July 14, 2024
Reflections / Sermons

Bishop Ajakaye on Fourteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time Year C

Fourteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time Year C
3 July, 2022.
Reflection For Lumen Christi Catholic Television, Lagos.
Theme: Called To Be Optimistic

A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, blessed and joyful new month to you! By God’s grace, having concluded the first half of Year 2022, God has given us the opportunity to reflect deeply on how we spent the first six months of this year. Also, as we commend ourselves to God totally in this second half of the year that we have just begun, sincerely, let us walk and work in the path of Faith, Hope and Love and make wherever we are better than the first part of 2022. Best and prayerful wishes to you. Last Sunday, the theme of our Reflection was, God’s Call: A Call To Discipleship. Then, we reminded ourselves that God’s call was total, a selfless call, call to honest witnessing, not for selfish motives, not for competition, not for popularity, Today, the theme is, Called To Be Optimistic. God’s call is a call to be hopeful, to be optimistic, to be positive, as we think of the ‘Already’ and ‘Not Yet’ of God’s reign. It has been observed that the decades after World War II have seen many nations emerging from the mixed blessings of colonialism to self-determination, self-governance. In such nations, the urge for freedom was great. In fact, in their struggle for independence, many of their people risked their lives to oust the colonialists. Having been successful, jubilant celebrations took place when finally the flags of dominance went down and their own flags were raised. However, these nations quickly discovered that gaining freedom was one thing, while building up economically strong nations with a reasonable well-being for all is another one. To gain political freedom is not an easy task at all. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, the Jews who returned from exile in Babylon had a similar experience like the one highlighted regarding the nations gaining their freedom from their colonialists. Reconstruction entailed much frustration, much disappointment. Where were the blessings (Shalom, peace, spiritual prosperity) promised them by God’s holy men, the prophets? Understandably, Christians who take a life of Christian witness seriously may also be frustrated. Time and again, they read in their Bible that the reign of God (justice, love and peace) has been initiated in this world. However, there are Christians who look in vain for an abundance of it in their children. For their part too, today, many young people are critical of what the Church has ‘failed’ to do or ‘failing’ to do and they criticise, and there are those of them turning away from the Church. Not only that, there are Priests and Consecrated Persons (male and female) even afflicted with the same problems of disappointment and frustration. After years of serving in the suburbs, a dedicated Priest or Religious may feel disappointed. In spite of this, today’s Readings preach optimism. Indeed, this is what we are highlighting in our Reflection today. God has called us to be OPTIMISTIC, no matter the situations we face as individuals and groups daily. Thus, we must never succumb, surrender, to evil and fear. Any terrorist attack on people anywhere is to instill fear on the people. May evil not triumph over us today and always. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, in the First Reading – Isaiah 66:10-14, we are told to have hope. We are to keep hope alive and active in our lives. Here, in the passage, we observe Prophet Isaiah’s address to his fellow citizens who had returned from exile in Babylon. He urged them to rejoice, for they had regained at least relative freedom. He compared the holy city, Jerusalem, with a mother who received the returning exiles back at her breasts, bringing them joyfully to herself. With the realities of life, the prophet was well aware that rebuilding a ruined country was not so simple; it involves much disappointment and frustration. Hence, he also consoled his people by telling them to rejoice, to have hope. He assured them that sometime in the future, God Himself would bestow shalom – spiritual prosperity on His chosen people. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, let us apply this promise to our own situation, especially as we continue to experience myriads of problems in our Nigeria. With the involvement of God in our lives, having been called by Him, we have been freed from the alienation/exile/bondage of evil, and that of fear. Nevertheless, we do not yet share in the shalom, peace, and blessings of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ we have to live with. Let us make today’s Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 66) our prayer of thanksgiving for what we possess as Christians, and keep our hope, once again, alive for perfect happiness to come. Let me be a Christian in reality, and not only in repute (St Ignatius of Antioch). The Second Reading, Galatians 6:14-18, reminds us on the need to be created anew. In this reading, Paul refers to what he had to suffer as a missionary. Most of his pain was caused by his fellow Jews who did not accept his vision of the new Israel of God. According to them, Gentiles who joined the group, the Church, should be circumcised according to the rule of the Jewish faith. Paul stated that it did not matter. In Paul’s words all that matters is ‘a new creation’. Furthermore, he said: ‘Peace (shalom) and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule’. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, to uphold our optimism, let us accept this admonition of Paul as God’s message to us. We are created anew, in a new way, reborn from water and Spirit. This is what gives us real peace, and this constitutes the reason for our gratitude. A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty (Winston Churchill). In His call to us, His children, to be optimistic always, God assures us of His strength. This is amplified in our today’s Gospel – Luke 10:1-12, 17-20. What Jesus said to the Twelve, that is, the Apostles, in Luke 9:1-6, in his commissioning of his mission to them, now, Luke has him say the same thing to the seventy others he sent ‘two by two’. The numbers symbolise respectively the twelve tribes of Israel and the nations of the world. The essence of the Christian blessing (God’s gift to humankind) is shalom, peace. On entering any house, the seventy were to say first of all: ‘Peace to this house’. Also, the next part of their message as directed by Christ should be: ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’. The mission of the seventy was successful. In fact, they expelled demons. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, we may ask: What actually happened? Some good was done by those who received the message. Much evil went on as before. This is the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ of God’s reign in each individual and in the world at large. Shalom, peace, spiritual prosperity, is with us. We should be ever grateful for what God has given us in baptism. But we should realise that God’s reign is only initiated in this world. Full realisation and perfect bliss will come later. A Christian can be an optimist always, as long as he or she does good to the best of his or her ability. The honour of God should be the aim of everything (St Ignatius of Antioch). Our call by God is not a call for popularity. It is not a call for competition, not a call to be popular or for us to promote our selfish interests, selfish motives. To do otherwise is an invitation to God’s wrath. Therefore, I remind you of the words of St Augustine that I quoted last Sunday. If I sought to please men (women) I should not be the servant of Christ. As a reminder, on Pentecost Sunday, 5 June, 2022, at St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, there was massacre of worshippers by evil armed men. This bloody crime is indeed against God and humanity. This month of July, the Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have called all and sundry, especially Catholic Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful for special prayers to commemorate the tragic event and of the departed souls. The Bishops have directed that special prayer and fasting be observed on Tuesday, 5 July, 2022, exactly a month after the occurrence. The Bishops have stipulated that the programme of the day include the following:
Bible Reading and Reflection (Romans 8:31-39) Rosary Prayer, where possible in procession
The Prayer Against Bribery and Corruption In Nigeria The Prayer For Nigeria In Distress
Conclusion with the Holy Mass or Adoration and Benediction.Finally, the same programme, except for the fasting, is prescribed, to conclude the exercise on Sunday, 10 July, 2022. The Bible Reading for Sunday Reflection is 2 Corinthians 4:7-11. Psalm 66 (Responsorial Psalm) Cry out with joy to God, all the earth. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth;O sing to the glory of his name.O render him glorious praise.Say to God, “How awesome your deeds!” Cry out with joy to God, all the earth. “Before you all the earth shall bow down,shall sing to you, sing to your name!”Come and see the works of God:awesome his deeds among the children of men. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth. He turned the sea into dry land;they passed through the river on foot.let our joy, then, be in him;he rules forever by his might. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth. Come and hear, all who fear God;I will tell what he did for my soul.Blest be God, who did not reject my prayer,nor withhold from me his merciful love. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth.My Brothers, Sisters and Friends…. With confidence in God and Christ being our strength, wherever God leads us, we FOLLOW with joy, commitment and happiness.

Most Rev. Felix Femi Ajakaye
Bishop of Ekiti.

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