Saturday, June 29, 2013

Homily 13th Sunday of the Year C: Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily 13th Sunday of the Year C: Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; PS 16:1-2,5-11; Gal 5:1,13-18 and Luke 9:51-62

Proceeding on the Journey of Faith

 This past weekend, I hosted a group of priests from my native diocese of  Ikot Ekpene for a three day annual retreat. Many of them left their distance places and in the midst of flight delays etc., finally flew/travelled with deep faith and determination to Sacred Heart School of Theology, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our relationship with God is a journey of faith that requires  free will response , resoluteness and  determination.  This is also translated in how we listen to God, his precepts including our response and relationship with our neighbors.

 In the first reading of today Elisha left everything and followed the Prophet Elijah in his mission of love, care for the poor, the sick and the widows. Elijah was also a proponent for worship of God alone. To accompany Elijah on this mission, Elisha left everything including his oxen, father and mother- total abandonment.

We see this total abandonment in Christ's mission. His mission was not only to baptize, to help, to cure diseases, but also to love everyone and to do the will of God his Father. He was not interested in riches, nor and power. He made this known to the Satan who tempted him after his baptism, earlier on in Luke chapter 4. We also see  Jesus' selflessness in his response to his Mother at Cana in Galilee, in John 2. Jesus says to Mary, "Woman my time has not yet come." After the Passover commemoration Jesus stayed back in the Temple to do his Father's will, preaching and dialoging with rabbis in the synagogue. A mystery that Mary and Joseph continuously wrestled with. On top of everything, Jesus leaves his mother and his biological family and  went to the Cross of Calvary, in Jerusalem. In the Lukan Gospel of today (Luke 9:51-62) even though Christ is freely and resolutely determine to journey to this Jerusalem, are his disciple willing to journey with him? Or must  they go back to bury their parents and say farewell to them first? 

In some contexts neither of these excuses: burying the dead or saying hello to ones' family is wrong. I think what matters is serving God responsibly, imitating him, and being volitionally dedicated to him in our various settings and contexts, through the service of our neighbors and communities. These excuses may also serve as a reminder to us that it is much better to avoid inventing reasons to justify lack of charity, firmness in faith or adequate response to the needy and the plight of the poor or refusal to willingly participate in the dialogue for the healing of brokenness, selfishness, subjectivism and disunity facing various segments of our society today.

St. Paul puts it well in the Second Reading  in his address to the Galatian church(Gal 5:1, 13-18) "For freedom Christ set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to yoke of slavery. For you were call for freedom ...but do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (things that takes us away from God, evil), rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

 God and all that he stands for, is this love, Deus Caritas est!  The Psalmist rightly calls him " our inheritance"( Ps 16:5a).  May we willingly follow him in our daily works. And may he show us the path of life as we  journey responsibly with faith, freedom in Christ, resoluteness and determination to follow God's will, not ours.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Homily 12th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Homily 12th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Readings: Zech 12:10-11;13:1; Ps 63:2,3-4,5-6,8-9; Gal 3:26-29 and Luke 9:18-24

Christ the Fountain of Life

 The responsorial psalm of today "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God,"( Ps 63) sets the tone for today's celebration.  It is Christ the Fountain and the Spring of life that we celebrate. Each of us searches and thirsts for this source of life on our Christian pilgrimage, from Baptism. Sometimes this pilgrimage is long and requires perseverance with great endurance.

As one of those who have already been baptized, I was privileged from May 30th through June 18th to lead a Christian pilgrimage from Lisbon in Portugal to France, Spain and Rome. The 21member pilgrims who came from Australia,  Nigeria (Africa), the Philippines, India (Asia) and different parts of the United States demonstrated in their prayers, songs, stations of the cross, sacrifices, endurance, active participation at worship, celebration of the sacraments of reconciliation, and Holy Sacrifices of Mass, their longing, and incessant thirst for God, at every point of the holy sites visited, in Fatima, Lourdes, Avilla, Burgos, Santarem, Salamanca, Nerves, Paris, Lisieux, and in the eternal city of Rome.

 Prophet Zechariah in the first reading of today indicates not only the long journeys and pilgrimage of the post-exilic house of David, Abraham's descendants, but affirms their assurance of hope, and life, and of course the fulfillment of those promises in 2 Sam chapter 7, for those who persevere to the end; " On that day there shall be open to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness." (Zech 12).

 Christ is this fountain encountered by every global, continental, universal, believing Christian pilgrim on their enduring ways. Some have encountered him in the healing water of Lourdes. Others in the water of baptism  which Saint Paul indicates in the Second Reading, Gal 3:26-29: "through faith you are all children of God, in Christ Jesus. For all of you baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ...." And others still, in praying to various saints.

Saint Peter was able to rightfully articulate who Christ was in today's Gospel because he had not only journeyed with Christ, leaving his fishing business, but had clothed himself with the message of Christ. He had also drank from that "fountain" that "spring" of life, thirsted for in the entire duration of his discipleship.

 For Peter, " the Son of man," is the Christ of God." and the source of life. Any of us who wishes to have  life must be ready to take up his or her daily crosses and follow Jesus. We must be ready to drink from this fountain of life, which purifies us from sins, uncleanness, diseases, illnesses, division, fear, faithlessness, hopelessness, lack of charity, courage, fortitude and timidity. It enables us to recognize Christ at all times, in our neighbors, rich and poor, and in every circumstances of life. Christ, the fountain of life!