YEAR B: 25TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME
THEME: RECIPE FOR ETERNAL GREATNESS
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 19 2021.
1. Resurrection. Four companies were in competition for providing the best coverage for life insurance. The 1st company came up with the slogan, “Coverage from baby basket to casket”. The 2nd offered “Coverage from the cradle to the grave.” The 3rd company tried to improve on that with the slogan, “Coverage from the womb to the tomb.” The 4th insurance company really thought hard, almost gave up the race, but finally came up with, “Coverage from conception to the resurrection.”! Brothers and sisters, whenever the span of human life includes the afterlife, perspectives change, values change order and events on this side of life acquire different meaning. Whether it be the wicked ambushing the just person as we heard in the 1st reading (Wis 2:12, 17-20), or the Lord upholding the life of the just as we prayed along with the Psalmist (Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8), once life after bodily death is factored in, perspectives change and what seemed valuable gives way to eternal values. The jealousy and selfish ambition, the wars and conflicts, the envy and killings decried in today’s 2nd reading (Jas 3:16-4:3) often give way to peacemakers, working for peace and sowing the seed of holiness, when life after this life is taken seriously, when the resurrection is concretely factored in.
2. Transformation. There are many captivating illustrations of the transformation that happens when a person begins to take the resurrection seriously and I believe many of us here are living illustrations of such transformation. Let me share just one more with you. Jürgen Moltmann is still here with us. He joined the German army in 1944 as an Air Force auxiliary. The poems of Goethe and the writings of Nietzsche were his main intellectual cocktail. Ordered to the Klever Reichswald, a German forest at the front lines, he surrendered in 1945 in the dark to the first British soldier he met. Moltmann claimed his remorse was so great, he often felt he would have rather died along with many of his comrades than live to face what their nation had done at Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Moltmann met a group of Christians caring for prisoners of war, and was given a small copy of the New Testament and Psalms by an American chaplain. I was at a lecture given by Moltmann on February 14th, 2012, at the University of Cambridge. Professor Moltmann told us how faith in the resurrection changed him. “The resurrection was not something I could look forward to: I did not want to face those I had killed”. As a POW in Scotland and England, enjoying the hospitality of the Christians who visited the prisoners, in contrast to his own behaviour as a Nazi soldier, faith in the resurrection transformed Moltmann to what he is now: a peacemaker, a preacher of peace, an outstanding Christian theologian and a 95 year old man, full of hope in the resurrection, sowing seeds of holiness.
3. Eternal Greatness. Transformed by taking the resurrection seriously, our ambition changes, our recipe for greatness changes and becomes the recipe enunciated by our Lord in today’s Gospel reading (Mk 9:30-37), the recipe for eternal greatness: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” On this side of life, we say, first come first served and that is fine. But for eternal greatness, it is first come, first to serve others. And the first to serve others has the chance to be the servant of all, and ends up serving himself or herself last. That way, just as our Lord said, the servant of all, who serves himself or herself last, becomes indeed the greatest of all. Notice that our Lord in today’s Gospel did not tell his disciples not to be ambitious. He did not even denounce each of them for wanting to be the greatest. He rather gave a recipe for eternal greatness: a greatness anchored in true wisdom which enables us to choose peaceful paths to success. In this recipe for eternal greatness, a little child is a better model than the ubermensch or superman of Nietzsche. This little child of Jesus and all who are childlike then discover in Christ, that their vocation goes beyond Darwin’s evolution. Our vocation is well described in G. K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man. Our lifespan is indeed from conception to resurrection to eternal happiness. Let’s cooperate with God and with one another to make that happen.