Thursday, February 9, 2012

Homily: Wed Fifth Week Ordinary Time B: SHST’s Community Mass, Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily: Wed Fifth Week Ordinary Time B: SHST’s Community Mass
Readings: 1 Kings 10:1-10; Ps 37:5-6, 30-31, 39-40 and Mk 7:14-23 

During the course of our community’s activities last week, I mean, the interview process of searching for a new President- Rector, one of the questions put to me was what I thought was the  “high point, the heart of  our  Seminary activities here.” My answer was the Holy Eucharist, Jesus; always a joy to see members of the Administration, the faculty, staff, and our students come together every Wednesday, as a community to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the source and the centre of our lives, where the Church and our Seminary community draw strength from.

Within this context of our community- celebration and in the light of the Scripture  readings of today, 1 Kings 10: 1-10, Psalm 37 and  the Gospel Mark 7:14-23,  I want invite you to reflect with me on the theme: “The Ironies of the Wisdom of Solomon and the Sarcasms of the Splendor of his kingdom.”

Israel story is told through the analysis of the reigns of more than forty kings, majority of them being unfaithful to God, after the Death of David, except Asa, Hezekiah and Josiah. The Story of Solomon, in the 1st reading is one of them. In this faith narrative Solomon’s wealth, wisdom and military power are often interwoven with the account of his relationship with foreign dignitaries, including the Queen of Sheba, who sought his renowned wisdom, today. She blesses Solomon and lavishes him with gold and precious stones.

Listening to that 1st reading on the surface, we all seem to be excited and impressed with the wealth of his wisdom and the splendor of his kingdom but below these flashes of wisdom and luxurious home, all was not well with Solomon. Solomon would not have the character of David his father. Solomon would marry pharaoh’s daughter. Solomon would not dance with joy before God nor show any of the humility that David personified. He does build the temple, but Solomon seems mostly concerned with the rest of his building program. He carries out this building program unethically, with forced labor, which is one of the causes of the civil wars that erupted after his death. Moreover, we are not told any where in the readings that Solomon shared any of the gifts he received from the Queen of Sheba nor his horses and chariots with anyone. Very selfish!
He does not keep God’s teachings in his heart.

He neglected the warnings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (1) not to accumulate large numbers of horses, especially from Egypt (2) not to accumulate large numbers of wives (3) and not to accumulate a large quantity of silver and gold. The point is that, in spite of his wealth and wisdom something is not quite right about the Solomon’s heart.

There is this tension in his life. He had splendorous kingdom, wisdom, silver and gold, horses and chariots but lack Torah, the teachings of God. He could not keep that covenant relationship with God. Solomon had no pastoral heart.

Heart in biblical thought, that the Psalmist refers to today, is very much the center of person’s life, the seat of human activity and emotion, and the battleground between good and evil. It is from the Heart that we give thanks to God, praise Him and keep his Law.  It is also from the heart that evil inclination flows (Gen 6:5).

So it is not by accident that today’s Gospel is read along side this narrative about Solomon. In the Gospel the tension tightens and heightens; the tension between externalism and holiness of life the tension between pure and impure, clean and unclean. Jesus in the Gospel clearly invokes the Torah against “human traditions.” Jesus challenges the ancient tradition of ritual purity. For Jesus what comes out of the person’s heart is what really matters:

He mentions “un-chastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance” all comes from the heart to defile us and our society.

Our Seminary, a school of human and spiritual virtues, is blessed with the name, Sacred Heart School of Theology. Interestingly we have the painting of the Heart of Jesus all over our beautiful chapel here. By the way, as you walk out from this chapel today, turn on your right and look at the second stained- glass window- it is written there Ecce Cor- behold the heart.

This reminds us of the Heart of Jesus, his values, the values of Venerable John Leo Dehon. It reminds us that that from a God’s centered heart comes the opposite of all the vices listed by Jesus in today’s gospel, to strengthen our community.  Unlike Solomon, we are called to be celibate, chaste, and pure in our different states of lives.

We are called to respect life, our neighbors and their properties, to be forgiving not bearing grudges and malice, to be honest, transparent, contented and be humble in the service of one another, with faith and reasons, and in he light of divine revelation, both within here and outside our seminary community.

As we ascend the altar to share in the Body and Blood of Christ, may this same Lord who has begun this good work in us, in our community, homes, and families continue to bless us and bring it to a fulfillment!