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Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday, year A.

08 Sep 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Christianity in our generation is gradually losing its focus, it is gradually becoming mere entertainment, politics, physical manifestation of power, signs and wonders. The object of focus is gradually shifting from eternal life in Christ to a beautiful life here on earth. It is definitely not a sin to live a beautiful life here on earth, but after it what happens? The truth about the four last things; death, judgement, heaven and hell are hardly talked about today. Our focus is now on miracles, healing, deliverance, prosperity and prophesies. These things are good, we all need and pray for them, but remember what Jesus said; For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul (Mk. 8:36). Eternal life should be the focus of Christianity.

The prophet Ezekiel was warned in our first reading today not to be economical with the truth, not to be afraid to warn the wicked man to repent. God said, if I send you to warn the wicked man to repent, and you fail to do that because of fear or favour, I will punish you; even though he dies for his sins, I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warned him, and he refused to repent and died in his sins, you will be free from guilt. In other words, what God sent the prophet Ezekiel to do was to preach repentance and righteousness that are gradually been ignored in our days.

Jesus did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, he did not come with a new teaching as such, but he came to fulfil and make us understand the law and the prophets in the light of our salvation in him. When he manifested his glory on the mountain of transfiguration, the law was there represented by Moses, and the prophets were there represented by Elijah.

Moses and the prophets of old were sent to warn the people against unrighteousness, disobedience, unfaithfulness to God and the danger of sin. The message is still the same today, repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. Our salvation is not about miracles, it is not about prophesies, it is not about healing and deliverance; it is about righteousness.

I am not against signs and wonders, I love it, and I pray for miracles every day. We all need miracles, we need healing and deliverance from the powers of darkness, but Jesus tells us this morning that these things begin with reconciliation; to be truly reconciled to God and to one another. He reminds us again and again that even though signs and wonders are very important, our salvation is not in them, it is in living a righteous life which begins with true reconciliation.

In our gospel passage this morning, Jesus said to his disciples: If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

Jesus gives us four steps to take in the process of reconciliation to show how important it is. He is not even asking us to wait for the offender to come and apologise, but for us to make the move for reconciliation. Meet the person one on one, and if there is no headway, take one or two persons with you. If he still refuses reconciliation, then report him to the community or the Church. If he refuses to listen, then treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

We may be tempted here to believe the wrong thing; Jesus said, if you have tried everything to bring about reconciliation and the person still resist, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector. This is not a call to hate the person, but to love the more. If Jesus says treat him like a pagan or a tax collector, the question we should ask is, how did Jesus himself treated pagans and tax collectors? He loved them, they were his friends, and they ate together. So, what Jesus is saying by telling us to treat them like pagans or tax collectors is to show more love, which is a very difficult thing to do. We are human beings, we got pride, but let us pray for the grace to do it. There is no doubt that our move for reconciliation may be misunderstood; it may be seen as fear, weakness or foolishness. And these can discourage us.

Let us call on the God who has asked us to be truly reconcile to help us by his grace. It is true that anger, hatred, and malice are weapons against spiritual growth. They are keys that closes the door against us, while love opens the door. St. Paul tells us in the second reading that Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments. It is of no use shouting about miracle, healing and deliverance when there is no love in us. All God wants from us today is to be truely reconciled, to repent and believe in the gospel.