Homily 24th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo
Faith and Good Works in the Midst of Trials
Each of us has his or her own trials as a believer. In the midst of such trials how do we keep our faith as Christians? This seems to be the fundamental question raised in today’s Bible Readings.
In the first reading, Deutero Isaiah (50:4-11) the Suffering Servant of Yhwh speaks to himself. He soliloquizes, giving us an entrance into his private faith, his relationship with God, showing us how he handles trials and sufferings with faith, patience and endurance. As an ardent believer in God, he says he gave his back to those who beat him. He turns his cheek to those who plucked his beard. He does not hide his face from those who wants to spit on him. He endures everhting that leads to obedience to God. It is not his personal human power. He endures everything that leads to his confidence in God in God, who will vindicate him, in the end. His strength is in God!
This is the true mark and character of Christ’s Disciples which St. James reminds us in the 2nd reading. For James whether we are at home or in Diaspora like the early Jewish Christian our faith must be translated into how we charitably live with one another. It must be decoded into how we forgive those who have offended us. It is measured by the alms we give geneoursly to the poor. Even to love as Chriist loved, selflesslely is a lot of hard work. For James if faith is our acceptance of God’s saving grace and revelation, then this faith must be accompanied by obedient implementation of all the values God has manifested in Christ, Jesus. In fact the type of obedience Abraham displayed in Genesis 12, by leaving his homeland to an unknown destination, and his readiness to sacrifice his only son Isaac in Genesis 22. Great values!
Value of faith, value of obedience and value of the readiness to carry our daily crosses to follow Christ! The value to endure! This is what Christ meant in the Gospel when he says to his disciples, “who ever wishes to come after me must deny himself/herself take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:27-35).
Yes, there are crosses and trials out there. You can name them! Loneliness, betrayal by once a good friend, parents or our children are some of them. Poverty, illness, joblessness and homelessness are some of them. Think of the pains of loosing our loved ones or certain unexpected tragedies that would naturally make us ask, “God where are you”?
You may have lived with a very difficult person in the same house before where peace is hard to come by. This could be tempting too. It equally hurts when our privacy our invaded or your basic freedom and fundamental human rights our denied us. Can you imagine how it feels when you are not even allowed to worship God or practice your faith? Or when you are insulted or abused? Or your opinions are not counted? These things do happen! Or think of when our civil and ecclesiastical leaders or moral teachers, pastors and preachers, bosses and community leaders disappoint us, when they do not live up to their expectation.
In the midst of all these trials and many more, we are invited to imitate the costly obedience and values of Christ, the Suffering Servant of God!