THAT MOMENT WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST AND SUDDENLY GOD ENTERS! HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

when all hope is lost

Have you ever experienced a dead-end-situation in your life? A situation where there seems to be no solution to your problem; when no help can be found at all. That moment when you practically give up and expect the worse to happen. A situation that can be likened to the plight of the people of Israel facing the vast and awe-striking Red Sea in front of them and the deadly pursuit of Pharaoh and his men behind them. Have you been so hard pressed and at the point of no remedy and suddenly something happens and you get through! Like the people of Israel crossing over the Red Sea and their pursuers getting trapped in the sea?

Once upon a time, a ship carrying a lot of merchants got wrecked on the high sea. All the passengers and the entire crew got drowned and died except one man who was luckily thrown onto an uninhabited island by the sea waves. After sometime he managed to build himself a hut by the side of the sea where he got minimal protection from the elements and wild animals. He kept praying to God for deliverance, and anxiously scanned the horizon each day hoping to see a passing ship. But no help came to him and he was becoming weak and was gradually giving up hope for survival.

One day, on returning from his usual hunt for food where he got nothing, something terrible happened. He saw his hut going up in flames! Where the fire emanated he could not say. “The worst has happened!” He cried. He was totally heart broken and thought of ending his life instead of dying out of frustration. But again something happened! Behold a ship emerged from a distance and started heading to his direction. He was shocked and overjoyed at the same time.

When the ship finally came, the captain confirmed that they were seeking out bodies and properties from the wreck and they were about going back with the bodies and properties they recovered when they saw a smoke from a distance and decided to come to see if someone was safe in the island. That was how the man was saved. That moment when he lost all hope and was even about ending his life, the misfortune of his hut that got burnt became his saving grace.

In the First Reading today (Job 7:1-4.6-7) we encounter the famous “patron” of suffering namely, Job. Within the pericope he was lamenting with a note of desperation over his predicament. It is pertinent to recall that he lost everything he had in one day including his children and his vast wealth. Job was practically in the eye of the storm of hopelessness. His friend Eliphaz had come to console him and remind him of his great strength that used to be a solace for many. Contrariwise Job saw gloom in his condition. Life for him became empty because nothing worthwhile seem to come out of it.

We are often like Job that moment when we have so many troubles confronting us from various angles. Sometimes they become so unbearable that we seem to be on the verge of breaking. It could be family issues, career related challenges, financial potholes, relationship strains and indeed so many others.

The good news is that God is aware of everything that is happening to us and He has the right answers for all our questions. At the inception of his work; that moment when he felt he could not do it God spoke to Joshua saying:

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. (Joshua 1:9).

We see the same assurance of divine presence being expressed by the prophet Isaiah (43:1-2) when he spoke the word of God to the people saying:

But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Job did not end his life in suffering. After passing through those turbulences, God reversed his condition and he recovered all that he lost and even got more (Job 42:10). The difference between Job and some of us is that while Job believes strongly that he has a living God who will make all things new in His time, we often forget that our redeemer lives (Job 19:25).

God has not promised us total exclusion from the storms of life but He has promised us that He will be with us as we PASS THROUGH them (remember you are just passing through). Often we make the mistake of telling God how big the storm is instead of telling the storm how big our God is.

In the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:29-39) we are presented with Jesus’ encounter with various people with various challenges including the mother-in-law of Simon who was sick with a fever. From the narrative it is very clear that Simon’s mother-in-law and the other people who later came for healing were in hopeless situations. They were experiencing the height of their various challenges and suddenly Jesus Christ came and everything changed. It was as if they were waiting for him to come. Of course those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).

A very close look at the Gospel would reveal a very important thing our Lord did which connects us to the Second Reading (1 Cor.9:16-19.22-23). We are told that the next morning, after healing the mother-in-law of Simon and others, our Lord Jesus Christ went to a lonely place to pray. While he was there, a lot of people came looking for him at Simon’s place. When Simon and others found him and reported that people were looking for him he said to them: “Let us go on to the next towns that I may PREACH there also”.

The emphasis on the afore-stated response of our Lord is on preaching. St. Paul in the Second Reading shocked the Corinthian church when he declared woe upon himself if he fails to preach the word of God. The preaching of the gospel for him remains a necessity and a commission he has no right to boast about.

This offers us a framework for reflection as it is clear in our day and age that many people like in the days of our Lord run after men of God not because of the hunger for the word of God but account of the signs and wonders, nay miracles they anticipate. Those who came looking our Lord in the morning were not doing so because of the hunger for the word of God but because of their interest in physical healing and miracles.

As we reflect on the word of God today, let us be conscious of the fact that life may be full of cross roads but God will always make uncommon ways for us (Isaiah 43:19). That moment when all hope is lost, remember that someone truly and really cares about you and that is God. Storms are real but they do not last forever. Like Job do not quit; hold unto God and His words and you will win at last. Be conscious of the fact that winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win.

Have a great Sunday and a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie

(fatherbonny@hotmail.com)

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