Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homily 1st Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 1st Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings; Jer 33:14-16; Ps 25:4-5,8-10,14; 1 Thes 3:12–4:2 and Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Preparation for Christ

Advent is a preparation for Christmas. It is a time we celebrate the first coming of our Savior, Son of Man, and Son of God. It is also a season in which our minds and thoughts are spiritually and joyfully directed in expectation to the Second coming Christ.  Advent is a season of hope. It is a season of love. It is a season of faith; a season of renewal, a time  of prayer and  vigilance in penance and charity.

Last year this time in the United States and in other English speaking country we embrace and implemented the new translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. Today also especially in this part of the world is one year anniversary of the new missal, our prayer and faith book. So today we celebrate the unity of our faith in Christ Jesus the bridegroom of the Church.

One thing you would notice in the Bible readings of today is that in as much as advent commemorates past events, it mediates salvation, and deepens our awareness of Christ presence in the Church and the fulfillment of that promise made by God to our ancestors, Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, David through the mouths of the prophets.

In the midst of threats of the Babylonian military might, threats of exile, lose of homes, lives, the temple and its treasures, the Prophet Jeremiah, a late pre-exilic prophet, mediates with words of hope. He recalls the promise God had made to David in 2 Samuel 7:11-16, “in those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just-shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure…” (Jer 33:14-16).

And Paul said similar words of encouragement  to the troubled Thessalonians Church, “brothers and sisters may the lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones,” (1 Thess 3:12–4:2)

Apart from f Jeremiah and his contemporaries or Paul and his Thessalonians Church, the Lukan Jesus towards the end of his ministry, and as he approaches his passion, instructs his troubled disciples as well of their preparedness. Christ says;

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxiety of daily lives, and that day catches you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times…” (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

This awareness or vigilance is at the core of the message of advent; Vigilance with hope, faith, and love and total self-reexamination. Jeremiah had asked his people of the same vigilance. So also was Paul of the Thessalonians Church. Advent is a time we are vigilance of what God has done for us not only at the present, but also in the past and in the future. Advents reminds us of what God expects of us and what he will continue to do for us, provided we listen to him!

 It requires prayers and in being vigilance to the beautiful prophetic messages of this season. John the Baptist the last prophet before Christ bears this message as well. He says to us repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. John remains our model during this advent.

 Besides John the Baptist, Mary is another model. She is closely related to the mysteries of her Son, Christ whom we expect at Christmas. Recall how Mary will react to the message of the angels and the mysteries of her pregnancy. She took everything in with fatih. She prepared and waited for her Son’s coming with love, hope, generosity of mind, humility, openness, transparency, vigilance, prayer and joyful praise.

May we imitate the prophets, John the Baptist and our Mother Mary, in our various capacities, as we prepare and awaits the coming of Christ at Christmas and at the parousia.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe Year B- Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe Year B- Fr. Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Dan 7:13-14; Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5; Rev 1:5-8 and John 18:33b-37

Belonging to the Kingship of Christ!

After our Thanksgiving few days ago there is no better way to celebrate the last Sunday in ordinary time than what we have today- the Solemnity of Christ the King; a King of love; a King of mercy full of kindness, a king of justice and King of the Universe. He controls all that we have. He is the sovereign and majesty of creation; the land, the sea, birds, animals and humans. There is no king like Him. He deserves our obedience, thankfulness and worship!

This reminds me of our childhood song growing up in a suburb of Southern Nigeria,-“kara enyong, kara- isong, kara uwem mi-oh-oh (2x) kara, kara (Ruler of heaven and earth, rule my life, rule my resources, my going and coming).

There are stories of kingship all over the place. We read about them in the Bible, especially in the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles starting from Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, down to Zedekiah, each of them were to act dependently and take orders from God, the true King of Israel.  Ideally, they were supposed to be representative of God, the ideal King. As we all know in the history of Israel and other world empires, it was not always the case, talk less of modern Presidencies.  In Israel’s history of kingship, Saul disobeyed, David faltered, and Solomon lived a lavish life style. Others took to idolatry and dictatorship! Very few earthly biblical kings were faithful to God.

The readings of today present us the clear irony or the contrast between the earthly kingship and the heavenly kinship. In the Gospel of today Pilate , ironically said to Jesus  “Are you the King of the Jews?  And Jesus answered “do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?’  By implication the Romans and the Jewish elites talked and knew about the Kingship of Christ. It is for this the very reason that Christ was put on trial.  By asking Pilate this question, Pilate is now on trial, while Jesus is the judge. As the conversation between Christ and Pilate went on, Pilate explicitly and ironically acclaims Jesus, King of the universe. Notice, again he said to Jesus, “Then you are a King?” and Jesus answers, “You say I am a King for this I was born and for this I came into the world.”

In John’s Gospel judgment is not trial conducted by God, but self-judgment brought on by one by refusing to be open to the truth.  Jesus’ kingship presents no danger to the political interest of Rome. But Pilate and the chief priests are concerned about earthly power. They are worried about money, politics and positions. They are concern about control. They are concern about themselves; the gains of the few. They are not looking at the larger picture. For Christ his kingdom does not belong to this “world.” His kingdom is not about what Pilate and the chief priests were after. But it is about the well-being of each and every one of us.

Similar contrast is drawn in the vision of Daniel in the first reading.  Daniel lived through the pains and persecutions of exile in the hands of cruel earthly kings, beginning from Nebuchadnezzar down to Antiochus. He foretells the downfall of these persecutors and the coming of the kingdom of God that would set up on behalf of his people. In his vision the earthly kingdoms are connected to beasts. While the heavenly kingdom, the kingdom of the holy ones is connected to one like human beings, “the Son of Man.”

This “son of Man’’ is the one Christ identifies himself with in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 2:10, 28; 10:45; Luke 17; 22ff). He  has been given great power by God his Father to watch over us and to watch over the kings of the earth; including our  county majors, our congress men and women, our legislators, our supreme court, our president and all the branches of our civil leaders.

The “Son of Man” again is  Christ  talked about in that first reading, the Book of Revelation that:

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the first born of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. ….He is the Alpha and the Omega.”(Rev 1:5-8). And his kingdom is amazing!

While the earthly kingdoms are from below; Christ’s kingdom, the kingdom of the holy ones is from above. While the earthly kingdom is temporal and limited, the heavenly kingdom is universal and eternal. 

Let me live these with you for personal reflections!  In our daily interactions, dealings and relationship with one another and our neighbors, where would you like to belong: the kingdom of Pilate and the chief priests or the kingdom of Christ:  the temporal kingdom of this world or the permanent kingdom of Christ?

The kingdom of violent or the kingdom of peace; the kingdom of truth and life or the kingdom of falsehood and death; the kingdom of hatred or the kingdom of love, the kingdom of holiness and grace or the kingdom of profanity and awkwardness?

The kingdom of injustice or the kingdom of justice; the kingdom of disrespect to children, born and unborn, women, and the dignity of human persons or the kingdom of respect to all persons and lives, the kingdom of terrorism and war or the kingdom of, love, joy and peace?; the kingdom of the yawing gap between the extreme rich and the very poor or the kingdom where at least everyone has the basic necessities of life?


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Homily 33rd Sunday of the Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 33rd Sunday of the Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Dan 12;1-3; Ps 16:5,8-11; Heb 10:11-14,18; Mark 13:24-32

The Community of the Redeemed

As the year is gradually moving from January to December, liturgical readings are also shifting attention from old things to new; from sin to holiness. Reflections are moving from earthly realities to expectation of heavenly values, from earthly sacrifice or temple to heavenly sacrifices and temples; from inferior priesthood to superior priesthood, from ineffectiveness to effectiveness, from imperfection to perfection, from exile to liberation, from oppression to freedom, weakness to strength and from hopelessness to hope. There is this call for watchfulness!

Daniel and his friends in the midst of persecutions and sufferings in exile have been watching, praying and waiting. The first reading of today seems to bring Daniel and his friends some sense of justice and hope, that, “at that time there shall arise Michael” the archangel and the people of God shall be free. Even those gone before us shall awake; the wicked shall be punished and disgraced while the faithful and the wise shall shine like the splendor of firmament.

Apart from Daniel, the Disciples of Christ were also faced with the difficulties of understanding what Christ's passion and suffering in Jerusalem and final return would look like or what signs would accompany the Parousia. For Christ it is not necessary to be asking for signs. Just as it is self evidence that the tender leafy branch of an olive tree predicts summer, but it takes a process for the ripening of the fig tree- so also the sign of the coming of the Son of man will be so unnatural that it will defy all scientific predictions. No one knows the time of the coming of the Son of Man. What we require most are prayer, watchfulness and the attitude of a door keeper waiting for the master to return home.

When the master returns to see the faithful servant, waiting for him, he is happy. He ‘elects” him with joy and lavishes him praises and perhaps with gifts. The servant is also redeemed from many inconveniences, including the anxiety   for his master's return.

Christ is our master. In order to return to save us he had to go to the sacrifice of the cross.
Christ, passion or sacrifice of  the cross not only washes away our sins, but enables us even when we make any mistake or find ourselves in the midst of sufferings, illness and persecution like in the case of Daniel, to  pick up courage, to fight that illness, that temptation those weaknesses and  be able to start it all over again. The Eucharist gives us new life. It gives us an opportunity to rediscover our lost hope and faith. Like Daniel it enables us make amends, to retrace our journey back to Lord and to the Land he had promised us. It is a perfect and a refreshing sacrifice, superior to that of the levitical priest (Heb 10:11-18)

 The Eucharist we celebrate reenacts this single sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It is not just perfect, but it is the center, the pivot of our Christian life. It nourishes us with patience, love, hope, and forgiveness.  It is linked with all aspects our Christian calling, including peace, joy, unity, justice, charity and mutual communion. These are the ingredients or the components of the community of those who have been redeemed. And that is ourselves!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Homily 32nd Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 32nd Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings 1 Kings 17:10-16; Ps 146:7-10; Heb 9:24-28 and Mark 12:38-44

Blessings upon those who eagerly await and imitate Christ

 Today we celebrate Jesus Christ, a “type” of the poor, one in solidarity with widows, orphans and the needy, and a perfect high priest, pure and selfless, humble and simple.

Besides Christ, two widows are models of discipleship in the Bible readings of today!  One is the widow of Zaraphath who generously fed God’s prophet, Elijah in the first reading (1 Kings 17:10-16). The other is the poor widow  in Mark 12:38-44, who made such a generous offering to the Temple treasury.

This Temple was everything and central in Judaism; a place of worship, sacrifice, prayer, place to sing psalms and praises. Solomon took time to build it, a job that his father, David would have loved to do ( 2 Sam 7). But destroyed by Babylonian- enemies (586BC), and rebuilt again after the exiles (515 BC), to be re-destroyed again by the Romans (70 AD).

Although a symbol of God’s presence it was also place where abuses, hypocrisy, worship without ethics, selfishness, egoism, practiced by the Scribes, the priests, the Pharisees, the elites, were being noticed.  No wonder Israel’s prophets; Amos, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and many others spoke out against these behaviors.

At the beginning of his ministry in John’s Gospel, Jesus began by cleansing and critiquing unethical behaviors in this same Temple. He critiqued it again in the Synoptic Gospel, towards the end of his ministry, as he journeyed to his ultimate sacrifice of the cross in Jerusalem.

While in this Jerusalem, in Mark’s Gospel (12:38:44) he teaches about true discipleship, true worship, faithfulness and humility, generosity lived by this widow.  He notices particularly this poor widow and many other but rich folks who showed up at the Temple with different types and levels of offerings. At least, the divine Jesus could read their heart and intention as well!

The offerings of the rich were calculated, orchestrated and hypocritical gifts just to fulfill the tithing laws, while that of the poor widow was that entire she had in spite of her poverty. It was as little and equivalent to the handful of flour and the little jug of oil of the woman Elijah had encountered.  But an encounter that sparked the divine reward and blessings: her jar of her flour was never going to be empty again, nor the jug or her oil. Our sincerity and goodness can never go unnoticed by the Lord!

Jesus, himself when she speaks of the poor widow  says  “She from her poverty has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” Jesus wants his disciples, the church, leaders, all of us to be aware of this. The  poor woman’s generosity deserves praise and blessings like the woman of Zarephath.  Unlike the rich who represents the Scribes the Pharisees or the Levitical priesthood of old, she gave all her savings to God. She gave her life and livelihood!  She lived for others. She sacrificed everything she had, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, his life.

St. Paul puts it well in 2 Corinthian 8:9 that, “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

This voluntary poverty or sacrifice of Jesus, which  St. Paul preaches and affirms by, the 2nd reading,  the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, was once and for all. It took away our sins. It was also spontaneous, moral, salfivic, and a product of love. Unlike the levitical priests, Christ entered into the presence of God, that is the heavenly sanctuary/temple, on our behalf. He opened the way for us and pleaded our cause.

Ways abounds for us today to avoid the mistakes of the  past Scribes by imitating these biblical widows.  Instead of aggressively seeking best seats in the synagogues, churches and noticeable positions and places of honor here and there, we  want humbly, where ever we are, or find ourselves each day, to always putt others first, especially, children, women, the poor, the voiceless, or at least wait to be invited up.

  Ostentatious and hypocritical act of worship can also be replaced with faith-filled, prayers, worship and voluntary acts of charity that comes from the depths of our hearts, since Christ voluntarily sacrificed his life for us. And blessings are for those who imitate not only these widows, in their neighborhoods, offices, homes, religious communities and places of work but Christ’s life style as a whole.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Homily 31st Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 31st Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 6:2-6; Ps 18:2-4, 47, 51 Heb 7:23-28 and Mark 12:28b-38

Christ- Ultimate Love- his Sacrifice

In the Gospel reading of today one of the Scribes approached Jesus to find out which commandments was the greatest. Whatever his intension was Jesus refers him to the first reading of today.

Shema! “Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin you today.” (Deut 6:2-6) And of course Jesus adds, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:28b-34).

This fundamental ethics of Christian living goes back to Judaism and touches on other religions. Love of God and neighbor is a delight of many Apostles, Evangelists, theologians, pastors and spiritual mentors, homilists, preachers down the ages.

Paul stresses on this in 1 Corinthian chapter 7. Matthew 25 says ‘whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers or sisters so you do onto me.” In 2005 Pope Benedict XVI began his papacy with the Encyclical Deus Caritas est (God is Love). And John 3:16 , “ for God so love the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life,” remains one of the most memorable or quoted passages in the Bible. 

Uncountable illustration of love and sacrifices have also been documented or drawn from the live of the saints and  stressed in the Cathechism and seasonal teachings of the Church, including the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Even when we live in  a noisy age where the language of love is used in different senses, in  the commercials and media outlets, people, including family members, children, men and women, workers in factories, companies,  students and teachers in schools and other jobs still know the true love of God that Jesus emphasizes in the scriptures. They include, patience, charity, tolerance, forgiveness, humility,  putting others first, looking out for one another, watching your neibors back, endurance, obedience, respect for our parents, for the dignity of women, children, the poor and people of all walks of live.

Sometimes we take ordinary listening for granted. God says today “listen” ‘hear O Israel.” Listening to God and  putting his words, precepts into practice is a sign of love, especially in a noisy world of ours today. Think of the music, the sounds of the trains, airplanes, cars, trucks, music, movies and sports and busy nature of our jobs. Sometimes we are distracted. Sometimes we are carried away by politics. We have very little time for our neighbors; talk less of sacrificing anything other thing- food, money, clothing, for the poor and the needy.

Complete opposite of the Christ, the high priest of the Letter to the Hebrews! He is attentive to everyone, especially the poor and the weary. He loves us and he is willing to sacrifice everything he has for us, including his life on the cross- ultimate sacrifice! Ultimate obedience to the Father! Ultimate love for us!

For all that God has done for us through his Son we want to reciprocate by listening to him, by holding that elevator door for our seniors, by listening to one another, our children, our spouses, by reaching out to the poor members of our communities, the “hurricane, earthquake, and war victims,” by visiting those in prison, by reaching out to the sick, those in hospice, by loving our neighbors, Jews and Gentiles, no matter what they look like, or where they come from,  regardless of gender, age, height, poor or rich, just as God has first loved us and sacrificed for us immeasurably.