HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A
When I reflect carefully on the causes of the numerous wars, disputes, misunderstandings, feuds, etc., that plague many nations, states, towns, villages, and even families, I often come to the conclusion that some of the root causes are frequently stoked by greed, arrogance, bigotry, tribalism, discrimination, etc. However, research in psychology and psycho-social studies demonstrates that wherever humans live together or are brought together for any reason, conflict is likely to arise because of their cultural and psychological differences as well as their unique personalities.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROOT CAUSES OF CONFLICT
In the first reading, the early Christians encountered the aforementioned problems among the Hebrews (Christian converts among Jews who had been brought up in Israel) and the Hellenists (Christian converts among Jews who had traveled abroad and adopted Greek traditions). The Hellenists complained that their women were treated unfairly when food and palliatives were distributed. This engendered misunderstanding among them, which wanted to jeopardize the mission of the disciples. Obviously, this passage highlights the inherent cultural and psychological differences among humans, which contribute to conflicts when they live or come together.
THE NEED FOR PRAYER AS A PREREQUISITE FOR RESOLVING CONFLICTS
The disciples did not trivialize the matter or take sides, but they initially prayed earnestly for divine intervention. As the scripture says, “Call me in times of trouble, I will answer you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). So, in order to dedicate themselves to prayer and the preaching of the Word of God, they chose seven (7) deacons and laid hands on them, entrusting them with the responsibility of serving food. Subsequently, the chosen deacons facilitated the equitable distribution of resources, leading to greater harmony. This helped to quell the dispute to a greater extent.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY AND SUPPORT
The readings of today, especially the first, emphasize the significance of service, support, nurturing harmony and prayer in remaining in Christ and growing in faith. Here, we see the importance of community and the support we can receive from our fellow believers.
The apostles appointed seven men to serve the community and ensure that the needs of all were met. This spirit of service and support is essential to remaining in Christ and growing in faith. Of course, that is one of the most effective ways of resolving disputes or challenges instead of engaging in unnecessary altercations with people (1 Peter 5:7).
JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE
Brethren, as we go through life, we are often faced with many challenges and difficulties. It can be tempting to turn away from Jesus Christ and rely solely on our own strength and understanding. However, this path only leads to spiritual emptiness and despair.
Amidst all the challenges we face in life, Jesus Christ still encourages and assures us in today’s gospel passage not to allow our hearts to be troubled. That He has gone to prepare a place for us. A place of eternal rest after our earthly suffering (John 14:1-2). He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It is only by trusting and remaining focused on Jesus Christ that we can find true fulfillment, happiness, and the way to eternal life Hebrews 12:2).
WE HAVE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD
In the second reading, St. Peter reminds us that we are all part of the spiritual house of Jesus Christ. According to him, we are living stones, united in faith, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and people of God who are called to proclaim the goodness of God in the world (1 Peter 2:9). This sense of belonging and purpose is crucial to remaining in Jesus Christ and staying strong in our faith.
As we reflect on the causes of conflict in the world and within our communities, let us remember the importance of nurturing harmony and unity. Jesus reminds us that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to the Father, and it is only through Him that we can find true peace and joy. By staying close to Him through prayer, reading Scripture, and participating in the sacraments, we can grow in our faith and love of God and one another. Besides, our sincere love and support for one another can be seen when we eschew greed, arrogance, bigotry, tribalism, and discrimination.
Also, no matter the challenges or disputes we may encounter, we should first seek divine intervention through prayer. Embracing the spirit of service and support can help us overcome these challenges. So, let us recognize our belonging in the spiritual house of God by nurturing harmony and always keeping our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus Christ. By remaining in Christ and growing in faith, we can contribute to building stronger communities and fostering understanding amidst diversity.
I pray that amidst all conflicts and divisions, you will always seek divine guidance. May you always reject arrogance, bigotry, tribalism, and discrimination, instead, nurturing harmony, embracing unity and support within your community. May the Holy Spirit, grant you the grace to serve one another selflessly, strengthen your faith, and keep your hearts focused on Jesus Christ. May you courageously seek divine intervention in times of dispute and proclaim God’s goodness to the world, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.