Read 1 Peter 4:12-19, Psalm 23 & Matthew 6:25-34
“For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
This night, we shall be saying “Farewell” to one year and at the same time saying “Welcome” to another year and in this part of the world, there is no better place to do this than inside a church; a testimony to our unique religious nature as Africans. Unfortunately, this Midnight Mass, or “Cross-Over” Mass as it is now popularly known is one of the very few occasions where the liturgical books did not provide specific readings for.
Unlike Christmas where there are readings for Vigil Mass, Mass at Midnight, Mass at Dawn, and Mass During the Day, we are allowed to choose our own readings for this Mass. In my attempt to find the most suitable readings that depict the end of the year as well as the beginning of another, I went to the Bible Application on my computer to search for any verse that contains the words “begin” and “end.” Guess what? Only one verse came up: 1 Peter 4:17. When I read this verse, I felt God speaking directly to my conscience. “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” First, what does Peter mean by the ‘household of God?’
a. The leaders of the church; that is, we the preachers. Coincidentally, this is one night where many of us would pick up the microphone to give false promises and fake prophecies to excite the people or just make them feel good about the New Year. When we fail to correct and reprove sinful behaviors in our flock when we fail to lead by example, we face severe judgment both on earth here and in heaven; judgment by the people when our fake prophecies do not come to pass and judgment by God before whom we shall give account for our failure to feed God’s flock.
b. The congregation; that is, all Christians. By household of God, Peter could be referring to everyone who makes up the Body of Christ; we who claim to be children of God. Jesus Christ said: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50, see also Mark 3:35). St. Paul even says it better when he noted: “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19). St. Peter is telling us that judgment shall begin from us. Why? For our failure to live by the light despite having been privileged to have known God.
Jesus Christ warned us when he said: “And that servant who knew his master's will but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating.” (Luke 12:47-48). We who profess the faith shall receive a more severe punishment than many who do not even know Christ. If you are reading this message, consider it as God calling you once again to repent. That you are alive to this moment does not mean you are better than anyone else or that you are a lesser sinner than those who did not make it, it means that God still believes something good can come out of you.
A Second Chance.This Night, God is you another chance to re-live another Calendar year. 2021 is gone forever but January 1 is here again. Consider this as your second chance but let me be very honest with you, this second chance might be your very last chance. You might never get to re-live another Calendar year. At least, by now you must have learned the danger of Procrastination. Remember, there were many things you promised yourself to do or to accomplish in 2021 which you never did. There were many ‘New Year resolutions you made but never kept all because you felt there was time. Now, like a twinkle of an eye, 2021 is lost forever to history. The clock will never turn back. Whatever good you know is worth doing, just begin now. Today, this moment is all you have.
Try Again: Practice Makes Perfect. (The Law of Wasted Effort).Just before I began writing this homily, I read a very beautiful write-up that was circulating on social media with the title “The Law of Wasted Effort.” Do you know that “lions only succeed in a quarter of their hunting attempts? This means that they fail 75% of the time but they do not despair in their pursuits and hunting attempts - they understand the law of wasted effort… Half of the eggs of fish are eaten, half of the baby bears die before puberty, most of the world’s rains fall in oceans, most of the seeds of trees are eaten by birds. Animals, trees, and other forces of nature are more receptive of the law of wasted efforts but we humans think that our lack of success in a few attempts is failure but the truth is that we only fail when we stop trying.”
Child of God, hear this: “Success is not to have a life free of pitfalls and falls, it is walking over your mistakes and going beyond every stage where your efforts were wasted looking forward to the next stage.” In 2021, you may have tried over and over again in so many different aspects of your life and ‘failed’, now you know that you have not failed yet. Those were the wasted efforts, so go back and try again; try again and try again. Never stop at any stage of difficulty. Keep moving. Have you tried to be a better Christian and it seems you wasted your time, try again this year. Do it again. Learn from your mistakes and do things better. Let Jesus see your efforts in 2022, let your actions this new year touch the heart of Jesus like the actions of the four men who brought their paralytic friend to Him through the roof of the house where He was. (Cf. Mark 2:5, Matthew 9:2)
Don’t Be Discouraged by Suffering.In this part of the world, I can conveniently say that a lot of us suffered in 2021. This year, we faced terrible inflation in the prices of essential commodities such as food and water. We suffered greatly from the hands of bandits, gunmen, terrorists and even from the hands of our men and women on uniform. We suffered in the hands of our leaders whose statements in times of crisis seemed to make our situation worse. I can go on and on but the summary is this - If you made it this far in this country, consider yourself a survivor. You are one of the lucky few in a system that is bastardized by corruption, immorality, lawlessness, and poverty.
Surprisingly, we are no different from the people St. Peter was addressing when he wrote the fourth chapter of his first letter. St. Peter says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)
Child of God, get this message clear: The fact that things are difficult in this country today is not a justification for joining a secret society, selling one’s soul to the devil, or using another person for money rituals. There is no easy way to wealth. Do not be deceived. Jesus Christ told us clearly: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Be Positive; Put Your Hope in God, Get Rid of all Anxiety.This night, I choose to reflect on a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where He speaks about avoiding anxiety. Let us re-read His words again and allow them to sync into our minds as we approach the New Year: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). Do you get the message? Jesus is asking us: “Is not life more than food, clothing, money, etc. etc.” Do we even take time to appreciate God just for being alive? Do we know the value of our life is much more than everything we often worry ourselves over? Gratitude for life itself is the first step to avoiding anxiety. I will not lie in the name of God that I know how 2022 will be but what I know is that if you learn to be more grateful, you will notice more of your blessings than your complaints.
Jesus continues: “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30) Enter this New Year as a man/woman of great faith. Believe that you serve a God who knows how to provide, how to create dry roads in the midst of rivers, how to make ways where there seems to be no way. Expect the best. Serve God not just with your lips but with your very life. Let your light shine this New Year.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, into your hands I commend this coming year. Help me Lord to make the best of the many opportunities that are coming my way this year. Amen
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.