Friday, February 10, 2017

Homily Sixth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Sixth Sunday of Year A:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Sir 15:15-20;
·          Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34;
·         1 Cor 2:6-10
·          Matt 5:17-37
 Law of Love and Grace in Christ!
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn that “the new Law is called a law of love because  it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ” (CCC1972).
 It is this Law of love, grace and freedom in Christ that we celebrate today. These Laws are particularly evidence on the pages of the Sacred Scripture, both OT and NT, especially in today’s readings. These laws were constantly renewed, studied, updated and reinterpreted to meet the signs of times. Just as the laws of our various nations and societies, are today constantly scrutinized and reinterpreted to meet the needs of time. Laws in Scripture, especially in the Hebrew Bible, in the OT sections are reinterpreted in light of the mercy, love, compassion of Jesus Christ as fulfilled in the NT, to meet our needs and the needs of the Church.
For example, the three major codes of the OT, if we may begin from here: the covenant Codes (Exod 19–24; 34), the Holiness Codes (Lev 16–27) and the Deuteronomic Codes (Deut 12–16) all  were constantly updated, innovated, renewed and reinterpreted by Israel’s prophets and sages. The goals of these sages were to preach justice, peace, righteousness, faith, orderliness and holiness of life, trustworthiness in God and in the covenant of love he had established with his chosen people, Israel.
These goals transcend time. Who does not need justice? Who does not need Peace? Who does not cherish righteousness, righteous acts? Who does not appreciate the role faith in our lives? Who does not love orderliness? Who does not recognize the importance of holiness of life? These are necessities for all times. They are boundless and timeless.
In the time of Hellenism, when Israel’s faith was threatened by secular and Greek philosophical thoughts Ben Sira (200-175BCE) insists in today’s first reading that keeping the Torah or the fear of the Lord was the greatest wisdom and the best way to approach the challenges of life.  He says, “If you chose you can keep the commandments it will save you…. if you trust in God you too shall live… immense is the Wisdom of the Lord…no one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin” (Sir 15:15-20).
 So also with Christ, who was emphatic on his divine mission. He did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it, to fulfil it and to teach us new ways of living these laws, as clearly presented in today’s gospel (Matt 5:17-37).  I am sure as we listen to this gospel passage, the difference with Christ is love and compassion which he has profoundly displayed in the course of his ministry;  In his forgiveness to sinners, prostitutes and adulterers; In his healing compassion to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the cripple and lepers and tax collectors;In his breaking of the barrier of discrimination and racism;  In his reaching out to the Samaritan and the Syro-Phonician women in John 4 and Mark 7, something unprecedented in the old laws. The list of love, grace and freedom in Christ goes on!
Recall also, in the old Law the sinful high priest sacrificed and atoned for his sins and that of the community, repeatedly(Leviticus 16), but in the new law the sinless Christ sacrifices himself once and for all(Letter to the Hebrews).  In the old law whoever kills his neighbor would be liable to judgment. But in Christ Jesus no one should ever dare to call others name nor abuse his or her neighbors. In Christ these are forms of subtle killings. When we abuse, intimidate or call others names, assassinate their characters, especially our children and the weak, the defenseless, it makes them feel they are good for nothing, and dampens their spirit and confidence. Even sometimes the pseudo-media propaganda against other nations, especially the poor ones can also be very damaging and killing.
 When we deny our poor nations or neighbors’ children access to good education, when we exclude the poor, we have indirectly kill their social, political and economic future (cf. Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis). We have killed their prospect of good jobs. Good jobs comes with good health care insurance, descent homes, good income, clothing, and livelihood that stands to be handed on to future generations.
The law of Christ is the new law of love, trust and freedom, forgiveness and compassion. We should not have to swear before we believe or trust one another. For Christ, our yes should be our yes, and our no our no! This law of trust and confidence in Christ Jesus; the mystery of God’s love is powered by the Holy Spirit and it is written in the hearts of every human person invited to share this love.
Paul says, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heart, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for who those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:6-10).
This is the law of love, the law of grace and the law of freedom in Christ Jesus! And blessed are those who follow these laws of Christ even in challenging times and circumstances!
Reflection Questions:
1.    Are we open to change and to the mysteries of God’s love?
2.    How often and in challenging moments of interpreting our various laws do we ask for God’s grace and seek wisely, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know what Jesus would have done in such circumstances?
3.    How often do we share the laws of God recorded in the sacred texts and in the Church’s documents with our neighbors through the prism of Christ of today's Gospel?