HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR  A

HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR  A

Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 69; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33

We have four sets of homily notes to choose from. Please  scroll down the page.

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Rev. Fr Galadima Bitrus, OSA: Overcoming the fear of living God’s will

Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Do not be afraid 

Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe: Have Fear of GOD,  But Do Not Be Afraid of human beings 

Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Live the Word above worldly threat

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Rev. Fr Galadima Bitrus, OSA

Overcoming the fear of living God’s will

In the past few Sundays, we celebrated foundational feasts of our faith that reminded us about God’s essence, his relationship and constant presence with us, and his unfailing concern and care for us. Today, as we return to ordinary Sunday liturgical celebrations, the readings capture our daily struggles as people of faith, people who want to live God’s purpose and do his will. The readings take us through the dialectic of the presence of forces that threaten us when we try to live God’s will versus the reassurance of God that if we persevere, his presence with us shall see us through.

In the 1st Reading (Jer 20:10-13), Jeremiah laments and takes us through the obstacles that he needed to overcome as he traced his way to fulfilling his prophetic call of proclaiming God’s word and will to the people of his place and time: “‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my familiar friends, waiting for me to stumble” (Jer 20:10). In the presence of all the plotting and conniving against Jeremiah, the prophet did not lose sight of the fact that God is on his side and therefore, although he may laugh last, he will surely laugh best: “But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; therefore my persecutors shall stumble; they shall not prevail and shall not succeed…” (Jer 20:11).

The Psalmist (Ps 69:7-13.16.32-34) expresses a similar concern, whereby for the Lord’s sake he suffers taunts even from family members: “It is for your sake that I have been taunted, that shame has covered my face. To my own kin I have become an outcast, a stranger to the children of my mother” (Ps 69:8-9). Just like Jeremiah, the Psalmist is confident too that with God on his side, he may laugh last but will surely laugh best: “The lowly will see and rejoice; God-seeking hearts will revive; for the Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his own in their chains” (Ps 69:33-34).

In the 2nd Reading (Rm 5:12-15), corresponding to the dynamics of the forces that constitute an obstacle to the realization of our divine calling versus the grace to overcome such forces, is the dialectic of sin versus grace typified in Adam, the old man and Christ, the new man. Through Adam, sin and death which threaten God’s will for us, came into the world. Through Christ, grace which restores us to divine design, abounds. By grace, God takes sides with us in a radical way in Christ Jesus. Hence, as long as we stand with God, we may laugh last but we will surely laugh best!

In the Gospel (Mt 10:26-33), Jesus exhorts us not to entertain fear in the face of those forces that threaten our determination to reciprocate God’s faithfulness, love and care: “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known” (Mt 10:26). God stands with us and cares for us. He cares even for creatures less valuable and does not abandon them: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father…so do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt 10:29-31). Jesus admonishes us to reciprocate this faithfulness by not being afraid to acknowledge him before men who can at worst, only kill the body but cannot kill who we essentially are, our soul. We cannot be afraid to acknowledge the author of life in order to save the life he alone can give and take.

Many and diverse may be the obstacles on our way to responding to God’s call and fulfilling his will. Jeremiah in the 1st Reading particularly identifies his familiar friends; the Psalmist identifies his kin and family; Paul in the 2nd Reading identifies our inherited sinful nature; Jesus in the Gospel identifies men with the power to kill the body. In all these, the antidote is the same: persevering in the Lord who calls and sends, the Lord who has placed in us the zeal for his house, the Lord who gives grace and the Lord who has power over both body and soul.

May we have the courage to confront our fears and those things that constitute an obstacle to our realization of God’s purpose and will for us, with the assurance of unfailing divine presence thanks to which, although we may laugh last, we are sure to laugh best!  Happy Sunday!

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Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai

DO NOT BE AFRAID

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Fear is one of the most popular weapons the enemy uses against the children of God. Fear can overwhelm us with a thick shadow of darkness, controlling every move and decision we make. Today a lot is happening around us, ranging from conflicts, persecutions, violence, crime, natural disasters, terrorism, economic uncertainty, unemployment, divisions, diseases and death. Thus, we live in fear consciously and unconsciously. Fear is therefore a reality in the human society and in the life of every Christian. The bible knows this reality and so the Bible mentions two specific types of fear. The first type of fear is beneficial and is to be encouraged. The second type of fear is  detrimental and is to be overcome. In the gospel, Jesus draws our minds to this two kinds of fear when he says do no fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

The first type of fear is the fear of the Lord. This type of fear does not necessarily mean to be afraid of something. Rather, it is a reverential admiration of God. Fear of the Lord brings with it many blessings and benefits Proverbs 1:7 says, it is the beginning of wisdom. The second type of fear is the detrimental fear and 2 Tim.1:7 says it is a spirit, called the “spirit of fear”. It is this kind of fear that Jesus addressed when he says in the gospel “do not be afraid”. This statement is to encourage us every moment of our lives.

Prophet Jeremiah had every reason to be afraid of those who were planning his down fall and who wanted him silenced because they did not like his preaching. Yet, he stood his ground because God was on his side. If God is on our side we cannot fall aside, no matter how men may try, no matter their plans we cannot fall aside. Rom.8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us? 2 Kings 6:16 “Do not be afraid,” Elisha answered, “for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Psalm 118:6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Jesus says in the Gospel “do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. Isaiah 8:10 says “Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; state a proposal, but it will not happen. For God is with us.” Isaiah 41:10 says “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will surely help you; I will uphold you with My right hand of righteousness.”

Beloved, we must believe these words of scripture, this generation needs men who can stand for the Lord like Jeremiah, irrespective of what we lose we know that God will never fail us.  Men like Peter and Paul when they realized their position in Christ they did not fear death. The martyrs and the saints did not fear death and they were acknowledged in heaven. if we too rise up in similar courage we shall be acknowledged in heaven. Jesus himself says in the gospel of today, Matt. 10:32-33 “Therefore everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men,I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.

The Gospel further prepares our minds on what it means to face persecution. Jesus first of all, made us to understand that we are his disciples and he is the teacher and so in Matt. 10:24 he says a disciple is not above is teacher, nor a slave above his master. He then lets out the reality in verse 25, that “if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household!” We should not be discouraged when men persecute us or say all sorts of things against us, when men who delight in gossips continue to say ills about us. Again, we should not be discourage when false accusations are laid against us. Jesus says in verse 26, “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known”. Jesus reminds here that we do not have to have all the answers or convince everyone. In God’s time, not mine, all will be made clear. Therefore, do not be discouraged and do not be afraid. Jesus himself says “Even the hairs on your head are counted”. This is a perfect illustration of God’s personal love for each of us. God bless you.

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Rev. Fr. Paul K. Oredipe

Have Fear of GOD,  But Do Not Be Afraid of human beings 

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The Gospel’s dominant theme this Sunday is that Christ frees us from fear and anxiety. 

Today’s gospel is a continuation of the instructions that Jesus gave to the twelve apostles as He sent them out to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. 

This gospel contains a number of ideas but they all can be summarized in this phrase: “Have fear of GOD, but do not be afraid of human beings.”  Jesus says: “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear rather him who has the power to make both the soul and the body perish in Gehenna (hell).”  We must not be afraid of, nor fear human beings; we must fear God, but not be afraid of Him. 

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us “not to be afraid,” to keep our priorities straight.  He tells us that we should not even be afraid of people who could kill us when we stand for His truth. 

Fear is not an evil in itself.  It is often the occasion to reveal unsuspected courage and strength.  Fear can really become an evil that consumes and does not allow one to live, rather than being a stimulus to react and a spring for action, it can become an excuse for inaction, something that paralyzes. 

There is a real difference between being afraid and having fear (or fearing).  Being afraid is a manifestation of our fundamental instinct for preservation.  It is a reaction to a threat to our life, the response to a real or perceived danger, whether this be the greatest danger of all, death, or particular dangers that threaten our tranquility, our physical safety, or our affective world. 

The Gospel helps to free us from all of these worries and reveals their relative, non-absolute, nature.  There is something of ours that nothing and no one in the world can truly take away from us or damage.  For believers, it is the immortal soul.  For everyone, it is the testimony of their own conscience. 

The fear of God is quite different from being afraid.  The fear of God must be learned: “Come, my children, listen to me,” a Psalm says, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (33:12);  being afraid, on the other hand, does not need to be learned at school; it overtakes us suddenly in the face of danger; the things themselves bring about our being afraid. 

But the meaning itself of fearing God is different from being afraid.  It is a component of faith.  It is born from knowledge of who God is.  It is the same sentiment that we feel before some great spectacle of nature.  It is feeling small before something that is immense; it is stupor, marvel mixed with admiration. 

Beholding the miracle of the paralytic who gets up on his feet and walks, the Gospel says, “Everyone was in awe and praised God; filled with fear they said: ‘Today we have seen wondrous things'” (Luke 5:26).  Fear is here simply another name for stupor and praise.  Hence we say: “the fear of GOD is the beginning of wisdom”.  As always, the Gospel does not only illumine our faith but it also helps us to understand the reality of everyday life. 

Jesus is asking us to trust Him.  He is asking us to throw in our lot with Him, and He promises to see us through.  When Jesus tells us not to be afraid of human beings, He is not promising that we will be protected from all the perils of the world.  He is not pretending that people whose sole concern is their own interest will not continue to take advantage of others. 

If we choose to follow Him, we should not be surprised if this brings us some of the negative reaction that He himself encountered. 

On the contrary, He warns us that we will have to undergo hardships, perhaps even death.  However, He gives us the assurance that God will be with us to strengthen us to face whatever evils we must endure.  Jesus promises that His Father will reward us for our fidelity – faithfulness. 

The way to overcome this fear is to look up to Jesus who has demonstrated by His rising from the dead that in the end every lie will be exposed, the truth will come to light and justice will again be just. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (verse 28). 

By looking to Jesus we see that the trials and sufferings of this life, especially those that we face as we try to live out and share our faith with others are short-lived.  We should, therefore, not give in to fear of contradiction, knowing that in the end truth with triumph over untruth, justice over injustice, and eternal life over death, as we see already in the life, death and resurrection of our Master, Jesus Christ. 

Although we are in this world, we must keep our gaze fixed on the world to come, and live for God by pursuing the spiritual standards given us by Christ.  “As for me,” St Paul said, “the only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). 

But the task of Christians is not, as it were, to wage any kind of vendetta against the world.  Indeed, the world is also the object of God’s love, and He wishes to save it.  “For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (John 3:17).  We should never, then, be taken aback by encountering the opposition of people whose lives are governed by purely worldly motives. 

When the Apostles were apprehensive about the future, Christ encouraged them, “Don’t be afraid.”  Don’t be anxious about the trouble the future may bring, about your material needs, not even about threats to your lives.  The most important revelation about God to emerge from the gospels is that He is a caring God, a compassionate forgiving God, and a God who is on our side. 

Our attitude to God must be that of the psalmist when he says, “In God I trust – I shall not fear” (Ps 56:11).  Instead of dominating my actions by fear, God gives me the courage to be myself, to be guided in everything I do by Christian beliefs which have become part of me, transformed me, as they did the disciples of the Lord.  The only thing I should fear is the loss of God, the loss of trust in God.  This lack of trust begins when I look for security through my own efforts, in the works and wealth of my own making.  Jesus criticized the feverish efforts, the anxious haste and worry of those worldly people, who refuse to grant God any part in their lives.  “In God I trust – I shall not fear.” 

When in Gethsemane the reaction of his human nature to the terror of what lay ahead was such that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood, nevertheless, his prayer to his heavenly Father was still, “Not my will but yours be done.”  No matter how awful the future may seem, this should be our prayer too. 

Today’s first reading reminds us of the trials of the prophet Jeremiah, and the Gospel speaks of our duty of witnessing to Christ in the world – both are reminders that all members of the people of God are potentially prophetic and that all should play some part in handing on the truth about God.  In a sense, we are all successors to Jeremiah and to the apostles whose job it was to share Christ’s message with the world. 

God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, but he refused because he was young.  God responded, “Do not be afraid … for I will be with you to protect you.” 

Jeremiah is tested.  He decides to give witness to God and chance persecution from the politically powerful men gathered around the King.  He decides to fear God rather than be afraid of men. 

Fear God.  That is a biblical concept that is often misunderstood.  It does not mean that we should be afraid of God.  It does not mean that we should not develop a personal relationship with the Lord.  But it does mean that we should respect God, reverence God, and be infinitely more concerned with fulfilling the Law of God than with the way others might respond to our Christianity. 

The prophetic role of the people of God, as taught by the Second Vatican Council means that every Christian should give a living witness to Christ, at least through living a life of faith and charity and by joining in worship and prayer. 

Jesus warns that being a Christian will cost sacrifice and suffering.  When you live according to his teaching, you will be swimming against the tide of a materialistic culture and will not find the going easy.  We are bound to face opposition from a world that does not gladly submit to the word of God, that makes so many demands on human nature. 

This promise once made by that loving woman, Ruth, reminds us that Christ will live and go with us, wherever we live and wherever we go.  Christ asks each disciple to be his partner in the work that God the Father sent him to do in this world.  And He promises to be our partner, whatever our work, whatever kind of life we live, wherever we go. 

We follow Him, trusting that He is with us, not just for a moment, but for the whole of our lives.  Wherever we go, however we live, “the Lord is our my side.”  His commitment to us is lifelong despite our own inability to think of Him always, or even despite our occasional thoughtless rejection of him.  The mystery of God’s call to us and of our response to Him is that He is always there for us.  “I am at your side; you are my friends,” said Jesus, even to disciples who sometimes lose the way. 

 “Do not be afraid.”  This is a powerful statement from Jesus about the cost of discipleship, and the expectations He has, and the promises He makes to those who follow him.       When everything is going my way, it is easy to believe in God, in myself, and in others.  However, it is when the going gets tough that the tough get going. 

If this ideal of going the journey of life with Christ seems beyond our reach, remember how once He said to his friends, “With men it is impossible but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”  I follow Christ best when I realize that the gospel ideal is beyond the reach of my own strength.  It is then that I can lean on Him and build on the strength of the Lord who is always at my side. 

This is the message contained in today’s Old Testament reading and, especially in today’s Gospel reading.  This is the good news that Jesus wants to share with us today, just as He shared it with his followers in his lifetime here on earth. 

Where there is faith, fear has no place.  Our ministry should derive from faith, lead to faith, be sustained in faith and endure in faith.  Without faith it becomes mere manipulation for selfish ends. 

“In the world you will have hardships, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.” (Jn. 16:33) So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Mt. 10:31)  Brothers and sisters, God will never abandon us.  We must go to Him, using all the means we need to employ.  At all times, tell Jesus with the confidence of one who has taken Him as his Master, and wants to follow Him unconditionally.  

A rather peculiar poster carries the following inscription:  “Faith sees the invisible,    Faith believes the unbelievable, Faith receives the impossible.”  So I say to you once more; in the words of Christ, “So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you … stay faithfully and be grateful. 

It is the faith that Jesus encouraged in the gospel and it is the faith that is so often needed in life’s situations today.  Real faith, authentic faith and mature faith; the faith that sees the invisible; the faith that believes the unbelievable; the faith that receives the impossible. 

Again, we may not know the future, but one thing we know for certain is the ONE who has the whole time and creation in His hands – our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  May God bless you, and may He watch over you, and provide for you abundantly in your entire life, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

And for all of us, may the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the everlasting love of God the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever. Amen 

 

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Fr. Evaristus Okeke

Live the Word above worldly threat

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It is in the nature of the Word of God to spare no one. Its tenacity cannot be truncated by another irrespective of wealth or social standing. It is not like human judgment that dances to gallery of the highest bidder. The truth of the gospel is a double edged sword that does not spare the minutest falsehood. For this reason, it becomes a challenge for whoever bears this Word of God and is committed to preaching it. A knife could be dangerous but the anger arising from the pain it causes, is channeled to the one handling the knife.

This perfectly captures the situation Jeremiah found himself in today’s first reading. For the reason of the Word of God he preached, he not only lost his close friends, but they also conspired against him. Probably they would have preferred Jeremiah to confront other people with the truth but not them who are his friends. Again, they may have attempted to use the outspoken and highly respected Jeremiah to testify in their favour when they acted maliciously. In all of these, Jeremiah is not cooperating. When evil is not able to corrupt good, it calls the good, evil. Sometimes, people tend to render support to others but only to the extent that it entirely benefits them and costs them nothing. Be careful of friendship that is based on convenience.

In the gospel reading, Jesus told his apostles they must not comply with the World when it refuses to comply with the Word. The threat of the world amounts to nothing because the one who is the Word has conquered the world. Jesus went on to warn that on the last day, they threat of the world will not be an excuse for not preaching the Word. God continues to assure us of his protection when we live and move in Him. He further warns us not to be deterred by the fear of death for death no longer has the final say. When good men die, they are not lost; rather, they become forever victorious. Stand for the truth always and you will never be lost. God Bless You!

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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