The Chair of Moses 31 Sunday A 2017

Friends, as I read today's first reading (Mal. 1: 14b - 2: 2b; 2: 8-10), I stuck to warnings that the Lord the Sabaoth gives to priests because they have deviated from the way and through their teaching have caused the fall of many. They no longer adhere to God's ways but show partiality. They have destroyed the covenant with Levi. They act tirelessly against each other. These were caught in the pursuit of money and power and no longer stood between God and the people. It is the same theme that is also taken up in the gospel (Matthew 23: 1-12). Jesus warns the people of the Scribes and Pharisees who, like today's priests, do not act according to their teachings. The Scribes and Pharisees have sat on the Chair Moses. They tie heavy burdens together and put them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves do not lift a finger to help them. " They did everything for people to notice them. As we have burning questions in the Church in our time, they had similar questions that were sensitive to most. Like the people of Jesus’ time, we face the same challenges. The conflict between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees ended in Jesus' crucifixion. To resist today's conspiracy against the word of God among false priests, prophets, apostles and society can be compared to martyrdom.

The Church has betrayed God and society and the family has failed the Church. The family which is the cornerstone of life in society has failed to bring up children who are God’s fearing. Our world is filled with people who want to be exalted, people who always want to be at the center of things and want everyone else to serve them. Whether in the Church or in our traditional life, we ​​put on long robes, pursuing all manner of both traditional and religious titles and want to get the place of honour always and everywhere. There are many in our Churches who do not care about God, who do not let God into their life. This is a shame. God does not punish sin, but sin punishes itself. The words humility, honour, integrity, truth have become scarce commodities in our world. Jesus addresses what may be considered one of the greatest challenges of our time- how to be great: "The greatest among you shall be the servant of the others ..." (Matthew 23:12). This is what Paul refers to when he writes: "For tenderness, we would love to give you not only the gospel of God but also our own life ..." (1Thess 2: 7b-9, 13). Those who hear the word must not take it as human words but the word of God, which shows its power with in believers.

We are involved in the world. We are incarnated in a body. We cannot free ourselves from this participation. It may be seen as a human predicament, dilemma. What is certain is that there is no assurance against the accidents of life. Neither God nor life leaves security, guarantees. This world is not yet heaven. The awareness of the uncertainty in everything should lead to increased vigilance and humility for the mystery of life. Without being prepared for the unknown, you do not live a real life. Problems are cases for science to solve. Problems can be eliminated.  Mystery, on the other hand, calls for personal decision. The 1st and 2nd of November celebrated the All Saints and All Souls respectively. All Saints Day is a celebration of our glory. Heaven is our home, our destination. This day, we celebrate the uncountable number of saints from all peoples and tribes and countries and languages. In this countless crowd are some of the ones we knew and loved, people we grieved and mourn when they departed us. On the day of All Souls, we celebrated all who have gone before us but who are in a state of purification. These two feasts also teach us something about death. If we understand death in a fleshly way, then we have not learnt anything, then it will be absurd. Death is a mystery. The immortal soul lives in the body as in its tabernacle. We walk as pilgrims through the perishable and await the imperishable of heaven. (Letter to Diognetius).

We live in an age of post-truth, at a time when facts no longer count. It is an age when persuasion is more is more important than facts. Lies may be sold shamelessly as long as it is persuasive. With the religious criticism of the Enlightenment and socialism, humanity entered a new stage. The Christian hope on eternity is turned into a worldly utopian marxism that replaced heaven with classless society. What values ​​a human being has plays a decisive role on how that person reflects or relates to fellow human beings. One is free from the terror, who with greatness meets the unknown, unpredictable and the unrealistic with calm. God's fear is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1: 7). Death is like the supremacy of God's incomprehensibility. The scripture advises that we should work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). We shall all face God's judgment. We can never truly break God’s law, it is in fact God’s law that breaks us whenever we choose to go against it.  God's fear is the opposite of spiritual courage. This was the sin of the priests, Scribes and Pharisees. It is also perhaps the sin of our time.

The "original sin", that is, eating from the tree of knowledge of the good and evil meant that man sought to surpass God's will to determine what is valuable, true, beautiful and so on. Humans became autonomous, "the measure of everything". Such was the "logical" method of German idealism promoted by Kant and Hegel, leading to Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Adolf Hitler to release his nightmares on earth. And this is as well the ideology behind the cynical postmodern claims that "good and evil" are tools for expressing political control. Today, the world is more than ever "Sodom" and therefore ripe for judgment from heaven.

Today, it is politically correct that everyone is expected to live. Here is also the world and its "group thinking" which always requires the abolition of the individual conscience. Remember what happened to the Swedish midwife, Ellinor Grimmark who was punished for refusing to participate in abortion in this country. We see that, like the ancient Sodom culture, today the great challenge is to exercise serious conviction that transcendental moral authority and truth exist despite the world's "homogenizing" value system. In our time, the only thing that is considered "unacceptable" in this evil generation is the opposition that people have a supposed "freedom" to do whatever they want. However, if this human frees from the truth by tolerating sin in a world that is full of evil, it is a silent form of "cooperation" with the enemy (James 4: 4). The Lord is clear on this time: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who call darkness light and light darkness, who call bitter sweet and sweet bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and smart in their own sight! "(Isaiah 5: 20-21).

Although the sin in Sodom exclusively included sexual perversion in the Old Testament, such behaviour was symptomatic of a nihilistic culture that glorified violence, humiliated moral institutions, authorities and spiritual truth and practiced the exploitation of others. Throughout Scripture, "Sodom" symbolically represents gross immoral, corruption and inevitable judgment from heaven. For example, the prophet Ezekiel wrote about Judah, "Behold, this was your sister Sodom's guilt. She and her daughters had arrogance, overfed and carefree ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus, they were proud and did detestable things before me.  Therefore, I removed them as you have seen "(Ezek 16: 49-50). The New Testament refers to the fate of Sodom as "a scary example of eternal fire" (Jude 1: 7) - the destructive result of spiritual pride, ungodly and depraved conducts, lawlessness, sexual perversion, arrogant and no afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings and (2 Pet 2: 6-10).

Fortunately, there is real hope for those who try to escape from the destruction to come by turning to God and trusting his healing power of salvation, though it is only a "remnant" that will experience true liberation (Matt 7:14). Referring to Israel's last salvation, the Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah: "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1: 9; Romans 9:29). We are created in the image of God. We are a rational creature, one created to live with God and thus reach our goal, heaven. We have been the power to conquer all that is contrary to our reaching our heavenly destination.

As it is written, "We destroy the arguments and every high perception that occurs against God's knowledge and takes all the thoughts that are caught to obey the Messiah". We are ordered to "raise reasoning" and every high thing raised against God's knowledge and to bring every thought "to captivity" to obedience to the Messiah. We can do this negatively by combating evil thoughts and censoring the inner wickedness of our hearts, or we can positively do that by being "captivated" by the words and love of the Holy Spirit, and we often have to do it! In this way, we can always live in God's presence, sanctify God in our hearts, raise God instead of ourselves. If we do this, we will not live in spiritual ignorance that gives birth to spiritual pride.

If we obey God's word and pay attention to it, if we are good, we will not deviate from the road and destroy the covenant with Levi, nor will we consider the reputation of persons as we teach about the word of God. If we honour God in our hearts, of course, we will be less likely to use God's name in vain. If we really believe that the Church is not just like any other human organization, that Jesus is its head, then we will undoubtedly continue to put our hope in him. Spiritual pride dazzled the scribes and Pharisees so that they could not see what God did for them. In contrast to them, our theory must correspond to our practice. Church leaders need to lead humbly and not only give the gospel of God but also let their lives be the gospel that people read.  Church members, in turn, need to listen to the word of God and receive it for what it really is: the word of God and not some human thinking. Chikezie Onuoha MSP


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