TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – 2018
PAUL ENCOURAGES MORAL FORMATION
It has become one of my favorite mantras to often address my congregation thus, “Where does your heart lie; in good or evil?” As I address this thought, I, too, address it to myself. My senior brother, Father Polycarp Chuks Obikwelu, (Thank God, he celebrated his thirtieth anniver-sary of priesthood last Monday, August 13), used to say that, “Before a priest preaches to his congregation, he, first, has already preached to himself.” – profound! Isn’t it? This buttresses the fact that we all are in a moral formational drive daily. This saying of my dear brother, has always remained indelible on my memory since I heard him said that before his congregation in his homily. We can, therefore, suggest that both the laity and members of the clergy are invited for this continuous moral for-mation, because our presence on earth is a preparation for our eternal journey.
In the second reading of this Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians captured this continuous moral formation for us all, when he addresses thus, “Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”
It is important for us, brethren, to examine closely Paul’s gentle tap on our shoulders. He says, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” As I did ask earlier, where does your heart lie? Paul admonishes that we cannot be aloof to the teachings of the Church – our heart cannot willfully or intentionally lie in evil if we always gaze on the Lord. A priest must realize that he’s called to serve God first, and secondly God’s people – the congregation, which he is entrusted to take care of their souls for their eternal salvation. So, the priest heart must lie in God, whence comes the source of the entire meaning of his ministry. It is this meaning that drives the priest to outpour his heart for his congregation: available for them at the time of the loss of a loved one, depression, sadness, sacrament of the anointing of the sick and a few others. On the other hand, he rejoices with them for their precious faith - which is more than fire tested gold or pearl. Paul, invites the congregation – God’s holy people, to always remain focus on the Lord, keep their hearts turned to the good and charitable works always, avoiding malice and evil intents, but always loving and working tirelessly for the good of all members of God’s community. This is Paul’s message when he says, “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts….” My brothers and sisters, take note, moral formation underscores the reality that we all have fallen short of God’s grace, but with sincere heart in trusting God’s immense mercy in doing the highest good that we possibly can, and not relying only in our powers to do everything, our hearts definitely will always lie in virtuous matters. Amen.
Father Uche Obikwelu