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Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Prophet's reward or the cross, asked Fr Ebido - ITREALMS

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 28/20) 

Story: In the primitive districts of India there are no lights – neither in the streets nor in the houses. They have a temple which also has no lights. However, it has a huge brass structure with hundreds of ‘light holders’. When the villagers come to the temple early in the morning or at night, they bring lighted torches with them to help them see their way in the dark. When they get to the temple, they place these in the ‘light holders’. As more people put in their lights into these holders, the temple becomes illuminated.

I had a struggle reconciling the first reading (2 Kgs 4:8-11,14-16), where Elisha blessed the Shunemite woman with a child for her consistent kindness to him, and the Gospel (10:37-42) that essentially speaks of the cross: “whoever does not carry his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

The paradox is that no normal human being likes the cross; but everyone loves to receive the prophet’s reward, everyone loves to receive a blessing, be it human, or divine favor. We are living at a time in our history when much of piety in Nigeria (if not Africa) is colored by a desire for some form of material blessing (due to poverty or greed). Everyone seeks to receive ‘the man of God’s reward’ as all search for God’s favor so as to make sense of their rather difficult lives. 

Bishops and priests took over the role played by ‘prophets’ in the Old testament. But traditional ‘priests’ are too busy for a one-on-one relationship with most people. Gradually, other ‘men of God’ arose, and with these many ‘prophets’ (including ‘false prophets’) to fill the vacuum, and all vying for the same privileges. To gain people’s attention/respect, they focus on what the people love to hear, not what they ‘should’ hear. The true prophet is about the later, while the ‘false prophets’ are about the former.

My advice is this: whatever it is you hear from your own ‘priest,’ ‘prophet,’ or ‘man of God,’ please do not forget the essence of religion! Its aim is to make us focus on being the best human being possible, to be the best version of ourselves. 

Always have an attentive ear to the needy. Take time to consider how we treat others, and how we impact upon those whom providence sent unto our path in life. Always keep in mind that no matter how poor or lowly you are, “you are someone’s hero.” Giving a cup of ‘cold water’ (Matt 10:42) maybe ‘words of encouragement’ to those who feel hopeless; just as the ‘bread of good example’ assuage them that ‘hunger’ for a better life. 

There hardly a better way to “carry your cross and follow him”, for you are ‘dying’ daily (Rom 6:4) as you try to give life to others. That is why Jesus says, “you will surely not lose your reward!” So, pay attention to the essentials, and you will be ‘bringing your own lamp’ to the ‘light holder’ that is our ‘sacred assembly’ or ‘collective consciousness’ where we all get illumined as we celebrate love and life. 

In no time, we will be able to build a better functional society than the ‘confusion’ we see (a function of lost values), or at least be at peace, in the hope that we know where we are headed in the future life. So, think more of what you can give before getting all mixed up about what you hope to receive.

PRAYER: Father, sometimes I get all confused and mixed up about what I need. Of course I want your blessings all the time! But little do I think of how I could ‘glorify your name’ either among unbelievers or even among the faithful. Thank you for opening my eyes! Grant me the grace to live a life of good example as a way to glorify you. May your blessings overflow!

🙏🏽©️Fr Augustine Ebido, O.P.

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