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Homily for fifteenth Sunday B

13 Jul 2018, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

In twosIn my homily a week ago, I reflected on how we can go beyond the limit the world sets for us with the help of God. His own people rejected Jesus because they said he was supposed to be a carpenter and not the messiah. In our first reading today, Amos is rejected by Amaziah, the priest, because he was seen as a mere shepherd and not God’s prophet. Amos was asked to leave the so-called royal sanctuary and the national temple because it was not a place for jokes, for he was seen as a joker. Amos admitted that he was not a prophet before he was called; I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,… I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.Amos is a prophet, therefore, because the word of God says so. You are what the word of God says you are; if the word of God says you are blessed, you are blessed. The word of God is power and authority; the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb. 4:12. The word of God is the sword of the Holy Spirit (Ehp. 6:17); in Isaiah 55:10-11, we are made to understand that the word of God accomplishes everything it is sent to do. Whatever the word of God is sent to do in your life, it will be accomplished because the word of God does not return empty. By his word, God created the world, and at the fullness of time, the word took flesh and redeemed the word. The same word said to Amos, go and prophecy, and Amos, a mere shepherd, became a prophet of God.

Brethren, the word of God is power and authority; the apostles are empowered with it in our gospel reading this morning. Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff… . A staff is a long stick used as a support when walking or climbing, as a weapon, or as a symbol of authority or sign of office. This definition of staff opens the door to a better understanding of the instruction given to the Twelve apostles by Jesus Christ; they had to go with a staff in their hands. The staff or the walking stick is mostly used by the elderly and the weak to support and give themselves some balance. The apostles were obviously not elderly and weak men to need such support, yet Jesus insisted that they go with nothing but a staff in their hands. Moses had a staff, Aaron had a staff, Elisha had it, so there must be something special about this staff.

staffDo not be confused when you read Matthew and Luke’s reports of this same event. Matthew and Luke say that Jesus sent the Twelve apostles out and instructed them not to take anything, not even a staff (Mt. 10:5-10 and Lk. 9:1-3). This is not a contradiction; Matthew and Luke are not contradicting Mark’s report, no. The three evangelists say the same thing, the apostles in Matthew and Luke’s report may not have carried the staff in their hands, but they did carry it in their heart and on their lips. God’s word is power and authority; the staff is a symbol of this power and authority. Whether the apostles carried this power and authority in their hands as staff or their hearts and on their lips, they went out with it in faith. That is what is required of us today as Christians, to go out with the staff of God in our hands. like the apostles, you and I are on a journey, a journey of life. Storms of life will surely come, and at some point in this journey, we may not be welcomed, just as Jesus warned the apostles. No matter what comes our way; therefore, no matter what happens, let us go out with the staff of God in our hands, in our hearts, and on our lips.

Do not be afraid; even if the staff in your hand at the moment is not of God, drop it, and the Lord will change it into his own. It happened to Moses when God appeared to him; he was holding a rod, just a rod. God ordered Moses to drop the rod, he obeyed, and the rod turned into a serpent. Moses ran away from it because he was ordered again to pick the serpent by the tail, he did, and it became a rod in his hand again. It was no longer Moses’ rod but the staff of God. If the staff in your hand right now is not of God, if the power and authority you go out with are not of God, drop it and pick up the staff of God, and the Lord will let you see his mercy and give you his saving help.