Friday, March 28, 2014

Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: 1 Sam 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-6; Eph 5:8-14 and John 9:1-41

Christ, who looks into our Hearts
 Today we celebrates, Christ the son of God, who gives us the vision of light, cures our blindness and looks into the hearts of each and every one of us. He loves us where ever we are. He cares for us and does not judge us from appearances. Today’s scriptures substantiate this divine attitude toward us, especially those that the society considers- the weak or the improbable!

 In today’s first reading God chooses shepherd David, the youngest son of Jesse to replace Saul as the new King of Israel (1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a). He does this irrespective of other seven sons of Jesse, presented to Samuel for anointing.  This story illustrates God’s choice of improbable savior. It shows that God can write on a crooked line. The same young David would defeat the gigantic Goliath in a battle (1 Sam17). This is how God works. In many other places in the bible we have seen God chose Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Rehab the prostitute, Israel’s Judges, the prophets, prophetess and priests, our Mother Mary, and of course David, irrespective of their human weaknesses or lowliness to work his marvelous. Some of them like Isaiah would argue, “O God I am a man of unclean lips” or like Jeremiah, “I am too young.” Or like Mary, “how can this be since I am a virgin.” It goes back to the reading of today. God does not see as man sees. Man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart of each and every one of us. Even though David on the long run would have his own trials, but God would establish for him an everlasting dynasty-- in Christ!

In the Gospel of reading of today, Christ’s healing of the blind beggar (John 9:1-41) receives mixed reactions. It is viewed differently and humanly by everyone, the passers-by, including the Pharisees who so much depended on external appearances and judgments.  For them Christ was not from God, because it was an abomination to heal and to perform charitable works on the Sabbath. There were also those who disbelieve that the man was born blind, in the first place (v.18). Christ must have been “faking the miracle.”

They did not believe in Christ. Disbelieve itself is a form of spiritual blindness. The more reason they went to confront the parents of the healed man in order confirm how their son’s healing came about. Out of fear they couldn’t testify much to the healing mercy of Christ. They simply said to the Pharisees “my son is of age ask him, how he got his sight.” Apart from disbelieve, sometimes fear and lack of spiritual courage can also blind us or deny us of an opportunity to speak or witness to the truth.

 Beside the image of David, our model of faith should be the blind man. We have our own blindness and weaknesses. In the case of the healed beggar, even though he is thrown out of the synagogue, persecuted, denied and rejected by family members and close neighbors (vv. 8-34), the cured man once again was found by Jesus, the Son of Man, whom he completely trusted and believed in (vv.35-36).  He worshipped Christ, who reassured him that, he” came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see and those who see might become blind” (v. 39).

 With this Christ is drawing a contrast between human sight and God sights. He is drawing contrast between the blind man who responded in faith to the light of vision brought him by Christ, and the Pharisees who claim to see, but disbelieve in the works of Christ. Human fear and faithlessness displayed by the parents of the blind and the Pharisees, can blind us from the light of Christ.  They are “fruitless works of darkness,” according to Saint Paul (Eph 5:8-14).

The light of Christ penetrates the hearts of each of us, in every land, culture and nation. It goes deeper than appearances. It knocks off the barriers of division and blindness of injustices in our broken world. It shepherds us (Ps 23) and brings us hope.  As we make progress in our Lenten discipline may we continue to trust in God’s healing light, and hope in his boundless love for us, that surpasses mere appearances!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

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

Homily(2) 3rdSunday of Lent Year A:  Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Exod 17:3-7; Ps 95:1-2.6-9; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 and John 4:5-42

 Christ Refreshes and Lavishes Us with his Love

I know  all of us are familiar with this delightful story of  Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. It is a story of  God’s incarnate, Christ, who consistently refreshes and lavishes each of us with his love. This loving refreshment goes back to the first Exodus and the experience of dryness of the Israelite in the Wilderness (Exod 17:3-7). On this journey, God not only fights for them, hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but he provides the leadership of Moses,  love, food, manna, and drinking water for his chosen people, in spite of who they are; a community who complains and often are distracted from acknowledging the everlasting love of God. God is the Rock and the Love of our lives!

 Paul speaks of this ever consistent, universal and refreshing love of God in the second reading (Rom 5:1-2, 5-8). He says, “Brothers and sisters, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith,” hope and love. Ultimately, Jesus proves his love for us in that while were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The activities of this refreshing love of God is heighten in today's the Gospel passage, when Jesus encounters, dialogues, listens, and shares a cup cold water with the Samaritan woman  in John chapter 4 (John 4:5-42).

 It is a faithful afternoon, in John 4. Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi is travelling in company of his disciples from Judea to Galilee. He passes through Samaria. Here he meets this Samaritan woman who comes to draw a fresh water from the well of Jacob. Everyone must have been thirsty to a different degree: the woman, Christ and his disciples, since it was in the middle of the summer heat. To the shock of everyone Jesus, a Jewish rabbi breaks protocols and dismantles the unnecessary status quo. He approaches, this symbolic, individual, a woman for a cup drinking water. He also spends sometime chatting with her, respectfully, to the tacit disapproval of his disciples!

This conversation and exchange are much more than the search and thirstiness for ordinary water. Jesus is friendly, respectful to women and people of all cultures. It is not long the Samaritan woman recognizes this. She recognizes the gifts and the compassion of Jesus. She recognizes his divinity, his prophetic role, his saving mission, his patience in dialogue, his forgiving power, and his spiritual depth as a true source of the Living Water. She invites the rest of the Samaritan town to trust and visit with  Jesus, the source of life, and the Savior of the World ( John 4:42).

This water cleanses our personal faults and save our unsafetiness. It refreshes and replaces our thirstiness for material things with spiritual need. It replaces our hunger for war with peace. It replaces our desire for revenge with a thirst for reconciliation. It refreshes our stinginess with generosity, our selfishness with charity, our hopelessness with hope. This Living Water of Christ refreshes our divisiveness with universalism; our exclusivism with inclusivism, especially with regard to the poor, the aged, the immigrants, the sick, the weak and the marginalized of our society.

As we journey through this desert of Lent and Exodus of hope, may we strive to imitate the Samaritan woman, disposing ourselves to Christ’s healing mercy. May we reach out to others, inviting them to partake in  this bountiful love Christ, and in the spiritual drink of faith. 


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Homily (2) Second Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily (2) Second Sunday of Lent Year A: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Gen 12:1-4a; Ps 33:4-5, 18-20, 22; 2 Tm 1:8b-10 and Matt 17:1-9

Embracing Our Daily Crosses with Trust
Today’s responsorial Psalm, “May your love be upon us O Lord as we place all our trust in you,” captures the spirit of the readings of today’s Second Sunday of Lent. During lent as we pray, give alms, do penance, attain retreats, it is also a time we solidify our trust and faith in God, the teacher of the suffering discipleship. It is a time we seek transformation and renewal. It is a time we think of our journeys. It is a time we reflect on the ultimate journey of every Christian, namely, the glory of the cross.

 From the beginning, every child of God, every believer is invited to place his or her faith and trust in God. This is true in the journeys of Abraham, Christ and Saint Paul.

We are all familiar with the call and the  journey or response of Abraham. God called Abraham imperatively, to leave his native Mesopotamia to an unknown destination: a land that God would show him. Abraham did trusting in God's providence and promises. He placed his trust in God and journeyed to this land promised him by God. Abraham may not have been a billionaire in the modern sense, but you can imagine the inconveniences of anybody leaving his home that way. No GPs. He met many trials on the way. one them was the bareness of Sarah (Gen 11:31; 16ff). Another was  the threat of  pharaoh  over Sarah's beauty (Gen 12:10-20).  In the midst of all these Abraham put his trust and faith in God.

 On his journey to the cross Jesus brought his disciples, Peter, James and John to the mountain of transfiguration, mount Tabor, where Jesus’s face was transfigured and transformed. Christ’s face shone like the sun to the disciples. His cloth also became white as a bright light. Moses the law giver and Elijah the prophet also appeared to them, chatting with Jesus. So many transformation here. The brightness of the sun and the serenity of this mountain top gave the disciples such a joy and peace that they would want to remain there forever, building houses for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.

 On February 7, 2010, I had the privilege to be on this mountain top, with a group other students from Rome.  While on this mountain I felt somehow like the Peter, James and John, in sense. I could get a good view of the whole valley of Jezreel and the shining hills of Galilee, from there. Sometimes scary too! But the air up there, which is about 1848 feet, is very refreshing. It gives one a wonderful experience of God’s presence, in the brightness of the sun, in the deep valleys, on the mountain and natures. Sometimes you feel like not going back, especially with, beautifully maintained Franciscan Basilica up there, which was erected in the early 20th century, on the remains of the older churches.

 But for Jesus the journey was not complete, without his cross.  Tabor experience was only the foretaste of his glorious coming; a foretaste of victory over the cross.  The disciples would have to keep going and be patient with themselves, and not complain or tell anyone about this mountain top experience, until the son of man has been raised from the dead.

 Paul’s missionary journeys, after his conversion and personal transformation, were not without ups and downs. There were times he was beaten, ship wrecked and thrown into prisons. From his experiences he says to Timothy today, “beloved bear your share of hardship for the gospel, with the strength that comes from God (2 Tim 1:8-10). The same God that Abraham placed his trust and faith upon

 All of us are on a journey or on a pilgrimage. We know there are challenges out there, even of temporary pleasure. How do we move beyond these challenges, beyond the Tabor experience? Some of our challenges could be forms of stress, betrayals, illnesses and disappointments and even the loss of someone we loved?  We see them in other the daily events of life. They are there in our homes, schools, hospitals (in this residence home), offices, work places, factories and in religious communities.

We see them in the violence of our TV scenes and in sport fields. We see them in the selfish decision of some our politicians and leaders. We see them in the effects of wars and terrorism around the globe, in acts of injustices, and in the neglect of the weak, the poor, the aged and the needy of our society.

As we live through lent, may we continue to support and pray for one another on these journeys? May we continue to sing and pray that God’s love and mercy may remain and guide us as we place all our hope, faith and trust in him (ps 33:22).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Homily for Saturday after Ash Wednesday: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily for Saturday after Ash Wednesday: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 58: 9b-14; Ps 86:1-6 and Luke 5:27-32

 Fasting, fasting, fasting! Today we celebrate Mass of the 1st Saturday after Ash Wednesday- the day we all received ashes and entered upon a new liturgical season of lent- of prayer, fasting and spiritual renewal. And the readings this morning fit the spirit of the season.

In Luke’s Gospel today (Luke 5:27-32), the Pharisees and the Scribes are very upset that Jesus “kept bad company” with the Levi and the tax- collectors, whom they regarded as sinners, terrible people, a distinct group and an outcast of the society.

It poses a pastoral challenge for Jesus in his Galilean ministry. He has to prove to the Pharisees that he has done nothing wrong by reaching out to everyone with joy, in a joyful setting, even during meals. Jesus argues from the perspective of a physician who mostly attain to those who are sick and diseased, and are in need of healing medicine. Jesus seems to be saying to the Pharisees and the scribes, ‘think of my ministry in the same way as that of a physician, “I have not come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

 It is true that in ancient days fasting was a kind ritual mourning. It was associated with bereavement, repentance and prayer especially during national crisis. Isaiah fasted and walk around Palestine naked on behalf of Israel. Habakkuk stood on the watch for a long time complaining to God. He withdrew to loneliness in demand for an answer from God. It really upsets the Pharisees that the sinners in the gospel instead of mourning and fasting were rather joyfully celebrating with Jesus. The more reason in the following verse 33 they follow up with a question, “why is  it that the disciples of John fast and pray but yours only eat and drink.

 It is all about abuse of Lent, prayer and fasting that is not in touch with reality. This shows up also in that first reading, Trito Isaiah, which is about life in the new world after the Israel. This post exilic community continued with the tradition of fasting and prayers. Sometimes the community would gathered in solemn procession as we deed on Ash Wednesday, even as we doing it now. This was good in itself, but it also created an impression of piety which was often far removed from the real state of affairs in the community. It imposed a uniformity of observance which disguised the difference between those who were genuinely fasting and those who wee pretending. It generated into self-righteousness, something we too must guard against during this Lenten season.. Religion and fasting that lacks integrity, hope, faith and charity is empty. According prophet Isaiah, the fasting, or prayer that pleases God is that which removes from our communities acts of oppression, selfishness, false accusation, malicious speeches and self-seeking. For Isaiah, whom I agree with, those who fast, must reach out joyfully, realistically and concretely to everyone, especially the poor and the afflicted.
We must sincerely and joyfully eat with them like Jesus. We are call to share the gospel joyfully with everyone. Lent is true time for the gospel joy. It is a favorable time for a change of heart. It is a time for renewal, a time for rebuilding, a time for restoring, and a time for repairing our spiritual houses. It is a time for repentance.  As we have seen from our Lord this morning, repentance does not necessarily consist in mourning and empty fasting or selecting who we talk to or relate with, or dine with, especially in the same community. Rather, our lives are turned around through a joyful discovery of a new opportunity to follow Christ, reconcile with God and with our neighbors, reach out, and to be charity to one another, while at the same time remaining open in obedience and humility to be nourished by the word of God.



Homily (2) First Sunday of Lent Year A. Reflections – Fr .Michael U Udoekpo

Homily (2) First Sunday of Lent Year A. Reflections – Fr .Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Ps 51:3-6, 12-13,17; Rom 5:12-19 and Matt 4:1-11

 The Spirit of Lent

Last Ash Wednesday, introduced us into another Liturgical season of Lent.  It is a season we commemorates the 40 days of Jesus' prayer, fasting and moments of temptations in the desert. It is a time for prayer time and spiritual renewal for us. So many things to pray for: ourselves, families, world peace , peace in Ukraine, and peace between the West and the Russians(today).

 It is a time we learn to say yes to God, and to manage our temptations, taking examples from Jesus’ play book, resisting all kinds of pleasure and temptations for power, wealth and influence. It is a favorable time for a change of heart.  It is a time closely look at ourselves on the mirror. It is time for rebuilding, a time for restoring, and a time for repairing our spiritual houses. It is a time for repentance. With the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, The Gospel of Joy- perhaps the Lenten season this year’s gives us another unique opportunity to reach out to neighbors, to renew our relationship with the poor, and pray and include the needy, the weak, the voiceless and the marginalized in our political and economic plans. It is a time we reassure ourselves that God is near us. He  accompanies us on our journey.  And the reading of today fit perfectly the spirit of this season.

 In the First Reading (Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7), the second creation account, our God  though transcendent is immanent. Like a potter he created us from the clay of the soil. He is a famer. He walks in the garden. He planted the tree of life in the garden. Its forbidden fruits were eaten by Adam and Eve who were tempted by the serpent. This risked the sin of disobedience that God continues franks at throughout the history of our salvation, throughout the history of God’s covenant relationship with us. Almost every single of Israel’s prophets would remind us that “obedience to God’ precepts” of love and social justice is better than sacrifice.

 Saint Paul picks on this in the second reading where he says,  through the disobedience of one man, sin came into the world and through obedience of one man also many were made righteous (Rom 5:12-19).

In today’s gospel (Matt 4:1-11), after his baptism, Jesus was  led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the satan thrice: “if, you are the Son of God, command this stone into bread, throw yourself down from the pinnacle of this building or if you prostrate and worship me., all these shall be yours.”

If Christ could be tempted who are we then? Lent would be time to reconsider the truth of the Gospel message of today that none of us is above temptations and trials of doing something contrary to the will of God (examples abounds), or seeking our personal glories rather than the Glory of God in our vocations and positions of power, meant for the service of our brothers and sisters. We have also heard about tyrants, bullies and political dictators round the globe. Recently, our government is running No Bully.Com, program. We also do see assorted acts of injustice on the TVs. We read them on the newspapers.

As we journey through this Lent let us all pray for increase in grace, to imitate Christ by overcoming trials and temptations in this life. As  we sing and pray psalm 51 for repentance,  let us  continue to joyfully allow God’s grace to reassure us that nothing will ever separate us from his steadfast love.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Homily (2) Eighth Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Homily (2) Eighth Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-9; 1 Cor 4:1-5 and Matt 6:24-34

The Loving God who comforts us!

 In the readings of today we are reminded of a loving God who has not forgotten us. He comforts us as a loving mother would comfort her baby. We are reminded of a merciful God who will never forsake us; who will never forsake Zion, nor abandon his Church. Human weaknesses, especially in times of troubles, worries, frustration and needs are also highlighted in today’s bible lesson. How often do we not hurry to pass judgment, complain or hear people complain about events in their lives: jobs, food to eat, clothing to wear, roof over our heads, education for our children, good health, social and political independence and perhaps freedom- of speech, and even of worship!

In the first reading of today (Isa 49:1-6; 14-18) Judah complains about their sufferings and hardship in exile. They have lost their temple, freedom, land and properties. Naturally, this made some of them to think that Lord had abandoned them, “Zion said, the Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”

Job and Habakkuk did the same as well as some of Israel’s prophet, including the though, divine but humanly said on the cross at the ninth hour, "My God, My God , why have you abandon me" (Matt 27:46’ cf. Ps 22:1).This is  human nature. This is who we are. As  as humans we often find ourselves complaining when we feel rejected or denied of what we think are right. The good news is that God is much more than a loving mother who would never forget nor abandon the child of her womb!

 Even before Christ’s ninth hour on the cross, preaching and teaching about alms giving, charity and prayer was his mission. He also preached and taught about fasting, dependence and deep trust in God, the source of life and provider of all things we need in life. Today’s Gospel reflects a Jesus who knew and saw the human nature. We worry about so many things! Some of us worship money, power, position, and material things, which could be dangerous to our faith. It can also distract us from focusing on the heavenly values, as it does to Pauline Corinthian Church, in the second reading (1 Cor 4:1-5).

It was community  of rivalry, boasting and pursuit for material things.  Beside materialism, self seeking and self glory were also found in this community..  Saint Paul even became a subject of negative criticism to them. These are dangerous to faith.

Pope Francis recognizes these dangers when he wrote, in his Joy of the Gospel, “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures and a blunted conscience” (n.2). The best advice is that of Jesus, who says to us in the Gospel, “do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matt 6:24-34).

This does not mean  that we should not work and study hard, farm or earn a living. But for our Lord, in as much as we toil in this life, and sometimes encounter setbacks, we should never feel abandoned by God. Just as a loving mother does not forsake her baby, our Comforting God will never abandon us in our needs and difficulties, even at the ninth hour. He is our comforter and the rock of our salvation (ps. 62).