Homily  12th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo· Zechariah 12:10–11; 13:1
· Psalm 63:2,3–4,5–6,8–9
· Galatian 3:26–29
· Luke 9:18–24
Following Christ with our Crosses!
In the Gospel( Luke 9:18–24) Jesus asks the apostles who the people thought he was. They thought he was the great former prophet Elijah, Jeremiah, the latter prophet, John the Baptists or one of Israel’s prophets come back to life. But, Peter prophetically professes the identity of Jesus, as “The Christ of God.” For Peter, Christ is truly that Messiah long expected to liberate them from the foreign rule of Rome.
Echoes of this Messianic coming is also heard foregrounded in today’s first reading, the prophecy of Zechariah(Zechariah 12:10–11; 13:1). Zechariah’s prophecy points to ancient events before Christ. From the house of David a Messiah would come to restore holiness, forgive sins and purify the people of God–but not without personal suffering and sacrifices as we saw in the suffering servant of God in Second Isaiah. But, they shall look on him whom they shall pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.”Zechariah’s messianic prophecy in the light of today’s Gospel, in the light of our Christian faith, points not only to the suffering death of Christ, but invites us to identify ourselves and our ministries, propheticially, with that of Christ, especially in moments of sufferings, hunger, pains, violence, bad political leaders, and when we experience discrimination, terrorism and even the loss of our loved ones.
This is why when Peter prophetically declares that Christ is the Messiah, Christ quickly explains the type of Messiah he was, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised…If any one wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”Three points are outstanding here, for Christian discipleship: self-denial, carrying our daily crosses with Jesus, and following him. Self-denial requires that we remove selfish desire and destructive desires from our hearts and allow the spirit of God to be with us, to fill our homes and our nations. Crosses can come to us, as it came to most of the saints and holy people (we hear of), in different forms: through illnesses, tragedies, sacrificial love of one neighbors, helping the poor, being patience with one another; as pastors and leaders bearing a pastoral hearts, helping our spouses, Fathers helping their children, children assisting and visiting with the aged and ailing parents–giving one another our time and practicing the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy, especially in this Year of Mercy.
As followers of Christ, we are invited to live our Christian life in accordance with the Gospel values and of the teachings of the Church– welcoming everyone, male and female( Gal 3). Even in this challenging time of: war, terrorism, poverty, hunger, selfishness, greediness, consumerism etc.; we are invited to speak, take up our daily crosses and live prophetically.
For Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading (Galatian 3:26–29), taking up our daily crosses to follow Christ, as baptized Christians also involves, striving to become children of God through our ardent faith in Jesus Christ, by living like him, tearing down unjust barriers of gender, color, race and class, making social justice a priority in the mission of the Church as constantly emphasize today, by Pope Francis– for there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female’ for you are all one in Christ.” A female religious , Gesila Nneka Uzukwu , not long ago, also stresses this point in her doctoral dissertation entitled: The Unity of Male and Female in Jesus Christ: An Exegetical Study of Galatians 3.28c in Light of Paul's Theology of Promise.
Let us also personally ask ourselves, who am I? What am I doing? Where am I from (country, continent), what is my occupation? Am I a parent, child, church or civil leader, student, an entrepreneur, professor, factory worker, farmer, celebrity, sport person, young, old, male or female, a transporter? In what form am I ready to take up my daily crosses, in faith, and follow the Messiah, the Son of God? At least, Am I doing my best day in and day out to treat all people I meet with dignity and respect?