Friday, April 18, 2014

Homily 2 (Mass -alternate) of the Last Super Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily 2 (Mass -alternate) 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, s 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.

  In the Second Reading Paul of today Paul says,

“ 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. 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 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.

 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, 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, April 12, 2014

Homily (2) Palm SundayYears ABC: Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) Palm Sunday ABC: Michael U. Udoekpo
 Processional Readings ABC: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10 and Luke 19:28-40.

Christ’s Humble Entrance into Jerusalem,

Every year 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. This  is the 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).  It is a week Christ will draw all people to himself, Jews and the Gentiles, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). It is a Holy and Salvific Week for us; a week of grace; a week of victory over death 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.

 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 unnecessary political divides can also learn from this week.


Usually before the principal Mass our palms which will be turned into ashes for “renewal” next year are blessed. A moment from now we shall reenact the Gospel story we have just heard from Matthew 21:1-11. Like those ordinary people, those pilgrims in the street of Jerusalem (those men, women and children) who gave Christ a royal welcome to Jerusalem for his paschal mystery we are also prepared in our pilgrimage  to embrace Christ with enthusiasm, to welcome him into our lives in the Eucharist we are about to celebrate today. 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, parish communities and families.

Again from that Gospel (s) Reading (s), He is a humble King, a King of Peace, riding on a donkey instead of a horse. Remember at 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. Christ today presents us the image of a King of peace arriving 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.
Let us now with enthusiasm go forth in peace, praising Jesus our Messiah, and welcoming him like the Jerusalem multitude!

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

Christ’s Victory over Death

Today begins our Holy Week. As we saw at the beginning of this Mass, it is mark with the blessings of our palms and then we solemnly process into the Church, singing “Hosanna to the Son of David…! This ushers us into the most Holy Week of Christian Liturgy.

It is a week we read and share  a lot of scriptural passages, like the ones just read. In the passion narrative of Christ (this year from Matthew, Mark, and Luke) - it is clear that Jesus is the center of our focus as well as his teaching endurance and living perseverance. In this week our savior will be exalted on the Cross. It is a week of that hour of glory come to fulfillment. This  is the 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).  It is a week Christ will draw all people to himself, Jews and the Gentiles, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). It is a Holy and Salvific Week for us; a week of grace; a week of victory over death 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.

 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 in this weak also learn from Jesus how to love, how to how to suffer and how to endure persecution and injustices. Of course how to “sing” the song of the suffering servant of God.


That third song is chanted in the second reading of today, Deutero- Isaiah (Isa 50:4-7). In the Second reading, the Lord God has given him, the servant, and a well-trained tongue that he might know how to speak to the weary, the weak, the poor and the powerless. The Suffering servant is a skilled counselor, because he himself has been trained by the Lord, how to endure and how to be humble, how to get up when you seem to be down. The suffering servant is a disciple, before anything else. He listens to the Lord, morning by morning. He does no rebel, like some Israelite in the desert. He does not say, “No I can’t make it to that cross, it is too rough”! He handles all the beatings, the insults and spiting with patience, wisdom and humility, “he gave his back and cheek to those who slapped and plucked his beard.”


He had every power to resist his arrest in the garden, but he did not. He taught Peter in the Malchus incidence to put back his sword, that violent was not necessary (Luke 22:50) - then. It is not necessary now. Rather, patience, wisdom, forgiveness, love, endurance and humility.

It is these same humble virtues of Christ that Saint Paul emphasizes in the Second reading.
 “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).

I believe, we all come here today because we do like Paul recognize this legacy of limitless love Christ handed to us. Throughout the whole world, in Rome with our new Pope Francis, Thousands of people, men, women, seniors and children, attorneys and physicians, philosophers and theologians, factory workers and business men and women of diverse cultural and political background., have all gathered to commemorate this mystery of Christ’s events. It reminds us of those women at foot of the Cross, the Beloved Disciples? What about the Gentile Roman Soldiers and other Jews like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea  who went asking for the body of Jesus for a kingly anointing and speedy royal burial in a new tomb that had been hewn in a rock (Matt 27:57-61; Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56 and John 19:38-42).  The tomb was never going to be the final destination of Christ. It all comes to fulfill the victory of the cross and what Christ had said that, when he will be lifted up on the cross he will draw everyone to himself (John 3:14; 8:28 and 12:31-32).

As we walk through this Holy Week may we see it as a Holy and a Saving Week; a Week of grace of victory of peace over violence and war, a victory of life over death? Let us not only focus on the weaknesses of Judas, Peter, Pilate and other disciples who betrayed, denied and  fled the suffering and the trial scenes of Christ. But with God’s grace we want to imitate the teaching endurance of the Kingly Christ, a King of Endurance, Peace and Love with the faithful examples of those women, men, the Beloved Disciples at the foot of the Cross, by uniting our sufferings, our illnesses, our setbacks, frustrations, dejections, feeling of abandonment (Ps 22), the mockeries we experience in life with the Exalted Cross of Christ and with the victory of the Resurrection.

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Homily Wednesday of the 5th Sunday of Lent: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Wednesday of the 5th Sunday of Lent: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Dan 3:1-20, 91-92, 95; Dan 3:52-56 and John 8:31-42

Faithfulness to God
Today we celebrate our last Wednesday’s/ Community Mass in Lent, 2014. And a few days from now we enter the Passion Week, the most Sacred Week during which the Church invites us to contemplate the victories and the glorious meaning of Christ’s paschal mysteries. Our Scripture readings this morning anticipates these mysteries. Emphasis is on true discipleship and fidelity to Christ, the sacrament of the God of Shedrach, Medrach and Abednego. Fidelity to Christ when the going is rough and tough: more classes to attain, papers to write, final exams to prepare, thesis proposal to submit, integrated seminar to present, your advisors to consult with, rector’s conferences and faculty meetings to attain, MA students to direct, Dehonianism to promote, your ordinations to prepare for, our sponsors to collaborate with, our various duties and administrative responsibilities to carry out, and of course the decorum of a  Catholic Seminary Institution like ours, to  uphold.
In that first reading, a beautiful piece of Midrash, that speaks directly to our faith, Daniel’s three companions: Shedrach, Medrach and Abednego refuse to play idolatry in exile (Dan 3:14-20, 91-92, 95).  They remain faithful to their God and refuse to worship idols and the gods of Nechadnezzar.  For their punishment, they are thrown into the white-hot furnace to be roasted to death. Miraculously, they are not  burnt to dead. The fire rather devoured those who carried out this evil, while Shedrach, Medrach and Abednego, through divine intervention came out alive, praising God in today’s responsorial Psalm, to the amazement of Nechadnezzar who also  praises God, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!

For me the most important lesson in this faith story is not only for modern Christians to watch out for our modern idolatries which could come in form of: abuse of sex, power, and worship of money and material things, sycophancy, and frivolous entertainment in places of worship. We are also invited to brave fidelity to Jesus and his Church particularly in  those difficult circumstances of our day, time and culture.  The faith and the resilience of Shedrach, Medrach and Abednego in a hostile culture like then Babylon- also raises the question of how do we today maintain fidelity to our religious heritage,  our vows and values when the very structure of our society run counter to the basic element of our faith? Or, when we are confronted with daily challenges, even here in Seminary Community?

There may not be easy answers to these questions except those offered by Johannine Christ in today’s Gospel. Jesus addresses both his opponents and those crypto- converts who believe in him, yet with a faint and shaky faith. Those who say, " I do believe in Jesus, but I can’t profess him openly." I am not sure! I don’t want to be prosecuted! I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t want to offend my neighbors of other religions, even though I don’t feel offended when my neighbors of other religion profess their faith! We have seen this before in Nichodemus who went to Jesus at night in John 3. We have seen this in the Pharisees, and in the Scribes, the opponents of Jesus. We saw this a few Sundays ago in the parents of the man born blind in John 9. A shaky faith! Last Sunday Martha, Lazarus’ sister, said to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died (John 11).

 Thank God our Lord is always here! As believers the Jesus of John makes clear to us the terms of a believing disciples. The Christ of John does not seek short terms followers and pursuance of fake freedom and false liberty. As the giver of true freedom, Jesus does not glory in superficial faith, empty legalism, and false dependencies on national pride. It is not enough to say, “We have Abraham as our father. We are call, rather, to imitate the faithfulness and righteousness exemplified by Abraham. Johannine Jesus does not seek easy starters, who fall by the way side when the journey to Jerusalem gets rough. Christ’s disciples must recognize themselves as sinners, grow-up, abide and remain in his Word at all times if they are to be a part of his company.  The more reason he says, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (v.31).

 Christ’s disciples must stick with Christ, at all times, hear what he teaches, abide with his values and be at home with him!  In John, remaining with Christ means not only hearing, but it also means of obeying Him. It means sitting at his feet, living under the authority of Christ. It means being patient! It means endurance. It implies running away from sins. It means perseverance in our studies, in our work, in our love and respect for one another. It is only through such obedience will the disciple know the truth. And the deepest knowing comes not only by memorizing theological concepts, writing good papers, or parsing verbs, nouns and adjectives, or by delivering sweet homilies. These are also important. But the deepest knowing of Christ comes by doing the will of Christ in a joyful freedom, by being faithful to him, by encountering him in our neighbors, in our daily works and studies, and by yielding to his truth,  by deeply remaining faithful to Christ even in moments of flames of temptations to sin and furnace frustrations.
Therefore, let us pray at this Mass that as we approach the Passion Week, Christ the Sacrament of the God of Shedrach, Medrach and Abednego may increase our hope and inspire us to fidelity to  always say, preach and do things that show us to be  faithful children of God.

 

 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Homily (2) Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Eze 37:12-14; Ps 130:1-8; Rom 8:8-11 and John 11:1-45

Christ, the Restorer of Life

Our liturgy of today, the fifth Sunday of Lent marks the end of the Lenten Season. It introduces us, by next week into Passion Sunday and the most Sacred Week during which the Church invites us to contemplate the victorious and glorious meaning of Christ’s, arrest, his trial, his crucifixion and death. The more reason, today the scriptural emphasis is on Christ the giver of life.   He gives us life when we are death in hope, when we are left in despair. He revitalizes our faith when confronted with faithlessness, spirit dampening and frustrating circumstances in life.

  We can draw many examples ourselves, but a typical biblical example might have been the life situation of the exiled and displaced Israelites. Their faith and hope must have been in great danger but not for the metaphorical and encouraging words of restoration by Ezekiel, the prophet of exile.  In their difficulties which were like being dead in the grave, Ezekiel said to them: “”thus says the Lord God; O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 37:12-14).

We see this life giving and faith restoring Lord always in Johannine ironic Jesus. We see this in his turning water into wine, in his healing ministries, in his fearless preaching, authoritative teaching, moral ascendency; in his multiplication of bread and in his last and seventh miracle/ signs of raising Lazarus from the death, demonstrating his sovereignty over life and death, God’s glory and how much he has always loved us till the end, even though he knew this would lead to some “Jewish leaders’” plot to kill him (John 11:45-53), come this Holy Week.

The most important lesson for us in this in this story is to imitate Mary and Martha. Initially they wept over Lazarus helplessness. Their spirit was down. They were also frustrated because it took Jesus two days to respond to the illness of Lazarus. Truly God’s ways are not our ways. God knows and works by his “hours” and time. He knows when to change water into wine. He knows when to heal the royal official son. God has his own clock and watch different from ours. This is the hour of the cross.  The hour of the Cross is the hour of the Father’s true glory, the hour of Jesus’ true glory.

 Like Martha in our moments of frustrations and hardships we might be saying, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  Of course, “Lazarus their brother will rise and live.” Like Martha and Mary after our doubts and frustration we want to return to that  faith which holds that  Jesus is the life and the resurrection, and those who believe even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in Christ will never die (John 11:25-26). The coming out of Lazarus from the grave teaches Martha and all of us that eternal life conquers death but does not abolish physical death. Remember Lazarus was human and would have to die again.


During this coming Holy week we shall be presented with stories of the arrest, the trial, the mockery, the insult, the crucifixion of our Lord. Just like the dead of Lazarus, they are not fairy tales. They are real faith stories, but are never the end, but ironies of human incomprehensibility of God.   The resurrection of Christ will definitely defeat his passion. What was lost in exile shall be restored. Let us pray at this Mass that, the Spirit of one who raised Jesus and Lazarus from the death may accompany us daily (Rom 8:8-11) in our faith pilgrimage.  And may we always imitate Mary’s and Martha’s faith in Christ the Giver of Life Eternal, by the way we respond seemingly life’ crises including, illness and the loss of our loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: 1 Sam 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-6; Eph 5:8-14 and John 9:1-41

Christ, who looks into our Hearts
 Today we celebrates, Christ the son of God, who gives us the vision of light, cures our blindness and looks into the hearts of each and every one of us. He loves us where ever we are. He cares for us and does not judge us from appearances. Today’s scriptures substantiate this divine attitude toward us, especially those that the society considers- the weak or the improbable!

 In today’s first reading God chooses shepherd David, the youngest son of Jesse to replace Saul as the new King of Israel (1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a). He does this irrespective of other seven sons of Jesse, presented to Samuel for anointing.  This story illustrates God’s choice of improbable savior. It shows that God can write on a crooked line. The same young David would defeat the gigantic Goliath in a battle (1 Sam17). This is how God works. In many other places in the bible we have seen God chose Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Rehab the prostitute, Israel’s Judges, the prophets, prophetess and priests, our Mother Mary, and of course David, irrespective of their human weaknesses or lowliness to work his marvelous. Some of them like Isaiah would argue, “O God I am a man of unclean lips” or like Jeremiah, “I am too young.” Or like Mary, “how can this be since I am a virgin.” It goes back to the reading of today. God does not see as man sees. Man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart of each and every one of us. Even though David on the long run would have his own trials, but God would establish for him an everlasting dynasty-- in Christ!

In the Gospel of reading of today, Christ’s healing of the blind beggar (John 9:1-41) receives mixed reactions. It is viewed differently and humanly by everyone, the passers-by, including the Pharisees who so much depended on external appearances and judgments.  For them Christ was not from God, because it was an abomination to heal and to perform charitable works on the Sabbath. There were also those who disbelieve that the man was born blind, in the first place (v.18). Christ must have been “faking the miracle.”

They did not believe in Christ. Disbelieve itself is a form of spiritual blindness. The more reason they went to confront the parents of the healed man in order confirm how their son’s healing came about. Out of fear they couldn’t testify much to the healing mercy of Christ. They simply said to the Pharisees “my son is of age ask him, how he got his sight.” Apart from disbelieve, sometimes fear and lack of spiritual courage can also blind us or deny us of an opportunity to speak or witness to the truth.

 Beside the image of David, our model of faith should be the blind man. We have our own blindness and weaknesses. In the case of the healed beggar, even though he is thrown out of the synagogue, persecuted, denied and rejected by family members and close neighbors (vv. 8-34), the cured man once again was found by Jesus, the Son of Man, whom he completely trusted and believed in (vv.35-36).  He worshipped Christ, who reassured him that, he” came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see and those who see might become blind” (v. 39).

 With this Christ is drawing a contrast between human sight and God sights. He is drawing contrast between the blind man who responded in faith to the light of vision brought him by Christ, and the Pharisees who claim to see, but disbelieve in the works of Christ. Human fear and faithlessness displayed by the parents of the blind and the Pharisees, can blind us from the light of Christ.  They are “fruitless works of darkness,” according to Saint Paul (Eph 5:8-14).

The light of Christ penetrates the hearts of each of us, in every land, culture and nation. It goes deeper than appearances. It knocks off the barriers of division and blindness of injustices in our broken world. It shepherds us (Ps 23) and brings us hope.  As we make progress in our Lenten discipline may we continue to trust in God’s healing light, and hope in his boundless love for us, that surpasses mere appearances!

 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily(2) 3rdSunday of Lent Year A:  Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Exod 17:3-7; Ps 95:1-2.6-9; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 and John 4:5-42

 Christ Refreshes and Lavishes Us with his Love

I know  all of us are familiar with this delightful story of  Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. It is a story of  God’s incarnate, Christ, who consistently refreshes and lavishes each of us with his love. This loving refreshment goes back to the first Exodus and the experience of dryness of the Israelite in the Wilderness (Exod 17:3-7). On this journey, God not only fights for them, hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but he provides the leadership of Moses,  love, food, manna, and drinking water for his chosen people, in spite of who they are; a community who complains and often are distracted from acknowledging the everlasting love of God. God is the Rock and the Love of our lives!

 Paul speaks of this ever consistent, universal and refreshing love of God in the second reading (Rom 5:1-2, 5-8). He says, “Brothers and sisters, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith,” hope and love. Ultimately, Jesus proves his love for us in that while were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The activities of this refreshing love of God is heighten in today's the Gospel passage, when Jesus encounters, dialogues, listens, and shares a cup cold water with the Samaritan woman  in John chapter 4 (John 4:5-42).

 It is a faithful afternoon, in John 4. Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi is travelling in company of his disciples from Judea to Galilee. He passes through Samaria. Here he meets this Samaritan woman who comes to draw a fresh water from the well of Jacob. Everyone must have been thirsty to a different degree: the woman, Christ and his disciples, since it was in the middle of the summer heat. To the shock of everyone Jesus, a Jewish rabbi breaks protocols and dismantles the unnecessary status quo. He approaches, this symbolic, individual, a woman for a cup drinking water. He also spends sometime chatting with her, respectfully, to the tacit disapproval of his disciples!

This conversation and exchange are much more than the search and thirstiness for ordinary water. Jesus is friendly, respectful to women and people of all cultures. It is not long the Samaritan woman recognizes this. She recognizes the gifts and the compassion of Jesus. She recognizes his divinity, his prophetic role, his saving mission, his patience in dialogue, his forgiving power, and his spiritual depth as a true source of the Living Water. She invites the rest of the Samaritan town to trust and visit with  Jesus, the source of life, and the Savior of the World ( John 4:42).

This water cleanses our personal faults and save our unsafetiness. It refreshes and replaces our thirstiness for material things with spiritual need. It replaces our hunger for war with peace. It replaces our desire for revenge with a thirst for reconciliation. It refreshes our stinginess with generosity, our selfishness with charity, our hopelessness with hope. This Living Water of Christ refreshes our divisiveness with universalism; our exclusivism with inclusivism, especially with regard to the poor, the aged, the immigrants, the sick, the weak and the marginalized of our society.

As we journey through this desert of Lent and Exodus of hope, may we strive to imitate the Samaritan woman, disposing ourselves to Christ’s healing mercy. May we reach out to others, inviting them to partake in  this bountiful love Christ, and in the spiritual drink of faith. 

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Homily (2) Second Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily (2) Second Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Gen 12:1-4a; Ps 33:4-5, 18-20, 22; 2 Tm 1:8b-10 and Matt 17:1-9

Embracing Our Daily Crosses with Trust
Today’s responsorial Psalm, “May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our trust in you,” captures the spirit of the readings of today’s Second Sunday of Lent. During lent as we pray, give alms, do penance, attain retreats, it is also a time we solidify our trust and faith in God, the teacher of the suffering discipleship. It is a time we seek transformation and renewal. It is a time we think of our journeys. It is a time we reflect on the ultimate journey of every Christian, namely, the glory of the cross.

 From the beginning, every child of God, every believer is invited to place his or her faith and trust in God. This is true in the journeys of Abraham, Christ and Saint Paul.

We are all familiar with the call and the  journey or response of Abraham. God called Abraham imperatively, to leave his native Mesopotamia to an unknown destination: a land that God would show him. Abraham did trusting in God's providence and promises. He placed his trust in God and journeyed to this land promised him by God. Abraham may not have been a billionaire in the modern sense, but you can imagine the inconveniences of anybody leaving his home that way. No GPs. He met many trials on the way. one them was the bareness of Sarah (Gen 11:31; 16ff). Another was  the threat of  pharaoh  over Sarah's beauty (Gen 12:10-20).  In the midst of all these Abraham put his trust and faith in God.

 On his journey to the cross Jesus brought his disciples, Peter, James and John to the mountain of transfiguration, mount Tabor, where Jesus’s face was transfigured and transformed. Christ’s face shone like the sun to the disciples. His cloth also became white as a bright light. Moses the law giver and Elijah the prophet also appeared to them, chatting with Jesus. So many transformation here. The brightness of the sun and the serenity of this mountain top gave the disciples such a joy and peace that they would want to remain there forever, building houses for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

 On February 7, 2010, I had the privilege to be on this mountain top, with a group other students from Rome.  While on this mountain I felt somehow like the Peter, James and John, in sense. I could get a good view of the whole valley of Jezreel and the shining hills of Galilee, from there. Sometimes scary too! But the air up there, which is about 1848 feet, is very refreshing. It gives one a wonderful experience of God’s presence, in the brightness of the sun, in the deep valleys, on the mountain and natures. Sometimes you feel like not going back, especially with, beautifully maintained Franciscan Basilica up there, which was erected in the early 20th century, on the remains of the older churches.

 But for Jesus the journey was not complete, without his cross.  Tabor experience was only the foretaste of his glorious coming; a foretaste of victory over the cross.  The disciples would have to keep going and be patient with themselves, and not complain or tell anyone about this mountain top experience, until the son of man has been raised from the dead.

 Paul’s missionary journeys, after his conversion and personal transformation, were not without ups and downs. There were times he was beaten, ship wrecked and thrown into prisons. From his experiences he says to Timothy today, “beloved bear your share of hardship for the gospel, with the strength that comes from God (2 Tim 1:8-10). The same God that Abraham placed his trust and faith upon

 All of us are on a journey or on a pilgrimage. We know there are challenges out there, even of temporary pleasure. How do we move beyond these challenges, beyond the Tabor experience? Some of our challenges could be forms of stress, betrayals, illnesses and disappointments and even the loss of someone we loved?  We see them in other the daily events of life. They are there in our homes, schools, hospitals (in this residence home), offices, work places, factories and in religious communities.

We see them in the violence of our TV scenes and in sport fields. We see them in the selfish decision of some our politicians and leaders. We see them in the effects of wars and terrorism around the globe, in acts of injustices, and in the neglect of the weak, the poor, the aged and the needy of our society.

As we live through lent, may we continue to support and pray for one another on these journeys? May we continue to sing and pray that God’s love and mercy may remain and guide us as we place all our hope, faith and trust in him (ps 33:22).