|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR B|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp|
|Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time- on the Epistle|
Paul's Understanding of Ministry
|Job 7:1-4, 6-7||1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23||Mark 1:29-39|
Religion is the most flourishing industry in Africa. You can have up to ten different churches within one street block. There are cases where as many as three different churches are located in one building. This poses for the average Christian the question of how to differentiate the genuine from the fake. Jesus cautions us that there will indeed be fake preachers, ministries and churches.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
In today’s 2nd reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about his own ministry. Using Paul as a model for evangelists, missionaries and preachers, we are able to evaluate the genuineness and faithfulness of modern-day ministers to the ideal that we see in Paul.
In today’s reading, Paul does not tell us everything about ministry. What he tells us, however, can be summarised under three headings: (a) why he became a minister, (b) how he measures his success as a minister, and (c) how he goes about his ministry.
On why he became a preacher, Paul tells us that it was not his natural choice of profession but a calling from God. It is a divine obligation laid on him, a commission entrusted to him by God Himself. As a result he cannot boast about his ministry or see it simply as a career. It is a vocation
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).
There are people who go into ministry because they could not find another job. There are people who take to ministry because it pays well. For such people the first commandment becomes, “Thou shall pay thy tithe.” Tithing becomes more important for them than everything that Jesus taught. Paul, like Jesus, saw ministry as a call to serve not to be served (Matthew 20:28).
The second point we see in Paul’s ministry is how he evaluates his success as a preacher? Paul does not evaluate the success of his ministry as many modern-day preachers do by the size of their church building, the size of their bank account or how much they take in the collection plate. He measures his success simply by how many souls he can reach with the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. To make it easier for people to receive his preaching, he offers it free of charge, though he knows fully well the Lord’s command that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).
What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. 19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them (verses 18-19).
We now come to the final point, Paul’s style of ministry. Paul has one gospel, but he presents it differently to different audiences. He adapts it to their different situations. He adapts not only his preaching style, but also his personal life-style – his eating, dressing, and social habits – to make it serve and enhance the appeal of the gospel to the audience at hand.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (...) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (...) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some (1 Corinthians 20-22).
Most preachers today blame people who sleep during the homily. Paul would blame the preacher. If you find anyone sleeping during the homily, wake up the preacher. Paul adapts his message according to his audience. He presents the same gospel as good news to different audiences. This is one great challenge to the established churches in our times, as we see entire populations leaving our churches – teenagers, young adults, blacks, the educated class, homosexuals. The challenge for us is to become all things to all people, so that people of every class, culture and sub-culture can hear in our presentation of the gospel the good news that is music to every human heart.
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