Wednesday, September 28, 2022

October 02, 2022; 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C)


Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 2; Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10

 

Patience is a Virtue Worth Cultivating.

1.    Today’s first reading is taken from the book of Habakkuk, believed to have been written in the mid-to-late 7th century BC, not long before the Babylonians’ siege and capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The prophet was troubled by the violence and cruelty of the Babylonians. He wondered why the Lord was silent. “So why are you silent while they destroy people who are more righteous than they?” (1:13). But the Lord told him to be patient, that he would act in his own time; meanwhile, he urged him to have Faith. “Those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.”(2:4). Faith and trust go hand in hand. It is not as if God is unaware of the plight of his people, but we must trust him to act in his own time. We must keep to our lane and allow God to operate in his. Yes, we sometimes feel like Habakkuk. We are frustrated and disillusioned amid destruction and bloodshed in our lands. When we hear of kidnapping, persecution and the killing of Christians during Mass or Church services, and other acts of violence committed inside the church, we wonder if God cares about us. It seems as if God has allowed us to kill and maim each other as we please. Our Faith is tested, if not shaken, in the face of so much hatred and disregard for one another, and we feel like crying out with Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord? I cry for help, but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.” 

 

2.    But God tells us to be faithful. In other words, He wants us to have Faith. Faith is defined as “the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, notes that “Faith is both a gift of God and a human act in response to God. In Faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace.” We can obey God because we cooperate with His grace. Our Faith makes us ready and willing to do God’s will. In the Gospel, the apostles asked Jesus to increase their Faith. To answer their request, Christ warned them against being the cause of scandal or being a stumbling block for others. He acknowledged that it was impossible to construct a world without temptations, but woe to that man who taught another to sin or took away another’s innocence; “So watch what you do!” Then Jesus speaks of the necessity of forgiveness in the life of Christians. He tells them to forgive seven times. The difficulty of putting this teaching into practice made the apostles ask for an increase in Faith. Without Faith and grace, it is impossible to obey God’s command or put his teaching into practice. Jesus said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Faith is the most powerful force the world has ever known. If we have Faith, we can do the impossible. Our Faith depends not on the size or quantity but on quality and effectiveness. With Faith, the impossible becomes possible. If we approach any task with the belief that it cannot be done, it will probably not be done; but if we come to it saying, “It must be done,” the chances are that it will be done.    

 

3.    Faith is not jumping to conclusions; it is concluding to jump into the arms of God our Father, who loves us unconditionally. It is accepting that Jesus is the Son of God and believing in the words he spoke and in his power. It is “By this faith a just man lives.” (Gal. 3:11). This is the Faith that can draw poison from every grief, take the sting from every loss, and quench the fire of every pain. This Faith can be compared, as Jesus does, to a “tiny mustard seed.” Because the power of the seed does not depend on its size but on the life hidden within itself, the power of our Faith does not depend on its quantity but on its quality. Faith and trust in the power of God can transform our lives and enable us to struggle against sins in ourselves and avoid causing scandal in others. It will make it possible to forgive all the hurts done to us and help us wait on God to act on our behalf. Our Faith must be living, practical, and trustworthy. It is formed by our baptism, making it possible to do everything for God and not for ourselves. It is about God and not me. God must increase while I decrease. Yes, I am only an unprofitable servant; I have done what I was obliged to do and nothing more.

 

4.    Paul reminds Timothy in the second reading not to forget the gifts of the Holy Spirit he received when he was ordained a minister. “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). Timothy should not be intimidated by the hardships, opposition, and difficulties he encountered in Ephesus. These should not deter or dampen his spirit but strengthen his Faith to remain strong and resolute in his mission. The apostles, too, sensed the difficulties of their mission and so cried out for an increase of Faith. 

 

5.    Following in the footsteps of Christ is never easy! It was not easy for Christ to do His Father’s will either. But Jesus urged us to have strong Faith. If our Faith is strong, we should be afraid of nothing. “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” (Ps. 125:1). Christians must fight the good fight and yet be humble enough to say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what our duty was.” Our baptism incorporates us into the life of Christ and enables us to carry out our Christian duties without seeking reward. In facing difficulties, violence, persecution, and tribulation, we must wait on the Lord. “I waited patiently for the Lord’s help; then he listened to me and heard my cry. He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.” (Ps. 40:1-2). May we be committed to a life of prayer, our baptismal vows, and our call to be missionary disciples. May God increase our Faith so that we may not be intimidated by the troubles of this world. Amen.

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, September 23, 2022

September 25, 2022; 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C)


Readings: Amos 6:1, 4-7; 1 Tim. 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31.

 

The Lazarus at our Door

1.      Prophet Amos lashed out at the rich last Sunday for exploiting the poor. He was direct and uncompromising. He warned the children of Israel that the Lord would punish them through a military disaster because of their social injustice and religious arrogance. Amos was from the South and preached in the North. He warned that due to the lifestyle of the people, the impending disaster would affect the rich and the poor alike. Amos is on it again today, warning the rich who feasted sumptuously and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle that they “Shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.” The rich did not care about the poor; they took no notice of them except to exploit them to advance their selfish interests.

 

2.      In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man dressed in purple (royalty) and fine linen clothes; and feasted on exotic and costly dishes and drank expensive wine. And there was Lazarus, ‘God is my help.’ Lazarus was a homeless, disabled beggar so sick that he could not drive away dogs that came to lick his sores. He survived on the leftovers that fell from the rich man’s table. Although Lazarus would make his way to the rich man’s gate day in and day out, he did not notice him. The only time the rich man noticed Lazarus was when he saw him in the afterlife on the bosom of Abraham. While the rich man was laughing, rejoicing, and celebrating on earth, Lazarus was in agony. But in heaven, Lazarus rejoiced while the rich man suffered in hell. And Christ warned: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. But woe to you who are rich, for you, have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.” (Lk. 6:20-25). 

 

3.      But what was the rich man’s sin? What was his crime? And why was he in hell? The rich man did not kick Lazarus out, shout at him, or prevent him from sitting by his gate. The parable said nothing about the source of his wealth. Being rich was a blessing from God. Psalm 112:3 tells us: “Wealth and riches shall be in their homes; their prosperity shall endure forever.” And Deuteronomy 8:18 assures us, “It is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers.” 

 

4.      The only crime that sent the rich man to hell was that he did not care; he did not notice his fellow man is dying in abject poverty. He failed to see Lazarus at his door! He did nothing to alleviate his pain and suffering or remedy his situation. He saw Lazarus as part of the landscape in front of his gate. He lacked the human decency to pursue a life of holiness by taking care of his fellow man in need. He failed to do what Paul urged Timothy to do in the second reading. “But you, a man of God…pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). He failed to obey the commandment of love. He did nothing! It was the sin of omission that sent the rich man to hell. We contribute to the sufferings of the poor by doing nothing to help them in their poverty! 

 

5.      We often feel that the poor deserve their state in life. We seem to think that they remain in poverty because they are lazy. M.K.O. Abiola said better, “If I am the richest man, living among the poorest of the poor, I am the poorest of them all.” How easy we forget that the rich should help the poor in this world while the poor will benefit the rich in the next. “He raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’” Hell is real! If we refuse to notice Lazarus in our family, community, society, world, and gates, we may end up in hell like the rich man. Can we see Lazarus at our doors? They are everywhere, but can we see them? They are needy people, hurting people who need our attention and want us to help them with school fees. They are panhandlers on the street corners, and they sleep under bridges. Can you see the hurt in their eyes? They need us! Do not wait for the reversal of fortunes to notice; it may be too late then. J. F. Kennedy reminds us that “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” 

 

6.      Finally, it seems odd that the rich man’s request that his brothers be warned was refused. Isn’t it true that if men possess the truth of God’s word, and if wherever they look, there is a sorrow to be comforted, need to be supplied, pain to be relieved, and they are not moved to do anything, or take action to alleviate their sufferings? Nothing can change them, even if someone should come from the dead? The rich man went to hell because of the sin of omission; we commit the sin of omission too. May we notice the Lazarus at our doors so we may not join the rich man in his pity party held in hell. Amen! 

 

 

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, September 16, 2022

September 18, 2022; 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C)

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C) September 18, 2022

Readings: Amos 8:4-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13.

The Poor You Help May Get You into Heaven

1.​The phrase, ‘What would Jesus do?’ makes us think and feel like Jesus in every respect, especially in dealing with the poor. It focuses our minds on how Jesus and his followers view social issues, such as helping the poor, inequality, and charitable work. Some Catholic Theologians used the term Liberation Theology to grapple with these issues. In 1971 Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Latin American priest wrote a book titled A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, Salvation. The basic premise of this theology explains that textual and oral sources reveal God’s love of the poor and outcast. These claims refer to the stories of Jesus’s association with the poor, oppressed, undesirable, and prostitutes. From 1950 to the 80s, priests, men, women, and children were humiliated, persecuted, and killed in Latin America. The Liberation Theologians opted for the poor and preached against the governments’ repressive regime. Many men and women were equally subjected to inhumane treatment because they saw the liberation theologians as their liberators, and they hung on their words. Women were raped and abused, and young men were humiliated, beaten, and persecuted. Monsenor Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, was assassinated while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980 in the hospital chapel of Divine Providence. He was called an advocate for justice and the voice for the poor during the turbulent times leading to the El Salvador civil war. Men like Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay, Archbishop Helder C├ímara of Brazil, and Jon Sobrino of Spain, to mention but a few suffered ignominy because of their stand and were persecuted even by the Church. They popularized the phrase preferential option for the poor because they believed that God speaks mainly through the poor and that the Bible can be understood only as seen from the perspective of the poor.

 2.​Reflecting on today’s first reading from Prophet Amos, I cannot help but think of the South Americans who struggled and fought for freedom and justice. Unfortunately, our world today is not too different from what they went through, and the message of Amos is still very relevant to us. In many nations of the world, the poor are still hounded, traumatized, stigmatized, pushed around, put in cages, slammed into prisons, and out of sight. There seems to be a collective sense of helplessness among those of us who should speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. Today, Amos is addressing a situation like ours where giant corporations have bought the government, fossil fuel companies, the gun lobby, health insurance companies, and drug companies have taken control of the economy. The poor and the powerless are thrown under the bus. It is true that where greed and injustice prevail, revolt, anarchy, and protest are the result, and the brunt of it would be borne by the poor.

 3.​The message of Amos is as urgent today as it was in his days. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals.” (8:4-7). Amos lived and preached at the time of material and financial prosperity in Israel. In his days, the rich amassed wealth, ruthlessly exploiting and cheating the poor. Fraud and deception were common in businesses and banking, and the lawyers worked for the vested interests of the wealthy rather than for justice. City life was corrupt, and religion was just a routine, a farce, a sham, and shameful. In their affluence, the children of Israel lost faith in God. The Sabbath and the new moon, which were supposed to be days of prayer and rest, were resented as an interruption in pursuing money. All caution, a sense of decency in business, and the care of ordinary people were thrown to the wind. It was like St. Paul warned the Philippians, “For many conducts themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” (4:18-20).

4.​Amos’ warning was frank, direct, precise, and decisive: “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” He called the people back to the wholeness of life and solidarity as one people under God. He reminded them of the futility of their fancy liturgies and solemn assemblies as long as they kept exploiting the poor. According to the psalmist, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18). The mission of Christ is clear and straightforward: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Lk. 4:18-19). 

5.​The parable of Jesus in today’s Gospel does not, in any way, praise the craftiness and the attitude of the dishonestly honest steward for his sleaziness, laziness, and shady bookkeeping. Oh no! He commends, instead, his ingenuity and willingness to foresee and do whatever it took to ensure a prosperous future for himself when he still had time and ability to do so. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (v.8). He, in fact, did what Christ urged us to do: “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (v.9). But our friend’s immediate concern was not eternal life, it was about how to make ends meet. We should be willing to do whatever it takes to attend eternal life.

6.​The Gospel reminds us that whatever we have is given to us for the benefit of all. Our wealth is a blessing from God only to the extent that we detach ourselves from them and are willing to share them with others. Our use of money must always be related to social justice and personal responsibility. Our worship of God must influence the way we live. This is the only way we will be entrusted with eternal life. Those we assist on earth will plead on our behalf on the day of judgment. “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40). This is the kind of world Amos and the Liberation Theologians dreamt of: the world where the resources are equitably shared and made available to all. According to Dom Halder Camara, “Without justice and love, peace will always be a great illusion.” It is in the recognition that God has blessed the world with abundance to be enjoyed by all that peace, justice, and equity will prevail. 

7.​The readings leave us with a few lessons to ponder to “Lead quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity,” according to St. Paul in the second reading. First of all, we must be men and women of prayer. “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone and that in every place, the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.” Prayer must not only be the concern of women and children, but men should also be prayer warriors. Secondly, let us be serious about the things of God. That means Christians must be as eager and ingenious in their attempt to attain goodness as the man of the world is in his desire to make money and live a comfortable life. We spend money and time on what we treasure: hobbies, pets, and sports. We should do same with prayer and our pursuit of spiritual things. Third, let us use things and possessions to cement our relationship with others, especially the poor. They are the ones who will secure our life of peace with God. The rich should help the poor in this world, while the poor will plead for the rich in the next. And finally, since we cannot serve two masters, God, and money, we must choose one. If we choose God, know that there is no spare time for ourselves since all our time belongs to God. God is our most exclusive master. We either belong to him totally or not at all. May God give us the strength to choose him above and beyond all else. Ame

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

September 11, 2022; 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C)

 

Readings: Ex. 32:7-11, 13-14; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32.

 

Forgiveness is A Choice

1.  Today’s readings can be summarized simply as lost but found, strayed but returned, sin and forgiveness, estranged and reconciled. They addressed the idea of separation from God and ultimate reunion with Him. Without an intentional aspiration for forgiveness, there can never be a healthy relationship in our family, church, or society. We are away from our senses when we sin against one another, but when we return to our senses, we find ourselves, others, and God. 

 

2.  Today, Jesus speaks to a mixed crowd: the tax collectors and sinners and the grumbling Pharisees and scribes. He directly addressed those who disapprove of His fellowship ‘with the wrong kind of people.’ In the first reading, Moses intercedes on behalf of the people for their sin of apostasy. They had turned away from the living God and worshipped the Golden Calf. “‘Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the Land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?’ So, the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” (Ex.32:13,14). Acknowledging God’s desire to pardon his people, Nehemiah the prophet said: “Yet in your great mercy you did not completely destroy them, and you did not forsake them, for you are a kind and merciful God.” (10:31). The Lord revealed himself to Moses as “A merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin.” (Ex. 34:6-7). God forgives us always, not counting our sins. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Is.1:18).

 

3.  In the second reading, Paul is grateful that he was forgiven by Christ. “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1Tim.1:13-14). Paul’s sin was grave, but the mercy of God saved him and offered him an opportunity to be an apostle to the gentiles and an ambassador of reconciliation. “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. So, we are ambassadors for Christ. We implore you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2Cor. 5:18-20). For “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom.5:20-21).

 

4.  The Gospel presents us with the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. In the first two parables, there is no hint of sin or deliberate separation except that the sheep strayed, the coin was lost, and both were recovered. But there was joy and happiness in their recovery. The story of the lost son is one of the greatest stories ever told. This is the story of hatred and animosity, of an overindulging father who fulfilled the demands of an ungrateful son with a false sense of entitlement; it is a story of searching and finding, love and compassion, forgiveness and cold-heartedness, mercy, and reconciliation. It is the story of grace! Shakespeare wrote about the importance of mercy in his book ‘Merchant of Venice’ as he addressed Shylock through Portia, the judge: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” This is the story of a merciful and forgiving father who forgave his son because he chose to. Despite the son’s sins and the unworthiness of his father’s forgiveness, he forgave him. Not because the son was entitled to or deserved it. No. But because not forgiving him was never an option. It is the story of joy and jubilation over the repentance of a recalcitrant son. There will be joy in heaven when a sinner returns to God. Margaret Moody demonstrates this joy in a Song ‘When a sinner comes as a sinner May’ “When a sinner comes, as a sinner may, there is joy, there is joy; When he turns to God in the Gospel way, there is joy, there is joy. There is joy among the angels, and their harps with music ring, when a sinner comes repenting, bending low before the King.”

 

5.  The merciful father forgave and embraced his son (welcomes him back fully), put shoes on his feet (he is not a slave, but free), and gave him a ring (restored him to full status with authority to act in the name of the family). While the father forgave his younger son, his elder son did not forgive his brother. The father again made a move to reconcile the two brothers. He pleaded with the elder brother, but would he listen? Forgiveness is a choice. A choice against anger, hurt, bitterness, pride, suspicion, self-righteousness, and irrational need for revenge. It is a choice for liberation and freedom. A choice to free oneself from grudges against others. The elder brother would not forgive his brother but resented that his father did. He underestimated his father’s love. He did not understand that his father’s love could not be earned: it was pure grace. Will he join in the celebration? We may never know! But our attitude towards our enemies and our unwillingness to forgive them may indicate the brother’s mindset. These were the scribes and the Pharisees who were upset with Christ for associating with the tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners – the wrong kind of people. There was no love lost between them and Christ! 

 

6.  This story teaches us that there is no perfect family. There must be understanding and forgiveness in all our associations. We must be prepared to sacrifice for peace in our families. Parents must initiate the task of keeping the family together and not prefer one child over others. Overpampering children and favoring one over others can give them a false sense of entitlement. Spare the rod and spoil the child is the saying parents must always keep in mind. 

 

7.  Let us pray that the God of forgiveness and mercy may teach us to be merciful. Jesus teaches us about forgiveness and prayer: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). Again, we are told, “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may, in turn, forgive you your transgressions.” (Mk. 11:25). If we have hurt anyone, let us ask for forgiveness and accept forgiveness when offered. Let us go to God for mercy, for He will never withhold forgiveness from us. If today, you listen to his voice harden, not your heart. Amen.

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP

Friday, September 2, 2022

September 04, 2022; 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year (C)

 

Readings: Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9-10,12-17; Lk 14:25-33.

 

The Demands of Christianity

1.    As Christians, we must carefully consider and deeply think about our faith before saying ‘yes’ to it. All are called, but only a few can live it out as demanded by the master. Christ showed, through his life and teaching, the danger of discipleship. “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Matt. 8:20). To his disciples, he said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk. 9:23). We are called, not to do what we want (our will), but to do God’s will and follow Christ, even to the Cross.

 

2.    Paul reminds us to “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a Cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Peter invites us to be like Christ in this exhortation: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. He bore our sins in his body upon the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:21-22, 24). And John reiterates: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13). Christ encouraged us to stay strong because whatever we endure now, he went through it first: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (Jn. 15:18).

 

3.    Today’s gospel warns: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own Cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:26-27). This means Christ must come first in all our deliberations, relationships, and decision-making. No loyalty to any person on earth should be stronger than our loyalty to Christ. For all that we are, and all that we do must be done through Christ and for Christ. My life in the church, society, and workplace must be directed by my love for Christ. It is not about me! It should not be about me; it should be about God because my life belongs to God. I belong to Christ in life and in death. And that is what we pray at every Mass: “Jesus, I love you, all that I am is yours, yours I am, yours I want to be, do with me what you will.” To be a disciple means to choose Christ always. Christians must adopt a standard of living that is different from that of the world. 

 

4.    In the second reading, Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus, his slave. Onesimus defrauded his master and ran away but was caught and sent to prison, where he met and assisted Paul. Through this encounter, Onesimus was converted to the faith. Paul urged Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. “So, if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.” Loving and forgiving, as Paul asked Philemon to do, is difficult. We cannot do it on our own. Our humanity will get in the way. Our self-righteousness will influence our judgment. Our sense of entitlement will darken our vision, and our ego will raise its ugly head like a sore tooth. And so, we must cry out to God for help. Hence, the first reading urges us to seek divine wisdom. “Who can know God’s counsel or conceive what the Lord intends? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.” (Wisdom 9:13-18). Without wisdom and guidance from above, we cannot please God or do His will.  

 

5.    These readings demonstrate that it costs not less than everything to be a disciple of Jesus. So, we must ask ourselves these questions: Do I have what it takes to be a Christian? What am I prepared to give up? What Cross must I carry to follow Christ? Have I chosen Christ above and beyond all else? Do I love myself less and Jesus more? Who do I find difficult to forgive? Who do I hold in my heart and refuse to let go? Am I bearing a grudge to the point that it negatively affects my relationship with Jesus and others? Jesus is asking me to surrender myself to him. He wants me to unquestionably accept God’s will. Is this too hard for me to do? Many have done it and are still doing it. They sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel. They gave up parents, families, brothers, sisters, and even their lives. Yes, whoever wants to be my disciple must hate his very self, or the person is not worthy of me. The disciple must be a good follower and a lover of people. He should know that it is all about Christ and not the self. This is total self-giving! It is saying, ‘Yes’ totally and completely to God, like our Mother Mary did, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

 

6.    Dear friends, this is the cost that must be calculated and the resources that must be expended. Being a true disciple is tough! It is hard work that must be carefully planned and assiduously executed. On our own, it will be a task impossible to undertake. But with God, all things are possible. And so, we must seek the wisdom of God. We must listen and allow God to speak to us more when we pray and not tell God how good we are. God knows who we are! We must be committed to our sacramental life. We must examine our consciences honestly and go to confession regularly. We must consider the needs of others and seek ways to help them. We must not be too hasty in talking about the faults of others. We all have our own share of shortcomings and limitations. Let us listen to our brother James “My dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19) Advising one another is good but let it not be hastily done. Let us be patient, ask the right questions and hear from both sides. Let the advice be given out of love and for the common good. If we genuinely desire to follow Jesus, these are the steps we must take. This is the planning we must undertake, the mansion we must build, and the war we must fight. May God help us with his wisdom to do what is right and good before him. Amen.

 

Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP