A Homily delivered on Saturday morning, 18th May 2019, on the occasion of the Prolife weekend at the Bigard Chapel.
My beloved brothers and sisters, Otito diri Jesu Kristi!
The readings this morning inspired me to reflect on two terms: Jealousy and Justification. The first is psychological and the second is theological.
Justification from the Greek word “Sedeq”, is the process of making one righteous or upright. Jealousy is used here, not as the Hebrew word “qana” of Exodus 34:14 where God describes himself as a jealous God, but as the Greek term “zelos” in Romans 10:9, in which the Jews felt bad with the justification of the Gentiles by St. Paul.
Jealousy according to today’s psychology is a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation. It is the root of so many evils in the dynamics of human relationships. Jealousy of the spiritual good of another person is even more perilous. In relation to envy, it’s one of the seven capital sins. But contrary to envy which involves only two parties, jealousy occurs among three parties.
The jealousy of the Jews against the Gentiles on account of Paul’s preaching is the crux of the matter in the first reading (Acts. 13:44-52). The setting was in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. Paul and his friend, Barnabas arrived Pisidia on their first missionary journey. The very first preaching of Paul in their synagogue on a cheery Sabbath morning was so enriching that he was invited to preach again on the following Sabbath.
The occasion of this second invitation to preach is what is recorded in this first reading. The synagogue was filled because the Gentiles who first listened to him invited their friends to the second kerygma of Paul. Unfortunate for Jews, there was no court for the Gentiles in the synagogue as in a Temple. As a result, they found themselves sitting among the unclean Gentiles, who, according to them, have not experienced the excruciating pain in circumcision and have no knowledge of their 613 laws. These signs are for the Jews, the criteria for justification.
If Bigard seminarians were to have Jewish mentality, they would have questioned vehemently the reason for allowing you (referring to the ladies and gentlemen that came for the prolife weekend) to sit in front of the sanctuary, whereas we have court for the Gentiles in the Bigard chapel. They would have noted that these ladies and gentlemen have not experienced the rigorous discipline of the seminary formation and have no knowledge of the seminary rules and regulations, therefore, are not justified to sit there.
Unlike the Bigard seminarians, the Jews misconstrue the source of justification. They lent credence to auto justification and self righteousness. They believed they can be justified by works of the law and circumcision. They were not dependent on God’s grace.
In the Gospel, (Jn.14:7-14) our Blessed Lord reveals the yardstick of justification. After identifying himself with his Father (vs 7-9), in vs 10, he established the foundation for justification which is God’s grace when he said, the father who dwells in me is doing his works. In vs 11, he added faith, when he said, believe me that I am in the father and the father is in me. In vs 12, there is an emphasis on a third criteria, which is doing good work. He said, truly truly I say to you, he who believes in me will do the same works that I do, he will even do greater works. It is this last criteria that differentiate protestant from Catholics. For the Protestants, grace and faith (Vs 10 &11) are the criteria for justification as they would say, accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and you will be saved. They further strengthened their opinion with Romans 4:2-5, whereby Paul stated that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised but Catholics did not neglect Paul’s view on the same Romans (2:5-11) with regard to the necessities of good works. Besides, St James would say that prayer without good work is dead.
What are we to Learn here?
Being a prolifer is an act of belief. For one to profess “life is precious, life is sacred, defend it” is not a sufficient criteria for justification. Our righteousness must be extended to concretising the expression of our faith in the sacredness of life. Our virtues in the dynamics of relationship towards improving the life of others stands tall over every mere profession of faith. The life of the wretched and poor, the lonely, the downtrodden, the hopeless longing to commit suicide, those who are on the bed of pain longing for euthanasia, and above all, the fate of an innocent unborn child. Every document of the Church be it Donum vitae, Humanae vitae, Evangelium vitae, and so on, vehemently defends human life from the moment of conception till natural death willed by God. At conception, a life is formed very different from the life of the Mother. This life possesses “actus essendi” that is an act of being and shares in the personhood of the Trinity. This life has the potentiality of existence, thought and subsistence. And so, has the right to live just like the mother.
In conclusion, the doctrine of justification also teaches us to view our success in life as an expression of God’s grace no matter our human efforts. Meanwhile, when you claim to be so spiritual that you see every person around you as carnal, it is a “Jewish spirituality” and a neglect of God’s grace in praise of your human efforts. Above all, in order to avoid jealousy, do not compete with anyone in intellect, beauty, holiness and so on, not even with yourself. Simply try to be the best you can by relying on God’s grace who created you with special characteristic features that no other person possesses in this world. May our Blessed Lord accompany us to live his words. Amen!

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