Friday, April 17, 2015

Homily 3rd Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Ps 4:2, 4, 7-9; 1John 2:1-5a Luke 24:35-48

Lord, let your face of the Resurrection shine upon us!

The Responsorial Psalm of today, “Lord, let your face shine upon on” (Ps.4) sets the tone for the joy of the resurrection we celebrate on this 3rd Sunday of Easter. This song, “let your face shine upon us o Lord” is a metaphorical and trustful prayer of the Psalmist on divine benevolence, his blessings, his peace and love. It is a wonderful reminder of the priestly blessings of the Book of Numbers 6:24-26: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!”

 Today we are asking for the face of the resurrected Christ to shine upon each and every one of us; the poor, the rich, young and old of all nations and continents!  Of course, the resurrection of Christ is factual and truthful! It remains the source of our hope, the channel of our faith, and the conduit of our joy and peace. It brings us uncountable blessings including the courage to trust him, to know him deeply and be able to bear witness to Christ in our daily lives and in our communities, in good times and in bad times, in old age and when we are young!

In today’s Gospel the two Disciples of Christ, who were on their way to a village of Emmaus, 7 miles from Jerusalem, recounted how difficult it was for them, initially to believe the stories of the resurrection, especially as first told by the women. They did not understand its meaning not until Our Lord himself manifested himself to them in the breaking of the bread.  In the Gospel, while they were conversing, the Lord appeared again and said to them “Peace be with you!  Such an umbrella of blessings! Peace be with you! He showed them the wounds inflicted on him on the cross by his enemies! By those who misunderstood him.  He also eat baked fish in front of the disciples!  He shared scriptures with them, the laws of Moses, the Torah, and the Psalms. What a blessings! In other words, he shone his face upon the disciples!

Christ’s appearances after his resurrection brought strength and energy to his disciples.  It strengthened their faith, and opened their eyes to know the Lord more and more. Of course sharing a meal with one another, especially with the poor and strangers, is fantastic way of expressing love and witnessing to Christ.  Sharing a meal with our neighbors closes or at least narrows the gap of doubt among members of the community! It enhances friendship and gives us opportunity to know one another better.

In the case of Peter, the resurrection of Christ made him a better Peter and ardent witness to Christ as evident in the 1st reading(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19). After the resurrection Peter went about preaching the glory of the empty tomb and rebuked those who ignorantly put the innocent Jesus to death. All these, however, happened so that what he had long foretold, that the son man will suffer, die, and be raised on the third day, might be fulfilled.

Each of us are called not only to be like Peter, but also like those two disciples on the way to Emmaus, allowing our encounter with Christ, through the passages of  scriptures,  we hear and read  and sing today, to change us. Like the Disciples of Christ who knew Christ more and by sharing, fish/meals with him, we want to be transformed with a better knowledge of Christ and his values each time we receive the Holy Communion. Of course, as the 2nd reading of today (1 John 2:1-5a) would put it, “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments”,  the 10 commandments, the teachings and precepts of the church, often better summarized as love of God and one’s neighbors!

Even if we are not able like Peter to run around preaching on the streets, market squares, synagogues and churches, we can as much as we can share our meals and clothing with the poor. We can reach out to them through our friends. We can pray for peace in the world. We can visit our loved ones in hospital and stop by their sick beds for a few seconds of prayer and support! We can also forgive those who may have offended us in one way or other.  We can dispose our heart for the word of God. We can pray for those we have offended, to be merciful unto us. We can always trust in God’s benevolence, knowing that he will always shine his face upon us!

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you,
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!”



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Homily (3) 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3) 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; 1 Pet 1:3-9 (A); Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6 (B); Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13,17-19 (C) and John 20:19-31(ABC)

Christ: Conduit of Divine Mercy!

Today the Church celebrates “Divine Mercy Sunday” commemorating Jesus’ revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy. Pope John Paul II granted this Feast to the Universal Church on the occasion of his raising Sr. Faustina, a young Polish woman to Sainthood on April 30, 2000 and was decreed to be celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. 

It is a teaching Sunday that invites us to embrace Christ’s enthronement on the Cross, his Resurrection and his multiple appearances to his seemingly disillusioned and doubting disciples  as nothing, but acts of love and divine mercy towards us. Christ went to the cross freely to save us! (Song- "all the way to Calvary... went for us..."). Peter in the Second reading, particularly of Year A recognizes this when he says:

“Blessed be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3-9).

Christ’s disciples particularly those who lived through the events of Palm Sunday to Easter needed the power of Christ’s Peace to calm their fears and be strengthened in the supernatural gifts of faith and fortitude through the Holy Spirit., wherever they were hiding for fear of the "Jews."

I am sure we still recall the other day, in Luke Chapter 24: 13-35, at Emmaus, when Jesus walked besides Cleopas and his friend on their return from Jerusalem, clouded in sad conversation they did not recognized Jesus until the Risen Christ spent time breaking bread with them. Besides, walking with his disciples, or breaking bread with them, he ate baked fish with them (Lk 24:35-48) during other appearances. He also gave them encouraging instruction by the beach at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14)

In today’s Gospel, John 20:19-31  read in years ABC, the Risen Lord appears to the restless and frightened disciples with blessings of Peace (Shalom)! He breathed on them and commissions them on a preaching mission with the power to forgive sins, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jon 20:23).

On a day like this, Divine Mercy Sunday, I would think that Our Lord encourages us to be merciful to one another, in our homes, families and communities. The Lord expects us to continue to appreciate the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation in the Church. [ And when this celebration in done in a Seminary, a house of formation of future priest for our parishes and dioceses we cannot but continue to pray for our priests and would be priests to see themselves as ministers of Divine Mercy and agents of shalom.  And this is confirm in last year’s ( 2011) documents from the Congregation for the Clergy, The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy….p. 3 which says, ‘ the priest is a minister, that is to say that he is at the same time both a servant and a prudent dispenser of Divine Mercy…”

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict the XVI in his 2010 Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, which is also applicable to every priests (and all of us) urges priests themselves (and us) who have wrong others, “not to be “despair of God’s Mercy,” that “Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil”].   Divine Mercy is sufficient unto each of us, all the Disciples of Christ: mom, dad, children, clergy, priests, Seminarians, as it was for all men, and women we hear in Scriptures.

Besides encouraging us to be "masters of divine mercy", Christ invites us like Thomas to stop doubting; to be believers. Christ invites us today to touch his wounds (John 20:19-31); wounds that  would heal Thomas’ wounds of disbelief and faithlessness; wounds that replaces lack of peace with Peace of Christ; wounds that replaces the spirit of darkness with God’s Spirit of Light. Christ’s wounds, a catalyst for testimony of the healing truth, courage, unlimited mercy and inexhaustible love of Christ.  Christ’s wounds expels the power of injustice and heals the wounds of indiscriminate shootings in our communities. It is this wounds that Thomas touches in today’s Gospel. The wounds of love, unity; wounds that would empower communion, the sharing (konoinia) and the preaching of the early Christian Community.

This we are told in Acts of the Apostle (Year A): “All who believed were together… (as we are today in this church) they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life (Konoinia), breaking of bread and praying together….” (Acts 2:42-47).

Moreover (Year B): They were of one heart and mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…they bore witness to the Resurrection of Christ…” (Acts 4:32-35).

Like Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Cleopas, and the Eleven Disciples, we all do have moments of doubt, uncertainties, confusions, disbelief, hopelessness, selfishness and frustrations.  Conscious also of those moments we might have acted uncharitably or mercilessly towards our neighbors, we are invited today to deep our hands into those wounds of Christ!  And be filled with faith, hope, love, and spirit of charity and sense of oneness by Christ, our wounded healer! 

The Eucharist we shall soon move up to celebrates provides us a fitting opportunity to deep our fingers into these wounds of Christ. It reminds us of the goodness, the mercy of the Lord which demands our gratitude and reciprocity of obedience to him, and in how we treat one another. For whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, so we do it unto the Lord.  As we worship and receive Christ today, May we be strengthen with mercy, love (1 John 5:1-6), hope (1 Pet 1:3-9), faith and unity to always be able to say with Thomas “My Lord and My God.” 

And may our families, streets, neighborhood, churches and workplaces continue to be true channels and conduits for the transmission of Divine Mercy, and propagation of faith in the Risen Christ!


 Homily (alternate) Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy) ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; 1 Pet 1:3-9 (A); Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6 (B); Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13,17-19 (C) and John 20:19-31(ABC)

 Dipping our Hands into the Wounds of Christ!

From Easter Sunday to Pentecost the Church celebrates those fifty days that the Risen Jesus goes around by his appearances strengthening the faith of his “seemingly” disillusioned disciples over the events of the victory of the Cross; that supernatural event beyond the powers of Anna, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and Pilate other opponents of Jesus. Even it took a while, for friends of Christ, his mother, Mary Magdalene, his disciples, the apostles, especially Thomas, being human like any of us to come to  terms with the mystery of the Resurrection (John 20:24-29). He needed to deep his hands into the wounds of our Savior wounds; the wounds of peace and assurances!

They needed the power of Christ’s Peace (love, reassurance, well-being, okeyness) to calm their fears and be strengthened in the supernatural gifts of faith and fortitude by the Holy Spirit, wherever they were hiding for fear of persecution. You would recall that in Luke’s Gospel 24: 13-35, at Emmaus, when Jesus walked besides Cleopas and his friend on their return from Jerusalem, clouded in sad conversation they did not recognized Jesus until the Risen Christ spent time breaking bread with them. Besides, walking with his disciples, or breaking bread with them in other appearances, he ate baked fish with them (in Lk 24:35-48). He also gave them encouraging instruction by the beach at the Sea of Tiberias (in John 21:1-14).

In today’s Gospel, John 20:19-31, the Risen Lord invites the Doubting Thomas to touch his wounds. These wounds would heal Thomas’ wounds of doubts, disbelief and faithlessness; wounds that replaces lack of peace with Peace of Christ; wounds that replaces the spirit of darkness with God’s Spirit of Light. Thomas touches wounds of testimony to the healing truth, courage, unlimited mercy and inexhaustible love of Christ.  He touches wounds of love, unity; wounds that would empower communion and the sharing and the preaching of the early Christian Community.

We are told in Acts of the Apostle (Year A): “All who believed were together… (as we are today in this church) they devoted themselves to teaching of the apostles and to the communal life (Konoinia), breaking of bread and praying together….” (Acts 2:42-47).

Moreover (Year B): “They were of one heart and mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of Christ…” (Acts 4:32-35).

Our world and society today is broken or wounded with war and threats of war. We are wounded by nuclear threats, and religious extremism (ISIS/Bokoharam, etc). We are also wounded daily by all forms violence and abuse guns and shootings, in our schools, homes, streets and public places! We are wounded with rifts in our families, poverty and lack of consideration for the lowly, especially by the upper class of political elites.

 Like Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Cleopas, and the Eleven Disciples we all do have moments of doubt, uncertainties, confusions, disbelief, hopelessness and frustrations.  All these wounds can only be healed and soothed by our embrace of the meaning of the wounds of Christ!

The Eucharist we celebrate today provides us a fitting opportunity to dip our fingers into the wounds of Christ and be grateful for what he has done for us, during the Holy Week and throughout this Easter!   And may we continue to be a merciful and loving (1 John 5:1-6). And with hope (1 Pet 1:3-9), faith and spirit of unity be able to always say with doubting Thomas, “My Lord and My God”!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Homily (3) Easter Sunday ABC: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3) Easter Sunday ABC: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17,22-23; Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8; Matt 28:1-9 ; Mark16:1-8;Luke24:13-35, and John 20:1-9

  Christ is Risen, Alleluia!!
Today is the “day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad”( Ps 118). We celebrate today Christ’s resurrection, the highest point of our Christian faith, as planned by God! Can you imagine what our Christian faith would be without the resurrection, without Easter day? Easter day, today, is the “Feast of Feasts” a “Solemnity of Solemnities.” It is a day that death has not only been annulled but defeated. By his Resurrection Christ guarantees us eternal life. He guarantees us that the Tomb will never be our final destination nor that of our loved ones.  Faith in what we celebrate today, Christ’s resurrection transforms us from darkness to light and from the feeling of despair to hope. It brings us newness of life.

Of course, that mixed events of Palm Sunday and of the Stations of the Cross of the Good Friday, humanly speaking, would have been thought of as a defeat, but divinely speaking the Resurrection is a victory which repairs this seeming defeat of Good Friday! The passion ironically seems humiliating, but the Resurrection glorifies. It is a victorious combat divinely directed, since the tomb was never going to be Christ’s final destination.

Commenting on how quickly Christ’s resurrection was, Saint. Leo the Great said in his Sermon (71.2), “That Jesus hastened to rise as soon as possible because He was in a hurry to console His mother and the disciples.” The resurrection of Christ consoles us of the temporary sadness of the Good Friday!

The resurrection is a fact not fiction, as witnessed by Peter in today’s first reading (Acts10:34, 37-43).  Evangelist Luke documents, Peter’s personal life encounter with the Jesus of Nazareth. Born of Mary, baptized by John the Baptist, commissioned and anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach, heal, liberate the poor and the needy, visit those in prison and the down trodden. Similar, accounts is heard in Luke 4, “the spirit of the Lord is upon, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sights to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor ( Luke 4:18-19). In spite of Christ’s goodness and selflessness, they put Christ to death on the tree, as we witnessed on Good Friday. But on the 3rd day, “today” Peter says, God raised him from the dead.

Besides Peter, Saint Paul in his various preaching bore witness to the resurrection of Christ. In 1 Corinthian 15:3-8 reliably says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried …raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…appeared to Cephas, then the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all…he also appeared to me.”

 In today’s 2nd readings (Colossians or 1 Corinthians) Paul speaks of the resurrection of Christ metaphorically, in in a coated language. In Colossian 3:1-4, the risen  Christ is already at the right hand of his Father, waiting for us, who are invited to constantly seeks things that “are above” holiness of life, those virtues, hope, faith and love. In this context, “right hand side” in ancient days, represent a pre-eminent place, an important position. The resurrection of Christ, puts us in a better position of joy, hope and union with the Lord.  It has a transforming impact. In 1 Cor 5:6b-8 Paul says, the resurrection of Christ is  like clearing the sorrow of the old yeast, old malice, old habits, especially the bad ones,  and making room for the joy of the new yeast, the newness of life ( 1 Cor 5:6b-8).

 It transforms us as it did to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples of Christ when they first encountered the empty tomb, and the linen cloth rolled by the side, as testified in all the Gospels (Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21).  In John’s Gospel we are told Mary, a woman, first got to the tomb very early in the morning, out of love and care for Christ. When she found the stone removed from the tomb she ran back to inform Peter, John and other disciples. They all  came witnessing  the empty tomb and the burial cloths rolled up in a separate place. Christ has been raised!

 Each of these witnesses to Christ’s resurrection reacted differently. Mary ran back with amazement to inform others. Peter and his fellow disciples hurried with Mary to the tomb, and believed Mary’s testimony! Paul, on the other hand preached this testimony throughout his ministry. But one thing that is common among them, these witnesses, is a change, a reaction, a transformation, from one point to another, from unbelief to belief, from lack of understanding to understanding! The Bible says, they now understood, that Christ “had to be raised from the dead.” It was necessary, willed, designed and purposed by God his Father! When God blesses us no one can curse us! And God can use any of us as his instrument of witness: women, men, children, our pastors and neighbors, youths and elders! We are all the people of the resurrection!

 May the Resurrection of Christ brings us change in how we see the Good Friday; how we handle sufferings, illness, failures and life challenges. May it strengthen us in our baptismal promises to denounce sins, selfishness, violent, terrorism, bokoharamism, ISISism for Peace. And may the transforming joy/alleluia, blessings and newness of the Risen Lord reaches to our homes, schools, factories, offices, towns, counties, villages, nations and places of work!




Friday, April 3, 2015

Homily Mass of the Easter Vigil Year ABC: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily, Mass of the Easter Vigil Year ABC: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Readings:(1)Gen1:1–2:2; Ps 104:1-2,5-6,10-14,24,35or Ps 33:4-7,12-13,20-22;(2) Gen 22:1-18; Ps 16:5,8,9-11(3) Exod 14:15–15:1; Ps Exod 15:1-6,17-18;(4) Isa 54:5-14;Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13;(5) Isa55:1-11; Ps 12:2-3,4-6; (6) Bar 3:9-15,32–4:4; Ps 19:8-11; (7) Ezek 36:16-17a, 18-28;Ps[a] 42:3,5;43:3-4;[b] Isa 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6[c]Ps 51:12-13,14-15,18-19; (8) Rom 6:3-11; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Gospel[a] Matt 28:1-10;[b]Mark 16:1-7;[c] Luke 24:1-12.

 Year B: The Joy of our Newness in the Risen Christ!

Tonight is the Easter vigil. It is a long but joyful night of all nights, solemnity of all solemnities, divided into 4 parts of  beautiful  and meaningful celebrations. Part one celebrates Christ,  as the light of the world, which we started with the blessing of the lights, crossing the Paschal Candle with the Greek Letter- Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end, and who by his glorious wounds on the cross guards and protects us, our children, parents, friends, homes and nations. Processing into the church in darkness we ended part one with the singing of that joyful song of “Exultet,” basically putting our salvation history into a joyful music!

 Part two, builds on the theme of Exultet. It is that patient reading, praying the Psalms and listening to the Word of God, who is Christ himself. Traditionally, about nine readings from the Bible; 7 from the OT, and 2 from NT including Paul’s Letter to the Romans 6:3-11. In part three, we are reminded of the meaning of newness in Christ, our baptismal liturgy and promises, dying and rising with Christ at Easter. In part 4, everyone, including the new members are welcome to the table of the Eucharist, in gratitude for what God has done for us.

In the  creation account of the 1st reading and the Psalms, we see a God of goodness, universalism, orderliness, love, the sovereign of all creation, plants, the seas, lights, lands, mountains, animals and human, male and female in his own image of love and kindness, mercy and forgives, joy, patience an charity(Gen1:1–2:2). The 2nd reading reminds us of the calling and the faith, the sacrifice of Abraham, especially the unconditional and loving covenant of blessings that God entered with him, after the fall of our first parents, the rivalries of Cain and Abel, and the tower of babel which ended with the flood of Noah. Even when he had his own trials, including long period of childlessness, when Isaac finally came, Abraham was willing to give back to the Lord, what the Lord had given him, in the first place.

Our lives belong to God. God is our inheritance, as the Psalmist would put it (Psalm 16). He watches over our going and coming, which is evident in the 3rd reading from the Book of Exodus (Exod 14:15–15:1). The enslaved and exiled Israelites, marched through the dry, land. They witnessed God’s miraculous liberation, through the Angel of the Lord with the instrumentality of the Moses, a great prophet and a strong leader.

 While in exile in Babylon as a result of sin, God did abandon his people, the covenant he established his people, especially those who called upon his name. In the 4th reading Isaiah 54:5-14, God the reading comforts and pities his people. He promised them an everlasting new covenant in the 5th reading, Isaiah 55:1-11. And the 6th reading, Baruch, a friend of Jeremiah, insists on God’s blessing and freedom to Israel if they do not worship other gods, or give their glory to others, rather than to their Maker, the God of Israel. Also while in exile, Ezekiel like Jeremiah and Baruch promises Israel a new heart and a new spirit of joy, strength and rebuilding of that which was once destroyed, killed: the temple, and even their faith.

What these scriptural passages, and Israel’s prophets foretold has been fulfilled in Christ’s events, his paschal mysteries, particularly in his resurrection which we all witness tonight, just as Saint Paul  had witnessed in Roman 6:3-11.

Christian baptism, 3rd part of this liturgy, symbolizes our death, burial and rising with Christ! At baptism we renounce our “old selves,” sins, Satan, darkness, becomes followers of Christ, members of the church, God’s children and live in newness of life.  We also let go many things, especially bad habits, and grow into union and friendship with Christ. Speaking of this union Paul says, “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” In other words, those faithful witnesses which we bore to Christ Passion during the past Holy Week, the sacrifices we made, those penances, the Stations of the Cross we walked, the suffering we accepted patiently have resulted in our faithful witnesses to the joy of Christ’s resurrection tonight.

Like those women, on the first day of the week in today’s Gospel (Mark 16:1-7) we are witnessing tonight, this day, the joy and the glory of the empty tomb; the hope and life that the Risen Lord brings! We are witnessing young man sitting on the right side of the entrance of the tomb, clothed in white robe. The place where Jesus was laid is empty. The sign of the empty tomb is a sign of a new presence to which the Disciples of Christ must joyfully bear witness.

There are many things and "darknesses" we can shake off in our lives, in the spirit of Easter. These could be voting out corrupt government in our nations. Those that are not serving the interest of the people and disrespect the dignity of the human persons. Cutting off bad habits, denouncing selfishness, terrorism, laziness, bokoharamism, ISISism, war mongering, violent, faithlessness, sorrows, despair and sadness. May the transforming joy, divine blessings, and spiritual newness, of the Risen Lord reaches to our homes, schools, factories, offices, towns, villages, nations and places of work!







Homily for Good Friday Year ABC: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily for Good Friday Year ABC: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 52: 13–53:12; Ps 31:2,6,12-13,15-16,17,25; Heb 4:14-16;5:7-9; John18:1–19:42

 The Mystery of Redemptive Suffering (Good Friday)
On Palm Sunday we began  the mystery of our Holy Week celebrations, when Jesus willing and lovingly entered Jerusalem, on a donkey, to suffer and die for us.  That love-journey culminates on the Cross of Christ, and it’s ironic and redeeming power that we celebrate today: the meaning of Good Friday. Scriptures today narrative, narrates, so to say, the Christian meaning of human, and enduring suffering, and its resulting effects of recreation, restoration and redemption! Suffering produces endurance, and endurance faith and hope!

 Today’s redemptive celebration, no doubts, has ironic features that only faith and reason can heal. What makes today’s Friday good? What is good about the symbolic red vestments priests and deacons, wear today, at the beginning of the liturgy? What is good about the altars left completely bare, without a crosses, without candles and without fanciful altar cloths? What is good that the Holy Mass, sacraments are not celebrated today, except for penance and anointing of the sick, are legitimates questions?  

Answers to these questions are not single dimensional. The meaning of “Good Friday” may be found when we deeply and faithfully meditate on the crosses we shall soon venerate. Its meaning may be revealed through our meditation on the stations of the cross re-enacted across the global church.  Still its meaning may be revealed through the writings of the Church Fathers, Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters of various Popes.
For example, John Paul II in his 1979 Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man, n.8) wrote: “The redeemer of the world! In him has been revealed in a new and more wonderful way the fundamental truth concerning creation to which the Book of Genesis gives witness when it repeats several times: “God saw that it was good. [The “Good Friday”] The good has its source in Wisdom and Love. In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man–the world that, when sin entered [hatred, jealousy, false accusations, oppression of the poor, corruption, illnesses, ebola, poverty, death, etc], “was subjected to futility”– recovers again in its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. Indeed, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” that whoever believes in him should not perish but may have eternal life.  In his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, On the Meaning of Human Suffering (n.14), John Paul II insisted that, “these words spoken by Christ in his conversation with Nicodemus, introduce us into the very heart of God’s salvific work,” which leads him to the Cross of Good Friday!

That Good Friday is redemptive and salvific is more revealing in the passages of today’s Scripture Readings, beginning with Isaiah’s 4th song of the suffering servant of God (Isa 52:13–53:12) which says,

“He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed… he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses”( Isa 53:4-12).
The Letter to the Hebrews also reveals the salvific nature Good Friday when it says, “In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” And we heard one of those Jesus’ humble loud cries into today’s responsorial Psalm, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit “(Ps 31; Luke 23:46), repeated during every night prayers, during the liturgy of the hours.
Finally, what makes today’s Friday, good, saving, victorious and redemptive, is particularly, and perhaps more comprehensively revealed in the passion theology of John’s Gospel (John 18–19), familiar to us.

Throughout the Johannine Passion, Jesus “yet” is control.  He gives Judas Iscariot instruction to do quickly what he is about to do (John 18:2). In the garden of the Kidron Valley, Jesus asked whom they were looking for. As soon as he declared himself- the “I AM”, they all felt helplessly to the ground.  Here lies the Good Friday?
In all, the Jesus of John is the Son of Man that came down from heaven to whom the Father has turned over judgment.  When he is interrogated by the high priests, Jesus turns back the interrogation: “Why do you question me?” He makes it clear to Pilate that he has no authority over him. Throughout his ironic trials, Pilates is nervous and shuttles back and forth between the Jews outside the praetorium and Jesus, ironically, rather is inside the Praetorium.  The shuttling Pilates finds no guilt in the innocent and steady Jesus, yet he had him scourged innocently, and Pilate lacks the courage to speak the truth. In John, only Christ is the truth, the life and the way!

Jesus dies kingly and triumphantly in John.  His title- “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews,” is universally written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) on top of his Cross. It is a universal Good Friday! A Friday that saves the world? Even though his garments are divided as foretold, his priestly tunic, the alb is intact, a priest forever! As long foretold, that on being lifted up he would draw many to himself, on the foot of the cross, came the fulfilment (tetelestai): Mary his mother, the sister, wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom he love,  Roman soldiers, Jews, Gentiles,  and secrete believers like Nichodemus, Joseph of Arimathea  were all there! Jesus is also given a kingly burial and laid in a garden!
This is the narrative that has really made Good Friday, good and redemptive. Today the victim has become the conqueror!  As Pope Francis has repeated emphasized, it is a gospel of suffering endurance for all who have in the course of history been persecuted and abused by those who are politically, socially, religiously and economically powerful, plagued by diseases, natural tragedies, man-made violent structures, abuse of guns, ISIS, BOKO Haram, poverty, ignorance, but who realize that God is with them, and that the power of the oppressors are temporary.

Good Friday is good, since believers in Christ, those begotten by God(1 John 5:4), who suffer and endure patiently with him, in all circumstances, have eternal life.  This why John Paul II insisted (in his Salvifici Doloris- On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) that, “The cross [redemptive cross] of Christ [which we celebrate today] throws light in a most penetrating way, on man’s life and in particular on his suffering. Through faith the cross reaches man together with resurrection: the mystery of the passion is contained in the Paschal Mystery.” That is to say, “the witnesses of Christ’s passion [today] are at the same time witnesses of His resurrection (come Easter)!



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Homily (3 2015) Mass of the Last Super Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3 2015) Mass of the Last Super Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Exod 12:1-8, 11-14; Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18; 1 Cor 11:23-26 and John 13:1-15

 Christ, Eucharist, Love and Service (CELS)

[On Tuesday evening here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Bishops, clergy, religious and the entire faithful gathered around the Archbishop at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to celebrate the Chrism Mass. That evening liturgy was an expression of our faith in Christ, the High Priest, the unity of the Sacred Priesthood and appreciation of Christ’s one redeeming Sacrifice of Love. Oils of Catechumens, the Sick and of the Chrism were blessed. Oils that the Holy Pope Francis during his Chrism Mass in Rome has encouraged every priests to go out and anoint the faithful with, especially the sick, the poor and the needy!]

Tonight we begin the Sacred Triduum, three solemn days which encompass the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ and draw each and every one of us into remembering the passion, death and resurrection. You and I know the power of memory, remembrance! Remembering is so powerful. It revitalizes, reactivates and keeps past reality alive in us.  Holy Thursday brings to our minds three gifts:  the gifts of the Lord’s Super/the Holy Eucharist, the gift of the Sacred Priesthood and the gift of Christ redeeming love, love that is stronger than death, stronger than the fear of the fleeing disciples, stronger than the untruthfulness of the power mongering Pilate and of the few “Jewish elites”; a love stronger than the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter, the mockeries of the Roman soldiers and the human selfishness.  Christ, the High priest loves his own to the end- all of us, our pastor, our priests, deacons, sisters, mom, dad, our children, friends, grandpa and grandma (Jn 13:1). Where ever you are located here in this Church tonight or standing out there in the narthex, know that Christ loves you!

 The Eucharist of which institution we reenact today is a banquet of love, gratitude and service. It provides us a particular opportunity to remember not only how much God loves and would want to “wash our feet” but His ever living presence in our lives, in our homes and families. It teaches us to cultivate a sense of gratitude.

 I remember growing up in a family of six children surrounded with many nieces and nephews. We ate together and served one another from the same plates and drink from the same cup. In sharing and serving I would feel the deep love, the friendship, the nourishment, the strength and the support of my family and a sense of gratitude to my parents. We would laugh, joke and talk with trust about events in life, and some of them very important.

 I want to believe that when Christ gathered his disciple in that upper room for that Last Super, a night before his passion he knew the importance of a shared meal, a meal of love and sacrifice; a meal that nourishes and strengthen us in our weaknesses. He wanted this sacred meal, this new Passover to be remembered. He says “Do this in memory of me” (Mk14:22ff; Matt 26:26ff, Lk 22:19ff and John 13:1-15), instituting also the Ministerial Priesthood.

 This is why in the Second Reading, Paul has the courage to say,

“ I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took break, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “this is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” With the cup Christ said, “this is cup is the new Covenant in my blood, do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me (1 Cor 11:23-26).”

 Jesus will always remain really and substantially present with us in the Holy Eucharist. After this meal tonight Jesus would walk across to that garden of Gethsemane (in the daily chapel) from there he would be arrested, harshly interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas and brought to Pilates’ Praetorium for trial. Jesus as John will testify will be killed  on the cross sacrificially at the same hour the paschal lamb of the Jewish Passover is slaughtered in today’s first reading, (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14), making Christ, in this new dispensation, the new Passover Lamb, the cup of the new Covenant of love and Service. On the Cross his bones will not be broken and his priestly inner - seamless tunic will not be torn nor shared among soldiers. In this Jesus is protective of each and every one of us, our marriage and religious vows, family values, Christian unity (“May they be one” Jn 17), our priesthood, friendship and faith. He also knew the journey to that cross would be rough, but his priestly dignity would remain intact, a tunic of love – challenging even the modern priesthood, in need of your prayers always.

 In Exodus chapter 29:4 at the ordination ceremony of Priests, Aaron’s feet and those of his children were washed at the entrance of the tent as stipulated in the old laws (Lev 8:6), for a different reason, external purification.  But still in the context of this meal Christ gave us a sign of interior purification (John 13:1-15) by washing the feet of his disciples, something deeper than deeper than external ritual.

 By washing the feet of his disciple Jesus shows the depth of his love, a love leading to the cross; a suffering love! He teaches the hesitant Peter and all of us new way of sacrificial Love, a new way of service and friendship. Not a new way of “eye service.” He teaches us a new way of self-transcendence not a new way of self- aggrandizement. He teaches us a new way to serve not a new way to be served; a new way of humble friendship with all including the poor, the prisoners, the overpowered, and the marginalized.  By washing his disciples feet Jesus overcome by love the inequality that existed by nature between himself and those whom he had chosen as friends. I always believe that how we treat one another publicly or in private is the true measure of the condition of our interior life, especially of our life of prayer. This is the same message, our Holy Father, Pope Francis has continuously promoted in his ministries!

 As we celebrate this Last Super sharing in the bread and wine of new covenant of love, gratitude and selfless service, Christ, and ready to adore him at that Altar of Repose in that garden, let us know that Christ sees us, in every nation, state, county, town, dioceses, villages and out-reach stations. He loves us and recognizes us. He sees the rich, the poor and the downtrodden.  Let us know that having been washed clean, we have been given the spiritual capacity and blessed with the divine strength of his examples (John 13:12-15) to joyfully love and gratefully serve one another as Christ has first loved and served us.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Homily (2) Palm Sunday Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) Palm Sunday Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Processional Readings ABC: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; or John 12:12-16, and Luke 19:28-40.

 Christ’s Humble Journey to Jerusalem,

Every year brings something new, some changes in our bodies, in our homes, families, villages, towns, in our local churches, Counties, local governments and nations! And in each of these changing years, the Church celebrates Palm Sunday which ends the Lenten Season and marks the beginning of the most Holy week in our Christian Liturgy.  It is a week our savior will be exalted on the Cross. It is a week of that hour of glory come to fulfillment. In this Holy Week Christ, our Lord and Savior will be betrayed, falsely accused, plotted against (John 11:45-53), arrested (Matt 26:47-56), interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin ( Matt 26:57-58), tried by Pilate ( Matt 27:1-14), denied by Peter (Matt 26:59-66), mocked and executed in a Roman way (Matt 27:15-56).  In this very week Christ our savior, will draw everyone to himself, Jews and the Gentiles alike, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). It is a Holy and Salvific Week for us; a week of grace and hope; a week of victory over death, violent and injustice, lies and hatred; a week we see new life in the death of Christ. It is a teaching week for our religious communities, families and homes and nations!

It is a week we also learn to resist evil not with violence, not by chopping off “Malchus’ ear,” but with prayer, endurance and through peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation. A week we learn not to act like Pilate, remaining indifferent to truth nor being in a hurry to condemn our neighbors, brothers and sisters, friends and children. It is a week each of us is invited to the foot of the Cross, a week Mary will be handed over to us, the faithful disciples of Christ (John 19:25ff). Our nations in the East, South, West and North, which currently engage in unnecessary political divides can also learn from this week.

The Palms we bless at this Mass reminds us among other things of those ordinary people, those pilgrims on the street of Jerusalem (those men, women and children) who gave Christ a royal welcome to Jerusalem for his suffering death and resurrection. It reminds us of the love that Christ has for each of us. It reminds us that each of us are also on a pilgrimage to embrace Christ on daily journey, into our lives and families, with enthusiasm and courage. The Eucharist we are about to celebrate as a community is also a place where we encounter and receive Christ. Also through the  “Hosanna” (Psalm 118:26; Mk 11:1-10 and Luke 19:28-40) we sing we shall be inviting Christ, Son of David, the King of Israel to “save” us, to come into our lives, into our homes, offices, parishes communities, families and nations!

Finally, we need, humility to embrace Christ, carry palms, to stand on the pilgrim roads to spread the palms on the street for Christ’s entrance.  From that Gospel (s) Reading (s), he is the source of this humility.  Notice, Christ is a humble King, a King of Peace, riding on a donkey instead of a horse. During the time of David and Prophet Zechariah (cf 9:9) the donkey had been a sign of kingship, but later an animal for the poor, while the horses came to represent the might of the mighty one. Christ today presents us the image of a King of peace, arriving willingly, humbly, and out love to Jerusalem on a donkey not on a bullet and nuclear proof presidential Limousine.

 With this we are reminded not only of Christ’s humility, his identification with the poor, but also his fearlessness, his prophetic courage to conquer death even death on a cross. Also, a message that Pope Francis has consistently repeated!

Wherever, we are sitting or standing, let us now with enthusiasm go forth in peace, praising Jesus our Messiah, and welcoming him like the Jerusalem multitude!


Homily (2) Palm Sunday Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18,19-20,23-24; Phil 2: 6-11 and(A) Matt 26:14–27:66 (B) Mk 14:1–15:47 (C) and Luke 22: 14–23:56

 A  Week of Victory over Death!

 As I said at the beginning of this liturgy, today begins our Holy Week; a week of grace, love and Christ’s victory over death. It is a week we line up on the streets of Jerusalem, in the corners of our churches, offices and homes to welcome Christ, and to focus on him! It is a week we spread the palms of love and sings with the Church, “Hosanna to the Son of David…; the prince of peace, the trainer of humility, courage, endurance and the source of hope!

 In fact, the meaning of what we celebrate this week, beginning from today is uncovered in   the long Passion narratives of Christ, according to Saint  Mark 14-15. This Passion narrative focuses on Christ and on the meaning of his Cross. Throughout our Christian journeys, not that we have not been focusing on Christ, but this week we are invited to intensify our focus on Jesus. We are call to pay closer attention to what his  Passion teaches us: patience, humility, courage, love, endurance and forgiveness and his exaltation on the Cross. This week is a week of  that long foretold "hour of glory" come to fulfillment.

 In the Passion narrative just read, Christ experiences betrayal from one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot. Christ is  falsely,  accused, plotted against (John 11:45-53), arrested (Matt 26:47-56), interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin (Matt 26:57-58), tried by Pilate (Matt 27:1-14), denied by Peter (Matt 26:59-66), mocked and executed in a Roman way (Matt 27:15-56; Mark 14:1­15:47). Humanly speaking, it looks ugly, but the good news is that Christ endured these accusations, and mockeries!. He endured his Passion. On the Cross he forgives sinners and robbers.  He entrusted her Mother Mary to us, "Mother behold your son, son behold your mother. He also shouted  sang Psalm 22 from the Cross, “my God my God why have you abandon me” teaching us how to  endure and handle our experiences of pains, persecutions, poverty, and injustices!  Even when we are frustrated hope and abiding faith in God our Father are recommended. When he eventually  gave up his spirit, he commended it into his fathers hands "Into your hands Lord I commend my Spirit!.  he died a Holy death in Holy Week. In his Holy death he draws so many to himself, Jews and Gentiles,, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). Many were at the foot of the Cross. In today's Gospel, the Centurion who witnessed Christ breathed  his last, and the veil of the temple torn into two from top to bottom, professed faith in him that, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:1-39).

  Like Centurion, this week reaffirms our faith in Christ, the true Son of God. Therefore, it is a week that we learn how to endure suffering and handle pains, loneliness, illnesses and the losses of our loved ones. It is a week of grace and victory over death, injustice, lies and hatred; a week we see new life in the death of Christ. It is a teaching week for our religious communities, families, homes and nations.

 It is a week we also learn to resist evil not with violence, not by chopping off “Malchus’ ear,” but with prayer, endurance and through peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation. A week we learn not to act like Pilate, remaining indifferent to truth nor being in a hurry to condemn our neighbors, brothers and sisters, friends and children. It is a week each of us is invited to the foot of the Cross, a week Mary will be handed over to us the faithful disciples of Christ (John 19:25ff). Even as a nation, parish and family, we can learn from Jesus this week, how to love, how to suffer, listen to Christ and how to endure like most of Israel’s prophets!

Like the Gospel,  in the first reading, the 3rd Song of the Suffering Servant of God, which foreshadows Christ of the Holy Week, prophet Isaiah says, “I gave my back to those who beat me, and my cheeks to those who plucked my beard, my face I did not shield from buffet and spitting. The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced” (Isa 50:4-7).

 Even though not everyone has beard to be plucked, we have many crosses of different forms (poverty, threats of Boko Haram, ISIS, drugs, guns on the streets, nuclear arsenals etc) in our lives that these metaphors invite us to carry with patience, hope and prayer, knowing that the Lord our trainer on the Cross is watching over us!

In our sufferings, and missions, we need to allow the Lord who hangs on the  Cross this Holy Week, to train us including our tongues, our minds, hearts, eyes and souls, our determinations, to handle weariness and frustrations with great patience, wisdom, obedience and humility, like Christ that Saint Paul addresses to the Philippians today. Saint Paul says,  “Christ Jesus though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped…he became obedient to death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-11); for each of us!. 

 As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, let us not focus  mainly on the weaknesses of Judas, Pilate, Peter, the Jewish Elites who handed Jesus over, nor on the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the tree! Let us not give into the pains, the mockeries, the spitting, our past failures. But let us appreciate that the obedient death of Christ on the Cross was not a defeat, but a victory. Let us focus on the positive meaning of Palm Sunday, the training he gives us: to endure pains, illnesses, rejections, abandonments, discriminations, racisms, tribalism, frustrations, poverty, injustices, and the loss of our loved ones, with the hope  for salvation.
Truly, this is what makes this week a Holy Week!