Thursday, August 25, 2016

Homily 22nd Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily 22nd Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29
·         Ps 68:4-5,6-7,10-11
·         Heb 12:18-19,22-24a
·         Luke 14:1,7-14

 The Virtue of Humility

 Today we live in a world of “the winner take it all.”  A world where the rich look down on the poor.  A world where we like to compare ourselves with others. Some feel superior or holier than others. While others feel inferior or less than others. Any of us can easily fall into this trap of arrogance, putting ourselves above others, or entertaining a poor or inferior self-image of ourselves. All three readings plus the responsorial Psalm of today(" God in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor,") invite us to avoid such mistakes and rather joyfully embrace, the beatitude, a humble and positive behavior in daily life.

 In the 1st reading, from the Book of Sirach, though written more than a Hundred Years before Christ, we are reminded of what usually and really counts in life; namely; the wisdom of humility wherever we are and in whatever we do.   200 years before Christ, Sirach said, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be love more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” This was true then, 200 years before Christ. This is still true today. Truly, humility is a spiritual disposition towards God. It is an attitude of bending before God, submitting our will to embrace God’s will in our dealings with our neighbors

  But notice that the 1st reading is not recommending that we make ourselves stupid before others. No, our daily life should reflects our interior disposition towards God, displayed in gentleness, simplicity, generosity, kindness and compassion towards our neighbors, superiors, family members, fellow workers, and friends, even towards those who seem difficult to us. Even the gifts we give to the poor, the preaching we preach, to our congregations, the teaching we teach to our students, the counseling we counsel, the leading we lead , the work we do, the administration we administer to our subjects the Christianity we live should all be done with humility and meekness. The corporal works of mercy: (feeding the hungry, providing water for the thirty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, burying the dead) we practice in this  Year of Mercy, inaugurated by Pope Francis, should be practiced with humility and compassion. Doesn’t Christ say in today’s alleluia verse, Matthew 11:29a “take my yoke upon you… learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart?”

 Humility is not a weakness. Rather, it is a strength in rightly taking one’s place before God. That is, in mount Zion, spoken of in today’s 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews. Those who practice the virtue of humility will see God, will be exalted, and will find a place in God’s Kingdom, in Mount Zion, the New Heavenly Jerusalem. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, those who humble themselves will be exalted in Jerusalem! This has been the case 200 years before Christ.

 Christ makes this clearer in the parable of the invited guest in today’s gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14). He reminds the Pharisees that when you are invited for a dinner or wedding party, it’s better not to hurry to take the front seat. Wait humbly behind until you are seated in your rightful place to avoid embarrassment. Do we wait for our rightly place with patient, with humility? The kingdom of God we must realize is also opened to everyone, the rich, the poor the crippled, the lame, the blind—and those we thought were insignificant.  Do we consider our neighbors, especially the poor, co-members and partakers of the kingdom of God. Or do we think that I alone, or you alone have the monopoly of the kingdom?

Of course, it is not so much whether we are physically behind or in front at wedding or dinner parties. Rather, the message is that in life, wherever we are, live, work, serve, teach, lead, preach, minister, even in our families, we should conduct ourselves wisely with grace, joy and humility. No need for inordinate comparison of ourselves with others. Our Blessed Mother Mary, who said to the Angel, Be it done to me according to your words, should also be our model of humility in our dealings with our neighbors.





Saturday, August 20, 2016

Homily [2]21st Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]21st Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·       Isaiah 66:18-21;
·       Ps 117:1-2;
·       Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
·       Luke 13:22-30

Go Out to the Whole World Proclaim the Goodnews (Mk 16:15)!

The responsorial Psalm of today, “go out to the whole world and tell the good news [euaggelion],” Mark 16:15, sums up the theme of today’s scripture, namely; the universal nature of God’s love for us; men, women, children from all walks- of – life and the challenges, the narrow gates, the Christian disciplines that we face as we strive towards the kingdom of God.

This universal nature of God’s love for each of us, it does not matter where you come from, what you look like, what gender you are, is evidence in today’s first reading, Isaiah 66. The returnees from the Babylonian and Persian exiles have encountered problems in the Holy Land. There are tensions, there are politics, there are divisions, there are name callings, and there are all forms of injustices from the elites. Who is the rightful owner of the land, the golah (returnees) or the people of the land (those who never experienced the exile)? Should those wives married outside the land or those children born in Persia and Babylon be permitted to be part of the newly rebuilt city of Zion or not? For some no. But for God yes! This is where God steps in, and speaks to Isaiah to proclaim to the people that, ‘he [God] came to gather nations of every language, to see his divine glory.” The glory of the Lord, his goodness, his love, his mercy, especially in this Year of Mercy, is universal!

These we are already experiencing. Think of how Masses are said in different languages all over the world. At these Masses, same readings are read and similar sharing of the bread and blood and the word of God are broken and shared according to various needs of every culture.  Again think of the many priests and missionaries we have serving in our countries, in the Vatican, in parishes schools and seminaries. They are from different cultures and nations. And they speak and preach their sermons and homilies in different languages.

In baptism each of us is commissioned to be bearers, preachers, and doers of this universal, inclusive love and mercy of God, manifested in Christ, wherever we live are- Africa, Europe, Asia, America … California, New York! Following Christ, who is the way, the gate, the truth and the life (John 14:6) was never going to be easy at all. It comes with all kinds of challenges and disciplines alluded to in the 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews 12.

 In this Year of Mercy one can imagine how challenging it could be to live, for example, the corporeal works of mercy: feeding the hungry—when some us may not yet have enough for ourselves and our children, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, those  in imprisons, and burying the dead?

Doing these are classic examples of preaching the Goodnews, and of entering through the narrow gate of today’s Gospel parable (Luke 13:22-33). Following the example of Christ is this narrow gate. Loving one another as Christ loves is this narrow gate. Reaching out to the poor, the voiceless and the marginalized as Christ does, is this narrow gate. Embracing everyone, from north and south, east and west is this narrow gate. Giving out your used clothing or contributing to the food pantry is this narrow gates! This is what it means to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news to all without counting the cost! May we all go out there proclaiming the Goodnews to every nation of every language and culture.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Homily [2] 20th Sunday of Year C 2016: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily [2] 20th Sunday of Year C 2016: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·       Jer 38:4-6, 8-10;
·       Ps 40:2,3,4,18;
·       Heb 12:1-4
·       Luke12: 49-53

Courage and Fortitude in Our Christian Journeys
Fire, Fire, Fire!!!!!!!!!!!! “I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already blazing… There is baptism with which I must be baptized. I have come not to establish peace, but rather division” (Luke 12:49-50).

These words of Jesus highlights the central theme of today's scripture readings; that we should be courageous and prophetic in our Christian callings. Taken literally, these words may sound worrisome and confusing to some. How can Jesus the Prince of Peace (Matthew 5.9) says, he came not to establish peace, but division?  But when we take a closer look it metaphorically highlights the fire of the cross, the fire of fortitude, the mission of Christ and his judgment, that Christianity was never going to be bed or roses or a bed of comfort, even for the status quo. No! He came to challenge the status quo; the diseases, the selfishness, the afflictions of the poor.   He came to bring fire on earth. The fire we saw in the ministries of Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who died for the marginalized. The Fire we saw in the Blessed Mother Teresa, who cared for the poor. The fire we saw in Saint John Paul II, who forgave his would be assassin. The fire we saw in Martin Luther King Jr, who preferred peace to violence. The fire we are seeing today in Pope Francis.

Christ came to do things differently and courageously. Recall as a young boy after he had visited the synagogue with the parents, instead of walking back home like other families, Jesus stayed back in the temple. The fire of dialoguing with temple officials!  In the ancient days it was tooth for tooth, but Jesus came with a new teaching that says “turn the other cheek, and forgive” those who may have offended us. The fire to turn the other cheek, the fire to forgive, especially, in this Year of Mercy.

The elders used more than 40 years to build the temple, but Jesus says, “He will destroy it and rebuild it in three days.” The fire of the resurrection after death! John baptized with water, but Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). The fire of the Holy Spirit!  Sinners were despised, but Jesus chose to eat with them. The fire of eating with sinners! He shared water with the Samaritan woman. The fire of a Jewish/Rabbi to reach out to the Samaritan woman!

He raised Lazarus from the death. He commanded the blind to see, and cured the lepers. The fire to heal even on the Sabbath. The fire of God's healing love!! He taught Pilate the true meaning of Truth. The fire of Truth!! He came up with a new form of sacrifice, peace, and service. The fire of service! He washed the feet of his disciples and not the opposite. No more animal sacrifices, but love, communion, sharing, evangelization, spreading the Good news, and personal self- emptying on the cross, which we reenact at every Eucharistic celebration. The fire of Evangelization!!!

This must be disturbing and challenging to families, fathers, mothers, children, sons, daughters, son-in laws and daughter-mother- in-laws of the new emerging Christian community of the Letter to the Hebrews, the 2nd reading. You can imagine what the advent of Christianity, a new religion, meant for the Africans hundreds of years ago. Or for people of other religion. How do we abandon one religion or faith to another?  What about from Judaism to Christianity like in the case of Christ's time or the time of Saint Paul. These changes of doing things in the way of Christ, comes with a price. It is the type of suffering-price that every Israel prophets like Jeremiah paid in the 1st reading.

 In doing the unpopular prophetic work of denouncing sin and announcing judgment in the late pre-exilic period, Jeremiah met with fierce opposition. It was during this period that Babylon, the reigning empire demanded tributes from smaller nations, including Judah. While the princes and other palace prophets urged King Zedekiah, to seek military help from Egypt against Babylon, Jeremiah through God’s inspiration counseled otherwise, and predicted the fall of Jerusalem, which came to be in 587 BC. Because of his prediction he was accused of treason, punished, thrown into a dirty pit only to be rescued by Ebed- Melech, the servant of the King. This was the Lord’s doing as echoed in today’s Psalm 40. The Lord drew Jeremiah out from the pit of destruction

Jeremiah, like Christ was on fire!  We are called to be on fire; to have fire of love and courage in our hearts. The fire of obedience and humility. In those moments when we face trials (hunger, poverty, lack of jobs, illnesses, family difficulties and disagreement in religious matters, disappointed by our friends, children, relatives, spouses  or loss of our loved ones, or even persecuted, because you are a Christian, etc) we have to think and act like Jeremiah and imitate Jesus. We have to think of those heroes of faith and clouds of witnesses of today’s second reading (Heb 12:1-4). What about several saints and our forefathers and mothers in faith, those who died for the faith?  Oscar Romero mentioned earlier. What about that French Priests killed by Isis while celebrating Mass. This is courage! This is fortitude.  We need this fortitude more than ever, especially in our times. We need that moral virtue which enables us to be firm in moments of trials and temptations of sins and of false peace. We need it in the face of injustices and terrorism. We need it in those moments when our Christian faith is threatened. Fire, Fire, Fire! I have come to bring fire on earth how I wish it was already burning!!!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Homily [2] 19th Sunday of Year C 2016: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily [2] 19th Sunday of Year C 2016: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·        Wisdom 18:6-9
·        Ps 33:1,12,18-22
·        Heb 11:1-2,8-19
·        Luke 12: 32-48

Living a Faith Filled Life Always!
Last two Sundays Jesus taught us not only how to pray but how not to be greedy and selfish. This Sunday he teaches us how to be consistently vigilance in our faith, hope and trust in our loving and merciful God, no matter what. Faith, we would remember, as we were taught in our catechism is the supernatural gift of God, which enables us to believe and hope for all the good things God has promised us in this life and in the life to come… without doubting. Faith, whatever you call it in your language, is a realization of what is hoped for and evidence of all things that we cannot see as humans. The readings of today are very clear on this.
The 1st  reading (Wis 18:6-9) reminds us that the night and the liturgy of the Passover must consistently be a reminder to us that God accompanies us today on our journeys, as he would have accompanied our forefathers in the desert, thousands of years ago. He freed them from the hands of Pharaoh, their enemy; saw them through the red sea. And provided food and drinks for them. This is the same God must believe and vigilantly trust in our times.

The 2nd reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews is even much clearer. It speaks of the faith of Abraham, “our father in faith,” as recorded in Genesis 12. Abraham left everything behind in Mesopotamia and followed God- journeying to the Promised with faith and trust in God as his “GPS.” In his ups and downs, threats and dangers, Abraham and his household simply trusted God. In his “foolishness,” uncertainties, conflicts, wars, hunger, sickness, good health Abraham and his household placed their faith in God. The faith of Abraham is not outdated. Abraham is our model in faith. Each of is called today to imitate the faith of Abraham in all circumstances, it doesn’t matter which political party you belong or what language you speak, or what type of academic degrees you have.  Faith is a treasure. The colors of your skin or eyes does not matter.  Constant and active faith in God is what matters.
Today’s Gospel of Luke speaks of this important matter still--- constancy and vigilance in trusting God- in the parable of the good and faithful servant versus the foolish or the imprudent ones. When the master was away the foolish servants misbehaved and turned he house upside down while the faith faithful ones gird their loins and awaits their master return from the wedding ceremony.

We are called to be those prudent and faithful servants. Vigilance in faith and in our prayer lives, acts of charity, corporal and spiritual works of mercy- especially in this Year of Mercy! Christ invites us today to constantly translate our faith into actions- do good things, forgive, love, share your blessings with others, as if today were to be your last day on earth.
There is an anecdote about 3 young college students who were asked what they would do if they received a sudden text message in their phone that the world was coming to an end in less than 12 hours. The 1st student said he/she would run home and say good bye to his parents and siblings. The second said she would run rum to finish her remaining ice cream in left in the refrigerator. The third simply said he will keep doing well, keep busy in what he was doing.

 This third response rhymes with the response given by St. Francis many years ago. While tilling the farm he was asked what he will do if the world was coming to an end now. Francis, we are told, said he will keep till the farm.
We must carry our faith with us, in bad times and in good times, while riding in the bus or while tilling the farm, while studying or while praying, while playing or while raising our families; while casting our vote or while being threaten by wars and terrorism.  In each of these moments, we may not be perfect, like our ancestors. But, just as our ancestors kept the memory of God’s love in the Passover, so we also know and trust that God loves us... We walk by faith and that God constantly loves and watches over us no matter how challenging our times may be!


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Homily [2] 18th Sunday of Year C. Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily [2] 18th Sunday of Year C. Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·        Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23
·        Ps 90:3-4, 5-6,12-13
·        Col 3: 1-5,9-11
·        Luke 12:13-21

The Meaning of Life is found in Sharing
When we were growing up as teenagers we had different nick names….. A good friend of mine took “Experience” as his nick name. And often when asked why he did that, he said, he liked it, particularly, because of the common expression: “experience is the best teacher.” Experience about what, one may ask? I guess about life as a whole.  The common theme of today’s reading is built around life experiences of a 3rd century BC, anonymous preacher and teacher known as Koholeth, or Ecclesiastes, today’s 1st reading.
Koheleth lived among his brothers and sisters, his contemporaries, who were so greedy, pessimistic, selfish, and attached to material wealth, possessions, power, career, human recognitions, earthly things, and fame. Based on his experience the preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes, is convinced that life is found in sharing with our needy neighbors all the blessings that God has blessed each of us with: time, treasure and talents (TTT).
 For him, greedy acquisition of material things is useless after death. Qoholeth uses the familiar expression “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” In his ancient languages, Hebrew and Greek this sounds like Hevel hevelim, hakol hevel or matoiotēs matoiotētōn… translated as emptiness, nothingness, futility, breath, perishable, void, transitory etc. For “what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” he asked.  Material things, earthly things that we have will pass. We can only preserve them spiritually, heavenly, if we use it well to love God and our neighbors. Without God all that we have is useless.
Similarly, Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, while speaking to the Colossians church, who were also anxious for material things, re-directs their attention to Christ and things that are above, heavenly and spiritual. Paul says, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry.”

In the Gospel parable of the foolish rich, man (Luke 12:13-21) who thought he would not die soon, Christ warns us against all types of greed and possessiveness to fame, honor and material things. Of course, all these sound familiar to us today. They sound counter cultural to the way we live today and what we like most today in place of God: money, fame, material things, those passion spoken of by Saint Paul in the 2nd reading, and attachment to human recognitions. What are your idolatrous greed?
Many of us have witnessed wealthy, beautiful and handsome celebrities and famous people come and go. Needless of naming names here...! What matters most is how they lived their lives and shared their wealth and talents. Talents or wealth here is not limited to finance.  Even though we may be financially poor, some of us may be rich with good smiles, sense of humor, intelligence, gift of counselling, ability to encourage, empower, uplift and support others. Christ invites us today to control our various forms of greed: search for others approval, recognition, excessive eating, drinking, gambling habits, playing pokemon excessively, control of others, power and materialism. He invites us today to look heavenly and be always generous in sharing our blessings and life with our neighbors, since life is too short, and all is vanity! An unshared life is not worth living!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Homily[2] 17th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily[2] 17th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·       Genesis 18:20-32
·       Psalm 138:1-3,6-7,7-8
·       Colossians 2:12-14
·       Luke 11:1-13

God’s Mercy; Persistence in Prayer,

Today, and in this Year of Mercy, we celebrate once again God’s Mercy and the need to constantly praise God, worship him, and petition him for our needs, pray for one another: our nations, our churches, families and friends. This need is evidence in today’s Bible Readings.

In the 1st reading (Genesis 18:20-32), we find Abraham, our father in faith, one of Israel’s “earliest prophet”(Gen 20:7) interceding, persistently for the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In response to his intercession God shows that he is not only merciful, forgiving, and kind to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah but also because of lives of a few tens of innocent, prayerful people in these communities. This is true of us. You never know how far your prayers, those rosaries we say, those masses we attend—how far your holiness of life and goodness has contributed in the blessings of God upon our sinful lands and families.
As Pope Francis would remind us when he kicked off in this Year of Mercy, Christ Jesus (in our NT time) is the face of the God of Abraham, the Father of Mercy. Christ went to the Cross on our behalf. This is why Saint Paul says in the 2nd reading (Col 2:12-14) that even though we were sinners, through Christ’ passion, and intercessions, we, like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been saved!

It is through Christ that we offer our prayers to God the Father. A persistent, short, sweet prayer of praise, worship, lamentation, and thanksgiving for all that God has done for us: the life he provides, the air, mountains, seas, food, clothing, nations and families. Through this Christ should be our request to God, to always do his will and petition for what we need and lack in life- forgiveness of sins, and blessings upon our land.
This is exemplified in the today’s Gospel (Luke 11:1-13) the Lord’s Prayer which we recite at every Mass.  We mastered this prayer by heart, when we were preparing for our various sacraments. In this prayer, Christ teaches us how to pray. He reminds us that prayer is a relationship, a communication, a dialogue with God. It requires the intimacy that we find in a child parents relationship. And must be done with the consistency we saw in Abraham, who interceded for the cities Sodom and Gomorrah.  This is the meaning of “seek and you will find, knock and he door will be opened.” Do we value prayer? Do we pray? When and how?  What and whom do we pray for? These are some of the questions we may ask ourselves as we reflect on today’s scriptures.

We may have had our set-backs (like Job, Habakkuk, Sarah, Hanah, Abraham Lincoln etc.…) disappointments, threats, failures, loss of our loved ones in life, we must not give up in prayers. Never Give Up! Prayer is essential for every Christian. Prayer to our merciful God is essential for family members, friends, and elected officials. Prayer for ourselves, the church, the sick, the deceased, sinners, sick nations like Sodom and Gomorrah and for our friends and children.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

Homily [2] 16th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily [2] 16th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Gen 18:1-10a
·        Ps 15:2-3,3-5
·        Col 1:24-28
·        Luke 10:38-42

Listening and Serving the Lord in our Neighbors
 As we worship today, as we listen to the Bible readings of today, the first reading, the second reading, the Psalms and the Gospel of Luke, what stands out for you? Hospitality or sitting at the feet of Jesus? Is there anything we could learn from Abraham, Sarah, or Saint Paul? What would you consider more important: service to your neighbor or spending some time, perhaps hours, with the Lord, before the Blessed Sacraments, daily? Hearing not doing, or doing not hearing? What seems to stand out for me are both? That is, we need the listening Mary and the busy Martha. We need the contemplatives, and the non-contemplatives. We cannot put the word of God into practice, without listening, reflecting on it, or understanding what the Lord wants us to do or where to go. We need both, hospitality and listening to the Lord.  Perhaps, we also need to have some priorities set in our lives, to be better listeners and doers of the word of God.
I am thinking this way, because in the first reading (Gen 18:1-10a) we witness how Abraham and his wife Sarah offer hospitality to three unknown strangers who turn out to be angels. As a result Abraham and Sarah were blessed and were rewarded. They had a son, Isaac, together, in their old age.  Of course, ancient people, Jews and Christian always believed that the best way to serve God was to be hospitable to our neighbors. Remember, last Sunday, we learn about who our neighbor is, in the parable of the Good Samaritan(Luke 10:25-37). The way we treat one another, might end up been the way we might have responded to God!

In the Second reading, Saint Paul acknowledges himself as God’s steward chosen to preach the gospel and reveal the mystery of Christ to everyone, Jews and Gentiles (Col 1:24-28). He also invites all of us, Christians, to dispose ourselves, receive and share hospitably the mysteries of Christ. There should be no barriers in sharing the love and the mercy of Christ with others.

In the Gospel, Martha welcomes Jesus and runs around preparing dinner for him, while her sister, Mary spent her time sitting, talking, chatting and listening to Jesus. Martha, as any of us would, complains. She thinks Mary who was not helping her was burning her out. The more reason, I ask in the beginning which one is more important. Who is more important, Mary or Martha? It’s challenging. Isn’t it?

Granted that in our various professions, doctors, teachers, professors, parents, priests, chefs, factory workers, military, police officers etc; we are all serving our nations and our neighbors. But we also need at some point to make time to recharge our spiritual energies. This could come in form of daily masses, personal prayer, retreats, saying the rosary, lectio divina- meditative reading of the scriptures or taking part at family prayers. Not always work, work; work!

On the other hand we need the Marthas in our homes, communities, churches and nations. We need people who can get the job done. Our nations, our parishes needs dynamic parishioners, men and women, boys and girls who are generous, and who belong to various groups, the knights, pastoral councils, the choir , the women and youths organization to get things done. We need both the “listening Marys and the serving Marthas.”
I have mentioned listening here many times.  We live today in a world that is not only noisy with sounds, TV, radio, all forms of music and fireworks, but we are isolated from one another because of cell phones and ipads. Sometimes these things makes is difficult for us to listen to our spouses, our children, and seniors, our parishioners, and our parents.

No matter how active we may be, in our works and services, we need to set our priorities right, find the time, no matter how short, to listen to God and to one another. And this must be the basis of what we charitably do and how we relate and treat one another. As we participate in this Holy Eucharist today, may be nourished with the spirit of hospitality and service, as well as with the zeal to be better listeners and doers of the word of God.