21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the Netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
Lekan Olatoye, was a 42 year old man from Nigeria who traveled to America to study at Dallas Seminary. Though Lekan had been a successful executive with the Nigeria Power Authority, he had heard the call of Jesus to become a servant of God. For ten years before he came to America, Lekan had asked to be transferred to various stations across Nigeria so that he could plant churches wherever he worked. After Lekan graduated from Dallas Seminary, he planned to go back to Nigeria to become the anchor for a seminary that would prepare men to preach the Word of God. Soon after he arrived in Dallas, Lekan became involved with one of the local churches teaching Sunday school to young children. When people found out that he knew something about electricity, Lekan did repair work for many in the community. All and all he was well liked and his dreams for the future of his church in Nigeria were contagious.

Then one day, while playing volleyball with his fellow seminaries, Lekan fell forward and died of a massive heart attack. It seemed apparent that Lekan’s dreams for the future of the church in Nigeria, as well as everything he had worked so hard for had failed. So many in the local community, church, and seminary had been touched by Lekan’s enthusiastic plans and dreams that they coordinated efforts to raise the money needed to send his body back to Nigeria. And, in the process, their faith grew.

A few months later, the Nigerians sent two men to visit and to thank the people for what they had done. When asked how the church was doing now that Lekan had died, they replied, “Don’t you understand? The church is much stronger now.” “When we had the funeral, ten thousand people came from all over Nigeria and one of them was Lekan’s brother, Dele Olatoye, whom Lekan had prayed for over ten years.” “Dele was reconciled to the church and many hundreds of people who had become complacent learned from Lekan and all that he had given up for the Jesus he loved, that it is not how long you live, but how well you live.” “Yes, our church is stronger now.”

As I read the story of Lekan, I thought about the disciples and how it must have appeared to them that the dreams of the future church had died with Jesus on the cross. But Jesus accepted to die because he trusted his Father. He knew from that apparent failure God would work out his plan for salvation. We too must have that deep faith and trust that if we are doing God’s will, He will work out his plan in us and through us in spite of any apparent failure. So, when we see the shortage of priests, the scant list of new seminarians, when we see church buildings close and parishes merging, when we see people becoming self-centered instead of God-centered, let us remember that the words Jesus spoke to his disciples long ago still hold true today, and keep in mind that we are here for a little while and then we are gone, but the church goes on, and
God’s plan will never fail.
Sylvia Bates