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Homily for sixteenth Sunday B

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

Be with himYears ago, I remember as seminarians how we were sent out to different parishes for some pastoral experience. Whenever we returned, we met with our master individually to share our experiences. It was more exciting when we come together as a group to share those experiences. Today, I imagine the apostles in that kind of excitement.

A week ago, in our gospel reading, Jesus sent the apostles out two by two on some apostolic work. Today, in our gospel, they returned to report their apostolic experience. It was obviously a beautiful report of hard work, work well done because Jesus saw the need for them to rest. They succeeded because they went out with a “staff” in their hands; they went out with the power and authority of God. The power of God cannot fail; when you go out with it, you come back with testimonies of victory.

His handToday, the apostles returned, and Jesus said to them; you must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while… The apostles needed the rest just as we all need the rest. The whole idea of rest started with God in Genesis 2:1-3, the heavens and the earth was finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day, God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. God rested not because he was tired; he never gets tired because he is power himself. He rested to give us an example to learn to rest in him. The seventh-day rest or the Sabbath rest is more than not doing work; it is about withdrawal into God to be empowered to continue the work. We are not empowered to hide or be out of ordinary life, but rather to make the ordinary life meaningful. The apostles were called to rest, not because the work was finished but because they needed to be empowered to continue the work. Yes, we all need this rest; we all need this empowerment.

The apostles were tired after doing so much work; we, too, can get tired of so many things. So many are tired of going to the hospital. Every money they get is used in settling hospital bills; they seem to be working for other people. Some others are tired of looking for jobs; they ask one question; how long will this continue? Many are tired of fighting some bad habits, sin, temptation, prayerlessness, and frustrating conditions. But the Lord says to you today, come to me, all who labor and heavily laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).

So many are out in search of this rest and, in the process, are lost. They are lost because they fall into the hands of false prophets and shepherds who pretend to have the power to offer this rest; they deceive people with the promise of all kinds of miracles without encouraging and building the faith of the people in God. They are turning Christianity into another kind of religion; they no longer teach the truth, seek first the kingdom of God, but seek all other things first, so that the kingdom of God may be added. They teach the children of God to run after miracles and not after God; the anti-Christ is indeed at work in our world today. In our first reading this morning, God rebukes such prophets and shepherd. He says doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered-it is the Lord who speaks! But the good news is that God promised in our first reading to shepherd his people himself, he said, <em>…the remnant of my flock I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers. That is what happens when the Lord becomes your shepherd; he brings you back to the pastures and makes you increase in number. The Psalmist says, the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters, he leads me to revive my drooping spirit (Psalm 23).

The Lord invites us just as he invited his apostles to rest, to rest from worries and doubts. come and restWorrying ourselves to death will not change anything. The prophet Isaiah tells us that for thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength (Is. 30:15). We have to return to the Lord in repentance, in quietness, and in trust, to be still and know that he is God. It was that quietness Jesus wanted his apostles to experience when he ordered them to come to some lonely place, to be alone with him to be spiritually replenished. It is only in resting in God we regain our strength, our hope, and our faith. We meet to rest in him at Mass and in our individual and private prayers. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).