Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homily (2) 30th Sunday of Year A: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 30th Sunday of Year A: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Exod 22:20-26; Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; 1 Thess 1:5c-10 and Matt 22: 34-40

 Love of God OR Love of our Neighbors?
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel 22 Jesus engages in a series of debate with the local leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, regarding many practical, legal and faith issues.  They keep challenging Jesus. Lasts few Sundays the issues were that of preparedness for the kingdom of God and civil responsibility. Should we pay taxes or not. If we do, to whom? Should we honor God or not? If we do, why and how?  Today the Pharisees wants to know which is more important, the love of God or the love neighbor (Matt 22:34-40). How do we express our love for God? Through sacrifices, burnt offerings? Or charity?  Christ did not waste time in reminding the Pharisee that, this is an old tension.  Both are important: the love of God and the love of neighbor as oneself.

 For Christ, the whole Law, the Torah, from Genesis to the Book of Deuteronomy, as well as the entire prophetic books, that essentially stress true worship, holiness of life, social justice, obedience to God’s words and covenant depend on these two- dimensional principles of the love of God and the love of our neighbors.  They are not contradictory to each other.

In fact, those that today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus (22:20-26) was first addressed to, must have been struggling with this same very tension.  How should we worship God? How should I remain holy, since the Lord our God is holy (Lev 19:2)? Are animal sacrifices, burnt offerings, pilgrimages to shrines enough (Amos 5, Hos 6)?  Based on this first reading, the answer seems to be no. Worship of God, holiness of life, justice can as well be expressed by not molesting foreigners, and by not oppressing the widows and the orphans, and by refraining from extortion, all in the name of giving loans to the poor

This is also at the heart of our daily experiences today in the Church and even in the society as a whole. How to interpret or live the relationship between these two commandments is a burning issue today. Some of us today will interpret or measure our holiness of life on the parameter of how much volume of prayer we have said or how many decades of rosary we prayed yesterday, or even by how many times we have gone to confession or received Holy Communion in a year. Or how well ironed is our robe!  Based on Jesus response to the Pharisees, that takes us back to the Pentateuch and the Prophets these are important. But we must balance this up with the message of the first reading, reaching out to our neighbors, especially the poor, orphans, widows, the voiceless and the immigrants of our times. We ought to respect one another, pray for one another, those in war torn area, and practically help the sick and the needy.

 The point here is that, the two loves are important. This is what Pope Francis so far has spent his papacy emphasizing; reaching out to those in the margins; spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, socially, economically, politically, and physically, where we can.

Many of us also do this everyday. We pray. We also support charitable organizations, catholic charity, saint Vincent the Paul' society, visit to the sick and the elderly, good working relationship with fellow workers, being kind and reaching out to our friends and people around us with positive gestures and healthy eye contacts. We must keep this up or continue to improve on them!

 People, who pretend to be Christians, or seek God while they have no sincere political, medical, educational, social, economic and spiritual interests or well-beings of their neighbors of all colors, genders and cultures, at heart, are hypocrites. They will not find the God of the Bible and of the Law and the Prophets.