DO YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP?
HOMILY FOR THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: Malachi 4:1-2; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 and Luke 21:5-19.
Some of us have given up that Nigeria will never get better; some have given up on their spouse, parents and friends, even as priest and religious, some of us have given up on others. Some of us can no longer take it, and we have had to display a different character which is not ours. Of recent, there was a man who could not take it anymore and he jumped into the water of third mainland bridge (suicide). As we gradually come to the close of the year, the Holy Mother Church invites us to patiently hold on till the end by enduring difficult and challenging moments of our journey.
In the first reading, the prophet Malachi announces the Lords coming and his judgment to the Jewish people. In Mal 3:14, the people had earlier said, “It is in vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have followed his instruction?” They complained, “Now we call the proud happy; yes, those who work wickedness are built up; yes they tempt God and escape” (3:15). In Mal 3:17-18, the Lord responded that those who revered him, “They shall be mine… then you shall return and discern between the righteous and the wicked.” These are the verses that led us to today’s periscope on the judgment of the wicked and righteous.
Malachi presents an eschatological event that will bring judgment to evildoers and deliverance to the righteous/faithful. Many faithful have been struggling with the problem of evil people prospering and good people suffering, a fact of life that counters the traditional Deuteronomy theology that says the good prosper and the bad suffer. In this reading, God assures his people that “A day is coming like an oven, when all arrogant and evildoers will be stubble… so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal 4:1). As long as the root remains, there is hope, but no hope for the wicked to spring up to life because the judgment is eternal. However, those who fear the name of the Lord will have a vastly different experience than the evildoers. They will see the sun of righteousness rising and will experience healing from his wings. This should motivate us to continue our good work in patience, righteousness and endurance because the healing is the reward for these. In the reflection of Fr. Canice Njoku C.S.Sp he said, “Endurance moves a child of God to continue to work hard without looking back. It is endurance that helps us persevere in doing good at all times. It keeps us going when physical strength fails us and, it perpetuates our quest for righteousness.”
In the gospel, Christ speaks in an eschatological manner concerning the temple of Jerusalem and his return. The temple was the center of Jewish life for almost a thousand years. It was rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15), but greatly expanded and improved by Herod. It was so revered that it was customary to swear by the temple (Mt 23:16), and speaking against the temple could be considered blasphemy (Acts 6:13). It wasn’t just big, it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations/offerings. Some forty (40) years after Christ made the prediction that “The day will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down,” there was a widespread Jewish revolution against the Romans in Palestine. Jerusalem was leveled including the temple, just as Christ said. The destruction of the temple by the Roman soldiers was so complete that today, there is true difficulty learning exactly where the temple was. Invariably, Christ is communicating to us that every material thing will pass away/perish, including our mortal bodies, “But by your endurance you will gain your lives” (Lk 21:19). He preempt us of tough times ahead and made clear to us the cost of discipleship when he said, “You will be delivered even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v.18). In all these, we must endure, trusting the promise of Christ in eternal perspective, that not a hair of our head shall be lost.
The moment we cannot endure anymore, we begin to act rebelliously. It is on this note Paul in the second reading encourages the Thessalonians to imitate him in his hard work in order to gain earthly and heavenly reward. He encouraged hard work and despised laziness when he said, “If anyone will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are walking in idleness and mere busybodies, not doing any work…” (2 Thess. 3:10-11). Endurance eschews laziness, and helps us to overcome sloth (the reluctance to work or sheared laziness), which is one of the seven capital sin. We may not have a desirable work, but contentment in a simple and dignifying work will bring us satisfaction.
Without doubt, we recognize the high rate of unemployment in the country, with about 36% of unemployed youth with so much frustrating effort to getting employed. As a result of this, many have given up the hope of hard work, with a mindset that it doesn’t pay and can no longer endure hard times which is temporal. Some have become cooperate beggars and object of charity. Some, to cover the shame of being unemployed have engaged in illegal and unhealthy businesses such as cultism, ritual, kidnapping and scamming just to make it in life. For such persons, the means of making money matters no more, the end justifies the means and certainly, they have their judgment as seen in the first reading. For us Christians, if we are to triumph over the devil, we must work hard and endure the pains of good work in dignity, which has the reward of salvation.
Dear friends in Christ, the liturgy invite us not to give up in hard work, but continue to endure until we triumph over all the enemies and evil that afflicts us. No matter how hard a grain of beans is, let us always have in mind, “Beans no dey cook forever, one day your beans go don.” Endure and pray.
God bless you!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ