Saturday, August 4, 2018

Christ– the Bread of Life!: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo ( 18th Sunday Year B)

Homily Eighteenth Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Exod 16:2-4, 12-15;
·          Ps 78:3-4, 23-25, 54;
·         Eph 4:17, 20-24;
·         John 6:24-35

 Christ– the Bread of Life!

The readings of these past Sundays centered on Christ feeding the multitude. Today, in the Book of Exodus, Ephesians and in John 6:24-35, our Lord, who is yesterday, today and forever, is not backing down. He speaks to us again, physically and spiritually, and perhaps in symbols familiar to us. He is the bread of life–the source of new life, the giver of love and everything we need– spiritually and materially: peace, good health, jobs, vocations, clothing, housing, family life, – name them! He is our “Bread winner.” History proves this, as well.

 In the first reading, when the Israelite journeyed through the desert and were physically hungry, tired, discouraged, disillusioned, tempted, shaken in faith– they complained against Moses; “would that we had dies at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt….but you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”. This is human. This is who we are– easily shaken in our faith traditions, tired and thirsty on our life journeys, deserted of  the teachings of the Church, short memory, fail to see through beyond our narrow eye glasses, and short cuts;  prone to complaint, criticize others so easily and speak ills about others, our parents, teachers, and leaders!

 But notice who the Lord is–compassionate, resolute in loving us, merciful, works with and through Moses, rises above human thinking. He is divine and spiritual, and deploys us, our superiors, teachers, priests, bishops as his instruments. He responded divinely and heavenly, in the 1st reading. The Lord provides the complaining– Israel with food, manna, love and comfort from heaven, with great spiritual implication– that they may know that he is the Lord!

 It is on this spiritual note that Saint Paul addresses the Ephesian Church in the 2nd reading. He invites them to drop their selfish, narrow-minded lives and corrupted way of deceitfulness. Rather, they should put on new selves of generosity, loving of ones’ neighbors, insightful in matters of faith, patience, trusting, selfless, compassionate and believing! To accomplish these could be challenging and long, just as the journey was long for Israel.

 A long journey for Israel– but, all these we see, summed up in Christ the New Moses who provides the hungry multitude of today’s Gospel with the “new bread from heaven” that endures for eternal life.  Of course,, in symbols, Christ meant those spiritual and moral bread (s) that transcends ordinarily and material bread and fish he had just fed the 5000 with last Sunday. In fact, it is well put in the alleluia verse of today that “man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4b). With God everything is possible. How do we believe in the fact that with God everything is possible?

  How many times do we not focus all our attention and emotion on material, fish, bread, money, power, control, and physical success in this life? How many times do we not flock to Christ solely for material loaves like those we hear of in today’s Gospel! Those we regard as our friends, do we truly love them because they are kind, prayerful, spiritual, exemplary in virtues, or do we go to them because of the material gains we tap temporary from them?

 The readings of today, in fact, provides us material for onward mediation and reflections on these questions.  They suggest that we labor and strife in this life as Christians, we must labor, work hard, study hard with love and patient endurance, trusting in God and in what has been reveal to us through the scriptures, the mouth of the Apostles and the  teachings of  the Church.

 Granted that there are undeniable material hunger here and there, in the world, Christ must not be followed just for the satisfaction of material hunger, but also for the renewed desire to hear, preach, live his word–putting on new spiritual selves, imbibing his values with renewed zeal.  This is why Pope Francis continues to emphasize that more be done by global humanity to spread, multiply and share good works, eliminate greediness and corruption in our nation’s public offices! Moreover, Christ, the Bread of Life, can be searched, thirst for, and followed by wealthier nations, friends and individuals who support the poorer ones with love, who replace indifferent attitude towards spiritual and family values– where bread are shared, moral virtues cultivated with faith, hope, love and positive attitudes toward the teachings of Christ, our true and imperishable Bread of Life.

1.      What are the causes of our complaints and how do we handle them?
2.      How often do we not assist those without material food?
3.      What other spiritual values “food” do we often ask Christ for?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sharing God’s Infinite Love(17th Sunday Yr B)

Homily Seventeen Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • 2 kings 4:42-44;
  • Ps 145:1-11, 15-18;
  •  Eph 4:1-6
  • John 6:1-15
Sharing God’s Infinite Love
 Scripture readings today challenge us to constantly rely on God’s infinite mercy and love. He feeds us and provides for our needs, meant to be shared with others.
In the first reading, 2 Kings 4:42-44, a nameless man from Baal-shalishah  brought twenty barley loaves made from first fruits, and fresh fruits from the ear, to Elisha for the feeding of a hundred people with plenty of left overs. A parallel story is found in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 with only five barley loves and two fish brought  by a boy, in today’s Gospel, John 6:1-15. Isn’t this feedings and meals' stories a foretaste or a foreshadow of the Eucharist we celebrate and share?
 In these stories we learn of God’s unlimited love for us, in all our needs: physical, material, spiritual, social, religious, political and psychological. In these stories God multiplies our blessings for us, the poor, the needy, the orphans, the homeless, even though we are a multiplicity of people, from all walks of life, from different families, homes, ethnicities and nations. God’s love has no boundaries!
One thing that also strikes me in this story of God’s boundary-less love is the significant of the fact that it was a nameless man from a place called Baal-shalishah who brought food and his first grains used by Elisha, the prophets to feed hundreds of people.
Similarly in the Gospel it was a nameless boy who bore 5 loaves and 2 fish blessed and multiplied by Jesus for the feeding of the crowd of 5,000 people. I am sure there are many of us in the pews that God has used silently to help other people; to feed many people. Some of you are in the Knights. Some of you are members of the Catholic daughters. Some of you are in the Pastoral Council, the Youths and other committees. Some of you are volunteers in our various parish projects and missions. Some of you sing in the choir. Some of you never miss daily morning masses. Some of you are Lectors, ushers, and altar servers. Some of you support your priests, your neighbors and pray for them. Some of you bring a lot supplies for the food pantry to feed the poor and the homeless. You contributes towards charity in the Church. Your names may not have been written on daily newspapers, or broadcasted on the CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and Cable Media. God loves and knows you. He will provide for you for your generosity. You are the one Pope Francis would called “saints-next door”, “saints on the pews.” So God can use any of us for the good of the community, no matter the challenges that come with it.
Saint Paul, of today’s Second reading, who rightly calls himself a prisoner of the Lord, was also aware of God’s infinite love for the Ephesians. He was aware that God can also use them, each of them, their gifts for the good of the community. The more reasons, he urges them, “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” In Ephesian 4:1-6 Paul stresses one faith, one hope, one love that we all share in God, in Christ, who has first loved and fed us!
 So let us pray at this Mass that we may continue to trust in God’s infinite love, who feeds us. And that we who have been fed by the Lord may reach out, or be instruments of blessings to our next door neighbors, especially the poor, the less privilege who may be in need of food or payers, or visits, or a telephone call, sharing with them God’s infinite love!
Reflection Questions:
  1. Are there times in our lives we feel God has not provided enough for our needs, when and why?
  2. How often do we see ourselves as instruments of God’s blessings to others?
  3. How often do we assist members of our faith communities, especially the poor, to realize that God constantly care for them?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Passion and compasssion of A Shepherd -King (16th Sunday Yr B).

Homily Sixteenth Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

  • Jer 23:1-6;
  • Ps 23:1-6;
  • Eph 2:13-18
  • Mark 6:30-34

The Passion and Compassion of A Shepherd-King: An Imitation

 I know, ordinarily everyone here today would have an opinion about who is a good father. Or who is a good mother, brother and friend. We would have an opinion about what a good leader, or captain of soccer or football team should look like. Or what responsibility is expected of our teachers, pastors, priests, parents, a king, a major, a president, governor, a religious, managers, directors, champions, leaders of any kind, call them good shepherds. Some would say they are expected to be kind, truthful, peaceful, prophetic, compassionate, listening, collegial, approachable, consultative, synodal, caring, providing, protective, humble, and exemplary in virtues, even in moments of trials!

Using the metaphor of a Good Shepherd, scripture readings today, spiritually and pastorally speak to these expectations. In the first reading, Jeremiah, aware of Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and messianic traditions reminds Israel’s kings and leaders of his time of their weakness and failure to live up to the expectation of good leaders - who like ordinary and natural Bedouin – shepherds were expected in ancient near east to be courageous, caring, redeeming, selfless, faithful, tender hearted, and protective of their flocks. They lead them to the fields and wadis for food and water. They love and know each them. They are communicative and familiar with one another.  Their flocks obey and listen to the sign- language and directives of their master-- good shepherds, who care, love, feed and fight for them all!

 It was not always the case for Israel’s kings, and leaders.  Most of them did the opposite. In spite of their failures, Jeremiah prophesied hope that would be fulfilled in Christ, the Messiah, and savior of the world. This saving Christ, the Good Shepherd is the one preached by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (cf. Roman 9-11), particularly in Ephesians 2, today’s second reading. Each of us, everyone, Jews and Gentiles, all believers, far and near Paul says are saved by grace through faith.  Through Christ all the flocks have access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph 2:13-118).

  Similarly in today’s Gospel Mark presents the true King of the Jews as the serving and suffering shepherd of messianic traditions. Mark tells us that when Jesus landed in a deserted place, where he was seeking for rest, he saw a large crowd descending on him, he had compassion and pity on them, feeding them, for they were like sheep without shepherd; he also began to teach them many things( Mark 6:30-34).

 Clearly Marks challenges us to see Jesus as God’s Son who reveal himself to the poor, to us, his flock as God his Father would have revealed himself to the Israelites of old in the desert(eremos/bamidbar/wilderness), as read  in the books of Exodus and Numbers. The Jesus of Mark feeds the crowd as YHWH would have fed the stranded Israelites in the deserts. He cares for them. He truly loves them as truly good natural shepherds-Bedouin would to their loving sheep, in the wilderness and desert of the ancient near east.

The wilderness as we read in the Book of Deuteronomy was also a place where God taught his people compassion especially of how to feed one another. In Mark besides feeding the crowd, Christ our Messiah teaches us his disciples many things.

 Let us figure this out ourselves? Let us make this personal! What have we learned from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, prophesied by Jeremiah 23, Ezekiel 34 (cf. John 10:10), chanted in psalm 23, and preached by Paul all the way, from the eastern Mediterranean to the west- heading to Spain, in today’s scriptures? I believe among other things, he teaches us how to love everyone, Jews and Gentiles, how to be compassionate, how to lead, how to father; how to boss, how to direct, how to parent our children, with courage, how to be in-charge, how to function with the passion and compassion of a shepherd- king in our own ways, with a sense of responsibility, how to reach out to the poor; how to be prophetic, how to smell our sheep and how to feed our neighbors with love, peace, joy and mercy!

 Reflections Questions;

  1. In our various places of work and responsibility can we identify with the compassionate Jesus of today’s Mark’s gospel?
  2. As parents and leaders how often do we imitate Christ’s style of leadership and human relationship?
  3.  What prevents us from leading with Christ-like, and good shepherd-like passion and compassion?


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Divine Missionary Journeys and Benefits!( 15th Sunday Year B)

Homily Fifteenth Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Amos 7:12-15;
  • Ps 85:9-14;
  •  Eph 1:3-14
  • Mark 6:7-13
Divine Missionary Journeys and Benefits!
Pope Francis in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaiudium, the Joy of the Gospel, sees the Church, all of us, as a prophetic and as a missionary church; a community that should goes forth, that go  out there to preach the gospel, irrespective of our locations, geography and culture! This is what we celebrate today, a Christ who sends us out on a mission. In fact, three verbs in today’s scriptures support this mission. These are, the verbs “to go,” to choose,” and “to send.” They are used in relations to the ministries of the major characters mentioned in today’s readings: the prophet Amos, St. Paul and the Twelve disciples selected and sent by Jesus in the Gospel.
Like the prophet Amos sent to preach in Bethel, or like Jesus who chose and sent his Twelve out, God calls us from different areas, homes, occupations, and families. He sends us to different places. He expects us to go without fear, without anxieties, without much worry, to respond generously under the different circumstances, challenges and locations that we may find ourselves, knowing and hoping for divine blessings that awaits us!
 Sometimes this is easier said than done. Personally, I still remember few years ago around the months of June 15 to July 7, I was chosen by the Dean of our Seminary/School of Theology, where I teach to join in leading and directing a pilgrimage and archaeological study trip to the Holy Land. Since I have been there before, in fact, several times, as a student and as I teacher,  I know the challenges of the hot weather, dehydration, long flight to a contested zone among the Jews, Palestinians, Moslems and Christians; and frightening machine guns you see in the hands of security agents, here and there in the Holy Land. This journey is also time consuming. While digging you role on the dirt, breath in and out a lot of dust. With these and many other challenging reasons, I thought of declining the invitation. But the spirit of the Lord said to me, “Michael do this, I am sending you, go lead the students, my future ministers to the Holy Land. I listened to the Lord. It turned out to be very good and refreshing. I experienced such a spiritual joy and benefits than my previous trips. We had morning prayers and daily Masses at significant places. Starting from Jerusalem, we went to the city of David, Hezekiah’s tunnel, St. Peter Galligantu, Temple Mount, Western Wall.
 In Nazareth we visited and celebrated Masses at Saint Joseph’s Chapel and in the Church of the Annunciation- took part in rosary and candle procession. Explored Bethlehem and celebrated Mass in the church of the Nativity. Visited, Masada, Jericho, swam on the Dead Sea, went to En Gedi and Qumran Community. We were also at Caesarea Philippi/Marittima, Beth shan, Hatzor, Meggido and Dan. In Galilee we walked and lived the evangelical triangle of Jesus- places, he walked and performed most of his ministry- Capernaum, Chorazin, Tiberias, Mts. of Beatitude, and Tabor, Kursi, Magdala, Bania, and Bethsaida.
Doing excavation in Bethsaida was fun. Lots of finds were discovered that link us to stories we read in the Bible. The people we met from different institutions including Australia, Canada, Israel, Africa, and the United States were amazing in faith, knowledge and experiences. Till today we remain friends in Christ.
 The spiritual and pastoral benefits of the journey were overwhelming. It was worth listening to the voice of the Lord, to “go to the Holy Land,” again! I saw it as God’s Will. And I did it for the common good and the glory of God!  Walking the station of the cross publicly in the busy road of Via Dolorosa and celebrating Masses in the Church of all nations/garden of Gethsemane and in the Church of Crucifixion/ Holy Sepulcher benefited all of us spiritually.
Some of you may also have 100s if not 1000s of personal stories to tell that sound like my—initially hesitating, but finally with the grace of God sayings, “yes Lord, here I am, I come to do your will.”  This is what the ancient prophet Amos, of today’s first reading did. As a farmer, he was chosen and selected by God to go from his southern home town of Tekoa and prophecy or mission to God’s people in the north. It was not an easy mission for him.
 As I thought of the risk in the Holy Land, Amos must have thought of the risk of confronting the priests, the religious and socio-political powers of the north.  He knew he might be misunderstood and perhaps rejected.  He risked his life by confronting Amaziah and Jeroboam and by condemning their false sense of healing, worship and spirituality.
  Similarly, the Twelve chosen by Christ in today’s gospels, and commissioned in pairs to evangelize, preach repentance, heal, anoint and cure diseases, never had it easy. They faced challenges such as the need to travel light, go without food, money and excess tunics.
In each of this case, be it that of Amos or the twelve chosen and sent by Christ, God’s blessings and divine grace were sufficient unto them.  Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, Ephesian 1:3-14 speaks of these blessings and divine providence and spiritual benefits on our journeys especially when we trust the Lord.  Saint Paul who also experienced mission first hand, says, “ In him we were also chosen(ekglegomai),destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory…”
 In other words, we are the Amos(s) of today. We are the Twelve of today. We are the Saint Paul(s) of today. The Lord has called us in our respective roles to prophesy with courage, love, hope and share our faith with joy. Like the Amos and the Twelve he sends us to bear witness to him in different situations and circumstances of or lives’ journeys, as priests, pastors, religious lay men and women, in families, offices and factories.
Reflection Questions:
  1. Do we see ourselves as part of the church, the twelve, the Paul(s), and the Amos(s) sent on mission?
  2. What are the challenges that we face in our various places of missions or services
  3. How do we help ourselves or assist others to draw inspiration from the prophetic faith and missionary stories handed to us in the scriptures?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Prophets and Thorns on Their Flesh!(14th Sunday Year B)

Homily Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Season Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Ezekiel 2:2-5;
  • Ps 123:1-4;
  • 2 Cor 12:7-10
  • Mark 6:1-6
Prophets and Thorns on Their Flesh!
 The Bible readings of today speak of the challenges that face a true prophet. Saint Paul calls this his “thorn on the Flesh” (skoloph tē sarki), which was given to him, as prophet, and apostle to the Gentiles.  First of all a true prophet does not send himself. He is sent by God. He does not speak on his behalf but on behalf of the one who sent.  He or she is brave, courageous, truthful, and remains the conscience of his or her society, people and next door neighbor. Secondly, a prophet is human, and could even be weak in eloquence and stature. He is mortal, prone to disabilities.  Besides human weaknesses, and disabilities, he could be rejected by those he or she is sent to evangelize. Thirdly, there may be many other forms of hardships and sufferings, opposition, resistance, mockery a prophet must have to endure in the course of fulfilling his or her ministry. This is where Ezekiel, Christ and Paul belong. By our water of baptism this is who we are called to be- a prophets to our families and next door neighbors realizing that, there is power in weakness, there is need to appreciate the paradox of the cross!
 In the case of Ezekiel’s ministry of today’s first reading, he was called while in exile in Babylon and sent as a human prophet, with his own human weaknesses, ”thorns on the flesh,” to preach to the rebellious Israelites.  His prophetic humanity is made clear repeatedly in the entire book of Ezekiel where he is constantly addressed by God, as ‘the son of man” or “mortal,” about 93 times. This simply means that Ezekiel was human. That Ezekiel knew that he was human, mortal, son of man, imperfect helped him relied totally on the grace of God in his prophecy of hope and change of heart to the exiled community of Israel in Babylon.  It is important we also ways recognize that we are human, we are broken, and we are weak always in need of God’s mercy and his divine grace! That we are ill, or hurt our feet, eyes, legs, arms etc., should not separate us from the love of God, from the mission we are called to mission.
We notice in the Gospel reading (Mark 6:1-6), Jesus also called himself a prophet. Of course, he was called and sent by God his father (John’s Gospel), but often rejected here and there. Having been insulted and rejected in his home town of Nazareth, in today’s Gospel, Jesus said to himself, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place among his own kin and his own house.” By calling himself a prophet Jesus recognizes his father sent him to do his will: to baptize the unbaptized, forgive sinners, teach courageously in the synagogue and healed the sick without charge. By calling himself a prophet, in the likes of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Israel’s prophet, Jesus recognizes that human honor was immaterial to the mission that his father had sent him.  He recognizes that he didn’t need to come from the most important city of his time to serve, to do the will of his father. In spite of his hardships that span through the garden of Gethsemane and via delorosa and even to the cross (which we relived  when we pray and walk the stations of the cross in our religious communities/Holy  Land),  the spirit of the Lord was upon him (Luke 4:18), as he walked his way heroically to the Calvary!
Saint Paul in his mission to the Church in Corinth understood these challenges. In the 2nd reading Paul says, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, to keep me from been too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Throughout his missionary journeys, Paul whom we know must have been a very proud person in his upbringing. Ironically he had his own “thorn on the flesh…illnesses, weakness. Like Ezekiel, and Christ he also endured those “thorns on the flesh, including insults, crises and opposition  from false-preachers in Corinth,  hardships, rejections, persecutions, constraints and dishonor, for the sake of the Gospel, which he knew was the source of salvation for Jews and Gentiles (Rom 1:16-17).
How many of us today in our various places of ministries first of all would be humble to recognize that we are human, weak and vulnerable? How many realizes that they are mere messengers, mortals, sons and daughters of men, like the prophets Ezekiel, or instruments in God’s hands?  How do react when we feel wrongly challenged or opposed by false prophets? Does dishonors, insults, illnesses, hurting our legs or arms, or eyes, or persecutions and hardships and other challenges stopped us from doing the good that must be done (love our neighbors, be charitable and forgiving), or from preaching the gospel that needs be preached?  Hasn’t St. Paul also elsewhere reminds us that nothing should separate us from the love of God( Rom 8:35-39).
Friends taking Ezekiel, Saint Paul and Christ as our missionary and prophetic models may we recognize that there is that hidden divine strength in every seeming human weaknesses and dishonor we may face in the course of doing good,  evangelizing, or in the course of being faithfully and truly prophetic to our neighbors, whom we share our bread with, whose midst we live our spiritual and corporal works of mercy and exercise those Gospel Beatitudes, that Pope Francis daily reminds us of.   As Christians and believers, may we continue to carry the death and dying of Christ in our mortal bodies so that we can reveal the life, the love, the compassion and the tender mercy of Christ to others!
Reflection Questions:
  1. In what way can we relate to the ministry of Paul, Ezekiel and Christ in the light of today’s bible readings?
  2. What would you consider your “thorn on the flesh” in your Christian and religious practices?
  3. How do we help ourselves and  members of our faith/ religious communities--- called to be prophets and prophetess to realize that there is power in weakness?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Lord, Our Rescuer and Giver of Life(13th Sunday Year B)

Homily Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Wis 1:13-15;2:23-34;
  • Ps30:2,4,5-6,11-13;
  • 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15;
  •  Mark 5:21-43               
 Lord, Our Rescuer and Giver of Life
 In the responsorial Psalm of today, “I will praise you, Lord, for you are have rescued me” (Ps 30.2a) lies the historical essence of our relationship with God. In history, and as presented in today's scriptures, God remains our savior, our rescuer, our healer, the giver of life, who deserves our praise.
In the Gospel of Mark, today, God’s Son, Jesus not only ministers his Father's kingdom- values to the multitude (oxlos), in the neighborhood of the sea of Galilee, but he rescues many people from illnesses, including  Jairius 12 years old daughter, and the woman who was afflicted with hemorrhages for a complete 12 years. To the 12 year girls, the dying daughter of the synagogue official, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” meaning “little girl, I say to you arise!” She arose to the amazement of the on-lookers, and walked. To the woman afflicted for 12 years with hemorrhage, he said, “daughter your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction. In each of these healing episodes in Marks Gospel faith is involved in the part of those rescued from death to life and from illnesses to wholeness.
By faith, we mean “assurance of things hope for, and the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1); faith that with God everything is possible—the progress we need to make in life is possible, the gift of life and good health is possible.
 This is why we are been assured in the 1st reading, the Book of Wisdom that our “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creature of the world are wholesome.”
Saint Paul also attested to this graciousness of God in the 2nd reading, that, though Christ was rich, for our sake he become poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor 8:7, 8, 9,13-15). He went to the cross that we might have life; that we might be healed like woman and synagogue’s official daughter of today’s gospel.
No doubt there are moments today that we find ourselves in the situation of this synagogue official and the woman of today’s Gospel.   Sicknesses as we all know are not limited to the materially poor. Children and relatives of the synagogue, church and government officials do fall sick. Even though, some can afford to take their relatives to expensive and specialist hospital, here and there, faith must be part of this process.  Do we realize that there are illnesses that money, positions and the best hospitals in the world may not necessarily be able to  cure? Even in the medical treatment we receive we must in faith, as believers see God touching us through them- the doctors, and nurses. Do we have faith? What challenges our faith? What are the enemies of faith?
 The synagogue official of today’s gospel seemed to be aware of this fact. I want to believe, the more reason he came to Jesus for the healing of his 12 years old daughter. Interestingly, the other woman, for good twelve symbolic years, perhaps may have travelled everywhere, seeking for healing but found none   but, until she touched Jesus’s cloak with faith, as we saw in today’s gospel
In  our today’s desperate moments of loneliness,   wars and threats of wars, terrorism, and threats of terrorism , gun violent and threats of gun violent, poverty, oppression, injustices, illnesses, and loss of a loved ones, may we imitate with gratitude to God, the  synagogue official, Jairius and the sick woman of today’s Bible readings. We have other models of faith including those listed in  the Letter to the Hebrews 11----- such as, Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, some of the Judges, the Prophets  Kings, as well as our mother, Mary. They found healing and their wholeness in God.
Also when we find our healing, life and wholeness in Christ may we in the spirit of Christ’s generosity, as preached by Saint Paul in Corinth(2 Cor 8:7, 8, 9,13-15), be willing to share the love, the wholeness and the life-given Christ with our neighbors, especially the poor and the immigrants of our communities.
Reflection Questions:
  1. Do we see Christ as our healer, rescuer and source of wholeness?
  2. How often do we share God’s healing generosity and wholeness with members of our faith community?
  3. In the spirit of today’s readings who is your faith model, the synagogue official or the woman who suffered hemorrhage for 12 years?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sharing in John the Baptist’s Prophetic Calling(Solemn Nativity of John the Baptist)

Homily --- the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist- Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

  • Isaiah 49:1-6
  • Ps 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14c-15
  • Acts 13:22-26
  • Luke 1:57-66,80

Sharing in John the Baptist’s Prophetic Calling

Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist,  son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, a God fearing prophet, whose birth story we have just heard in today’s Gospel of Luke ( Luke 1:57-66,80)- a Gospel of promise and fulfillment, a Gospel of salvation. In this Gospel- story John was not just the last of Israel’ prophets who prepared  the way for Christ our Savior, but like most of Israel’s prophets, his birth, calling and mission were not by chance. They were planned and designed by God, to fit into God’s plan of salvation.  His birth and mission were meant to be a lesson for us today- in our humility, in our service, in our callings, in our endurance, patience, in our courage and in our dedication in serving God and one another.

Remember, prophets were called and sent. Prophets were God’s mouthpiece. They were God fearing people, who worshiped one God as we heard in the stories of Elijah/Elisha at weekday masses, this past week. Prophets were God’s messengers. Israel’s prophets interpreted the will of God. They acted as society’s conscience—as defenders of the poor and voiceless, intermediaries and prayer warriors. They were servants of God who often would allow themselves to be  seen as those truly called- as were Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Prophets were guided by divine providence to plead and intercede for all. They were good leaders who also cherish the place of humility in leaders. Some of them were very creative and fearless too.  They loved peace and promoted justice. They transmitted God’s love and divine promises. They were also risk-takers and ready to suffer, or even die, for the sake of truth. John the Baptist whose birthday we celebrate today was one them.

We know today in our parishes and communities that there are dedicated and God fearing people, priests, religious and lay faithful --- called them modern prophets, sitting by our sides, or living in our neighborhood,—think about that, and look around! What do you make of Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, or Pope Francis? We are called to be prophets!

In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, we are told, providentially conceived her at old age—when people thought that she was barren. She celebrated John’ birth and thank God for His divine mercy. His father would have named him Zechariah, but, still by divine providence they named him John, to the amazement of everyone in Israel. John “grew up and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80).

Generally, his parents were very thankful to God. His Father Zechariah praised God in the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79), and recognized that God has raised a mighty savior in the house of David. In his prophetic ministry John prophesied with humility. He acknowledged Christ as the Lord and knew that the one, Christ, coming after him was higher than him. He was only there to prepare the way for our savior because he was being sent. Even though he baptized with water, he prophesied that Christ will baptized with water and the Holy Spirit.

In other words, he saw himself as a servant to his own people. He stood on the prophetic tradition of Israel’s Servant of God (Ebed Yhwh) heard in today’s first reading Isaiah 49:1-6. In Isaiah 49, no matter the circumstances of exile and loss of the land, experience of pains, and afflictions, injustices and oppressions of their time, through his successive prophets, including John the Baptist, God will live up to the covenant promises he made to  Abraham and David his servants. God will free Israel. He will send them a servant, who will suffer for them; who will free them. He will make them ‘a light to the nations, so that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

John the Baptist spent his prophetic ministry, serving, and pointing Israel to this light to the nations, namely, Christ our Savior. He is the one St. Paul preaches about in the synagogue, in today’s 2nd reading, Acts of 13:22-26. Paul notes that God protected Israel in Egypt. He led them through the desert into the Promised Land. He set up the judges till the time  of Samuel when Israel asked for a King, and so God provided them with Saul and David. From David’s descendant, God gave Israel a savior; Jesus Christ as promised (Acts 13:23).  In Acts 13: 24, Paul says, “My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Our birth is also a gift from God. It’s a calling.  We have been called and sent words of salvation. By our baptism, we are called to share and participate in the prophetic mission of John the Baptist- bringing people to Christ and Christ to people; including our children, grandchildren, friends, and family members and to those we share neighborhoods with. We are invited to spread the kingdom of God, to preach God’s grace, his tender mercy and love, from our respective locations, and culture, to people we meet in our daily lives, especially the poor, the voiceless, migrants and immigrants—no matter the challenges.

Reflection Questions:

    1. What have we learned from the birth of John the Baptist? Do we see our lives and callings as gifts from God- as a result of his love and mercy?
    2. In what way do we share in the prophetic mission especially the type lived by John the Baptist and our role models?
    3. Could you think of few modern prophets in your faith community?