Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A Reflction by Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Homily by Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
 Readings: Sir 15:15-20; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10 and Matt 5:17-37

Newness of Life in Christ

Some of my friends, students and parishioners have always said to me Father Michael I love the New Testament. While others would say I love the Old Testament. But my answer to them is always “I love both the New and the Old Testament. You need both of them as a Christian.

The New Testament tells us of the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. But that plan was always there from the beginning of time’’ “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” (Jn 1:1). The Old Covenant which the Jewish people, our ancestors in faith call the (Torah and the Nebiim) the Law and the Prophets (Matt 7:12 Rom 3:21), are not outdated, rather they lead up to the New. The OT can only be fully understood in the light of its fulfillment. And only in the Light of the OT can Christian fully understand the paschal mysteries of Christ, his ethical teachings about various aspects of our lives including, murder, anger, adultery, divorce and oath taking or swearing. Jesus talks about all these in today’s Gospel. (Matt 5:17-37), which brings out a new way of living the law.

 For Christ  did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophet but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17). This is the Law that the Pslamist insist on today:

And the Psalmist today says:

“Blessed are those who follow the Law of the Lord”.
 Blessed are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
 Blessed are those who observe his decrees,
 Who seek him with all their hearts” (Ps 119:1ff).

This Psalms not only brings out the importance of the law of Christ, but calls us to be faithful. It calls us to seek Christ with all our hearts. It implies that the Covenant God made with our ancestors in faith has not been annulled and shall never be cancelled. St. Paul in Romans 11:29 says, “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” It is a perpetual covenant (testament, diatheke, berit) of love and redemption, God’s purpose. This purpose was to be fully achieved by sending his Son Jesus Christ to the world to mark the beginning of a new era of love, of faith, a new era of spirituality and a new era of forgiveness a new era of righteousness, restoration, perfection and renewal descended from the old- the Church.
In fact prior to the time of Christ and Paul, the Jewish people had always seen the Law/Torah and embrace the teachings of the Prophets as the main prism which enables us not only to live spiritually and ethically but to understand the meaning of life. It creates for us an awareness to endure threats of false teachings, idolatries and the challenges of life, to love one another, abide by the truth and to respond to God’s love.

 These challenges have been witnessed in different forms by different generations. During the time of Ben Sira (200-175BCE) Hellenism or empty human and Greek Philosophy was the greatest threat to their faith, their freedom, respect for women and children, social justice, ethical living and keeping God’s precepts. Torah or the fear of the Lord, the true love of God was what Ben Sira identified as the greatest Wisdom. He says, “If you chose you can keep the commandments it will save you…. if you trust in God you too shall live… immense is the Wisdom of the Lord.” (Sir 15:15-20).
 St. Paul also follows the footsteps of Ben Sira. For the quarreling and disorderly Corinthian Community, fill with empty slogans and human thinking (1 Cor 1:10-31). He recommends steadfastness to God’s precepts and Wisdom. For Paul God’s Wisdom which has been predestined surpasses the wisdom of this age. The ministry of Jesus brings to a completion (Plerosai ) call to obedience, full meaning and full revelation of this predestine wisdom and purpose of God.
Think of the different ways that humanity both ancient and today handle human problems including anger, murder, offenses and dialogue different from that of Jesus’ model. Sometimes we swear because we want to persuade our listeners. But for Jesus a simple “yes” or “no” or simple truth telling is sufficient for a child of God. Our differences can also be resolved through dialogue, by talking to each other, rather than resort to violence. This is where the newness of life in Christ comes in.
 For Jesus we can live the fullness of not  deeper conflict with our neighbors  by avoiding unnecessary anger and by refraining from cursing our neighbors and calling them names. We all know what anger can do or lead to. It can lead us into doing things we would regret shortly after.  It can also lead to broken homes and divorce that Jesus addresses also in today’s Gospel. Cheating or infidelity to one’s partner though wrong is not the only cause of broken homes and marriages today.  From the point of view of Jesus, Selfishness, desire to become rich overnight, lust that is harboring of desire for illicit relationship, envy, lack of the spirit of contentment may also compound problems for us. We know that when Jesus uses the metaphors of cutting away hands, eyes that lead us to sins, he meant to remind us to avoid some of the occasions that might lead us to ruining our relationship with God, and make room for forgiveness when we are offended or when somebody who was mean to us comes back to say, “I am sorry.”
In other words, God’s judgment comes with the flavor of forgiveness an newness of life. There is no limit to divine will and his love. Our kindness and forgiveness to one another must not be limited nor should violent be permitted to replace peace. Let us pray at this mass for the grace to always walk the path of the values of Christ by striving to live the newness of Christ love in full.
Peace be with you