Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year A, By Fr JohnPaul Okonkwo

Jun 30, 2017



The first reading of today tells us how Elisha encountered the woman of Shunem. This woman was rich economically, but was poor in another sense. She had no son! Besides, she was very generous to Elisha whom she realised to be “a holy man of God”. This kindness brought her blessings. In the second reading, St Paul made it known that we are all baptized into the paschal mystery of Christ: the passion, the death, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, Jesus emphasized the love of God above all things. He also continued the teaching on generosity as practised by the woman of Shunem. Thus, “He who receives you receives me, …. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matt. 10:40-42).

Let us remember that last two Sundays, Jesus assured us that his body is real food and his blood real drink, and whosoever eats and drinks, is united to Him, and is sure of eternal life (Jn 6:51-58). Last Sunday, Jesus made it clear that we need not be afraid of persecutors who can only kill the body, but to fear He who can kill both body and soul (Mat. 10:26-33). Today therefore, Jesus reveals to us the reward of generosity, especially to those who preach the good news.


The blessing of the woman of Shunem in the first reading shows us that in thinking for somebody’s problems, our own can vanish; in lighting candles in the life of others, we can see our own darkness disappear. She was rewarded by God because, she was charitable to a person whom she recognized as a ‘man of God’. In the Christian parlance, all those who collaborate, even in a little way, with those who represent Christ, will also be rewarded. For instance, those who provide accommodation for Seminarians on apostolic work, those who cook for them, give different gifts to them; those who support the work of priests in the Parishes, Schools, etc, shall all receive the reward of their ministry. Beloved brothers and sisters, let it be known that anyone who lives for himself shall not be remembered, but anyone who lives for others shall never be forgotten. If you live for others, you shall be immortal!

Jesus in the Gospel, gives a paradoxical declaration: “He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mat. 10:39). Jesus always advocates that is better to burn out than to rust out in life. Life is always enhanced and made meaningful when it is spent, and not when it is hoarded selfishly. The law of nature has it that “in the death of the seed, the plant grows”. It is only when the seed (like corn or bean) is thrown into the ground and dies, that the plant begins to grow and bears fruits (Jn 12:24). The life of Jesus is a paradigm (Phil. 2:6-12). Christianity today is the fruit of the early saints who laid down their lives fearlessly for their faith. If they had looked for their own safety and security, there would be no Christianity today. That is why Tertullian said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity”.

Furthermore, it is by spending our lives for others that we enhance our own. A woman goes through huddles to bear a child. But after the cross she rejoices because, she has not only died for others, but has increased herself. The Shunemite woman in the first reading, forgetting her own woes of not having a son, provided meals and shelter for the man of God- Elisha. Prophet Elisha in return, looking at the humane attitude of this rich but poor woman, blessed her with a son (2 Kings 4:8-16). Jesus made it known, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:38). Human generosity will always be rewarded with divine superabundance. This is even greater when it concerns a minister of the gospel. On the other hand, selfishness is always destructive and dangerous. St Francis of Assisi tells us, “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. It is in giving that we receive, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life”. Life lost for a good cause (like the martyrs) is life gained; life spent for a good purpose is life preserved. Beloved friends, “are you burning out or rusting out?”


We have the following lessons from today’s celebration: Firstly, we need to be generous for “blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him” (Psa. 41:1). The Shunemite woman is an example before us. Many times we assume that generosity is only when we donate huge amount of money at the village square, in the Church, or visit the motherless babies, or spend so much on our friends and family members. These are parts of it, but not all! The most painful part of generosity is when it involves ‘your enemy’, or someone who cannot reciprocate in anyway, or happens in a place where no one notices all you have given. Beloved friends, these are some of the places the Lord tests our disposition to give, and sincerity in giving. At these instances, it is only the Lord who sees in secret that will reward you (Mat. 6:2-4), no human ovation. Also, note that ‘no one is too poor that he has nothing to give’. Jesus praised the poor widow for her gifts because she gave from her poverty (Lk 21:1-4). Give even when it hurts!

Secondly, Jesus calls us to pay less attention to ourselves. The woman of Shunem was not considering herself and family in caring for Elisha. She was not calculating how much she spends every week/month in the hospitals just because of not having a son. Jesus tells us, “he who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mat. 10:39). Those who seek ease and comfort and security and fulfilment of personal ambition in this world may get all these things, but they will not be happy. The way to serve others, the way to fulfil God’s purpose for us, the way to true happiness is to spend life selflessly, for only thus will we find life, here and hereafter. Are you ready to die for the Gospel, and for others? Thirdly, let us always be ready to care for, and assist those who spread the Gospel of Christ. The Scripture tells us, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isa. 52:7). By assisting them, you will not only gain the blessings reserved for the ministers of the gospel as Jesus promised, but also you are partaking in the spreading of the Gospel. You can go to the mission by giving, while others give to the mission by going.

Finally, as we celebrate today the resurrection of the Lord, may we always remembers that His cross preceded His glory. If it so, let us always be ready to renounce ourselves, carry our crosses (irrespective of the sizes), and follow Him. If we renounce ourselves, we shall always be generous. If we reject ourselves, we shall no longer struggle to ‘find’ this life, but to ‘lose’ it for the sake of God. If this is our disposition, then the aim of our baptism is realised. The necessary result will be that we shall all ‘burn out’ for Jesus and not ‘rust out’.


Peace be with you !


Catholic Diocese of Nnewi
Nnobi Road, Nnewi
P.M.B 5099, Nnewi
Anambra State, Nigeria                     

Phone: +234(0) 80 345 6789


Please send us your ideas and suggestions! Any feedback would be appreciated.