Homily for 16th Sunday in ordinary time
Dearly beloved, we thank God who by his mercies has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. We thank him who has made it possible for us to gather in his presence as one big family. We recall in the book of Genesis; chapter 12 when God chose Abraham and the Jewish nation from among all nations. He chose them to be a light through which all other nations on earth will come to know him. That is, through these 12 tribes, all others may come to know God.
In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we read of how God lamented on the waywardness and scattering of the people, a situation he blamed on its leaders who he calls shepherds.
“Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
However, he made a promise to gather his own people …
“I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
You all know this righteous shoot from David of course is Jesus.
The gospel today is a direct continuation from that of last week. We saw how Jesus called the 12 and sent them out. In effect, what the 12 tribes have failed to accomplish, these 12 were to get done. Did they succeed? The response is what we read about in the gospel today.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
Unlike the leaders of the Old Testament’s 12 tribes who watched as the people scattered, these 12 leaders had the people coming together to seek the Lord. And when Jesus himself saw how determined they were in their search, he spent time teaching them himself, He the “righteous shoot from David”. The promise from our first reading is therefore fulfilled in the Gospel reading today.
By virtue of our choice through baptism, we carry the same responsibility as the light to others in leading them to Christ. How much of a light are you to others? Take a look at your life since baptism and consider the number of people who through your light have come to know Jesus. (At least your children or spouse, friends, neighbors and colleagues)
Now turning our attention to the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, last week we started looking at the letter to the Ephesians.
For those visiting and those who were not in town last week, just some few remarks for you to keep up. First I appealed and emphasized that we all try and read this short letter with only six (6) chapters. Hope you did. How many have done so? How many of you read?
Dearly beloved, the story of how Paul came to Ephesus is what I referred you to read from Acts 18 and 19. Ephesus was a big city. For over two years Paul had a successful mission with many people turning to the Lord. Many years after he moved on, he was imprisoned in Rome. It was from prison that he wrote the letter to the Church in Ephesus. The movement of thought in this letter can be divided into two equal halves from chapters 1-3 and from 4-6. In the first half, St. Paul explores the story of the gospel as to how all history came to its climax in Christ Jesus and his creation or establishment of a multi ethnic community of his followers.
We looked at Chapter 1 last weekend where Paul begins with a typical Jewish poem where he praises God for what he has done in Christ Jesus. For eternity passed, the Father has a purpose and plan to choose and bless a covenant people and here, think of the family of Abraham. However, now through Jesus, anyone could be adopted into that family (baptism). Again Paul noted how Jesus’ death covers our worst sins, our worst failures, etc. and in Jesus we find God’s grace, God’s grace, which opens for us a whole new way to understand every part of our lives in the eyes of God. Our being chosen is the work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In chapter two from where our second reading is taken, St. Paul goes back to chapter one to elaborate on some key ideas namely God’s grace that has established this new multi community of believers. He begins by retelling the story of how those of us who are non Jews came to know Jesus. Before knowing Jesus, although we were physically alive, spiritually we were dead. We were trapped in a purposeless life characterized by selfishness and deceived by dark spiritual forces of evil (rulers of the air, v. 2). Our story however changed forever through the great love and mercy of God who saved us and joined our lives to Jesus’ resurrection. By so doing we have come to be alive so that now they are alive. So now, having been created as new human beings through Jesus, we have the joy of making further discoveries of what this entails.
One such discovery is what has been outlined in our second reading today. I see our passage in more of a liturgical underpin, access to God was more directly through worship in the Jerusalem temple. By the order of God himself, the temple had three major divisions. Men had a different chamber from women and children. The sick had their chamber too. At the outer court was the chamber for the gentiles. They were within the very last chamber from the holy of holies. They were symbolically cut off from God in the temple.
But now, listen to Paul again from the second reading (read the second reading). The walls which were legally raised between God and the gentiles have been broken down so that together with the Jews, all gentiles may have access to God.
If Jesus had gone through all that for you and I to have access to God, what excuse can we give for not building a deeper relationship with God? Looking at our world today, there are people who are still behind some illegal and artificial walls of racism, color, language, health, social status. Are some people unable to experience God for some of these reasons; far from any of us, to be the reason why some others find it difficult or impossible to have access or a relationship with God?