Live no longer like pagans 18 Sunday 2018 B

Friends, we make the words of Apostle Paul ours: "You have come to know Christ. Therefore, you should stop living as before; put off your old man. Make sure you are renewed in spirit and understanding. Dress in the new man. Paul's words mean a lot in this era of Pride festivals where participants are once again dress themselves in the old self, exhibiting abominable, sick and perverse behaviours that many are forced to watch in the public space. Hunger drives the people to seek Jesus to have something to eat. Hunger causes many in our time to sell their soul. Throughout history, people have revolted against God and his will for the world. We should therefore not be surprised with the obscenities that are the hallmarks of pride festivals. It is nothing short of paganism- a revolt against God, idol worship.

Everyone knows that many thousands of people around the world are starving and dying. Marxist ideology understood this and was based on it. Its main point was to ensure that all hunger and starvation cease, and the desert becomes bread. Hunger has always been a human problem. The concept of hunger appears 134 times in the Old Testament. Strangely, the Hebrew root of the word "bread" consists of the same consonants as the verb "to fight", as if to indicate that the struggle for food is the cause of war. When Israel had no bread, they complained to the Lord: "In Egypt we sat down to eat all bread" (Exodus 16: 3).

From experience, we learn that only when bread is shared, it ceases to be a source of competition and controversy and becomes a sign of love, brotherhood and community. To eat bread with somebody is to regard this as brother or sister, a friend to trust, an ally from whom one does not expect any betrayal (Ps 41:10). It is communion with the other. God's plan is to gather all his children around his table (Ps 128: 3). Heaven is described with the image of a wedding banquet. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has one of its purposes to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world by 2030.

The event recounted in the first reading occurred between Mount Elim and Mount Sinai in the desert (Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15). God showed His power and mercy for the people of Israel and freed them from slavery in Egypt. When the food they left Egypt finished, they began to complain and preferred to live in slavery to be able to eat saturated and not die of hunger. Moses, Aaron and God were accused of not wishing them well. Remember, they soon forgot everything God had done through Moses to free them. Yet God would show that he cared and had a plan to bring them to the promised land. Therefore, he promised that they would have enough bread and meat throughout their journey in the wilderness. God gives manna to his people in the wilderness.

God lets bread rain from heaven. The people would only gather what they needed for each day. In the morning they had to gather something nice, much like quells, looking like frostbite. It was a substance that came from tamarin trees, many of which were in the region. When insects swarm in them, the substance falls down from the leaf to the ground. It hardens and becomes like a quells. When the sun shines, it is transformed. It must therefore be collected in the morning. The manna is sweet and is still cherished by the country's travellers but have become rare as the tamarin trees have become few. It is said that "manna", the name given to it by Israel come from an Egyptian name for "man", therefore became the Hebrew name "manna", what is this- man-hu. Moses spoke to the people that this was the bread that the Lord had given them. The meat they had to eat every night were birds that moved from Africa to Europe in the spring and then flew over Sinai. They returned the same route in the fall. Of fatigue after the flight over the sea, they were easy to catch when they rested on Sinai mountains. Evening time was the best time to catch them when they arrived at Sinai to rest.

The Manna in the desert was not the real bread from heaven. Both the birds and the manna were natural things, but the adequacy of them during the desert journey was the Lord's action. It should also be said that even after they had eaten the manna, they began to complain that they wanted variation, to eat something other than the manna. This is a human experience. As soon as we get something, it often happens that we want something else. We always want more and more. Therefore, the words of Paul in the second reading are worth considering.

The apostle Paul challenges Christians: Do not live anymore as the pagans. You have come to know Christ. Stop living as before. Put away the old man. Renew your spirit and understanding and be dressed in the new self. (Ephesians 4:17, 20 b-24). Paul reminds the Ephesians of what Christianity means. These were a people who lived near the time of Christ. They saw what happened in the name of Jesus through the apostle Paul. The people of Israel like the Ephesians had to be reminded repeatedly of what the Lord had done to and for them. If they needed a reminder, how much more do we. This is why we hear Paul's words today reminding us that we are Christians and should not to act as residents of Sodom and Gomorrah corrupted by following illusory desires of the flesh.

Unfortunately, most Christians in the world live like pagans. We have become baptized pagans. Many legitimize sin and argue that neither of us is entitled to judge the other. I wonder why they have not closed the prisons and the courts where people are punished for crimes against society. Each Christian has the obligation to see, judge and act. We are no longer pagans but God's adopted children. We have new values ​​and other than the pagan (Pride festivals) that we must always live for.

In 2016 in a Catholic parish in south-eastern Nigeria, there was a male church warder who had a dispute with another Catholic man in the same community. He went to a shrine of a deity and sued the other party, a practice common among pagans in many communities. This was not enough for him. He visited a witch doctor and asked him to help kill his considered enemies. He was given seven eggs by the witch doctor with instruction to smash them in the town's market square while making incantations with the intention of killing the perceived enemies. This was done in the daylight in full view of many belonging to the community and members of the same parish with him. They serve both God and Satan. Through such a life, mislead and seduce other believers into idol worship. Many Christians when they are sued in the shrines of these deities out of fear answer the summons. Sadly, answering such a summon automatically makes one a participant in paganism.

Some of those who witnessed the debacle reported to the parish priest. Unfortunately, the priest took no action against this church warder; who ​​continued his task in the parish. Surprisingly, it seemed as if most of the members - groups and individuals - think it's okay to be Christians in name and at the same time practice idolatry in their lives. For many, there is nothing wrong for a Christian taking a fellow Christian to an idol shrine to settle their dispute.

In the same community, the association of the first-born sons had a dispute with a traditional leader from a neighbouring community. The chairman of the association is also the vice- chairman of the parish council. In the past, the now two different communities were one and had a market square. Now there is a dispute about who owns the marketplace. Together with some of his association members, this vice- chairman of the parish council visited a witch doctor and sued his counterparts before the shrine of a deity. As in the first case, when the parish priest heard this, he did nothing. Why he does not react to the idolatry and hypocrisy of members of his parish, I do not understand.

As priests or parish priests, it is an important task for us to see, judge and act. A parish priests who investigates and confirms that something so abominable has taken place in his parish must act in order not to legitimize such practices among the congregation. If it is confirmed that any member deals with divination, sorcery, black magic, or witchcraft, or that someone practices magic or seek advice from the dead, the congregation must act to prevent such members from fellowship with them. Light and darkness have nothing in common. Abominable to the Lord is everyone who does such things. We are no longer pagans and therefore should not devote to such things.

When Saint Paul challenges the Ephesian congregation, saying, "I urge you in the name of the Lord:" Do not live anymore as the Gentiles, "I believe that the situation that lead Paul to make the challenge exists in many Christian congregations around the world today as the example above demonstrate.

There are many in our congregations who only bear the name Christian where in their lives, they know not the Lord. They worship God with their mouths while their hearts are far from Him. Even though they say they have come to know Christ, have heard of the Lord and taught about him, the truth that is in Christ, they have not given up the old self. Most 'Christians' in the world today have never known Christ and the truth that is in Him. Some have learned a watered version of the gospel of Christ. Larger parts of Africa, Asia and South America are still pagans. Even in Europe's that used to be Christian countries, paganism is on the march. Christianity has become only a name for many. Millions of people called Christians have never known Christ, many others have only learned half-truths about Christ. Many who have been taught the faith in him are not prepared to live for it

This is what Paul means when he writes to the Romans; do not adapt to the patterns of this world 12: 2. Now we are new people and therefore have to show the world through our lives that we are the children of God.

In the gospel we hear about the lack of faith of the Galileans, their worldliness and indifference to their eternal future (John 6: 24-35). But we cannot judge them hastily. We must not forget that they knew nothing about their future. It was only in the complete revelation in Christ that they became aware of God's plan for them. Thanks to God, we know God's plan for us. We know that we are in the world for a short time and heaven is our home.

In the discussion, Jesus claimed that he was the one God promised to send to the world. The people had problems with this and demanded more signs so that they could be convinced. The bread was, compared to the manna that their ancestors got in the desert, little. But Christ tells them that he himself is the bread from heaven. There can be nothing greater. Some are satisfied with the material things they temporarily receive and could not be interested in spiritual things or eternal life.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­After the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish, Jesus left the people and they began to search for him. It was in Kafarnaum that they found him. Jesus’ response to the Galileans when they asked, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" is instructive. Jesus does not answer the question but observes: Indeed, I say to you, you are not looking for me because you have seen signs but because you ate the bread and was saturated. They showed lack of faith and lacked any interest in eternal life. Most people only work for the food that is perishable and neglect their eternal destiny. Strange that after witnessing the miracle of the bread and fish, they still asked Jesus what sign he wanted to give so that they could see and believe.

The Apostle Peter was a Jew who was given the Hebrew name Shimon at birth, which means "he has heard. We know this name in English as Simon. Jesus knew that for Simon to turn into Peter, the Rock, he would have to undergo a paradigm shift! All of Jesus' disciples must make this paradigm shift in thought, speech and action to understand the kingdom of God. Chikezie Onuoha MSP.

They knew that he had not followed the disciples in their boat and no other boat had left, so they asked Jesus, "How did you come here?" Jesus did not answer directly but pointed out to them that they had sought him to have food to eat as they had the previous day. 

We have created a global financial system that has been made to work for a few at the expense of the majority. These are the victims of our global political, economic and social system and in return we have become their victims. The world needs to reflect on the development model that creates meaninglessness with its aggressive atheist secularism in humans and fosters hatred and conflicts in the world. How can we use the perishable gifts so that we do not lose the unperishable? Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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