Selection of the sermons of Father Ezekiel Oko

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Sermon for 22th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the reading year: B

Do not conform to this world!

Again and again I meet people who draw my attention to the fact that the world has progressed beyond the time of Jesus and beyond the teachings of the Bible. They think that the teachings of Jesus and the Holy Scriptures are so outdated that one can no longer live according to them in our time.

Once a man advised me that the priest should preach what is appropriate to the beliefs of the believers! The sermon should be contemporary! I asked what he meant by the words "believers' worldviews" and "contemporary." He then explained to me that the sermon should address the reality of believers' lives and show them the solutions to their current problems.

That got me thinking. On the one hand, this advice is particularly important. We must try to interpret the teaching of the Scriptures into the problems and challenges of our time. Only in this way can the Bible be compatible with the people of our time. The question of how we make the teaching of Holy Scripture compatible for our time is therefore a topical question of faith and not only essential, but also needs a practical answer.

On the other hand, there is another way of looking at the situation that can limit the possibility of this adjustment. It often strikes me that the Word of God speaks to us differently than we actually expect. Instead of adapting to our worldview or conforming to the zeitgeist, the Word of God tries to change us or our worldview, to renew and transform our thinking.

This aspect shows that the attempt to reconcile the Word of God with our worldview can also be done in reverse, so that it is not the Word of God that changes, but our worldview.

As Christians, we need to strike a balance between these two sides. We should try to interpret the word of God in a contemporary way, without forgetting or losing its power to renew and change people and their situation.

We have just heard in the second reading: "Do not conform yourselves to this world, but allow yourselves to be transformed through the renewal of thought, so that you can examine and discern what the will of God is: the good, the pleasing and the perfect!"

The Christian life is directed toward a goal that need not be contemporary, but divine. It takes us to eternity. If we forget that, then we also lose the sense of the accompaniment that God gives us through his word. But, with that in mind, we understand why the zeitgeist cannot dictate how we should live as Christians.

Dear sisters and brothers, those who want to live according to the Word of God can contradict the zeitgeist. But they can also be mocked and mocked like the prophet Jeremiah. But that doesn't mean they're wrong. It can happen that Christians are in the minority, that they are persecuted even if they are in the truth. The truth is seldom popular.

The distinctive feature of following Christ is not to please and be loved by people, but to be willing to stand up for the truth. That's not always easy. It can mean the cross. Yes, accepting the cross when it serves the truth is part of it.

Jesus himself did not reject the cross. No! He accepted. Not because it pleased him, but because it furthered his path and the fulfillment of his task as Redeemer and Savior.

And when he tells us in today's Gospel, "If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me," he's telling us not only that the cross is part of discipleship, but that it is also that the call to bear the cross is more common than we think.

I face this challenge when, for example, I have to tell an uncomfortable truth, perhaps to save a life or to serve justice. The inconvenience might be that someone close to me—a friend, my partner, my mother, my father—feels hurt by the truth, or that I would lose something important in the process. In this case, would I still choose to take the risk, that is, to tell the truth, or would I rather do my acquaintance a favor and avoid the cross?

I don't know what cross you carry in your life and what the discomfort of that cross is. Look at the cross of Jesus and see that you are not alone. The Lord we follow dies on the cross.

This encourages us not to forget that the cross is part of discipleship. The path of truth, the path to true life, may not be easy and pleasant. But he'll definitely get us ahead! What we gain through the cross of life, the cross of discipleship, is far greater than what we lose!

Gospel of 22th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the reading year B;