AT ST. STEPHEN CATHOLIC CHURCH, DARKUMAN, ON 28TH DECEMBER, 2021, FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS
THEME: “YOU ARE ALL BROTHERS” (MATTHEW 23:8): THE VOCATION OF THE SEMINARIAN TO PRACTICE CHARITY, PROMOTE PEACE AND FOSTER UNITY
HOMILY BY REV. FR. JOHN KOBINA LOUIS
Dear brother-Priests, Christian Mothers, seminarians and all beloved in Christ, I bring you the greetings of our Archbishop, Most Rev. John Bonaventure Kwofie, CSSp. He wishes you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. In this homily, there will be a reflection on today’s feast of the Holy Innocents as well as a discourse on the theme of the Breakfast Meeting.
- Feast of Holy Innocents
- The escape of the Saviour
- Defending helpless children
- Theme of Breakfast Meeting
- You are all brothers (Matt. 23:8)
- Charity by the seminarian
- Promotion of peace by the seminarian
- Fostering unity by the seminarian
1.0 FEAST OF HOLY INNOCENTS
1.1 THE ESCAPE OF THE SAVIOUR
A story in the OT could serve as a good prelude to the escape of the Child Jesus from the evil scheme of King Herod (cf. Matt. 2:13-18). According to Exodus 1:22, Pharoah ordered that every male child born to the Hebrews in Egypt should be killed. Fortunately, though, by divine providence, the child Moses escaped that evil scheme and became the “saviour” of his people. Similarly, the Child Jesus who escaped the senseless slaughter of innocent children ordered by King Herod would save the world by His death and resurrection.
Therefore, when we escape from a disaster, accident or any other evil, let us reflect on how best we can be helpful to others.
1.2 DEFENDING HELPLESS CHILDREN
The children who were killed in accordance with the decree of Kind Herod were helpless. They could in no way defend themselves. Even today, millions of helpless and unborn children are killed every year across the world due to abortion laws decreed by various governments and the reckless decisions of individuals. What is more pathetic is that, unlike the days of Herod when mothers sorrowfully cried for the loss of their children, often today mothers of children callously and willingly request for the killing of their own children.
Therefore, the unborn children of today need us and others to defend them. We can defend them by conscientizing society about the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, making advocacies against the legalization of abortion, promoting and fostering the life of chastity among both the married and unmarried, etc.
By extension this point reminds us to defend the vulnerable in general.
2.0 THEME OF BREAKFAST MEETING
The theme for this Breakfast Meeting is: “‘You are all brothers’ (Matthew 23:8): The Vocation of the Seminarian to practice Charity, promote Peace and foster Unity”. Four main sections can be identified in this theme. Let us consider them in what follows:
2.1 “YOU ARE ALL BROTHERS” (MATT. 23:8)
The background to this statement is that our Lord Jesus Christ had denounced the Scribes and Pharisees for their misleading religious practices including the fact that they had arrogated the title of rabbi or teacher. He then cautioned his disciples not to arrogate this title, for He was their sole teacher, and they were students or brothers (cf. Matt. 23:8). That is, they were to relate to each other as equals. So, we should all relate to each other as brothers (and sisters) with the equal dignity of disciples or learners of Christ.
Several other reasons should motivate us to foster the bond of brotherhood or fraternity among us. Firstly, Christ is our unique Lord and Saviour. Secondly, though divine, Christ humbly became man, so that irrespective of whatever may differentiate us humans (e.g., family or social status, ethnicity, race, wealth, abilities, gender, etc.), we can associate as brothers and sisters. Thirdly, by His sacrificial death and resurrection, we have become adopted sons and daughters; and, by implication, brothers and sisters of Christ.
As brothers and sisters of Christ we should practice charity, promote peace and foster unity. In what follows, we will focus on the seminarian in view of the theme.
2.2 CHARITY BY THE SEMINARIAN
Charity is the practical demonstration of both love and holiness. Thus, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI succinctly expresses the relationship between charity and holiness: “holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full” (Catechesis, General Audience of 13 April 2011, cited in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, 19th March 2018, #21). Often this means giving a practical help to someone in need in accordance with the teaching of Christ in Matthew 25:31-46. Referring to this text, Pope Francis enlightens us: ‘If we seek the holiness pleasing to God’s eyes, this text offers us one clear criterion on which we will be judged. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (vv. 35-36)’ (Gaudete et Exsultate, #95). However, it should be noted that such a practical demonstration of love is a true expression of holiness only if it is done without conditions (cf. John 15:13).
The seminarian, because he is a disciple of Christ who is being formed to embrace a future life and ministry of holiness and love, should begin to practice charity. He should be charitable to fellow seminarians as well as to others. He should remember that there is more blessing in giving than in receiving.
2.3 PROMOTION OF PEACE BY THE SEMINARIAN
“Peace is not merely the absence of war…. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is ‘the tranquility of order’ (St. Augustine). Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity” (CCC #2304).
The seminarian has been called by Christ, “the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). So, as a disciple and subject of Christ, the seminarian has no option but to be peaceful and to promote peace. This he may achieve by practicing and promoting both justice and charity. In this manner, he will become truly a son of God, for Christ says that “Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9).
2.4 FOSTERING UNITY BY THE SEMINARIAN
Unity is the state of being joined together or in agreement. This was what Christ desired for His disciples when He prayed that they may be one as He and His Father are one (cf. John 17:21). The unity among all Christians is based first and foremost on our common faith and baptism (Eph. 4:4-5; Gal. 3:25-29). By our common faith in Jesus Christ, all Christians have become children of God the Father through the action of the Holy Spirit. And through baptism, all are incorporated into the one body of Christ which is the Church.
Whereas the seminarian shares this common unity in Christ with all Christians, he shares a special bond of unity with his fellow seminarians, because of your common aspiration to become priests – to become members of the one presbyterium. In other words, while the seminarian should foster unity among the larger Catholic/Christian family, he should foster closer bond of unity among fellow seminarians.
The common faith, baptism and aspiration should always override any other considerations be they family, ethnic, social, school, parish, diocesan, or otherwise.
We have reflected on both the Feast of Holy Innocents and the theme of the Breakfast Meeting. From the feast, we have learnt that: (a) the Child who escaped the evil scheme of King Herod grew up to save the world. Similarly, when our life has been spared of an evil, we should become helpful to others; (b) we should defend the right of unborn children and the vulnerable in general.
Then from the theme of the Breakfast Meeting, we have been encouraged to: (a) foster brotherhood among ourselves; (b) practice charity; (c) promote peace and (d) foster unity.
Now, through the intercessions of the countless Holy Innocents may we all be able to practice the lessons learnt today.
Finally, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a more fulfilling New Year!