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Homily for Seventh Sunday of Easter C

06 May 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Oneness of the ChurchA few days ago, we celebrated the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, and in a week, we shall be celebrating Pentecost Sunday, the descent of the Holy Spirit. In-between the ascension and Pentecost Sunday is what one Rev. Fr. Michael Woolley rightfully described as a “mini-Advent.” Advent is the time to wait in faith and hope, but this faith hope has been badly ‘injured’ by the spirit of doubt. I have heard so many Christians complained that God ignored their prayers, that God no longer hears or answers prayers. Some even get angry with God and walk away from his ‘presence’ into the waiting hands of the devil.

I remember discoursing this issue with a brother who thought that God no longer answers prayer; I referred him to our gospel reading this morning where Jesus prayed not only for his apostles but also for those who, through the apostolic preaching, would believe in him. He prayed that they might be one. But the question I ask today is, how one are we today? Churches keep breaking up; different Christian denominations are springing up, Christians see themselves as enemies and attack each other; yet, Jesus prayed that they might be one. Can we, therefore, say that the Father did not answer the prayer Jesus made? Certainly no, we rather resist the answer, the will of God for us to be one. Jesus set an example for us in the garden of Gethsemane where he prayed that the cup of suffering is taken away from him, but he willingly surrendered to the will of the Father. God still answers prayer, but we sometimes resist his will.

God’s will for us is to be one, to be united in faith and love. That is what is lacking in many homes, in many families, Churches, and in the world today. Many homes and families have given the devil the chance to disorganize and destroy their oneness, no more peace, no love. We see elements of tribalism, hatred, and wickedness in Churches. We see verbal and even physical attacks within and between Christian denominations. Citizens are becoming refugees in their own Countries and nations rising against nations, but Jesus prayed; Father may they be one.

Today, we are reminded of the oneness of the body of Christ and the need to rise against whatever divides us. Though there is so much division in families, in Christendom, and the world today, we can still give God the chance to create that oneness in the world; It begins with me, with you, and with us. The key is forgiveness.

In our first reading this morning, we see Stephen, even in the phase of death, forgave and prayed for his murderers. Stephen was one of the deacons in the early Church chosen to see to the needs of widows. In the early Church, the Hellenist murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of goods, so Stephen and six others were chosen to assist. Even though Stephen was chosen to serve the needs of widows, he spoke the word of God with such wisdom that no one could withstand him. He was full of grace and power, and God worked wonders and signs through him. He was arrested and stoned, but he cried out, Lord, do not hold this sin against them before he died. He forgave and prayed for his murderers, a heroic thing to do.

Torn piece of paper with the word "Forgive" in the woman's palms.

A torn piece of paper with the word “Forgive” in the woman’s palms.

Through forgiveness, we give God the chance to answer the prayer for oneness; forgiveness destroys the spirit of division in the Church, the family, and the world. Let us allow God to do great and wonderful things in our lives, in our parish, in our families, and the world as he did in the life of Stephen. Stephen was a man chosen to do a very humble job of serving widows; in that modest task, God lifted him and did something extraordinary in his life. In our forgiveness, God can also do something great in our Church, our lives, and families. Let us, therefore, pray this day for the courage to let go and give peace a chance through Christ our Lord.