Homily of the 19th Sunday in the Ordinary Time Year B:
Sunday Homily Theme: STRESSED OUT? HELP IS HERE
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong.
1. Jokes lower stress. Having lost his job due to COVID19-related downturns, a gentleman went for a job interview, in search for a new job. The employer said: “We need someone for this job, who is responsible”. The job seeker responded: “Madam, your search ends here, in my previous job, whenever anything went wrong, they said I am responsible.” Dear brothers and sisters, many of us are stressed out due to COVID variants and other challenges of the moment. We know that jokes can relief stress, but things can still seem out of control even for the humorous. In the midst of turbulence, Prophet Elijah at first kept his sense of humor. In the contest on Mount Carmel to demonstrate the sovereignty of God, Elijah laughed at the 450 false prophets who had spent the morning calling on a non-existent deity, Baal, without any response. Scripture says: ‘When it was noon, Elijah taunted them: “Call louder, for he is a god; he may be busy doing his business or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”’ (1 Kg 18:27). But after the miracle and victory at Mount Carmel, Elijah as it were, got the blues. He could not bear it anymore. He was stressed out and burnt out. He prayed for death. That is our 1st reading today (1 Kgs 19:4-8). Tired, hungry, still persecuted by Jezebel despite the victory at Mount Carmel, misunderstood, unsuccessful in convincing everyone to worship the true God, he went a day’s journey into the desert, sat under a broom tree and prayed for death saying: “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
2. Help is Here. We heard what followed. God intervened through an angel. Food was provided. Elijah ate. But the angel urged him a second time (1 Kgs 19:7): “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” Surge comede grandis enim tibi restat via! On the strength of that food, Elijah walked 40 days and nights to Horeb, the Mountain of God. What a renewed sense of purpose, a renewed mission, a renewed and deepened relationship with God, just when Elijah felt he was done. Yes, there at Horeb, Elijah heard God not in violent winds, earthquake, or fire, but in a “silent sound”. God instructed him to anoint 2 new kings as well as Prophet Elisha to succeed him. Sisters and brothers, in the midst of disappointments, in the midst of our stressed out lives, God is giving us help by inviting us to get up and move closer to Him, to get up and enter a deeper relationship with Him, a deeper relationship that gives us renewed roles as God’s special agents of justice, love and peace. In this deeper relationship, we no longer fear the storms, the earthquakes, the Jezebels, the COVID variants whether alpha, beta, gamma or delta. We know that we can love God and neighbor in spite of all this. This is maturity in faith.
3. The Eucharist. Dear brothers and sisters, just as Elijah’s maturity in faith came through heavenly sustenance, the Eucharist is here for our spiritual journey. God who created us provides for our earthly lives. He alone can provide for our lives beyond the flesh, our spiritual lives. That is the purpose of the Eucharist. Today’s Gospel reading (Jn 6:41-51) is a continuation of our Lord’s gradual introduction to the Eucharist. First He fed thousands of people miraculously with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Then He promised to give them bread that leads to eternal life. In today’s Gospel He declared: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Of course, some believed and some found it too difficult to believe. Today, those of us who believe are now being given help from stress. We are being summoned as the angel summoned Elijah, to rise up from our stress and distress, to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace and show the effects in our lives. And, “The effect of our receiving the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive”. (Pope St. Leo the Great). This is the long journey to Heaven for each of us. This is the great journey: becoming what we have received. Becoming like-Christ to others. Eucharist is for mission.