Saint Stephen's Statue.




12, Gbeto Street, Off Iwaya Road, Onike-Iwaya, Yaba-Lagos.

Saint Stephen's Building.


Why are you afraidOn this nineteenth Sunday of ordinary time, the Church joyfully reminds us that Jesus our Saviour is always close to us. He calms the storms of our life. He lifts us from the depths, and restores our peace. The presence of the storm, and all that it represents definitely makes us confused, and afraid in life. Thus, it equally deprives us of our peace. However, we can always receive God's consolation and comfort when we retire inwards to be with Him, as He encounters us in the stillness of our hearts.

Like the disciples in the gospel we all battle with the storms of life. They were “battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind.” This is the reality of life. All of us have storms in life, regardless whether we are young students in school or in tertiary institutions, youths or adults, working or retired at home. This life is fraught with challenges. This is true even when we are successful or when we do good. "Storms" are part and parcel of our human existence. They are inevitable in this world, just as the waves are inevitable in the sea, and death is inevitable to us.

Indeed, this was the case of Elijah.  He had just performed two great miracles by his efficacious prayers to God. He had won victory over the false prophets of Baal and killed them. Secondly, he performed the miracle of the rain as Israel was in drought, demonstrating the power of Yahweh and who the true God is. Instead of being impressed, Queen Jezebel was enraged when she heard how Elijah destroyed her prophets. She decided to eliminate Elijah and went for his life. We can imagine the anti-climax that Elijah must have experienced after being elated at these two victories.  Victory turned to discouragement, fear and loneliness. He had to flee for his life. Alone and discouraged, he sought refuge in the desert. He wanted to die and felt defeated and useless. “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kg 19:4b)  

When we cannot continue to fight the battle when we have lost our focus, our direction and our sanity; When we are angry, disillusioned and resentful like Elijah, we cannot remain objective. Instead of reacting negatively to situations and people who are against us; If we retaliate like our opponents, then we will fare no better than them. That was what Jesus did not do. Instead, He retreated to find focus. When we find ourselves overwhelmed by problems and demands, one after another. There will always will be an urgent need or thing to do but we must find the window for us to escape to pray as Jesus did. So too God led Elijah away from the troubles that were overwhelming him. He came to comfort Elijah and led him through the desert to Mount Horeb, where He revealed Himself to Moses. From Beersheba, Elijah walked through the desert to the Mountain of the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, covering almost 250 miles.

In solitude and in silence, the Lord comes to our lives and puts all things in perspective. So we must look for God in silence; not turn to the pub, or alcohol, or social activities to drown our pains and frustrations. They will only lead us to more problems and more frustrations. But like Elijah and Jesus, we must make the inward journey into ourselves and then the upward journey to God. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God, supreme among the heavens, supreme on the earth."

Brethren, we need to call Jesus in the storms facing the Church and our lives. Let us approach Jesus with strong faith in his ability and availability to calm the storms in the life of the Church and in our lives. Church history shows us how Jesus saved his Church from the storms of persecution in the first three centuries, from the storms of heresies in the 5th and sixth centuries, from the storms of moral degradation and the Protestant reformation movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the storms of sex abuse scandals of the clergy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 

It is the presence of Jesus which gives us peace even in the wildest storms of life: storms of sorrow, storms of doubt, tension and uncertainty, storms of anxiety and worries, storms of anger and despair, storms of temptations. Storms reveal to us our inability to save ourselves and point us to the infinite ability of God to save us. When Jesus shows up in our life’s storms, we find that we gain strength to do the seemingly impossible. Storms let us know that without him we can do nothing, without him we are doomed to fail. Yet, when Jesus shows up, we gain the strength to join Paul, saying, “In Christ I can do all things.” But this demands a personal relationship with God, with Jesus, enhanced through prayer, meditative study of Scripture and active Sacramental life.

Also, we need to imitate the short prayer of sinking Peter: We are expected to pray to God every day with trusting faith for strengthening our personal relationship with Him and for acknowledging our dependence on Him.  At times we have no time or mental energy for formal prayers or very lengthy prayers, let us use the short prayers in the gospels like Peter’s prayer: “Lord, save me,” or the prayer of the mother of the possessed girl: “Lord, help me,” or the blind man’s prayer: “Son of David, have mercy on me,” or the sinner’s prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” 

Furthermore, In John 6:28-29, we read,…“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” The people had seen Jesus healing the sick, and feeding 5,000 men with only five loaves and two fish. Notice how Jesus answered them: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” My friend, the greatest doing is believing—believing in Jesus the sent one, who has done it all for you at the cross! If you are asking, “What must I do to receive my healing?” the answer is this: Believe in Jesus, who “Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”. (Matthew 8:17) We simply have to believe that Jesus bore our diseases on His own body. There is nothing for us to do, except to believe. In Luke 10:19, Jesus says, "behold I have given you power to trample under foot, serpent, scorpions and the whole company of the enemy." Do we really believe in the words of Jesus contained in scriptures? Mark 16, tell us "these are the signs to be associated with believers, in my name they will pick up snakes; they will drink deadly poison and be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick who will recover..." We need to ask ourselves, if we truly believe in Jesus, without doubting? When the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30–31) The greatest miracle in your life happens not by you working and trying to save yourself, but by you simply believing in Jesus who died to save you from eternal damnation and to give you eternal life.

Sometimes, they hit us so hard that we are crushed, devastated, and almost annihilated. Like the disciples of Jesus, each one of us experience the storm in diverse ways in our lives. That is, the storm that robs us of our peace. However, when they encounter Christ, our peace is restored and they disappear. Hence, Paul wrote: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies (2 Cor 4: 8-9).

The Lord keeps watch over us at all times, and especially in our moments of temptation and difficulty. Do you rely on the Lord for his strength and help? Jesus assures us that we have no need of fear if we trust in Him and in his great love for us. When calamities or trials threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond? With faith and hope in God's love, care and presence with you? 

Finally, as Christ said to Peter, so he also says to us today: “Courage! Do not be afraid, it is I.” So, all we need to do is to trust Him, and keep walking without the fear of sinking. Like Peter, we must step out with faith and courage against the storms of our life. Therefore, let us hold on firmly to Jesus, who calms our storms and restores our peace.

Prayer - Lord, You are in our midst, we are called by Your name. Do not desert us and stay with us on our journey! Amen


May 2018
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