibling rivalry and violence. And God has a very large family with many, many children. The disunity and infighting among Christians is an abuse of God’s gifts. It is a scandal to the world. It is a sin for which we all need to repent.

Many people feel uneasy when they hear of Christian unity. They fear that Christian unity means putting everyone into the same mould, the same form of worship, the same way of serving God. No, Christian unity is not Christian uniformity. God gives His children varieties of gifts. Some are more intellectual and love to spend hours reading and reflecting of the Word of God, others are more charismatic and would rather sing praises, pray in tongues, shout alleluia and make a joyful noise to the Lord, and yet others are more service oriented and would rather spend their time helping the sick and feeding the hungry. Paul encourages us to engage in different services and ministries because we have different spiritual gifts. But he warns that we should not be so engrossed in the various works we do for the Lord, that we forget the one Lord of the work. In the various services we see diversity, in the one Lord we see unity. Christian unity, therefore, is a unity in diversity.

The disunity in Christianity is a scandal to the world that we are called to bring to God. It is a scandal that weakens the Christian message and witness. What moral right have we to ask the world to reconcile their differences when we as Christians cannot reconcile our own differences? Let us today ask God’s forgiveness for all of God’s children for the sin of disunity. Let us pray for Christian unity, and resolve to extend a hand of reconciliation and friendship to our estranged brothers and sisters in the Lord. 

Lord, hear the prayers of your people and bring the hearts of believers together in your praise and in common sorrow for their sins. Heal all divisions among Christians that we may rejoice in the perfect unity of your Church and move together as one to eternal life in your kingdom. Amen.

On the Gospel - Concern for Others is the Beginning of Miracles

St John in his gospel mentions Mary, the mother of Jesus two times: at the marriage feast at Cana, the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus and at the crucifixion, the end of it. That could be a way of telling us that Mary did not only play the passive role of being the physical mother of Jesus; that she was also actively involved with Jesus in the work of our redemption. In today's gospel, we hear of the marriage feast at Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus was invited, as well as Jesus himself and his disciples. As the wedding feast went on, the wine ran out. Mary went out of her way to intercede with Jesus and Jesus performed what John tells us was his very first miracle.

If this was Jesus' very first miracle, how then did Mary know that Jesus could do it? Good mothers know their children. They know the hidden talents and potentialities of their children. There are many young men and women who have gone on to accomplish great things in life because their mothers believed in them and encouraged them.

A more fascinating question arising from the story is this: Did Mary know all those thirty years she lived with Jesus that she was living with a wonder-worker and yet never she ask him to multiply her bread, turn the water on the dining table into wine, or double her money to make ends meet? How come she never asked Jesus to use his miraculous power to help her out but she was quick to ask him to use it and help others? Think of it. If you have a child who has a miraculous power to double money for other kids at school, won't you ask him to double yours at home too? After all, one would argue, charity begins at home. But for Mary and for Jesus the needs of others come first.

Take the case of Jesus. He knew he had this power to perform miracles. After his forty days fast in the desert he was hungry and the devil suggested it to him to turn some stones into bread and eat, but he did not do it. Yet he went out and multiplied bread for crowds of his followers. What are they telling us, Mary and Jesus, through their actions? They are telling us that God's gifts to individuals are not meant primarily for their or their families' benefit but for the service of others. That is what St Paul also tells us in the second reading when he enumerates the many different gifts of the Holy Spirit to different persons and adds that "to each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good," (1 Corinthians 12:6) not for personal profit.

Today, then, is a good day to ask ourselves: "What gifts has God given me? Am I using these gifts mainly for my own personal profit or for the service of others in the community?" We sometimes wonder why there are no more manifestations of the Holy Spirit like we read in the Bible. Maybe the reason is that we have grown more selfish. If we began using the little gifts we have for the common good -- like the gift of praying, singing, teaching, caring, sharing, encouraging, supporting, motivating, writing, etc. -- then these gifts will probably begin to grow and soon we will begin to see miracles. Concern for others is the beginning of miracles.

One of the latter day saints who worked astonishing miracles was St Francis of Assisi. He was able to do so much because he gave himself completely to the service of God and the good of others. Let us, therefore, conclude with the famous prayer of St Francis: 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

1 comment:

  1. I pray God to grant me my own spiritual grace and make it manifest.


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