BACCALAUREATE MASS AT ACADEMY OF OUR LADY OF PEACE SAN DIEGO ON 27TH MAY, 2021 (R. 1: Ruth 18- 18; Gospel: John 15: 1- 17)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

FEAR NOT, HE’S GOT YOUR BACK!

A woman woke up at 2:00 AM to discover that her husband was not sleeping, but was pacing the floor and talking to himself. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked him. “Honey, I borrowed a thousand dollars from Mr. Joe next door, and I have to pay him back later today,” the husband replied. “I just don’t have the money,” he added rubbing his hands on his head. The woman jumped out of bed, opened the bedroom window, and shouted, “Mr. Joe! Mr. Joe!” After a few seconds, Mr. Joe opened his own window and mumbled, “What is it?” The woman yelled, “You know the thousand dollars my husband borrowed from you? He doesn’t have it.” She then closed the window, turned to her husband and said, “Now, you go to sleep, let Mr. Joe be the one to pace the floor and worry about the money.” Cada loco con su tema, right?

One of the most common combinations of words in the scripture is, “Do not be afraid,” “Fear not,” or “Worry not.” Some say, these words appear 366 times in the bible, one for each day of the leap year. Most times, when these words appear in the Bible, we are told the reason why we should not worry, or why we should not be afraid. For example, in Isaiah 41:10 the Lord says, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” In John 6:20, where Jesus walked on water, he said to his apostles, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.” Also in the Gospel passage you selected for today, I see another reason why as Christians, we do not need to worry. It is because Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. As the vine, he grounds us, he supplies the nutrients, and he holds us firmly together.

Class of 2021, on behalf of your family, friends, and everyone gathered here, I thank you for giving us the privilege to partake in this joyful celebration. We are here today because you did not give up. You had many challenges along the way, including the pandemic, but you remained resilient; you remained tenacious. Thank you, and congratulations. I pray that God may continue to crown your efforts with greater success. As we celebrate your success today, may I quickly remind you that there is something more challenging than being successful; it is the ability to manage your success. Many easily become successful, but only a few manage the success consistently. It boils down to the saying that “Pride goes before a fall.” When some people begin to produce fruits, they easily forget that they are not the originators of the sap, they forget that we are only branches, and when we are cut off from the vine, we perish. My dear sisters, never forget your root!

Yes, it is a day of joy, it a day of celebrating your success. But one thing I have discovered in life is that each achievement creates new worries. Today’s celebration is, “Yayyy, I am successfully done with high school!” But new questions and new worries will begin to arise from this achievement. From this achievement, you will begin to have worries about college, worries about job, worries about relationships, worries about paying your own bills yourself, and worries about leaving home for the first time alone. Whenever these worries begin to show up, remind yourself of the gospel passage you chose today. Remind yourself that Jesus is the vine and you are the branch. Your responsibility is to remain connected to the vine and to produce fruits. The vine will take care of the rest. Do not worry! Like they say, “Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you what to do, but it takes you nowhere.” As a branch, worrying is not part of your job description. Just enjoy the breeze, enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the rain, and produce good fruits to the glory of God.

Look back at how God cared for you these past four years. Remember how you first met as strangers, and now you have become sisters for life. Remember those mornings you woke up and did not feel like going to school. Remember some of those home works that made you feel like, “What does this have to do with the price of gas in Nigeria?” Yet, God saw you through all, and today, it is a sigh of relief. Let your own story be your motivation as you move on and face the challenges ahead.

My dear sisters, I am so happy for you, and I really desire that you make the best of this life that God has given to you. I really desire that you bear much fruits that everyone around may be proud of you. Last night, when I was preparing this homily, I got to this point, and I began to worry about how to convince you not to worry. I searched the bible for any lesson or story I could share with you to keep you from worrying. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder from Jesus, and he said to me, “Emmanuel, why do you worry so much? You are not the vine; you are only the branch, keep to your lane. Do not worry. Just do only what I have empowered you to do and leave the rest for me.” So, I closed my bible, I went to bed, and I fell asleep.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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