You live as you think -22 Sunday A, 2017

Friends, today we celebrate the sixth anniversary of the dedication of our Church. When we think back, we can be proud and filled with gratitude for all that God has done for our parish and in our individual lives. Our Church has become a place appreciated by all who come here. With its simplicity and cleanliness, it easily invites all visitors to reverence and an encounter with the living God. Many have been renewed and transformed in their faith through our church and many will also continue to meet God in a special way in this church in which we as members are incorporated as building blocks.

Life is hard and often miserable for many people. God seems far away and rarely intervenes in the events of life. Some show no concern for the things of God and trample everyone else while looting resources that are for everyone to themselves while a lot of people lack even the necessities of life. It is estimated that every seventh person in the world is traumatized because of war, domestic violence, natural disasters, conflicts in communities, hatred, discrimination and other enduring experiences. Many people feel dead inside and many go through the hardest moments in their lives right now. Fear, worry, bitterness, hatred and loss of faith in the future make most people aggressive and make many blame God for their miserable lives. It hurts deeply when God does not seem to care about what's happening to us. The wicked do what they want against us, and God does not seem to punish them. Yet the light will continue to shine in the darkness.  Our parish has become a place where God always waits for his place.

The hope that gives wings to our dreams is based on a transformation that takes place through the renewal of our thoughts. Every person lives as they think. There is a struggle going on in each human being’s mind. Without winning this battle, one cannot become a new creation in Christ. The old way of thinking must give room to the new one. Everything must be new in Christ through the renewal and transformation of our thoughts. In addition, God gives in his grace light to our inner eye which enables us to see what hope he has called us in our renewed thoughts.

Our world has become a place where to be accepted, one must become politically correct. Success in the world's sense depends on how much you adapt to this world and its values. This has probably become one of the most important instruments that the ruler of this world uses to lead people away from God. A prophet's mission has become a painful one in our day. To live and place politically correct thinking above God’s words is idolatry. This must be combated both in individuals and in our church and in our society.

Jeremiah, son of a priest from Anatot not far from Jerusalem, was told that in his motherhood he had already been chosen for his prophetic mission. He was chosen against his will. He served in the gloomiest period of the sacred history, before and during the deportation to Babylon around 600 BC. He complained, yet he was not freed from the service to be the language of God. He was forced to tell the truths no one else would or dared to convey: Never do I laugh with happy friends. I sit alone, the weight of your hand, for your wrath fills me "(15:17). Ideally, he wanted to renounce the mission. He wanted to live in peace and quiet. He accused God of deceiving him: You deceived me, Lord, and I let myself be deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed (20: 7) He cursed like Job the day he was born: “Cursed be the day I was born!   May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!” (20:15). He was insulted, ridiculed and persecuted, unpopular with those who were his closest. He could never marry or experience joy to become a father himself (16: 1-4). Arrested and abused he ended his days in Egypt. Nobody knows where he was buried.

Jeremiah endured his mission as an inevitable disease. It was God's power that drove him. God's word was his food (15:16). It was his pleasure though it caused him great pains.  "I have become like a drunk, like a man drunk with wine because of the Lord, because of his holy words" (23: 9). False prophets let the tongue run and pretend it is the word of the Lord. God turns against those who prophesy lying dreams telling them and misleading the people of God to perish with their lies and their cries, though the Lord has not sent them and did not give them any assignments (23: 29-32). God watches over his word until it bears fruit (1:11). We can learn from the story that even prophets can speak falsehood in order not to hurt. Fighting and standing by the truth is a constant battle for us humans. Jeremiah would rather be freed from his mission.

Among the prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah was the one who most closely resembles Jesus in his suffering. Jeremiah warned his people on the consequences of their way of life and foreign policy. Jeremiah was a person of peace. God commissioned him to destroy and build up (Jer. 1:10). Being in constant conflict with his society was a heavy burden for him. It was painful. He did not like what he had to say to his people, yet he was compelled by God to do it. He loved his people and land, but they regarded him as a traitor because he spoke the truth in the name of God. In Jeremiah's life, we ​​can see that God's mission to a human being cannot be without its cross. So far, none of what he had predicted had happened. Therefore, the people made fool of him and laughed at him all the time. They thought that his prophecies were empty words. Jeremiah wanted to stop prophesying so as not to be mocked. But he had no choice but to keep speaking in the name of God. The Prophet Amos had the same experience (Am 3: 3-8). It is in times of crisis, dangerous times and times of persecution that our Christian faith is tested.

Peter's reaction when he heard Jesus say that he would die to enter his glory shows how our way of thinking could be a barrier to reaching God's will (Matthew 16: 21-27). Peter took Christ apart and began to reproach him. Perhaps there have been situations where family, friends and those closest to us have tried to prevent us from standing for truth and justice, doing the right for ourselves. They advise us not to stand on the truth and speak out when needed because of the risk to our lives. It is often about fear. They do not want us to face any evil, hatred from cruel and heartless people. Through his word and life, Jesus has shown how to act when truth and justice are at stake: "Stay in your place, Satan. You want to make me fall because your thoughts are not God's but humans". If a person is not prepared to sacrifice, she cannot be prepared to walk in Jesus' path, or deny herself, take her cross and follow the Lord.

If we really know God, then nothing can separate us from His love. Christ's love urges us. This was what Jeremiah experienced in his life when he said: "The Lord persuaded me, and I am persuaded. He grabbed me and I became overwhelmed. Those who know the Lord will not cease to testify about him. The word of God will burn in their hearts like a fire. Therefore, we can agree with the Psalmist who says: "My soul thirst for God, the living God. Early we are seek for him. Our soul thirsts for the Lord, our body longs for him like a dry land that fades without water. He who loves him will always lift his hands in his name, praise his name and be protected in the shadow of his wings.

What is expected of us is to offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice to God's mercy. A spiritual life is like a liturgy, a worship service, a sacrifice to God. Poverty, sickness, persecution and suffering are heavy crosses that only Christians can bear because of the hope that they have and the evidence of that hope. Many sell their soul for a life of riches that may last for 50-70 years. True Christians know that our home is in heaven (Matt 21:21).

The Apostle Paul understood very well that our world could become a danger that removes us from the divine life. Therefore, he warns: “Do not adapt to this world, but let's be transformed by renewing your thoughts. Repentance means changing mindset, how we reason and see things. Without this happening in our lives, we cannot determine what is the will of God, what is good, pleases him and is perfect (Romans 12: 1-2). For this to happen in us, our inner eye needs to receive the light of God so that we can see what hope he has called us to (Ephesians 1: 17-18). If we think and act like we are of the world, we will be far from God.

Without prophets the people are deceived, says Proverbs 29:18. False prophets abound in this time. The devil tempted Jesus with bread. Prosperity, control and security have become the temptations of our time. The social utopia ruins everything. The devil requires obedience and loyalty. Our time requires separation, assessment, reassessment. As Christians, we are called and chosen among many, to be under a higher force. A prophet acts with religious authority, judges his time and gives guidance. The prophet interprets the story. Through short-sightedness, many have died and are no longer aware of threatening dangers.

If we are reflective, we can see that every day involves challenges. They can be small or big. Life is a constant challenge to repentance. When we can see ourselves as we are, then we can sincerely pray for mercy and grace. It's only when we can see ourselves in God's light that we can truly practice mercy. Then we know that we are living of by the goodness that we cannot enforce or acquire ourselves. Then we understand that we need mercy. Only in this way can we learn to become people who show mercy to others and in this way become more like God. We will always need the gift of goodness and forgiveness. We will always need the sustaining grace of God. Grace transforms, mercy is what can bring the best in us humans.

The anniversary of the dedication of our Church celebrated today will be a reminder to us that the Church of Jesus holds the truth of all salvation. In this church, we have a mother who has everything in abundance and allows all her children to share in this. Now it's up to everyone to choose to stay home or go away to a foreign country. Such a country seems to be pleasurable, but in reality, it's just a phony of joy. Therefore, it is an illusion when someone leaves the Mother Church to seek happiness, peace, power, honour and success elsewhere. Everything else can give a sense of satisfaction but, in fact, cannot give a happy life. Therefore, as Catholics, we praise and rejoice in the Lord that God finds us worthy to share in the life of his Son. All he has becomes ours. This becomes real when a person has a personal meeting with God. We have forgotten Jesus' timeless question: "What does it profit a person if she wins the whole world but has to pay with her life?" (Matt. 16). These words of Jesus have through history transformed many lives. May it also continue to transform us who hear it today. To win something valuable you must be prepared to lose something. Only those who lose themselves in Jesus can win what is everlasting. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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