Saturday, June 28, 2014

Homily- Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily- Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Reading: (Vigil) Acts 3:1-10; Ps 19:1-5; Gal 1:11-20; John 21:15-19 (Day) Acts 12:1-11 Ps 34:2-9; 2 Tim 4:6-8,17-18 and Matt 16:13-19.

Living the Examples of Saints Peter and Paul Today

Today we celebrates the life and steadfastness of Saints Peter and Paul, two great giants and pillars of the Church. Peter was from Bethsaida, a town in Galilee on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. Originally, he was a fisherman. He met Christ through his brother Andrew. He abandoned his net and followed Christ. He had his own ups and down as the Vicar of Christ. Quite outspoken. had his own crisis of  faith.  Denied Christ several times during the Passion Week. Regained his faith, pastoral and leadership roles in the church, and eventually died as a martyr for the same faith in Rome, under the persecution of Nero, about 64 AD. Peter was buried where the Vatican is located today.
Paul on the other hand was from Tarsus known as Saul, prior to his conversion. Originally, he was an attorney and persecutor of Christians and their values. He was chosen to form part of the college of Apostles by Christ himself after his miraculous conversion on his way to Damascus. He preached faith, endurance, repentance, perseverance, unity and the good news of Christ to the Gentiles and pagans of all nations.

Peter and Paul’s exemplary-apostolic lives are narrated extensively in the pages of the Scripture, especially in the readings we had at both Masses; the vigil and at this Mass of the Day. Both men suffered persecution and trials. Peter was bound in prison by Herod in the first reading, Acts of the Apostle. But through the prayer of the Church he was miraculously freed from prison and fears by the angel of the Lord. Peter himself acknowledged this and said, ‘now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod’ (Acts 12:1-11).
Like Peter, Paul in all his missionary preaching and pastoral travels witnessed all kinds of persecutions. He was beaten, rejected, ship wrecked and imprisoned. But he knew that the crown of righteousness awaits those who persevere to the end.

Today, while exhorting, Timothy, Saint Paul is indirectly addressing us in our various situations: Paul says:
“I Paul, am already being poured out like libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me… the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all Gentiles might hear. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil…” (2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18).

Perseverance, endurance, sacrifices are demanded of Christians in their faith preaching, witnessing and ministries. We have seen this not only in Paul, but in Peter as well. Recall, what Peter went through during the trial of Jesus. He was afraid. He went through fear and trials of confusion. He denied Christ. But the same Peter in John 21 would come back with courage to say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15-19). Peter is ask to feed Christ sheep, the Church. The same Peter, in spite of weaknesses and trials is able to recognized Christ in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 16:13-19) as “the Son of the Living God.” Because of his endurance, and perseverance Peter is made the Rock the foundation of the Church and the custodians of the keys of the kingdom of heavens. He has the power to bind and to loosen. So also his successors – the Roman Pontiff to whom members of the Church through their bishops and priests collaborate with.
We live today in different times with challenges than Peter and Paul. We may be faced with different forms of challenges by different “Herods” and “Neros.”: For example secularism, disagreements, rifts, divisions, terrorism, wars, a diminished sense of the sacred, extreme entertainment atmosphere of materialism with a huge gap between the poor and the rich. There are also pluralism of religion and political/economic ideologies hostile to Christian faith. In this age under these circumstance, each of us, priests and non-ministerial priests, young and old, students and workers, parents and children are invited to imitate Saints Peter and Paul as ministers of the gospel and values of Christ to our neighbors and friends of all cultures and nations. Values of love, values of hope, values of faith, values of forgiveness, values of endurance, values of bearing the weight of our crosses, values of oneness, values of universalism, values of charity and peace, values of authentic leadership, courage and gratitude.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Homily (2) Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ- Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily (2) Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ- Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 8:2-3,14b-16a; Ps 147:12-15, 19-20; 1 Cor 10:16-17 and John 6:51-58

 Christ, the life-giving Bread

On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), we celebrate Christ the life-giving Bread. We contemplate Christ the source of life, whose presence in our midst is real, and who accompanies us on our journeys.

This same God accompanied the Israelite on their journeys. In moments of hunger he provided manna for them in the wilderness. And when they were thirsty he provided fresh drinking water for them, through the leadership of Moses.

The first reading of today, though Moses’ mouth, summons everyone to remember God’s provision, his goodness and his constant presence with us, on our journeys: “ Moses said to the people, remember how forty years now the Lord your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction… he afflicted you with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to your father…(Deut 8:2-3,14b-16a).

The implication of this “hunger” “feeding”, “hunger” ‘feeding,” is that  human beings does not live by material bread and physical water alone, but by every words, and values that flows from Christ Jesus.
The Gospel reading of today, John 6:51-58, in a Eucharistic context points to bread as the flesh of Christ, the wine as the blood of Christ the source of life. Today’s gospel contrast Christ with the material manna the Israelite ate in the desert. The wilderness’ manna did not stop the Israelites from dying in the wilderness nor from further hunger.   But whoever receives the sacrament of the new covenant, and participate in the blood and the body of Christ is not only blessed (1 Cor 10:16-17), but will live forever.

Two things that we could learn from today’s solemnity, enveloped in the metaphors of bread and wine, expressed in the readings include the facts that: (1) there are still all kinds of hunger in the world- material and spiritual, in all parts of the world- Africa, Asia, Europe, Americas etc. There still, many today, who cannot afford daily nor weekly bread. The world must work hard to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, recently articulated in Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium; (2) human beings do not live by materialism, secularism or on their human preconception of divine revelation alone.  Ordinarily bread are not enough.

 But, rather, in Jesus who is the source life, through   his gifts of words and sacrament. We live by his gospel values of prayer, unity, forgiveness, humility, charity, mercy, kindness, righteousness, compassion, being presence for one another, listening to one another, and selfless love, need to be reread, preach, and appreciated from the pages of the scriptures. Believers must also endeavor to put into daily and constant practice Jesus’ values, words, participation in the sacraments, and teachings as whole. This is the life- giving bread needed to sustain us, and heal our broken world, today.

 

 

 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Homily (2) the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year A: Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year A: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Exod 34:4b-6, 8-9; Dan 3:52-55; 2 Cor 13:11-13 and John 3:16-18

Three persons in the God who saves

After the Pentecost three Solemnities are celebrated in quick successions:  the Holy Trinity, the Body of Christ and the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, three persons in one God which we celebrate today, is the central mystery of our Christian faith. And this occurs also on the day we celebrate Father’s Day here in the United States.

Preaching on this mystery could be very challenging to preachers and to all of us Christians. Sometimes this apparent difficulties can lead many preachers to digress into endless stories or to simply go back to the notes they took in their theology class on the Doctrine of the most Trinity.
But keeping to the boundaries of the Scriptures readings of today, what we celebrate today is the mystery of love, the mystery of hope, unity, peace, the power of forgiveness and revelation of God’s infinite love and mercy.

 In the first reading, the Triune God, with Moses’ intercession reaches out in love to the sinful Israelite, who had committed idolatry. He is slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity (Exod 34:4b-6, 8-9). The goal of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is always to love and to unite us instead of scattering – the communion, the oneness which Christ has always taught us in his deep relationship with the Father. In John chapter 1 verse 1 we read,” in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” And in verse 14 we are told the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

This is a God out of pure love coming down in the person of Christ to dwell with us and to enlighten us in our businesses and in our relationship with our neighbors.  In the completion of his ministry which Christ carried out in total communion with the Father, he sent us the Holy Spirit that was with him in the beginning of his ministry “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4), a spirit of peace, and love.

It is the same peace of the Triune God that Paul suggests in the Second reading. He says, “Mend your way, encourage one another, agree with one another, and live in peace. This is what we are celebrating today- how more than one person can live in peace.

It is not even suggested anywhere that God the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit went to court, quarrel or dislike each other. Rather “God so loved the world the he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life….and be saved.” (John 3:3-18).
Today we celebrate father’s day in our nation. As we celebrate the mystery of the Most holy trinity, it is important too to think of the mystery of fatherhood, who they are called to be, they role the play in our various families. There are many blessings that God has blessed our fathers with.  Our fathers are called to love, to protect and nature members of their families. Our fathers are also called to rise to their responsibility of fostering oneness and unity in the family, in the church, in society and in politics. Some of those who make decisions in our parliaments and in the in the government are father. Our fathers called to be patient, protecting, loving, caring, understanding like Joseph in the family of Jesus and Mary.

  Our world is  socially, spiritually, economically and politically broken today. Let us pray at this Mass that as the three persons are united in One God to save us, we may always as a world, the church and families strive for oneness, unity, with the grace of Christ, the love of God and fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Homily (2) Pentecost Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) Pentecost  Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Gal 5:16-25 and John 20:19-23 or John 15:26-27; 16:12-15

 The Gift of the Holy Spirit

In the past weeks we all witnessed and celebrated the joy of the resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. Today we celebrate the Pentecost, a day the Holy Spirit promised us by Christ came upon his Church. After Easter, it is the second most important day in the life of the Church.  And it is  a popular day for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Some of us were confirmed on this day with a package of various spirit gifts, including peace, the Holy Spirit of unity and courage.


 In the Gospel reading of today (John 20:19-23) we told “on the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came stood in their midst and said to them ‘peace be with you… as the Father has sent me, so I sent you…he breathed on them and said’ receive the Holy Spirit” Naturally, one wonders why they were afraid, and why they locked themselves up in confinement. What were they afraid of? Perhaps, they were afraid of persecution and insecurity. They lived in fear. They were rapped and locked in fear and in state of uncertainties. Many of us do live in fear for one reason or the other.

We have our own anxieties and worries. We are surrounded and rapped around daily problems and unpredictability (ties). Jesus as we saw in the Gospel has the keys for these problems. He is the source and the conduit of peace, freedom, liberty and breath that ushers in the Holy Spirit of love and evangelization.

 In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11) as soon as the disciples had received this Holy Spirit, they were heard speaking in different languages of different nations.  It is amazing to see what different the Holy Spirit brings us. With it we hears Christ well and we have the courage to share what we have heard or received from Christ with others.  Of course, Christ speaks to us in our languages, in our culture. He visits us in our own homes, on our chairs, in our beds and in every circumstances of our lives. And we need the gift of the Holy Spirit even to appreciate Christ’s presence in our lives. We need the spirit to listen to one another’s music, language, and appreciate the talents and blessings that each of our neighbors brings us. We need the Holy Spirit to bring Christ’s to our neighbors.

 In the 2nd reading Paul recommends this gifts for the troubling and divided Corinthian Church. Although Corinthian was a materially or materially booming center its inhabitants were full of themselves. They were arrogant corrupt and of displayed rivalry among themselves. They rivaled for power, money and possessions. Divisions in particular were noticed even in worshiping centers. Thanks to Paul, he uses the analogy of the unity of all the parts of our body to remind the Corinthian church of the importance of the unity of the Church- the Body of Christ.   I am sure this sound familiar. Irrespective of our color, height, size, looks, in Christ we are one in Christ to whom we were all baptized.

In our world today, plagued and wounded with obvious division, war, distrust among nations, discriminations of all kind, the significance of today’s Pentecost cannot be overemphasized.  It is only Christ and the Spirit of God that can change or bring freshness and renewal to the face of the earth, as well as the courage to share the good news and God’s given gifts with others.

We pray at this mass that the Spirit of the Lord, that Pentecost brings may renew  the face of our  earth with unity,  replaces our sicknesses with good health and our sorrows with joy.

 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Acts 1:12-14; Psalms 27:1, 4, 7-8; 1 Pet 4:13-16 and John 17:1-11

 The Mission of the Post-Ascension Church

 In today’s Gospel, the last chapter of the Book of Glory Jesus prays for the church, and speaks of his glory with God to whom he has ascended in heaven (John 17:11a). He prays, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.”

This prayer is an expression of Jesus unity with the Father. It is an expression of love for the Church he established. It also a report of his missions of love, compassion, feeding the poor, forgiving sinners, and healing he sick while on earth. It is a report of the faith he taught, the suffering he endured, the cross he carried on our behalf, and the community of believers he formed (vv6-8). In his glorification he will give eternal life to this community of faith. This eternal life includes the knowledge of God and his inspiration and spirit for the church, the Christian community to continue his mission.

Of course Jesus was a man of prayer from Baptism to the Cross, which he continues after his ascension. The first reading (Acts 1:12-14) presents his disciples  who continues in this mission of prayer in the upper room soon after his ascension. We are told, “after Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem…. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of  James… all devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus and his brothers.”

Each of us are invited to be Peter and John,  James , Andrew and Philip, Thomas and Bartholomew, Matthew, James, Mary, men and women of prayer who delight in following the footsteps of Jesus at all times. Truly there are moments of challenges (frustration, low grades in exams, hatred, insult, discrimination, racism, disappointments, betrayals, illness and loss of loved ones). Christ himself before his Ascension faced those challenges and sufferings, even to the cross.

1 Peter 4:13-16, the second reading, reminds us how to react to sufferings. it teaches us how to handle those challenges of life. It says, "But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of his name. Peter also stresses joy, saying ‘rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings (glory) of Christ.”

Granted that we live in a divided world of the rich and the poor, the west and the east, north and south, joy and sorrows, wars and terrorisms, we are hopeful that Christ will never leave us orphans.  He constantly prays and watches over us. And we ask the Lord to help us realize the importance of prayer, faith and hope, and of the oneness of the post-Ascension- Christian communities in keeping the words of Christ and promoting his values and mission to people of all walks of life, especially the poor and the weak of every nation.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Homily (2) 6th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) 6th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66:1-3, 4-5,6-7,16,20; I Pet 3:15-18 and John 14:15-21

The Spirit Who Stimulates Our Love of God


In the Gospel reading of today (John14:15-21), Christ says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…..”

This message of Christ comes to us on the eve of his ascension to God his father, which we shall celebrate on Thursday, or next Sunday. The point is that as Christ departs to the Father he wants us to be consistent in our Love for him, his teachings and in keeping God’s commandments.  Sometimes, it could be difficult, but this call to love and keep God’s precepts will be guided by the Holy Spirit promised us by Christ as he ascends to God his Father.

It is this same spirit that came upon the Samaritan when Peter and John prayed and laid hands on  them in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading (Acts 8:5-8,14-17). But before Peter and John arrived to lay hands on them, we are told, with the grace of God, the Samaritans received healings because they paid attention to Christ Jesus, the wounded healer, proclaimed by Philip. Christ heals those who listen to him and brings them the spirit of joy and happiness and hope to those who pay attention to him and his precepts.

In fact, this spirit comes to us in a various ways. It comes to us in the readings we read, in the liturgy we celebrates the psalms and songs we sing and in the bread and cup we share. This spirit of God comes to us on our journeys and in the people we meet,  the peace we promotes and in the justice we champion. It comes in the sins we forgive and  in the wrongs we put right.

You all know last two weeks I led a pilgrimage to Poland, retracing the footsteps of Saints Faustina, Maximillian Kolbe and John Paul the II. It was a spirit-filled pilgrimage. We arrived at Warsaw May 13 and went to celebrate Holy Mass at St. James Church. This is the very Church that Saint first went to pray when she arrived at Warsaw- heading to join the convent of the Holy Mercy Sisters. The following day, May 14 went to 39 Zytnia Street, where we celebrated Mass at the Convent of the Holy Mercy Sisters.

Each of us  on the journey could feel the Spirit of God, the yearning for his love and truth that only God can give. On May 15 we proceeded to Niepokalanow and celebrated Mass at the Franciscan Monastery of Maximillian. We spent a great deal of time at the House and Museum of Maximillian Kolbe, who taught us how to love our enemies and die for one another. On May 16 we visited the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa and celebrated Mass at the Holy Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of Jasna Gora. We embraced there the spirit of a loving mother. Went to Wadowice where we retrace the origin of Saint John Paul II, who taught us so much, especially how to trust in God and keep his commandments, irrespective of our cultures. We went to Auschwitz and Birkinau concentration camp. It was a sorrowful part of the journey- seeing “man inhumanity to man.”

 We were also at Zakopane, where we experience the spirit of God on the mountains. At Krakow we visited the Wielicka’s Salt Mines and celebrated Mass at St. John’s Chapel, about 300 meters in the Salt Mines. There, we learned we are called to be the salt of the earth, to preserve truth and God's words. We had private Mass at St. Mary’s Church Legiewniki and in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy. All these we believe were guided by the Spirit of God, His love and Divine Mercy

Each day in our lives, this spirit enables us to defend the truth, embrace our crosses, and prepares us with answers and explanation, “to anyone who ask you for reason for your hope” which Saint Peter talks about in the 2nd reading (1 Pet 3:15-18). It enables us to condemn what Hitler did to the Jews. It brings hope where ever there is despair, joy in place of sadness and patience whenever we are met with temptation if impatience.

With the gift of the Holy Spirit may we joyfully continue to stick with Christ, embrace our crosses, follow the examples of the saints (Faustina, Kolbe, John Paul II), keep God’s commandments, remain in His love, and loved our neighbors as Christ has first loved us. Most importantly, allow the spirit to stimulate this love in us!

 

 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Homily (2) 5th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) 5th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Ps 33:1-5,18-19; 1 Pet 2::4-9 and John 14:1-12

Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life

 Last Sunday we celebrated Christ the Good Shepherd. Today, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  A greater understanding of these metaphors or imageries are important as we approach the mysteries of the Ascension and the Pentecost in the coming weeks.
However, we may want to interpret these imageries - of Way, Life and Truth- the choices we make in life, the goals we pursue, how we endure pains and illnesses, how we love and forgive, how generous we are to our neighbors and how faithful we are to Christ and his Church,  must be taken into account.

Starting from the early church and with the spread of Christianity there is nothing that we would accomplish in this life without Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and without the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the spirit is important because sometimes the way of Christ, love, forgiveness, patience could be bumpy and challenging!

This is true with the choice of Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicarnor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, the seven deacons in today’s first reading. These men were selected to serve the poor and the needy not because they were vested with worldly politics and secular shrewdness or filled with themselves. Scripture tells us that these men were selected to cater for the temporal goods of the church, because they were filled the Holy Spirit.

In Galatian 5 :22 these fruits of  this Holy spirit are listed as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, chastity(Gal 5:22). These are what we also find in Christ who is the Way that we must follow.

Pope Francis in his Evengelii Gaudium spells and captures the importance of these fruits especially as we spread the Gospel to margins, the poor and peoples of all walks of life. It must be done with humility, patience, and joy in spite of uncertainties and challenges associated with following Christ.

As Thomas and Philip would have asked Jesus today for the “Way” and the Knowledge of the “Father”  let us pray at this Mass for the grace to recognize that we are a holy nation, a people part to praise and worship God (1 Pet 2:4-9), to love Him and follow His Ways.

And may the mercy of God be upon us (Ps 33:22) so that as we travel the way, the road, be it the high way, the narrow avenues or the bumpy or smooth streets of life, may we always pattern our choices, our opinions and life- style after the examples of Christ who is the ideal Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:1-12)