Saturday, May 28, 2016

Homily[2] for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Gen 14:18-20
·         Ps 110:1-4
·          I Cor 11:23-26
·          Luke 9:11b-17

 The Bread that Came Down From Heaven Feeds Us!

 In the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ  we celebrate Christ, the New High priest and Righteous King, who came down from heaven, who feeds us, physically, psychologically and spiritually. We celebrate Christ who feeds  our hungry families with food; our divided villages, counties, nations with his healing love; and our broken world with his inviting mercy and soothing unity. We celebrate him, who invites us, who reminds us, to imitate him– his mercy, his love, his smiles, his sense of compassion, his empathic presence, his active pursuit for unity, his pragmatic charity and his total self-giving!

 Pope Urban IV (1264) during years of Saint Thomas Aquinas instituted this celebration to encourage our devotion to Christ,  and Eucharistic worship in hymns, songs, processions, genuflections, adoration,  veneration and visitations of Christ who is ever present with us in the Blessed Sacraments, in our midst and through our neighbors, and in our various socio-political an religious needs.

 In the Gospel of reading of today he is present to the hungry multitude. He provides them with seats. He provides them with his compassion. He provides them with surplus food and smiles (Luke 9:11-17). What does this say to us in a world where love, compassion for one another and genuine care and provision for the poor and the needy, that Pope Francis also speak of in his preaching and writings, are far-fetched?

Similar event is seen in the Book of Genesis 14, put into music in Psalm 110 “You are a priest in the line of Melchizedek.” We don’t know much about this Melchizedek except what we learn and read from the scriptures. He was a king of Salem, at least this we know. And his name means “a righteous king”, and priests. But we don’t know who was his father, mother or family. When Abraham came back victorious from a local war this “righteous king and priest offered Abraham bread and wine. He also blessed Abraham who offered him a tithe- tenth of what he had.

In our Christian faith and Catholic tradition this “righteous king/Melchizedek” is type of Christ spoken of in the Gospels, especially today’s Gospel, where he feeds and shows his love, mercy and compassion for the hungry, and provides them with life! The question then is, if Christ could give us his life, his body, his blood on the cross, his blessings, his love who are we then not to worship, imitate, adore and obey him, though not only our devotions, prayers, but love and charity towards our neighbors– Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, so you do unto me (Matt 25)!

Saint Paul insists on this same point in the 2nd reading (1 Cor 11:23-26) when he says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” 
As we celebrate the solemnity of corpus Christi, let reflect on how well we have imitate Christ, in his mission of sharing and unity, in his mission of love and charity and in his mission of sharing our bread, drinks, time and talents with our neighbors.



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Homily [2] Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year C: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael

Homily [2] Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year C: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael
·         Prov 8:22-31

·         Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9;

·         Rom 5:1-5

·         John 16:12-15
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…

Today we celebrate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which reminds us of our common doxology, the Glory be to the Father,  to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. It is an age-long celebration, in a new century, a different time, different year!  We live today, in the 21st century, filled with new ideas, including, supersonic technology, I-phones, I-pads, global economic crisis, and rap-music.  Ecological and climate changes are on the rise; aviation and political crises on the increase; poverty, secularism, materialism, are daily threatening traditional Christian values the mysteries of faith, drums of war beating, terrorism and religious extremists are “celebrating” in the  broad day light; religious leaders are trying their best. They are in dialogue with their nations politicians!  Pope Francis, in particular has responded not only with his Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of Gospel), addressing the United Nations, but with his Laudauto Si and Amoris Laetitia (the joy of love).

To all of us, the questions remains how do we, today, in the midst of all these, call it afflictions, continue to re-live, relate to, or celebrate this mystery? I suggest our spiritual point of departure be love, faith, hope, absolute trust, and reliability in the promises of God indelibly expressed in the Church’s teachings, particularly in the Holy Scriptures.

In the first reading (Prov 8:22-31) we are reassured of the presence of this divine mystery with us, from creation, in the form of Wisdom/Sophia/Hokma Sapientia: “When the Lord established heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit… and I found delight in the human race.” Delight in the human race! God has always been fond of us in ways that are beyond our human comprehension!
He accompanies us on our journeys, in mysterious ways! In the plague in Egypt, in our illnesses, in the wilderness of Sinai, in the burning bush, in the roughness of our exiles, poverty, the loss of our loved ones, through the mouth of the prophets, in our various challenges, call it afflictions, the Glory of the Lord accompanies us!

Paul speaks of this Glory in the 2nd reading (Rom 5:1-5). His conversion of course was a mystery! Paul says to the Romans, perhaps in the midst of their afflictions,  “since we have been justified by faith,” we have peace with God, through the second person of the Holy Trinity, namely Jesus Christ “through whom we have gained access by faith.. And we boast in the glory of God,” even in the midst of our afflictions, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit that has been given us.”

 From the Gospel reading of today, I want to believe that, humanly speaking, it must  have  sounded like an affliction when the disciples of Christ first  learned in the last discourse that Christ, their master, would have to go to the Cross at some point (John 16:12-15). What a seemingly painful departure would that be?  I wonder if the disciples first understood what Christ meant, when he said to them, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But, when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth… everything that the father has is mine, for this reason, I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” This is where the mystery lies; the mystery of a God on cross; the mystery of “the Spirit of truth,” wisdom, endurance, patience, courage, love, hope , faith, which God the Father through his crucified Son and the Holy Spirit pour on us on the Pentecost.
In our daily challenges, the workings of the mystery of the Holy Trinity are in us, knowingly or unknowingly.  All that he has in the Trinity is ours. The triune God loves us and wishes us to share his life. In a turbulent world of today of various socio- political and religious challenges, God wants us to behave and constantly act in manner that reflects his Divine Love. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever, shall be, world without end. Amen!




Saturday, May 14, 2016

Homily[2] Pentecost Sunday Year C (Mass during the Day): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily[2] Pentecost Sunday Year C (Mass during the Day): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Acts 2:1-11;
·         Psalm 104:1, 24,29-30,31,34;
·         I Cor 12:2-3b-7, or Rom 8:8-17
·         John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16,23b-26

The Fire of the Holy Spirit in Our Lives!

 We celebrate Pentecost Sunday, today, 50 days after Easter.  And I really love the readings, the songs and the spiritual themes reflected in our celebration, particularly the responsorial Psalm “Send forth your Spirit Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). I also love the Alleluia verse of today, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”  This traditional antiphon begins every session of our Rosaries. I love saying this too in my native language-- Di O Edisana Spirit, Duk Yoho ke me esit nti ikot mfo, nyung nam ikan ima fo oyoho ke esist mmo!( Veni Sancte Spiritus) .   These passages are full of the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirits can do for us.

 They specifically point to a number things that we must take note: One, the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church, in our midst.  Two, the Holy is like a “Fire” in us, burning with love. Three, with the Holy Spirit we can do a lot. We can move mountains. We can love. We can forgive. We can build. We can listen to the message of Pope Francis. We can transform the face of the earth with love, kindness, forbearance, unity and gentleness.

 To the first point, you may ask, how do we know that the Spirit is alive in the Church? The Gospel does not lie. Christ does no tell lies! Believe him! You would recall soon after his Baptism in Luke’s Gospel chapter 4, the first thing Christ himself acknowledged was a sense of divine mission and the presence of the Holy Spirit with him. As God’s incarnate spoken of by the prophets (Isa 61), the Spirit enables him bring the Good news to the poor, and freedom to the captives, liberation to the oppressed and the marginalized. This came to be true throughout Jesus' mission!

We continue to see this assurance of the Spirit in today’s Gospel (John 14). Christ, before his mission to the Cross, promises his disciples– “if you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you always.” You better believe it. Christ’s promises are never in vain! The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the “Divine Attorney” is with us. The Holy Spirit is in the midst of our daily challenges. The Spirit fights for us. The Spirit keeps us in the state of grace. The Holy Spirit brings us wisdom, fortitude, knowledge, piety, counsel, understanding and fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit enables us love God and our neighbors joyfully and keep God's his commandments.

 Speaking of this ever presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives Paul says:

 “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (daughters) of God. For you did not receive a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with, so that we may also be glorified with him,’ (Rom 8:8-17). To the Corinthian Church Paul very directly says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you...” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Pentecost Sunday reminds us today that the Spirit of God dwells within us.

 To the Second point, the Holy Spirit dwells metaphorically like a fire, spoken of in today’s 1st reading ( Acts 2:11). On that first Pentecost, the Disciples of Christ were in one room “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong wind, and it filled the entire house in which there were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

 In this text, “fire” is an image of God’s loving, illuminating, encouraging, enabling and inspiring presence with the Apostles and the Church. The beauty of this fire of God’s love dispels the fears of persecution and of the unknown, experienced by the early Church. It enables Peter and the Apostles to preach the Risen Lord fearlessly to all Israel. It enables devout Jews who lived in Jerusalem, and people of different cultural background and languages to reconcile their differences, to understand themselves, to appreciate one another.

 Today, we live in a divided world, broken nations, economics, politics, religions, cultures, languages and differences, starting even from our families, churches, worship centers, to places of work, to the United Nations and to the play grounds. In Nigeria, for instance, it is Islam vs Christianity, Boko Haram vs the Chibok Schoolgirls, corrupt officials vs the poor electorates, justice vs injustices and other patties’ interests. In the United States the differences span from the platform of the Democrats to that of the Republicans, Obama-Clintonism vs Trumpism; the traditional teachings of the Church on family, marriage, love, the common good, justice, peace (stress by Pope Francis in his Amoris Laetitia- the joy of love and in other various teachings of the Church) vs modern re-definition of these institutions. Globally, we have peace in one hand, and war, or terrorism on the other. What do we do? How do we use the spirit that God has given us? What role does the event of Pentecost play in our lives today?

 This takes us to the final point. The fire of the Holy Spirit given us today comes in different ways, given us in different ways- to advocate for us, to protect us, to strengthen us, sanctify us as individual, to make us holy, forgiving to our neighbors, imitate Christ, but that we may also share this different gifts with the world (1 Cor 12:4-7).  Whatever our gifts are: prophecy, legislating, dancing, advising, preaching, speaking, teaching, entertaining, singing, governing, we want to use it for the common good, to kindle the face of the earth.

 We live in such a divided society. We want to let this fire of love, through the conduit of our wisdom, fortitude, knowledge, piety, counsel, understanding and fear of the Lord, burn away the darkness of hatred, racism, division, bigotry, violence, terrorism, war, injustices and inhumane activities in our homes, in our work places, in government offices, and in our play grown. All that we are saying today is that, send forth your Spirit, O Lord, that the face of the earth be renewed!





Saturday, May 7, 2016

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 7:55-60
·         Ps 97:1-2,6-7,9
·         Rev 22:12-14,16-17,20
·         John 17:20-26

 The Spirits of Witness and Oneness Needed!

The Gospel reading of today is widely known  with the appellation:  the “Priestly Prayer/ or the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus," (praecatio summi sacerdotis- David Chytraeus) ,or "farewell prayer," prayer of Jesus(R. Bultmann). In this  last farewell prayer, and important testament of Jesus,  we are told, “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying, ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me…”

This prayer, especially the phrase, “that they may all be one” (Ut Omnes unum sint),  as intercessory as it may be (according to the patristic fathers), is a delight of many pastors, exegetes, commentators, scholars and Church leaders. Many Bishops (C. Etokudoh) have also chosen it as their episcopal motos, and guiding principles of ecumenism and evangelization.

It is a timely prayer that fits the 7th Sunday of Easter, a post- ascension Church.  It gives answers to the questions: what happens to the Church after the ascension of Jesus. It calls for a spirit of witness, prayers, and perseverance within the church even with the seeming physical absence of Jesus. In this prayer, ut omnes, unum sint (that they may all be one”) Jesus, the high priest stresses unity, faith, love and peace after he might have ascended to the Father. Jesus anticipates a Church marked with despair, distress and persecution, like in the case of Stephen, in today’s 1st reading, Acts of the Apostle chapter 7.
Churches, Christians,  families and even politicians everywhere can relate to this priestly prayer, recognizing ab initio, that the causes of disunity  may include, ignorance, jealousy, envy, and lack of respect for one another’s culture and religion.
In the United Nations today, the question of how to cope with wars, and global terrorism posed by Isis and other religious extremists remains alive. America like any other nation on earth, has its own problems and challenges(racial, denominational divides etc)  currently addressed by members of both political parties: The Republicans and the Democrats and by those who are Independents. In Nigeria, where the prayer for “Nigeria in Distress” has long been maintained, the activities of Boko Haram, and recently of some radical Herdsmen and corrupt elected officials are among those realities threatening the unity of that nation.

No wonder the recent and timely meeting of the Nigerian Catholic Bishops with President Muhamadu Buhari on May 2, 2016 has unequivocally address the following unity-related needs:

·         For the Church and State to Collaborate in building a united post-Boko Haram Nigeria

·         To urgently address the recent famers’/herdsmen’s conflict in Nigeria

·         For Freedom of worship, education and religion in all parts of Nigeria

·         To address current socio-political and economic hardship in the country

·         For a greater and collective sense of patriotism

In the face of these challenges a true life of witness is expected. This may include, interdenominational prayer, change of attitude, freedom of speech, respect to the dignity of every human person, their fundamental human rights, security and freedom of education, worship and true dialogue among religious groups, followers and leaders and promotion of unity and sense of patriotism in our homes, families, villages, towns, states, nations,  churches, and dioceses.
Those who witness to this spirit of unity and oneness in the face of distress, could be liken to those describe in the 2nd reading (Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20). They have washed their robes of unity, oneness and witness ready to participate in the right of the tree of life and entrance into the heavenly city through the gates of life namely, Jesus, who remains the way, the truth and the life.


Homily Ascension of the Lord Year C: (Mother’s Day USA) Fr .Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Ascension of the Lord Year C: (Mother’s Day USA) Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Acts 1:1-11;
·          Ps 47:2-3, 6-9;
·         Eph 1:17-23 or Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23
·         Luke 24:46-53
 Ascension with Love!
 In different parts of the world, including Nigeria, the ecclesiastical Provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha and Philadelphia here in the States, the Solemnity of Ascension was celebrated on Thursday after the Sixth Sunday of Easter. In other places including our Archdiocese (Milwaukee) here, Ascension is celebrated today, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. And it is also a mother’s day in the United States.
Today’s celebration is a culmination of the events of the Paschal mysteries of Christ (recall his birth-ministry-passion-death-resurrection and Ascension)! Remember, during the Passion Week, it was evident that the death of Christ was never going to be a defeat, but a victory, exaltation, a glorification. He long foretold in John 12:32, “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to myself.”  Today is an ascension of love! We learn today how to rise above hatred and violence!
On that Cross, Christ stood tall. He rose above the pettiness of those who had anything to do with his persecution. He drew to himself the Jews, the Gentiles, men and women, including, the Roman soldiers, the Beloved Disciples, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, everyone was at the foot of the Cross.  With his resurrection and appearances many, including the doubting Thomas also came to belief in Christ and finally was able to say, My Lord and My God.”
 Today’s readings testify to God’s work in Christ Jesus. The work of love and forgiveness. In Luke’s gospel account of the Ascension Jesus reminds his disciples of what his mission of suffering- death and resurrection and ascension, was all about. He encourages them to spread on the good news fearlessly to all part of the world.  The good news of mercy and tolerance. As he returns to his father, the promise of the father, the Holy Spirit will be sent to strengthen them on this mission. In Luke’s account, today’s Gospel, Christ blessed them before he “was lifted up into heaven” where he took his seat at the right hand of God, presiding at the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23).
Similar account is presented in the first reading, Acts of the Apostles (1:1-11), and confirmed by Paul in the Second reading, Ephesians 1:17-23. In all these scriptural passages, one thing is common: the love of God is at work. Love in the very incarnation; love in his ministry, love behind the sacrifice of himself on the cross, rather than the Levitical sacrifices in the earthly sanctuaries.
Ordinarily, we find this unwavering love and trust most often in a loving mother- son relationship. Thank God today is mother’s day! Think of the 9 months or so pregnancy period, the care and love mothers have for their babies after birth and the unquantifiable investment in raising their kids. They give everything they have to protect and raise their kids.   This is who God is express in the events of Christ.
 In a world that we live today where religious extremism, Boko Haram, Isis, radical herdsmen, intolerance, violence, redefining the meaning “family” values, have become the order of the day, the question of how we respond to Christ’s love, becomes very urgent.  
 Children and parents can do this by returning to that initial parent-children relations stress in the Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis- the need to learn and re-listen again to those family stories in the Bible- Abraham and family, Tobit and Family, Ruth and family, Joseph, Mary and family!
Our Politicians, leaders at every level, and law makers in every nation can do this; can respond to Christ’s teaching love, can rise above pettiness, injustices, bigotry, divisiveness, by returning to the basics of politics- “the prudence search for the common good,” (John Paul II) - the good of our children, the Chibok schoolgirls, men, women and children, their freedom to worship, to go to school, security, and the good of their fundamental human rights!
However, today is the day we want to say thank to all our mothers, in our communities, and homes. Call them. Send them cards. Take them out for dinner. Present them with flowers and learn to imitate their God’s given virtues of care, affection, diligence, and selfless love for all their children without partiality- which reflects who God is by going to the cross on our behalf, raised from the death, and today ascended into heaven! May we also pray for the grace to ascend with Christ through how we daily love and relate our neighbors!