Homily of 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO MAKE POSITIVE AND RESOLUTE DECISIONS IN LIFE.

1st Reading: Joshua 24:1-2; 15-18; 2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:21-32; Gospel: John 6:60-69

As rational beings, everyday, we are always in a dilemma of making wise or influential decisions that would help us actualize our dreams or desired earthly goals. Even to make a choice concerning our spiritual growth, which will help us attain our Heavenly goal, is always a hard nut for us to crack.

In the FIRST READING, Joshua observed that the faith of the Israelites in their formative stage were being threatened by the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites, and thus, he reaffirmed the Sinaitic Covenant at Shechem. After recalling the wondrous deeds God had done for the Israelites out of love, He then asked them to take decisive action: “If you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose today whom you will serve…” Hence, availing them with the freedom of renewing their resolution to either remain loyal to God or not. Most of them agreed to remain faithful to God, but later apostatized.

Similarly, in the GOSPEL, Jesus observed that some of His followers found His teachings very hard to accept, and started withdrawing. He then turned to the twelve and, giving them the freedom to make a decision, asked: “will you also go away?” Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Sometimes, following Christ more closely requires a lot of patience, courage, perseverance and sacrifice. This is because, most of His teachings seem not to be palatable, and are always contrasted with the worldly standards, which are against the standard of God’s Word. Meanwhile, in 2007, I could remember when I was in a dilemma of making a firm decision; either to resign from my reputable job as an Engineer, in Port Harcourt, and answer God’s call to the Priesthood, or to ignore and abandon it. Later, after several fervent prayers/ meditations, through the help of the Holy Spirit, I made up my mind to enter the seminary; and fortunately, I am now a Catholic Priest to the glory of God. See my Biography for more information… So, it only takes a courageous person, filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit, to make a firm decision to follow Christ more closely without compromising. Can you make your own firm decision today?

However, there is no doubt that, the road of the decisions or choices we make may be turbulent, but at the end, we will never regret it. Besides, Jesus Christ even made it clear, that, in the world, we must suffer many tribulations, but we should be courageous that He has conquered the world (Jn. 16:33). He then ratified this statement and said, “anyone who wants to be my disciple must be ready to carry his/her cross (patient endurance in sufferings) daily and follow me (Mark 8:34).

Unfortunately, due to societal influences, many Christians impatiently trivialise these scriptural passages, and do not want anything that will stress their lives. They would protest vehemently that suffering is not their portion; that it is a curse. This category of people always want an immediate (sharp-sharp; ozigbo-ozigbo ministry) positive answer in every situation, and are easily provoked when their requests seem to be ignored. Another category of people literarily see Christ’s teachings as antiquated, very hard to practice, and only relevant during early Christianity. Others are “favourable weather Christians”, with microwave spirituality (hot by day & cold by night), they choose which teachings of Christ they will accept, and which ones they will reject or perhaps take with a pinch of salt. All these are as a result of lack of faith (Heb. 11:6, 2 Cor. 5:7, Habk. 2:4). Are you among any of these categories?

In the SECOND READING, St. Paul enunciates Christ’s self sacrifice for the Church as a model for us to emulate. That through His sacrificial death, which was done out of deep love, Christ made the Church worthy to be His bride (2 Cor. 11:2). Hence, Christian marriage represents and symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church; and by the virtue of our baptism, we are espoused to Christ. Consequently, this covenantal love that binds married couples, is exactly how our relationship with God should be. So, we too ought to be loyal to Christ, since His love for us is unquantifiable and endless.

Finally, we are called today to make a positive resolute choice or decision; either to reciprocate this love of Christ by following Him more closely, in spite the challenges, and earn eternal life, or abandon Him to follow other gods and loose everything.

Therefore, I pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to make wise decisions that will help you fulfil God’s divine purpose for your life aspirations, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

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