Saturday, February 18, 2017

Homily Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Lev 19:1-2, 17-18;
·          Ps 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13;
·          1 Cor 3:16-23
·         Matt 5:38-48
 Love and Charity: the fullness of Law in Christ!
Today’s readings from the Sermon on the Mount on “Love of One’s enemies” and “love of one’s neighbors from the Book of Leviticus may at first hearing/reading sound very challenging. But in taking a second look the readings are all about God’s mercy, love, justice, holiness of life, making room for changes in our lives, making room for renewal and forgiveness. The strongest response to hatred is Love which is a great form of holiness, the true nature of God (Lev 19:2).
Many of you were born before, during and after the Vatican II. For those who were born before the Vatican II Council, you would testify that there have been a lot changes, updating, innovation and renewals, particularly in the areas of liturgical teachings and laws in the Church to meet the needs of the time and culture. Remember, there were times priests were celebrating the Holy mass backing the congregation. But today Masses are celebrated facing the people. There were times Scriptures at worship were read only in Latin. Today we can read it in English. Different nations and cultures can also read it in their native languages. Thanks be to God!
In some nations there were times women and the minority were not allow to vote at elections. But today those laws have been changed around.  In other parts of the world where cast- system and dictatorship style of government are practice, many are beginning to realize the need for changes. What about the issues of equal pay? In the past men were paid higher than women. Today, we are all agitating for equal pay. What about the “stand your ground laws” in different parts of the United States, Florida in particular?  Or immigration laws. Some are asking that this law be reviewed while some are pushing back!
There has always been changes.  In the first reading Book of Leviticus 19 we are told “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But in today’s Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “love your enemy” (Matt 5:44), no retaliation, be charitable to all. We were told in the Book of Exodus 21:24-25, quoted even by Jesus, today, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Matt 5:38-42).
 Jesus saw the need for changes and renewal with these laws just as we do today experience changes and renewed ways of interrelating our day to day civil and ecclesiastical laws. The retributive ethics of the Covenant Code, ‘an eye for an eye or a tooth for tooth” that Christ is working on today from Exodus 21:24-25 was not meant to promote revenge and retaliation. Rather they were meant to protect the citizens against un-proportional, illegitimate and unending retaliation. They were meant to say if a “fly perches on your food you don’t need to attack the fly with an atomic bomb or AK47.  Otherwise you might cause more damage than the fly.
 I remember the last Russian –Georgia war the language of disproportional use of force was constantly used on the media. But for Christ, charity must overcome the thought and the acts of retaliation and violence and disproportionate wars not meant to dissuade attacking enemies and acts of terrorism.
Christ also takes up the Holiness ethics of the first reading, Leviticus 19:18, which says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who our neighbor in this passage? Granted that it was referring to a fellow Israelite, since a different attitude was required towards those other nations that were hostile to them (see Deut 23:1-3). Certainly, Jesus requires a different approach to things. Not as business as usual!
In the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus teaches us today to take a different spiritual and moral steps and a refined position with regard to our relationship with everybody including those we do not like so much, or those we know do not like us. Or those we disagrees with. Everyone is your neighbors, love them (Matt 5:38-48).
This could be challenging no doubt. But requires faith. Without faith and prayers, Christ invitation to holiness of life of non-revenge and non-violence or practice of charity to everyone, and good neighborliness, sounds frightening and impossible. They are possible with the grace of God. And we can do this in many little ways. In the way we treat the immigrant, the poor, the aged, fellow student, worker, spouse and family members, or  those we meet in travelling bus, train, sailing ship and in the flight etc.
It is uncharitable even to select those we say “good morning” to. Or engage in gossips, negative criticism, retaliations or spread falsehoods about our neighbors. For Christ this will be a pagan way of travelling. And none of us would want to travel that low road. We want to live and travel the law which is of fullness of love in Christ! Let us pray at this Mass for the grace to live this law of love with deep universal charity and spirit of faith- perseverance to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy (Lev 19:2).
Reflection Questions;
1. How do you feel when someone offends you: retaliate, love or forgive?
2. What counselling do you give to members of your faith community who feel offended or violated by others or the unjust socio-political structures?
3. Could you think of a few instances in your life where you have chosen to love than hate or retaliate against those you thought might have offended you?
4. Do you consider everyone you meet on the way your Gospel Neighbor or not and why?