Thursday, July 26, 2012

Homily 17th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 17th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings; 2 Kings 4:42-44; Ps145:10-11, 15-18; Eph 4:1-6 and John 6:1-15

Generosity of Christ, Our Lord and Prophet

In the Gospel  reading of today Jesus took from a little boy five ordinary loaves and two fish. He multiplied them to the amazement of everyone, including his disciples and fed  to their satisfaction, the multitude that had followed him.The Bible says five thousand men, no doubt there were also women and children in the crowd who were hungry too. He asked the left-over be preserved in twelve wicker basket to avoid wastage. This incidence is also recorded with some variations in the synoptic (Matt 14: 13-15; Mark 6:34-36 and Luke 9:11-12). This goes to strengthen the veracity of the divine power of Christ, his kindness, his meticulousity, approachability and generosity for us. He has the ability to use us as his instrument to bring us together, to heal us, to feed us, to unite us when we are scattered. He watches over us always and provides our spiritual and material needs. Even the Psalmist puts it well that, “the hand of the Lord fees us; and answers all our prayers,’ (Ps 145:16).

This is true in the history of God walking and journeying with us, even from the time of Moses in the wilderness, and prophet of Elisha, thousands of years before Christ. We are told in that first reading that a man came from a place called Baal-shalishah bringing Elisha, the man of God some food, twenty barley loaves made from firsfruit, and fresh grain in the ear. But Elisha, God’s instrument prefers to pass this on miraculously and divinely to the hungry hundreds of people who were starving. Like in the gospels, the twenty barley loaves were multiplied to the satisfaction of many with lots of left-over.

What strikes me in these miracles, particularly the gospel is that if Christ could care for those who suddenly followed him because they saw him earlier performed a miracle of healing the sick, what about ourselves who have been following him from the day of our baptism. He proves the doubting disciples wrong. Very thankful to God his father in prayer and he is accommodating, to everyone. He does not want the hungry crowd  left standing. He provided them a seat on the grass and was patient to make sure they had had their fill. And what about the little boy who bore the five loves and two fish. Though weak God can use us as his instrument,  to assist our neighbors.

Granted that today many of us do temporarily suffer rejection, testing, sicknesses, hunger, lack of jobs, insurances, and all forms of poverty; spiritual and material. Even in the midst of plenty in United States and other industrialized nations, many, we told still (about 30,000 million Americans) do not have health insurance while many are out of work. I see daily how many poor and starved people troop to our parish food pantry for ordinary food, not for luxuries.  Even those of us that have jobs are struggling to pay their bills or send their children to college. Each of us would always have needs. God will never withhold his help from us, when we come to him in prayers for our various needs. And he can help us through somebody sitting by your side.

 St. Paul from his personal experiences has suggestions for us. He calls himself, ‘a prisoner for the Lord,’ (Eph 4:1-6). He knows how to come to Christ in moments of spiritual and material needs. He wants us to be prayerful, patient, humble, gentle, bearing with one another through love and strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace, one body and one Spirit, one faith, one hope and one baptism.
If the Lord could care for those who suddenly followed him he will continue to be generous to us who have been baptized in him, with our various needs, material and spiritual.
And for those of us that have experienced uniquely, God’s generosity, materially and spiritually the Lord wants us to  be his instruments like Elisha, like the little boy in the gospel miracle, and to share these blessings and generosities with our neighbors, especially the less-privileged.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Homily 16th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 16th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18 and Mark 6:30-34

Christ, Our Peace and Shepherd of the Remnants,

 As reflected in the scriptures, today we celebrate Christ our Peace and Shepherd of the Remnant (CPSR). This is a theme well captured in the Psalm just chanted, Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.” A Shepherd like Moses, a Shepherd like Joshua in the desert, in the wilderness (Num 27:17). We are the sheep, all of us gathered, here, our families, the church; we are the remnants, of that renewed Israel.

The “remnants” through out the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, the Old and the New Testaments, especially in the prophetic books are nothing more than the poor, the anawim, the dalim, the humble of the land, the faithful ones (rich and poor, privileged and the less- privileged, kings and the subjects), those who rejects idolatry, those who survives the wilderness, the exile, those who resists the devils, those who fight back temptations, rely on the saving and shepherding power of God at all times, those who are obedient and strive to do what the Lord expects of  them; exemplary living, and  attentive to the teachings of the prophets, like Jeremiah, in the first reading.

It is true that when Jeremiah says in the 1st reading “I will gather the remnant of my flock and appoint shepherd for them,” he is/ or was not prophesying out of the cloud. Judah was threatened by the warlords of Babylonian military, swept into the pains of exile, while the Kings like Jehoiakim, Zedekiah and other appointed officials, the leaders, those who were appointed to shepherd the people cared less, and showed not even a single good example. If they were not looking after themselves, they were disobedient to God, who spoke to them through the prophets. They were timid, idolatrous, negligent, and selfish.

 One other text close to the 1st reading  which I would like to draw your attention to is Prophet Ezekiel 34:1-5. He  says, “…woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather pastures sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatling, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the injured nor seek the lost, but you lord it over them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for lack of shepherds, and became food for all the wild beasts… (cf Num 27:17).”

But if you read down verses 11-16 of the same text of Ezekiel 34 you will see what God, the Good Shepherd will do for his sheep personally, which Jeremiah in the first reading also insisted. God will not only punish evil deeds of the bad shepherds of Israel, but He will look after his sheep. He will gather the remnant of his flock from wherever they may have been scattered! Prosperity and peace will be theirs under the guidance of the new Good and Righteous Shepherd, from the tribe of David whom the Lord had  promised eternal dynasty in 2 Samuel 7(cf. ps 132; Chro 34:23).

 This new Good Shepherd is Christ, an exemplary leader, who declared in the 4th Gospel, John 10, “I am the Good Shepherd; a Good Shepherd laid down his life for his sheep” (v12). A Good Shepherd has sympathy and empathy for his flock at all times. This is quite true in the example Christ has set in today’s gospel. It does not matter whether Christ was resting or not, Like Moses he had pity on the needy multitude, in the wilderness, in the deserted place, in the valley of darkness. He sheltered them with his kindness, fed them with his compassion, with love and words of peace!

St. Paul acknowledges this and says in the 2nd reading (Eph 2:13-18), “In Jesus Christ you who once were far off have become near…. For he is our peace, he who made both one, and broke down the dividing wall of enmity…through the cross….”

Each of us is called to be good shepherds to our neighbors and to be exemplary leaders in our various positions of leadership: home, church, companies and in the society as  whole. We are called to imitate Christ and be our brothers and sisters keepers in every where, and at all times, in this desert of life, as Moses and Joshua had done in the wilderness. We are called to  do this with sympathy and empathy for one another, young and old, our seniors and particularly the poor and the sick.

  This means we are called to be agents of peace. Remember, peace here, “shalom” is all about our entire well-being. It touches on our businesses, jobs, prosperity, good health, happy marriages, happy friendship, and happy family circles. Happiness in our places of jobs; peaceful and society or world without war and terrorism, perfect leaders, kings and politicians, good economy, where everybody is insured medically and our kids and students successful always in their exams, and no student loans! No valley of darkness! No desert! No illness, no sickness, no betrayal and disappointment!

We know this is not always the case.  There would always be challenges, valleys of darkness, and deserts of life, illnesses, joblessness, division and unnecessary enmity and even loss of loved ones! But as the psalmist would put it today, even though we find ourselves in any valley of darkness, as remnants and as leaders, let us know that Christ, our Peace and Shepherd of each of us, the Remnant (CPSR), would always be there on our sides.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homily 15th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 15th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings Amos 7:12-15; Ps 85:9-14; Eph 1:3-14 and Mark 6:7-13

God’s choice of each of us!

In psalm 85 verse 9, today, we sang, “Lord show us your love and grant us your salvation”. These are powerful  prayers and words of hope. It reminds us of God’s choice of us from the beginning. It reminds us of his constant help and protection, as we journey through life.  God created us for a purpose. Like Israel God chose and called each of us in the beginning to love him, to be prophets, in a vocational sense, to be his messengers, and to serve him in our neighbors with fidelity, love, justice and peace. He calls us to be servants of love, agents of evangelization, and conduits of reconciliation in Christ.

This is what Paul meant in  the 2nd reading when he says, “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ, with every spiritual blessings in the heavens, as he chose us in him before the foundation of  the world, to be holy and without blemish before him” (Eph 1:3-14).  Unfortunately this invitation or choice to be holy, has always either been taken for granted or met with all kinds of challenges including, pride, disobedience, non-healthy competition among human beings, and man-made social and unjust structures, known to us, that has dotted the history  of human race.

In the time of Amos of Judah, these ills were practiced by his contemporaries, Kings and Priests including Jeroboam II and Amaziah, in Bethel in the northern section of Israel.  Amos’ mission was to speak out, not to shy away from the truth. His mission was to challenge these unjust political structures with the word of God. In the language of  this funny priest, Amaziah, in today’s 1st reading, “off with you, visionary flee to Judah, there earn your bread and never again prophesy in Bethel,” one can see that, this was not an easy mission for Amos. He was faced with rejection, discrimination and perhaps racism with threats!

Christ himself was confronted with similar threats. He was challenged by the Pharisees, Scribes, Synagogue officials, Kings, Emperors and political leaders of his time. His healing and selfless mission was not a "bed of roses." No wonder in choosing his disciples in the Gospel reading of today ( Mark 6:7-13), he empowered them with the Holy Spirit, with his divine instruction to go out and heal, but the disciples must travel light not heavy with so many material properties and strange ideas. Importantly, they should also expect rejection, and insult, opposition; the type that he himself and Amos and other Israel’s prophets had endured.

Does this sound familiar today? Many are denied justice, love and peace today because of their gender, age, color and appearance. Or why don’t we address ourselves personally; are we ourselves, agents of peace, love and justice today, in our homes, families, neighborhood, church communities, and public places of work?

 Is the Church, and her teachings being opposed in our nations today, directly by our leaders, or indirectly, through the legislative structures they put in place or signed into laws? Do they make Christian and our faith practice easier? And are we Christians and Catholics collaborators with them for personal gains? Or by not selflessly preaching the mission or bearing witness to the Gospel? Can you also take a moment and imagine what is happening to Christians in communist countries? What about our brother and sister Christians in extreme Muslims countries,constantly challenged by other traditional religions and secular cultures?  

In the midst of all these, we want to remember why God chose us in the first place, and always be able to pray today’s psalm, “Lord show us your love and grant us your salvation.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Homily 14th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 14th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings:  Ezekiel 2:2-5; Ps 123:1-2, 2, 3-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10 and Mark 6:1-6

God’s Grace is Sufficient unto Us

As we celebrate the 14th Sunday today, we are reminded in  the Bible readings that the Grace of God is sufficient unto each of us, wherever we are, and in our various states of life.

This promise goes back to the time of Prophet Ezekiel, a prophet of Exile. Ezekiel must have been among those deported to exile in Babylon. Life was hard. They suffered a deep sense of loss of land, dignity and properties. And there was sorrow and bitterness everywhere. This is well captured by Ps 85, Ps 126 and of course Psalm 137 “by the rivers of Babylon, there we sat mourning and weeping…” With sufferings, especially the type in exile, one can easily derail from God.  Ezekiel lived among these tempted and rebellious exiled but was called and sent by God, as a prophet among them. His presence and mission was a sign of God’s sufficient presence among  his people, in their trials,  humiliaitons, temptations, weaknesses and  personal crises of idolatries.

The Second Reading of today also presupposes faith crises and problems between Paul and the Church in Corinth. Even in the midst of these persecutions, and perhaps all kinds of oppositions to his Gospel, plus his personal weaknesses, Paul felt God saying to him, Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weaknesses.”  With this, Paul realizes that even with insult, opposition, hardships, persecutions and  his personal weaknesses  it was only in Christ  that sufficient grace amd strength could be found.

In the Gospel (Mark 6:1-6) Christ himself was opposed, rebelled against, and taken for granted by his own people in Nazareth. He was rejected. They thought Christ being born into poverty in the home of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter; he would have been weak, less educated and left with insufficient knowledge and wisdom to teach and share. But as the Son of God, and Prophet who came from the Father to do the Will of His Father, His Father’s Grace was sufficient unto Him. He laid hands and cured the sick particularly those who had faith.

We all have our own challenges, oppositions, hardships, insults, personal weaknesses and illnesses. Even our freedom of worship is sometimes denied where there are many other crises on our faith journeys. In all these we want to imitate Christ. We want to imitate Ezekiel and be prophets  and agents of evangelization to our neighbors. We want to imitate Paul and listen to God whispers into our ears that, “His Grace is sufficient to us, for power is made perfect in weaknesses.”