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Saturday, 13 August 2016

Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp

Jeremiah 38:1-2,4-6,8-10, Hebrews 12:1-4, Luke 12:49-53

On the Gospel, Holy War According to Jesus

The new millennium has witnessed and continues to witness much violence. Hardly any day passes that we do not hear the sad news of violent aggression and brutality unleashed against innocent people somewhere around the world. To make matters worse, perpetrators of these acts of violence often try to justify these atrocities by claiming that they are fighting a holy war in God’s name. Think of the crusades, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Today’s readings are indeed a call to war: not a war against other people but a war against sin and corruption; not a war against people we perceive as evil, but a war against the evil one, the devil. Let us listen to these words of Jesus:

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:51-53)

Scholars tell us that Jesus is speaking here not about the purpose of his coming but about the inevitable consequence of his coming. Jesus came to reveal the true sons and daughters of God who listen to God’s word, and the children of this world who oppose God design. This divides all humankind into two camps, the camp of the godly and the camp of the ungodly. There is perpetual conflict, a state of war, between these two groups as one group strives to raise the world up to God and the other to pull it down to hell. These two groups do not live in two different parts of the world, they live side by side in the same neighbourhood, they live together under the same roof, and in fact the forces of good and evil often exist together in the same person.

The holy war to which Christ calls us, therefore, is not a war against people of certain nationalities or cultures, creeds or ideologies, but a war in which we first have to identify the forces for evil in our own persons and in the persons of those who are dear to us (father, son, mother, daughter, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law) and then declare an uncompromising war against these forces.

What are some of these evil forces that we are asked to war against? Well, why don’t we start with the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride (superiority complex), Covetousness (greed, seeking material prosperity at the expense of one’s soul), Lust (sexual abuse of minors, pornography, treating women as objects of pleasure), Anger (bitterness, hate, bearing grudges), Gluttony (excessive eating and drinking), Envy (self hate, rivalry), Sloth (seeking success without working for it). To these we can add the mother of all evils, injustice. If we declare war against these then we are fighting a holy war.

If we are at war then we should be prepared for some roughness. The enemy is also fighting against us and we may have to suffer some harm or hardship. Jeremiah in the first reading was fighting a holy war against the false prophets who prophesied only what the king and his officials wanted to hear. But Jeremiah stuck to the truth. And where did he end up? In a well of mud. But God sent a foreigner, an Ethiopian to come and save him. God never abandons His people. Jesus, our leader in God’s holy war did not escape the suffering and death on the cross. But on the third day God raised him to life victorious. God never abandons his people. He will not abandon us if we fight His holy war — the war against evil in ourselves and in the world.

With this thought that God never abandons his own, the author of Hebrews encourages us in the second reading to not grow weary or lose heart. We shall close with his words of advice:
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:3-4)

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