INSTRUMENT OF CHRIST’ PEACE
HOMILY FOR FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66; Galatians 6:14-18 and Luke 10:1-12.17-20.
The liturgy of today casts our mind to the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which describes some ways we can spread the peace of Christ around us. In seeking peace, we do not only wait for others to change their ways so we can become more peaceful. Rather, we bring our sense of calm to everyone and everything we encounter. In view of this, how best can we be peaceful in a society like ours, full of hatred, injuries, doubt, darkness and sadness? How can we preach peace to people that the only language they understand is violence?
Beginning from the first reading, it is pertinent that we have background knowledge of the book of Isaiah, the longest prophetic book written between 6th and 8th century BC. Invariably, not all of it goes to the 8th-century prophet Isaiah. The book has three main sections: 1. the pre-exilic (known as the first Isaiah from chapters 1-39) covers the period prior to the Babylonian exile between 742 and 701 BC. Within this period, Assyria captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel and took the ten tribes into captivity). 2. the exile (known as the Second Isaiah or Deutero-Isaiah, which covers the Exile period in chapters 40-55, written in about 550 BC). 3. The post-exilic (known as the third or Trito-Isaiah, from chapters 56-66, covers the years following the exile and was written about 520 BC. When the Jews began to return to Jerusalem). These sections of the book of the prophet Isaiah were compiled in different periods of over two centuries.
The prophet himself (Isaiah) or his contemporaries wrote the ‘first’ Isaiah indicating prophecies foretelling the fall of Judah to the expanding superpower Assyria (captivity of the Israelite), while members of the “school” of Isaiah in Babylon wrote the ‘second’ and ‘third’ Isaiah prior to and after the conquest of the Babylonian exile. Put differently, 40-55 was written after the experiences of the exile and 56-66 presents the return to Jerusalem with the promise of restoration, peace/prosperity to the land from their oppressor Assyria. It has a messianic message. That is why the reading tells us to REJOICE with Jerusalem and be glad for her, and it uses the imagery of a nursing mother. That you may suck and be satisfied with her consoling breasts… behold I will extend prosperity (in other translations) PEACE like a river… (Is. 66:10-13). Calling us to rejoice with Jerusalem, we recall the calamity and destruction of the city and now, God has made it possible for the exiles to return and rebuild the city. He further promised to extend peace to the city that has been denied it.
The case of Jerusalem is not farfetched from our nation, where many have been killed and some others are taken hostage or found in the hands of kidnappers, which is our exile. We have no security of life anymore, neither security of food nor property. We have been exposed to bad governance which represents the Assyrians of our time. Now we are in our third or Trito-Isaiah: the promise of peace and restoration. It is the period of political campaigns and the usual promises of politicians. One of the ways for us to experience the peaceful society we want and the new Nigeria we dream of, is that we must make the necessary efforts to get our Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and vote wisely even when the process appears frustrating. In the words of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, “Vote for the right person to lead this country into a better future… You cannot wish the country well and vote for someone you do not believe in.” If not, we will all continue under the ‘Assyrian’ kings or presidents of our time and their dominance. If you are among those with the mindset that your vote is insignificant, just allow one mosquito into your room and see the effect after some days. Your vote counts!
The gospel pericope presents to us the commissioning and missioning of the disciples, sent two by two with proper orientation to bring and give peace. Christ warns the disciples that he is sending them as defenseless lambs into the midst of wolves. Contextualizing these wolves, they are those who do not want peace or the good of society. They constantly aim at disrupting the peace of the environment. They are sadists and do not like to see others smile. They always think of worsening our situation and dumping us in the mud. When Christ asked the disciples to carry no purse, no bag nor sandal, he wants them to depend solely on God to provide for their needs. We also as missionaries of Christ must put our trust in God that soon, peace will be restored in our family, nation and world.
The act of Christ sending us like lambs in the midst of wolves; he invites us to be instruments of peace. Christ calls the seventy to offer peace without first trying to assess the worthiness of the recipient. Kind words won’t win every one but will win some. Let us not be among those who instigate a fight, or quarrels, but let us be ready to transform our world from a culture of war and hatred to a culture of peace. We can begin this from the family background, groups, and the society we find ourselves in. Let us show the world that the kingdom of God has come near by our way of life, motivating reconciliation, love, and peace among men. With this, just like the prophet Isaiah calls us to rejoice in Jerusalem, Christ calls us to rejoice in these Christian virtues, for our names are written in heaven.
The message of peace continues in the second reading, as St. Paul prays for peace and mercy upon all who walk by this rule, who form Israel or the people of God, by the marks of Jesus which we bear from the day of our baptism and the rules we are to keep are embedded in his commandment. Similarly, the prayer for peace by St. Paul continues in his letter to Colossians, which is the gospel acclamation of today: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart”.
When we allow this peace to flow into our hearts and guide our lives, we become fulfilled and satisfied like children sucking from the consoling breasts of the mother. Our communities and the entire world become wonderful places. Let our peace be contagious by affecting others positively and let us pray like St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.” Peace be with you all!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ