Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homily 26th Sunday Year B: Michael U Udoekpo

Homily 26th Sunday Year B: Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Num 11:25-29; Ps 19:8, 10, 12-14; Jas 5:1-6 and Mark 9:38-43,45-48

God who gives us the Spirit,

Today we celebrate our generous God who gives us every gift, the gift of governance and leadership, including the Holy Spirit irrespective of who we are.

We see this in the life of the great prophet Moses as he lead the chosen people through the desert towards the land God had promised. The journey is marked with some difficulties and complaints from the people. And Moses had no desire to monopolize the spirit of leadership. He appointed 70 elders/judges to help him govern the people. The Spirit of the Lord came upon them. Two men who were not among the 70, Eldad and Medad also received the Spirit and prophesied to the amazement of Joshua who wanted Moses to stop them from prophesying.

The following response of Moses is worth noting:

"Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his Spirit upon them all!"

Similar incidence would be found among the Disciples of Christ who would fight among themselves to determined who was the greatest among them (Mark 9:33-37). John like Joshua would try to stop someone he saw driving out demons in the name of Christ. But he is met with similar response like that of Moses. Christ says, “Do not prevent him there is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me,” (Mark 9:38ff).

St. Paul's Corinthian Community had the same problem, quarreling, complaining, competing, boasting and jealousing each other. But God not only works in a mysterious ways, but has gifted each of us as he wishes. Remember what happened at Pentecost each speaking with his particular cultural dialect and tongue.How easy it is for us to envy one another or question  God's generosity to our neighbors!

 Through our Baptism each of us is called to be prophet and to bear witness to the Gospel. We are called to be God’s messengers in our various capacities, and dispose ourselves for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Be it in the church or in the political society at large it is this Spirit that would enable us to be charitable, loving, forgiving, or structure our communities morally and socially for the sake of the common good (James 5:1-6), the rich and he poor. God himself is the source of this spirit and He ministers it to whomever he wishes (Eldad and Medad) irrespective of the human qualities!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homily 25th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 25th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Wis 2:12, 17-20; Ps 54:3-8; Jas 3:16–4:3 and Mark 9:30-37

The Demands of Discipleship,

Last Sunday the Suffering Servant of YHWH reminded us that it takes obedience, perseverance, and endurance to withstand all kinds of trials in our faithfulness and service to God through our neighbors and good works. More is added today on what it takes to be a true disciple of Christ- this Suffering Servant of God!

It includes how we control our passion, especially the passion of searching for short cuts to power or success, rivalry, trying the patience of our neighbors unnecessarily; setting traps for our neighbors or indulging in an unhealthy competition to out do our neighbors, or selfishness and jealousy as listed by James in the 2nd reading.  This is unwise!

 Christ says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Christ means a servant who serves with smiles and love. This is the service that Christ himself lived and exemplified by wishing the feet of his disciples (John 13).  He has told us here and there, that the Son man came to serve and not to be served. Beside this role of a servant, a true disciple should put on the attitude of a child- innocent, transparent, honest, dependent and truthful!

It comes with a price! Like in the case of Christ he was persecuted and handed over because Pilate, the Scribes, the Pharisees and many others did not want to hear the truth nor bear with the “childlike nature or qualities of Christ;” docility, meekness, humility and complete obedience to God His Father even onto the cross!

How many of us are willing to serve today in the church, government and society at large without looking for immediate and instant gain? How many of us today are willing to be like a child- transparent, sincere, and truthful no matter the cost!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homily 24th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 24th Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings:  Isa 50:5-9a; Ps 116:1-9; James 2:14-18 and Mark 8:27-35

Faith and Good Works in the Midst of Trials

Each of us has his or her own trials as a believer. In the midst of such trials how do we keep our faith as Christians? This seems to be the fundamental question raised in today’s Bible Readings.

In the first reading, Deutero Isaiah (50:4-11) the Suffering Servant of Yhwh speaks to himself. He soliloquizes, giving us an entrance into his private faith, his relationship with God, showing us how he handles trials and sufferings with faith, patience and endurance. As an ardent believer in God, he says he gave his back to those who beat him. He turns his cheek to those who plucked his beard. He does not hide his face from those who wants to spit on him. He endures everhting that leads to obedience to God. It is not his personal human power. He endures everything that leads to his confidence in God in God, who will vindicate him, in the end. His strength is in God!

This is the true mark and character of Christ’s Disciples which St. James reminds us in the 2nd reading.  For James whether we are at home or in Diaspora like the early Jewish Christian our faith must be translated into how we charitably live with one another. It must be decoded into how we forgive those who have offended us. It is measured by the alms we give geneoursly to the poor. Even to love as Chriist loved, selflesslely is a lot of hard work. For James if faith is our acceptance of God’s saving grace and revelation, then this faith must be accompanied by obedient implementation of all the values God has manifested in Christ, Jesus. In fact the type of obedience Abraham displayed in Genesis 12, by leaving his homeland to an unknown destination, and his readiness to sacrifice his only son Isaac in Genesis 22. Great values!

Value of faith, value of obedience and value of the readiness to carry our daily crosses to follow Christ! The value to endure! This is what Christ meant in the Gospel when he says to his disciples, “who ever wishes to come after me must deny himself/herself take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:27-35).

Yes, there are crosses and trials out there. You can name them! Loneliness, betrayal by once a good friend, parents or our children are some of them. Poverty, illness, joblessness and homelessness are some of them. Think of the pains of loosing our loved ones or certain unexpected tragedies that would naturally make us ask, “God where are you”?

You may have lived with a very difficult person in the same house before where peace is hard to come by. This could be tempting too. It equally hurts when our privacy our invaded or your basic freedom and fundamental human rights our denied us. Can you imagine how it feels when you are not even allowed to worship God or practice your faith?  Or when you are insulted or abused?  Or your opinions are not counted? These things do happen!  Or think of when our civil and ecclesiastical leaders or moral teachers, pastors and preachers, bosses and community leaders disappoint us, when they do not live up to their expectation.

In the midst of all these trials and many more, we are invited to imitate the costly obedience and values of Christ, the Suffering Servant of God!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Community Mass Mon, 23rd Week B

Community Mass Mon, 23rd Week B (1 Cor 5:1-8; Ps 5:5-7, 12 and Luke 6:6-11)
Fr. Michael Udoekpo

I so much admire the spirit, particularly the theme," Behold I make all things new" (Rev 21 :5) with which we began this new Academic year with. It does not only remind us of the joy of our new students,  the staff, and the joy of our new Rector, but it is a theme that will constantly remind each of us throughout this year and beyond of the need to study, pray and work together as a team with a renewed Christian Spirit.

It also fits into the theme of the bible lessons of today. In Luke's Gospel (6:6-11) we see Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath breaking the barriers of old boundaries and restrictions of Second Temple Judaism by reaching out to bring  his love, comfort and healing mercies to the man with a withered right hand on the Sabbath.

St. Paul on the other hand, addresses the old sexual and moral problems of the Corinthian Church Community- which by the way included arrogance, incestuous behavior, pretence, empty boastings and negligence of the truth. Paul gives us an illustration of this bad old ways of life with lessons of the old yeast. He invites us to clean the old ways (kathairo), and embrace the new, but unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I am sure you would recall in ancient times, when bread was about to be baked, a small piece of dough was pulled off and saved. This would be fermented in water and would later be kneaded into the next batch of fresh dough to make it rise, to influence the bread to rise. Clearly for Paul Leaven, as in the entire Scriptures represents influence. And you can imagine what a bad old behavior, status quo, influence like pride; arrogance and sexual immorality, back biting, and disunity  must have cause in the Corinthian Church Community!

When the Israelites were about to leave the old difficult live in Egypt and journey into that new life, in the Promised Land, there was no need or time for this old tradition of adding leaven, or old yeast to the bread. They were instructed to eat something new, the unleavened Bread.

Be it in the case of Christ’s healing on the Sabbath or Paul and the Corinthian yeast, Christians, are to be separated from the old life and old tactics that does not conform to the values of Christ and that does not meet the standard for which we were all gathered here.
As we advance in our studies and work here in the seminary what matters is not holding onto these old Corinthian yeasts or Sabbath restrictions and boundaries, but rather we want to concern ourselves with bringing the grace of God to concrete expressions as we reach out to one another, on the hall way, on the narthex, on the street, offices, in the class rooms and on every corners of our Seminary community, with sincerity and truth. Behold I make all things new!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Homily 23rd Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 23rd Sunday of Year B: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 35:4-7a; Ps 146:7-10; James 2:1-5 and Mark 7:31-37

The God who cares for us

 Fear, illnesses and poverty are nothing new.  They have always been part and parcel of human existence of different religion and cultural background. The difference lies in how we respond to them.  When we are frightened, when we are sick when we lose our loved ones do we abandon God? Do we feel that God does no longer care for us?  The answer is no. God still cares for us This is our own Christian faith. In our moments of uncertainties, poverty, brokenness, even when we are sick and weak God still cares for us!  He constantly offers us hope. He is constantly in solidarity with us! And he wants us to be in solidarity with our neighbors!

When the friends, brothers and sisters of Isaiah experienced these things, for every good reason: wars and threats of foreign powers, Isaiah stepped up as God’s messenger. He says, to his community ‘thus says the Lord say to those whose heart is frightened, be strong, fear not…. He comes to save, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute, those who are thirsty and the poor.”

St. James in the Second Reading is on this same message of God’s everlasting solidarity with us in spite of whom we are. James says, “Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those love him?”

This is the promised that Christ preached and lived through out his ministry. Recall when he began in Luke 4, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me…..” Christ has been faithful to his mission of love, his mission healing and care-giving. Christ is a care giver. In the district of Decapolis in the Gospel, he healed the deaf man. He removed his speech impediments in a divine dramatic fashion by spitting on his finger, and commanding “be opened” as he raise his eyes to the Father in prayers.

None of us is perfect! Our society is not perfect! We have our own individual and community impediments- physical and spiritually. We have our own “deafness’ and “blindness.” Think of the gap between the richer and poorer nations today. I mean man-made gap not God made- the monopoly of trade and business in the international markets. Think of the effects and the aftermath of wars created and crafted by human beings. We know those who suffer most:  in these circumstances: the children, women, the less privilege, those who cannot run, those who cannot flee, those without foreign passports and immediate connections! These and many others, particularly the instinct to dominate, not share with others (selfishness) could be seen as examples of societal impediments.

Spiritually, each of us is constantly struggling to keep the faith in our  world today rapidly changing. For some it is so easy to loose that faith, to forget our prayer, to be distracted, to be led astray, to forget the goodness of the Lord or to be uncharitable to one another. We have our own impediments!

In each of these cases the healing and caring hands of God are constantly opened to embrace and heal us- our fear, our illnesses and our brokenness! He is a God who cares! A God who loves! And he wants us to  do the same: to love, and care for one another!