Responsive Adsense

Thank you for visiting. In honour of the 5th anniversary of Uwakwe Reflections, we have relocated to a bigger platform at Do meet us there.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Lent Year C By Fr. Munachi Ezeogu, CSSp

Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15, I Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12, Luke 13:1-9

On the Gospel – But for the Grace of God

There was an old man who maintained his subscription to the daily newspaper even though he had virtually stopped reading. His neighbour asked him why he maintained a subscription to a newspaper he never read. This was his reply. "Every morning, before any other thing, I look up the obituary section of the newspaper to see if my name is there. If I don't find my name there, I kneel down and thank God for the gift of another day. That is why I subscribe to the daily newspaper." 

Imagine today's gospel as giving us a rare glimpse into the obituary section of a Jerusalem daily newspaper one day in the lifetime of Jesus. That particular day, the story of the dead took up not only the obituary section but the front page headlines as well: "Blood Bath in the Temple, Pilate Slaughters Suspected Galilean Terrorists," "Tower of Siloam Collapses, 18 People Feared Dead." What was the common reaction of the religious people of Jerusalem to such news of human disaster and misfortune? About the Galileans they probably said, "Serves them right. Death to the terrorists!" About those crushed to death they would say, "Well, that is an act of God. God knows why those eighteen deserve to die at this time, in this manner." And they would flip the page for more interesting news, such as the survivor in the previous day's reality show of the amphitheatre gladiators. 

The people who broke the news to Jesus conveyed it with the same "serves-them-right" attitude. Jesus could not contain himself in the face of such ignorance and self-justification.

Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them -- do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did. (Luke 13:2-5).

In the face of a natural disaster or personal misfortune befalling other people, it is wrong to suppose that they must have done something to deserve it which those who are free from the disaster did not do. The right disposition is to realise that it could happen to anybody, and that if it does not happen to us at this time, it is because of God's mercy and love and not because of what we deserve.

The Reverend John Bradford (1510-1555) was asked what he though of the criminals who were being led to public execution, and his reply was: "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford." We can see the same attitude in our old man who reads the obituary column everyday. He knows that but for the grace of God his name would be there on that page.

The attitude of "but for the grace of God, there go I" helps us make the best of the opportunity God gives us in prolonging our lives from day to day, from week to week, from year to year. We realise that, like the barren fig tree, the extra time has been given to us for a purpose, as a chance to bear fruit. The misfortunes of the less fortunate are not an occasion to stand in judgment over them but an invitation to humble repentance, knowing that "unless you repent, you will all perish just as they" (verse 5). Next time we hear about earthquakes and plane crashes in the news, let us realise that it could happen to anybody, and that if we have been spared such disasters it is so that we might repent and bear fruit worthy of repentance.

Today, let us thank God for the "gardeners" who mediate and intercede for us before God. We know that Jesus is the Great Gardener who intercedes and mediates for us. In practice, however, Jesus fulfills this role through men and women who function as members of Christ's body. The gardeners in our lives, those who have helped us to move from barrenness to fruitfulness, include our parents, teachers, pastors, friends, and even our enemies who have motivated us by their bitter criticism, which more often than not turns out to be true. We thank God for them, we thank God for giving us another opportunity this Lent, and we promise to make the best use of this season of grace to repent more and to bear more fruit in our lives.

On the Epistle – Watch Out, Lest you Fall

The story is told of a unionist general in the American Civil War, General John Sedgwick. General Sedgwick was inspecting his troops during the Battle of the Wilderness. There was a low sand bank which the troops had built to protect them from enemy fire, but the general continued walking head high over the protective sand bank overlooking the enemy position. His officers suggested that this was unsafe and that he should duck while passing the sand bank. “Nonsense,” snapped the general. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distan...” Before he finished the sentence, the general fell to the ground, fatally wounded by an enemy bullet. This sad story shows us the tragedy of overconfidence in military matters. Overconfidence in spiritual matters is even more tragic. In today’s second reading Paul warns us against spiritual overconfidence or presumption.

Among the Christians of Corinth to whom Paul writes in the second reading, there were some who thought themselves to be men and women of strong and sure faith. These people threw caution to the wind and did things that scandalized the weaker members of the community. For example, they joined the pagans in their celebrations and ate meat sacrificed to idols. Their argument was that idols do not exist. Theologically they are right. They also argued that as free children of God they could eat any meat because all meat comes from God. Again they are right. But the fact of the matter is that, in the exercise of their liberty, they are scandalizing others and hurting them spiritually. This is because, as Paul explains, “It is not everyone, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (1 Cor 8:7). So Paul warn them to “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor 8:9). Paul realizes that for a child of God “All things are lawful but not all things are beneficial” (1 Cor 6:12).

Like these super-Christians of Corinth, there are many Christians today who are so sure of their salvation that they become a source of scandal to their less advanced sisters and brothers in the faith. Such over-confidence is often found in Christians who are very close to the sacraments. You hear them say such things as “I am a fully baptized and confirmed Christian,” “I am born again in water and received the Holy Spirit,” “I am saved,” “I attend church services and receive holy communion regularly,” “I am a church member in good standing and I belong to so-and-so committee in my parish.” Paul is saying that even after we have attained such high standings in the church, we should still watch it, because we could still lose it.

To prove his point, Paul cites the case of their Hebrew ancestors on their way to the Promised Land. They had their baptism by passing through the waters of the Red Sea. They had their Eucharist by eating the “spiritual food” of the manna, and drinking the “spiritual drink” of the water from the rock. “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness” (1 Cor 10:5). Even after one has become a full member of God’s covenant people, one could still lose that relationship by giving free rein to one’s cravings and desires. This is what happened to the Israelites in the desert. Paul does not want this to happens to the Christians in Corinth.

The people of God are a people of hope. We live in hope that salvation will be ours, just as God has promised us in Christ. Our salvation is a hope and not a reality that we possess already in such a way that it can no longer be taken from us. This should make us add some humility to our faith. It is this humility which makes us listen to the concerns of our sisters and brothers in the faith who do not enjoy the same strong faith or deep knowledge that we possess. In the end, what recommends us to God is not our deep knowledge or strong faith but our tender loving care for the least of our brothers and sisters.

No comments:

Post a Comment

DISCLAIMER: Comments, remarks and observations are allowed to enable my readers freely express their opinions concerning issues raised in this post. However, while I recommend the observance of the rule of courtesy for every comment, comments on this post do not in any way express my personal opinion. They are strictly the opinions of those who made the comments.

Print Friendly

Subscribe to our posts through E-mail