July 22, 2024
News Nigeria

SERMON: BISHOP AJAKAIYE ON THIRTIETH SUNDAY YEAR C

Thirtieth Sunday In Ordinary Time Year C

World Mission Sunday 23 October, 2022.

Theme: There Is Strength In Prayer.

Last Sunday, the theme of our Reflection was: The Holy Bible, Source Of Wisdom. We reminded ourselves that God’s living word was in the Bible, and it was ever powerful, active and alive. That is, God’s word is never moribund. It is limitless. It has no end. As I pointed out last Sunday: Word is powerful. It can be used positively or negatively. This is why we say in Yoruba, eyin l’ohun, t’oba b’ale, fifo l’oun fo. Literally, this means word is like an egg, and once an egg falls on the ground, it breaks. This teaches us that we think very hard before saying or writing a word. Never put your mouth in motion before a deep and sincere reflection of your thought. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, today, as we celebrate World Mission Sunday, we are focusing on the existing strength in prayer. Hence, our theme is: There Is Strength In Prayer. Prayer is very essential in our relationship with God and with one another. In prayer and by walking our prayer, we can be true WITNESSES of the Word to the world. Prayer is ‘a spoken or unspoken address to God, a deity, or a saint’. Prayer ‘may express praise, thanksgiving, confession, or a request for something such as help or somebody’s well-being’. It is ‘something that is wanted or hoped for very much’. There are various definitions of prayer, but I would like to share with you here that prayer is our discussion with God, emptying ourselves, our hopes and aspirations, to God, our loving Father and Creator. Prayer is the key to living a sincere, purposeful and authentic Christian life. Prayer is not a one-way traffic affair. It is two-way matter. Prayer, being our discussion with God, as we address God, we need to be patient to listen to Him. Prayer demands sacrifice, commitment, patience and genuine humility – total submission, to the God of Hope. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, as children of Hope, let us maintain our relationship with God in prayer ALWAYS. We must never give up on ourselves and on God, no matter the situation we find ourselves. In his 2022 Lenten Message, His Holiness, Pope Francis, urged us ‘not to grow tired of praying’ and ‘not to grow tired of doing good’. Goodness pays. To be good is to be loving, and to be loving is to be good. There is no doubt that ‘how to pray’ is a problem for many Christians. However, prayer is something we must learn by doing. In the Gospel of Matthew 6:7-15, Jesus teaches us how to pray to God, our loving Father and Creator. He gives us the ‘Our Father’. The Prayer, ‘Our Father’, is the Prayer of Prayers. It is solemn and it is the format, the structure, that we need to follow in all our prayers to God, either in personal prayer or group prayer. We are not to succumb to or copy other people in their own formats of prayers. In prayer, we open our hearts to God in supplication to Him because He is our loving Father and Creator who cares. In prayer, no matter our postures, we humble ourselves before God as we empty ourselves to Him, our ups and downs, our sadness and joy. Notably, God is EVER prepared to fill our emptiness with His strength in prayer. In the Catholic Church, we mark ourselves with the Sign of the Cross at the beginning and the end of the Catholic Church’s prayers. This is why I always appeal to people to learn to make the Sign of the Cross with reverence. Always, we must make it properly because it is the seal, the authenticating stamp. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, the great philosopher and devout Jew, Martin Buber, says: ‘All real life is meeting’. Thus, when you meet a good person and become that person’s friend, expectedly, your meeting will enrich your life. This will further a strong bond. Really, whenever you experience person-to-person contact, a dialogue, you live more fully. This is very evident in the encounter of two persons in sincere love. They nurture and cherish such love. Prayer is that encounter or meeting between us and God. In praying to God, we get strength. Prayer makes us stronger to face our different situations in life, including the difficult ones. Indeed, ‘the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds’. Never be tired of praying. To stop praying is to put an end to your relationship with God. Prayer is the key to strong living. A prayerful person is a strong person. Prayer is a dialogue between us and the Almighty God. I would like to remind us here that we speak and we listen when we meet God in our Bibles (as I pointed out to us last Sunday), in a good, quality sermon, in the Eucharistic Celebration, in good persons, in any event in our lives.My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, in today’s First Reading, Sirach 35:12c-14, 16-18b, we learn that the Lord, the God of justice, hears the cry of the oppressed and the wail, long mournful sound, of the orphan. It seems that a regular life of prayer and worship is more difficult when the sun is shining in our lives than when we get our share of life’s troubles. Definitely, we forget God so easily. Nevertheless, praying makes human beings great at the very moment that they confess their insignificance before God. Their prayer, that of the humble, the lowly, ‘pierces the clouds’. ‘The lowly called, and the Lord hears him. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted’ (today’s Responsorial Psalm). Here, we are urged to cultivate the habit of praying to God unceasingly. We are not to wait for our difficult moments, our dark periods, before we can approach God in prayer. We need God’s presence in our lives constantly, regularly. Never be afraid of praying. In prayer, we are invigorated. In prayer, we are strengthened. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, let us create time for prayer to God and let us cultivate the habit of listening to Him as well in quiet moments. This is why prayer is our discussion with God and we should have listening ears for us to hear God’s message to us, His answers, to our prayers. In the Second Reading – 2 Timothy 4:6-8. 16-18, Paul writes to Timothy from prison. He reviews his entire life and awaits his reward. Although abandoned by friends, the Lord stands by him and he is glad to point this out to us. He finds strength in his relationship with God. Paul is in jail, and he feels that the end is drawing near: ‘I have fought the good fight’. Practically, he feels lonesome, abandoned, and he expresses: ‘At my first defence no 1one took my part; all deserted me’. In spite of everything, Paul harbours no ill feeling, animosity or resentment. He states: ‘May it not be charged against them!’ Faith in God is his strength. His conviction is that the Lord will continue to rescue him ‘from every evil’ and save him ‘for his heavenly kingdom’. ‘To trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust him in the dark – that is faith.’ (C. H. Spurgeon) Paul found strength in prayer while in prison. He never gave up on God. Never give up on yourself. Never give up on God. To give up on God is to give up on life because God is the owner of life. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, God’s word to us individually and collectively is that when we are depressed, when we are lonely, let us try Paul’s example. We are not to nurse hard feelings towards those who hurt us. We must find strength in prayer. Prayer is efficacious. Prayer is able to effect something. Prayer works. A family that prays together sincerely stays together happily. In the Gospel, Luke 18:9-14, Jesus himself teaches us how to pray with humility. As a reminder, humility is explained to be ‘the quality of being modest or respectful’. Humility is a virtue (goodness, good quality), pride is a vice (immoral habit, depravity). St Gregory the Great states: Humility is the mistress, the mother, of all virtues. For Fr Emeric Lawrence, OSB, humility is a gift. Jesus states: ‘…for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted’. In the eyes of his contemporaries, the Pharisee of today’s Gospel passage was a righteous man and the tax collector the traditional crook, criminal. Yet, Jesus points to the latter, the tax collector, as the just man. Why? The arrogant Pharisee was wrong because he trusted in his righteousness and thought that God owed him something for it. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, God does not owe us a thing. The tax collector knew this. He had no merits to set before God. He could only plead for mercy. The lesson of today’s Gospel is greatly needed by almost every follower of Christ. There may be a bit of the Pharisee in us all. The one in today’s Gospel placed his trust in himself and the exact fulfillment of the demands of the Law. On his part, the tax collector placed his trust exclusively in God’s forgiving mercy. The Pharisee thought he was rich in God’s sight, the tax collector knew he was poor and in need of divine mercy. He went home justified, fulfilled, reconciled with God, for, ‘The Lord hears the cry of the lowly’. Prayer is encounter between us and God. Meeting the Most High God, we should humbly realise who we are – God’s children, God’s creatures. ‘Into your hands, O Lord, we commend our spirit. Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation’. My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, once again, today is Mission Sunday, let us resolve to continue to use our God-given gifts, talents, both spiritual and material, to serve God as His missionaries to bring the good news of God’s love and mercy to all the people we encounter daily. Pope Francis’ Message for this year’s Mission Sunday is: ‘You shall be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). Let us pray for the zeal to be God’s real and committed missionaries, God’s real and committed witnesses, not self-serving. Psalm 34 (Responsorial Psalm) The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him. I will bless the LORD at all times,praise of him is always in my mouth.In the LORD my soul shall make its boast;the humble shall hear and be glad.The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him. The LORD turns his face against the wickedto destroy their remembrance from the earth.When the just cry out, the LORD hears,and rescues them in all their distress. The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him. The LORD is close to the broken-hearted;those whose spirit is crushed he will save.The LORD ransoms the souls of his servants.All who trust in him shall not be condemned.The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him. There Is Strength In Prayer. Our God NEVER abandons us. Then, let us always remind ourselves of the words of Pope Francis: ‘It is not God who abandons us. It is us who close the doors of our hearts to God’. 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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