Sunday Homily – February 24 2019 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Father Istifanus Sheyin
Sunday homily is from the 6 AM Mass at the Church of Assumption, Asokoro, Abuja, celebrated by the Assistant Parish Priest, Reverend Father Istifanus Sheyin. Father Sheyin began by reminding the parishioners about the virtue of mercy which is one of the cardinal cornerstones of the liturgy of the Church. He asked what we would do if we find ourselves in a situation in which we have power over a sworn enemy. He explained that this was the situation that David, in the first reading, found himself but decided to heed to the word of God not to harm King Saul. This is because vengeance belongs to God and no one should repay evil for evil.
Father Sheyin paused for a moment to ask how many of the parishioners present would do what David did especially in this age of vengeance even in prayers. He remarked that David would be considered as the most foolish man if he lived in this age but the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. He cited an example of his one-time neighbour who prayed constantly for the death of her enemies and even called about thirty of them by name. He opined that this was what distinguished David from every other person and so he is referred to as the ‘Man after God’s own heart’. He explained that the qualities that are found in the heart of God are love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion. These are the same qualities found in the heart of David and all Christians MUST possess these.
Father Sheyin went on to discuss the gospel reading. He explained that this commandment by Christ to love one’s enemies has sparked more debate among scripture scholars than any other commandment. He explained the Greek concepts of love and stated that what Christ is referring to is Agape love which describes someone who loves everyone like a brother or sister and goes an extra mile to be kind. He confessed that although this is not easy, Christ is our model. He loved completely and there was no vengeance found in him. This, he explained, is how a Christian should live and love. If a Christian lives and loves this way, he added, he or she will be happy unlike those who are bitter. They know neither happiness nor peace.
Father Sheyin talked further about Christians who rely on the old testament especially psalms such as Psalm 109. He explained that most Psalms were written in the context of war and cautioned that we should not rely on them as the Old Testament looks forward to its fulfilment in the New Testament. This is why Christ forgave his persecutors rather than following the old law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. He remarked that this should be the disposition of every Christian.
Father Sheyin concluded by stating that in the second reading, St Paul expects us to be like God. He cited examples saying even when we offend God, He still forgives and loves us. In response to God’s love, we must love as God loves. Unless we love in this manner, we are not Christians. This is because a Christian is another Christ to the world and the world needs people whose hearts are full of love.