Friday, May 30, 2014

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Acts 1:12-14; Psalms 27:1, 4, 7-8; 1 Pet 4:13-16 and John 17:1-11

 The Mission of the Post-Ascension Church

 In today’s Gospel, the last chapter of the Book of Glory Jesus prays for the church, and speaks of his glory with God to whom he has ascended in heaven (John 17:11a). He prays, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.”

This prayer is an expression of Jesus unity with the Father. It is an expression of love for the Church he established. It also a report of his missions of love, compassion, feeding the poor, forgiving sinners, and healing he sick while on earth. It is a report of the faith he taught, the suffering he endured, the cross he carried on our behalf, and the community of believers he formed (vv6-8). In his glorification he will give eternal life to this community of faith. This eternal life includes the knowledge of God and his inspiration and spirit for the church, the Christian community to continue his mission.

Of course Jesus was a man of prayer from Baptism to the Cross, which he continues after his ascension. The first reading (Acts 1:12-14) presents his disciples  who continues in this mission of prayer in the upper room soon after his ascension. We are told, “after Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem…. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of  James… all devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus and his brothers.”

Each of us are invited to be Peter and John,  James , Andrew and Philip, Thomas and Bartholomew, Matthew, James, Mary, men and women of prayer who delight in following the footsteps of Jesus at all times. Truly there are moments of challenges (frustration, low grades in exams, hatred, insult, discrimination, racism, disappointments, betrayals, illness and loss of loved ones). Christ himself before his Ascension faced those challenges and sufferings, even to the cross.

1 Peter 4:13-16, the second reading, reminds us how to react to sufferings. it teaches us how to handle those challenges of life. It says, "But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of his name. Peter also stresses joy, saying ‘rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings (glory) of Christ.”

Granted that we live in a divided world of the rich and the poor, the west and the east, north and south, joy and sorrows, wars and terrorisms, we are hopeful that Christ will never leave us orphans.  He constantly prays and watches over us. And we ask the Lord to help us realize the importance of prayer, faith and hope, and of the oneness of the post-Ascension- Christian communities in keeping the words of Christ and promoting his values and mission to people of all walks of life, especially the poor and the weak of every nation.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Homily (2) 6th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 6th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66:1-3, 4-5,6-7,16,20; I Pet 3:15-18 and John 14:15-21

The Spirit Who Stimulates Our Love of God

In the Gospel reading of today (John14:15-21), Christ says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…..”

This message of Christ comes to us on the eve of his ascension to God his father, which we shall celebrate on Thursday, or next Sunday. The point is that as Christ departs to the Father he wants us to be consistent in our Love for him, his teachings and in keeping God’s commandments.  Sometimes, it could be difficult, but this call to love and keep God’s precepts will be guided by the Holy Spirit promised us by Christ as he ascends to God his Father.

It is this same spirit that came upon the Samaritan when Peter and John prayed and laid hands on  them in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading (Acts 8:5-8,14-17). But before Peter and John arrived to lay hands on them, we are told, with the grace of God, the Samaritans received healings because they paid attention to Christ Jesus, the wounded healer, proclaimed by Philip. Christ heals those who listen to him and brings them the spirit of joy and happiness and hope to those who pay attention to him and his precepts.

In fact, this spirit comes to us in a various ways. It comes to us in the readings we read, in the liturgy we celebrates the psalms and songs we sing and in the bread and cup we share. This spirit of God comes to us on our journeys and in the people we meet,  the peace we promotes and in the justice we champion. It comes in the sins we forgive and  in the wrongs we put right.

You all know last two weeks I led a pilgrimage to Poland, retracing the footsteps of Saints Faustina, Maximillian Kolbe and John Paul the II. It was a spirit-filled pilgrimage. We arrived at Warsaw May 13 and went to celebrate Holy Mass at St. James Church. This is the very Church that Saint first went to pray when she arrived at Warsaw- heading to join the convent of the Holy Mercy Sisters. The following day, May 14 went to 39 Zytnia Street, where we celebrated Mass at the Convent of the Holy Mercy Sisters.

Each of us  on the journey could feel the Spirit of God, the yearning for his love and truth that only God can give. On May 15 we proceeded to Niepokalanow and celebrated Mass at the Franciscan Monastery of Maximillian. We spent a great deal of time at the House and Museum of Maximillian Kolbe, who taught us how to love our enemies and die for one another. On May 16 we visited the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa and celebrated Mass at the Holy Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of Jasna Gora. We embraced there the spirit of a loving mother. Went to Wadowice where we retrace the origin of Saint John Paul II, who taught us so much, especially how to trust in God and keep his commandments, irrespective of our cultures. We went to Auschwitz and Birkinau concentration camp. It was a sorrowful part of the journey- seeing “man inhumanity to man.”

 We were also at Zakopane, where we experience the spirit of God on the mountains. At Krakow we visited the Wielicka’s Salt Mines and celebrated Mass at St. John’s Chapel, about 300 meters in the Salt Mines. There, we learned we are called to be the salt of the earth, to preserve truth and God's words. We had private Mass at St. Mary’s Church Legiewniki and in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy. All these we believe were guided by the Spirit of God, His love and Divine Mercy

Each day in our lives, this spirit enables us to defend the truth, embrace our crosses, and prepares us with answers and explanation, “to anyone who ask you for reason for your hope” which Saint Peter talks about in the 2nd reading (1 Pet 3:15-18). It enables us to condemn what Hitler did to the Jews. It brings hope where ever there is despair, joy in place of sadness and patience whenever we are met with temptation if impatience.

With the gift of the Holy Spirit may we joyfully continue to stick with Christ, embrace our crosses, follow the examples of the saints (Faustina, Kolbe, John Paul II), keep God’s commandments, remain in His love, and loved our neighbors as Christ has first loved us. Most importantly, allow the spirit to stimulate this love in us!



Thursday, May 8, 2014

Homily (2) 5th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 5th Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Ps 33:1-5,18-19; 1 Pet 2::4-9 and John 14:1-12

Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life

 Last Sunday we celebrated Christ the Good Shepherd. Today, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we celebrate Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  A greater understanding of these metaphors or imageries are important as we approach the mysteries of the Ascension and the Pentecost in the coming weeks.
However, we may want to interpret these imageries - of Way, Life and Truth- the choices we make in life, the goals we pursue, how we endure pains and illnesses, how we love and forgive, how generous we are to our neighbors and how faithful we are to Christ and his Church,  must be taken into account.

Starting from the early church and with the spread of Christianity there is nothing that we would accomplish in this life without Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and without the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the spirit is important because sometimes the way of Christ, love, forgiveness, patience could be bumpy and challenging!

This is true with the choice of Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicarnor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, the seven deacons in today’s first reading. These men were selected to serve the poor and the needy not because they were vested with worldly politics and secular shrewdness or filled with themselves. Scripture tells us that these men were selected to cater for the temporal goods of the church, because they were filled the Holy Spirit.

In Galatian 5 :22 these fruits of  this Holy spirit are listed as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, chastity(Gal 5:22). These are what we also find in Christ who is the Way that we must follow.

Pope Francis in his Evengelii Gaudium spells and captures the importance of these fruits especially as we spread the Gospel to margins, the poor and peoples of all walks of life. It must be done with humility, patience, and joy in spite of uncertainties and challenges associated with following Christ.

As Thomas and Philip would have asked Jesus today for the “Way” and the Knowledge of the “Father”  let us pray at this Mass for the grace to recognize that we are a holy nation, a people part to praise and worship God (1 Pet 2:4-9), to love Him and follow His Ways.

And may the mercy of God be upon us (Ps 33:22) so that as we travel the way, the road, be it the high way, the narrow avenues or the bumpy or smooth streets of life, may we always pattern our choices, our opinions and life- style after the examples of Christ who is the ideal Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:1-12)





Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Easter Year A/Mother’s Day: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) 4th Sunday of Easter Year A/Mother’s Day: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23; 1Peter 2:20b-25 and John 10:1-10

Christ the Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls

 Today is Mother’s Day in our nations and World Day of Prayer for Vocation. Interestingly the metaphorical emphasis on the reading are on Christ the true and Good Shepherd, who loves, guards our souls, and wipes our tears.  What we see in Christ in today’s reading often reflects in the persons of our good mothers and parents. They care for us. They feed us, they love us, pay our tuition fees and wipe out our tears.

  Tears here remind me stories told about me when I was between the ages of 1 and 6. We are six siblings. I am the baby of the house. I was told by my parents and my elderly ones that I used to cry a lot each time my mum was leaving home for groceries, or to the farm. I acted as if I had lost something or someone. But on her return I would be filled with joy.  Usually, she comes home with gifts, wipes away my tears, and reassures me that she left home temporarily to get vegetables from the farms or some food items from the grocery store, for the good of the family.

 Peter in the first two readings (Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20b-25) is preaching to the post resurrectional church.  This church experienced some difficulties, including crises of faith, corruption of all types, a sense of doubt and loss of their master, and persecutions. Some wept that Christ was no longer physically there, as I would do when mum was temporarily away.

 It is the role of Peter to encourage this persecuted and disillusioned community. For Peter and rightly so, Jesus crucified is not dead. Rather God has made him Lord and Christ. He continues to watch over us and searches for us as shepherd searches after his lost sheep. We find this traditional imagery of God as a Good shepherd  recorded not only in Jeremiah chapter 23 and Ezekiel chapter 34, but also in Psalm 23, which we just chanted while ago “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”

Of course John expands into this imagery. He is not only the Good Shepherd who feeds, listens, smells, protects the sheep, he is the gateway and the Church is the sheepfold. And who ever enters through the gateway- Christ will be saved. For Christ like a good mother comes that we may all have life (John 10:10).

Fed days ago one of the basketball star Kevin Duran, while receiving NBA award speaks positively and highly of his mother who sacrificed so much to raise him and his brother as a single parent. Every night the mum would go to bed hungry but made sure that he and his brother ate. They were poor, moving from one unfurnished apartment to another. In the midst of this poverty, their mom was always there for them.

This love and availability of a good mother is who Christ is for us. Christ is always there for us. Just as Kevin would trust and appreciate the mom, the dignities and the blessings of our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and all women around us must be appreciated and respected. On this day we must also pray for those girls, victims of the Terrorist group, called Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria and for peace in places  where war and violent are used as means to abuse, disrespect women and our mothers around the world.

Above all, may we not lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ, the everlasting Good Shepherd, who knows each of us by name!




Saturday, May 3, 2014

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

Homily (2) 3rd Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Acts 2:14, 22-33; Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; 1 Pet 1:17-21 and Luke 24:13-35

Recognizing Christ Who Walks The Path Of Life With Us

Today we are called to celebrate and recognize Christ who walks with us on our journeys. He shows us the Path of life (Ps 16:11a). In the readings of today we are invited to imitate the Disciples of Christ: Peter, Cleopas and his companion, the Eleven and those women and mothers who not only stood at the foot of the divine cross but were the first at the empty tomb to recognize the truth and the redeeming effects of the resurrection of Christ. When and where do we recognize the redeeming power of Christ in our lives?  Is it in our moms, children, dad, in the poor and needy, in our neighbors, in songs we join to sing during worship, in the Eucharist we share or in the sermons we listen to? In our offices, places of work, class rooms, libraries? There are several opportunities and moments available for us to encounter Christ.

Peter whom we saw delivering a Pentecost Speech in today’s first reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33) and preaching the redeeming blood of Jesus in the Second reading 1 Peter 1:17-21, was the foremost Disciples of Christ. Initially, he had his own doubts; he had his own ups and downs, and human paths to walk.  Remember, once Peter was violent at another time he denied his Master many times, but today he has chosen a different path, the path of life. Today the bible readings present the courageous and the convincing Peter witnessing and proclaiming faith in the truth of the Risen Lord. He is not worried about cutting off the ear of Malchus and denying Christ.

These are not ordinary Petrine passages of rhetoric but an enduring testimony to Christ’s Events- his love for us, the miracles he worked and the healing compassion he brought us.  What Peter does into today’s readings is a recognition of the Power of God and the truth that the tomb was never, from day one, going to be the final destination of Christ. It was never going to be possible for Christ to be held by death. In Peter’s life I personally learn to see how God can change us and move things around in our lives. Unlike the “denying Peter” during the Passion Week he has become a courageous and preaching disciple, using every opportunity to bear witness to Christ. The question for me is, do I explore every opportunity in my life to bear witness to Christ or to recognize His enduring presence by my side? Am I ready to change my path and follow the path of Christ?

Apart from Peter, the conversation of Cleopas with his companion from Jerusalem to Emmaus in today’s Gopels (Luke 24:13-35) indicates the faith struggle of the Jewish community and of course the fears, sadness and doubts of the Disciples of Christ on the Messianic and redeeming presence of Jesus, presented by the events of the cross and death. We do all have our own conversations, fears and doubts in moments of crises!

Cleopas in today’s gospel is walking his path back to Emmaus with a companion. But who was this other disciple that Cleoplas traveled with? The name is not mentioned in Luke, but many theologians and spiritual authors thought she was "Mary the wife of Cleopas" mentioned in John chapter 19:25. 

For me this make sense within the context of our "mother's day celebration" coming up next Sunday, here in our nation (USA). For our men and children think of where we would have been or sometimes how difficult our journeys would have been without the support of our mothers, wives and friends.  How successful would we have been in your businesses or in your career without the support of your wife, your sister or your mom?   You really want to talk to your wife, your sister and your mom. Respect and consult them when you are taking those family or important decisions as fellow pilgrims of faith and know that Jesus will always be there with you and for you. You have to strife to recognize Jesus in one another!

He was there for a long walk alongside Cleopas and his fellow traveler unrecognized until  the breaking of the Word of God and the breaking of the bread, two key things we do when we gather here to worship: the celebration of the Word of God and the breaking of the Bread- the Holy Eucharist. Scriptures that Christ himself explains from Moses to the Prophets- changes and transforms the mind set and the spiritual paths of Cleopas and his friend. It changes their uncertainties to certainties.  It calms their fears and restores their hope in Christ the prophet. They recognize him as a true redeemer and a peaceful Messiah. He has come not to fight his enemies and opponents with weapons and ammunition as Peter had initially thought, but to bring them love, peace, and forgiveness. They more reason they said to Christ, "stay with us , for it is almost evening."

The Eucharist we break and the bible lessons we share, the first reading, the second, the Psalms and Gospels remain always great conduits of moments for us to encounter the Risen Christ and have our faith, hope nourished and restored, after the examples of Cleopas and his traveling friends.

The faith journeys of each of us can always be seen not only in the light of Peter and the Eleven but in the light of ”Emmaus walk" of Cleopas and his  companion. And we want to cease every opportunity in our life's' journeys to recognize and feel the presence of God on our paths. W want him to stay with and walk with us!  Jesus during meals, Jesus at Mass, Jesus as we read the Bible, Jesus as we pay attention to the sermons, Jesus on our sick beds, Jesus in “bad times,” Jesus in “good times”, Jesus in the poor and in the rich; Jesus at home, at church, in the class rooms, work places and at schools; Jesus with our children, in our priests, with our parents- dads and moms and Jesus in our neighbors. He travels always with us on our paths. He shows us the path of life!