Homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dearly Beloved, permit me to take these verses from the gospel out of its proper/original context. The passage begins:
“As a result of this, (As a result of what? Whatever you consider going on in the body of Christ, the church, the scandals, frustrations, etc.)
“As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
Dearly Beloved, these are hard times for the church, I must admit. These are equally hard times for any victim of priestly abuse, cover ups, etc. In the recent past, some left the church as a result of similar incidents in some dioceses. The storm is not over yet. Do not be surprised if more of such comes up in the weeks and months ahead. However, I am certain and convinced of one thing. All shall be well. Victims as well as the church will be healed. That is basically what I came to tell you today. It shall be well. Evil has never triumphed over good. The seemingly catastrophic and irreparable damage, blow and effect of evil has always been witnessed by all. But with each episode that ends, the good triumphs. That is why I am convinced, that and have hope in the church. The church has worked to put in many preventive measures since these issues started coming up from the 2000s. The challenges continue but the church has learned the hard way to put her house in order. In this regard, such issues from the 2000s if anything at all, are rare and seldom. That is why you and I should not give up praying and hoping for the best.
The first reading is taken from the book of Joshua 24. He calls the people together and begins to reference the story of God’s dealings with the Israelites from their ancestors, Moses etc. About, the red sea, about Jericho about the manna, about the water from the rock and many miracles and wonders God did in their favor and finally brought them to the promised land. Now you have to make a decision and a commitment. These are times you can strengthen your faith by recalling how the church has served you over the years. Think of the Eucharist in your life, think of the sacraments and how they have shaped your life over the years. Think of the number of priests you have known in your life till now. Think of any who hurt you so badly, think of how many of them have supported you and loved you and cared for your family. Are you fair to yourself, the church and all the priests you have encountered if you lose faith because of another priest’s actions you have heard about? If you happen to be a victim, unfortunately as it may be, do you leave Jesus because of the action of a “Judas?”
Dearly beloved, for those of you who have been paying attention to the readings every Sunday, you will realize that for the past five weeks we have been reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This letter to the Ephesians above all reveals who we are in the ultimate plan of God. It tells of how we were chosen even before the foundation of the world to be God’s adopted children right from chapter one. Paul equally speaks in this letter of the body of Christ. You are the body of Christ, one body but many parts. You are the Church not the Pope, Cardinals, Bishop or the Priests.
Ephesians has just 6 short chapters and I encourage you all to spend some time reading. In the very last chapter which I wish to read to conclude my homily, St. Paul admonishes us: (Eph 6:10-20)
The Whole Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
I do admit the personal and individual responsibility of all church leaders in these matters. Church leaders should be held responsible and accountable, because of freedom of will to choose. Beyond that however, let us know as the body of Christ, who is behind all these schemes, that we would direct our anger and frustrations. We know who your fight should be directed toward.
The schemes of the devil are definitely to ridicule and render the church non-credible and powerless in its mission. Yes like always, the devil uses human instruments who choose freely. This is the spiritual warfare Paul speaks about. But now is the time to pray even more fervently that the leaders of the church will be fearless in our mission.