Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Homily (3) Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God: Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo:

Homily (3) Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God: Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo: Readings: Num 6: 22-27; Ps 67:2-3, 5-8; Gal 4:4-7 and Luke 2:16-21

 Mary: Mother of Christ: Source of Peace

On every First January of each year the Church prays for peace, and celebrates the Solemnity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and mother of Christ, the Prince of Peace.  Of course, she is also our mother, as confirmed her son, Christ on the cross, “mother behold your son, and son behold your mother”(John 19:25-26). She is the mother of the Church. Mary's motherhood is one of those special privileges given to her by God. Though human, Mary, full of grace conceived and gave birth to Christ, the source of peace and freedom. 

 Saint Paul in the 2nd reading of today, Galatian 4:4-7, acknowledges this special privilege given to Mary, and the human dimension of Jesus. Paul’s says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons" (and daughters). In Christ, we are  brothers and sisters; and " no longer slaves" as equally stressed by Pope Francis in his Jan 1st, 2015 New Year Message for Peace.

 This is an important dimension of our faith, acknowledging the human dimension of Jesus, why and how God came down in the person of his Son, Jesus, through a young Jewish woman, Mary. Through her, God enters into human history, and from the heart of history Christ proclaims the love of God and neighbors to us. He walks the street of Palestine. He reaches out to the poor, those in prison and slavery, the sick, the needy, raises the dead, cares for the orphan and the rejected, interacts with men, and children alike, without harming them, but brings them compassion and sincere healing love. Through Mary, Christ brought us peace and blessings!

 Today is also usually marked as the world day of prayer for peace.  Mary was peaceful all her life. And passed this on to her Son Christ. At the annunciation, Mary peacefully said to Angel Gabriel, “I am the Handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). She was not afraid to say yes, and to be opened to the will of God.  Never for once was Mary violent and abusive to those who disbelieved her or suspected her pregnancy. She dialogued with the family of Joseph and her family over the divine situation.

 In the Gospel reading of today, Mary and Joseph opened their doors and their hearts for the humble poor shepherd (Luke 2:16-21) who came to see them in the manger in Bethlehem, with the news of what had been told them about the Child Jesus. Mary, we are told, kept all these things in her heart.  What were all these things? All the reactions, including several prophecies of Simeon and Ann meant a lot for Mary. But she kept reflecting on them, peacefully. She trusted in Gods’ word, and handled all these events with serenity and gentleness. With this, Mary and Joseph, often known as a quiet and righteous, must have prepared Jesus for the ministry of peace, universalism and inclusiveness of the poor. Jesus of course would grow up to become the champion of peace.

 When we look back on the events of the last year be it  in our families, homes, Church,  the United Nations, in the Middle East, Africa or in Asia, Europe, North Korea including all the wars, trains derailing here and there, the natural and airlines' tragedies, the shootings and terrorist acts in our nations’ schools, movie theaters and religious centers, and other part of the world- recently in Russia- Ukraine, lSIS, Boko Haram, kidnappings of children in northern Nigeria, and human trafficking, threats of Ebola,  turbulent politics, health-care debate, government shut down, social and economic difficulties, or what Pope Francis would called in his new year message "globalization of indifference." Think of those who found themselves directly in these situations. Any of us could have been in such situation. We need to be grateful to God for this near year, and pray for one another. We need peace more than ever, in the world today.

Jesus, the Son of Mary is the source of this Peace (Shalom). He alone can heal us. He alone can heal our nations of our weaknesses, selfishness, our divisiveness, our doubts and skepticisms. He alone can give us that wholeness, that friendship, that sense of justice, that sense of oneness, that community spirit, that forgiving spirit, that Christian love and charity that we all need.

The priceless Peace, which Jesus the Son of Mary brings is a grace and blessing! This peace was among the blessings that God gave to Israel, through Aaron in the first reading (Num 6:22-27). Blessing Israel, Aaron said:  May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”

  Today is also the day we say to ourselves “Happy New Year!” in various languages. We count our blessings and gifts of the past new year today. We make new year resolutions.  Think of the  blessings of life, our families, jobs, clothing over our nakedness,  roof over our head, food, soda, candies, cookies, ice cream, transportation, the security in our nations, the gifts of faith, the gift of the Catholic Church, the gift of our New Pope, the gift of our bishops, pastors, priests and deacons, our parents, teachers, our youths,  the gifts of our volunteers and parish staff, the gifts of the Knights of the Church, the Columbiates, the choir, our trustees, and various pious groups here in our Parish; the gifts of our jobs.

 As we begin a new year, we wish ourselves peace, trust, hope and faith in God. We wish ourselves a non-violent year, a year of the family. We wish ourselves good health. We wish ourselves the grace to forego bad habits. We wish ourselves greater respect for the dignity of the human person, greater sense of social justice and respect to the fundamental human rights of every person, men, women and children including the poor, the seniors and those at the margin of the society in our nations, the right to practice and treasure the Catholic faith, the right to wear cross, and crucifixes, the right to pray publicly without being ashamed of your faith and religion.  It is a year we want to continue to pray for the souls of our loved ones gone before us marked with the sign faith.

 As we begin a New Year, may Mary the Mother of God, Mother of the Church, intercede for us and our families, so that we may be blessed with lasting peace, and joyful New Year! And May “The Lord bless you and Keep you! May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.  May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace” in this New Year (Num 6:22-27)!

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Homily (3): The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3): The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-5; Col 3:12-21 and Luke 2:22-40( Alternate 1st and 2nd  readings for Year B: Gen 15:1-6;21:1-3; Ps 105:1-9; Heb 11:8,11-12,17-19).

Re-Learning Family Responsibilities from Mary, Joseph and Jesus

It is not surprising that following the celebration of Christmas, the Birth of Christ, we re-gather today to contemplate and celebrate the virtues of the Holy Family of Mary Joseph and Jesus. In fact, this Feast makes a lot of sense for us, since we are all fruits of a given family, a community of parents and children, brothers, sisters and relatives. Today, we celebrate the responsibility we owe each other. The family belongs also to the people!    The family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was a family of “Yes!” and openness to God. Mary, in those Christmas stories knew how to say, Yes, fiat to the Lord, “Be it done to me according to your Word,” (Luke 1:38).  The righteous and quiet Joseph, listened to the angel Gabriel as well. He took Mary Home (Matt 1:24). Joseph provided for the safety of baby Jesus in Egypt. Jesus’ parents were humble. They paid close attention to whispering of the Holy Spirit into their ears. They knew their responsibilities.

 Today’s Gospel presents us with the episode known as the presentation of Jesus in the temple; which is the 4th joyful mysteries. Remember the five joyful mysteries, the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity [birth of Christ], the presentation and then the finding of Jesus in the Temple. These are all part and parcel of today’s Gospel, which actually sheds light on the responsibilities of the Holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.  Like any other family, after the birth of Christ, Joseph probably must have gone back home, and perhaps going about his carpentry work, and having to deal with customers; while Mary probably was busy with household works and changing of diapers.  These did not distract them from prayers, singing the psalms or keeping their customs.  They remained devout and prayerful.
 In the Gospel, we are told, when the time came Mary and Joseph  carried out the Jewish customs and rituals of offering back their male child to the service of the Lord, remembering the sparing of their Hebrew male children in Egypt (Exod 13:1-2, 11-16 Num 18:15-16) and the purification of the mother (Lev 12:1ff).  In the Temple they met Simeon and Anna, two faithful Jews, who all recognized Christ as the Messiah, to  the amazement of Mary and Joseph. Simeon sang the Nunc Demittis ((Lk 2:29-32). They were grateful to God for what he has done for them. For them Christ was not only the Messiah,  the redeemer, He would be a sign of contradiction and the cause for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and a Light for the Gentile.

Mary and Joseph were also told by Simeon that through this light for the Gentiles, “a sword would pierce their hearts.”  Through Christ, some would rise and many would fall.  This sounds scary. But it came to be fulfilled. Jesus would challenge the status quo. Jesus would preach the truth fearlessly. He reached out to the poor, to the marginalized, healed those they were thought could not be healed. He ate with sinners defying ancient traditions, not to do so. These, of course, would cause resistance among the Pharisees, Jewish elites and the Roman soldiers, against him. His life from conception was a mystery!

Truly the mysteries surrounding the life of Jesus, which we daily recite when we pray the rosary, were challenging to Mary and Joseph.  They were like a sword to Mary and Joseph. Many swords actually pierced their souls.  Think of the swords of poverty, humility, (anxiety, when Christ was lost in the temple and the event of the Holy Week/Easter—can summarize this)! They were very poor. Mary and Joseph had no place in the Inn. They slept in caves days leading to Christmas. After the birth of Christ, some of their guests were those poor Bedouins and the shepherds. During their customary purification ritual Mary and Joseph were so poor that they could not afford a lamb or a sheep, except two turtle doves (Lk 2:24).

 Isn’t it interesting that the mother of the Lamb of God could not afford a lamb for ritual cleansing? Mary and Joseph did not deny their lowliness, who they are, something we could learn from. Mary openly acknowledged her lowliness and poverty with joy, every now and then, especially in the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55).  Besides the sword of poverty, Mary and Joseph experienced the swords of opposition to Christ, false accusations against him. Mary in particular witnessed the suffering and death of Christ. She was at the foot of the Cross. The sword that pierced through Jesus' side pierced through Mary's heart. Mary suffered with Jesus. She is our co-redeemer. Mary and Joseph teach us how to endure in raising our children, in redeeming our children, even from drugs and other abuses. They had nothing, except, hope, faith and love, which they share with us. The faith learned from Abraham, Sarah (patriarch and matriarchs, Gen 15, Heb11)! They teach us how to be  good fathers, mothers, and neighbors.

 We can also learn from Christ, then the Child Jesus. Each time they made to the temple, for Presentation and Passover, we are told in the scriptures, the child went back home and was submissive and obedient to the parents.  He responded to the love of his parents. He learned basic wisdom and the facts of life, the “fear of the Lord,” from them.

 On the feast of the Passover as narrated in the last section of Luke 2:41-52, Jesus, then 12 years old stayed back in the temple without the knowledge of his parents. Realizing this at home, and like every good parents, they went anxiously looking for Jesus. As if it was another sword, Mary said “son why have you done this to us, your father and I have been looking for you with anxiety.”

At the end of the day Jesus went back home with his parents. And Scripture says, he “was obedient to them,” (Luke 2:51).  And was advanced in age and wisdom before God and man (Luke 2:52). He obeyed his parents. Echoes of such obedience are heard in the first reading of today (Sir 3:2-6, 12, 14), that, Whoever honors his parents atones for sins and preserves himself/herself from them. When he prays he is heard, and whoever respects the mum stores up wealth and riches for him/herself and will live long (cf. Exodus 20:12; and Deut 5:16).


You and I know, especially our parents that we live in a different time today. Today, there are many fathers and mothers who walk away from their mutual responsibility to their children, leaving them with third parties under the name of personal freedom or 'too busy at work." Divorce has also become the order of the day, to the detriment of our children. Today’s society is also searching for where to draw the line between rights of parents and of those of their children: the movie they watch, the drinks they take, the conversation they engage, and the examples they are shown. Are they adult food, drinks, movies? What examples do we show to our kids!: how we treat each other, how we return home from work on time, join the family at meals and how we relate and respect our next door neighbors?

 I am  the sixth child in a family of 4 surviving brothers and two sisters from same mom and dad. I have other step brothers and sisters. Customarily we respect our parents. We honor them. We show gratitude to them for many reasons- for raising us, for breast-feeding us, for the food, clothing, for the tuition, for teaching us the faith, name them.  We never talked back to our parents.  The respect is so deep and mutual that we cannot call our parents even our elderly ones by their first name. Usually whenever there is any misunderstanding in our family everybody is eager to work hard to have the matter resolved with compassion and love.
 This is the Family Life in the Lord that St. Paul addresses in the 2nd reading (Col 3:12-21). The family is a place where each of us would learn to put on compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Like the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ it is place where we learn to pray, to sing Psalms, cultivate wisdom, respect, honor one another and lay our spiritual foundation.  It is a place where we learn to visit our parents and seniors in the nursing homes, hospices and hospital. It is a place where we learn to be our brother's and sisters' keepers. It is a domestic sanctuary for faith, hope and love.  It is a domestic church, school of virtues, where we lay the foundation for the values and virtues we bring to our larger Community, churches, schools, places of work and governance.

As we approach the table of the Holy Eucharist today, let us pray that each and every one of us may return home today, nourished by the virtues and exemplary lives of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.











Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Homily (3): The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day Year ABC): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3): The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day Year ABC): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6 and John 1:1-18(Isa 62:1-3; Ps 89:4-5,16-17,27,29;Acts 13:16-17,22-25; Matt 1:-25[Vigil ], Isa 9:1-6; ps 96:1-3,11-13; Tit2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 [during the night], Isa 62:11-12; 97:1,6,11-12; Tit 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20(at Dawn]).

The Saving Light of Christmas!

 At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.  It is one of the happiest moments and days of our Christian lives. On this day, Christians all over the world (Africa, America, Asia, Europe etc.), rejoice, celebrate, give, and be given, consolidate the messages of hope and love heard during the past four weeks of Advent.  Today we celebrate the gift of life over death, light over darkness, truth over lie, and grace over sin.

Christmas fulfils, in a way, those promises made to us by the Lord, through our ancestors, patriarchs and matriarchs. Today fulfils in a sense, the covenant the Lord had established with us: the promise of his abiding love, his unshakeable mercy, his resolute kindness, his amazing grace, his surpassing generosity; his faithfulness, his redeeming skills, his saving power in human history, from one generation to another. These blessings reach their fullness in the incarnation of the Word/Logos [God], becoming flesh, and making his dwelling among us, carum factum est (John1:14).

In the Gospel, John’s prologue, which begins with, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” summarizes what we do today, celebrating God’s saving presence in our lives, on this this Christmas day, the birth of Christ. His birth has given us new life and a light for the world.  John says, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Ordinarily we know the opposite of light is darkness. We use light to do many positives things in our lives. We use light energy, electricity to cook, read and brighten our ways. We drive with it on foggy and cloudy roads or in the night. Even plants and crops need light for photosynthesis through which we have the green vegetables and lands. In fact, some cultures and families would still name their babies "light", "uwnana," or brightness.  These are metaphors and symbols of good things. Therefore, we should not be surprise that John would use this metaphor to express the birth of Christ.  John’s Gospel is full of symbols and metaphors as we know.
In John darkness is a metaphor for evil things in this world: war, terrorism, illnesses, hostility, hatred, racism, and oppression of the poor, discrimination of all forms, anything we know that is sinful, forbidden by the church, and our faith traditions. Each of us, once in a while, do experience this darkness in different forms. It could be poverty, threats of ISIS/religious extremisms, Ebola, HIVS or any form of deadly disease.  Light on the contrary, is  a metaphor for many blessings in this life: love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, charity, unity and joy, prosperity, growth, good health of mind and body. These are what we pray for each day! And every generation have been hoping and longing for this Light.

Isaiah in particular, spoke about this Light, “behold a virgin shall conceived and give birth to a son, and his name will be called Immanuel” (Isa 7:14).  In the first reading, this Light is the redeemer, the one who brings us glad tidings. He is the announcer of peace and salvation in every generation, and the bearer of good news to all peoples (Isa 52:7-10). He is Christ our savior!

It does not end here. In his ministry, soon after Christmas, love and compassion, especially to the poor, the marginalized and those in prisons, would be his guiding principles (Luke 4).  He would change water into wine (John 2), women would be spoken to (John 4), and children would be invited with care. The poor would be loved, the hungry would be fed. Sinners would be forgiven. Zacchaeus would be visited. Lazarus would be raised from the death. Christ born today would come to wash the feet of his disciples. He will lecture Pilate on the meaning of truth and Mary Magdalene on the importance of detachment.

How we response to this entrance of Light into our world of darkness counts.  His parents, Joseph and Mary reacted with love, patience and great care, in spite of the threats of Pilates  and those who opposes the Light. John the Baptist, his precursor responded with great humility. The angel broke into a great song, “Glory to God in the Highest… peace to people of good will”, which we began this Mass with. The remnant of Israel, the shepherds of Bethlehem, Simeon and Hannah, all saw and received Christ as a gift, as the saving Light of the world, as God’s revelation and presence in their midst, and were exemplary in their lives to others.

In the same way we want, to receive this Light with joy, but not restrict it to ourselves. We want to allow it shine and reflects in our homes, in our neighborhood, churches, society, and wherever we are, in our thoughts, words, and actions, in the gifts we share and through the witness we bear to the Gospel.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Homily (2) Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12, 14a,16; Ps 89:2-5, 27, 29; Rom 16:25-27 and Luke 1:26-38

    What God Has Promised Us would be fulfilled!

 Today Marks the fourth and the final week of Advent before Christmas. The Spirit of these four weeks of preparing for Christmas is a spirit of expectation and great hope in God’s promises. What God promised us: protection, love, peace,  security, joy, good health of mind and body, success in what we do, everlasting covenant, and eternal happiness, would be fulfilled.  This is true in today’s Bible Lessons, especially in the stories of David, and those of Our Mother Mary. They are great stories for life’s lessons.

 In  the first reading (2 Sam 7), David the great, great grandfather of Jesus, after he had fought and consolidated power in Jerusalem, had wanted to build a house for the Lord, where he could place the Ark of the Covenant, a physical divine presence in the community. David went to bed. But that night, as God would do his things mysteriously, he reverses David’ plan through Nathan, the prophet. God would rather build a house for David. He promised David, an everlasting dynasty. Note, an everlasting dynasty here, is much more than a physical house.

It is an everlasting promise of love, kindness, peace, joy, goodness, good-health of mind and body, faithfulness, acknowledged in the responsorial of today; “forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord… the promise of the lord I will sing forever”!

 In the 2nd reading, Romans 16 Saint Paul testifies to the fulfillment of this promise in the person of Christ, whose Gospel he preaches. Paul says, “to him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages, but now manifested through the prophetic writings, and according to the command of eternal God..” (Rom 16:25-27).

 The Gospel makes it clearer that those promises made us in the beginning through David would be fulfilled, through Mary!  A young Jewish woman, betrothed to Joseph, still a virgin, is miraculously visited by the Angel Gabriel, who promised her a child: “behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” Mary said how can this be since I am still a virgin. The Angel explains to her that “God is control,” the story we are familiar with.  At the end of her encounter with the  Angel, Mary humbly surrenders herself  to the divine providence, saying, “I am the Handmaid of the Lord (your servant) be it done to be according to your word.”

 Granted that the spirit of Advent reminds us of the need to be close to Mary during this time when she is carrying her child, Jesus; Mary, like David is a good example to us in many ways; especially to us today, who have heard this stories over and over again. She is an example of an ideal disciple.  We can think of our Christian life as a longer Advent. Mary is a disciple, willing to love, willing to forgive, willing to serve.  She is a gift to us. She becomes that simple vehicle through which historic royal theology and God’s mysteries and promises are fulfilled in Christ, come Christmas.

 She listens and accepts the message of the Angel Gabriel sent by God. She dialogues freely with Gabriel. She is not violent. She is not argumentative, but ponders. She is reflective. She is not arrogant. She does not claim to know more than God and the Angel. She is opened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, over the mysteries of the one who will rule over the house of David. Even though David had plans to build a house for the Lord, eventually built by his son, Solomon, David lived through the mysteries of God communicated to him through Nathan!

 David, and especially Mary, I believe are great examples of how we can, in our different life-situations, respond to God’s mysteries and divine command.  David was attentive to Prophet Nathan. He gave up his plan of building a physical house. Mary on the other hand responded with complete humility, trust and faith in whatever God had in stock for her. How we respond to Scriptures, what the Church teaches, our parents, teachers and God-fearing leaders, counts.

 Our Christian life, sometimes could be seen as a longer Advent, hoping and trusting, all the way, in the promises made to  us by the Lord. Even though we may have our own plans, Advent, particularly the Bible Lessons of today allow us to follow God's final plan. Therefore, as Christmas approaches, we are invited to imitate Mary’s gifts, and renew our trust in the Lord. We are invited to contemplate the virtues of Mary, her dialogue and reactions to Angel Gabriel. We  are encouraged to  make our homes, churches, dioceses,  schools, seminaries, religious communities, offices, places of work “Schools of Mary” and “Colleges of Virtues”, where we  sing God’s promises, and trust  at all times in the love, joy, security, and peace which the Lord had promised  us, in the beginning, since the time of David.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Homily (2) Third Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) Third Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11; Ps /Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1 Thes 5:16-24 and John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Expecting the Lord with Joy!

When we expect an important guest or an appointment, there is always that natural tendency or social protocol, to call back and forth in order to confirm the arrival of our guest or confirm our appointments.  When our guest finally arrives or appointment successfully met it brings us joy and happiness. Advent, from Week 1 continues to communicate these elements of hope, expectation, joy and happiness. The joyful mysteries!

 Saint Paul puts it well in today’s second reading. He says, “Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing. Give thanks to God in every circumstances.” Even though this is Advent, we must make it a joyful and a prayerful Advent. What brings us joy and happiness during Advent is the fact that Our Lord is near; the birth of our Savior is at hand. He comes to free us. He comes to forgive us. He comes to liberate us. He comes to bless us. He comes with peace and justice lacking in the world and in our families today. This is emphasis over and over again in today’s bible readings, particularly through the examples of the prophet Isaiah, Saint Paul and his Community, John the Baptist and of course, our Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today’s first reading “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God….” (Isa 61:1-2a)”, often cited by Luke 4:18-21 as the inaugural address of Jesus, gives us joy. It reminds us of the sending of the prophet, the role of the prophets, in this case 3rd Isaiah, the conscience of the people, the defender of the defenseless, protector of the poor, and precursor/source/channel/conduit of joy to the people!

Our mother Mary sings the joy that the birth of her son, Our Lord brings at Christmas, through the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–48, 49–50, 53–54) which as our responsorial psalm today. Think of what Mary had to go through from her immaculate conception, betrothed to Joseph, her mysterious encounter with the Lord, through the Angel Gabriel. Although there were moment of sorrowful mysteries in Mary’s life, today Mary prays the joyful mysteries because of the nearness of the Lord. That which was told her, as poor and lowly as she was, has been fulfilled. She became the mother of our Savior. To have Christ is to have joy, unhappiness sets in when we lose Christ. Mary through the joyful mysteries is an example one who possess Christ through listening obedience to the will of God, love of one’s neighbor, purity of mind and body, poverty of the spirit and humility to serve others, as she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant with John the Baptist.  At Mary’s visit, John the Baptist who was few months older than Jesus, imitated the mother, Elizabeth joyfully honoring Mary and her son, Jesus. Recalled, John the Baptist leapt in her mother’s womb when Mary visited her.

In the Gospel of John, the same  leaping John the Baptist insist joyfully in that humility. He baptizes with water, but the one coming after him at Christmas, namely Our Savior will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John is not even worthy to untie the strap Jesus’ sandals. What a humility! Unless we forget ourselves and not so much be consumed in our ego, we will not be able to know and serve and have Christ who is the true source of joy and happiness! Advent, especially in a today’s world of isolationism, is a time we reach out to our neighbors, support one another, pray for one another, and bear one another’s burden.

 Advent is time we rejoice and try to be a source of joy to one another. It is a time we strive to imitate Israel’s prophets, the missionary zeal of Paul, John the Baptist, and importantly our mother Mary who knew how to expect her baby Jesus with joy, and who expresses that joy in the joyful mysteries, and at the birth of her son. As we joyfully expect Christ at Christmas, may we daily pray the joyful mysteries(the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity, the presentation and the finding of Jesus in the temple) radiate that joy and happiness in our neighborhood, churches, dioceses, parishes, stations, schools, offices, homes and places of work!





Saturday, December 6, 2014

Homily(2) 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily(2) 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Ps 85: 9-14; 2 Pet 3:8-14 and Mark 1:1-8

  Faith in God’s Fidelity,

Advent which began last week is a time of preparation for Christmas. It is also a time we renew our faith and hope in  the second coming of Christ. Unlike lent, it is not a time for reflection on Jesus passion and death, but a time  we re-live the message of  hope, optimism,  expectation and call  for preparedness proclaimed by Israel's prophets, from Isaiah to John the Baptist.

 Surely, preparedness for Christmas stands out during Advent. How do we prepare in the midst of all the problems of life- political, social, economic etc? Scripture readings of today suggest ways for Christmas' preparation. The four readings urge us to use our religious imagination and look forward to the future with hope, faith, humility, practice of justice, righteousness, pursuit of peace, and courage no matter the challenges that we encounter daily in life. Watchfulness, alertness and some sense of eagerness and urgency for compassion are also required on every believer’s journey!

 In the 586/7 BC the Babylonians military had overrun Jerusalem and destroyed the temple there. Second Isaiah had every reason to “proclaim” this message of hope and comfort to those displaced in exile. Despite all the destruction, disappointments and set-backs around him Isaiah was clearly called to proclaim, or “cry- out” the message of comfort and hope of salvation to his people, hoping to walk the long highway, from Babylon to Jerusalem, the Holy land.  Getting there, Jerusalem shall be rebuilt and the Lord will be like a good shepherd feeding, tendering and caring for his flock in the rebuilt Jerusalem. Even though In Isaiah it is the Lord that leads the way, with care and comfort, Isaiah” calls us to play our part on this long journey. Imagine yourself setting out on a journey, on foot, especially, in those ancient days, with dusty, hilly and rough paths. Naturally, you would naturally need to prepare physically, materially, psychologically and mentally. As a believer you need to prepare spiritually, by trusting in God’s Fidelity, the leader of  our faith journeys!

The Second Reading (2 Peter 3:8-14) builds  on the message of  Isaiah.  As a way of preparing for Christmas, it emphasizes devotion, sense of urgency, justice, righteousness and peace. It says,  “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire,…since everything is to be dissolved in this way….conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of the God,… in which righteousness dwells, and be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2 Pt 3:8–14).

Mark’s Gospel also makes a direct reference to the prophet Isaiah saying, “behold sending my messenger  ahead of you; he will prepare your way, a voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths (Mark 1:3//Isaiah 40:3).

In the case of Mark, John the Baptist is the servant not Isaiah. But what Isaiah announced thousands of years ago is what John the Baptists proclaimed from the desert, during his time. It is the same, but renewed  message of  preparedness for the Lord, through repentance, baptism, conversion, humility, justice and faith in the one mightier than him!

In a pluralistic world of today, with various socio-cultural, and political challenges, including  threats  of war, ISIS, Boko Haram, Ebola, and terrorism, poverty, the gap between the "haves" and the have-nots," there are still many other ways we can prepare for Christmas. But what have been suggested in today's scriptures are achievable  provided we placed our faith and trust in God’s fidelity. Once we become fully convinced of God’s faithfulness, then our lives takes on a new spirit of hope and optimism, as we prepare for Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Homily (2) 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Cor 1:3-9 and Mark 13:33-37.

The Time /Kairos Belongs to God!

 How often do we not hear people say to one another, “hang-in there, God’s time is the best’? Behind this expression is the human person’s eagerness, anxiety, uncertainty, curiosity, wanting to know the when? The how? The where? The why? And of course, an expression of our total dependence upon God. It expresses hope for deliverance, and hope for so many other things, depending on our needs, or the situation in which we find ourselves.  It also expresses faith, expectation, watchfulness and our trust in God.

In the minds of every Christian, worldwide, Advent is a time we relive this expression “God’s time is the best! It is a time of prayer; a time of expectation, a time we prepare and patiently wait for the coming of Christ, God’s Son, at Christmas; that moment of God’s intervention, becoming like one of us, in order to save us!

The readings of today, each, redefines this time for us in contexts. For all Israel’s prophets, including 3rd Isaiah (Isa 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7) this time was the “Day of the Lord.” That time  when the Lord accompanied them throughout their journeys and exiles. When they were in trouble of slavery, dryness, starvation,  sin or faced challenges in rebuilding the new community, they placed their hope and trust in God, who comes down, and renders heavens to save Israel! Israel's dependence in this God is as a child to a father, or a clay in the potter’s hand.

 In psalm 80, Israel is also prayerful, watchful, and hopeful for that time, that day, in that God who will continue to shepherd Israel, smiles divinely at them, protects them, irrigates and prunes the vine he had planted, no matter what! Each of us, the Christian community is that vine the Lord had planted.

Saint Paul  too believes this. In the second reading, while preaching to despairing Corinthian-Christian community in the early stages of their faith development, affirms,  that hopeful time is the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. The grateful Paul, says to the community;

 “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in very way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3-9).

 In the Gospel, Mark uses Kairos to describe this time of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, to his eager disciples. It is an important time, an appointed time; a quality time (Mark 1:15); a time of fulfilment;  the day of the Lord, a time nobody knows (Mark 13:33).  This time can only be handled by faith, watchfulness, being alert, loving our neighbors, forgiving those who have offended us and asking those we have offended for forgiveness, as well as offering services of charity to the poor, and the needy! 

  The danger is that, Advent Season and Christmas can come and go without our realizing that “God’s time is the best,” and that God is hidden in every events of our life’s journeys. Like the gatekeeper in the Gospel passage of today (Mark 13:34), the Church invites us during this Advent not to remain chronologically static, or be carried away by the media, the politics of the day, the noise, the violent on our streets, the wars and the threats of war. Or even by our own weaknesses and sins, thinking that they are beyond repairs. Our relationship with God can always be repaired, so also the broken relationship with our neighbors.

Sometimes Christians are also despaired because of the social, political and religious situations they find themselves. Some are poor, some are sick, some have lost their loved ones recently, while some are affected by Ebola/HIV epidemics, with health insurances, some are  plagued with  religious fundamentalisms/ extremisms, injustices, discrimination, racism, and terrible natural disasters.

In all these, Advent invites us to hope and trust in God’s time, that moment of divine intervention, symbolized in the joys of Christmas!



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homily (2) the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily (2) the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Ezek 34:11-2, 15-17; Ps 23:1-6; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 and Matt 25:31-46.

Christ: Model for kings and leaders
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, which marks the end of the Liturgical season.  The importance of today’s celebration cannot be overemphasized. It serves to remind us a few essentials. First, that the God who created us is the sovereign of all creation, human, animals, seas, plant, mountains, and nations, name them! He is all and all, alpha and the Omega! The source of our lasting hope!  Second, Christ Jesus is God’s incarnate, the son of God, and the King of the Universe. Third, earthly leaders, kings, parents, family heads, heads of governments, bosses in factories and institutions, representatives at the United Nations, in their different roles, in history, that stretches back  to the monarchical history of Israel (if we want) are called to be viceroys and imitators of Christ, in his love, kindness, leadership, care, mercy, justice, and righteousness.  

In Israel’s history, apart from David, Hezekiah and Josiah most of the kings were completely out of touch with God’s expectations: obedient, fair, selfless, holy, wise, peaceful, prayerful, hopeful, compassionate, faithful, steadfast, courageous, prudent, sensitive, and covenant oriented, qualities that may be necessary for our leaders today!

The Prophet Ezekiel, in the first reading (Eze 34:11-2,15-17), reminds us that like the Israelites in exile, when we feel disappointed by our leaders or in our leadership roles,  we should draw strength from God, who acts, loves  us  as  a good shepherd loves his flock. God also tends us as a shepherd tends his flock. God rescues us as a shepherd rescues a loss sheep. He brings us back when we are astray from his paths of love and kindness. God heals us when we are sick, just as a shepherd binds the wounds of his wounded flocks. He guides us in the right paths (ps 23), of hope and kindness.

Similarly, Saint Paul while addressing the Corinthians, stresses these hope and trust in the leadership of God when he preaches, “When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:20–26, 28).

 In the Gospel (Matt 25:31–46), the qualities of Christ, the Good shepherd are also in display. He judges with love and prudence. He separates the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the weed. The good shepherd, depending on your area of service, emphasizes what matters, namely, community life, relationship, and common good, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, assisting the weak, the thirsty, the sick, and clothing the naked.

Today’s scripture speaks to us, who daily witness the rivalry among politicians and leaders of different communities. It addresses those who have fail in  their various capacities as leaders, parents and role models. Sometimes we read  from our daily newspapers of corrupt leaders who embezzle funds, who prefer to feed, heal, bind, cloth themselves than the flock entrusted to their care. Some also promote the denial of God’s existence. By doing these, they tend to behave like  those bad kings of Israel who were out of touch with God, and with the very reasons they were elected into offices.

Whatever, our leadership roles are, be it in our families, churches, schools, institutions, places of work, in the United Nations, and in the society at large, may we continue to trust in Christ the Good Shepherd, and rely upon his love and exemplary Kingship!




Friday, November 14, 2014

Homily (2) Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-31; Ps 128:1-5; 1 Thess 5:1-6 and Matt 25:14-15,19-21.

Blessed Are Those Who Fear the Lord (Ps 128:1a)
Today we celebrate the 33rd Sunday of Year A. The liturgical season, you would notice, is gradually coming to an end. Next weekend will be Thanksgiving (here in the United States).   Soon after that Christmas!  Recently, when we turn on our TVs and our Radios, or pick up the Newspapers, so much is going on in the world, in the church and in our nations. Think of the Pope Francis’ effect in the church, the threats of wars, terrorism, ISIS, Boko Haram, Ebola and the ongoing G20 in Australia, our studies,  weddings,sports, exams, politics,  grieving the lost of our loved ones, works and other personal matters, and anxieties to take care of!

In the midst of all these anxieties, the church invites and exhorts us in the readings of today that “blessed are those, or happy are those, who fear the Lord and walk in his ways. This is as well captured in today’s responsorial (Ps 128:1a).

What is the “fear the Lord,? How do we fear the Lord in the midst of all our daily activities? We can find answers to these questions at a closer reading of today’s Bible lessons. In the first reading of today (Proverbs 31), a classic Wisdom Literature, the listed qualities of the ideal wife, or a Lady Wisdom are all facets of the ‘fear of the Lord.’ The woman in this text, like Ruth, is a trust worthy, holy, perfect, and faithful.  Therefore, the Fear of the Lord is fidelity to God, to our vows and to the teachings of the Church. We fear the Lord by honoring God, and by striving to showcase his attributes.  The woman is merciful, kind, prudent, understanding and just. Her husband and her family depend on her, who is very hard working!  As Pope Francis would recommend, she reaches out to the poor, and extends her hands to the needy!

Saint Paul in the Second reading (1Thess 5:1-6) also reminds the anxious Thessalonian church of another facet of the “fear of the Lord,” namely; preparedness and staying very sober for the day of the Lord. In our daily works, we must not lose hope of God’ judgment and his promise of blessings and reward to those who are faithful him. We are called to be conscious of the hiddenness of God in our midst, his holiness, his transcendence and his immanence, his divine surprises and his mysterious ways of dealing with us!

The fear of the Lord is further defined in Jesus’ gospel parable today (Matt 25:14-30). The fear of the Lord if faithfulness, and fidelity to the Lord the giver of all our gifts, who expects us to make good and responsible use of our talents!

In the gospel, the travelling master, Jesus, distributed gifts to three of his servants, 5, 2 and 1 respectively. The first two servants feared the Lord, traded and multiplied their gifts. 

What did the third servant do with his talent?  He left his given gift hidden in the ground, unproductive.  He went about complaining, blaming others, and criticizing even the master, the distributor of the talent, calling him names- horrible, a hard man!

He lacks the fear of the Lord! He fails to grasp the nature of his responsibility. His action represents not only laziness, arrogance, but also lack of love for the master. It represents a disciple who is trying to play safe, a disciple not ready to bear witness to the gospel at all times, not ready to keep watch for the return of the master. His excuse, ironically, is that he was “afraid”, which is equivalent to faithlessness, lack of readiness and lack of trust in the master, the Lord.  He completely, misunderstood the true meaning of the fear of the Lord.

As we go about our daily activities, heading towards, thanksgiving, and Christmas, or the end of the liturgical season, may we continue to pray, for increase in our genuine awareness of the “fear of the Lord,” which consist in trusting him always, hoping in him always;  humbly and wisely walking in his ways of love, hope, faith, obedience to his precepts, forgiveness, responsible use of our talents, and charity to our neighbors


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homily (November 9) - the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica- Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily (November 9) - the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica- Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; I Cor 3, 9c-11, 16-17 and John 2:13-22

We Are the Temple, the Place of God’s Glorious House
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, originally erected by the Emperor Constantine, consecrated by Pope Saint Sylvester I, as a gift for the Church. This celebration dates back to the Twelve century, and symbolizes the unity of the Church, a paradox of permanence, and a mystery of God’s abiding presence in us. A God who constantly loves us and invites us in mysterious ways to re-dedicate ourselves, families,  and works, to him.

The readings of today, attempt to explain this mystery, that we are God’s house. We are his gifts.  He built us for his living. He expects us to live up to this expectation; to be holy, nice, accommodative, generous, pure, hopeful, resilience, clean in mind and body. That is, be good stewards, after the example of Christ.

Christ, in today’s Gospel, reminds us of this mystery of God’s abiding presence with us. While in Jerusalem, he ran into those who were abusing the temple area, the sacred place, with gambling, perhaps cheating, especially the poor and the weak. He drove them away with a reminder, that God’s house was meant for prayers, healing and forgiveness. He symbolically referred to himself, as the body temple to be destroyed and rebuilt in three days, referring to his death and resurrection.

Similar reference is made by St. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, in the second reading (1Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17), to the Corinthian Church. This church is  God’s building, so also ourselves. We are called to be holy, tolerant, and welcoming to everyone. We are called not only to see Christ in every person, but as the foundation stone of our community.

Christ and Paul, are aware of ancient biblical traditions. Recall, it was in Jerusalem, that David promised to build God a big and nice house.  In turn, God rather, promised to build David, a more permanent, mysterious, and an everlasting dynasty (2 Samuel 7).  David’s promise was fulfilled by his son Solomon, who completed the temple and dedicated it to the Lord (I kings 1–11). But only to be attacked and destroyed by the enemies.  But how can God let his dwelling place, his house be destroyed?  Or be condemned to death? Why? Was it as a result of the sins of the people, especially of the kings, like Jeroboam or Manasseh? Was the covenant broken? But what about the promise of everlasting dynasty made to David?

As Christ symbolically said, with a deeper implication, ‘destroy this temple, I will rebuilt in three days,” God has a way of dealing with his people. The physical temple might be gone but, Israel’s faith and hope in God lives on.

This is true in exile. Hope has arisen in exile. Ezekiel, the prophet of Exile envisions this hope. He sees an image of life giving stream flowing from the New Jerusalem Temple. From this bountiful stream comes life, food, fruits, and healing.

As a church, as a family, as a community or as an individual, sometimes we experience a temporal defeat, disaster, death, or dryness in our prayer or Christian life. We must not give up. The transformation of this dryness or this barren world in the vision of Ezekiel into a garden of paradise is a dramatization of God’s saving power. In Ezekiel’s prophecy, the stream flows because God’s now dwells in the Temple, his glorious house. We are this temple of the Holy Spirit.

 May the stream of love, hope, faith, forgiveness, freshness, dedication and commitments in our various vocations, holiness of life, generosity, kindness, prosperity, good health of mind and body continue to flow in and around us as we fellowship with God and with one another.





Saturday, November 1, 2014

Homily for the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily for the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Wisdom 3:1-9 Ps 23:1-3, 4-6; 1 Thess4:13-18 and John 11:17-27

 I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)

 After the feast of all saints yesterday, today the Church prays for the souls of those in purgatory, especially for our loved ones, gone before us, waiting to join in the heavenly glory, through purification. The importance  of this celebration cannot be overemphasized. Even when November 2 falls on a Sunday, the priests still celebrate three times, the Masses for the Souls of all the Faithful Departed. These celebrations give us an opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters in purgatory, to reflect on the meaning of life, the mystery of death, immortality for the righteous, and the promise for hope in the resurrection, promised us by Christ.

Naturally when our loved ones, friends, spouses, family or church member departs from us, it brings us tears, grieve and great sorrow. I felt the same when I lost my mother at the age of 13, in 1983, and my father at the age of 25, in 1993, the eve of my diaconate ordination. Both passed away after brief illnesses. Many of us may also have lost our loved ones. We know how it feels. But all Soul’s celebration, with all the selected scriptural readings today; and preaching from them by our priests and pastors around the world, remind us of the concept of immortality of the soul of a Christian, the power of prayer and purification. Lessons from today’s scriptures sooth our pains and wipe our tears.

When Jesus in today’s Gospel(John 11:17-27) heard that Lazarus his friend was sick, he journey back to Bethany to console the family and pray for Lazarus. On arrival Lazarus was already in the cemetery, where he has been buried. In the overall episode in John 11, Jesus also wept. But importantly, when Martha and Mary seemed to have quarried his delay in arriving, by saying, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died,”’ Jesus  promisesaid, Lazarus will rise, because he is the resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

This message of hope, immortality of a trusting soul, reward of the righteous, the blessings of the faithful, and the overall reassurance by Christ is what we need.  On the other hand we must also look at the faith of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. Out of faith they, said to Christ, “but even now I know, whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

With God everything is possible. There is nothing that we ask God in prayer that will not be provided, including the forgiveness of our sins, and those gone before us, presently in purgatory. Also the affliction of the righteous, be it in form of illnesses or death may seem to be punishment, but  in Wisdom Literature( Job5, Proverbs 3, Sirach 2)  especially from what we have heard in the first reading, this is not only divine testing, but; “the souls of the righteous, after death, are peacefully in the hands of God (Wisdom 3:1-9).

No doubt, it is painful, when we see our righteous and loved ones go.  Truly, they loved us and their neighbors. They tried to be charitable and shared with family members their life. They supported the church; gave alms and  were prophetic with their lives, as much as they could. They were also kind, approachable and compassionate to everyone around, them, in the car, in the air or the sea. Those of them who were in the government saw it as an opportunity to serve their neighbors. Some of them also  defended life, the dignity of the human person of every gender and culture. They fought for the place of the poor and the freedom of the oppressed. Yet they are physically gone.  The lose of the righteous, our loved ones or any member of the church brings us tears as the departure of Lazarus did to Christ!

But like assurances of  Christ,  that he is the “life and the resurrection,” Paul’s words in the second reading (1 thess 4:13-18) are very reassuring too. He wants us to pray for those in Purgatory; to encourage one another, go out there, take flowers to their graves and cemeteries, and never to lose hope, nor weep for our loved ones, as those who have no hope in the resurrection of the righteous.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in perfect peace, Amen!