Thursday, July 2, 2015

Homily (2)13th sunday of ordinary season year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily(2)13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Readings: Wis 1:13-15;2:23-34; Ps30:2,4,5-6,11-13; 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15; Mark 5:21-43               

 The Lord is Our Rescuer

 In the responsorial Psalm of today, “I will praise you , Lord, for you are have rescued me” (Ps 30.2a) lies the  historical essence of our relationship with God. In history God remains our savior, our rescuer, our healer who deserves our praise.

In the Gospel of Mark,  today, God’s Son, Jesus  not only ministers to the multitude(oxlos), in the neighborhood of the sea of Galilee,  but he rescued many people from illnesses, including  Jairius daughter, and the woman who was afflicted with hemorrhages for a complete 12 years. To the 12 year girls, the dying daughter of the synagogue official, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” meaning “little girl, I say to you arise!” She arose to the amazement of the on-lookers, and walked. To the woman afflicted for 12 years with hermorrhage, he said, “daughter your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction. In each of these healing episodes, faith is involved in the part of those rescued from death and illnesses.

The writer of the 1st reading, Book of Wisdom trustingly affirmed that our “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creature of the world are wholesome.”

Saint Paul also attested to this graciousness of God in the 2nd reading, that, though Christ was rich, for our sake he become poor, so  that by his poverty  we might become rich (2 Cor 8:7,8,9,13-15). He went to the cross that we might have life.

Evidently, there moments today that we find ourselves in the situation of synagogue official of today’s Gospel. Sicknesses are not limited to the materially poor. Children and relatives of the synagogue, church and government officials do fall sick. Even though,  we can afford to take our relatives to expensive and specialist hospital, abroad, do we have faith.  Do we realized that there are illnesses that money, positions and the best hospitals in the world cannot not cure? The synagogue official of today’s gospel seemed to be aware of this fact. I want to believe, the more  reason he came to Jesus for the healing of his 12 years old daughter. Interestingly, the other woman , for good twelve symbolic years , perhaps had travelled everywhere, for a very long time, but found no healing  until she touched Jesus’s cloak with faith.

In  our today’s desperate moments of loneliness,   wars and threats of wars, terrorism, and threats of terrorism , gun violent and threats of gun violent, poverty, oppression, injustices, illnesses, and loss of a loved ones, may we imitate with gratitude to God, the centurion and the sick woman of today’s Bible readings.

 

Homily (2) 12th sunday of Ordinary Season Year B: Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily (2) for 12th Sunday of Ordinary Season Year B:Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; Ps 107:23-31; 2 cor 5:14-17 and Mark 4:35-41
 Jesus Calms the Proud Waves of Our Lives
 In the readings of today we are all invited to remain focus on Jesus, the Son of David, God’s incarnate  since he  alone  can recreate us, the multitude, calm the sea, the waves and the various storms  of our lives. These storms, could be natural,  material, biological, emotional, economical, socio-political and spiritual, yet, related, depending on where God has placed us in life.
In the Gospel reading of today, we meet the Markan Jesus who calms the waves and storms that arose in the sea of Galillee when he was travelling pastorally with his disciples. Because of the violent and threatening nature of this meditarenean storm the disciple thought they were perishing. They were afraid. They were emotionally and psychologically shaken. Their boat and material possessions were at risk, but not for their recognition of the teacher of calmness. They woke Christ up, and said, “teacher do you not care, we are perishing.” Of course, Jesus, the teacher of calmness, woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still.” Instantly, there was a great calm to the amazement the disciples of this Son of God.
With God everything is possible; every endurance is worth pursing and every courage is worth taking! (This reminds me of our ongoing 2015 archaeological expedition and pilgrimage in the Holy land. As we journey through the old city of David, the temple mount, Hezekiah’s tunnel, masada, engedi, the Qumran community, Dead Sea,  Bethlehem, Caesarea Philippi,  Shepherd fields, Nazareth, Jezreel valley, Galilee-Capernaum, Tabga, Mount of  Beatitude, etc, courage and focus on the Lord are needed to bear the challenges  and sacrifices associated with pilgrimages and a dig in the desert area, of Bethsaida.
 In the case of Job, familiar to us,  repeated in the first reading, it was, faith, hope, steadfastness and endurance that saw him through his personal storms and  proud waves. He lost everything, wife, children and his animals. He was cajoled and mocked by friends!  Because,  of his personal trust and love for God, he lived to experience the calmness, and the stillness of his ill-fortunes as the disciples of Christ would in the storming sea of Galillee!
Equally, Saint Paul throughout his  missionary journeys was not immuned from sufferings, ship-wrecking, waves and storms of all forms. He faced multiple trials, hardship and imprisonment. Like the disciples of Christ he recognized the master. One thing, he emphasized, as evident in the second reading, 2 Cor 5:14-17, was the love of Christ, the focus on Christ. Paul says, “the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died…whoever is in Christ is a new creation.”
The proud storms that face us today  are not limited to poverty, illness, medical issues, family crises,  high rate of divorces, neglect of parental responsibilities( father’s day in the United States), racism, discrimination and ignorance. It include lack of faith,  hope, love and greediness to dominate others. Threats of war, terrorism and religious extremism are some of them. Corruption and abuse of public offices of nations and communities,  have also replaced a sense of social justice, authentic leadership and thoughts for the common good! Some worship centers today, and unfortunately have been converted to a political theatre instead of a sanctuary to encounter God, in our neighbors, whose Son quieted the waves of the sea of Galilee.
Whatever form our proud waves of life may take Jesus, God’s incarnate, Son of Mary and Joseph is the answer!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Homily (2) 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Udoekpo Michael Fr.


Homily(2) 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 2 Cor 5:1-10 and Mark 4:26-34

 We walk by Faith Not by Sight (2 Cor 5:6-10)

 In every 3rd Sunday in June we celebrate Father’s Day in the United States of America and reflects relates readings of today to daily lives particulate cultures according to needs. Historically, and in the US’s context this  memorial dates back to the mining tragic incidence involving many fathers in 1907 in Monongah, West Virginia. Like the mother’s day celebration, today with joy we are reminded of the place of our fathers, teachers, mentors or father figures in our live, especially those faithful ones. Recall the love, the shoes, the care, the clothing, the protection and tuition fees, and for the walk and works of the faith they have introduced to us.

 Spiritually, it reminds us of God’s role; the role of the “Father of fathers” in our life’s journeys. Our faith history, past, present and future is watched over by God. This is true in the Bible readings of today, which reaches back to the time of Zedekiah, Christ and Paul, leaving lessons for us to learn.

 
 In the concluding section of the parable of the eagle (Ezek 17:22-24) Prophet Ezekiel explains how God protects those who trust him. He compares Christ with King Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle dethroned and deported to Babylon (2 Kings 24:11-16). Zedekiah rebelled and broke his oath and faith in God, in the face of the threat of “the eagle” Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Zedekiah allowed himself to be tricked into death, by Pharaoh, the king of Egypt (2 Kings 25:1-6).

 

  Remember, God does not like this sort of disobedience, oath breaking and faithlessness orchestrated by Zedekiah.  Although he is removed, the Lord will provide Israel with a messiah from a lowly root, namely Christ as prophesied Israel’s prophets (Isa 9:6-7).

The tender branch that will be removed and planted on a lofty mountain, in the first reading is nothing, but the presence of the promised messiah (Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8) in the Church, the mountain. The high tree,, is Zedekiah, with accompanying acts of disobedience and faithlessness shall be brought low, while the humble tree Christ, faithfulness and his values shall be exalted.

There are moments in our lives that pride and faithlessness seem to overwhelm us. In such moments Christ, the saints and many other clouds of humble witnesses  should serve as our models.
 This reminds us of Mary, the Mother and Joseph her husband in the mysteries of the infancy narratives (Luke 1­–2 and Matthew 1–2).  They walked by faith, and aspired to serve and please the Lord. As Paul would put it they “walked  by faith and not by sight,” (2 Cor 5:6-10). 

With faith the humanly impossible becomes divinely possible. Faith makes meaningful to us not only the parable of the eagles in prophet Ezekiel but also the parable of the smallest  scattered seed which grows and springs up once planted to become the largest plants in the farm (Mark 4:26-34). Each of us  from all walks of life and culture has a place in the kingdom even with the minutest of our faith and acts of love.

 In the face of adversities, mysteries, disappointment,  threats, bad economy, unfaithfulness,  insult, war, famine, illness, loss of loved ones, many of our parents, particularly our fathers know how to persevere, love their wives and children or teach us endurance, patience, care and forgiveness.  

 We want to honor our husbands today. We want to pray for our fathers and father figures today, including our mentors and teachers, our brothers, friends, nephews and uncles. We want to appreciate them. And share in the gifts that God has blessed them with, especially the gift of faith in God, the Father of all fathers. For we “walk by faith and not by sight.”

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Homily the Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily the Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Exodus 24:3-8; Ps 116:12-18; Heb 9:11-15 and Mark 14; 12-16, 22-26

 The Presence of Christ, the efficacy of his Body and Blood

Today is the Solemnity of the Body of Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi, in Latin. I would like to invite you to reflect with me on the theme, “the presence of Christ, the efficacy of his Body and Blood.” I have chosen this theme because when Pope Urban IV in 1264, the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas instituted this celebration, among the things he had in mind was that we continue to be devoted to Christ, worship him with hymns and songs, processions, genuflections, adoration,  veneration, visitations, for he is ever present with us in the Blessed Sacrament of love, at Mass, in the bread we break, in the cup we share, in our neighbors we love, in the Church we listen to, and pray with. He is present on our faith journeys, everywhere on earth!

 His presence of love, his covenant with us is unbroken, ever active and effective at least from his part. In ancient days, in Exodus 19, God on Mount Sinai established this covenant of love, and his divine presence with Israel. This covenant was ratified in today’s first reading, Exodus 24:3-8, by the sprinkling of blood on the altar and on the people.  These ancient rites continued on. We see this in Leviticus 16 and 17, on the Day of Atonement, blood sprinkled by priests in the Holy of Holies.  Since ancient times this sprinkled blood was not only a sacred symbol, but a symbol of life, a sign of purification from sins, filthy things, blessings, peace (shalom), good luck, covenant and life’s renewal in the years ahead.

But in the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 31:31” in the days to come I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah,” the author to the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading (Heb 9:11-15) moves a step further to remind us of the efficacy of the Body and blood of Christ, the new covenant foretold by the prophets.

By dying for us on the cross (as we saw during the Holy Week) Christ fulfills/perfects this covenant. He is both the perfect high priest and the perfect sacrifice. Christ’s blood, shed on the cross is more effective than the blood of the animals shed annually and sprinkled on the altar and on the people by the OT priests.

Notice the argument from “less” to “great” or from the “lesser” to the “greater” presented by the second reading. He says, “Christ came as the high priests of the good things that have come to be.” He passes through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, entered into the divinely constructed sanctuary or tent that is heaven, with his own blood, not with animal blood like goats and calves, in order to bring us eternal redemption.

If the ordinary animal blood could be effective in the context of earthly sacrifice, how much more the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, his body and blood. Christ in the Gospel (Mark 14:12-16, 22-26) says, “Take this is my body… and for the cup, this is my blood of the covenant,” words we repeat at every Mass we celebrate. This body and blood of Christ is efficacious. It is superior to the blood of the animals in the OT. It cleanses our consciences from sins, from dead works and enables us to worship the living true God and restore our rightful relationship with God. 

He is alive in the rich and the poor. Christ is alive in the healthy and the sick. He is alive in the living and in our loves ones gone before us marked with the sign faith. He is alive in our relationship with one another. In our homes and rooms he remains the unseen guests of the believer. He is alive in the sacred music. He is alive in the Holy Scriptures we share.   He is alive among peace makers, champions of unity and in those who forgive wrong doings done to them.  Above all He is really present with us,”transubstantially,” in the bread and in the wine when the priests invoke God’s blessings upon it at the epiclesis, particularly in the community of believers.

This reminds me of the song: He’s alive amen, He’s alive, and Jesus is alive forever…He’s alive amen! 

As we celebrate this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ may we continue to share our faith and our experience of the efficacy of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with our neighbors, friends and family members!

Homily Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 4:32-34, 39-40; Ps 33:4-9, 18-20, 22; Rom 8:14-17 and Matt 28:16-20

The Mystery of God’s Love


“Blessed are those whom the Lord has chosen as his own” (Psalm 33:12).

This is the responsorial psalm of today. Some translations would say, “Happy are the nations whose God is the Lord, the people chosen as his very own’” (NAB). Whatever translation, this psalm captures the essence of our celebration today, Israel in the presence of God; the Church, everywhere, every nations, our community (ies) in the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

We celebrate the mystery(that which surpasses our human understanding) of the three persons in One God, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity; a Triune God who loves and cares for us; the mystery of all that God has done in our lives. This is not a God whom we want to question today “how did three of you become one,” but a God who loves to see us practice our faith or go out to the whole world and preach the values of Christ Jesus, his only begotten, whose birth stories we share at Christmas, passion, resurrection and Ascension at Easter and the coming down of the Holy spirit at Pentecost, to lead the Church.

The 1st reading of today from Deuteronomy Chapter 4 is a clear exhortation or call to remember all these mysteries and wonders God has done for us in the past- in creation, signs and wonders, the liberation from slavery, exodus and redemption.  God can do what humanly seems impossible. I am sure you may have your personal testimonies. Recall God’s wonders including the miracle of the air or oxygen we breathe, the wars he defeated the enemies, the 10 plagues, the miracle of the read sea- all these should strengthen our faith and enable us believe more and more in God- keeping his statues and his basic commandments, namely love of neighbor and God!

He is a miracle working God who out of love journeyed in his son to save us- a son who left us with the Spirit at Pentecost. Each of us become adopted sons and daughters of God when we aloud this spirit of God to lead us. This is the same spirit that we received initially at baptism. Like in the Gospel of today, we all were baptized not only with water, but in the name of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:16-20).  We want not only to read the fruit of this spirit but we want this spirit to lead us always, even as we bring others to catholic faith by our words and deeds. This is why Paul says, today, ‘brothers a sisters, those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (and daughters) of God… the spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:14-17).

We also become God’s children and Christ’s brothers and sisters by adopting and adapting his values of peace, unity, faith, prayer, love, obedience and complete self-surrendering, which Mary the Mother of Christ also stood for this even in the magnificent(Luke 1:39-56). She once said to the Angel “how can this be since I do not know any man." But at the end the day, she said, “do with we me whatever thou wilt". How many times did Christ not pray in every step of the way during his ministry? In the last discourse in John 17 he prayed ‘that they may all be one.” Did Christ ever disobey his father? Did Christ ever doubt what his father can do?  How many times did he not completely empty himself and surrendered himself to the Father, even up to the cross? It was never about himself, his will, but always the will of the Father. He said “into your hands I commend my spirit.”

 I think if there is anything we want to take home today from this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity it is faith not doubt, unity not division, hope not despair, trust rather than distrust and total acceptance of the will God, especially in moments of temptations and lack of intelligible explanations to certain circumstances of our lives.  
You and I know that sometimes when one door closes another opens. Even in sickness and other tragedies of live we can always trust God’s loving acts, and says the Psalmist, “May your love and kindness be upon us, as we place all our hope in you’ (ps 33:22). The mystery of God’s love!

 

 

Homily Pentecost Sunday Year B (Mass during the Day): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily(3) Pentecost Sunday Year B (Mass during the Day): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 103; I Cor 12:2-3, 12-13 and John 20:19-20.

The Role of the Holy Spirit in our lives

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Pentecost, 50 days after the celebration of Easter- the resurrection of Christ. The Jews celebrated this feast 50 days after the Feast of Passover- thanking God for the gift of harvest as well for His Sinaitic Covenant with Moses which also occurs 50 days after the beginning of the Exodus in Egypt. There have been many harvests in our lives!

For us, today marks the end of the Easter Season and commemorates the day that the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and on the Church. We are celebrating the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christian men, women and children. We need this gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives today more than ever, in order for us to be able to function as true Christians and agents of evangelization without fear and intimidation, despair, quarrel, discrimination and desire for vengeance, bigotry, division and unhealthy competition.

I remember when I was a kid between the ages of 4-10. I always wanted to hold onto my mum whom I loved and depended on. I always cried, sad and disturbed the whole neighborhood each time my mother would leave me at home to go the grocery store or to the local market for shopping. Sometimes we do feel the same each time somebody we love is about to leave us.

The Apostles felt the same – they were sad when Jesus indicated last week, in the reading of the Solemnity of Ascension that he was leaving to go to the Father. But, he promised them the Holy Spirit.

Recall, the same Holy Spirit was important even throughout the ministry of Jesus.  Remember at his baptism the Spirit descended upon Jesus and named him as he beloved son of the Father. At the beginning of his public ministry in Luke chapter 4, Jesus invoked the prophecy of Isa 61- “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has anointed me to bring Good news to the poor, and liberty to the captives….”   It was this same Spirit of the Lord that raised Jesus from the dead, and enabled him ascends to the Father.

Just as it was not easy for me when my mum would leave me home momentarily to get to the store for groceries or for any us to lose a dear one, the Bible Readings of today from Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Letter to the Corinthian and the Gospel of John not only present us with the challenges that face the early Christian community after the Ascension of Jesus.

St. Luke tells us in Acts of the Apostles how the persecuted and frightened and post-ascension church could not really teach the mission of Jesus to the understanding of everyone from different tribes and culture until they had received the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit the early church was filled with fear, wrangling, uncertainties and confusions.

It was the Holy Spirit that enables the Apostles to face with love and patience the ridicule, the rejection they had to deal with after the ascension of Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit that enables them to be understood by people of all nations listed in today’s first reading. The Spirit of unity.

We need this spirit of God (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord) to deal with the challenges that face us today in our families, in the society, in schools, offices, and places of work, in our nations as followers of Christ.

Some of these challenges you know better than I do may include, division, discrimination, quarrels, pride, boasting, abusing our gifts and selfishness in our homes and in politics and in our communities. These are some the problems that St. Paul was addresses in the early Corinthian Church, of the 2nd reading.

For Paul in Baptism we are all one body in Christ. Just as the eye cannot say I don’t need the fingers or the nose, my legs or ears are not necessarily, we need one another in Christ. You can't say your next door neighbor or the next person on your left or right is not important. Everyone is needed. All the gifts we have are important and we need your gifts to live in fullness with Christ.  None of us sitting here is a chance factor before God or is not gifted with one gift or another. We are all gifted.

For Paul the sharing of these various spiritual gifts enriches the Church, since they all come from the same Spirit for the common good. In other words these gifts are meant for the common good, for the community.  They may reside in some of us informs of prophecy, teaching, administration, acts of charity, healing, speaking in tongues, apostles, prophets, etc . But usually what this spirit brings should be joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22ff).

This is the Spirit that Jesus breathed on the Apostles on the evening of that Easter Sunday in today’s Gospel. It is the Spirit of peace, shalom, wholeness to be agents of evangelization and forgiveness.

Let us pray at this Mass for the gift of the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives so that we may constantly not only feel the presence of God, his peace and joy in our lives, but be able to willingly share it with our neighbors.

 

 

Homily (3) 7th Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily (3) 7th Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26; 1 John 4: 11-16 and John 17:11b-19

  He prayed that they may all be one

“Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying, “ Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one”(John 17:11b).

There is no better day to read the priestly prayer of Jesus than on the occasion of Johannine Jesus’ last discourse, preparing his disciples for the Post Ascension or Pre- Pentecost periods of evangelization and demands of discipleship. What will become of the Disciples of Christ and the Church after Jesus’ Ascension to the Father? Today’s readings are relevant to us today who presently live in a broken world, plague with wars, and all kinds of divisions, discriminations on the streets, offices, places of work and even in  places of worship.

If we read the preceding verse 11a of this 17th chapter of John, Jesus wishes is expressed, “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father keep them in your name…”

Jesus himself was in deep union with his Father throughout his ministry. He remains with him. His Ascension was the work of the Father, who lifted him up. He knew the journey was not always going to be easy for his disciple and church.  The more reasons in his High Priestly Prayer of today’s Gospel he committed our well-being and faith into God’s hands. He wants us to remain with the Father and stick around in love and unity with one another. He prayed that through the gift of the Holy Spirit each of us may be brought into that kind of deep union and friendship that he had shared with God His Father.

Besides faith, hope and love, stressed in the 2nd reading, prayer and openness for the guidance of the Holy Spirit are key principles for true discipleship. The union of the disciples and the church can be achieved through incessant prayer, even in making choices or key decision like the selection of Matthias to replace Judas who had betrayed Christ and gone his way. In doing this we are told in the 1st reading, the church prayed and said:

“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two (Judas called Barsabbas and Matthias) you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas has turned away to go to his own place.”

How many of us have not turned away once in a while or tempted to do so from the teachings of the Church, from the teachings of the Holy Scripture from our faith tradition, from the teachings of Christ, love, charity, peace, serenity, gentleness, humility forgiveness, unity, “do to others what you would want don to you” (matt 7:12) and sometimes go our own way. With prayer everything is possible.  With prayer we can make a U-turn back to Christ. With prayer we can remain with him.

 Prior to our decisions and choice making, be it that of the college to go to, a particular doctor to visit, suggestions to make at family and executive meetings, which mass to attend or what menu to choose from, a particular book to read, movie to watch or friends to hang out with, at the United Nations, cabinet meetings, parish councils, diocesan senates, we want to pray, we want to always consult our advocate; counselor, the Holy Spirit, through prayers.

At this Mass, remember this is our upper Room, let us re-dedicate our life’s mysteries into God’s hands. Let us imitate our Mother Mary and the apostles, who prayed before Matthias was selected, who kept the faith, who waited patiently and prayerfully united for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, come next Sunday.