Mar. 30, 2017

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, C.

WE MUST PRAY FOR POLITICAL LEADERS 

I'm particularly touched by Saint Paul's invitation in the second reading of today, "First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life, in all devotion and dignity" (1Tim.2:1). And he concludes that section thus, "It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument" (1Tim:2:8). We'll return to this point later. Before then, notice that today's readings concentrate on concrete and just relationships with our fellow human beings. 

Prophet Amos lashes out at unjust standards of the self-indulgent and greedy persons in his time. He lambasts those who trample upon the needy, who destroy the poor. He condemns the rich who cheat, exploit and take advantage of the less privileged in the society. Amos warns that God will vindicate the weak and helpless and will surely deal with those who feel they are satisfied with material things and rely on them. 

In the gospel, Jesus uses the astuteness of the crafty steward to highlight the need to invest in the kingdom of heaven. This steward summons his master's debtors and trims their debts down to his favor. When he says to the first debtor, "How much do you owe my master?", and he responds, "One hundred measures of olive oil", he slashes it to fifty immediately. The debtor must have been pleased that he receives some instant discount. The same he does to the second debtor. In the parable, we notice elements of insincerity though, but that's not what Jesus is emphasizing. Scripture scholars allege that the steward is enriching himself and wisely deducting his own commission. Others argue that he is reducing the unjust interest owed to his master. Whatever be the case, his master who is initially enraged with him, later commends him for taking such measures- "The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness" (Lk.16:8). 

In the parable, Christ encourages the use of wisdom and prudence in dealing with others. He admonishes us to use material things to make friends and not to scare or suppress others with our possessions. We have to be trustworthy with the things entrusted into our care. The parable of the crafty steward reminds us to put God above material possessions. We cannot serve both God and mammon. 

Again, Paul was advising the Corinthian church to pray for their leaders and those in authority. History records that the practice of praying for kings dates back to the time the Persian King, Cyrus ended the exile and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple. If we look around the world today, we notice that there is great need to pray for those in authority, those in political positions who influence laws that govern humanity. Unfortunately, politics can make the people lose concentration on the need for prayers. Take the American current political situation as an example. Numerous political agenda and ideology keep coming up. The politicians are making campaign promises with the impression that all solutions are in their hands; immigration, security, education, health, employment, religion, etc., as if all is in their power. They make the people concentrate on them and their political promises to fix almost everything. Very few persons recognize the need to put the election into God's hands continuously. That is why sometimes we get disappointed after casting our votes. 

Globally, many bad leaders have messed up their countries in today's world. The masses have been grossly disappointed by those they elected and couldn't do anything to reverse their votes once such leaders got hold of power. My country Nigeria is a typical example of failed electoral promises. Now the people of Nigeria are hungry. Prices of goods have tripled. There is no food to eat, no good road, no stable power supply, no money in circulation. Hospitals are not functioning well. The Nigerian currency has lost its value in the global market. Everything is on downward slope. The government promised change during their political campaign. Now the change has tilted to poverty, hunger, untold suffering, agony in the land. The masses are now begging government to return things to at least the level they were before the administration came into power. 

In Latin America, Venezuela is another big example. Venezuela is said to be "a powder keg. Once a rich country held together by strong leadership and heavy social spending, it is now in economic disaster and could slide into widespread social disorder, triggering instability throughout Latin America. Drastic shortages of food, medicine, electricity and other necessities are causing small riots. Organized crime and extrajudicial police killings have given Venezuela a frighteningly high rate of murder and violence, with narco-traffickers allegedly in cahoots with corrupt allies in the government and security forces. Runaway inflation means that from March 2015 to 2016 a basket of basic goods for a family of five became 524 percent more expensive". 

There is bad governance everywhere- Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. The masses are suffering, lamenting, looking hopeless. Suicide rates are on the increase. There is growing rate of terrorism partly because most youth and young adults are frustrated. They are afraid of their future and so get naively co-opted and brainwashed by negative ideologies. 

These are grave reasons for prayer. I wish to invite you all to pray seriously for world leaders. Anger or argument cannot solve problem of leadership. Complaining and whining cannot do much. Two things that can bring about change in politics are: 1). participation -vote for the candidate of your choice during election and 2). prayer. When you vote, you increase the chances of having the right candidate according to your conscience and belief. When you vote you reduce the chances of having the wrong person win an election. When you vote you fulfill your civil civil and human rights as citizen. When you vote you enhance the chances of getting what you want in a democracy. That's what God intended when he blessed the man saying, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it" (Gen.1:28). We conquer the earth by participating in decisions that influence the governance of the state, one of which is politics. 

The next way to bring about change is prayer. When we pray, we recognize the power of God over all created things. When we pray, we fall back to God as the owner of human wisdom. When we pray, we invite God into the world of human conditions. When we pray, we ask his support and guidance. The Israelites suffered under Pharaoh in Egypt. They called on God, cried to him, and he delivered them through Moses. Moses was a political and spiritual leader of the Israelites. The Israelites beckoned on God before the choice of their leaders- Joshua, Aaron, Samuel, David, Saul, Solomon, etc. Each time they chose leaders on their own, they always chose the wrong leaders . 

Paul reminds us today to pray for our leaders and those in authority. Let us pray harder for things to change positively in countries that are facing crises due to bad political leadership. Let's pray God to make such leaders feel the pains of their citizens or devise a means to dethrone them and save the people. Today's homily is simply calling out for more prayers, devotions, visits to Blessed Sacrament, invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, novenas and mass requests for both the United States and the world in general.

May God help us in times of trials. May the name of the God of Jacob protect his people. Amen.