Homily for the Twelfth Sunday, year A.

In our first reading we see the attempt to terrorize the prophet Jeremiah, but he refuses to be terrorized or intimidated by terrorism. He hears so many disparaging him, terror from every side. Those who used to be his friends turned against him, they set traps for him and watched for his downfall.

Jeremiah was insulted, abandoned by his friends, thrown into prison for doing what God asked him to do. But he refused to be bullied into agreement with his accusers, not because the insults did not get to him, not because he did not feel the pains of been abandoned by friend; he was not immuned to pains, he was human like you and me. But he held onto his mission because he believed that the Lord is at his side, a mighty hero. Jeremiah committed his cause to the Lord, he remained strong despite the persecution because of his faith in God’s caring love.

So many years after Jeremiah, Jesus instructed his apostles not to be afraid; Do not to be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Jeremiah was never afraid of his persecutors, he never allowed himself to be intimidated into accepting the oppressive demands of his enemies, to lose the power of the word of God. So also Jesus tells his apostles not to be afraid because everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. In other words, the truthfulness and the power of the word of God cannot be conquered. The word of God is God, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn. 1:1).

Just as Jeremiah refused to be intimidated and the apostles charged not to be afraid, so also we are called today not to be afraid. The call not to be afraid does not mean that there will be no intimidations, terrorism and all kinds of bullies; they will sure come. Jesus knows they will come and that was why he advised the apostles beforehand not to be afraid. As we struggle to live the Christian life, there are so many things that may try to intimidate us to doubt our Christian faith. In this part of the country, we may not be experiencing the kind of intimidations Jeremiah and the apostles faced, but in some other ways the devil tries to intimidate us into living a life of fear. There are some Christians today that are beginning to doubt the Church while some others are even doubting the power of God. Many are running from one ministry to another and in the process run into the waiting hands of the devil. The economic situation in our country and in some other parts of the world have boxed some Christians to a corner where they now feel that the only way out is to take to crime, to sell their souls to the devil. God is becoming powerless for some Christians, they are now in search for a so called higher god that is quick to solve problems. But as believers we must not let ourselves be destroyed, to be separated from the love of God. St. Paul wrote; Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,For thy sake we are being killed all day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:35-37).

To be a true Christian is to be prepared for battles, anointing attracts persecution. We must be conscious of the fact that we live in the world but not of the world, so the world will fight us. The attacks and the  humiliations we sometimes face does not suggest divine weakness or absence, but truthfulness and faithfulness of God. God is truthful, he did not and he is not deceiving anyone into following him, he never promised a smooth journey. God is faithful to his promise to be with us to the end of time, so there is no need to be afraid. God knows everything, we are much more than the sparrows. If God takes note of everything that happens to sparrows, then how much more about us? Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So, there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

In today’s liturgy we are encouraged not to be discouraged, but to hold on to our faith no matter what comes our way. The redeemer lives; he who declares for him will be declared for in the presence of the Father, and he who disowns him will be disowned in heaven.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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