Saturday, February 17, 2018

Covenant Renewal And God's Saving Grace!

Homily First Sunday of Lent Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Gen 9:8-15;
·         Ps 25:4-9;
·        1 Pet 3:18-22;
·         Mark 1:12-15
Covenant Renewal And God's Saving Grace!
On Ash Wednesday we all received the ashes, and were introduced into a new liturgical season of Lent, a Church’s offering.   Lent [as noted by Pope Francis in his 2018 message for lent, drawn from Matthew’s Gospel 24:12] is a time to be aware that “because of increase of iniquity[lawlessness, he anomia], love of many will grow cold”.  It is a time to watch out for false prophecies of our time, and resist cold heatedness with prayer, fasting, repentance, and almsgiving, spiritual and covenant renewals. It is  a time to intensify our reliance on God's saving grace, listen more and more, break and share God's words and his blessings, generously with others. 
 Today’s Lenten Gospel, reminds us, among many other things, of those 40 days Christ spent in the desert, fasting and praying.  In it Jesus teaches us obedience to God and the value of endurance, management of trials and temptations that we may temporally face in this life on earth (Mark 1:12-15).  As the angels ministered to Christ in the desert, they will minister to us in our own moments of “desert experiences.”
Christ’s events in Lenten scriptures provide us moments for reflection, reconciliation not only with ourselves, but with our “seen neighbors” who leads us to our “unseen God.” It provides us an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries of charity, clear consciences, and works of mercies. During Lent, we recall our baptismal promises, and renew our covenant with God. It is also a moment of hope in the light and candle of Easter as stressed by Pope Francis.
Good enough, the first and the second readings also point to God’s covenant with Noah, the flood incidence, Noah’s saving Ark, and his saving promise through the sign of the rainbow. It points to God’s abiding presence with his people, with us through his Son, Jesus (Gen 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22)).
In other words, Noah’s saving event foreshadows, of course, Christ’s saving mission for those who keep the covenant.  It is this mission that the psalmist sings today, that {God’s ways] “your ways O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant,” (Psalm 25:4-10), not matter the trials, the abnormalities the anomias of our times. 
 As we journey through this lent, and no matter the long and dry deserts, and the trials of our times: false prophecies,  lawlessness[he anomia] and cold heartedness, as stressed by Pope Francis, economic and material poverty, orchestrated by some who manipulate the markets for personal and inordinate gains, violent, wars and terrorist acts, may we not lose sight of the Grace of God of the covenant of love, promises and fulfillment, mercy, forgiveness, charity and of the joy that awaits us at Easter!
Reflection Questions:
1.     Do you see Lent as a moment of grace, almsgiving, prayer, penance, renewal of your covenant relationship with God?
2.     What are your challenges and desert experiences needing Christ-like resistance of today’s Gospel?
3.     In what way do we assist our neighbors  overcome modern false prophecies, cold heartedness and journey to renew their covenant with Christ?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Christ, Our compassionate Healer!(6th Sunday)

Homily Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Lev 13:1-2, 44-46;
·          Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11;
·         1 Cor 10:31–11:1;
·         Mk 1:40-45

Christ, Our compassionate Healer!

Last Sunday Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother- in- law of her fever. In the bible readings of today, Saint Paul invites us to selflessly imitate him in Christ, who is the healer of our leprosies. He brings wholeness into our lives.
Leprosies, Ebolas, scary diseases! Christ’s healing ministry of leprosy in today’s gospel (Mark 1:40-45) must have been shocking to everyone. This disease cured by Christ has a long history. First of all leprosy was not an easy illness to handle in ancient days, just like Ebola we heard of, a while ago, in our days, times and culture.  Evidence of leprosy and how it was handled is recorded in today’s first readings (Lev 13:1-2, 44-46). Victims were treated differently, isolated and closely monitored by the priests. Some of their neighbors thought they would never be cured (Matt 8:1-4 and Luke 5:12-16).  Some thought it was a punishment from God as a result of sin. It was an image of sin, an uncleanness that the society must distance themselves from. In the Book of Numbers, we may recall, when Miriam sinned by speaking against Moses, God’s servants, she was afflicted with leprosy.  But I am sure, today, we have different images of what is sinful in our society!

 However, as the disease progresses on the human skin, their limbs, hands, fingers, toes, noses, mouth could be disfigured with flies paging on the sores. For fear of contaminating others, they were driven away from the neighborhood and restricted from using common roads, stores and facilities. They must let others in the society know that they were lepers by not covering their hairs. They must also wear torn pants and clothing’s. If there is any reason for them to step outside their isolated camps they have to alert others by shouting “unclean, unclean, and unclean.” This disease had the power of separating members of the family from each other, since contact with them would make others unclean! It is terrible to be isolated from our community.
Here, we might want to think of what isolate us from our family member, friends, and community, and even from the love of God. What separates us from the love of God ( Roms 8:35)?

If for whatever reason a leper thought he was cured, he or she must go through a very prolonged ritual of cleansing procedure, as stipulated by the Levitical Laws (Lev 13–14). These elaborate rituals included animal sacrifices, as well bringing oneself to be bureaucratically certified as cleansed and cured, by the Levitical priest.
In today’s Gospel, Christ is a different type of priest. He is a different kind of a healer. He is very compassionate, in an extraordinarily healing session. There is a leper in the city and outside their isolated camp! He kneels before Jesus and said, “If you wish you can make me clean”! Probably, he knew, the hope of his hopeless condition was only going to be realized in Jesus, his healing grace and mercies!
 He mercifully said, to the leper, “I do will, be made clean.”  “Go show yourself to the priest, but tell no one.” But he went and told everyone.  Although Christ, was not up for a publicity stunt, fame propaganda, as some people may choose, this is understandable. The experience of gratitude of been healed of been liberated overwhelmed healed. How do you feel when you are liberated from any burden or difficulty? I mean the experience and the joy of freedom, from debt, student loans and - could also be from the discrimination, and isolation; freedom from the terrible stigma of leprosy and freedom from sins in the case of this particular leper.

The highpoint of this lesson is not only the compassion of Christ; his teaching lessons of being merciful, that Pope Francis cherishes,  but the need for us to acknowledge our “leprosies,” our “sins” and our “Ebolas,” so to say, which could come in different forms today.
Again, Saint Paul notes some of them in the 2nd reading (1 Cor 10:31–11:1), to include being offensive to others (Jews and Gentiles). Selfishness against others, of different faith, race and culture is a form of leprosy. For Paul refusal to avoid giving offense, promoting idolatries, divisions, and rivalries that went on in the Corinthian community of Paul are forms of leprosy as well.

Pauline disapproval of "offenses" against the Jews, Greek and the Church, can come to us today in form of what we say, about the church and others, the war, and terrorism, the racism and discrimination, we wage against people of other faith, culture and religion. It could also come in form of our refusal to imitate the virtues of Paul, his selflessness, endurance, his promotion of common good, and doing everything for the greater glory of God!
 In other, words we are “lepers” in one way or the other; morally, socially and spiritually. All these can be cured in Christ, who brings us wholeness. Acknowledgment of this, can provide us an opportunity to approach Christ as the leper did. We can do this in our neighbors that we forgive. We can do this through the sacraments, especially of reconciliation we celebrate, and through acts of kindness, compassion and charity we do.  All that Christ wishes to say to us today is that, he pretty much wishes to heal and forgive us, individually as a group and as a society!

Reflection Questions:

1.      What are your “leprosies” In the light of today’s Scriptures?

2.      How do you assist the sick, the oppressed and the weak members of your faith communities/societies?

3.      How often do we give mercy and compassion a chance in our relationship with our neighbors, subject, leaders, authorities, the less privileged, with those we thought might have offended us?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Suffering in Communion with Christ!(5th Sunday year B)

Homily Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Job 7:1-4, 6-7;
·         Ps 147:1-6;
·         1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23;
·          Mark 1:29-39
Suffering in Communion with Christ!
In his Book, When Bad things Happen to Good People, Harold S .Kushner explains why he took to this theme. It was because of his personal family tragedy. His son, Aaron became sick of what is called “progeria,” that is rapid aging. It was a sad news difficult for Harold and his family to handle.  Perhaps like the family of those healed in today’s gospel. Yet, he knew he was trying his best to live the gospel, the good news, in obedient to the Lord. But if the news of the Lord is always good, how can the Lord allow his son become sick, inflicting immeasurable pains and anguish to the family? Harold’s question could be related to the biblical Job, Habakkuk, Paul and to the mystery of the Gospel of Christ’s Gospel, the cross, the sufferings, and healings, God’s justice, addressed in today’s bible readings. Or, as Joseph Cardinal Bernadin would write in The Gift of Peace, “Suffering in Communion with the Lord.”
Job, a pious and righteous man kept the rules like any of us. Obeyed God, was prosperous but also suffered terrible set back and misfortunes in life. He lost his property, his children. He was afflicted and tormented by all kinds of diseases. He felt restless and as if he had been assigned months misery (Job 7:1-4, 6-7). He would have loved to have rational answers to the cause of his set back and sufferings. But they were not forth coming, yet Job deepened his trust and love for God through his experiences of suffering.
Job’s suffering- experiences in his relationship with God could be liken to that of Paul. In his ministry, after his conversion, he experienced suffering, torture and imprisonment. He was once shipped wrecked and beaten many times for the sake of the Gospel.  These sufferings did not change Paul. He kept the faith.  He felt the compulsion to preach the Gospel of Christ. In the 2nd reading he strongly says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (I Cor 9:16).
What is the Gospel for Paul? It is the “the good news of Jesus Christ,” the patience, the sufferings, cross, the peace, the faith, and the hope that comes with it. It is the entire activity of evangelization to the Gentiles, to the uncircumcised (Gal 2:7). It must have its origin in God manifested in Christ, the son of God (Rom 1:9). It is the faith in Christ (Rom 4–6; Gal 1:23) and the living of the word of God (2 Cor 2:17), the beatitude (Matt 5:1-2). It is the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12). It is a Christian way of life. It is accepting God’s mysterious ways of dealing with us in the crucified Christ (1 Cor 2:1-2), and the hope in the resurrection (1 Cor 15; 1 Thess 4:12-17). It also include the fostering of unity (1 Cor 12–14). It is the story of the Risen Lord, not our own stories (2 Cor 4:4).
For Paul the Gospel is God’s salvific activity for his people, his power and healing mercies. The Divine Jesus was human too. Again, as Cardinal Bernadin said in The Gift of Peace, Christ, “felt pains as we do. And in many ways he experienced pain and suffering more deeply than we will ever know. Yet in the face of all, he transformed human suffering into something greater: an ability to walk with the afflicted and to empty himself so that his loving father could work more fully through him.”
In the Gospel reading of today (Mark 1:29-39), the Marken, Christ like God his father walks with the afflicted and those fevered. He empties himself for the sick. He heals Simon Peter’s mother –in-law who was sick with fever:
“On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew, James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever… he approached grasped her and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” 
What are your own “fevers”? Certainly this can come in form of the restlessness of the biblical Job. It can come in forms of bodily or spiritual illnesses, some that we bring to our doctors.  It is true that we have these human doctors. We keep those appointments. But do we believe in the Gospel of Paul, in the healing power of Christ who is able to cure us of our illness, or work miracles, the type seen in today's Gospel.
 Truly, our today’s “fevers” can also come in form of disunity and lack of love, and envious of other’s spiritual gifts, that the Gospel Paul opposes in I Cor 12–14. Our fevers can come in form lack of universal spirit, being victims of war, bias and prejudices,  acts of terrorism, religious extremists , HIV and Ebola epidemics, unjust socio-political structures that breeds poverty, violent, and lack of acceptance of others. Our fevers and weaknesses can come in all forms of immorality and idolatries of the 21st century, against the values of the Good News of Christ championed by Paul.
Whatever our shortcomings, fevers and sufferings might be, these days, in living and preaching the Gospel of Christ, we are invited to open up for our understanding of suffering in communion with Christ, not merely for its inevitability, but also for its Good News, its mystery, and redemptive values.
Reflection Questions
1.      How do you relate to today’s scripture?
2.       Do you see yourself in Job, or those healed in today’s Gospel?
3.      How do you assist the suffering members of your faith community?
4.      What are your fevers?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

“A Prophet Like” Moses(4th Sunday Year B)

     Homily Fourth Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Deut 18:15-20;
·          Ps 95:1-2, 6-9;
·          1 Cor 7:32-35
·          Mk 1:21-28

 “A Prophet Like” Moses

There is a book in my Library, Great Speeches of our times, by Hywel Williams. This book contains speeches of politicians and Human Rights Activists such as; Eamon de Valera, Eleanor Roosevelt, J. F. Kennedy , and Charles de Gaulle; Martin Luther King, Jr , Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Jackson, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Fidel Castro (Jan 1, 1999), Tony Blair  and  Barack Obama,-- our  president…
Speeches of biblical prophets, theologians and spiritual authors of our times, strictly speaking, are not mentioned. The Bible readings of today, beginning with the first reading (Deut 18:15-20) reminds us these omitted speeches of the authentic and conscientious biblical prophets, apostleship and discipleship whom we are called to imitate.

As evident in the readings an authentic prophet is a prophet like Moses (Exod-Deut). He is one of us, a member of the community, a friend, chosen by the Lord to speak in the name of God (Deut 18:15). A true prophet is the mouth piece of God and a divine messenger.  An authentic prophet preaches with divine and moral authority, about God, not about himself or herself. A true prophet is the conscience of the people.  A true prophet is not selfish, but sensitive to the evil and opt for the poor, the widow, the oppressed and those in the margins of society.   A true prophet cherishes the highest good and lives the truth with love, faith, obedience and hope for the divine blessings.
In matters of faith the true prophet is not a coward. He challenges every unjust status quo and seeks for a just and peaceful alternative. True prophets offer symbols and hope that are adequate to confront the horror and massiveness of the experience that evokes indifference. The prophet is the one who brings to public expression those very fears and terrors that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we do know they are there. The prophet speaks metaphorically but concretely the truth of everyday life, that hovers over us. The prophet speaks neither in rage, nor with cheap grace, but with the candor born of anguish, passion, sympathy, empathy and compassion. In doing this the prophet free people from all types of slaveries, especially modern slaveries, and sins, mentioned by the Holy Father, Pope Francis in his recent New Year messages (2015-2018). Authentic prophets bring people, men, women and children to God.

The biblical Moses, of the Exodus, is an example of a true prophet. Though he suffered, he endured.  He challenged the pharaohs of his time. He dismantled the politics of oppression and exploitation, by countering it with a politics of justice, true freedom, compassion and humanitarianism. Let my people go! Moses is a paradigm of all prophets. Speaking today in the first reading, he says, “The Lord will raise a Prophet like Me from among your kindred, to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:19-20). This prophet would come to be Christ our savior!
 But, in every nations, lands, villages, communities, times and places, even here in our Seminary Community, God is always raising prophets to speak to us in his name. Think of our parents, our Church Leaders, Popes, Saints, our teachers, professors, spiritual directors, the staff, spouses, and good friends, students, fellow parishioners around us, and models of Christian virtues. Through these “prophets” we become better people each day, and strive to do the will of God!

In the second reading (1 Cor 7:32-35), Paul was also prophetic to the Corinthian community. Like Moses, Paul challenges the common but wrong practices of his time: factions, rivalries, abuse of marriages and our sexualities. Paul offers an alternative. If you are married, good! If you are unmarried, like him, good, be faithful to your vows of celibacy, for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Christ, in the Gospel (Mark 1:21–28), no doubt, is the prophet par excellence! And his prophecy is the norm for our lives. His birth challenges Herod and the powers that be! He introduces a new prophecy. He dismantles the proud and raises the lowly. He reaches to the poor, the Samaritan woman, the “Matthews,” the “tax collectors”, the “Mary Magdalene”, the “Zacchaeus”, the “Lazarus”, the “lepers” and the blinds, forbidden in the past.

Today he shocks the Pharisees and everybody in the synagogue of Capernaum, by preaching, healing, and liberating authoritatively on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21ff), against the status quo. For the status quo, the Sabbath was the sacred sign of social settlement. For Christ, the new Moses, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. For Christ, the Sabbath must be a Sabbath for love, a Sabbath for healing, exorcisms, peace and forgiveness.
Jesus’ prophetic ministry is that of freedom from falsehood, deceit, false gods, intimidation, exploitation, immoralities, and deceitful practices. The ministry of Christ, the new Moses, also entails, unity, faith and hope. It requires empathy, sympathy, compassion and justice. Therefore, Christ invites us today, wherever we are located, to participate in his prophetic ministry, beyond the shore of Galilee, in our homes, offices, class rooms, parishes, dioceses, to the ends of the earth, and to our innermost selves.

Reflection Questions:
1.      In the light of today’s reading how prophetic are you in your faith community?

2.      Apart from Pope Francis – his writings (Lumen Fidei, Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato si, and Amoris Laetitia etc), visits, preaching, who is your model of modern prophet or prophetess?

3.      Do you approach your ministries and callings with obedience of faith, Christ-like authority, justice, love, empathy, passion, pathos, sympathy and courageously like Israel’s prophets?


Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Merciful and Selfless God, Slow to Anger, Abounding in Love!(3rd Sunday Year B)

Homily Third Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Jonah 3:1-5, 10;
·          Ps 25:4-9;
·         1 Cor 7:29-31;
·         Mark 1:14-20
A Merciful and Selfless God, Slow to Anger, Abounding in Love!
The times we live in today are quite challenging, yet we stand strong on our faith traditions. But when we open our bibles; when we read our scriptures, especially the four Gospels:Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we learn so much about God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, whom we are daily called to imitate. He is holy, generous, merciful, slow to anger and kind. We learn so much about Christ who once changed water into wine, healed the blinds, dialogued with the Samaritan woman, raised Lazarus from the tomb, ate with tax collectors, and encouraged Zacchaeus to come down from the tree. He later went to din with him. He loved on the road to Calvary and forgave sinners on the Cross. He is selfless, humble and reaches out to everyone. He is persistence in calling us to himself, regardless of our "narrow nationalism," gender, language and culture, or which part of the continent, we may come from. Today’s readings seem to point towards the same direction of God’s universal love and mercy!
In today’s Gospel, the selfless markan Christ knew a time would come when he would be “handed-over”, paradidomi. He quickly initiated the calls of his disciples, beginning with Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were originally fishermen. Thank God, they left everything to follow Jesus, including their net, boats, parents, family and workers. They became fishers of men. What does this mean? Then became champions of God’s love, preachers and promoters of justice, unity, sources of divine mercy, and agents  of true evangelization, viceroys and conduits of the inclusive  of the message of God’s love.
This was something that was lacking in the Corinthian community that Paul was preaching to, in the 2nd reading. Selfishness, rivalries, abuse of marriages, sexualities, and overt worldliness perverted this community. Some of them forgot that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Many could not realize on time that everything in this world, our talents, our homes, money, power,  post of duties, wealth,  and our physical bodies our temporary and transitory.  Meanwhile, we better make good and timely use of them, for the common good; for the glory of God, for the service of the community, and the entire church.
Jonah, in the first reading, during his time, also felt into similar trap of selfishness about God’s love, mercy and blessings. He is called by God to bring God’s message of love and forgiveness to enemy- folks in the far- East of Nineveh, in Assyria. Unlike Peter, Andrew, James and John, in the Gospel, Jonah resisted, and sailed the opposite direction, as far West as he can to Tarshish. I guess, to the direction of the present day Spain. In spite of Jonah’s reluctance, God has a way of insisting on his love and callings. No matter what, he keeps calling us. And perhaps, reminding us that, his divine thoughts, are not our human thoughts.
Granted that Jonah had problems on the way: shipped wrecked, swallowed by a big fish, tormented by nasty weather, he would eventually, by the grace of God, carry out God’s mission  of preaching repentance to the Assyrians, non-Jews and the Gentiles, as Paul did in Corinth.  
As funny and satirical as Jonah’s story may sound, together with the rest of today’s readings, it offers us a spiritual mirror to see ourselves as God’s instruments. God has called us to various missions which we must do selflessly, with all our talents, energies and enthusiasms. This story also offers us a mirror to see ourselves, how we still are, sometimes today in this 21st century: petty, unforgiving, intolerant to others, selfish and jealous to our neighbors, in many ways. And sometimes unwilling to let go, unwilling to admit that God’s love and mercy extends to all persons of every land and nations, Jews and Gentiles, gender and culture.
Therefore, If God is merciful, selfless, initiates all calls,  kind, forgiving, and compassionate, he wants us in our various states of life, offices and positions to  be forgiving, and merciful to those, who may have offended  or hurt us, and be loving to all those we meet on the way!
Reflection Questions:
1.      How do relate to Jonah’s familiar story and the call of the disciples in today’s readings?
2.      How often do we allow mercy and misery to co-exist?
3.      Does today’s readings not remind us of Pope Francis’ papacy, particularly his theme on “miserecordia et misera (misery and mercy)? Think also of his motto: "Miserando atque eligendo."
4.      In what ways do we share God’s love with members of our faith communities?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Speak Lord, Your Servant Is Listening!(2nd sunday Ordinary time)

Homily Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19;
·          Ps 40:2, 4, 7-10;
·         1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20
·         John 1:35-42

Speak Lord, Your Servant Is Listening!

 Today we live in a very noisy and pluralistic society.  Noise from fireworks, violence, religious extremists, alarms, sirens, loud music, trumpets, car horns, sports whistles, cell phones, Tvs, Radios, gun fires, bomb blasts, thunders and wild winds, baby cries, sounds from animals and birds etc., plus people yelling/shouting at each other, wars and threats of wars, such that listening or paying attention in our various locations of life, is becoming increasingly important today, especially in matters that has to do with our relationship with God, who calls us reveals himself to us in different forms, especially in the poor, the rich, men, women and children.

In scripture readings today, especially in the first reading (1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19), and in the Gospel (John 1:35-42), the familiar call stories of Samuel and that of the Disciples of Christ: Andrew, Peter, etc., are presented, respectively. Each of these stories though delights of many preachers, are meant to remind us, among other things, that even though God initiates his calling us to different stages of life, he expects us to respond with love and devotion. But, we cannot respond to what we have not heard. And how can we hear unless we listen, unless we remain focus, and resist those distractions!

In the first reading, Samuel is called do what many of Israel’s judges and the sons of Eli had failed to do. To carry the banner of love and keep the torch of the covenant-promise which the Lord had established with the house Israel. As a prophet Samuel would anoint the initial Kings of Israel. In hearing God’s voice he not only took counsel from Eli, but carefully and obediently responded, on the 3rd instance, as instructed. He said “speak, for your servant is listening.” This might have well reminds us of Deuteronomy 4, where Israel as a whole is called to listen, shamah Yisrael. In the case of Samuel he responds with a participle expression “listening” ([mv) adds to the force of his readiness and docility, also found in the voice of today’s psalmist, “here I am Lord I come to do your will” (Ps 40). Mary, our Mother, said the same when visited by the angel Gabriel: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me as you will” (Luke 1:38), heard during Christmas!

 But today, recognizing Jesus in the Gospel account, John the Baptist said, “Behold the lamb of God” (John 1, 29, 35-42), as we do at every Mass. Interestingly, “the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.” As Disciples of Christ God has called each of us in different ways, vocations and states of life: priests, religious, laity, celibate and in marriage to be missionary disciples. Many are also blessed in various areas of industries, socio-political and economic powers. In these callings, they are equally called to love, share their blessings with others, especially with the poor, the sick, the aged, the voiceless, immigrants, and the marginalized of the society.

 Not being indifferent to the plight of the poor is form of listening to what God expects of us today, has increasingly become the center of focus by Pope Francis in his recent preaching and teachings.  We saw and heard this in his 2015 New Year message of Peace, “that we are no Longer slaves, but brothers and sister.” Similar messages were heard in 2016 and 2017.   In 2018 he reiterates and re-emphasizes on “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” Our calling and how we respond to Christ must be inviting to others, migrants, refugees: women, men, children, the poor and the needy in search of peace!

Let us pray that, in spite of the “noise,” the “distractions,” the “pluralism of ideologies,” the “sirens” that blow in all forms, we may like Samuel and the initial disciples of Jesus, of today’s Gospel, listen to his divine calling, and be ready to follow the “Lamb of God,” or say, in our lives and actions, “speak, Lord your servant is listening”!

 Reflection Questions

1.      What does today’s scripture say to us?

2.      Do we listen to ourselves, the voice of the Holy Spirit in or good neighbors, counsellors, mentors, pastors, teachers, and spiritual directors?

3.      What about listening to the plights of the migrants, refugees and the poor, and even of the members of our faith communities?