Saturday, October 22, 2016

Homily 30th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 30th Sunday of Year C: Fr.    Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Sir 35:12-14,16-18;
·         Ps 34:2-3,17-19,23;
·         2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18
·          Luke 18:9-14
Trusting Humility and Willing Service to God and Neighbors
In today’s Gospel of Luke chapter 18, our Lord continues his journey to Jerusalem in order to die for us. On this journey, began in Luke 9:51, he teaches, heals and forgives sins.  Today in particular, he uses the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to teach us trusting humility, self-surrendering like St. Paul, in the 2nd reading, and willing services to our neighbors, particularly to the poor and to the lowly.
From this Gospel (Luke 18:9-14), and historically speaking, we know the Pharisees were those that Jesus had to face throughout his ministry. The Pharisees were those who kept the law, or at least thought they kept the law, while the tax collectors however were engaged in a profession that some thought extortion and dishonesty might slip in. The differences between the two as the went up to pray in the temple area is that the former(the Pharisees) thought he had everything and claim to be righteous; while the tax collector(the  later) had a sense of unworthiness, humility and needs for God’s grace.
In this gospel parable the behavior of the Pharisees represents pride, arrogance and self-justification, especially when he says, “I thank you God I am not like the rest of humanity- greedy, dishonest, adulterous, and even like this tax collector… I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes…. The Pharisee thought that God is a company manager one could bribe or go to work for, a prevalent in our society today- the corruption and the “pay-to-play.”   But how many times do we not ourselves think that we have it all, or tends to behave like this Pharisee?
Truly, as believers, what the Lord expects of us in our relationship with him is nothing else than the spirit of prayer, humility, and total surrendering to God in good times and in bad times. This attitude of humble prayer and total surrender to God is what Psalm 34, and Ben Sira of the 2nd century BC, emphasize in that 1st reading.  To the poor, the oppressed, the humble, those who surrender themselves to him, the orphans, widows, and the marginalized in the exile, the Lord hears their cry (Ps 34).
 Another good example on one who was once a sinner, but later decides to surrender himself to God is Saint Paul of today’s 2nd reading. He was once a persecutor of the faith, but later reverses his life style and won the crown of Glory, by serving the poor, pouring his life like a libation, for the sake of the gospel!  In fact, being a new creation in Christ or getting to wear that crown of glory and righteousness, Paul says, demands that every Christian, all of us, reverses our natural tendencies (2 Tim 4:6-6, 16-18); to dominate, keep for oneself, control next door neighbor, follow the money, follow the politics, embrace false sense of security, neglect the truth, discriminate against our neighbors, especially those who do not look or speak like us, claim self-righteousness, like the Pharisees of today’s gospel parable, or pretend to be self-sufficient to the neglect of the poor!
No, the Lord invites us today to rethink and rearrange our priorities. We can do this in many ways, especially by imitating the humility and total self- surrendering of the tax collector of today’s gospel,  and that of St. Paul and others, who poured their lives as a libation, by prayerfully trusting in God's saving grace in their relationship with God and with their neighbors.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Homily 29th Sunday Year C:Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily 29th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         Exod 17:18-13;
·          Ps 121:1-8;
·         2 Tim 3:14–4:2
·         Luke 18:1-8
The Staff of God is with Us
God is with us in our life’s journeys, in many ways. In the prayer we consistently pray; in the staff (matah) our leaders consistently raised, as they lead us. God is with us in the bread and wine we share. God is with us in the Word of God, the scripture we read, hear, preach, meditate upon, and share (2 Tim 3:14–4:2), day in day out.
In the first reading of today (Exod 17:8-13) as the Israelite were physically battling their way to the promise land, God was spiritually fighting for them, against the  Amelekites in   Raphidim.  An interesting saving story! While Joshua physically led the charge, Moses stood on the top of the mountain with the symbolic staff of God, in a raising posture, supported by Aaron and Hur. By the way, a Staff in this context as we say in the crossing of the read sea (Exod 15), is a symbol of God’s saving power, God’s presence, his love, his sovereignty, and saving power. What a divine drama here. In this battle, as long as Moses raises the staff, and of course with the support of others, Aaron and Hur, the Israelite prevails in the battle. Each time Moses lowers his hands perhaps because of human fatigue, the Amelekites prevails.  One of the lessons here is that we can only prevails in whatever we do when we call upon the name of the Lord; when we not only trust in God and pray to him, but when we do it selflessly, supporting one another.
  We learn this also from Jesus. In Jesus’s days, as he set out on his missionary journeys to Jerusalem, he taught his disciples many things (Luke 9:51), especially charity, modesty, forgiveness, inclusiveness, and prayer (Luke 11) which must be done persistently as highlighted in today’s gospel parable of a poor widow who persistently ask the unjust judge for justice (Luke 18:1-8).
 But how do we pray? What tools do we use in prayer? For Paul’s 2 Letter to Timothy, scripture, the Bible, the Word of God, the passages of the Bible, the Psalms, like today’s Psalm, “Our Help is in the name of the Lord” (Ps 121), the teachings of the Torah, the messages of the Prophets, the gospels, the Pauline Writings, the Letters, the Epistles, are useful instruments for Christian prayer. This is why  Paul says, to Timothy, “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (cf. 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 1:19-21; Isa 40:8 and Verbum Domini, n.1).
  Granted that we do have our own religious, and socio-political challenges and battle to win: the poverty, the corruption in nation’s capitals, the illnesses, the threats of war and terrorism; Prayer, rooted in knowledge of the scriptures, is the key. Prayer for one’s self and one’s neighbors. Trusting in God’s presence through the staff of our leaders is another key. And this trust as, Paul charges, must be consistent- inspiring us to imitate not only Moses, but the poor widow of the gospel. If the unjust judge in the gospel could listen to the persistent widow, and blessed Israel through Moses’ persistent staffing, our God who is just and righteous, certainly, would listen to each and every one us, whenever we persistently lead with the fear of the Lord, and truly call upon him in prayers! The Staff of God is with Us!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Homily for 28th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily for 28th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         2 Kings 5:14-17
·         Ps 98:1-4
·         2 Tim 2:8-13
·         Luke 17:11-19

The Saving Power of God is Universal
Today’s readings reveal to us that the saving power God is universal. It reaches to everyone: men, women and children of all nations, cultures, and walks of life; lepers and non-lepers, prisoners and non-prisoners, the rich and to the poor. God’s mercy has no limitation. It has no boundary. It cannot be put in chain, says St. Paul. We must therefore, be thankful to God.

In the 1st reading of today (2 Kgs 5:14-17) Naaman, a military commander of a foreign origin, from Damascus is healed of his leprosy, through the intercession of Prophet Elisha. In this story, after his healing, you notice Naaman returned, stood before Elisha and thanking God and acknowledged the God of Israel as the ruler of all, and  the sovereign of all creations and nations. Naaman, says, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”

What sustains Paul in his missionary journeys, as indicated in the 2nd reading, his 2 Letter to Timothy, perhaps from prison, was his courage, faith, firmness, and steadfastness in the Gospel Christ. It is this call to faithfulness, and steadfastness the Paul recommends to Timothy, and of course, to us, in spite of  the sufferings and all kinds adverse difficulties we may encounter. In the case of Paul, even though he was in prison, in chain, Paul  made sure that, the word of God  was not in chain
Remember, 'prisonness" or “illnesses” are not limited to bodily diseases like leprosy or confinement in a particular location. Fear, terrorism, and all forms social and political leprosies and imprisonment do exist in societies and roam our streets today. Some of them  can come in form of natural disasters; earthquakes and hurricanes. Or lack of educational facilities for our children. We must not allow these modern ills to imprison the Word of God. Or blind us of the wonders of the Lord. But, like Paul, a for prosecutor of Christians,  and Naaman the foreign leper, we must be on our toes, dispose ourselves for God’s grace and be grateful for what God does for us, daily.

In today’s Gospel of Luke 17 several lepers, in fact, ten of them, were also healed. They disposed themselves for God’s healing mercy and saving power. Among them was a Samaritan leper, another foreigner, like the Naaman of the first reading. Interestingly, the cleansed Samaritan is the only one among the ten who returned with gratitude to God.
What a good example to those of us that God has blessed everyday: the gift of life; the gift of our families, vocations, children, grandchildren, jobs, educations, affordable health care, security. In fact, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves perseverance, taught us, by Paul is important. We must remain grateful to God, and of course, reach out to others; and share the goodness of the Lord with our neighbors. For God’s saving power and mercy, especially, in this Year of Mercy, is Universal. It is sufficient unto the Jews and to the Gentiles, to the “Naamans” and to the “Samaritans,” of all nations and cultures.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Homily [2] 27th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2] 27th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Hab 1:2-3;2:2-4;
·         Ps 95:1-2,6-9;
·         2 Tim 1:6-8,13-14
·          Luke 17:5-10
The Righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)
The importance of faith, a supernatural gift from God, which enables us to believe him and in the teachings of the Church, is central in today’s readings. How do we remain faithful, trusting(emunah) in  God’s plans, and  believing in him, in the midst of hardship, threats, terrorism, war, joblessness, lack of shelter, lack of food, frustration, poverty, illnesses, temptations social injustices, prevalent in our world today.  For Habakkuk, the righteous, people, like Abraham and his descendants, Noah, Joseph etc, no matter what, shall live by faith. We are all Abraham's descendants, invited to share in this righteousness ,despite our personal stories. Yes, we do have our stories when we feel God is not listening to us,  when we feel God is not acting fast to assist us in our troubles, in our needs, in our lacks, in our oppressions, and in our deprivations!
 Habakkuk of today’s 1st reading must have felt this way. In the midst of sufferings, deprivations, threats of wars, the Babylonian armies, hunger, deprivation of his people Habakkuk says to God, “O Lord I cry for help, but you are not listening. Actually, God was listening. It will only take faith, patience, and humility, righteousness to realize that God listens to us in a divine, and in mysterious ways! As was the case with Joseph and Mary, during her mysterious pregnancy, God spoke to Habakkuk in a vision, in a dream.  In Habakkuk chapter 2 God proves that he was listening to  Habakkuk's  cry, prayer, lamentation, and to the plight of his people. The Babylonians will not reign forever. They will eventually be defeated!
In the 2nd reading, Paul also realize that it was nothing else, but the gift of faith from Christ Jesus that enabled him to move without shame from being a persecutor to becoming a believer. It was the same faith, steadfastness  for his love of the Gospel that sustained his confidence, trust, endurance, courage, strength and self-control to proudly bear his sufferings and hardships, including imprisonment throughout  the duration of his missionary journeys!  How many times was Paul not beaten, mocked, tried and imprisoned ? With faith, we can bear our temporary sufferings, and carry our crosses, daily, to follow Christ!
And this is what Christ expects of his disciples in today’s Gospels. When the Apostles asks the Lord to increase their faith. Jesus says, yes, surely, if you have faith, even as little as the size of the mustard seed, everything is possible. With faith, you could say to that deep rooted mulberry tree be uprooted and be planted in the sea, and it will obey you.
It is all about faith, trusting in God in the face of dangers, in the face of terrorism today, in the face uncertainties, poverty, inequalities in our society; in the face of illnesses, and in the face of the loss of our loved ones. Sometimes, it is easily said, that done. Let us like Christ’s disciples, ask the Lord at this Mass, to “increase our faith,” and bless us with the steadfastness (emunah) of Habakkuk.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Homily for 26th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael

Homily for 26th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael
·         Amos 6:1a,4-7
·         Ps 146:7-10
·         1 Tim 6:11-16
·         Luke 16:19-31

Acting to Ease the Sufferings of others-especially the Poor
Today we live in a world of “you are on your own attitude,” what Pope Francis would call “globalization of Indifference.” There are recorded violent on the street, political corruption in many political capitals, religious abuses in  some worship centers, the poor, and the weak, “the Lazaruses,” the voiceless and family values neglected. Today’s readings is a reminder of what each of us, political class and religious people,  must do to ease the sufferings of our neighbors, of our family members, of my colleague, of my spouse, of my friend and of the poor- “the Lazaruses” of our towns and neighborhood.
These were the concerns of the Prophet of today’s 1st reading. A lay man, a famer, a cattle breeder, Amos responded to God’s call from Tekoa, south of Jerusalem to preach to the kings, and the priests – the political and corrupt religious establishment in the north, who were complacent and indifferent to the plight of their poor brothers and sisters, of their time- the 8th century BC.

Amos says, woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall,” when the majority poor were staffing. They also waste drinks. The wealthy drank, not from ordinarily wine glasses, but from bowls, when others were suffocated by thirstiness. They, the rich, anoint themselves with oil, when the rest of the house of Joseph/Ephraim/Israel were suffering. The word of God is ever alive. Many of us can relate to this from various nation capitals- where the gap between the rich political and religious leaders, and the poor is daily expanding.
In the time of Saint Paul, as noted in the 2nd reading, 1 Timothy 6, - false teachings were floated, to the disadvantage of poor members of the community. As in the time of Amos there were rivalries, insults, evil suspicions and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, deprived of the truth, and who thought religion was a means for material gains ( 1 Tim 6:3-6). Paul says to Timothy, “you man of God,” referring to religious leaders, “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness,’ (vv.11-16), essential qualities of biblical spirituality: righteousness ( sadeqah), justice( misphat), truth ( emet), kindness (chesed), steadfastness (emunah), needed not only by selected preachers, but by every man and woman of God!

But, remember, this is not the first time the expression “man of God “is used in the Bible. We heard in Deut 33:1 with reference to Moses, as Israel’s prophet.  In 1 Sam 2:27 God sent a man of God to speak to Eli, when his children were abusing the temple. In 1 Kings 12-13, an unknown man of God is sent from Judah, to address the sins of Jeroboam- corruption, idolatry and disobedience to the Lord. A man of God, is God’s prophet, and messenger! A woman of God, a child of God, is God’s prophetess and messenger.
How often, or easy is it, sometimes for us to blame the neglect of the poor only on the political establishment. We are all, in our own capacities, called to be prophets and prophetess, men and women of God, who assist in easing the burden and the suffering of the poor our society, today- in various ways, no matter how little, show that little kindness, especially to the poor- and the “Lazaruses”.

This is what Jesus truly meant to communicate in today’s Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Notice, in this parable, how many times did the rich man not ignore the poor man, Lazarus. Notice, the clothing, the behavior, the food, the wine of the rich man. He was like the rich of the time of Amos. These things are not new, Corruption has always been there. But, on the judgment day, Lazarus is saved while the rich man is condemned.

Each of us, men, women of God, political elites, religious people, can easily inherit eternal life through the means in which we respond to the needs of one another; through the way in which we actively act daily to alleviate the sufferings of our neighbors, and the “Lazaruses” of our communities!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Homily [2]25th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]25th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Amos 8:4-7;
·          Ps 113:1-8;
·          1 Tim 2:1-8
·         Luke 16:1-13

 Serving God In the Poor

 Today’s readings are quite interesting. They focus on the need for us to always treat one another especially the poor and the margin of the society with dignity, a message that Pope Francis continues to run home with, since taking the seat of Peter. It is also about the need for us to wisely make good use of all the material things God has blessed us with, including our money. Wealth has to be gotten honestly. The readings again invite us to always act, even in living and preaching the gospel message with a spiritual foresight and pursuit of spiritual security.

Christ particularly passes on this message to us in this parable of a rich steward who plans to fire his corrupt steward. Finding this out, the steward tells all those who owe his master some money to forget about the interest. By doing this the cunning and dishonest servant acted with worldly foresight and shrewdly bought friends for himself in the future, knowing that soon he would be unemployed. Again he was not punished by doing this. Perhaps he made his master also look good by writing off the debts of all the borrowers.

 Towards the end of the parable, Jesus reiterate, “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” referring still to dishonest and inordinate wealth, wrong profits-making, ill-treatment of the poor, worldly foresight and behavior of the shrewd steward for buying off future friends with money. How wish we can channel our energy, our smartness in spiritual insight, and in matters that does good to everyone in the light of Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, it is always, me, me, me, that selfishness, that neglect of the poor—those acts of corruption and injustices!

 This type of behavior is not limited to the time of Christ. In the mid Eight century BC, during the time of Amos of Tekoa, when Jeroboam the II was the king of Samaria, and Amazia served as his priest, injustices, corruption, ill treatment of the poor was also prevalent. There was greediness everywhere as well as hypocritical practice in worship. And the widow’s head and the poor were trampled into the dust and some were sold out with a pair of sandals or for just a little silver, as the shrewd steward of the gospel parable(Amos 8:4-7). Amos was called as we are called today to challenge the ugly ills of the society.

 In the US Senate and Congress now, and I believe in many other parts of the world as well, there is a constant debate on how to bridge the yawing gap between the rich and the poor. How do we help those on food- stamps? What do we do with our brothers and sisters without job, employment and health insurance? Is it necessary for some to keep 10 or more homes or cars when others have none, especially homes or those material goods gotten in a wrong and dishonest manner? Pope Francis recently has also demonstrated in words and action the need to reach out to the poor—the essentials of the message of Christ.

 In the face of the disparity between the rich and the poor today what would Jesus have done? He would reach out to them because in the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, in the same very Luke’s gospel, Jesus proclaims “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaimed a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

 From then on Jesus reached out to the sick, the leper, the blind, the poor, the widow, the needy, the rejected, men, women and children. Jesus wants everyone to eat. He wants every to be clothed. He wants everyone to be healthy.   He wants everyone to have a roof over their heads. As Saint Paul would put it in the Second Reading, He wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:1-8).

 Money especially wrong use of money is not everything. There is a story of a very hungry and starving rich sick man who received a huge parcel in the mail, which he presumed was food. He greedily tore open the box and proclaimed, “Oh my God, it is not food, but gold.” The poor man would have preferred food, instantly, than gold.

  We need Christ-like values, good choices, steward- like approach and spiritual insight in our preaching, in our daily living, in our government decisions, in our relationship with God and with our neighbors, recognizing that material things, particularly money is not everything- selfishly used, but was meant for the common good, for the service of God and our neighbors- especially of the poor!


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homily [2]24th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]24th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14;
·         Ps 51:3-4,12-13,17,19(R/v Lk 15:18);
·         1 Tim 1:12-17
·          Luke 15:1-32

God mercifully finds us when we are lost

What a  wonderful mercy-filled scripture readings today- from Exodus 32, Paul’s First Letter to Timothy and from the 3 great parables in Luke’s Gospel chapter 15. All these scripture passages remind us of who God truly is: a merciful father who loves us, a merciful God  who doesn’t judge us as we deserve, a merciful God who searches for us,  a loving God who finds us when we miss our ways, and when we get lost: like the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost prodigal son.  In these readings we also find a God who wants us to be a prayerful people, a forgiving people, who pray and intercede for one another(E.g....).

In the 1st reading this is who Moses is: a leader, a liberator, a prophet, a man of prayer and an intercessor who intercedes for his people gathered sinfully at the foot of Mount Sinai. Sinfully in the sense that as Moses was on the mountain praying and encountering God on behalf of his people, the very people were busy practicing idolatry, making golden calf- other gods for themselves. They got loss. They lacked focus- drawing God’s anger who contemplated of punishing them, except for intercessory role of Moses who prayed “why O Lord, should your wrath blaze against your covenanted people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt.”  Some time we get loss and we need to pray for one another; our friends, our families and our nations.

Same could be said of Paul in today’s second reading (1 Tim 1:12-17), whose past anti-Christian attitude we are familiar with. He was lost not only in blaspheming but in hating and persecuting the Christians (Acts 26:9-11)- only to be saved by God. Today Paul is prayerfully grateful to God who has mercifully treated him. Writing to Timothy he says, “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord because he considers me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated, because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”

Some of us get lost in our sins, our selfishness not because of our own faults, but because of one factor or the other. It could be our environment. It could be the type of company we keep. It could be the type of books we read. It could also be the type of movies we watch. It could be ambition or the wrong choices we make in life. Even political ideologies can make us lose track of the universal mercy of God.

 But in the tender eyes and love of God there is always room to make- up, for a rediscovery, for atonement, for a renewal. And this is again demonstrated in the three parables of today’s Gospel: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son. In all these “losses” there is this image of merciful, concerned, caring owner who left everything to search for the lost item. At discovery they are all very happy and joyful.

Our Merciful God loves us. He searches for each and everyone one of us. All that he expects of us is to be people of prayer, men and women, with a forgiving heart. And each time we offend God to be able to say like the 2nd son in today’s Gospel and in the responsorial Psalm “I will rise up and go back to my father.” Let us rise up at this Mass and go back to God our Father.