Friday, January 13, 2017

Homily Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Isaiah 49:3, 5-6;
·         Ps 40:2,4,7-9,10
·          1 Cor 1:1-3
·         John 1:29-34
The Lamb of God, the Light to All Nations!
The focus of today’s Bible lessons is on universal salvation and on recognizing the agents or instruments of this salvation, called and sent by God, as the Lamb of God, the Son of God. When we look back at the history of our salvation we cannot but appreciate all that God has done for us from creation, through the experiences of wilderness and exiles. God not only constantly save humanity but does it through his agents: the angels, the prophets and eventually through his Son Jesus Christ, the one recognized by John in today’s Gospel as the Lamb of God, the source of freedom, the light of the world, the bearer of our sufferings, and the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.
When the Israelites were in Egypt and in the wilderness we saw how God used Moses, Aaron, Miriam and Joshua to bring them salvation. The first reading of today (Isa 49:3, 5-6) paints the sorrowful and hopeful picture of Israel in Exile in Babylon. It is the 2nd Song of the Suffering Servant of Yhwh. It is a song of hope for salvation.
 In this reading, although the servant is named “Israel” he has been called from the womb, and sent by God  to preach, love, hope, forgiveness, justice, liberation and salvation to the suffering and exiled Israel. Surely the servant would come to represents God’s divine agent of successive prophetic mission fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In this reading, the servant is speaking. He says, “The Lord said to me…..” indicating that the Lord is the one who calls us. He is the one that initiates the call of each and every single of Israel’ prophets. None of them called themselves. It also indicates the willingness of the one called to listen, to respond and be able to say like Samuel or like the Psalmist in today’s responsorial Psalm: “Here I am Lord I come to do your will…” (Ps 40).
 Even though this servant was originally sent by God to “to raise up the tribes of Jacob,” and “restore the survivors of Israel,” (Isaiah 49:6), the servant is now sent as “a light to the nations,” the lamb of God, so that God’s salvations might reach people of all walks of life.
We know of images of a Lamb in the book of Leviticus or in our various cultures. Lambs are humble creatures. They are willing to say yes. They are willing to go there or come here. They are used as sacrificial animals.  Lamb was use in the Passover narratives in the book of Exodus. It makes sense that John sees Jesus as the Lamb of God, the victor on the cross, the source of freedom, hope, salvation and remission of our sins, above all the light of the world.
John the Baptist also witnessed the dove descend upon this lamb during his baptism which we celebrated last week. This is the spirit of Love to everyone including the poor and the rich, the homeless, the aged, the sick the needy and those in prisons. This is the spirit of hope and faith. This is the spirit of trust and the spirit to reach out to everyone with Christ’s love and message of universal salvation, especially in this New Year.
 Saint Paul understood this so much as exemplified in all his missionary journeys. Although Jewish, he received baptism. Like other Israel’s prophets he said to God, “Here I am Lord I come to do your will,” I come to bear the light to all nations, Jews and Gentiles. Paul carried the mission and the Good News not only to the Corinthian Church, but to the Gentiles, to all of us. Paul said, to everyone who called upon the name of Jesus, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:1-3). We should be able to say this to everyone we meet on the way, Jews and Gentiles, males and females.
As part of the nations who receive this loving call and peace of Christ, may we in our own individual and collective ways continue to responsively recognize Christ, the Lamb of God, in our lives, serve as God’s agents and conduits of Christ's joy, peace, prosperity, faith, love and light to people of all walks of life, of every nation and of every culture.
 
Reflection questions
1.      What does the image of Christ as the Lamb of God or the Light of the world say to us?
2.      Are we willing agent of salvation in our neighborhoods and to everyone, male and females, Jews and gentiles?
3.      Under what circumstances can I truly say that I am the suffering servant of God (Isa 49) or the moral light to our nations?
 
 
 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Homily Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year A: Fr. Michael  Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isa 42:1-4, 6-7;
·         Ps 29:1-2, 3-4,3,9-10;
·         Acts 10:34-38
·         Matt 3:13-17

Baptism, Christ’s Gifts to us
 Few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Christ and his Epiphany. Many including, Joseph, Mary, and the angels reacted differently to these events. The angels, for example sang the Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest.” The shepherds abandoned their animals in the desert and traveled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family. Simeon, the prophet sang the Nunc Dimittis, while Anna, the prophetess professed the uniqueness she saw in Christ, and spoke about this special child to everyone (Luke 2). The magi from the far East brought him gifts gold, frankincense, myrrh and of course, their gestures of worship to adore the Lord (Matt 1:1-12).
Like the angels, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna and the Magi, many of us also had a good time during Christmas and the opportunity to joyfully react to these divine events in our own ways. Events guided by the Holy Spirit! Think of the Christmas related movies we watched, the carols and music we listened to; the gifts, cookies and candies we shared; the telephone calls and visits we made to our friends, families and to our loved ones, the liturgies we celebrated, the homilies we preached, or heard from the lips of our eminent preachers, beginning with the Holy Father, our popular Pope Francis, our bishops, priests, pastors and deacons. All in the name of Celebrating Christmas  or reacting to the divine events God coming to dwell among us, in spite of brokenness.

It is true that after the Christmas’ events not much is heard in the Christian Bible of how the quiet and righteous Joseph managed his carpentry profession, or how the obedient Mary (who had said to the angel Gabriel “be it done to me according to your words”) changed the diapers and raised Jesus to the point when he would have to begin his public ministry as witnessed extensively in the 4 Gospels and by Saint Paul.
 The Baptism of Christ which we celebrate today, in the beginning of our new semester, in a new year, is built on these past events that have always been guided by the Holy Spirit. Through his Baptism, Jesus the sinless God-man teaches us humility. With it he accepts, inaugurates his public ministry. He identifies this ministry with that of the suffering Servant of God whose mission we are told in the first reading of (Isa42:1-4, 6-7).  The suffering servant of exile in our first reading was to bear all kinds of sufferings on behalf of the people. He was to bring justice, judgment and salvation to everyone as God’s agent. God speaks through Isaiah, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit, he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”
 
Baptism not only washes away our sins it brings us the Spirit of God. It brings us closer to God and keeps God’s heavens opened for each and every one of us. The heavens that were once closed because of the sins of our first parents (Genesis 3) are now opened for us through Christ’s baptism Evangelist Matthew says in the Gospel, “After Jesus was baptized he came up from the water and behold the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him (Matt 3:13-17).”

The Baptism of Jesus opens for us the means by which we are spiritually reborn (Jn 3:5-12) and are restored in communion with God. It is one of the sacraments of our salvation. It is the gate way, the entrance to our Christian life and spirituality.  Recall, Nichodemus was told in John 3 that, “Unless you are born of water and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3-6).  It is a spiritual door for us.
 After the Ascension, Jesus said to the disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  With this, we become adopted and beloved children of God sharing in his divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). When we received baptism God is saying to us “these are my beloved children in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).

 For us the baptized God is very pleased with us. Baptism which Christ instituted brings us into the life of the Blessed Trinity.  With it, we are anointed and infused with virtues of faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13). With it, we become temple of the Holy Spirit; the same Spirit that guided the events of the birth of Christ. With baptism we have become a new creation and living members of the Church, the Body of Christ. We become living members of our Christian families and our Seminary Community. We become members that are alive with love, self-discipline, sacrifices, charity, and spirit of forgiveness.
Saint Paul preached about this newness of life in Christ in Romans 6:3-4, when he says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” (read also Col 2:12 or 1 Cor 12:12-13).

 Luckily too, many of us have just emerged from your retreat, walking back to the Seminary and our places of work of post duties refreshed. Some have been ordained deacons during the break! I am sure you feel renewed and ready to go, another new semester, another new year. There are new books in the Library and new faces on campus. As you walk into our class rooms too, you will find new chairs and new desks and newly painted walls. Thanks to our administration’s new initiatives. Some of you have also gotten new sweaters and winter jackets.  We can always blend this physical newness with our spiritual renewals, rooted back to the foundations with which we laid during the gifts of our baptism, one of the external signs of inward graces.
 And as we begin a new semester in this New Year we pray that the gifts and graces which we all received  during our baptism(the  gift of hard work, the spirit of peace, the spirit and of social justice, the spirit of Christ,  the spirit of Ebed Yhwh, the spirit of the suffering servant of God, the spirit of selflessness, the spirit of the common good, the spirit to love the poor, the spirit of inclusivism, the spirit to love and be faithful to the Church, the spirit to renounce sins, and the spirit to always love and pray for one another) which we have  renewed at this Mass, may guide and direct our studies, work and pastoral activities that reaches to the poor and the marginalize throughout this New Year.

 Reflection Questions:

1.     How does the baptismal effects in our lives reflects in our relationship with members of our parish communities?

2.      Are we dispose to share our gifts as Christ’s followers with our neighbors patiently?

3.      As baptized how do we show that we are God’s servants?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Homily for Epiphany of the Lord: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily for Epiphany of the Lord: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Isa 60:1-6;
·         Ps 72:1-2,7-8,10-13;
·          Eph 3:2-3a,5-6
·         Matt 2:1-12
Let Every Nation on earth Adore You O Lord!
 
Every Solemnity of the Epiphany brings us together from all walks of life “to adore the Lord,” as rightly captured by the Psalmist. Our Lord of course, deserves adoration and our worship, because he has freely and willingly manifested himself to us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He is the one Saint Paul bears witness to throughout his missionary journeys. He is also the one long foretold by Israel’s Prophets.
 
One of such prophets, Isaiah sings his praises in the first reading (Isa 60:1-6), to those, the liberated people, and before us, who lived to see this day long foretold.  Isaiah says, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See darkness covers the earth, and the thick cloud covers the peoples, but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appear his glory…”
 Christ's Birth is an entrance of Light into the world of darkness. It is an entrance of Light and Divine Strength into our human weaknesses. Our selfishness. Our self- centeredness, and he supports us in our sufferings. Epiphany is a manifestation, of divine goodness into our lives. It is an epiphany of God's love, his Mercy, his Tender Care and Kindness to all nations and continents, Jews and Gentiles, poor and rich, queens and kings.
 Epiphany is a manifestation of God to our children, to mummy and daddy, to husbands and wives, seminarians and priests, to friends, partners, politicians, poets, colleagues and peers. It is a feast when Jesus, who we celebrated at Christmas, is made known to the whole world, to every continent and nations: Lord, every nation on earth shall adore you” (Ps 72).
 
 Epiphany is a gathering of every nation to adore Christ. This is true even when you look at our faces, our colors, and our eyes, particularly our last names. I was recently in Africa and Europe the joy was the same at Christmas, every nation adoring the Lord- the power of faith- only Christ can gather us together at birth and at death. What a miracle of faith.
 
At his birth, manifestation many reacted: the angels, who sang, “glory to God in the highest,” the shepherds who traveled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family, Simeon, the prophet sang the Nunc dimities, while Anna, the prophetess saw the uniqueness in Christ and spoke about this special child to everyone(Luke 2). What is your reaction to the story of Christmas, to the Christmas plays we watched, to Christmas carols and music we have listened to, to all the Christmas homilies we have heard from the lips of the Pope, bishops, different priests and pastors? Do you like Anna internalize it or be ready to go out a manifest this love to others, the poor and the rich? Or do you keep it to yourself?
 
 In today’s Gospel (Matt 1:1-12) the Gentiles- magi join in this chain of reaction. Guided by the star, they came all the way from the East, from abroad outside Bethlehem/Judea, to adore Christ, to worship Christ. To submit themselves to Christ. They brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
 
Are you dispose to worship to adore Christ? Every nation adores the Lord, including those who studied the stars. God can speak to us. He can manifest Himself to us through our various professions and occupations. All that he requires of us are (the gifts of) disposition, willingness, openness and readiness, irrespective of our profession. You can be an attorney, a nurse, a doctor, a secretary, a receptionist, a broker, a plumber, a factory worker, a church volunteer, a student, employed or unemployed, a bank teller, a football coach, a husband, housewife, a Jew or Gentile with deep faith.
 
Salvation is Universal. This is noted by St. Paul of all people, in the Second Reading, which says, “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefits…. That the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6).
 
We can learn from the Gentiles the Magi. Their journeys I believe were not rosy-rosy. Mostly likely there were some difficulties on the way. They must have left their homes, children and family members searching for Christ in a territory where Herod was appointed the king of the Jews by the Roman imperialism. I am sure being learned scientists they were not na├»ve, they knew, humanly it would be risky facing Herod, the reigning earthly king, when at the same time searching to adore the heavenly King, the true “King of the Jews,” and “the King of kings.”
 Being a faithful Christian in this New Year and at the same time a good citizen is not always easy. Being a good Christian and a good politician or a good member of the United Nations was never going to be without faith.

 These things are possible when we walk with deep faith, when we listen to the impulses of the Holy Spirit, when we follow the light of Christ not our own will. When we imitate the magi did and as prophesied long ago by the Prophet Isaiah “nations shall walk by your light.”
 The precious gifts brought Christ from the East- gold, frankincense and myrrh, by these magi are significant.    Gold- recalls the royalty of Christ which lies in his mission of justice, peace, love, forgiveness and holiness of life- Not bullying, revenge and terrorism. In Frankincense we recall the perfume and the incense we use during worship- which is a symbol of hope and faith that we all place in Jesus our Messiah.
 
In another place, Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthian 2:15. St.  Paul invites us to bring out that noble “aroma of Christ” among ourselves: peace, love, forgiveness, universalism, inclusiveness, friendship and acts of charity.  In Myrrh we recall the sufferings, the pains and passion of Christ (Mark 15:20-23; Matt 27:33-44). And it was with Myrrh in John 19:39 that Nichodemus anointed Christ’s body for burial.
 
 Epiphany is a celebration of our faith from the strength of our jobs, vocations and occupations. Many with various occupations gathered here have that faith. Many with various professions are still searching for that faith. Like in the case of the Magi sometimes the journey may be long and rough. In the case of the Shepherds they risked abandoning their flocks and rushing to see the Christ born at the manger in Bethlehem. Simeon and Anna did not mind their old age. They faithfully and passionate sang and spoke about the blessings brought to Israel by the redeemer- Christ.
 
 For us when we finally find that faith we are call to share it with others. We are invited to share with and manifest the message of Christmas for our friends, relatives and in our communities. We are called to manifest that faith, to spread that aroma of Christ, that golden peace, that inclusiveness, that joy, that charity, that forgiveness, those gifts, among others, among every nation. Lord every nation on earth will adore you!
 
Reflection Questions
1.      Are we ready to share the Christ we received with others?
2.      How do we adore the Lord? With justice, peace and righteousness?
3.      Does my presence radiate the love and light of Christ in my family, parish community, neighborhood, place of work or meetings and study places?
 
 
 
 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Homily Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Num 6: 22-27;
·        Ps 67:2-3, 5-8;
·        Gal 4:4-7
·        Luke 2:16-21

 Mary: Mother of Christ, Source of Peace
On every First January of every year the Church prays for peace, and celebrates the Solemnity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and mother of Christ the Prince of Peace, just celebrated at Christmas. Of course, Mary is our mother too. She is the mother of the Church,  as truly confirmed  in today’s Second Reading, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Gal 4:4-7). Paul says: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons (and daughters).”  Of course, Paul’s message was long foretold by many Israel’s prophets- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah, which we all read during Advents- with theological and spiritual implications.

 By implication, we are all brothers and sisters of Christ, and children of God, in baptism. At the Morning Mass, yesterday, you will recall, we were all being addressed as children of God in 1 John 2:12-17. And as adopted children we are part and parcel of the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph which we also celebrated few days ago.
Days and weeks from now we will begin to bring down the Christmas trees, and undo those decorations in our home. One thing we do not want to forget is that the Birth of Christ brought peace and redemption to our homes, and into the world. Everyone acknowledges this, including the Angels who sang that song with which we began this worship with: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of goodwill.” the shepherds of Israel (Luke 2:16-21), the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna in the Gospel reading of yesterday (Luke 2:36-40) also spoke about this Prince of Peace to everyone, to those who were awaiting and hoping for the redemption of Israel.

On this day of the World Day of Peace, Mary is extolled as the mother of Christ the Redeemer, the Prince and source of Peace, for several reasons. Let me mention a few. At the annunciation, Mary peacefully said to Angel Gabriel, “I am the Handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). She was not afraid to say yes, and to be opened to the will of God.  Never for once was Mary violent and abusive to those who disbelieved her or suspected her pregnancy. She dialogued with the family of Joseph and her family over the divine situation.
In the Gospel reading of today, Mary and Joseph opened their doors and their hearts for the humble poor shepherd (Luke 2:16-21) and for the rich and educated foreign scientists-Magi (Matt 2: 13-23), who visited with them in a manger in Bethlehem. With this, Mary and Joseph prepared Jesus for the ministry of peace, universalism and inclusiveness of the poor, that seems to be elusive in our society today. Jesus of course would grow up to become the champion of peace- that we need today.

When Jesus stayed back in the temple Mary and Joseph, his parents did not freak-out. They anxiously but peacefully searched for Jesus. It is true that we don’t hear much of what went on in the family of Jesus and Mary and Joseph after the Birth narrative and Christmas celebrations. I am sure the shepherd went back to their sheep.  Joseph must have quietly and peacefully retired to his carpentry worship while Mary was busy changing the diapers and raising Jesus peacefully, lovingly and virtuously in their poor, but peaceful home.
When we look back on the events of the last year be it  in our families, homes, Church,  the United Nations, in the Middle East, Africa or in Asia, Europe, North Korea including all the wars, trains derailing here and there, the natural tragedies, the hurricane sandy, the typhoons in the Philippines, the shootings and terrorist acts in our nations’ schools, movie theaters and religious centers, and other part of the world, Nigeria, Nigeria- the rough politics, health-care debate, government shut down, social and economic difficulties, the bokoharam, -we need peace more than ever, in the world today.

Jesus, the Son of Mary is the source of this Peace (Shalom). He alone can heal us. He alone can heal our nations of our weaknesses, selfishness, our divisiveness, our doubts and skepticisms. He alone can give us that wholeness, that friendship, that sense of justice, that sense of oneness, that community spirit, that forgiving spirit, that Christian love and charity that we all need.
The priceless Peace, which Jesus the Son of Mary brings is a grace and blessing! This peace was among the blessings that God gave to Israel, through Aaron in the first reading (Num 6:22-27). Blessing Israel, Aaron said:

 “May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”
[I have received so many cards and greetings from you! One of my cards reads,

“Fr. Michael I can’t believe today is the last Sunday of the Year. I am very grateful to God for all his blessings and graciousness upon me, my family, especially my grandchildren this past Year 2013.  Thank you for leading us to such a spiritual pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and Rome. It was a pilgrimage of my life time. May Christmas be Merry to You and New Year a fruitful one.”]
Today is also the day we say to ourselves “Happy New Year!” in various languages. With this we are indirectly making New Year resolutions- wishing and promising ourselves every good thing in the New Year, including Happiness of which Christ, the Son of Mary is the ultimate source.

 We wish ourselves peace (shalom), trust, hope and faith in God. We wish ourselves good health. We wish ourselves the grace to forego bad habits. We wish ourselves greater respect for the dignity of the human person, greater sense of social justice and respect to the fundamental human rights of every person, men, women and children including the poor, the seniors and those at the margin of the society; the right to practice and treasure the Catholic faith, the right to wear cross, and crucifixes, the right to pray publicly without being ashamed of your faith and religion.  It is a year we want to continue to pray for the souls of our loved ones gone before us marked with the sign faith.
As we begin a New Year, may Mary the Mother of God, Mother of the Church, intercede for us so that we may be blessed with lasting peace, and joy in the Lord. And May “The Lord bless you and Keep you! May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” in this New Year (Num 6:22-27)!

Reflection Questions:

1.     What are your New Year Resolutions- peace, forgiveness, oneness..?

2.     What can you do to help bring peace to the world, family, church, neighborhood, and community of nations?

3.     Am I always opened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit or trusting in the prayerful intercession of our Mother Mary?

 

Homily Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Sir 3:2-6, 12-14;
·         Psalm 128:1-5;
·         Col 3:12-21
·         Matt 2:13-15, 19-23

 Family: a Domestic Sanctuary
It is not surprising that following the celebration of Christmas, the Birth of Christ, we re-gather today to contemplate and celebrate the virtues of the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. In fact, this Feast makes a lot sense for us since we are all fruits of our beautiful families: a community of parents and children, brothers, sisters and relatives. In today’s feast, we celebrate the responsibility we owe one other.
 The family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was a family of “Yes!” and openness to God. Mary, in Luke’s Gospel says, “Be it done to me according to your Word,” (Luke 1:38).  The righteous Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel quietly took Mary home as the Angel Gabriel had told him (Matt 1:24). The righteous Joseph provided for the safety of baby Jesus in Egypt. Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph were humble. They paid close attention to the whispering of the Holy Spirit in their ears.

Besides humility and righteousness, it was a family that handled their difficulties and confusion with prayer, and absolute trust in God. A typical example is the Christmas mystery of the sudden pregnancy of Mary by the divine agent. Pregnancy, I believe would be a very delicate period for women. It is a time that women enter upon a cycle of hopes of fears. She sees herself different in the mirror and is conscious of the risks and sufferings awaiting her. In such circumstances our husbands would not want to approach their wives as if they are in the military grounds, but like Joseph with gentleness and virtues of love, and joy (cf. Udoekpo, M. Family Functions, 1997, p. 19).
Joseph handled this well. He listened and was opened to the impulses of the Holy Spirit.  He took Mary home (Matt 1:24). He loved, honored and respected Mary, and the child Jesus as well. Joseph a quiet and righteous man knew what his role was as a father. Though quiet, he had a lot to thoughtfully say by his family life style.

 He knew that every child needs a father and a mother (cf. 1989 Redemptoris Custos of Pope John Paul II). Joseph did not walk away from his fatherly responsibility as some modern fathers would do today. He knew he was called to love and protect the child Jesus, the New Moses (Matt 2:13-15, 19-23), just as the old Moses was kept save in the Book of Exodus 1–4. He rose up and fled with the child Jesus to Egypt for safety as directed by the Angel of the Lord (Mtt 2:13).
Joseph, besides loving and respecting Mary must have also taught Jesus good carpentry trades and skills. From Mary and Joseph Jesus must have also learn their basic customs, how to say shalom, “good morning daddy,’ “good morning Mom,” and   how to say some basic Jewish prayers, and meaning of things around him – patience, and compassion for fellow human beings-that would come to reflect in Jesus public ministry; in his turning water into wine at Cana in Galilee (Jn 2), in his multiplication of fish and bread, in his healing and forgiving ministries.

Joseph knew his job and his responsibility to Mary and Jesus. Jesus also knew his job. He was an obedient child. I am sure you would recall the incidence in Luke 2:41-51 when the boy Jesus stayed back in the Jerusalem after he had made and annual visit with his parents Mary and Joseph. It took Mary and Joseph about three days to anxiously and lovingly retrace Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem where he was deeply involved in a discussion with teachers and scholars. We are told Mary and Joseph were not only anxious about their child, but were astonished at finding Jesus in the midst of temple teachers. But scriptures tells us that after all said and done, Jesus went back home with his parents and “was obedient to them,” (Luke 2:51). Jesus grew up in wisdom, age and favor before God and man (Lk 2:52). He obeyed his parents.

Echoes of such obedience are heard in the alternate first reading of today (Sir 3:2-6, 12, and 14), that whoever honors his parents atones for sins and preserves himself/herself from them. When he prays he is heard, and whoever respects the mum stores up wealth and riches for him/herself and will live long (cf. Exodus 20:12; and Deut 5:16).
You and I know, especially our parents that we live in a different time today. Today, there are many fathers and mothers who walk away from their mutual responsibility to their children, leaving them third parties under the name of personal freedom or “too busy at work." Divorce has also become the order of the day to the detriment of our children. Today’s society is also searching for where to draw the line between the rights of parents and those our children: the movie they watch, the drinks the take, the conversation they engage and the examples they are shown. Are they adult food, drinks, movies? What examples do we show to our kids? How we treat each other, how we return home from work and on time, join the family at meals and how we relate and respect our next door neighbors? What about our faith and sexuality: how do we live or express them both at homes in the public- knowing that our kids, the future leaders, are watching us!

 I grew up as a sixth child in a family of 4 surviving brothers and two sisters from same mom and dad. Customarily we respect our parents. We honor them. We show gratitude to them for many reasons- for raising us, for breast-feeding us, for the food, clothing, for the tuition, for teaching us the faith, name them.  We never talked back to our parents.  The respect is so deep and mutual that we cannot call our parents even our elderly ones by their first name. Usually whenever there is any misunderstanding in our family everybody is eager to work hard to have the matter resolved with compassion and love.
 This is the Family Life in the Lord that St. Paul addresses in the 2nd reading (Col 3:12-21). The family is a place where each of us would learn to put on compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Like the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ it is place where we learn to pray, to sing Psalms, cultivate wisdom, respect, honor one another and lay our spiritual foundation.  It is a place where we learn to visit our parents and seniors in the nursing homes, hospices and hospital. It is a place where we learn to be our brother's and sisters' keepers. It is a domestic sanctuary for faith, hope and love.  It is a domestic church, school of virtues, where we lay the foundation for the values and virtues we bring to our larger Community, churches, schools, places of work and governance.

 As we approach the table of the Holy Eucharist today, let us pray that each and every one of us may see our homes as domestic sanctuaries. More so, we may return home today, nourished by the virtues and exemplary family life of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Refection Questions:

1.     Do you see your family as a domestic church?

2.     What particular virtue can you relate to in the family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus?

3.     What do you hope and faithfully look for in today’s families?

 

 

Homily Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

·        Isa 52:7-10;
·        Ps 98:1-6;
·        Heb 1:1-6
·        John 1:1-18

The Word Became flesh at Christmas!

  “A child is born for us, and a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name  him Wonder-Counselor, God Hero, Father –forever, Prince of Peace… and his name will be called Messenger of  great counsel” ( cf Isa 9:5-6).

 This is the entrance antiphon of today’s Mass, the words of prophet Isaiah. This prophecy fulfills and explains the reasons why we are so joyfully and decoratively gathered today. We gather to celebrate Christmas, the Birth of Christ our Lord and Savior. Son of God and Son of Mary. The creative Logos/Word who became flesh and dwelt among us,  the Light of the world, Grace/Gratis, God’s gift of himself to the world, the Divine Wisdom and God’s loving incarnate ( John 1:1-18).

 In the 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-6) God became Christ, human and divine because he loves us always. In time past, from the beginning  God spoke to us, he manifested himself to us through the burning bush, through various prophets down to John the Baptist. He also communicated with us through his messengers, angels. Remember angel Gabriel who said to Mary Hail Mary, full of Grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus (Luke 1). Remember the same Gabriel said to the worried Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife home …for it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her(Matt 1:18-24). Same Angel spoke to the shepherds about the birth of Christ in Luke 2:1-14. Of course Angels also played a role in the birth of Samuel and Samson and directed Tobias in the book of Tobit.

But today, these days God speaks and communicates with us through someone who is superior to all of Israel prophets. He is superior to John the Baptist. God speaks to us through someone who is superior to the angels. In fact, the angels worship him.  That person is God’s Son, Jesus Christ born for us at Christmas. He is God’s incarnate- during Christmas.

Christmas brings us, God’s incarnate, Christ, the source of life. Christmas brings us Jesus, a friend of the poor and of the rich. Christmas brings us God’s incarnate, Christ, lover of saints and sinners, a Messenger of hope, a Prince of Peace and a Prophet of reconciliation. Christmas brings us joy.

This is the joy that I have always experienced here in our parish community. This is the joy that we are invited to share in our homes, schools and places of work. The joy that mixes with God’s love, and team spirit among various groups here in our parish, barracks, diocese among the knights, the Columbietes, the staff, men, women and children and in various pious societies.

I love our new church bell. It swings and rings hourly or half-hourly. It adds to this joy, and often reminds me of the response of the angels to the Birth of Christ.  The angels broke into a great song, “Glory to God in the Highest… peace to people of good will”, which we began this Mass with.  This song is hidden, in that poetic first reading (Isaiah 52:7-10), a song of the redeemed:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace (not war, not selfishness, not hatred, not greediness, revenge and division, but) bearing, good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion “Your God is King.”

This King is Christ, born for at Christmas. This King has always preexisted with God his father, "in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God...."(John 1:1-18). As a pre-existence Son of God Christ is the source of all things: our lives, our families, our energies to do our jobs, to participate in politics and manage our economy, go to schools, keep our homes and raise our kids.

Christmas invites us to celebrate the involvement of God in human flesh and in the human history: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In his compassionate ministry among humans, water would be changed into wine, women will be spoken to, and children would be invited with care. The poor would be loved, the hungry would be fed. Sinners would be forgiven. Zacchaeus would be visited. Lazarus would be raised from the death. Christ born today would come to wash the feet of his disciples. He will lecture Pilate on the meaning of truth and Mary Magdalene on the importance of detachment.

 How we receive Christ, the Light of the world at Christmas and our how we welcome him in our hearts, in our homes, and families and nation is important. It is true that we have decorated our offices, churches, streets and homes, purchased and exchanged gifts. Christmas carols and songs are booming in our homes and cars.

But sometimes you noticed that our gifts are only being circulated among ourselves and colleagues. Today adds to a couple of Christmases after the Election of Pope Francis and the Death of Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Mother Teresa. Pope Francis and Mother Teresa like Christ, we know have invested a lot of their time and energy and preaching on the need to reach out to the poor and the needy. And Mandela and many saints known to us attracted so many to their funerals and canonization because of what they stood for, including, love, reconciliation, unity and oneness.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, we might as God’s beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, want to joyfully take extra steps and reach out to the poor with acts of charity and to our neighbors with love, oneness, unity and reconciliation.

  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive the King; Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.!”

 Reflection Questions:

1.     Is there any way we can be more like Christ, this Christmas in our relationship with one another?

2.     What does Christmas means for you spiritually, pastorally and materially?

3.     What are the noticeable signs of God’s presence in our homes, families, schools and work places?