Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homily: Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Homily by Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Ps 147:1-6; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39

  Called like Paul to Preach the Gospel of Christ ( euvagge,lion)

A few weeks ago on January the 25th we celebrated the Conversion of St. Paul (It was a joy having His Excellency, Archbishop Jerome Leisteki in our Seminary Community). We are familiar with St. Paul’s story. Born in Tarsus and Converted on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians (Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16). He turned around by the special grace God as a beacon of hope. He became the bearer of the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles and to people of all walks of life. Almost 1/3 of the 27 books of the New Testament is attributed to St. Paul’s preaching and Evangelization. In Colleges and Universities St. Paul and the content of his Gospel is usually taught as a course. Not long ago a full year was dedicated to the conversion and life of witness that Paul brought to bear on the Gospel of Christ.

He preached love, unity (I Cor12–14), and reconciliation, universalism (Gal 4) and Christian hope. Having once been tortured, thrown into prison, ship wrecked, he knew the meaning of sufferings in the Light of mystery of Christ’s events, the mystery of God’s ways that Job in today’s first reading had had to wrestle with.

Job, a pious and righteous man, kept the rules like any of us. Obeyed God, was prosperous but also suffered terrible set back and misfortunes in life. He lost his property, his children. He was afflicted and tormented by all kinds of diseases. He felt restless and as if he had been assigned months misery (Job 7:1-4, 6-7). He would have loved to have rational answers to the cause of his set back and sufferings. But they were not forth coming. Yet Job, like Tobit deepened his trust and love for God through his experiences of suffering.

Job’s suffering experiences in his relationship with God could be liken to that of Paul who  in spite of the challenges and difficulties felt the compulsion (avna,gkh) of preaching the Gospel of Christ. Paul’s says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (I Cor 9:16). The point is that though he had the freedom to do whatever he wanted with his talents, rather made himself a slave to all, so as to win over as many people as possible for Christ.

Think of our freedom and liberty to day. What do we do with it, to promote Christ and his church or ourselves?

For Paul the Gospel (euvagge,lion) is “the good news of Jesus Christ.”  It is the entire activity of evangelization to the Gentiles, to the uncircumcised (Gal 2:7). It must have its origin in God manifested in Christ, the son of God (Rom 1:9). It is the faith in Christ (Rom 4–6; Gal 1:23) and the living of the word of God (2 Cor 2:17), the beatitude (Matt 5:1-2). It is the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12). It is a Christian way of life. It is accepting God’s mysterious ways of dealing with us in the crucified Christ (1 Cor 2:1-2) and the hope in the resurrection (1 Cor 15; 1 Thess 4:12-17). It is the fostering of unity (1 Cor 12–14). It is the story of the Risen Lord, not our own stories (2 Cor 4:4). It is the stories of God are healing mercies.

For Paul the Gospel is God’s salvific activity for his people, his power and healing mercies.  For example in today’s gospel we see the healing power of Jesus over Simon Peter’s mother –in-law who was sick with fever.  We heard that Good News:

“On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew, James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever… he approached grasped her and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” This is the Good News.

 Like Simon Peter’s mother-in Law we do have our own “fevers” a times? What are your own “fevers”?  It comes in different forms, in challenges of life, studies, seminary formation or raising a family- long search for jobs, pay bills, run a home. Certainly this can also come in bodily illness. Do we believe in the Gospel of Paul- in the healing power of Christ who is able to cure us of our illnesses? He cures us   through our human doctors and nurses. He accompanies  us on the journeys .

Our “fevers” can also come in form of disunity and lack of love, and envious of other’s spiritual gifts, that the Gospel Paul opposes in I Cor 12–14). Our fevers can come in form lack of universal spirit, acceptance of others which is a complete opposite of the Gospel of Paul in Romans and in the Letter to the Galatians. Our fevers and weaknesses can come in all forms of immorality and idolatries of the 21st century, against the values of the Good News of Christ championed by Paul.

 Whatever our shortcomings and fevers might be in living and preaching the gospel of Christ- re-evangelization- that Paul preached let us continue to open up ourselves to be nourished by the grace of the gospel, the grace of the Good News, preached by Paul, as we go up to celebrate and receive the Holy Eucharist , today.