Thursday, December 31, 2015

Homily [4] Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1): Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [4] Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1): 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 God, Source of Peace and Mercy!

“The Shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger….when eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb”(Luke 2:16,21).

These passages from Luke’s Gospel give us a clue of what we celebrate today- Mary, the Mother of God, Source of Peace and Mercy! On every First January of each year the Church gathers in the name of Jesus, in the name of “Joshua,” in Hebrew, “God is salvation,” to pray for peace and mercy, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy! Jesus, Mercy, Peace! J. M. P. Or, Jesus, Mary, Peace are the subjects of our contemplation today!

 Jesus was the Holy name given to him by the angel before her Mother, Mary “conceived her in the womb,” (Luke 2:21). This name was promised us through a young woman, Mary, as “Immanuel,” “God is with us,” (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31) by many of Israel’s prophet (Isa 7:14), during Advent! This name gives special identity to Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God, Theotokos, the Mother of “Immanuel” God is with us-- peace is with us, mercy is with us, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy; love is with us, forgiveness is with us, God’s blessings are with us. For the Psalmist, his shining face is constantly us (Ps. 67; Numbers 6:22-27). The shining face of the Son of Mary!

Of course, this Mary is our mother too; “mother behold your son, and son behold your mother” (John 19:25-26). This Mary is the mother of the Church. What a special privilege given her by the Lord!  Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading (Galatian 4:4-7), acknowledges this special privilege, 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), Galatian 4:4-7.

 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 is with us, in our flesh, in our homes and families,  in the midst of our own human history; and from the heart of this human history Christ proclaims the love and mercy of God to us and to our neighbors, particularly in this special Jubilee Year of Mercy! As he walked the streets of Palestine, Christ walks our streets, our villages, out counties, our local governments, our states, and our nations today!  He reaches out to the poor, those in prison, the enslaved, the sick, the marginalized, the needy, the “widowed” and the “widowered,” the orphaned and the immigrants of our nations; the young and the aged of our states; He brought them peace--- and teaches us to do likewise; as currently echoed by Pope Francis, in his 2016’s Message, for the World Day of Peace.

The title of Pope Francis’ message is, “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” In it the Holy Father encourages all of us to fight for mercy and peace, like Mary, the mother of Jesus.   Mary was very peaceful all the time. She passed this to Christ her baby boy. During the annunciation, you would recall, 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, even to those who disbelieved her, or suspected the source of her pregnancy. She chose the path of dialogue than divorce!  She welcomed the humble poor shepherd (Luke 2:16-21), who came to see them in the manger in Bethlehem.

Again in today’s Gospel, we are told, “Mary kept all these things reflecting them in her heart.”  Have you ever asked, what were all these things? They were her joys and sorrows: the tiring journeys  from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for the place to stay for the night, the songs of the angels, the unexpected visit of the shepherds, the prophesies of Simeon and Anna, Jesus staying back in the temple,the salutations of Elizabeth,- "Hail Mary , full of Grace, the Lord is with you," the flight to Egypt,- the later events of the Cross- Mary remains calm, not agitated, not freaking-out, she is not overcome by “events greater than herself” (Pope Benedict XVI), in silence she considers what happens, keeping it, pondering, praying over it, calmly in her heart.  This is the inner peace which we ought to have in the midst of our joys and sorrows of our journeys and the events of our life.

I believe when we look back on the events of the past year[s] in our families, church and nations,---the wars, accidents, terrorisms, Isis, Boko Haram, kidnappings, gun violent, fire, earthquake, changes in climate, political debates, changes in governments, ramblings in the United Nation, visits to doctors, loss of our loved ones and birth of our the new ones, children and grandchildren into our families, 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.

Sometimes it could have been worse! Appreciate today God’s blessings in your life- your families, jobs, food, clothing, good health, the Church.  Don’t hesitate today to make new year resolutions, and to wish your neighbor a happy New Year today; to share that peace of Christ, that friendship, that sense of justice, that sense of oneness, that community spirit, that forgiving spirit, that Christian love and charity, that inner peace that Mary exemplifies!

 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 with the priestly blessings heard in the 1st reading, I want to say, 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” and mercy, in this New Year (Num 6:22-27)!

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Homily [4] Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary &Joseph (YC) Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily [4] Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary &Joseph (YC) Fr. Michael Udoekpo
Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; or 1 Sam 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 128:1-5; Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17or 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52

Embracing the Holy Family of Nazareth in this Year of Mercy

 “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient onto them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and Man” (Luke 2:51-52).

This passage from Luke’s Gospel captures the meaning of what we celebrate today: the beauty, the hard work, the wisdom, the fear of the Lord, the spirit of endurance, the simplicity, the sense of responsibility-accountability, the obedience, the love, the compassion, the commitment, the faith, the fiat, the sense of total surrendering to the will God, the exemplary acts of mercy of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; their overall virtues and their meaning for us- modern families today, especially in this Year of Mercy! Pope Francis calls this Jubilee Year of Mercy “a special time  for the Church when the witness of believers might grow stronger and stronger” (Misericordiae Vultus 3).

In the Christmas stories of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Mary is completely docile, obedient and opened to the will of God announced to her by the Angel Gabriel ( Luke 1:38). All that she says, is, Yes, Lord, “Be it done to me according to your word.” Her husband, Joseph, is “righteous,” and “just.” Even though Joseph had initial doubts concerning the mysteries of the pregnancy of Mary, he is opened to the whispering of the angel and of the Holy Spirit.

 Remember, in the time of the Holy family, the title of being “righteous” saddiq or “just” was not easy to come by. You have to be very hard working, caring, be honest, be approachable, be fair, and be ready to listen to one another, be merciful as Joseph did.  The merciful and the listening Jospeh!  He took Mary Home (Matthew 1:24). At birth, Joseph and Mary, both protected the baby Jesus against so many things: hunger, unfriendly weather, and against the hostilities of the reigning kings.

As narrated, particularly in today’s Gospel, Jesus was only 12 years old when Joseph and Mary, brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the customary feast of the Passover, where the community offers their gratitude and services to the Lord- a type we saw in many places in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, especially in the story of Elkanah, Hannah and little boy Samuel, in 1 Samuel chapter 1.

In the case of Jesus, he stayed back in the temple after prayers. Realizing this at home, Mary and Joseph, were disturbed. They were concerned for their child. Like any other caring and merciful parents Mary and Joseph anxiously went back looking for Jesus. It took them another 3 days to recover Jesus sitting in the temple- in his Father’s House, listening and asking questions related to scriptures and faith. Seeing him, Mary did not freak-out- much. She did not call Jesus names such as “you this terrible boy” you this “stubborn child” as some modern parents would do! Rather, Mary simply and motherly said to Jesus, “Son why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you.”

And what was Jesus response? – He said, to Mary, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house”? Even though Mary and Joseph did not understand fully, at this point, this divine aspect of Jesus, - scripture say, Mary kept all these mysteries in her heart.  Of course, reechoing the parallel stories of obedience to parents, and gratitude to the Lord in Sirach and I Samuel, Luke says, Jesus went home to Nazareth with the parents and was submissive to them in obedience- and gaining wisdom and favor from the Lord!

 Amazing faith stories!  How would a modern family of Daddy, Mum and children read or live these faith stories today—a different time and age?  These stories I believe must be challenging to those parents who walk away from their family responsibilities today. It must be challenging to those parents who leave their children recklessly in the hands of a third party for personal and selfish freedom or under the pretext of been too “busy at work.”

Think of what Mary and Joseph went through as husband and wife. Mary and Joseph would have been divorced but not for their spirit of prayers, patience, enduring and listening grace to the voice of the Holy Spirit. What are the causes of high rate of divorce in our society today? It must be very painful for those who experience this. The story of Mary and Joseph must be challenging to all of us.

 Also the conversation that Jesus had with Mary when the found him in the temple and his response to accompany them home where he lived in obedience must be challenging as well to our modern society that struggles to draw the line between the rights of parents and those of the children. It must be challenging as well to those children who talk-back at their parents or disobey them, especially in matters of faith and morality!

 How we return home from work on time, share at family meals, visit our aging and sick parents wherever they are, love, respect, care, listen, forgive and pray for one another in our families and communities, especially in this Year of Mercy need a re-modelling after the life styles of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Remember, the human Jesus would have learned a lot from his parents, his obedience, his love, his kindness, and mercy!

Finally, let us pray with Rita Simmonds, for our families (Luke 2:41-52).

 “Heavenly Father,
Who called your only Son
In Obedience, away from the Caravan, to your House
Have mercy on our families.
Like Mary and Joseph, whose twelve-year-old son went missing,
We are often anxious and upset
And we cannot comprehend your will.
Let the family be the place where your only begotten Son is free to dwell
Have mercy on us all:
The intact,
 The extended
The broken
The blended
The dysfunctional
The upended.
Bring salvation to our steps, and let us open our door and embrace, the strange and holy family of Nazareth!”
And 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, mercy, and exemplary lives of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Homily [4]: The Nativity of the Lord/Christmas, Year ABC, Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [4]: The Nativity of the Lord/Christmas, Year ABC, Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6 and John 1:1-18 [day]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 [In the Year of Mercy]
 In this Year of Mercy we celebrate, this day, the Birth Day of Christ, the Light of the world, with such joy! Like many of you, I found myself again making calls and sending many good wishes to my friends, and family members, as much as time would allowed. I have also received many wishes from so many of you (friends, colleagues, and family members). My heart is fill with gratitude. I am very grateful to you. One of my cards read: “Dear Fr. Michael with the old wish that is ever new- Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  I have kept reflecting on these words such that I will like to say to you, “With the Old wish that is ever new, I  wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”...!

  At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, in our hearts, in our homes, cities and nations- the New Bethlehems.  It is an old celebration that is ever new! It is one of the happiest moments, and days of our Christian lives. On this day, Christians all over the world (Africa, America, Asia, and Europe etc.), young and old, rejoice, celebrate, give, and receive gifts, consolidate the messages of hope and love, the good news, preached and heard during the past four weeks of Advent.  This good news is ever new, whenever and wherever it is reenacted in play [like our children tonight], or chanted in songs like in the Handel’s Messiah of 1741, it is ever new, and ever fresh and sweet, irrespectively of the language or culture of the liturgy!

But circumstances surrounding us daily, weekly, monthly and yearly define the newness of how we respond, or how we celebrate  this Christmas, each year, even though it  is an age-long celebration!  Events of the past 11 or 12 months that have unfolded around our families, our churches, religious communities,  work places, our cities, our climates, our environments, our nations and our world, leave many of us reflecting on how to celebrate Christmas this year.  Many of our families today have experienced joys. Some have or are experiencing sorrows, sicknesses, and good health. Some have even loss their loved ones. Many of us today, also live in towns, communities and cities threatened by the fear of Isis, severe climate change, warm weather, different kinds of mistakes (including—those made by Steve Harvey as to who won  Miss Universe).  Still this year, many live in towns were there are gun violent, Boko Haram, terrorisms, refugee crises and oppressive socio-political structures.

It is also a year that Pope Francis has inaugurated an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy- calling it “a Special time for the Church when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective” (Misericordiae Vultus 3). Believers in what, one may ask? Believers in the true meaning of the mysteries of Christ’s events, beginning with his birth, which we celebrate at Christmas.

In the Light of today’s readings, and no matter the circumstances that we may live today, Christmas is a celebration of the gift of life over death. It is a celebration of light over darkness. It is a celebration of truth over falsehood, and grace over judgment. With mercy, God does not judge us as we deserve! Christmas, in this Year of Mercy fulfils, those promises made to us by the Lord, through the mouths of our ancestors and prophets- the fulfilment of those covenants which the Lord had established with us- including, the promise of his abiding love, uncompromising mercy, his kindness, his amazing grace, his surpassing generosity; his faithfulness, his redeeming skills, his saving power in our lives, from one generation to another.

 These blessings reach their fullness in the incarnation expressed particularly in the Gospel reading, John 1:1-18, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… this word became flesh and dwelt among us as light over darkness.” His birth has given us new life and a shining light over the darkness of the world we live in today.  Speaking of this, 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.”

 The light that John speaks of here, in symbols, is every good things we hope for, and dream of: love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, charity, unity and joy, prosperity, growth, good health of mind and body, security, kindness onto our neighbors and forgiveness in this year of mercy. While the darkness he speaks of in symbols as well, includes, conflict, miscommunication, war, terrorism, gun violent, refugee crises, poverty, job loss, and setbacks in life that we [you and I] may have experienced, especially for the past 12 months.

In the first reading, Isaiah, and ancient Prophet spoke of this Light as the redeemer. He is the one who brings us glad tidings.  He is our champion. He is the announcer of peace and salvation in every generation. He is the bearer of good news to all peoples (Isa 52:7-10).  The good news of joy, the joy of hope, the joy of mercy, the joy of peace.  The joy of good health. He is Christ our savior!

How we response to this entrance of a joyful Light into our world of sorrowful darkness is important! His parents can teach. Joseph and Mary will react with love. They handled everything with patience and great care, in spite of the threats of Pilates and those who opposes the Light. Zechariah, Elizabeth, and their child John the Baptist, his precursor will respond 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, especially in this Jubilee year of Mercy, let us receive Christ, the Light of the world with joy, and be ready to share his compassion, his mercy, his peace with our neighbors. Let this light shine in our homes in this year of mercy. May this light reflects positively in our neighborhood, schools, institutions, offices, churches, society, and wherever we are, in our thoughts, words, and actions, in the gifts we share and through the manner in which we bear witness to the gospel as believers- in this year of mercy!
Once again, I want to say, with the old wish that is ever new- Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Homily [2] 4th Sunday Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2] 4th Sunday Advent Year C:  Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Micah 5:1-4a; Ps 80:2-3, 15-19; Heb 10:5-10 and Luke 1:39-45

 Bethlehem, Elizabeth, Mary; “the Unlikely”[s] in Advent
We are already in the 4th and last week of Advent. The 4th Advent candle is on- indicating that Christmas is around the corner. The roles of Israel’s prophets and John the Baptists, and “the unlikely” things, places and people are intensified in today’s Bible readings, so that we may draw lessons from them. In today’s readings Bethlehem is too small; Elizabeth seems to be too old to bear children, while Mary, the woman in Micah is too young to be the mother of Jesus, our great high priest (Heb 10:5-10), and the savior of the world, the prince of peace, born for us at Christmas.

 I am sure many of us have experienced hopelessness and unlikeliness things before in life. Or bothered with questions such as, will I ever make it;  will I ever succeed, will I ever recover from this illness, from this set-back, from this situation, from this deficit? When you feel so know that you are not the first and you will never be the last, and there is something call a mystery! 

 The biblical Ephrathah, ancient Bethlehem (Joshua 15:59) once felt that way, small, insignificant and hopeless. This when Micah brought them hope. This is when the Micah stepped in, and told them they were significant. This is when Micah promised them a king, a ruler and salvation, saying, “You Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be the ruler of Israel ,whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”  Micah also speaks of the mother of this- shepherd- ruler, “she who will give birth” to Christ, at Christmas.

As we all know, God’s promise will never go unfilled, no matter how long. It may take tens, hundreds, and thousands of years.  1 Samuel 17:12, confirms this.  David’s father, Jesse is traced back to Ephrathah. And Christ, the savior of the world and prince of peace, and source of mercy, born for us at Christmas is traced back to this tribe (Matt 2).

 You see what the “unlikely”, and the insignificant- Ephrathah can produce - the great high priest spoken of in today’s 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews. Unlike the Old Testament priests, Christ's vocation is perfect and teaches us how to be humble, how to give, how to be generous, how to care, how to shepherd as a good shepherd, how to be merciful that Pope Francis speaks of in this year of mercy, how to sacrifice for the church, for our communities, our parishes, dioceses, congregations, institutions, for our families, for our neighbors, and how to let go, how to die for one another. He came doing the will of the Father; “Behold I come to do your will” (Heb 10:5-10).

We have so many other “unlikeliness” in the Gospel and many mysteries! Elizabeth was a barren senior for many years. And customarily it was a disgrace, hopeless and a shameful experience. But, the God who elevated Ephrathah blessed Elizabeth and Zechariah with a child, known as John. He turned their ancient disgrace into an everlasting dancing!

On the other hand, the young and inexperienced Mary is not only pregnant in an unlikely manner, but she is proclaimed “blessed among women, with a blessed “fruit of the womb” and the “mother of my Lord” when she visited with her cousin Elizabeth. Isn’t all these to fulfilled that long foretold by Israel’s prophets (Micah, Isa 7:14).

Are all these not a reminder to us that unlikely things can happen in our lives. Although sometimes we ramble, we sort out, we try to sift out, we demarcate, discriminate between the beautiful, and the ugly, or handsome; we demarcate between the wealthy and the poor, the tall and the short, male and female, young and old, the small and the big, the sick and the healthy God can overrule all these. He can write on a crooked line. God is full of surprises. He can bless Ephrathah, though small. In Advent, we are reminded that God can bless Elizabeth and Zechariah though barren. He can use the Virgin Mary to save us, though young and inexperienced. He can show us his Holy face (Ps 80:4) in spite of our weaknesses. He can bless us, those in the 3rd, the 2nd and the 1st worlds, the poor and the rejected! He can healed us, our families, children; our churches, our nations, continents, our world, and the unlikely, in an unlikely manner, provided we believe.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

Homily[2] 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily[2] 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Zeph 3:14-18a; Isa 12:2-6; Phil 4:4-7 and Luke 3:10-18

God Rejoices Over Us,
We are already in the 3rd week of Advent. So far we  are so blessed with great Bible readings , homilies so far heard, and Advent models presented to us, including Israel’s prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, John the Baptist and our mother Mary- who bear not only messages of love, faith, and hope, but joy.
Today,  the Prophet Zephaniah joyfully speaks to Us. 
He says,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” And Paul addresses same message to his Church in Philippi, saying, “Brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say again rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all,” (Phil 4:4-7).

These passages particularly that of the Prophet Zephaniah is a delight of Pope Francis who even began his first Encyclical “the Joy of the Gospel” by quoting this joyful message Zephaniah. Some of you may have read this encyclical. However, Zephaniah, whose Hebrew name means, “the Lord protects” is the 9th of the 12th minor prophets and  a late-pre-exilic prophets, a contemporary of Jeremiah, who brought smiles, joy and hope to a community that was threatened with mourning, sadness and despair.
The particular text we read today, the last section of chapter 3, contains a language of hope and joy. Some scholars and spiritual authors have even suggested that it was actually written for Israel after the pains of exile. This text shows the Lord smiling, dancing, singing, rejoicing and admiring all of us, his remnant Church.  If so, the question is why is the Lord smiling at us, at Israel, or rejoicing over us? It is because, we have kept the faith. We have persevered. We have fought the good fight. We have endured in spite of temptations, illnesses, problems and betrayals. We have kept our marriages and vows in spite the “turbulence.”

As Zephaniah’s name would portray, we have allowed the Lord’s wings to cover us, to protect us, our families, our jobs, our travels, joys and sorrows, as an umbrella! Even if you were to write out the Name “Zephaniah” in your palm, or on the back of your hymn book, or of bulletin, you cannot but appreciate the nine Advent gifts that Zephaniah offers us through the 9 letters that make up his Hebrew name:

  •        Z=Zeal for the Lord
  •        E= Exemplary Living
  •        P=Perseverance in my faith
  •        H=Humility in service
  •        A=Abiding presence of God
  •        N=Newness of Life in Christ Jesus
  •        I=Initiative in charity
  •        A=Absolute trust in God
  •        H= Hope and not despair

In order words, Advent is a time we listen to the message of Zephaniah and know that the Lord our God is in our midst. Even though we are preparing for Christmas and meditating on the Parousia, the last judgment, during Advent, these two events dialectically are lived within the frame work of the present. . Christ is here with us, in the sacraments, in the Word, in our homes, work places, and in our neighbors. That is, of how we live today, how we relate with one another in fairness and justice.
 This is why in today’s Gospel (Luke 3:10-18), when John was asked by the crowd "what they must do," emphasize is placed on the need for those who have two coats to share one with their neighbor- and whoever has food is called upon to do likewise, those who have formed the habit of cheating, idolatry or extorting their neighbors are called upon to refrain from doing so- during Advent, but open to the baptism of the Holy Spirit- by also practicing that which Zephaniah stands for!

It is by doing so that the Lord rejoices in us .It is by doing so that the Lord Smiles, and sings over us as one would sing at festivals. May the Lord continue to Bless, smile, and rejoice over us, as we prepare for his coming!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Homily[2] 2nd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily[2] 2nd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Ps 126:1-6; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11 and Luke 3:1-6

 When the Lord delivered Zion from Bondage It was like a dream (Ps 126)

 This Psalm 126 sets the tone for the Bible lessons of- this 2nd Sunday of Advent. Granted that the history of Israel or  humanity of all nations, continents and cultures has always been that of ups and downs, bondages, captivities, droughts, weeping, corruption,  joys and sorrows, wars and famine, exile and freedom, Advent brings us hope. Advent reminds the global church, Christians everywhere to prepare for the Lord, the source of love, peace and joy! Advent also helps Christian everywhere  count their  blessings, past and present and endure all kinds of  suffering patiently. It brings every Christian and believer hope in moments of  mourning, hopelessness, deprivation and captivity!

The first reading from Baruch(Bar 5:1-9), though originally addressed to the Israelites in times of threats of hopelessness in exile could be spiritually appropriated by us, today’s Christians, and Catholics. Baruch whose names means, "that who has been blessed," addressed the distressed  and very wearied Israelites, saying to them,

 “Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory of God forever for God will show all the earth your splendor, you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship….the forest and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” This justice and freedom came to be when the Persians, defeated the Babylonians and when God put love and kindness in the heart of King Cyrus who permitted the exiled Israelites to return and rebuild their lives and the once destroyed Temple of Solomon.
 Truly, Baruch convey a message  of hope and a  futuristic language of  the acknowledgement of God’s blessings dotted throughout the history of God’s relationship with his people--- “God will, God will, God will do this and that- for Israel.”!!!  The Church, therefore invites us during Advent, from our various life situations, and continents of the world, to reflect on Baruch when we thought that we have been unfairly treated, marginalized, neglected, or unjustly deprived of our dignities, rights and freedom- even to pray, and worship.

 Psalm 126 builds on Baruch’s. In verses 1-3 we are told,
  “When the lord brought back the captives of Jerusalem, Zion, it was like a dream, then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tough with joy. Then they said among themselves the Lord has done great things for them, the Lord has done great things for us.”

 Here there is a sense of lament, joy and also gratitude for God’s blessings to us in the past and present. Our future is in God’s hands. The more reason the Psalmist invites us to in moments of challenges be able pray:  “Restore our fortunes, O lord, like the torrents in the Negev desert. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. Although they shall go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves” (vv 4-6).

In other words, Israel hope, is our hope, which will never be in vain.  Speaking of this hope, Paul addresses the Church in Philippi in the following pastoral words, “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day till now. I am confident this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil 1:4-6, 8-11).

  In addition to these messages from  Baruch, Psalm 126 and Paul, John the Baptist, a model of Advent, penultimately, in the Gospel (Luke 3:1-6) invites us- Christians everywhere- young and old, to prepare, to hope, to trust in the Lord, to mend our ways, forgive one another, endure sufferings, bad politics and governance, joblessness and lawlessness, poor health care and insurances, hardships, terrorism and threats of war with patience. Scriptures also invite us today to reach out to the poor, sow peace, love and mercy, not hatred and blames, so that when Christ comes both at Christmas and in the Parousia- in the final judgment we may not be strangers. Rather, we might be seen as familiar friends to Jesus, Our Lord, Master and Deliverer!