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Homily for fifth Sunday of Easter C

22 Apr 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Paul and BarnabasToday in our world, many show a lack of interest in the meaning of the names they bear; people nickname themselves and answer all sorts of names. I believe that there is power in names; God himself had to change some people’s name to bless them. There is much more to names than just identity, and of all names, the most powerful is the name, Jesus.

In our first reading this morning, we meet two men who had their names changed, and they worked together for the good of the Church and the glory of God. Paul and Barnabas.

Paul, before his conversion, was called Saul, a Hebrew name meaning “ask for” or “inquire.” After his conversion, he took the name Paul, which means “small” or “humble.” Humility is a virtue we must not ignore; when you humble yourself before God, he lifts you. He lifted Mary in her humility and pulled down the proud, and St. Paul says in Eph. 3:8-9 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. Despite Paul’s ‘smallness,’ God made him an outstanding preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, an apostle to the Gentiles. Together with Barnabas, they put fresh heart into the people; they encouraged them to hold on to Christ even in the phase of persecution.

Barnabas was originally called Joseph, but in Acts of the apostles 4:36, the apostles surnamed him Barnabas, which means Son of encouragement. He encouraged Paul after his conversion; together, they traveled around preaching the word of God, as reflected in our first reading this morning. They taught the people not to be discouraged by their hardship; they taught the people to learn to follow God in good and bad times. This is not an acceptance of suffering; nobody wants to suffer, nobody prays for it. But Paul and Barnabas tell us that if we have to go through it for the sake of the kingdom of God, to God be the glory.

HopeNo doubt that there is so much hardship in our society today; there are so much wickedness and evil in our world. In the midst of these all, Paul and Barnabas tell us to learn to say with faith; my redeemer lives.  In this world, there will be persecutions, there will be troubles, but the redeemer lives. Let us continually renew our strength in him and mount up with wings like eagles. The wind of wickedness, persecution, and hardship must not blow our faith away. Let the devil not take advantage of the moment to destroy the confidence we built from childhood, the faith of our fathers.

In our second reading, John saw a new heaven and a new earth; he saw the city and glory of God. He heard a voice that assured him that God would wipe all tears from our eyes and make all things news. The God who can make all things new at the end of time can equally renew things today. God knows how old we have become, how sin and human wickedness have made us old, but the mercy of God can make all things new again. So, no matter the situation, do not give up on your Christian faith, do not let the confidence you have in Christ go. In all things, we are conquerors; we must learn to live in victory through Jesus Christ. That is what faith is all about. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says in chapter 11:1 that Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Things may be complicated right now, there may seem to be no way forward at the moment, but by faith, we believe it will be well.

Like St. Paul, let us humble ourselves before God and acknowledge the richness of his grace. Let us encourage one another in the Lord like Barnabas. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.