Homily for February 16, 2018: Be a Christian, Not an Actor by Fr. Abu

“Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?” Isaiah 58:4-5.

Authenticity is a very rare commodity these days. For instance, smartphones today come with all kinds of tools and gadgets capable of making even the most ugly person on earth appear like a movie star; nothing seems real anymore. The crave for social relevance; the crave to make others fall in love with you; the crave for popularity has taken away authenticity from today’s world.

People no longer do things because they are right but because they “appear” right to others. I feel like using the word “pretense” but it is an understatement. It is sad today that people measure their net-worth in terms of their ability to gather as many fans (social media likes) as possible. Young people today do not dress just to cover their bodies but primarily to slay – to make people’s heads roll.

Today, we are challenged to rise up to a new virtue; the virtue of authenticity – living and acting based on one’s deep personal convictions of what is right according to the truth not minding people’s opinion. It takes a real man to stand up for what is right even when the whole world seems to be going the opposite direction.

In Matthew 9:14-15, we see how Jesus displayed this virtue with the issue of fasting. Jesus knew the tradition of fasting among the people but the least of his concern was to try to please the people. Jesus also know how fasting was used to attract attention to oneself just like today’s social media apps. Jesus would not allow his disciples fast because he knew that his very presence as God in human flesh nullifies their fasting. Jesus was interested in doing the right thing even if it meant loosing face with the crowd.

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Indeed, what we learn from this act is that it is better to appear like a sinner before the crowd while you are saint inside than to appear like a saint before people and remain a devil at heart. And this is what the prophet Isaiah teaches us in Chapter 58:1-9. Just as there is a type of smile that does not reach the heart (the wicked smile used by the enemy), there is also a type of fasting that is not anthentic; a fasting that condoles injustice, lies, evil, seeking of sensual pleasures and so on. Isaiah says such fasting is only for the people eyes – it does not carry our prayers to God.

Don’t be a crowd-people. Stop trying to “look” good for others; be good as your conscience says. Stop being an actor; life is not a stage and even it were, then it is a stage without an audience since everyone else is probably dramatizing on their own stages as well. Be a Christian instead, that is, live as though you are Jesus Christ himself.

Behave as Jesus would do at all times not minding how popular that would be. You be the one to start it. True fasting is not abstaining from food as many people think. No, true fasting as Isaiah teaches is creating justice for the oppressed, breaking the yoke of bondage, the yoke of slavery, kindness to the hungry, the poor and needy, clothing the naked, housing the homeless; generosity. Begin today, be real, be different, stop living, be authentic, serve God and stop acting.

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From where I come from, there are always two types of products in the market. For instance, you go to a shop to buy a television, the shop owner would tell you, this one costs one dollar, but there is the authenitic version inside which costs one hundred dollars. In truth, the one dollar television would go bad within one month of usage but the hundred dollar television would serve till you decide to gift it away. To know if you are authentic, check out how long you last; how long you continue to do good.

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, save me from inferiority complex, give me the courage to stand up and do what is right at all times even it it means loosing face with the crowd. Amen.

*Be happy, live positive, it is well with you. Friday After Ash Wednesday. Bible Study: Isaiah 58:1-9 and Matthew 9:14-15.*

Fr. Abu.

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