Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reflection Thursday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Thursday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Hebrews 10:19-25; Ps 24:1-4ab,5-6 and Mark 4:21-25

A lamp to my feet and a light to my Path

This Psalm 119, an alleluia verse at this Mass sheds light on the readings of today, from the Letter to the Hebrews and Mark's gospel. It gives us the meaning who Christ. He is a lamp to our feet and a shinning light to our paths.

It was on the sacrifice of the cross that God’s ultimate love was revealed. This sacrifice of Christ is the living entrance to the face of God that we long to see (psalm 24:6). Just as the rending of the Tabernacle veil in the old law opened the way to the presence of God, so the laying down of Christ life, body on the cross give us entrance to God. Jesus is also the person who can really cleanse our thoughts and desire and purifies our minds. With this purification he reminds us of our duty to worship God. We are reminded of the duties we owe one another- to love, to encourage, unite, worship together and to be a source of inspiration for one another(Heb 10:19-25).

And this is well expressed in the parable of the lamp today, " is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lamp stand?" The answer is no, for there is nothing hidden except to be made visible, nothing secret except to come to light.

Let us go out there and share our talents (1 Cor12-14). Let us go out there and sacrifice our time, our energy, our wisdom, our insight in the name of Christ and for the service of our communities. Let us go out there and encourage one another. Let us go out there and shine the light of Christ in our neighborhood and surrounding nations, for Christ is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reflection Wednesday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Wednesday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Hebrews 10:11-18; Ps 110:1-4; and Mark 4:1-20

The Power of the Word in our Heart

Today’s Gospel of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20), reminds me of my time as a young novice at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Claretian Missionaries’ Novitiate, Utongon, Mid-west of Nigeria.
We had plots and plots of rice farm meant to support the Novitiate and the Order as a whole. It was there that I learned how to cultivate rice that we often eat in the dinning. Long process that begins with clearing the bush, tilling the soil, spreading the seed at random, and going back to re-transplant and spread out the germinated seed that survived the  heat, the birds and the rudeness of the surroundings. After transplanting, irrigation in some cases, weeding, chasing birds, cutting, threshing, winnowing, parboiling and few other steps to produce a finished rice, ready for the market.

The point I want to make here in line with today’s gospel is that, some of these seeds during planting felt on paths, road, rocks, stones and other dry object. Some were eaten up by birds and heated up by heat, while some felt on a good soil and grew to yield abundant and good harvest.

Reading this text along side the Letter to the Hebrews 10:11-18 we can guess who the sower in the parable is, Christ, the perfect sacrifice, perfect priest and of course the Word of God being the seeds, and our hearts and spirit of disposition the good soil which receives and responds to the word and love of God. The power of the word of God, his love for us.

This love is immeasurable. It is a greater love sacrificial and complete love of Christ on our behalf. It is greater that the sacrifice made by the priest of the old law. That sacrifice was incomplete. The priest of the old law kept repeating that for our sins, but unfortunately it was incapable of taking away sins. But Christ’s single sacrifice of love is effective for all time. Christ, unlike the priest of the old law who hangs around to repeat that sacrifice year in year out, with the completion of his job has now taken a seat at the right hand of his father. We have been sanctified continuously by it.

Like the birds, bad soils and rocky paths of the gospel parable there are many who would resist or chose not to take advantage of the grace or many of the blessings the Lord has blessed us with. Psalm 110 refers to them and the challenges that stand on our way to God (poverty, laziness, ignorance, misunderstanding, lack of spirit of forgiveness, forgetfulness, lack of faith and hope, dangers of materialism, secularism, drug, and alcohol addiction),  as the enemies whom the Lord has made his footstool.

With God everything is possible. He walks and works in mysterious and different ways, times and culture. In those days the laws were written on the tablet. And God was encountered in the burning bush. But as Jeremiah would testify, today the spirit of  Christ is in our hearts, in our homes, class rooms, offices and duty posts.. Christ gives us the strength, to bear abundant fruits wherever we are, to love, to forgive as God has first forgiven us. This is the power of the word in our hearts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Reflection Tuesday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Tuesday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Hebrews 10:1-11; Ps 40:2, 4ab, 7-8a, 10-11 and Mark 3:31-35

Obedience is better than Sacrifice

Christ came into this world to do the will of His Father, not his own will. He demonstrates this in the response he gave to those who came asking him to see his biological parents outside.  He also demonstrates this in his life, ministry above all, in his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.

This is not the sacrifice of the old covenant done repeatedly using blood from goats and bulls. They cannot  make perfect. It is devoid of justice. These are mere shadows and are ineffective. They do not bring to spiritual completion those who draw near. But a superior sacrifice offered once  and for all in obedience to God his father,  by Jesus, washes away our sins, perfect our consciences and the hearts and souls of the believer ( Jer 31:31; Heb 7:19; 10:14), and they sets us free.

The sacrifice of the old covenant is no where a substitute to obedience. This was true for Israel’s prophets- Amos, Micah, Jeremiah etc.  Amos said to false worshipers, “I reject the sound of your noise,” He condemned shallow and hallow worship, without ethics and righteousness (Amos 5:21-27). Likewise, for most of the saints!

 Jeremiah says no offering is acceptable to God if it is not an expression of loving devotion (Jer 7:21-23). God cannot be bought. Rather, God looks for a covenant of love and a humble heart. And Psalm 40 which the author to the Hebrews quotes explicitly says, “Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience….”

In those moments that we are tested and tempted to run the red light, to break those good civil laws or our vows, our covenant with God, or to bend our constitutions, to abandon our faith, not to love, not to forgive those who have offended us, or not to be charitable, not to keep the 10 commandments or the precepts of the Church or not to love as Christ has first loved us- we want to remember that, “obedience is better than sacrifice.”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reflection Monday Week 3 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Monday Week 3 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 9:15, 24-28; Ps 98:1, 2-3ad—6; and Mark 3:22-30
Efficacy of Christ’s Sacrifice, Aquinas and Sanctify of Life

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest philosophers, preachers, writers, theologians, of all times; Doctor of the Church and patron of catholic universities, colleges and schools, including Sacred Heart School of Theology, here in Milwaukee. He earned the title, “Angelic doctor.”

I am not a Dominican priest. But I lived and studied with the Dominicans in Rome for years. In addition to all the readings I have done on Thomas Aquinas, I had the privilege of breathing, learning and hearing first hand stories told about St. Thomas Aquinas by his Dominican brothers in Rome.  Born in Rocca Secca in Naples in the year 1224 and died in Fossa Nuova in March 1274. Very short life! Thomas lived less than 50 years but composed more than sixty works, including his famous “Summa Theologica.”  His style of writings reflects his thinking and spirituality. Like the Author or preacher of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which we have reflected upon this week and taught as a Course in our school this Semester, Thomas Aquinas was eclectic, Platonic, Aristotelian, Socratic, inductive, deductive, analytic and synthetic in his theological methods and styles.

He would always chose the best he could find in those who preceded him, carefully sifting the chaff from the wheat, approving what was true and rejecting the false and shadow. His emphasis was on reason and faith, above all the holiness of life, and which road will take us- professor, seminarians, staff--- to God. Peace, forgiveness, prayer,  hard work,  righteousness- the road that Melchizedek took!

There is a story told of Aquinas “as a young student in the class room he kept asking his professor- Who is God? Please, professor explain to me what is God? Eventually, Thomas came to the conclusion that knowing God required more than teachers and books could provide. Knowing God is more than anything else a spiritual endeavor. The prayerful soul has to seek the truth with a clean and humble heart." We find this in the entire life and career of St. Thomas Aquinas.

While studying the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the efficacy of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross which the Epistle to the Hebrews addresses, Thomas would spend many hours in prayer before the Tabernacle, the imprint of the Heavenly Sanctuary. Thomas like the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews understood that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which we reenact daily here at Mass is greater and more effective than the sacrifice of the old law.

The sacrifice of Christ was spontaneous, while animal sacrifices of the old law was the product of law. The sacrifice of Christ was a product of love, no mechanism of law but a choice of love beyond human reasoning, even beyond the reasoning of his own relative. The sacrifice of the old covenant cleansed only our bodies from ceremonial uncleanness. While the sacrifice and blood of Christ, cleansed our souls, washes our sins, pleads our cause, and reunites us with God. It mediates and inaugurates for us that new covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31. Goodness, purity, love are now written in our hearts. It’s moral! It touches consciences and enables us to worship the living true God, with undivided minds and souls. It finally brings us eternal redemption and makes us holy, a chosen race a people set apart.

Thomas Aquinas understood this. He lived, studied and taught the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross with an example of holiness of life, charity, humility and rectitude of intention in his professional works and studies. May our goals here at Sacred Heart School of Theology continue to be tailored after the examples of Christ, and Saint Thomas Aquinas!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Homily Sunday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Sunday Week 3 Year C- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6,8-10;Ps 19;8-10,15;1 Cor 12:12-30 and Luke 1:1-4;4:14-21

The Fruits of Our Shared Mission,

By our water of Baptism each of us: priest, religious lay faithful, men, women and children are called to participate in the mission of Christ. Mission that produces goodness, good taste for Scriptures, truth, love, authentic leadership, peace, forgiveness, moral teaching, nation building, unity in diversity, and spreading of the Gospel of life foreshadowed by the Story of God’s relationship with Israel in the OT, including what we have just heard from the text of Nehemiah today.

Nehemiah was not a priest, but a lay man. Like Ezra he was commissioned by the Persian king to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it socially, politically, religiously, economically, spiritually and scripturally. Put simply, as a lay man he was called to serve God at a time when the Israelite were resurfacing from their traumatic years in exile. Confused, subdued, oppressed people without their Davidic king and sense of national pride and security. Nehemiah stepped up to the scene. Even though a civil administrator he supports the priests with great zeal and demonstrates evangelizing and priestly qualities in every step on the way.

Besides devoting his time for God in prayer and showing good example in his leadership styles, he had great love and passion for the Holy Scriptures as a great means for evangelization and nation rebuilding. His mission was not only to reconstruct the broken physical fences of the city of Judah, but to revitalize a spiritual nation.

Along side, Ezra and the Levites he organized an outdoor, crusade and revivals, -- for public reading, teaching, and interpretation of the Bible.

Even though the audience, in the bible class there were people, men, women, children from different homes an section of Jerusalem, they were single-minded. They had the common but not a divided desire to hear the word of God (Neh 8:1-2). Their unity took precedence over everything other. Unlike the Corinthian Community and in the second reading ( I Cor 12:12-30) or modern day Christians , often divided in many issues. Nehemiah’s people were also very attentive and enthusiastic. They were responsive, submissive and teachable. The all said, “Amen, Amen.”

Hearing the word of God many of them began to weep. It exposes their brokenness, despair and faithlessness. Scripture exposes our sins and renews our friendship with God. Scriptures not only exposes our ignorant and selfishness, it widens our horizons. Hearing the word of God, Nehemiah’s students were encouraged to go back a share their bread with the poor. So Scripture opens our eyes to the needs and talents of others. It also guaranteed a replenish of our resources “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength” Nehemiah told the people.

Although Christ in the Gospel and Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, and even us in the 21st century are separated from Nehemiah by  hundreds and thousands of years, the problem he faced are not peculiar to the time of Nehemiah. Every age has its own needs similar to Nehemiah’s.

We are told in the Gospel of today how Christ came to Nazareth, where he had grown up and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. There he read from the Scroll of Prophet Isaiah 61, which was handed over to Him:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to Lord….today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” Christ concluded.

Yes, for Christ, the poor, the needy, the blind, the oppressed must be helped and alleviated, and scriptures must be  read, taught and actualized even to a divided audience of our time .  A mission that Paull inherits .

For Paul , in the second reading, it was a divided church with all kinds of moral issues and abuse of spiritual gifts.
Like Nehemiah, Paul uses the familiar metaphor the” body” to remind his church,that, just as the nose would not say I don’t need the ear, the teeth,  the lungs,  the eyes,  or the entire head, the church community must learn from the unity of the human body. All parts of the body are important just as all section of the church, Priest, Religious, lay men and women, the youth, children.

We all have a mission to share with one another especially in our challenging times of pluralism, and conflicts among religious groups, terrorism, and Islamic militancy, threats of nuclear bombs, remnants of apartheid and drug trafficking, human rights abuse, discrimination of  all  kinds, and racism still raising ugly heads here and there.We all have a mission to share.

Vatican II Council recognizes this as well when she states in the Apostolicam actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay people that,

“The church was founded so that by spreading Christ’s kingdom throughout the world to the gory of God the Father, every man and woman may share in the saving work of redemption, and so that through them the entire world may be truly directed towards Christ. Every activity of the mystical body, with this in view, goes by the name of apostolate, which the church exercises through all its members, though in various ways… In the organism of the living body no part is passive… same is true in the body of Christ which is the Church, ‘when each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth’ (Eph 4:16)."

The  lessons and fruits of this shared mission from the time of Nehemiah, Christ and Paul, down to us, where ever we may be priviledged to serve in any capacity  be it civilly or religiously are: selflessness, search and promotion of common good, renunciation of sins, rejection of bad habits, contentment, unity in diversity, peace and joy.

Reflection Saturday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Saturday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 9:2-3, 11-14, Ps 47:2-3, 6-9 and Mark 3:20-21.

Christ is the Entrance and the Way to Salvation

When we build a house, a school or a church we make room for doors and entrances. We want to look at religion that way. It is an access to God. It brings each of us to God’s presence which is eternal. This is what we do when we gather in the church, in the chapel. We want to worship God. We want offer the sacrifice of Mass of the new covenant through which we have access to God. The sacrifice of Christ!

The earthly sanctuary and the imperfect sacrifice of the old covenant are lower than the heavenly sanctuary and the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Drawing his sources from Exodus 25-26 and Leviticus 16 the author to the Hebrews reminds us what furnishing of the two parts of the ancient tabernacle looked like. Usually the outer or the external part of the tent known as a Holy Place, consisted of a lamp stand, a table and the bread of offering.

In front of the inner part known as Holy of Holies was a veil which was made of fine, twined linen, embroidered in scarlet and purple and blue and with cherubim upon it. Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement to atone for his sins and the sins of the community.

In side this Holy of Holies stood the Ark of the Covenant on the gold alter, incense, a fold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff, and the tablets of God’s covenant with Moses. In fact the most important feature of this inner tent was  the place of expiation called the Mercy Seat- a place that must be sprinkled with the blood by the high priest on this Day of Atonement( Lev 16:14-15 and Rom 3:25).

In biblical theology blood has always been seen as a symbol of life. It is an agent of purification. Its sprinkling washes away the past sins of the people including the sins of the high priest. This ritual was supposed to prepare the people to encounter  God in the New Year.

For the Epistle to the Hebrews the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is greater and more effective. The ancient tabernacle was designed to bring people to God. But this is not enough.  The coming of Jesus really brought us into the presence of God, because in him God entered this world of space and time in human form and to see Jesus is to see God. The sacrifices of the old covenant cleansed people’s body from ceremonial uncleanness; the sacrifice of Jesus cleansed  people's souls. The sacrifice of Christ is moral. It touches our consciences and enables us to worship the living God, thereby bringing us eternal redemption. It makes us holy, a chosen people, a people truly set apart.

The sacrifice of Christ was spontaneous, while animal sacrifices of he old law was the product of law. The sacrifice of Christ was a product of love, no mechanism of law but a choice of love beyond human reasoning, even beyond the reasoning of his own relative.

From his life, preaching and teaching ministries, the healing and miracles he brought to bear, it was clear that Christ was beyond mere humanity. His death seems like earthly events, but has heavenly implications. By his glorification- life, death, resurrection and ascension Christ has opened for us a new way to the Father.
There are so many ways we can serve as doors and entrance that leads people to Christ:  through acts of charity, modesty in what we eat, drink, wear and say, and through other forms of exemplary living and holiness of life.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Reflection Friday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Friday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 8:6-13 Ps 85; 8, 10-14; Mark 3:13-19

The New Covenant of Love,

Those of us who play soccer, 11 players are required for each side. Both sides need umpires in the centre and on the side lines, as mediators for the game to be played effectively and smoothly, without unnecessary arguments. Most sports, Base ball, Lawn Tennis, Basket ball name them, requires umpires or mediators too. Even though, there are usually still some arguments, even with their presents, the benefits of their roles cannot be overemphasized.

In our spiritual journeys, “spiritual sports” we have always need umpires, check and balances in forms of the covenant God had established with us through our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the prophets, renewed in Christ Jesus.

The old covenant required strict laws and obedience to those laws. But the new covenant we al read in Jeremiah 31:31-34, which the author to the letter to the Hebrews lovingly and insightfully quotes at length, is based on love. It is written in our hearts. People obey them not because they are forced, but out of love, freewill and volition. Our respond to God is based on love. It is a covenant of a new kind since the first was not sufficient. In fact it has become obsolete.

The new covenant has a universal effect, men, women and children will know God, the rich an the poor. It has the power of washing away our sins “for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more.”  The new covenant is broader in scope, embracing both 12 tribes of Israel 10 from the North and 2 from the South. It is a covenant of love and unity mediated by Christ.

No wonder Marks Gospel 3:13-19, Jesus the mediator of the new covenant summoned those he loved, those he wanted. Like in the case of the 12 tribes of Israel, Jesus significantly summoned not one, not half, not ten, not two, but the whole Twelve, whom he also named apostles.

The new covenant has the power to unit. It has the power to reconcile us with God and with one another. It is a covenant of love.  May we see ourselves among the twelve! And may our dealings and interaction with one another, our studies and works, be daily based on Christ’s love- the mediator of the new covenant.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reflection Thursday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Thursday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 7:25–8:6 Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17 and Mark 3:7-12

Here I am Lord I come to Do Your Will

This Psalm 40 reminds us of the quality of the High Priesthood of Jesus- the subject and object of our reflections through out this week. Jesus' priesthood is not for sale. It is not tribal. It is not political. It is not based on law and legality like the old Aaronic priesthood. Christ is higher than Abraham and Moses and the levitical practices of the old law. The priesthood of Christ is personal. It is eternal. Its origin is God. It is the type of Melchizedek- the righteous king and the prince of peace( shalom) and the source of everything good, that we need in this life.

It calls for our total surrendering, like the little boy Samuel, “Here I am Lord I come to do your will!  It is about the will of the High Priest. 

According to the author of the letter to the Hebrew, we have come to do the will of the one who is holy (hosois). We have come to do the will Christ, one who is innocent, kind and clean (akakos). We have come to do the will of the one who is undefiled (amiantos)- one who is clean worthy to enter the presence of God the Father. We have come to do the will of one who is separated from sinners, and the one who is higher than the heavens.

We have come to do the will of the one and sinless Jesus, one who is different from the Levitical priest, a sinful man.

In the ancient days in the old covenant, before the High priest would offer earthly sacrifice in the an earthly sanctuary for the sins of the people, he had first to offer sacrifices for his own sins, for he was a sinful man. That was the sacrifice Jesus never needed for he was without sin. Jesus not only offered himself for us, but his offering is perfect, better, heavenly, and once and for all.

Jesus is a perfect example of the supreme majesty in heaven. He mediates for us. Through him we encounter God. Jesus gives us access to the Father, the Reality, in the Eucharist and in our relationship with one another.

Christ’s sacrifice, that heavenly and eternal sacrifice on the cross which we reenact at each mass makes possible the purification of all sins and uncleanness. It allows those who believe in him come near to God, to come into the true holy place and  to do his will.

No wonder a large number of people in today’s Gospel (Mark 3:7-12) flocked to Jesus who is the way to the Father, the way to peace and wholeness. He cured many who came to him and whenever all those unclean spirit saw the “Clean Spirit” they would fall down before him.

The more reason in our life's journey and  as we search for wholeness, as we search for success, as we search for our ordinations, as we search for a productive administration and ministry here( in our communities) let us strive to access these goals through the door of Christ, by always been able to say, ‘Here I am not Lord I come to do your will” (Ps 40).

Reflection Wednesday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Wednesday Week 2 (Year C) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 7:1-3, 15-17; Ps 110:1-4 and Mark 3:1-6

The Priesthood of Christ according to the Order of Melchizedek

The readings of today especially the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of who Jesus is. And the type of priest that he is. He is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. In the OT Melchizedek appears only in Genesis 14:17-20 and Psalm 110:4. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews uses these two texts to demonstrate the superiority of the eternal character of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Talking about Melchizedek in the Genesis story he is a strange fellow. He arrives from nowhere. There is no documentation about his life, his birth, hid death and his descent. He has no genealogy. He simply arrives and gives Abraham bread and wine and blesses him and Abraham gives a 10th of his spoiled, tithe to Mechizedek who had just blessed him.
The mystery of this text is that the writer to the Hebrews found in Melchezidek the symbol of Christ. Melchizedek from his name was a Righteous= Malek Saddiq= Righteous King. King of where? King of Salem, meaning King of Peace.

The wordings here are significant. Righteousness precedes peace. Without righteousness it is difficult to find peace. Didn’t Paul say in Romans 5:1 “therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace (shalom) with God through our Lord Jesus through whom we have gained access.” In Romans 14:17 it is also stated that, “for the kingdom of God is not a matte of food, and drink, but Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit” You notice the order is always Righteousness and Peace.

Life is a longing for peace? And where do we go for peace? Which way” way of pretence, alcohol, drugs  or the way of Righteousness? The way of Melchizedek a type of Christ brings us Peace. Christ is the prince of peace (shalom).

No wonder he blesses Abraham whom we had always thought to be the father of our faith. Jesus is even superior to Abraham. Usually, the superior figure blesses the inferior figure in Judaism! And of course usually all other tribes by Jewish customs were supposed to pay tithe for the upkeep of the priestly tribe of Levi. Here ironically, Abraham pays tithe to Melchizedek, the type of Christ, a symbolism of Christ’s superiority to Abraham.

Christ is not only superior but his priesthood is eternal, sung in Psalm 110 verse 4 “you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizdek.”  It is a priesthood built on righteousness. The priesthood of Christ unlike the Aaronic priesthood is not based on “where is here from,.” It is not based on tribe. It is not based on politics or legality. But it is based on love and compassion. It is based on God’s promises, those oaths, those promises God had promised us even from the time of Abraham. It is a priesthood that radiates blessings and prosperity. It is personal and royal priesthood. It is eternal and peaceful and comes with God’s healing mercies.

No wonder Jesus as he entered the synagogue in today’s Gospel (Mark 3:1-6) he performed his priestly ministry by restoring peace and healing to the man who had a withered hand.

As we search for blessings, peace and prosperity this day in our studies, in our formation, in our jobs, teachings, counseling and other ministries, let us know that Christ the High Priest and the source of  all our needs is patiently waiting for us. He is a priest according the order of Melchizedek.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Reflection Tuesday Week 2 of Ordinary Time (Year C) Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Reflection Tuesday Week 2 of Ordinary Time (Year C) Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 6:10-20; Ps 111:1-2,4-5,9-10c; and Mark 2:23-28

Our Hope is built on nothing else but Christ,

In the United States the church prays today for all, especially the unborn who depend on their parents; who anchor their hope on their parents. It is this theme of hope anchored on Christ, the high priest that the readings of this morning strike.

The author or preacher of the sermon in the Letter to the Hebrews reassures us that God does not overlook the sacrifices, the little effort we make thus far to live the faith. These  could be how we love our neighbors, how we reach out to the poor, how we visit the seniors in nursing homes and hospices, how we forgive those who have offended us, how we pray for  one another, including the soul of the loved ones gone before us, how we dedicate ourselves to our duties, promises and vocations.  Sometimes we may run short of these commitments and spiritual values-call it spiritual dryness.

We should not be discouraged or loose hope. Rather we should “demonstrates eagerness… and be imitators of those, who through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.”

We know in our faith history that God established a covenant or made promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:7; in Genesis 17:5-6; in Genesis 18:18. And confirmed these promises in Genesis 22:16-18 which he confirmed with an oath sworn by himself, not by any other lower being. However, the promised was Abraham’s descendants; Isaac, Jacob, David, his seed and his children would be blessed.  This promised or blessings came to a fulfillment in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the great high priest.

Clearly the points are that no matter how thick our trials may seem. No matter how difficult the journey may be. We are not the first to travel this long journey with success. We should look back on those ancient promises. See how God fulfilled them. God does not disappoint. He is our anchor and the only one we can rely on without fear!

In those days anchor was a symbol of hope. For sailors an anchor secured a ship from being swept away  by the sea storm. Pythagoras once said, “Wealth is a weak anchor; fame is still weaker. What then are the anchors which are strong? Wisdom, great-hardheartedness, courage… these are anchors which no storm can shake.”

For us Christians our greatest anchor of hope in the world  is not political power. It is not money, not sex, not popularity,  but rather Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of everything and everyday, including the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28) and  the Temple.

Christ, the anchor enters once and for all, into that inner Holy of Holies which tradition had permitted Levitical high priest to enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement. It was  dwelling place of God.

Christ whom the high priest of the Old Covenant foreshadowed, by his action, by entering into this temple, has opened the way for all of us. He is our forerunner before God’s presence. By his self sacrifice on the cross he not only atones for our sins, but makes it easier for us to encounter God.

 May Christ our High Priest and the Lord of the Sabbath, free us from all fears,  and from sluggishness to love one another. May he free us from what makes us not to  protect lives of everyone (including the unborn) and to and serve one another, the church and our nations charitably.  And May we anchor and built our faith and hope in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reflection Monday Week 2 of Ordinary Season- Fr. Michael U.Udoekpo

Reflection Monday Week 2 of Ordinary Season- Fr. Michael U.Udoekpo

Readings: Heb 5:1-10; Ps 110:1-4; and Mark 2:18-22

Christ our mediator between man and God

Barack Obama was elected by the American people and on behalf of American people.Today or this afternoon and on this birth day of Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, he will be sworned in for his second term as the President of the United. His duties include the preservation and protection of the constitutiion of the United States of America, including those ideals Martin Luther King Jr stood for: love, and respect for the fundamental rights of every human persons created equally by God. 

Ordinarily in modern politics historians are not only taking notes and stocks ,but it brings and gives us a sense of newness. For some it is a moment of excitement especially those who participated in the last elections. Both the electorate and the elect are aware that no one takes this honor upon himself. The President was elected by the people to serve and represent the people.

Today's readings convey messages deeper than this. The first reading in particular reminds us of the theology of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. He was apointed by God his father to mediate between God and the entire human race even beyond the boundary of the United Sates. Christ being human,except sin, represents something higher than Barack Obama,  Martin Luther King Jr, or any earthly king or priest appointed by human beings.

 Earthly priests or priest of the old covenant repeatedly offered sacrifices both on behalf of the people and himself, while Christ sacrificed once and for all only on behalf of the people. But Christ was appointed by God his Father. Still unlike the earthly priest, Christ does all these patiently as well. He relate with sinners, the poor, the sick, the erring and with the ignorant people with kindness and gentleness- metriopathein( Heb 5:2). All these and many more make Christ different and new! And of course, we must pour this new wine into fresh wineskin ( Mark 2:18-22)

Additionally, Christ did not appoint himself but he was chosen by God his father. The author to the Hebrew recalls that incidence after his baptism when a voice from heaven said, "your are my son today I have begotten you' (ps 2:7). He was tempted in the desert. He was taunted and rejected by many. He has had his own share of suffering having gone through the trials of life and the Gathsemane experiences with endurance. Even as a Son of God Jesus learned obedience from his suffering (Emathen aphon' hon epathen, v .8) and became perfect (teleois v. 9), becoming the source of everlasting salvation.

Even though each of us can learn from our trials and challenges of life, we can also learn  Christ, to be our brothers and sisters keeper- their lives, rights, justice and fairness.  Learning from Christ is way of our reliance upon whom appointed to mediates on our behalf.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Homily 2nd Sunday of the Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 2nd Sunday of the Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Isa 62:1-5; Ps 96:1-3,7-10; 1 Cor 12:4-11 and John 2:1-11

Newness of Life in Christ,

 Naturally we are get excited when we have something new. It could be a new house, a new job, a new shirt, a new shoe, a new car, a new wine, or a new home, a new baby. Newly married couples are usually excited too, as well as newly ordained priests or newly inaugurated Presidents.  Personally, I have been excited a few times: on the day of my ordination; when I newly arrived in my new graduate schools in the United States and Rome and as newly post-doctoral biblical scholar and theologian. I was also excited when my new Book on Prophet Zephaniah came out. My excitement also highten when I was employed as a full time faculty professor at Sacred Heart School of Theology. Israel must have been excited with today's post exilic message of Trito- Isaiah, which says,

"Nation shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you forsaken or your land desolate. But you shall be called my delight, and your land espoused. For the lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse.... Just as a bridegroom rejoice in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you."

In fact, this made a lot of sense for a people who had long been oppressed , denied basic freedom of speech, worship, commerce, fundamental human rights and colonized by foreign empire. It brings a great relieve to those who had long lived in exiled, away from the comfort of their home, whose sense of privacy and sense of belonging  had long been deprived as well. It made sense for those who had been forsaken or who had been made to forsake their lands. Today the Lord delights in them. It is a message of hope. It is a message of relief. It is a message of renewal. Its a message of a new home, a delightful new city and a delightful rebuilt community.

 This same note of newness is struck in the gospel incidence or sign in Cana in Galilee where Jesus not only attended the wedding ceremony in John 2, but changed water into wine, through the intercession of his mother Mary. With this Jesus not only revealed his glory, but fulfilled the promises made us by the Lord through the mouths of the Prophets of old, but teaches us that he is an ideal server and condition changer. With God everything is possible. Enemies could be made to become friends once more. Peace could be restored in troubled homes and towns and cities. Hopelesslness could be replaced with hopefulness and hatred with love, exclusiveness with inclusiveness! What a beauty of this symbolism of changing water into wine!

 Jesus can change our exiled condition to a home coming. He can change our desolate condition to a delightful one. He can help us change our old fashion, life style, bad habits be it an abuse of talents and gifts to a refreshing, and flourishing spiritual and Christian habit of putting our talents and gifts to the service of the common good (1 Cor 12:4-11). He can change selfishness to selflessness. And oldness of life in the "world" to a newness of life in Christ Jesus. He is the source of Joy. He is the source of a new life, a new spirit, a new heart, a new mind, a new home, a new village, a new county or local government, a new state, a new nation and a new world where peace, love and forgiveness dwell!

Reflection Saturday Week 1- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection Saturday Week 1- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings:Heb 4:12-16; Ps 19;8,9,10,15; Mark 2:13-17

Jesus, the Word of God and the High Priest,

In their introduction to The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Bible Old Testament Can Teach us, Douglas A. Knight and Amy-Jill Levine brilliantly obeserve that, 'the Bible is many things to many people- an ancient literary master piece, a cultural artifact, and athoritative scripture for Judaism and Christianity, even a weapon in the the culture wars. A Library of diverse literary forms including stories, songs, proverbs, laws, and prophecies, the Bible is an enigma to some readers and a delight and inspiration to others....It is also the principal buildig block of much of Western culture... the meaning of the Bible will be different for every reader who encounters the faith."

For those of us who approach the texts theologially, spiritually and pastorally as the author to the Letter to the Hebrews did today, the Bible, is the word of God. This word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two adged sword. He says this word of God can even penetrate between soul and spirit. It can permeats jonts and marrows. It is able to discern reflections and thoughts of the hearts. No creature is concealed from him, but every thing is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

This Word is God. This word is Jesus. This word is divine. This word is Spirit and life ( John 6:63),since no creature is concealed from him. He is the great high priest, Jesus Christ who passed through the heavens, became flesh and dwelt among us. He is then able to sympathize with us. By overcoming temptation in the desert after his baptism is able to teach us how to endure and resist temptatation. By bearing the insult and the mockery and the rejections he teaches us how to be patient and endure hard times with hope of blessings and help.

By eating with sinners, healing and forgiving them in todays gospel (Mark 2:13-17) he teaches us how to bless those who curse us , and to fogive those who have offended us. We are told today, sinners came to Jesus while he was in the house of Levi, son of Alphaeus. The Scribes and the Pharisees were amazed and question Jesus interaction with sinners.

It is true as he said, Jesus is did not come to call the righteous but sinner. As the great and superior high priest, passing through the heavens, he did not come to stick to the redundant status quo- falling into tempation when tested, but to overcome it. He did not come to remain on the surface of men and women's heart but to penetrate their inner most being of every creature. He did not come to identify with one section of the community rich as against the poor, or the poor as against the rich, but with everyone. He came to cure. He came to heal. He came to forgive. He came to love. He to lead. He came to bring life. He is our great and examplary high priest.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reflection Friday, Week 1- Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Reflection Friday, Week 1- Fr. Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 4:1-5,11; Ps 78:3 and 4bc,6c-7,8 and Mark 2:1-12

The unfading promises of God

Think of how many promises each of us have broken in our lives. Or think of how many times we feel our neighbors have not kept to their promises or have not fulfilled their obligations towards us, towards, the society, towards the community or in case of the politicians, towards those who elected them into the public office!

God’s obligations, promises towards us, towards humanity are different. He promised Abraham and his descendants (Gen 15, 17) multiple blessings including rest. God keeps his promises.

As the preacher in the Letter to the Hebrews would put it “while the promise of entering his rest remains…. They were not united in faith…for those who believed will enter into the rest.”  God’s covenant and promises renewed to David and through the mouths of the Prophets live on.

This promise of Rest, Eternal life is meant for believers, those who practice the faith, those who endeavor to remember the covenant, the blessings and are motivated by the works of the Lord. His works are different. Human beings sins, God does not. Human beings break promises, God does not. Human beings swore to God and other higher “beings” but God does not, he swore to “himself”- as there is non higher than Him. The works of God are different. He works generously, but in mysterious way.

These works no doubt are continued today in the preaching and healing ministries of Jesus. He cures the fever of Simon Peter’s mother in-law. He heals the leaper and the possessed. Today, he forgives sins and healed the paralytic and said to him, “Rise pick up your mat and walk" (Mark 2:1-12).

Today we can say we are called to help those we meet broken down on the road of their journeys.  We are called to encourage the orphan, the widow, the poor , the needy. We can support those affected by recent natural tragedies, the hurricane, war, terrorism, death and flood. We are fellow travelers.

As we travel today, or go about walking, doing our duties, let us not forget the unfading promises of God, his love, his healing mercies, his kindness, his forgiveness and his promise of rest(eternal life).

Weekday Reflection Thursday Week 1- Fr .Michael U. Udoekpo

Weekday Reflection Thursday Week 1- Fr .Michael U. Udoekpo
Reading Heb 3:7-14; Ps 95:6-7c, 8-11 and Mark 1:40-45

God and the Desert of Our lives

 Yesterday Jesus the high priest in solidarity with us cured not only Simon’s mother –in-law, but many others who had flock to him for healing. Today, in Mark 1:40-45 Jesus willingly extends same healing mercies to a man who had leprosy, a terrible, skin disease..

It is interesting to note that even though Christ had warned him against un necessary publicity he did the contrary publicizing what the Lord had done for him. And many others who came to him from all walks of life in the deserted places that Jesus decided to remain.

Unlike Jesus who healed and practiced virtues in deserted places, the Israelite were disobedient in the desert and many did not entered God’s rest- the Promised Land. They hardened their heart ( ps 95) They practice idolatry. The author to the Letter to the Hebrews warns us against such practices “today” since we have become partners of Christ (Heb 3:7-14).

There are many forms of idolatry and disobedience today, which I may called “the desert of our lives.” Some people worship money, practice tyranny, abuse sex, drugs, power and alcohol which takes us away from Jesus- the high priest.

Since we are the children of the kingdom, of the eternal rest, we want to learn from the mistakes of our forefathers in the desert by encouraging ourselves and allowing God to irrigate the “deserts” of our lives; the “deserts” of our families, communities and societies.

Each of us can also be in one way or the other sources of spiritual irrigation, support, nourishment, encouragement for our neighbors, particularly those experiencing, temptation, dryness, hunger, illness, and any form of "desert" in their lives, today! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reflection first Week in Ordinary Time- Wednesday- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection first Week in Ordinary Time- Wednesday- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 2:14-18; Ps 105:1-9 and Mark 1:29-39

Jesus is in Solidarity with Us

Ordinary when we are in solidarity with someone or a group we share in the person’s or that group’s principles, ideals and cause. We defend the person, or group.  We mourn with them. We rejoice with them. We fight their cause.

Both Christ and we humans share a common origin from God. Christ is fully human except sin, and fully divine. Because of his humanity Christ can call each of us his “brothers” and “sisters.”  And by sharing in our humanity Christ is able to tackle and defeat the devil that frightens and enslaves us with the fear of death.

For the author of the Letter to the Hebrew Jesus has power over everything, including death and the devil of fear. Christ is the source of life, death and the resurrection. He demonstrated this by overcoming temptations in the desert, throughout the course of his ministry and on the sacrifice of his saving cross, as priest and victim!

Those he saved on this cross were each of us, descendant of Abraham because as Psalm 105 would put it today, “the Lord remembers his covenant forever.” The covenant he promised David (2 Sam 7). This covenant of love and solidarity binds for thousands of generations.

Those Christ preached to and healed in today’s (Mark 1:29-39), including Simon’s mother in – law were descendants of Abrahams.  With this Christ fulfills those promises promised us by God the Father.

What are your fears?   Your exams, studies, jobs, health, bad economy,  food, shelter, clothing, promotion, wife, husbands, good friend, ordinations or the uncertainty of my future and other temptations? Remember, Christ himself was tested! He knows how to defend us. He is in constant solidarity with us! And we in turn are call to be in solidarity with one another, the poor, the sick, the needy and to be sources of encouragement to our neighbors.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reflection first Week in Ordinary Time- Tuesday- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Reflection first Week in Ordinary Time- Tuesday- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Heb 2:5-12; Ps 8:2ab and 5-9; Mark 1:21-28

Jesus, who rules over the works of His Father

Traditionally a good and faithful child promotes the legacy of his father.
Jesus whom even the angels worship rules over all creation, the works of God his father. Because he does this, because he humbled himself, suffered death, God his father elevated him with honor glory, power and with such authority.

The works of God’s hands put into the charge of Jesus are enormous. They include us and our well being. Jesus is in charge of our studies, our daily works, family, nations and occupations. He knows our going and coming; our sicknesses and health, weakness and strength: material and spiritual, psychological and emotional.

This is more evident in the Gospel of today, Mark 1:21-28. Jesus is in Capernaum to prove that he is even the Lord of the Sabbath. He not only taught on this day but he healed and commanded the unclean spirit out from the possessed, “he commands even the unclean spirit and they obey him.”

A little hard work, a little endurance, a little patience, a little mortification, a little “let go”, a little forgiveness, a little, mercy and love, a little suffering for the sake of Christ, for the sake of our neighbors, for the sake of our community, the common good, for the sake of the poor, and the needy can crown us with glory and honor, blessings and eternal that comes only from the authority of Jesus, the Son of God, and the ruler of the works of His Father.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekday Reflections- Michael U. Udoekpo First Week in Ordinary Time- Monday

Weekday Reflections- Michael U. Udoekpo
First Week in Ordinary Time- Monday
Readings: Heb 1:1-6; Ps 97:1 and 2b, 6,7c, 9; 1 Sam1:1-8 and Mark 1:14-20

Let the Angels Worship Him

Today begins the first Weekday masses in ordinary time. It is also the day classes begin here in our School. Moreover, the readings of today are taken from the beginning of each Book: Letter to the Hebrews, Psalm 97; 1 Samuel and the Gospel of Mark.

Each of these readings takes us back to the beginnings. It takes us back to what God has done for us. Reflecting on  God's past blessings help us be conscious of  God’s presence with us now, today. with it we are reminded to worship God with the spirit of renewal and repentance , mindful as well of  the future hope that Christ Jesus brings!

In time past, the author to the Letter to the Hebrews, perhaps a Jewish Christian reminds us, God who created heaven and earth, the God of Elkanah, the God of Samuel and Hannah (1 Sam 1:1-8) spoke to us through the mouths of the prophets but in these last days He addresses us through the paschal mysteries of his Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate, the High Priest, the radiance of love, peace, forgiveness, good health and every good things.

Of course this Son  is not only superior to angels, but sits at God’s right hand, taking the posture divine authority, divine love, divine mercy who watches over,  who preaches to us the good news and washes away our sins through his ultimate and single sacrifice on the cross.

The Angels worship him. Simon and Andrew, James and John, two pairs of brothers left their nets (Mark 1:14-20), braved their challenges, repented and followed him. They adored and worship him. If these people, in the past including Samuel, Elkanah, Hannah and even the angels could adore and worship him who are we then not to leave our “nets”(selfishness, materialism etc) and worship  the Lord.

May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen us as we leave our “nets” to adore and worship him, all the days of our lives!

Let the angels worship him!