Thursday, January 30, 2014

Homily Thursday Week 3 Year A@ShsT: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael U


Homily Thursday Week 3 Year A:  Fr. Udoekpo, Michael U
Readings: 2 Sam 7:18-19, 24-29; Ps 132:1-2,3-5,11-14; Mark 4:21-25

 Lucerna Pedibus Meis Verbum Tuum, Et Lumen Semitis Tuis (Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Ps 119:105)—sing!!!!!!!!!
This is the Alleluia verse of this Mass, taken from Psalm 119. For me, this verse sums up the spiritual and the theological meaning of some of the metaphors we find in the Readings just heard. The metaphor of a house, (bayit ), Davidic house, the dynasty built only by the God of David. The metaphor of furniture in this house, including a lamp and how lightening are being handled in this house of David- how the lamp on the lampstand is used!

The focus of our first readings throughout this week, from 2 Samuel, has been on David’s narrative, and on the God of David. In spite of all his sinfulness, the person of David becomes a symbol of God’s presence, a symbol of God’s house, and symbol of God’s covenant with us.

David is God’s representative. The David of the  2 Samuel, the first reading is a hero who is also very human. David is quite talented. Of course, David is a skillful musician, as some of us here are. David is a valiant soldier, as some of us here are. David is an intelligent speaker, a good public presenter, a strong leader, an orator, a handsome man. Many of us here are very intelligent, very smart. We are good speakers, great presenters. We are handsome. So many bright furniture that God has built into the house of David! Like David we are blessed with so many gifts and potentials!

But the irony is that, David’s life, beginning from his family is full of struggles and bumps. His life is marred with dark stories and episodes. Think of his fight with Goliath. His conflict with Saul. His adulterous behavior and orchestrated murder. David wept over the death of his terrible son- Absalom, and so on….. Yet in the midst of all these David is faithful.  David repents.  David worships God. God establishes a covenant with David. God will build a house for David, an everlasting dynasty- the Church, the people of God, ourselves, the body of Christ.
In our journeys, studies and work here in the seminary and elsewhere, we want to see God’s presence in our lives through the eyes of David. We want to allow God’s light, the Word of God (Verbum Domini) to light the paths of our struggles. As we run daily from one pillar of the formation, or of the nourishment and maintenance of this house to the other (Pastoral, Human, and Spiritual- Intellectual) we want our heart be lit by the lamp the lamp of God.

As warned against in today’s Gospel (Mark 4:21-25) when they are lit we don’t want to place it under a bushel, but like David, like Christ the Son of David we want to place it, the Word of God, the Light of Christ, on a lamp stand, so as not only to gladdens our hearts and homes, but also to illumine the darkness of our society and communities.
We pray at this Mass that God’s words may continue to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Lucerna Pedibus Meis Verbum Tuum, Et Lumen Semitis Tuis).

 

 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 8:23–9:3; Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14; 1 Cor 10:10-13, 17 and Matthew 4:12-23

 Witness with Joy and Hope in the midst of Invasion

 The metaphors of darkness and light run through today’s readings. Of course darkness in biblical theology, and spirituality represents all kinds of misfortunes, woes, and difficulties while light radiates joy, life and salvation. Therefore, a call to witness Christ, our light and salvation, even in the midst of difficulties and marginalization (Psalm 27:1a), seems to be a theme that runs through the readings of today.

  Life’s difficulties we know can come in different forms. It can come in form of oppression, marginalization of your group, town, village, or invasion and violation of your faith, right and freedom (Isa 8:2–9:3). It can come in form of divisions (1 Cor 10:10-13, 17). Difficulties can also come our way in form of sins, temptation and illnesses (Matthew 4:12-23). But the question is what are we supposed to do in the midst of these difficulties and setbacks? To hope or to give up hope, to cry or to sing?

In the first reading of today difficulties show up  particularly in form of invasion of people’s land, property, right and their freedom to worship. These people were ancient Israelites. They were mocked, insulted marginalized in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. Their property, freedom and liberty were violated and invaded by the Assyrian under the directive of King Tiglath-pilesser, around 733BC. Zebulunians and Naphtalians were deported to Assyria who claimed their lands and colonized their territory. Ironically, the hymn we heard in the first reading is that of joy and hope of salvation. Light because the Light is on the way. In the words of Isaiah those who walked in the darkness of invasion, deprivation and marginalization will one day see the light of God in the birth of Christ and in the freedom of truth, peace, good health and prosperity that Christ’s Mission will come to bear.

Truly what Isaiah prophesied is fulfilled in today’s Gospel (Matt 4:12-23) where clear reference is made to the once marginalized Zebulun and Naphtali. Jesus is here. The Light is here. He preaches repentance in these cities and evangelizes the surrounding communities of Galilee. He cures the darkness of diseases and sins in these regions. He also attracts vocations to the ministry of preaching and healing from this geographical area. Peter and Andrew, James and John are among those who abandoned their fishing nets to follow the Light of Christ and his witness of joy, hope, unity, forgiveness, peace and charity and of fishing for the salvation of humankind.

And of course, in John 8:12 “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In the City of Corinth Paul defends the fullness and the joy of the Cross of Christ and the unity of light it symbolizes. He challenges the darkness of division and disagreement. While preaching Paul says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that all you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you.”

Truly, there are times we feel certain darkness in our hearts. There are times we feel our fundamental human rights, our property, our freedom, even to worship have been violated or denied. There are moments of darkness of division, racism, discrimination and misunderstandings in our neighborhood and societies. Sometimes we feel the weight and the darkness of disappointments, wars, terrorisms, distrust, defective-political structures and judiciary systems in our nations, joblessness, high cost of educations and health care, the disparity gaps between the rich and the poor, illnesses, the clutches of sins and bad habits.

 In these darkest moments the good news is that Christ who is the Light and our Salvation is on the way to “Zebulun and Naphtali”. He is here with us, in our “Zebuluns and Naphtalis,” in his Words and Deeds, in our homes and families, communities, schools, and places of work, in the Eucharist we receive, and in the Support and Encouragement we continuously give to one another.

 

 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Homily (2) 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily (2) 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Cor 1:1-3 and John 1:29-34

I   Call You to Make You a Light to the Nations

The focus of today’s Bible lessons is on universal salvation and on recognizing the agents or instruments of this salvation, called and sent by God. When we look back at the history of our salvation we cannot but appreciate all that God has done for us from creation, through the experiences of wilderness and exiles. God not only constantly save humanity but does it through his agents: the angels, the prophets and eventually through his Son Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were in Egypt and in the wilderness we saw how God used Moses, Aaron, Miriam and Joshua to bring them salvation. The first reading of today (Isa 49:3, 5-6) paints the sorrowful and hopeful picture of Israel in Exile in Babylon. It is the 2nd Song of the Suffering Servant of Yhwh.

 Although the servant is named “Israel” he has been called from the womb, and sent by God  to preach, love, hope, forgiveness, justice, liberation and salvation to the suffering and exiled Israel. Surely the servant would come to represents God’s divine agent of successive prophetic mission fulfilled in Christ Jesus. One interesting thing we notice in this first reading of the call of this suffering servant is that the servant himself is speaking. He says, “The Lord said to me…..” indicating that the Lord is the one who calls us. He is the one that initiates the call of each and every single of Israel’ prophets. None of them called themselves. It also indicates the willingness of the one called to listen, to respond and be able to say like Samuel or like the Psalmist in today’s responsorial Psalm: “Here I am Lord I come to do your will…” (Ps 40).

 Even though this servant was originally sent by God to “to raise up the tribes of Jacob,” and “restore the survivors of Israel,” (Isaiah 49:6), the servant is now sent as “a light to the nations,” so that God’s salvations might reach people of all walks of life.

 John the Baptist in today’s Gospel recognized that the mission to bring salvation to the entire world would meet with challenges. It requires the Holy Spirit and its gifts, which descended upon Christ during his baptism. John bore  witnessed to this. John recognized Christ as the “Lamb of God,” and testified, that he “saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him” (John 1:29-34).

This is the spirit of Love to everyone including the poor and the rich, the homeless, the aged, the sick the needy and those in prisons. This the spirit of hope and faith. This is the spirit of trust and the spirit to reach out to everyone with Christ’s love and message of universal salvation.

 Saint Paul understood this so much. Although Jewish, he received baptism. Like other Israel’s prophets he said to God, “Here I am Lord I come to do your will,” I come to bear the light to all nations! Paul carried the mission and the Good News not only to the Corinthian Church, but to the Gentiles, to all of us. Paul said, to everyone who called upon the name of Jesus, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:1-3).

As part of the nations who receive this loving call and peace of Christ, may we in our only individual and collective ways continue to responsively recognize Christ, the Lamb of God, in our lives, serve as God’s agents and conduits of Christ's joy, peace, prosperity, faith, love and light to people of all walks of life, of every nation and of every culture.

 

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Homily (2) the Baptism of the Lord Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo


 

Homily (2) the Baptism of the Lord Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 42:1-4, 6-7;Ps 29:1-2, 3-4,3,9-10; Acts 10:34-38 and Matt 3:13-17

Baptism, Christ’s Gifts to us

 Happy New Year!
 
Few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Christ and his Epiphany. Many including, Joseph, Mary, and the angels reacted different to these events. The angels, for example sang the Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest.” The shepherds abandoned their animals in the desert and traveled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family. Simeon, the prophet sang the Nunc Dimittis, while Anna, the prophetess professed the uniqueness she saw in Christ, and spoke about this special child to everyone (Luke 2). The magi from the far East brought him gifts gold, frankincense, myrrh and of course, their gestures of worship-proskunh/  (Matt 1:1-12).

Like the angels, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna and the Magi, many of us also had a good time during Christmas and the opportunity to joyfully react to these divine events in our own ways. Events guided by the Holy Spirit! Think of the Christmas related movies we watched, the carols and music we listened to; the gifts, cookies and candies we shared; the telephone calls we made to our friends, families and to our loved ones, the liturgies we celebrated, the homilies we preached, or heard from the lips of our eminent preachers, beginning with the Holy Father, our popular Pope Francis, our bishops, priests, pastors and deacons. All in the name of Celebrating Christmas  or reacting to the divine events God coming to dwell among us, in spite of brokenness.

It is true that after the Christmas’ events not much is heard in the Christian Bible of how the quiet and righteous Joseph managed his carpentry profession, or how the obedient Mary (who had said to the angel Gabriel “be it done to me according to your words”) changed the diapers and raised Jesus to the point when he would have to begin his public ministry as witnessed extensively in the 4 Gospels and by Saint Paul.
 
The Baptism of Christ which we celebrate today, in the beginning of our new semester is built on these past events that have always been guided by the Holy Spirit. Through his Baptism, Jesus the sinless God-man teaches us humility. With it he accepts, inaugurates his public ministry. He identifies this ministry with that of the suffering Servant of God whose mission we are told in the first reading of (Isa42:1-4, 6-7).  The suffering servant in our first reading was to bear all kinds of sufferings on behalf of the people. He was to bring justice, judgment and salvation to everyone as God’s agent. God speaks through Isaiah, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit, he shall bring forth justice to the nations.”  
 
Baptism not only washes away our sins it brings us the Spirit of God. It brings us closer to God and keeps God’s heavens opened for each an every one of us. The heavens that were once closed because of the sins of our first parents ( Genesis 3) are now opened for us through Christ’s baptism Evangelist Matthew says in the Gospel, “After Jesus was baptized he came up from the water and behold the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him (Matt 3:13-17).”

The Baptism of Jesus opens for us the means by which we are spiritually reborn (Jn 3:5-12) and are restored in communion with God. It is one of the sacraments of our salvation. It is the gate way, the entrance to our Christian life and spirituality.  Recall, Nichodemus was told in John 3 that, “Unless you are born of water and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:3-6).  It is a spiritual door for us.

 After the Ascension, Jesus said to the disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  With this, we become adopted and beloved children of God sharing in his divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). When we received baptism God is saying to us “these are my beloved children in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).
 
For us the baptized God is very pleased with us. Baptism which Christ instituted brings us into the life of the Blessed Trinity.  With it, we are anointed and infused with virtues of faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13). With it, we become temple of the Holy Spirit; the same Spirit that guided the events of the birth of Christ. With baptism we have become a new creation and living members of the Church, the Body of Christ. We become living members of our Christian families and our Seminary Community. We become members that are alive with love, self discipline, sacrifices, charity, and spirit of forgiveness.

Saint Paul preached about this newness of life in Christ in Romans 6:3-4, when he says,

 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life,” (read also Col 2:12 or 1 Cor 12:12-13).
 
 Luckily too, many of us have just emerged from your retreat, walking back to the Seminary refreshed. Some have been ordained deacons during the break! I am sure you feel renewed and ready to go, another new semester, another new year. There are new books in the Library and new faces on campus. As you walk into our class rooms too, you will find new chairs and new desks and newly painted walls. Thanks to our administration’s new initiatives. Some of you have also gotten new sweaters and winter jackets.  We can always blend this physical newness with our spiritual renewals, rooted back to the foundations with which we laid during the gifts of our baptism, one of the external signs of inward graces.
 
 And as we begin a new semester in this New Year we pray that the gifts and graces which we all received  during our baptism(the  gift of hard work, the spirit of peace, the spirit and of social justice, the spirit of Christ,  the spirit of Ebed Yhwh, the spirit of the suffering servant of God, the spirit of selflessness, the spirit of the common good, the spirit to love the poor, the spirit of inclusivism, the spirit to love and be faithful to the Church, the spirit to renounce sins, and the spirit to always love and pray for one another) which we have  renewed at this Mass, may guide and direct our studies and work throughout this New Year.




Friday, January 3, 2014

Homily (2) the Epiphany of the Lord: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo


Homily (2) the Epiphany of the Lord: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-2,7-8,10-13; Eph 3:2-3a,5-6 and Matt 2:1-12

Let Every Nation on earth Adore You O Lord!

Every Solemnity of the Epiphany  brings us together “to adore the Lord,” as rightly put by the Psalmist. Truly, our Lord deserves adoration and our worship, because he has freely and willingly manifested himself to us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Saint Paul bears witness to this in his missionary journeys. Of course, this was long foretold by Israel’s Prophets, especially in the First and Second Isaiah.

Today, in Third Isaiah, the prophet finally sings his praises in the first reading (Isa 60:1-6), to those who lived to see this day long foretold.  He says, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See darkness covers the earth, and the thick cloud covers the peoples, but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appear his glory…”

Christ's Birth is an entrance of Light into the world of darkness. It is an entrance of Light and Divine Strength into our human weaknesses, selfishness, self- centeredness, and sufferings. It is a manifestation, of divine goodness into our lives. It is an epiphany of God's love, his Mercy, his Tender Care and Kindness to all nations and continents, Jews and Gentiles, poor and rich, queens and kings.

Epiphany is a manifestation of God to our children, to mummy and daddy, to husbands and wives, seminarians and priests, to friends, partners, politicians, poets, colleagues and peers. It is a feast when Jesus, who we celebrated at Christmas, is made known to the whole world, to every continent and nations: Lord, every nation on earth shall adore you” (Ps 72).

 Epiphany is a gathering of every nation to adore Christ. This is true even when you look at our faces, our colors, and our eyes, particularly our last names. I was recently in Africa and Europe the joy was the same at Christmas, every nation adoring the Lord- the power of faith- only Christ can gather us together at birth and at death. What a miracle of faith.

At his birth, manifestation many reacted: the angels, who sang, “glory to God in the highest,” the shepherds who traveled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family, Simeon, the prophet sang the nunc dimities, while Anna, the prophetess saw the uniqueness in Christ and spoke about this special child to everyone(Luke 2). What is your reaction to the story of Christmas, to the Christmas plays we watched, to Christmas carols and music we have listened to, to all the Christmas homilies we have heard from the lips of the Pope, bishops, different priests and pastors? Do you like Anna internalize it or be ready to go out a manifest this love to others, the poor and the rich? Or do you keep it to yourself?

 In today’s Gospel (Matt 1:1-12) the magi join in this chain of reaction. Guided by the star, they came all the way from the East, from abroad outside Bethlehem/Judea, to adore Christ, to worship Christ (proskunh/ ),to submit themselves to Christ. They brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Every nation adores the Lord, including those who studied the stars. God can speak to us. He can manifest Himself to us through our various professions and occupations. All that he requires of us are (the gifts of) disposition, willingness, openness and readiness, irrespective of our profession. You can be an attorney, a nurse, a doctor, a secretary, a receptionist, a broker, a plumber, a factory worker, a church volunteer, a student, employed or unemployed, a bank teller, a football coach, a husband, housewife, a Jew or Gentile with deep faith.

Salvation is Universal. This is noted by St. Paul of all people,in the Second Reading, which says, “you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefits…. That the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6).

We can learn from the Gentiles the Magi. Their journeys I believe were not rosy-rosy. Mostly likely there were some difficulties on the way. They must have left their homes, children and family members searching for Christ in a territory where Herod was appointed the king of the Jews by the Roman imperialism. I am sure being learned scientists they were not na├»ve, they knew, humanly it would be risky facing Herod, the reigning earthly king, when at the same time searching to adore the heavenly King, the true “King of the Jews,” and “the King of kings.” Being a faithful Christian in this New Year and at the same time a good citizen is not always easy. Being a good Christian and a good politician or a good member of the United Nations was never going to be without faith.

 These things are possible when we walk with deep faith, when we listen to the impulses of the Holy Spirit, when we follow the light of Christ not our own will, as the magi did and as prophesied long ago by the Prophet Isaiah “nations shall walk by your light.”

 Nations of professionals including the magi from Sheba shall submit (proskunh/ ) themselves to Jesus and worship him. The precious gifts the brought Christ from the East- gold, frankincense and myrrh are significant.    
Gold- recalls he royalty of Christ which lies in his mission of justice, peace, love, forgiveness and holiness of life- Not bullying, revenge and terrorism. In Frankincense we recall the perfume and the incense we use during worship- which is a symbol of hope and faith that we all place in Jesus our Messiah.

 In another place, Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthian 2:15. St.  Paul invites us to bring out that noble “aroma of Christ” among ourselves: peace, love, forgiveness, universalism, inclusiveness, friendship and acts of charity.  In Myrrh we recall the sufferings, the pains and passion of Christ (Mark 15:20-23; Matt 27:33-44). And it was with Myrrh in John 19:39 that Nichodemus anointed Christ’s body for burial.

 Epiphany is a celebration of our faith from the strength of our jobs, vocations and occupations. Many with various occupations gathered here have that faith. Many with various professions are still searching for that faith. Like in the case of the Magi sometimes the journey may be long and rough. In the case of the Shepherds they risked abandoning their flocks and rushing to see the Christ born at the manger in Bethlehem. Simeon and Anna did not mind their old age. They faithfully and passionate sang and spoke about the blessings brought to Israel by the redeemer- Christ.

 For us when we finally find that faith we are call to share it with others. We are invited to share with and manifest the message of Christmas for our friends, relatives and in our communities. We are called to manifest that faith, to spread that aroma of Christ, that golden peace, that inclusiveness, that joy, that charity, that forgiveness, those gifts, among others, among every nation. Lord every nation on earth will adore you!