February 23, 2020.

The first reading of today, (Lev 19:1-2, 17-18), invites us to a life of holiness. It stated, “be holy for I the Lord your God, am holy.” The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the church called Lumen Gentium, has its fifth chapter titled, “The Universal call to holiness in the Church”. It underscored that everyone is called to a life of holiness in accordance to one’s state in life – Children, Young Adults, Adults, Singles, Married People, Religious and Clergy. We become holy by allowing the grace of the sacraments of Christ in us to be fruitful. The first reading and the Gospel shade some light on what holy living comprises of. It entails not bearing hatred in our hearts for our neighbours and being charitable while confronting our neighbours for their misdeeds.
At times, I have heard people say I hate such and such a person. Perhaps you have developed hatred for the person because of the hurt his actions or in-action have caused you or your family or your friend. In the pre-Mosaic era, people took disproportionate vengeance for injuries or offenses committed against them. In Genesis 4:23, Lamech said, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to what I have to say, for I killed a man for wounding me and a boy for striking me. If Cain will be avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times”. The above quotation demonstrated that people took indiscriminate retribution for offenses committed against them. Someone may decide to cut off the arm of an aggressor because one felt insulted by the person or a member of the person’s family. Hence, the Mosaic law of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was an improvement on what had preceded it. It required the offended party to only exact from the perpetrator the same amount of injury that was inflicted on him/her; not more, not less. This law appears to be straight forward on paper; however, it is very difficult to apply because the possibility of a collateral damage always lurks at the corner when one tries to implement this law.
Jesus in today’s Gospel, (Mt 5:38-48), insisted that there were other ways of settling disputes that do not require ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Experience teaches us that, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, does not actually bring healing, it leads to spiral of violence. Dialogue and conscientious objection may be a better option. I acknowledge that sometimes one’s effort may fall short of bringing peace and reconciliation immediately; however, one must not lose hope.
At times we may gossip about someone’s failures without making out time to have a dialogue with the person about his/her inadequacies. It is however true that some people are arrogant and therefore may be unwilling to listen to advice, or they have become addicted to a habit or a way of life that change becomes an uphill task. It is not your fault if someone refuses to listen to your good advice. None-the-less, one must not presume an outcome without trying. Many separated married couples would have still been living together today if there were more openness to dialogue, willingness to change and willingness to ask for forgiveness from each other.
I acknowledge that one may be overwhelmed by some situations. Paul warned us in his epistle to the Ephesians that, “our battle is not against human forces but against the rulers and authorities and their dark powers that govern this world” (Eph 6:12). Hence, we must not rely on our power only, but seek for God’s guidance in prayer.
In the second reading, (1 Cor 3:16-23), St Paul reminded us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God who resides in us will help us to live a life of holiness. Holiness of life is not just a given, it involves struggles, failures, disappointments and moments of joy. May God who has called us in Christ to a life of holiness, grant us the grace and the strength we need to be faithful to our Christian calling. Amen.Today, as we undertake our annual commissioning of the members of the Parish Pastoral Council and the members of staff at St John’s Primary School, we should be mindful that the Holy Spirit has endowed the members of the Church of Christ with different gifts which include apostles, prophets, teachers and so on.
The members of the Parish Pastoral Council help the Parish Priest in the pastoral care of the Parish by giving him constructive advice. They represent different aspects of the Parish life which include worship, Education, hospitality and outreach.
Teaching is a vocation for which those who are called should consider themselves as fortunate. To teach in a Catholic school means that you have been called to become evangelisers. Through what you do and say, you proclaim the word of God by nurturing the young minds in the Christian way of life. What the ordaining prelate says to the Deacon at his ordination when he hands him the bible is also relevant to you teachers: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practise what you teach.” Teachers ought to be good role models to the students. Since children learn more through observation, ensure that your actions are congruent with your words.
To our year four students who are committing themselves today to follow the Parish Sacramental Programme as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist, we pray that this programme will lead them to a better understanding and appreciation of their Catholic faith. We thank their parents and guardians who have signed up to be their prop throughout the duration of this programme.

Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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