Friday, July 24, 2015

Homily (2) 17th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily (2) 17th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Readings: 2 kings 4:42-44; Ps 145:1-11, 15-18; Eph 4:1-6 and John 6:1-15

 
Trusting in God for our Needs!

 

As we study, preach and live the Bible, the Word of God, we see a lot of parallels and similarities between the ministry of Israel’s prophets and that of our Lord Jesus Christ. The story of a nameless man from Baal-shalishah who brought twenty barley loaves made from first fruits, and fresh fruits from the ear, to Elisha for the feeding of a hundred people with plenty of left overs, parallel the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 by multiplying the five barley loves and two fish brought by a boy, in today’s Gospel (John 6:1-15).

 These parallel  stories teach us about the infinite love of God. The Lord of multiplicity of blessings for a multiplicity of peoples.  If we trust in this God everything is possible. His love, care and compassion, towards his flock( alluded to in  the last Sunday’s gospel reading, Mark 6:34), has no boundary! Last Sunday his heart was moved with pity for the crowd. This Sunday he went ahead and fed the crowd.

 As the disciples of Jesus were to learn from the feeding of the crowd of 5,000 people with a few only 5 loaves and 2 fish, and have 12 baskets of fragments left, here in 2 Kings 4, we meet the challenges that confronted Israel’s prophets, their followers, particularly prophet Elisha who was called and sent to preach to idolatrous nations, the worshippers of Baal,  pagan fertility god, rather than YHWH, the God of Israel. These prophetic challenges included persecution, hardship and starvation.



Beside these inevitable prophetic challenges, it is interesting and ironic to note in the that it was a nameless man from Baal-shalishah  who brought food and his first grains to the man who was opposed to the gods of Baals and their worship. This episode resembles that of Jesus who would later use only 5 loaves and 2 fish from a nameless little boy to bless 5,000 people. Also, the amazement of his disciples, who thought, “what good are these for so many?”  could be likened to the amazement of a skeptical servant who said to the prophet Elisha,“how can I set this before a hundred people.?” With God everything is possible.  These miracles  therefore,underscore our needs to grow in faith, obedience and trust in God who provides for us. If God could be generous  to us,  there is the need for us to be generous in turns to our neighbors, especially to the poor, homeless and foodless. We need to be generous to our neighbors. We also need to grow in wisdom, integrity, honesty, love for the church and her teachings, the unity our faith and unity of purpose at meals provided us by the Lord.

 From Saints Paul's point of view, in the 2nd reading,  our needs, that only God can supply and multiply include living and practicing Christianity and Catholicism in manner worthy of our calling, with humility, courage, gentleness, patience, bearing or tolerating one another with love–and striving to promote unity in our broken and divided world of communities (Eph 4:1-6). Unity,  since we are all called to be part of that one body, serve one Lord, keep one faith,  as sharers in one baptism and one meal, one bread, one cup on the table of the Holy Eucharist. Imagine what our world would be if all baptized Christians and Catholics in particular were to speak one voice, teach one faith, vote one faith, spread love, charity  and good works after the manner of Christ Jesus!

Therefore, may we all return to the God of Elisha, manifested in Christ Jesus,  with our social-political, economic, physical and spiritual needs.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Homily (2) 16th Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily (2) 16th Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Readings: Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18 and Mark 6:30-34

 
Imitating the Heart of Christ, Our Good Shepherd

Because of the constant repetition of the theme of the “Good Shepherd” in the readings of today, some preachers or pastors have simply titled today, “the Good Shepherd Sunday.” I have no problem with that provided it brings us to the heart of the message of Christ as a true and exemplary teacher, leader, prophet, a kind hearted high priest, a good shepherd, who is truly compassionate and merciful to everyone.

 He is the one long- metaphorically foretold by the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading. Here, Jeremiah prophesied that Lord will replace Israel’s kings and bad leaders with Christ, his true shepherd from the tribe of David when the time comes.  First of all, the Israelites, including Jeremiah like any other people from ancient near eastern culture expected their leaders and followers to learn from ordinary shepherds, Bedouins and their flocks. Natural good shepherds in ancient near east are courageous, caring, selfless, tender hearted, and protective of their flocks. They lead them to the fields and wadis for food and water. They love and know each other. They are communicative and familiar with one another. And the flocks obeys and listen to the signs, language and directive of their master and good shepherds who care and love them.

 

The Bad shepherds are, idolatrous, destructive and exploitative to the flocks/subjects/followers, which/whose lives they negligibly risk and abuse. For doing this, Jeremiah warns of the impending punishment– in forms of Jerusalem’s destruction and resulting exile in Babylon. But as for the repentant remnant the Lord will re-gather them under the armpit of his Son, Christ, the ideal Shepherd, spoken of in the writings of Saint Paul and particularly in the Gospels.

In John 10 he is the true shepherd whom the flocks are invited to listen. He is the true shepherd who knows his flock and his flock know and follow him. In today’s Gospel he is so kind and gentle with his disciples. He re-gathers them after the mission of which he sent them, for a pastoral feedback. He saw that they were tired after walking all over the vicinity of Galilee, Tiberias, Carpenaum, Magadla, Kursi, and Bethsaida, teaching, healing and curing diseases. He is so concern for their peace, shalom and wellbeing that Saint Paul talks about in today’s 2nd reading. With this concern Christ recommends that they take a rest—only to be constantly approached by such a great multitude that they hadn’t the opportunity to eat, as the Lord would have wanted.

 

Christ's love and care has no boundary.  His shepherding is not limited to the Twelve. They are extended to the multitude of today’s gospel.  He cares for them. He loves them. When he disembarked from the boat he showed enormous pity and love for the waiting followers. Evangelist Mark  so well captures the depth of this love when he says, Christ’s heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like a sheep without a good shepherd.

 

Such communicative heart of a true good shepherd is what is expected of not only our civil and ecclesiastical leaders, but of their subjects, members of the church and religious communities today. Taking a lesson from Christ, one wonders how many of our leaders today- demand a pastoral accountability, show love, peace, and concern for those whom they have sent on mission  or assigned civil and pastoral responsibility? Even in our families, parental leadership are expected of our parents after the manner of Christ. Filial responds of listening love, faith and obedience after the manner of the faithful remnant are expected of not only our children, but members of the church, flocks and subjects of various communities and organizations.

 Remember, it was to the docile, listening crowed or multitude of men, and woman, children and adult, that Jesus pitied and taught many things in today’s Gospel. And if Christ had first loved and pitied us even onto the cross, we are constantly invited– the kings and non- kings, leaders and their followers  to be compassionate and merciful to our neighbors, especially the less privileged, who  are increasingly becoming  the  center piece of Pope Francis’ papacy!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Homily (2) 14th sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


Homily (2) 14th Sunday of ordinary season year B: Fr.Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Readings: Ezekiel 2:2-5;Ps 123:1-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10 and Mark 6:1-6

Mission and Challenges of a Prophet

 The Bible readings of today speak of the challenges that faces a true prophet. First of  all a true prophet does not send himself. He is sent by God. He does not speak on his behalf but on behalf of the one who sent.  He or she is brave, courageous, truthful, and remains the conscience of his or her society, people and next door neighbor. Secondly, a prophet is human, and could even be weak in eloquence and stature.  Besides human weaknesses, he could be rejected by those he, or she is sent to evangelize. Thirdly, there may be many other forms of hardships and sufferings, a prophet must have to endure in the course of fulfilling his or her ministry.

 In the case Ezekiel’s ministry captured in today’s first reading, he was sent as a human prophet to preach to the rebellious Israelites.  His prophetic humanity is made clear repeatedly in the entire book of Ezekiel where he is constantly addressed by God, as ‘the son of man” or “mortal,” about 93 times. That Ezekiel knew that he was human, mortal, son of man, imperfect helped him relied totally on the grace of God in his prophecy of hope and change of heart to the exiled community of Israel in Babylon.

In the Gospel reading (Mark 6:1-6) , Jesus also called himself a prophet. Having been insulted and rejected in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus said to himself, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place among his own kin and his own house.” By calling himself a prophet Jesus recognizes his father who sent him to do his will: baptize the unbaptized, forgive sinners, teach courageously in the synagogue and healed the sick without charge. By calling himself a prophet,  in the likes of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Israel’s prophet, Jesus recognizes that human honor was immaterial to the mission that his father had sent him. In spite of his  hardships that span through the garden of Gethsameni and via delorosa and even to the cross(which we relived this afternoon in the Holy Land),  the spirit of the Lord was upon him (Luke 4:18), as he walked his way heroically to the calvary!

Saint Paul  in his mission to the Church in Corinth understood these challenges. In the 2nd reading Paul says, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, to keep me from been too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Throughout his missionary journeys, Paul, like Ezekiel, and Christ endured insults, hardships, rejections, persecutions, constraints and dishonor, for the sake of Christ.

How many of us today in our various places of ministries first of all would be humble to recognize that we are human,  weak and vunerable? How many realizes that they are mere messengers, mortals, sons and daughters of men, like the prophets Ezekiel, or instruments in God’s hands?  Does dishonors, insults, persecutions and hardships, challenges stopped us from doing  the good that must be done(love our neighbors,  be charitable and forgiving), or from  preaching the gospel that needs be preached?

 Taking Ezekiel, Saint Paul and Christ our prophet as our prophetical models of depature, may we recognize that there is that hidden divine strength in a every seeming human weaknesses and dishonor we may face in the course of doing good,  evangelizing,or in the course of being faithfully and truly prophetic to our neighbors.

 

 

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.”