Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sixth Sunday of Easter A: Reflections at Youth Retreat- Fr .Michael U. Udoekpo

Good Shepherd Youth annual Retreat; Held at St. Josephat Retreat House, East Beach Dr. Glen Cove NY, May 28, 2011 Reflections at Mass- Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings of the Sixth Sunday of Easter- Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66:1-3, 4-5,6-7,16,20; I Pet 3:15-18 and John 14:15-21

Renewing our Relationship with God: Path of a Christian Youth
These few days I know many have already shared a great deal of faith, prayer and spirituality with you. This is good because at this Mass we come to the summit of our Catholic faith, the Holy Eucharist. I really would loved to build on the sharing you have had already. I want to continue to thank God for you who has invited you for a friendship renewal in Him.

Today, God has given us this wonderful spiritual channel and path to walk through to Him, to come together to renew our relationship with Him, our faith, hope, love and life of prayer, studies and work. Even when we play and have fun we got to realize that Jesus is there with us. You all know that once we have Jesus and his values, our neighbors, even our parents, family members, friends, teachers and our follow youth members would easily know- in our relationship with them. It can’t be hidden!!!

 One other thing I like about today which I thought I should mention is that don’t  restrict this this weekend gathering  to intensive prayer, reconciliation, and mending our  relationship with God  and our neighbors, but  see it also as  a time to take a little rest. Remember, even Jesus though he prays a lot would take some quiet time off for rest.   

Yesterday I saw some of you got on that bus that looks like a school bus, but you were not heading to school per se. You are not in the class room today. You are not in the library or in your college compound.  The environment here, the flowers, the furniture are different from the routines of our homes and that of our home
The whole scenario, this chapel, looking at your directors, looking at you, seeing how vibrant you, how enthusiastic you are – ready to know, ready to ask, eager to have this and that, ready to learn, ready to discover new things, events, friends and identify who we are, ready to grow - all reminds me when I was about your age, growing up in a suburb village of South-Eastern Nigeria, with no electricity.

Neither I nor my parents had cars. I had no ipods, laptops, cell phones. I used to walk about 10 miles on foot to watch a black TV in the home of my friend’s parents. It is true that time changes. However, the advantage of this was that I wasn’t spending all my time talking to objects, machines and electronic, but had spent some of the time to relate with my friends, teachers, my parents and siblings.  For my wellness, I grew up playing all kinds of sports, especially, soccer, and tennis. With this I cultivated team spirit and respect for one another.

My parents were not millionaires but simple middle class school teachers with deep Christian faith.  Bicycle and later on motor cycle was their major means of transportation. They worked hard to raise six of us. Like you, I used to ask them a lot of questions, from science to religion and from religion to anthropology, and from anthropology to cosmology. They helped me realized that being in  good relationship with God, or love of God is the genuine path through which I can obtain reasonable and balanced answers to most life’s philosophical and faith questions. They taught me that if I obeyed them, understood the Church, the Scriptures, Christ and the Sacraments my relationship with God, with every other person, with things and even objects will be less complicated. 

In fact, the distance from our parish in Holbrook to this place was about the same distance from the home I was raised, to my native parish church. I attended Catechism for my Frist Holy Communion, Confirmation, Choir Practices, serving at Sunday Masses, on foot, at this Parish Church.
 Listen! I am not making up this story. My home work after Mass and lunch every Sunday was to “replay” the homily the priest had preached that Sunday to satisfy my parents that I was attentive and meditative in the Church.  Time does not allow me to say everything here. But at least you get a little sense of how I grew up relating with my parents, my family, friends, the Church and Christ.

You might have noticed from the questions we had asked ourselves when we were celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and from the Gospel reading of this Mass, John 14:15-21, some of the conditions of what we must do to be in a good relationship with God. In the gospel of this mass, Jesus said to his disciples, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments” you will obey me, you will listen to me, you will worship me, you will follow my footsteps; you will follow my ways of love, obedience and good relationship with God.

The way of Christ is nothing but His Love for us, His patience with us, His forgiveness, blessings and gifts (I John 4:7-10). Like the story of the prodigal son and the loving Father, He has given us an everlasting inheritance. He treasures and loves us with a love that will never fail. He offers us a relationship so close that he calls us friends, family and bride, reflected in the passages of the Scriptures, especially the Book of Prophet Hosea. In John 15:15, the gospel of reading of yesterday’s morning mass, we read; “I no longer call you servants, instead, I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father.”
This friendship grows through prayer and worthy reception of the sacraments. It helps us to understand better even the significance of human friendship.

Our daily relationship with Christ leads us to have an open, sympathetic, respectful, humble, honest behavior which increases our capacity for having genuine friends. Prayer purifies our souls and makes us particularly ready to understand other people. It increases our generosity, our optimism and our social interactions and relationship characterized with Christian virtues.

Christian relationship, does not run away when difficulties arises. A good friend never turns “Judas”, a traitor, never speaks destructively of the other, and never gossips or allows the character of his friend to be assassinated in his or her absent. Christian relationship- friendship involves sincerity, trust, sharing of joys and sorrows, encouragement, and helping and supporting one another. You can help your friend type his or note or hold the door of an elevator for our granpa/ma.  

In His friendship with us God provides for us.  In His relationship with us He protects us. He strengthens us in our weaknesses and brokenness.  He helps us grow to maturity, strength, fullness and excellent in responsible freedom, which I believe is the goal of each and every one you, in a way.

Ordinarily, as friends we give gifts and receive gifts from our friends and from our parents especially at Christmas and when we celebrate birthdays or do well in our exams. We do cherish and preserve some of these gifts especially the imperishable ones.

We also want to be appreciative of those gifts God has lavished upon us: the gifts of Dad, mom, home, school, church, good health, good friends, good youth minister, our directors, the oxygen we breathe even the gift of our parish, the church of the Good Shepherd, and the gifts the Holy Spirit that awaits us at Pentecost.

How do we reciprocate? We all know the answers. We want to love God with all our heart, worship Him, Praise and Adore Him, walk His path, be thankful, trustful and be loyal to Him by the way we relate with one another, our parents, family members, teachers, friends and neighbors, and even by the way we respect and handle ourselves, at work and study places, knowing that we are a special gifts from God. He created us to walk the path of Christ, love and to relate well with Him and with our neighbors.