OF THINGS AND OF PEOPLE: A HOMILY ON THE 27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO CSsR
I recently met a man who told me he needs a lot of prayers. I promised to pray for him and I also asked him to pray for me. Then he asked me “Do you need money?” Then I told him that I am not praying for money. He asked “What then are you praying for?”. Then I said “I want to be a saint. I want to be close to God and I want to be loving to others”. I saw the surprise on his face, and I used the opportunity to explain other things to him.
The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God has taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh:
God first created things before he created a man. He created things for the sake of the man, not the man for the sake of the things. That is why God put man in charge of the things he had created. He told man to name the things. Part of the reason is that once you name something is it a sign of the authority you have over it. The things were there to make the life of the man enjoyable. Therefore, he is to make use of the things around him, though he is not to abuse them. The whole time God was creating things, he would look at what he had created and say it is very good. But after creating the man, for the first time, God said something was not good. It is not good for the man to be alone. One can argue that the man had everything he wanted. But with all these, he was not happy. He needed to share his life with another human being. No matter what we have; no matter how much money we have, without a good relationship with other people, we are empty. That is why there is the Zulu expression ‘Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu’, which means that a person is only a person through other people. Therefore, when Adam saw Eve, his joy was complete. Today, we seem to value material things more than we value people. Once a person asks for prayers, we assume he is praying for more money. We are to use things and love people. Today, we tend to love things and use people. This is a world gone mad.
HOW VALUABLE ARE WE?
Brethren: We see in Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. This is why he is not ahsamed to call them brethren.
A human being is invaluable. That is why Jesus made himself lower than angels, suffered and died for human beings created by himself. This is how much God values us. But how much do we value another human being. Sometimes the only human beings we value are the ones who have things, namely the rich ones, who have big houses, big cars and big bank account. We value not the human spirit, but the material things around them. What a shame! This is why people spend more energy trying to have things than trying to love and care for others. We are so valuable that Jesus did not only die for us, but he also calls us his brothers and sisters. It could sound simple, but remember Jesus is God. If Jesus can call us his brothers and sisters, why do we not see a brother and a sister in other people. If the God who created us can lower himself to our level to the point of dying for us, why do some human beings consider themselves superior to others? Why are some human beings too ashamed to associate with other kinds of human beings, maybe because they are mentally challenged, they are poor, from a tribe we naturally look down on, etc. The one who has the bragging right (Jesus) is not even bragging.
THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
At that time: Pharisees came up and in order to test Jesus asked “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said too them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them:
We can remember that the very first mirracle of Jesus was performed at a wedding feast. In this way, Jesus blesses the sacrament of marriage. Marriage and family life is very important because a human being without a family is not complete. We may have friends, but they cannot replace family.
There is a connection between words like ‘devil’, ‘division’, ‘divorce’. The name of the devil, ‘diabolo’, means to divide. God is Love. God says it is not good for man to be alone and the devil says it is good for man to be alone. Ever since, the devil has been trying to divide what God is trying to unite. Divorce is sign of victory for the devil. This is because when the devil wants to destroy a person, he first isolates him/her. As long as a person has no family, no friends, no helper, no source of support whatsoever, they only become toys in the hands of the devil. It is so easy to destroy them. This is why the church has no word like divorce in her dictionary. As much as the church can be merciful to people based on their circumstances, the church will not stand in support of division. She will encourage her struggling children to work harder to make it work. Instead of killing it, heal it. There are extreme cases where the church can allow it, but not re-marriage, unless an annulment is obtained.
Becoming one flesh presupposes sexual union. First the man leaves his parent, then he is joined to his wife, then they become one flesh. This is why God does not support sex outside of marriage. The sexual union happens after the man has left his father and mother and is joined to his wife in holy matrimony. Marriage is sacred and has been elevated to the level of a sacrament. This is why sexual act within a marriage is also sacred and should be respected by those who are not married.
Staying married is not easy, but we should always promote love and unity. Promoting unity is cooperating with God’s plan. Promoting divisiton is cooperating with the devil’s plan. Again circumstances vary. Marriage requires a lot of hard work, suffering and even some little deaths. Jesus does not say it is easy to stay married. There are situations where the church can grant annulment and this is the mercy of God, but annulment is not the same as divorce. Annulment is a recognition that there was no marriage in the first place, based on the circumstances at the time of the so called marriage.
If people know the value of other people, then when the relationship is suffering, they will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save it. Jesus died in order to save us. So also, a married man should be prepared to die in order to save his marriage. Your marriage will be as sweet as the suffering you can bear to make it work. A good man will give his life to save his marriage, just as Jesus gave his life to save us. Sometimes, when it comes to divorce, our main concern will be if the marriage was in community of property or not. We will be worried about who gets what after the divorce. It gives the impression that we dont mind loosing the person, but we will do everything possible not to loose the money and other material things.
In bringing up our children, sometimes we focus on giving them the best education, best medical care, best food, etc. but do we also worry about bringing them to Jesus, or at least allowing them to go to Jesus. Bringing up children is also hard work, but it becomes even easier if we introduce Jesus to them, if we teach them to pray, allow them to join the youth, allow them to become altar servers, go to catechism classes, pray as a family. Guess what? while you are busy with all these, you have little or no time to fight with each other as a couple. That is why those who have many children are statistically happier than those who have fewer. Do not be afraid of having children. Children are not a probem to be solved but blessing from God. These days, we say children are very expensive, so the fewer the better. We will rather have more money and less children than have more children and less money.
For those who are married and struggling to stay married, may God give you the grace you need. For those who are praying for the fruit of the womb, may the psalm of today be your blessing.
Blessed are all who fear the Lord and walk in his ways! By the labour of your hands you shall eat. You wil be blessed and prosper.
Your wife like a fruitful vine, in the heart of your house; your children like shoots of the olive, around your table.
Indeed thus shall be blessed, the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from SIon. May you see Jerusalem prospe, all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children.
On Israel, peace.