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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Fr Ebido says 'Words have power' - ITREALMS

SundaySermon@ITREALMS:
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 12/20) 

Narration: Okwuchukwu is an orphan. He had a very difficult childhood. His uncle was very poor, and could hardly feed his family of eight with his subsistence farming. So, Okwuchukwu learnt early to fend for himself. He picked palm kernels, cracked them, and sold them to feed, and go to school. 

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Luckily for him, after his primary education, a relative of his mum, Mr Ifesie, came and took him to the city of Lagos to be an apprentice under him as a trader (in building materials). He was to be an apprentice for five years. Okwuchukwu turned out to be an obedient, honest, and very industrious child that at the end of five years, Mr Ifesie wanted to retain him as a partner, but he pleaded to be allowed to begin his own business. Mr Ifesie painfully obliged him.

On the day he celebrated his freedom, his master asked him to kneel down for a blessing. He poured out beautiful prayers on Okwuchukwu, asking God to protect and prosper his ward beyond his dreams. It sounded like ‘mere words’ of prayer, but Okwuchukwu cherished every word of that blessing. 


Though his Master only gave him little money to “settle” (support) him in his new business (according to Igbo tradition), he believed he will do well on the strength of that prayer. Given that he could not pay for a new shop, he had to run around looking for customers inside the market (ígbá-ósó-áhía); and when he finds one, he takes them to where they could get ‘high quality’ goods at ‘good prices’. He leaves it to the customer to give him whatever he/she prefers as appreciation instead of putting his own gain on the price, as most ‘hustlers’ like him do.

One day, one of these customers, a company MD (he didn’t know it then), who have observed his conduct for a while, requested that he become a major supplier for their new Head-office. Providence smiled on Okwuchukwu that day. It changed his life for good. Many years later, he refers to the prayers of his Master, Mr Ifesie, for his luck. Is he right?

Sermon: I imagine you’ve been wondering where I am going with this story? If you take time to read the three readings of today (Is 55:10-11; Rom 8:18-23; Matt 13:1-9) you may not find a connection apart from the first reading: God compares his word to the rain that does not fall on the ground without watering the earth; so his word does not return to him without achieving his purpose. However, in Romans, Paul speaks about how ‘everything in creation’ has been “groaning in labor pains” for its deliverance – and that includes all of us.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the sower – the Word bears fruit in some and not in others. But he makes a disturbing statement: “Anyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; from he who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” The connection between the three readings is in that story.

God’s providence and blessing in our lives is a combination of hard-work, human favour, and God’s Mercy (his Good pleasure). Everything in this life is at the Mercy of God, who subjects the entire creation to futility.

Note that ‘success’ in life is not the same as ‘fruitfulness’. Many have duped other people to become ‘successful’ but they are not ‘fruitful’ – they don’t bear fruit that lasts. Often, it comes to nothing. All that was ill-gotten may be lost or taken away by strangers (or even neighbors or friends). Our achievements are not deep, but scotched by the sun, or our hearts are pierced by thorns, and its attendant many sorrows. The treasures of this world are nothing compared to spiritual treasures.

So, when we have material treasures as our priority, this “little” earthen treasures shall be taken away, leaving us empty, bereft of the true treasures, or spiritual blessings. Why? Because, we loot, lie, cheat, kill, abuse, all for the sake of it. We become accursed by the word we disregard. But when hard-work is supported by honesty and faithfulness, the ‘human voice’ not only confirms the recipient’s integrity with a “human blessing,” but also constitutes the channel through which “heavenly blessings are mediated.

This is why it “bears fruits that last”. It starts with spiritual treasures, in the form of obeying God’s commandment: ‘integrity, honesty, hard-work, selflessness, justice’ etc. However ‘little’ we have of these, more ‘talents’ shall be given! And we will grow rich!

Therefore, God’s word do not return to Him empty because it effects either a ‘blessing’ or a ‘curse’ in our lives based on our conduct towards the same WORD OF GOD (See Deut 30:19-20). So Okwuchukwu is right. Interestingly, his name means “the Word of God!”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you subjected everything in creation to futility as we await the revelation of the Children of God. Please grant me the grace I need not just to listen to your word, but to put it into practice. In this way, your blessing is sure.


🙏🏽©️Fr Augustine Ebido, O.P.

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