Tag: Sunday homilies

Love: The First And The Greatest Of All Commandments. 

Love: The First And The Greatest Of All Commandments. 

​*Love: The First and The Greatest of All Commandments.*

(Homily for Sunday 4th November 2018).

_“To love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” *Mark 12:33*

As our liturgical year gradually draws to a close, our readings are becoming more and more urgent, reminding us of the most important things we must bear in mind as children of God. The theme of our liturgy today is on the power of love. As St. Paul puts it: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13. 

Last Sunday, we saw the faith of Blind Bartimaeus who insisted on crying as loud as he could to get Jesus’ attention. We learnt that faith is powerful to get us whatever we want and that without faith we are blind. As important as faith may be, our liturgy today reminds us that love is more important than faith. Again, in the course of the week, we celebrated the Feast of All Souls and we heard St. Paul say: hope does not disappoint us.” Romans 5:5.

Hope is the virtue that assures us of eternal life with God in heaven. As important as hope may be, our liturgy today shows that love is far greater than hope.

There are so many lessons contained in our readings today:

*1. The beauty of Humility and Willingness to Learn.*

It is surprising that despite the fact that Jesus did not seem to be on good terms with the religious leaders of his day, Jesus actually commended this scribe in today’s Gospel passage. Mark tells us: “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘you are not far from the kingdom of God.’” This particular scribe, unlike his colleagues, did not come to test Jesus. He had not come to catch Jesus in his words. In the course of his interaction with Jesus, he said: “You are right, Teacher.” This means, he was humble enough to accept Jesus’ authority as a teacher and he agreed with Jesus.

While his fellow scribes saw Jesus as a threat and could not fathom His Divinity, this particular Scribe acted sincerely and was commended by Jesus. At times, you see Christians of different denominations argue on issues regarding the faith with so much passion and heat as if they are going to fight a war. We must learn from this scribe the humility of seeing things from another person’s perspective. We should not allow hatred for a person to prevent us from learning the truth from that person.

*2. The Importance of Love in the Scale of God’s commandments.*

Having considered the humility of the Scribe, let us now ask: “what brought about this question and why was it an important question?” As at the time of Jesus, there were SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FOUR commandments a child of God was required to memorize, obey and teach others. God gave only Ten Commandments to Moses, but in a bid to explain these Ten Commandments, the religious leaders had expanded them even to the point of adding their own. In fact, as Jesus noted: “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” Matthew 15:9. The Scribes and the Pharisees had fallen into the darkness of mere legalism. 

For instance, God said: “obey the Sabbath the keep it holy,” they added: “anyone who does any work on the Sabbath day must die.” Exodus 31:14-15, 35:2. Not only had they forgotten the original purpose of the third commandment, they now took the explanation of this commandment as the law and were willing to kill the God who gave them the command for “breaking” it by healing people on the Sabbath day.

When the scribe asked Jesus which commandment was the first, he wasn’t talking about numerical value, he was basically asking, “Which is more important than others? Which supersedes all others?” or “Which deserves to be obeyed even if anyone else is to be disobeyed?” It is obvious that the religious leaders were putting so much emphasis on sacrifices and offerings (which of course brought a lot of income to them). Temple worship had reduced to the level of mere commerce. According to Jesus, they had turned the House of God into a den of robbers. (Mat. 21:13, Mk 11:17 & Lk 19.46) You see why they could not forgive Jesus for spoiling their business in the name of cleansing the temple. 

Jesus not only “broke” the Sabbath law, but he also went as far as “desecrating” the temple by scattering the table of the money changers and allowing the animals for sacrifice go freely. Jesus did all these to teach us one lesson: So long as we love God and our neighbour, nothing else matters. This is why when Jesus saw a man with a withered hand in the temple on the Sabbath, he put him up before the crowd and said: “is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” Mark 3:4. In other words, Jesus was asking: “Is it against the Sabbath to Love?” 

*3. Love of God Comes Before and Gives Meaning to Love of Neighbor.*

Jesus was asked one question but gave two answers. Jesus was asked: “which is the First Commandment?” but He added the second. Why? Jesus knew that without adding the second, “love your neighbour”, the first would be meaningless yet without the first, the second is pointless. 

As John puts it: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20. Loving God with all our heart, soul and might is not a matter of coming to church, it is rather a matter of loving our neighbour as ourselves. In fact, Jesus taught us that God is more pleased with our ability to forgive our neighbour than our offering. He said: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24. 

Nevertheless, the love we show our neighbour is a love that must be predicated on the love we have for God. Without the first commandment, there cannot be a second. Most often, when the word “love” is mentioned, our minds tend to go to that exclusive feeling of attachment to a person which often finds expression in bodily touch and lustful desires. This is not the love Jesus is talking about. Any “love” that leads us to sin against God is evil. That is why it quickly fades away when the “deed” is done; when our desire has been achieved.

*4. Love of Self is the Yardstick for Love of Neighbour.*

Jesus did not simply say: “you shall love your neighbour,” He carefully added, “as yourself.” Without love for self, there is no love for neighbour. One who cannot love himself or herself cannot also love his neighbour. Love of others begins with the love of the self. How do we love our neighbour? By treating everyone as we want to be treated. In Luke 6:31 Jesus says: “as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” Loving yourself is not necessarily being narcissistic, that is going to an extreme. Even Psychologists recommend a healthy amount of self-love or what they call self-acceptance for anyone to be able to relate well with fellow human beings. 

When the Samaritan traveller saw a man beaten and left half-dead on the road, the first thing he did was to put himself in the shoes of this unfortunate man. This motivated him to help without considering tribal or religious difference. This is exactly what it means to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, this is the greatest of all the commandments.

*5. Love is a Sacrifice.*

Our final lesson today comes from our second reading. The letter to the Hebrews in comparing the priesthood of the Old Testament with the Priesthood of Jesus makes us understand why that of Jesus is supreme. It says: Jesus “has no need like those high priests to offer sacrifices daily… he did this once for all men when he offered up himself.” The priesthood of Jesus is higher than all others because while other priests offer blood that is not theirs, Jesus used his own blood. When we offer the mass, we do not offer a new sacrifice, rather we do a memorial of the one supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “Do this in memory of me.” 

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross remains forever the only correct definition of love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die for us. To love is to be willing to die for another not to gain from another. In John 15:12-13, Jesus says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” We cannot say we love when we do not want to lay down our lives for others. Love is a sacrifice. Yes, love hurts, love is about giving and giving till nothing else is left. To all married couples, I say: never give up on your love for your spouse even when it becomes painful. Love is not all about sweetness, love is a sacrifice.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you are love itself, teach me to love you above all things and to love everyone as myself. Amen.

*Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year B. Bible Study: Deuteronomy 6:2-6, Psalm 17:2-4,47,51 Hebrews 7:23-28 and Mark 12:28-34).*

Fr. Abu.

Building Community Spirit. 

Building Community Spirit. 

People naturally crave and make effort to build an authentic community. For this reason, they form associations, clubs, organisations, neighbourhoods, unions, etc. It is important to note that the word community has its roots in the Latin Communitas, which means common. 

Therefore, a community is a group of people who share a common interest, who live under common rules and who participate actively in promoting what they share in common.

In an effort to build a community, Moses choose elders who would assist him in discharging his duties as leader of the community. The Lord came down and gave these elders some portion of the spirit of Moses. Medad and Eldad were among the elders nominated to assist Moses.

However, when God was empowering others with the spirit these two were absent. Afterwards, the Spirit came and rested upon Medad and Eldad and they began to prophesy. An overzealous young man came to report to Moses that Medad and Eldad were prophesying. The young fanatic was scandalized seeing these two men prophesying, thinking that the Holy Spirit was exclusively for those who received the spirit first. Moses said to him: 

“Are you jealous for my sake?” and Moses added that the Lord would love to see all people prophesy. 

A similar story is found in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus sought the assistance of disciples to build the kingdom (community) of God in the world. John, his disciple came to say to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name.” John was thinking that the work of casting out devils was reserved for only the disciples. Jesus advised John not to stop the man because he too is a participant in building the community of the people of God in the world. Jesus adds, “For he that is not against us is for us.” This is to say that any person of goodwill and who does what is right, what is good, and pursues the truth, is a bona fide partner in building a solid community of God’s people.

The young man who came to Moses to report Medad and Eldad and John the disciple who came to report to Jesus have something in common. They were jealous to see that the Holy Spirit is working even in ordinary people or in people who were outside the ranks of the chosen. Their jealousy could have generated disunity and strife in the community. We know very well that some of the factors that destroy community spirit are: Jealousy, injustice and scandal.

Some people describe jealousy as love in competition. We all have a feeling of jealousy. Jealousy can be healthy or unhealthy. It is healthy when we are conscious of the hidden jealousy in us and we are still able to retain good will towards the person or group we feel jealous about. 

For example, the jealousy of God is a positive jealousy, because he wants the best for us and does not want us to worship other gods that cannot save us. 

Unhealthy jealousy, on the other hand leads to destructive rivalry and to envy. It is unhealthy rivalry that St. James refers to as bitter jealousy (James 3:14). St. James adds: For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. It was this kind of jealousy that led Cain to kill his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). It was this same kind of jealousy that led to selling of Joseph who was the 11th son of Jacob to the Egyptians. 

There are many ways of addressing the jealousy that is in each of us. One of the most effective ways is to accept it as a natural phenomenon and another way is in learning to praise and acknowledge the success of other people or rivals.

Another destroyer of community spirit is scandal and so Jesus vehemently warns: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it will be better for him if a great mill of stone were tied to his neck and thrown into the sea…”

Jesus does not want any weakest and little members to be scandalized or to be surrounded by negative influences.

Scandals sell in the media because they are shocking news of the moral failures and imperfections of prominent members of the society. These failures and imperfections normally bring about lapse of faith and dampen enthusiasm of members. 

In the on-going revelations of clerical scandals, some people left the Church in disappointment. Priests as shepherds and religious leaders have often been betrayed by human weaknesses, but Christ is still in control of his Church. The scandalous stories about the misdeeds of the leaders of the Church are wake up calls for reformation of every Christian community.

Finally, injustice is a canker worm, which hampers the building of community spirit. St. James rebukes rich people who exploit their workers and withhold their wages. 

They employ the poor and subject them to ‘overwork and underpay.’ He says to the greedy rich that God is watching them. 

Furthermore, Jesus challenges, not only the rich, but also everyone to uproot any habit of sin that impedes our spiritual progress. This is the interpretation of what he meant when he challenged his listeners to cut off the sinful hand, sinful foot and to pluck out the sin-infested eye.

What are my contributions and your efforts towards building a stronger community spirit in the religious organizations, associations and communities where we belong? Are we part of the problem or solution in promoting community spirit?

-Fr. Gerald M. Musa.

The Smell Of Sin

The Smell Of Sin

*🎤The Smell of Sin.🎤*

Homily for Sunday 30th September 2018.

_“Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better if a great milestone is hung around his neck and thrown into the sea… If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…” *Mark 9:42-47.*_

Dear friends, let’s just face it. Sin is a very serious matter. By using these graphic images, Jesus wants us to really have a feel of the gravity of what sin does to us. By talking about how we are to cut out parts of our body or drowning in the sea, Jesus wants us to perceive the smell of sin. If we cannot perceive the smell of sin, then we cannot summon the courage to avoid sin. Unfortunately, we live in a dark world that has not only lost the smell of sin but attempts to normalize its odour.

Our readings today mention different types of sin which we must avoid.

*1. The Sin of Jealousy.*

Why did Joshua try to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying in today’s first reading? Why did the disciples of Jesus try to stop a man from casting out demons in the name of Jesus? Could it be because they themselves could not cast out demons? Today’s Gospel passage comes from Mark 9, verses 38 to 48. If we go up a bit to verse 15 of this same Mark chapter 9, you will see how a demon practically embarrassed the disciples of Jesus. A man brought his boy to them but they could not cast out the demon and when Jesus came, he was ashamed of them saying “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?” Mark 9:19.

Jealousy is a very smelly sin, it is the fuel of the pull-him-down-syndrome that we see everywhere. Jealousy blinds us to the Infinite Power of God that is unrestricted and unlimited to any person, camp or group. By criticising others who act in God’s name, we not only contribute to the scandal of division in the Christian faith, we act as though we are capable of fighting for God. God is powerful enough to stop those who use His Name wrongly or as a money-making enterprise. We are not the ones to stop them rather we who consider ourselves genuine should learn to be humble.

God can use anybody. Do you remember how the young Samuel who had not even been ordained was hearing from God while Eli the priest was no longer hearing from God? Imagine Eli attempting to crush the little boy Samuel! Is this not what is happening to us today?

The fact that Eldad and Medad despite their absence from the ordination ceremony, still received the power of prophecy only goes to show that God is so powerful that he cannot be held bound by distance. Jealousy limits God in our eyes, it also limits us from growing deeper in our faith.

*2. The sin of Exploitation of Workers.*

Today’s second reading opens our eyes to another smelly sin; the exploitation of workers. Has someone done some work for you and up till now, you haven’t paid the person? St. James says, begin to “weep and howl for the miseries that are coming to you…” Refusing to pay workers’ wages what is their due and at the right time is worse than stealing.

Since on Thursday, our country has been in a nationwide strike. Why? The refusal of Government to upgrade the minimum wage of workers. Meanwhile, this is a country where its lawmakers earn seven-times their counterparts in other highly developed nations in the world. I wept when I saw the statistics.

I don’t think inflation should scare us as much as rising inequality. When a few persons take the nation’s resources, they enslave the larger population. This is why God’s wrath will fall on the rich whose wealth comes from the blood of their fellow humans. This night, millions will go to bed with empty stomachs while some of us here will spend millions this night throwing a party. Why will God not punish us?

*3. The sin of Scandal.*

Another deadly, smelly and poisonous sin mentioned in today’s readings is Scandal. Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better if a great milestone is hung around his neck and thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42. Scandal destroys the faith of those who are entrusted to us. Scandal makes a mockery of our moral values. It destroys the spiritual life of those who take us as mentors.

Are you a father, a mother, a coach, a teacher, a minister? Are you a leader in any church organisation? Even if you are in charge of just one person, do you realize that what you do in secret can affect and destroy those who are under your leadership?

*Conclusion – SIN IS AVOIDABLE.*

Every sin is both a suicide and a murder. It kills us by weakening our desire to be saints and kills others through bad example. By saying we should cut off our hands and foot and pluck our eyes, Jesus wants us to realise that we have power over sin and that right within us are the causes of sin. If we really want to stop sin, then we need to avoid the environment for sin. They say a mistake is only a mistake the first time. By the second time, it becomes foolishness. Stop blaming the devil for your sins. Repent today!

*Let us pray: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the gravity of every sin that I may never ever offend you again. Amen.*

Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.

26TH Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

*Bible Study: Numbers 11:25-29, Psalm 19:7-13, James 5:1-6 and Mark 9:38-48.*

Fr. Evaristus Abu🎷

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