MINISTERS: ‘N HOMILY ON MONDAY, 34TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR II
Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King. Today, let us imagine that Christ the King is now ready to choose ministers to take charge of different positions in His government. Jesus has to choose the people with the right kind of qualifications for the right kind of positions in his cabinet. However, His requirements are not what we would ordinarily expect. According to the first reading, only 144,000 will qualify for these positions. But what is the criteria for choosing them? By the way, 144,000 should not be understood literally, but symbolically. It is important to know what qualification is needed so that we also can be chosen. The first reading tells us that not everybody is able to join this group, because not everybody is able to learn the new song of the lamb.
Many times, we often think that to go to heaven, we have to obey certain rules and regulations, do certain things and avoid certain things. Well, we are right, but that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is not what we do or do not do. The most important thing is who we are. What we do and do not do can be right or wrong depending on the kind of person we become as a result of what we do. For example, what makes stealing wrong is not the very act of stealing, but what we become at the end of the day after stealing. We become greedy people, we lose respect for other people and what belongs to them, etc. So, it is not about what you have done, but about who you have become. Those to be saved are not those who have done certain things, but those who by doing certain things have become certain kind of persons.
It is not possible to make someone a minister if that person cannot sing the national anthem. We have our own song, but we need to learn the song of Christ, the Lamb. What is this song? It is a very difficult song that not everybody will be willing to learn. Everybody is able to learn it, but not everybody is willing to learn it. Many of us prefer to sing our own song and to sing the old song that we are familiar with. In our first reading, we are told that these people follow the lamb wherever He goes. These are people who have abandoned their own desires and resigned to follow the ways of christ. The first reading tells us that they are spotless. The responsorial psalm calls them the clean of heart and pure of heart. To be pure is to have only one desire, which is the desire for intimacy with God.
In our gospel, we see many people putting their gifts in the temple treasury, and many of them considered themselves qualified, but Jesus is about to deflate their ego. Jesus recognises a poor widow, who has put two copper coins. Jesus appoints her immediately as member of his cabinet. Jesus appoints her minister of finance. We would expect that this appointment would go to the rich and influencial. Well, that is an old song. In the new dispensation, the poor in spirit are truly blessed. The responsorial psalm speaks of those who do not desire worthless things. It means those who are truly detatched from our endless desire for material things. Those who seek God above all things. Some experts have said that this woman may have put in the last thing she has with the hope that, she will die after making this last sacrifice and God will recieve her into His kingdom. Those who qualify are those who are prepared to lose everything as long as they are with God. They do not desire worthless things because God is their greatest desire. These are those who hunger and thirst for what is right.
Humility is the most important qualification. In fact, no proud person can be chosen. Those who prided themselves to be very generous were all disqualified by Christ. Only the poor humble woman is chosen. This is called the great reversal. It is where those who should be qualified are disqualified and those who should not be qualified are qualified. There are two places where this is made very clear. The first is in the Magnificat, the song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and the other is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5). Both Mary and Jesus give us the qualities needed to be chosen as a member of Jesus’s cabinet. If you want to belong to that number, it is not only about keeping a certain set of rules, though that is very important. But the most important thing is becoming a certain kind of person, being able to learn a new song, different from the one you would have liked to sing. You have to abandon your own song completely and start singing a new song, the song of the lamb. Just imagine if each one is singing his/her own song, that would be hell, rather than heaven. In heaven, everyone sings the same song, the song of the Lamb.
This is why in the catholic liturgy, nobody, not even the priest is allowed to change the text of the liturgy. If he does, it would be considered a liturgical abuse. His duty is not do do things the way he likes it, or the way people would like it. In that case, he would not be singing the song of the lamb. It is about forgeting about what you think is nice, and doing as you are told. That is why there should be no difference between how the mass is celebrated in London and how it is celebrated in Ghana. There could be difference of language, but even when you dont understand the language, you will still be able to follow the mass. What we are doing is that we are all trying to learn how to sing the same song. It is not about what an individual wants.