You do not belong to yourself - 2nd Sun during the year 14 Jan 2018

Friends, "you do not belong to yourself. God has bought you and the price is paid. " It means that our life is a treasure given as a gift. "But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the mighty power should be God, not come from us" (2 Cor 4: 7). We do not aim at the visible, but at the invisible. The visible is perishable, but the invisible is eternal (2 Cor 4:18). For in him, it is as we live, and move, and have our being ... (Acts 17:28). "For in you is the source of life, in your light we see light" (Psalm 36: 9). We live in a materialistic atmosphere where we have difficulty prioritizing spirituality. Paul's life teaches us never to be too sure of our cause. It's always wrong to kill others because they do not think and live like us. In a world characterized by injustice, cruelty, violence, poverty, hunger and distress strikes the eyes, Prophets like Samuel are needed.

The first reading is about Samuel's calling. Samuel lives with Eli the priest. He was born after his mother Hannah had asked God that if she were to have a child she would give him back to God for the child to serve God. Samuel's life is a promise. In Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25a, the angel of the Lord comes to a childless woman saying that she would give birth to a son, a nazarite of God, and call him Samson. Like Samson, Samuel was a promise child. He was God's answer to a childless woman, Hanna. Like Samson, Samuel was already touched by the power of God from his mother's womb. Even in his mother's womb he belonged to the Lord. Now it's time for Samuel to start serving God. It would seem he had lived in the temple for a considerable period and received all the training and mentorship of Eli.

"The young Samuel lay asleep in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God stood". Our home is in the Lord. The Lord's house is the place where he wants to meet us in a special way. It is important that we feel at home in God's house, our shelter and refuge. Hannah promised God that Samuel would be dedicated to the service of God. And she fulfils the promise.  That we see him in Elijah's house is a confirmation that she kept her promise to God. Now Samuel had to take responsibility for this promise when he came of age. How many times do we promise God something that we then forget and ignore after God did it for us? Samuel is a reminder to all of us to keep our promises to God. What about the promises our parents made to the Lord before we were conceived? Are we keeping those promises or have we abandoned them?

"But the Lord calls again on Samuel for the third time." We live in a world where there are many voices in and around us. With these amount of voices, it may be very difficult to distinguish the voice of the Lord among all other voices. The house of God makes it easier for us to hear his voice when he calls. Three times God called on Samuel. God never gets tired of calling on us. He wants us to listen and hear when he calls. To hear him, we need the help of mentors who have walked this way. Eli said to Samuel, go back to sleep. When he calls again say speak Lord for your servant hears.

"But Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him" A prerequisite for the Lord to be with you is that you belong to his house and you hear when he calls. Through the years you have been brought up to engage yourself with the Lord’s business. It is like saying zeal for the house of God should consume us. “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (PS 84:10). Those who dwell in the house of God receive the assurance of his salvation. God abides with them fast the even falls, when shadows deepen, he is with them.

One thing I've learned in my 50-year life and almost 20 years as a Catholic priest is that true joy can only be given to a person who focuses on the bigger picture of solving humanity or others' problems. It is the only way to true greatness both here in the world hereafter. Jesus did not think of themselves but neighbour. "We who are strong are obliged to bear the weaknesses of our weak and not to serve ourselves. "(Romans 15: 1). Christ never sought his own best. “I, myself, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved” (1Cor 10:33). The way to happiness is never to seek your own gain at the expense of others. The people of Israel requested for a king of Samuel because his sons Joel and Abia, who were judges over the people, sought their own advantage. "But his sons did not walk on his way, but turned away from it and sought their own gain. They took bribes and distorted the law (1 Sam 8: 1-4). Conflict, wars, poverty are caused in many causes by judges who choose to subvert the cause of justice and make the innocent the guilty one. In many places, they do with impunity. Without judges with honour and integrity, democracy can hardly survive in any place. Today, this is the case in many poor countries. The love of money has stolen the consciences of many people entrusted with arbitration, maintaining law and order between people.

When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, two of his disciples heard it and followed Jesus. Have you thought about how many of John's disciples were there that day? Why was only two of the disciples that heard and followed Jesus? Hearing in this context must mean much more than just hearing the words. It must also mean an inner understanding and readiness to act according to what the words say! When Jesus turned around and saw them, he asked, "What do you want?" Jesus's question is as topical today as it was when he addressed it to the two disciples. Jesus constantly asks us each day: what do you want? For someone to find something, it is necessary to have the goal clearly in sight. It seems that the disciples knew what they were looking for. For them, the purpose of life was to find the Messiah-Yeshua. It was also the most important treasure for them. Surely, they must have overcome many resistances before they left to seek him.

"We have found the Messiah". With these words, Andrea's joy and confession expresses his ability to find the joy of his life. Every person has something that he or she aspires to. It can be something spiritual or material. Seeking God is always an adventure. Only the one who is determined finds him. Our calling always has a missionary dimension. All who are called has thus been given the task of sharing the Messiah with other people. We have received freely and freely are we to give.

None of us belongs to ourselves. We belong to the Lord and each other. Some people think the best in life is to live on one's own terms. But I mean that anyone who lives on his, her or someone's condition lives in folly. The righteous live in and for the Lord. They never live for themselves. This means that what we despise we should not wish or do against a fellow human being. If you refuse to live in poverty and hunger, you should not establish, maintain a system that leaves fellow human beings in what you would never wish for yourself or those you love. In Samuel's life, we learn that how we shape our lives is our own choice. Samuel's sons did not walk after their father. They chose the dark though they had been raised in the light. This may be comforting for parents who did their best to raise their children in God's ways but eventually these children chose a different path from the Lord.

Without Jesus we would be lost, without him life would be without meaning. In him, with him and for him, we have life in abundance (John 10:10). In the church we are given the opportunity to meet Jesus and be transformed by the meeting, live by His love and share with us and give him to others.  We Christians are privileged and receive the gift of faith (Enuma) to convey to all around us. Only when we open to the Lord's transforming power can we become true instruments, joy-bearers who give peace. Each of us may imitate and follow Jesus in a unique way. Each of us in the Church of Mary Magdalene has a unique task in this community that the Lord through His Church has called us. Because our church is called after the St Mary Magdalene, the Apostle of the resurrection and Apostles of the Apostles, we can count on her prayer to make us joyful bearers of the good news for our families and surroundings. She will inspire us to genuine love for Christ so that we can pattern all our life after his gospel.

We do not belong to ourselves. Therefore, we are not entitled to do as we please with our lives or with someone else's life. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It does not belong to us. Contrary to what many say, we do not have the right to do with it as we please. It is outrageous how the inviolability, holiness of life has been politicized by many people in the world so that life for many has become interchangeable. There can never be an acceptable explanation or acceptable excuse for violence against or killing fellow human beings, even the unborn child. Attacks against fellow human beings because to skin colour, religion, gender, nationality or ethnicity can never be justified. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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