Saturday, February 18, 2017

Homily Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Lev 19:1-2, 17-18;
·          Ps 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13;
·          1 Cor 3:16-23
·         Matt 5:38-48
 Love and Charity: the fullness of Law in Christ!
Today’s readings from the Sermon on the Mount on “Love of One’s enemies” and “love of one’s neighbors from the Book of Leviticus may at first hearing/reading sound very challenging. But in taking a second look the readings are all about God’s mercy, love, justice, holiness of life, making room for changes in our lives, making room for renewal and forgiveness. The strongest response to hatred is Love which is a great form of holiness, the true nature of God (Lev 19:2).
Many of you were born before, during and after the Vatican II. For those who were born before the Vatican II Council, you would testify that there have been a lot changes, updating, innovation and renewals, particularly in the areas of liturgical teachings and laws in the Church to meet the needs of the time and culture. Remember, there were times priests were celebrating the Holy mass backing the congregation. But today Masses are celebrated facing the people. There were times Scriptures at worship were read only in Latin. Today we can read it in English. Different nations and cultures can also read it in their native languages. Thanks be to God!
In some nations there were times women and the minority were not allow to vote at elections. But today those laws have been changed around.  In other parts of the world where cast- system and dictatorship style of government are practice, many are beginning to realize the need for changes. What about the issues of equal pay? In the past men were paid higher than women. Today, we are all agitating for equal pay. What about the “stand your ground laws” in different parts of the United States, Florida in particular?  Or immigration laws. Some are asking that this law be reviewed while some are pushing back!
There has always been changes.  In the first reading Book of Leviticus 19 we are told “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But in today’s Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “love your enemy” (Matt 5:44), no retaliation, be charitable to all. We were told in the Book of Exodus 21:24-25, quoted even by Jesus, today, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Matt 5:38-42).
 Jesus saw the need for changes and renewal with these laws just as we do today experience changes and renewed ways of interrelating our day to day civil and ecclesiastical laws. The retributive ethics of the Covenant Code, ‘an eye for an eye or a tooth for tooth” that Christ is working on today from Exodus 21:24-25 was not meant to promote revenge and retaliation. Rather they were meant to protect the citizens against un-proportional, illegitimate and unending retaliation. They were meant to say if a “fly perches on your food you don’t need to attack the fly with an atomic bomb or AK47.  Otherwise you might cause more damage than the fly.
 I remember the last Russian –Georgia war the language of disproportional use of force was constantly used on the media. But for Christ, charity must overcome the thought and the acts of retaliation and violence and disproportionate wars not meant to dissuade attacking enemies and acts of terrorism.
Christ also takes up the Holiness ethics of the first reading, Leviticus 19:18, which says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who our neighbor in this passage? Granted that it was referring to a fellow Israelite, since a different attitude was required towards those other nations that were hostile to them (see Deut 23:1-3). Certainly, Jesus requires a different approach to things. Not as business as usual!
In the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus teaches us today to take a different spiritual and moral steps and a refined position with regard to our relationship with everybody including those we do not like so much, or those we know do not like us. Or those we disagrees with. Everyone is your neighbors, love them (Matt 5:38-48).
This could be challenging no doubt. But requires faith. Without faith and prayers, Christ invitation to holiness of life of non-revenge and non-violence or practice of charity to everyone, and good neighborliness, sounds frightening and impossible. They are possible with the grace of God. And we can do this in many little ways. In the way we treat the immigrant, the poor, the aged, fellow student, worker, spouse and family members, or  those we meet in travelling bus, train, sailing ship and in the flight etc.
It is uncharitable even to select those we say “good morning” to. Or engage in gossips, negative criticism, retaliations or spread falsehoods about our neighbors. For Christ this will be a pagan way of travelling. And none of us would want to travel that low road. We want to live and travel the law which is of fullness of love in Christ! Let us pray at this Mass for the grace to live this law of love with deep universal charity and spirit of faith- perseverance to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy (Lev 19:2).
Reflection Questions;
1. How do you feel when someone offends you: retaliate, love or forgive?
2. What counselling do you give to members of your faith community who feel offended or violated by others or the unjust socio-political structures?
3. Could you think of a few instances in your life where you have chosen to love than hate or retaliate against those you thought might have offended you?
4. Do you consider everyone you meet on the way your Gospel Neighbor or not and why?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Homily Sixth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Sixth Sunday of Year A:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Sir 15:15-20;
·          Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34;
·         1 Cor 2:6-10
·          Matt 5:17-37
 Law of Love and Grace in Christ!
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn that “the new Law is called a law of love because  it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ” (CCC1972).
 It is this Law of love, grace and freedom in Christ that we celebrate today. These Laws are particularly evidence on the pages of the Sacred Scripture, both OT and NT, especially in today’s readings. These laws were constantly renewed, studied, updated and reinterpreted to meet the signs of times. Just as the laws of our various nations and societies, are today constantly scrutinized and reinterpreted to meet the needs of time. Laws in Scripture, especially in the Hebrew Bible, in the OT sections are reinterpreted in light of the mercy, love, compassion of Jesus Christ as fulfilled in the NT, to meet our needs and the needs of the Church.
For example, the three major codes of the OT, if we may begin from here: the covenant Codes (Exod 19–24; 34), the Holiness Codes (Lev 16–27) and the Deuteronomic Codes (Deut 12–16) all  were constantly updated, innovated, renewed and reinterpreted by Israel’s prophets and sages. The goals of these sages were to preach justice, peace, righteousness, faith, orderliness and holiness of life, trustworthiness in God and in the covenant of love he had established with his chosen people, Israel.
These goals transcend time. Who does not need justice? Who does not need Peace? Who does not cherish righteousness, righteous acts? Who does not appreciate the role faith in our lives? Who does not love orderliness? Who does not recognize the importance of holiness of life? These are necessities for all times. They are boundless and timeless.
In the time of Hellenism, when Israel’s faith was threatened by secular and Greek philosophical thoughts Ben Sira (200-175BCE) insists in today’s first reading that keeping the Torah or the fear of the Lord was the greatest wisdom and the best way to approach the challenges of life.  He says, “If you chose you can keep the commandments it will save you…. if you trust in God you too shall live… immense is the Wisdom of the Lord…no one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin” (Sir 15:15-20).
 So also with Christ, who was emphatic on his divine mission. He did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it, to fulfil it and to teach us new ways of living these laws, as clearly presented in today’s gospel (Matt 5:17-37).  I am sure as we listen to this gospel passage, the difference with Christ is love and compassion which he has profoundly displayed in the course of his ministry;  In his forgiveness to sinners, prostitutes and adulterers; In his healing compassion to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the cripple and lepers and tax collectors;In his breaking of the barrier of discrimination and racism;  In his reaching out to the Samaritan and the Syro-Phonician women in John 4 and Mark 7, something unprecedented in the old laws. The list of love, grace and freedom in Christ goes on!
Recall also, in the old Law the sinful high priest sacrificed and atoned for his sins and that of the community, repeatedly(Leviticus 16), but in the new law the sinless Christ sacrifices himself once and for all(Letter to the Hebrews).  In the old law whoever kills his neighbor would be liable to judgment. But in Christ Jesus no one should ever dare to call others name nor abuse his or her neighbors. In Christ these are forms of subtle killings. When we abuse, intimidate or call others names, assassinate their characters, especially our children and the weak, the defenseless, it makes them feel they are good for nothing, and dampens their spirit and confidence. Even sometimes the pseudo-media propaganda against other nations, especially the poor ones can also be very damaging and killing.
 When we deny our poor nations or neighbors’ children access to good education, when we exclude the poor, we have indirectly kill their social, political and economic future (cf. Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis). We have killed their prospect of good jobs. Good jobs comes with good health care insurance, descent homes, good income, clothing, and livelihood that stands to be handed on to future generations.
The law of Christ is the new law of love, trust and freedom, forgiveness and compassion. We should not have to swear before we believe or trust one another. For Christ, our yes should be our yes, and our no our no! This law of trust and confidence in Christ Jesus; the mystery of God’s love is powered by the Holy Spirit and it is written in the hearts of every human person invited to share this love.
Paul says, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heart, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for who those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:6-10).
This is the law of love, the law of grace and the law of freedom in Christ Jesus! And blessed are those who follow these laws of Christ even in challenging times and circumstances!
Reflection Questions:
1.    Are we open to change and to the mysteries of God’s love?
2.    How often and in challenging moments of interpreting our various laws do we ask for God’s grace and seek wisely, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know what Jesus would have done in such circumstances?
3.    How often do we share the laws of God recorded in the sacred texts and in the Church’s documents with our neighbors through the prism of Christ of today's Gospel?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Homily Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·        Isa 58: 7-10;
·         Ps 112:4—9;
·         1 Cor 2:1-5
·        Matt 5:13-16

Christ's Light Shall Rise For You In Darkness!
The importance of light and precautions against darkness in our daily lives cannot be over emphasized. We use light for cooking, reading, studying, driving, worshiping and brightening up the darkness of our cities, towns, rooms, streets, plazas and environments.  Light is also needed by plants and crops as they experience photosynthesis. The list goes on!! In worship, spirituality, scriptures and sacraments, Christ, God’s incarnate and his values is this “Light” of the world (John 8:12), whom we are invited to worship and imitate exemplarily, in our charity and works of mercy. On the other hand, darkness represents anti-Christ’s values, evils and misfortunes we see, read about, hear of, or experience in today’s world. Yet the light of Christ triumphs over the darkness of this world! 

Today’s Gospel of light is vital for our spiritual growth. This truth spans from one generation to another. The generation of Third Isaiah, the returnees from Persian exile are reminded in the first reading by the prophets Isaiah of the need to reject every form of darkness of false accusation and malicious speeches against fellow community member. What matters or brightens the community spiritually, socially, economically and religiously, the prophet stresses, include the sharing of ones’ bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked, as the rebuild and worship at they rebuilt temple.  These corporal works of mercy also makes the just person of today’s Psalm 112 an agent of light in any given form of darkness. How many of us today in this generation are daily prepared to continue to be that just man, that just woman, that upright person, that source of light in the darkness of our present world as we worship and share our bread with our neighbors?
Be it at worship, study, work, administration, in leadership and family care, we are called to be and participate actively in that listening and doing audience of the disciples whom Jesus addresses in today’s Gospel, saying “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world….your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matt 5:13-16).

For Paul this shining light comes mysteriously to the quarrelling and boasting Corinthian Community of his generation in form of the mixtures of worship and charity, humility and mercy, spirit and power. To them, St. Paul writes, “When I came to you brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God. For I resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ crucified… I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom... I came to you in weakness and fear and trembling” (1 Cor 2:1-5).
Like the generation who heed to Paul’s Letter, sometimes fear of the Lord, trembling and humility could assist us appreciate the place of charitable acts within and outside our worship contexts. Prayers, fear of the Lord and humility, could assist us appreciate the Gospel of joy of Pope Francis  in promoting economic equality in our villages, towns and community, by challenging  every forms of the darkness, especially the darkness of the exclusion of the poor in the socio-political and economic fabrics of our society.

This is how we ourselves would become the light of the world and the salt of the earth, by not only fasting and worshiping God in his terms­, but by also loosening the bonds of injustice. By undoing the thongs of the yoke. By letting the oppressed go free; by promoting peace not war. Rejecting terrorism and racism; by sharing our bread with the hungry. By bringing the homeless into our homes. By forgiving those who may have offended us. By seeking the common good not ourselves. By holding the door of an elevator for those seniors and for those elderly people. By visiting the sick and home bounds. By clothing the naked and welcoming everyone, no matter their language, looks, color, culture, gender and age. In sum, as the Prophet Isaiah rightly puts it, if we keep doing all these good works, then, the Light of Christ will rise for us, will shine in our communities, families, homes, for our friends and nations in any given threats of darkness!
Reflection Questions:

1.   What are your priorities during worship?

2.   In the light of today’s scripture what would you identify as darkness in your faith communities?

3.   In what ways are you the source of light and salt of the earth to your faith communities?




Saturday, January 28, 2017

Homily Fourth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Fourth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13;
·         Ps 146:6-10;
·          1 Cor 1:26-31
·         Matthew 5:1-12a

Beatitudes: Mirror of the Face of Christ!

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we are told that the “Beatitudes” of today’s Gospel “depicts the countenance of Jesus Christ and portrays his charity…." They express the vocation of the faithful, the glory, the passion and the resurrection of Christ, the characteristic of a Christian and the rewards that awaits those who persevere in faith to the end (CCC1717).
In the Beatitudes we learn how Christ sees those who are poor in Spirit. Are you poor in spirit? In the Beatitudes we learn about how Christ appreciates those who mourn because of their faith. In the Beatitudes we learn about how Christ admires those who are humble and meek. Are you meek and humble in your approach to daily life?  In the Beatitudes we learn about how Christ delights with those who cherish justice and pursues righteousness at all times. Are you an agent of justice or champion of righteous causes? In the Beatitudes we see the face of God, the face of Christ as a merciful Christ. Are you merciful to one another in all circumstances in imitation of God who is merciful and steadfast in love (Exod 34:6ff).

 In the Beatitudes we learn of how Christ smiles with those who constantly purifies their hearts and thoughts. Do you strive daily to keep your heart and thought pure? In the Beatitudes we learn about Christ 's love for peacemakers. Are you an agent of peace especially in our today’s families, and societies constantly at rifts with one another? In the Beatitudes we learn that Christ will never abandoned those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Are you willing to suffer persecution for the sake of your righteous acts to your neighbor or nation? In the Beatitudes we mirror Christ’s love for those who are insulted innocently or for the sake of Christ. Are you willing to be insulted because you are a follower of Christ and his values?
As simple as these Matthean Beatitudes may sound as important as they are for daily Christian living and the greater the joy and rewards that awaits those who practice them in the face of all forms of anxieties and life challenges?

Take example from what St. Paul says to the worried, anxious and mixed Corinthian community today (1 Cor 7:26-31). Beatitudes is the antidotes for various anxieties that virgins, married, celibates, the poor, the rich, or the unmarried people even outside  of the Pauline Corinthian community experience. Nothing should ever separate us from the love, the joy, and from the hope that Christ promises us in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12a), irrespective of our culture and context.
Similar echo of these Beatitudes is heard in the prophecy of Zephaniah, the first reading. A paradoxical hymn  of joy and promise of hope and restoration for those in Israel, who were once in despair, persecuted and denied of their basic freedom and rights. No matter how long our contemporary sufferings and persecution may be…. Let us trust and strive to live by today’s Beatitudes promised us by the Lord!

Reflection Question:
1.    Do you see the countenance of Christ in your daily sufferings?
2.    How can you help members of your faith community to live the Beatitudes or see the face of Christ in the Gospel's Beatitudes?
3.    Which is your most favorites of the Eight Beatitudes?


 Homily Fourth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13;
·         Ps 146:6-10;
·          1 Cor 1:26-31
·         Matthew 5:1-12a

Blessed are those who seek the Lord!
In today’s scripture the Prophet Zephaniah, Christ and Paul remind us of the importance of peace, justice, righteousness, endurance and kindness. They also remind us of the blessings that awaits the humble and the poor who courageously and steadfastly trust in the Lord and in his divine promises.

 The first reading of today from the prophet Zephaniah reminds us of prophets like Habakkuk and Jeremiah! Both were asking “why”, and “where” is God in the face of sufferings, and injustices committed against the poor and the weak. And why would bad things happen to good people. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Habakkuk and Jeremiah. Three of them were all pre-exilic prophets. They were dealing with the religious, socio-economic and political problems, and tension created by the Chaldeans, otherwise known as the Babylonian. The Chaldeans plundered the goods of the poor. They burnt the homes of the less privilege. They mocked and starved the meek and the voiceless. They lied against them, and denied them justice and basic needs including food, shelter, clothing income and fair trade and religious freedom.
Anyone can easily be confused, discouraged and disoriented in the face of such misfortunes. As a champion and conscience of his people, Zephaniah simply steps in as God’s messenger with hope for his people.  He challenges and speaks out against the proud and the arrogant Chaldeans and those in Judah who might have collaborated with them.

Zephaniah recommends for all parties humility. He recommends, patience, steadfastness and faith (emunah). He recommends justice (misphat). He recommends righteousness (tsaddeqah) all found in the LORD who is the source of joy and peace (shalom) and the sovereign of all creation. For these prophets the righteous like Abraham are expected to be humble. They are expected to be very devout to the Torah- the teachings of the Bible. They are peaceful and loving to their neighbors. They are expected to be seekers and promoters of the common good, of the less privilege but not always seeking themselves. The righteous are expected to completely put their trust in the LORD.
 In the New Testament Paul and even Christ constantly appeal and re-relate this message of Israel’s prophets to the ugly and suffering- events of their time. For instance, Paul in Roman 1:17 and in Galatians3:11 is heard reminding everyone that, “the righteous shall live by faith’ (cf. Hab 2:4).

When the Corinthian community had their problems of arrogance, cheating, corruption, rivalry and bragging to the detriment of the poor Paul in his usual way reminds them that God opts for the poor. He prefers the righteous, the lowly, the remnant and those who persevere in righteousness (1 Cor 1:26-31).
It is these same prophetic messages of justice, peace, humility and pursuit of righteousness that Christ boldly repeats to the gathered crowd in today’s beatitude in Matthew’s Gospel. To many who were in this crowd (the rich, the poor, the lowly, politicians, spies, oppressors and the oppressed, the persecuted, and the persecutors, men, women and children” Jesus taught them:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God….Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matt 5:1-12).

Each of us can identify ourselves in these beatitudes (the poor, meek, those mourning, the hungry, those who practice mercy, seekers of righteousness, the clean in heart, the peace makers, the being persecuted, those their endure insult for the sake of Christ).
Pope Francis in the Fourth chapter of his Evangelli Gaudium (the Gospel of Joy) revisits these prophetic ideas of inclusion of the poor and the humble in the social, economic, and political fabrics of our society. He re-emphasis trust in God, justice, pursuit for common, proper minimum wage and social dialogue as a means to true peace.

Wherever we are in our various continents and cultures or from our various positions of strengths and weaknesses let us pray that today’s messages of Zephaniah, Paul and Christ may find a joyful place of peace, justice and righteousness in our homes and societies.
Reflection Questions
1.    Do you assist in promoting the Beatitudes in your community?
2.    What are the challenges in living the Beatitudes in your faith community?
3.    Which is your most favorites of the Beatitudes?



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Homily Third Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Third Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isaiah 8:23–9:3;
·          Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14;
·          1 Cor 10:10-13, 17
·         Matthew 4:12-23

The Lord is My Light and My Salvation
 The metaphors of darkness and light run through today’s readings. And it is very clear in the responsorial Psalm, “the Lord is my Light and my salvation” (Ps 27:1a). This is true. In fact, in biblical theology and spirituality darkness represents all kinds of misfortunes, woes, divisiveness, bad leadership, terrorism, evil and all forms of life’s difficulties while light symbolizes, joy,  love, unity, life and  hope for salvation for all peoples, of all cultures, Jews and Gentiles!.  

 Life’s difficulties throughout history we know can come in different forms. It can come in form of oppression, marginalization of your group, town, village, or invasion and violation of your faith, right and freedom as it was during the time of the Prophet Isiah (Isa 8:2–9:3). It can also come in form of divisions as was the as in in the Corinthian community of Paul’s time (1 Cor 10:10-13, 17). Finally, it can come in form of sins, temptations and illnesses, oppressions, as was the case in ancient cities of Capernaum, Zebulun and Naphtali, heard in today’s Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23). But the question is what do we do in the face of these challenges? What do we do in the face darkness?
Resistance, love, faith and hope. This  is true of Isaiah’s generation.  As we heard in the first reading the people were invaded- their land, property, right and freedom to worship and express themselves.  They were mocked, called all types of names, insulted, marginalized in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, especially whenever they dare to ask for their rights. An Assyrian Commander- in Chief, Tiglath-pilesser,(around 733BC) ordered their violation, and the Zebulunians and Naphtalians were even deported to Assyria. Their lands  were colonized and freedom deprived. Imagine the pains of being deported from your homeland! Imagine the feeling of being colonized! Imagine the feelings of foreign military's occupation of our property?

 In spite of all these, the hymn we heard in today’s first reading is that of joy and hope of salvation. For Isaiah it is all about hope and trust in the Lord. Light is on the way, he says. For Isaiah those who walked in darkness! Those who momentarily experience invasion, deprivation and marginalization will one day see the light of God, be liberated with the birth of Christ who would bring the freedom of truth, unity, oneness, peace, good health of mind and body. This is the mission of Christ Jesus preached also by Paul in the Second reading to the divided community of Corinth.
Again, and most importantly, Isaiah’ prophecy is fulfilled in today’ Gospel (Matt 4:12-23) where clear reference is made to the once marginalized Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus is here. The Light is here.  In the Gospel Jesus arrives in these cities. He preaches repentance in these cities and evangelizes the surrounding communities of Galilee. He cures the darkness of diseases and sins in these regions. He also attracts vocations to the ministry of preaching and healing from this geographical area. Peter and Andrew, James and John are among those who abandoned their fishing nets to follow the Light of Christ and his witness of joy, hope, unity, forgiveness, peace and charity and of fishing for the salvation of humankind.

In our divisiveness, and seeming hopelessness we are called to focus on the Light. No doubt there may be times of darkness in our lives. Think of those elements of darkness in your life, home, and communities? Would you see cotemporary deprivation of your fundamental human rights, your property, and your freedom even to pray or worship as darkness?
What about division, racism, discrimination and misunderstandings in our neighborhood and societies? Sometimes we feel the weight and the darkness of disappointments, wars, terrorisms, distrust, defective-political structures and judiciary systems in our nations, joblessness, high cost of educations and health care, the disparity gaps between the rich and the poor, illnesses, the clutches of sins and bad habits.

 In these darkest moments the good news is that Christ who is the Light and our Salvation is on the way to “Zebulun and Naphtali”. He is here with us, in our “Zebuluns and Naphtalis,” in his Words and Deeds, in our homes and families, communities, schools, and places of work, nation capitals, in the Eucharist we receive, and in the support and encouragement we continuously give to one another, especially the poor and the voiceless.
Reflection questions

1.      Do you consider the Lord as your Light and Salvation?

2.      What would you consider elements of darkness in your life, home and towns and cities?

3.      Who are the Isaiahs of your time?  Or the St. Pauls' of your time?

4.      Would you consider yourself agent of light and conduit of unity or source peace?




Friday, January 13, 2017

Homily Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Isaiah 49:3, 5-6;
·         Ps 40:2,4,7-9,10
·          1 Cor 1:1-3
·         John 1:29-34
The Lamb of God, the Light to All Nations!
The focus of today’s Bible lessons is on universal salvation and on recognizing the agents or instruments of this salvation, called and sent by God, as the Lamb of God, the Son of God. When we look back at the history of our salvation we cannot but appreciate all that God has done for us from creation, through the experiences of wilderness and exiles. God not only constantly save humanity but does it through his agents: the angels, the prophets and eventually through his Son Jesus Christ, the one recognized by John in today’s Gospel as the Lamb of God, the source of freedom, the light of the world, the bearer of our sufferings, and the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.
When the Israelites were in Egypt and in the wilderness we saw how God used Moses, Aaron, Miriam and Joshua to bring them salvation. The first reading of today (Isa 49:3, 5-6) paints the sorrowful and hopeful picture of Israel in Exile in Babylon. It is the 2nd Song of the Suffering Servant of Yhwh. It is a song of hope for salvation.
 In this reading, although the servant is named “Israel” he has been called from the womb, and sent by God  to preach, love, hope, forgiveness, justice, liberation and salvation to the suffering and exiled Israel. Surely the servant would come to represents God’s divine agent of successive prophetic mission fulfilled in Christ Jesus. In this reading, the servant is speaking. He says, “The Lord said to me…..” indicating that the Lord is the one who calls us. He is the one that initiates the call of each and every single of Israel’ prophets. None of them called themselves. It also indicates the willingness of the one called to listen, to respond and be able to say like Samuel or like the Psalmist in today’s responsorial Psalm: “Here I am Lord I come to do your will…” (Ps 40).
 Even though this servant was originally sent by God to “to raise up the tribes of Jacob,” and “restore the survivors of Israel,” (Isaiah 49:6), the servant is now sent as “a light to the nations,” the lamb of God, so that God’s salvations might reach people of all walks of life.
We know of images of a Lamb in the book of Leviticus or in our various cultures. Lambs are humble creatures. They are willing to say yes. They are willing to go there or come here. They are used as sacrificial animals.  Lamb was use in the Passover narratives in the book of Exodus. It makes sense that John sees Jesus as the Lamb of God, the victor on the cross, the source of freedom, hope, salvation and remission of our sins, above all the light of the world.
John the Baptist also witnessed the dove descend upon this lamb during his baptism which we celebrated last week. This is the spirit of Love to everyone including the poor and the rich, the homeless, the aged, the sick the needy and those in prisons. This is the spirit of hope and faith. This is the spirit of trust and the spirit to reach out to everyone with Christ’s love and message of universal salvation, especially in this New Year.
 Saint Paul understood this so much as exemplified in all his missionary journeys. Although Jewish, he received baptism. Like other Israel’s prophets he said to God, “Here I am Lord I come to do your will,” I come to bear the light to all nations, Jews and Gentiles. Paul carried the mission and the Good News not only to the Corinthian Church, but to the Gentiles, to all of us. Paul said, to everyone who called upon the name of Jesus, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:1-3). We should be able to say this to everyone we meet on the way, Jews and Gentiles, males and females.
As part of the nations who receive this loving call and peace of Christ, may we in our own individual and collective ways continue to responsively recognize Christ, the Lamb of God, in our lives, serve as God’s agents and conduits of Christ's joy, peace, prosperity, faith, love and light to people of all walks of life, of every nation and of every culture.
Reflection questions
1.      What does the image of Christ as the Lamb of God or the Light of the world say to us?
2.      Are we willing agent of salvation in our neighborhoods and to everyone, male and females, Jews and gentiles?
3.      Under what circumstances can I truly say that I am the suffering servant of God (Isa 49) or the moral light to our nations?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Homily Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year A: Fr. Michael  Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isa 42:1-4, 6-7;
·         Ps 29:1-2, 3-4,3,9-10;
·         Acts 10:34-38
·         Matt 3:13-17

Baptism, Christ’s Gifts to us
 Few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Christ and his Epiphany. Many including, Joseph, Mary, and the angels reacted differently to these events. The angels, for example sang the Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest.” The shepherds abandoned their animals in the desert and traveled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family. Simeon, the prophet sang the Nunc Dimittis, while Anna, the prophetess professed the uniqueness she saw in Christ, and spoke about this special child to everyone (Luke 2). The magi from the far East brought him gifts gold, frankincense, myrrh and of course, their gestures of worship to adore the Lord (Matt 1:1-12).
Like the angels, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna and the Magi, many of us also had a good time during Christmas and the opportunity to joyfully react to these divine events in our own ways. Events guided by the Holy Spirit! Think of the Christmas related movies we watched, the carols and music we listened to; the gifts, cookies and candies we shared; the telephone calls and visits we made to our friends, families and to our loved ones, the liturgies we celebrated, the homilies we preached, or heard from the lips of our eminent preachers, beginning with the Holy Father, our popular Pope Francis, our bishops, priests, pastors and deacons. All in the name of Celebrating Christmas  or reacting to the divine events God coming to dwell among us, in spite of brokenness.

It is true that after the Christmas’ events not much is heard in the Christian Bible of how the quiet and righteous Joseph managed his carpentry profession, or how the obedient Mary (who had said to the angel Gabriel “be it done to me according to your words”) changed the diapers and raised Jesus to the point when he would have to begin his public ministry as witnessed extensively in the 4 Gospels and by Saint Paul.
 The Baptism of Christ which we celebrate today, in the beginning of our new semester, in a new year, is built on these past events that have always been guided by the Holy Spirit. Through his Baptism, Jesus the sinless God-man teaches us humility. With it he accepts, inaugurates his public ministry. He identifies this ministry with that of the suffering Servant of God whose mission we are told in the first reading of (Isa42:1-4, 6-7).  The suffering servant of exile in our first reading was to bear all kinds of sufferings on behalf of the people. He was to bring justice, judgment and salvation to everyone as God’s agent. God speaks through Isaiah, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit, he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”
Baptism not only washes away our sins it brings us the Spirit of God. It brings us closer to God and keeps God’s heavens opened for each and every one of us. The heavens that were once closed because of the sins of our first parents (Genesis 3) are now opened for us through Christ’s baptism Evangelist Matthew says in the Gospel, “After Jesus was baptized he came up from the water and behold the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him (Matt 3:13-17).”

The Baptism of Jesus opens for us the means by which we are spiritually reborn (Jn 3:5-12) and are restored in communion with God. It is one of the sacraments of our salvation. It is the gate way, the entrance to our Christian life and spirituality.  Recall, Nichodemus was told in John 3 that, “Unless you are born of water and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3-6).  It is a spiritual door for us.
 After the Ascension, Jesus said to the disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  With this, we become adopted and beloved children of God sharing in his divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). When we received baptism God is saying to us “these are my beloved children in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).

 For us the baptized God is very pleased with us. Baptism which Christ instituted brings us into the life of the Blessed Trinity.  With it, we are anointed and infused with virtues of faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13). With it, we become temple of the Holy Spirit; the same Spirit that guided the events of the birth of Christ. With baptism we have become a new creation and living members of the Church, the Body of Christ. We become living members of our Christian families and our Seminary Community. We become members that are alive with love, self-discipline, sacrifices, charity, and spirit of forgiveness.
Saint Paul preached about this newness of life in Christ in Romans 6:3-4, when he says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” (read also Col 2:12 or 1 Cor 12:12-13).

 Luckily too, many of us have just emerged from your retreat, walking back to the Seminary and our places of work of post duties refreshed. Some have been ordained deacons during the break! I am sure you feel renewed and ready to go, another new semester, another new year. There are new books in the Library and new faces on campus. As you walk into our class rooms too, you will find new chairs and new desks and newly painted walls. Thanks to our administration’s new initiatives. Some of you have also gotten new sweaters and winter jackets.  We can always blend this physical newness with our spiritual renewals, rooted back to the foundations with which we laid during the gifts of our baptism, one of the external signs of inward graces.
 And as we begin a new semester in this New Year we pray that the gifts and graces which we all received  during our baptism(the  gift of hard work, the spirit of peace, the spirit and of social justice, the spirit of Christ,  the spirit of Ebed Yhwh, the spirit of the suffering servant of God, the spirit of selflessness, the spirit of the common good, the spirit to love the poor, the spirit of inclusivism, the spirit to love and be faithful to the Church, the spirit to renounce sins, and the spirit to always love and pray for one another) which we have  renewed at this Mass, may guide and direct our studies, work and pastoral activities that reaches to the poor and the marginalize throughout this New Year.

 Reflection Questions:

1.     How does the baptismal effects in our lives reflects in our relationship with members of our parish communities?

2.      Are we dispose to share our gifts as Christ’s followers with our neighbors patiently?

3.      As baptized how do we show that we are God’s servants?