Saturday, June 25, 2016

Homily [2] 13th Sunday of the Year C: Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily [2] 13th Sunday of the Year C: Michael Ufok Udoekpo

·         1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21;
·         Psalm  16:1-2,5-11;
·          Gal 5:1,13-18
·         Luke 9:51-62

Following Jesus, freely and Completely

 Our relationship with God is a relationship of faith. It is a journey of faith that requires free will response, resoluteness and determination in following (akoloutheo) Christ.  This  determination and resoluteness is also translated into how we listen to God, his precepts. How we response to daily events in the modern world, and how we also relate with our neighbors in the midst of our daily challenges matters. In this last weekend (of June 2016) we woke up to hear that Great Britain is exiting from the European Union after about 40 years. And the world is panicking at least politically and economically. How does this affect our faith in God and how we follow (akoloutheo) Christ?  Usually, there is a sacrifice involved in this- I mean following Christ, listening to him, serving him. What have you left to follow Christ?

 In the first reading of today Elisha left everything and followed the Prophet Elijah in his mission of love, care for the poor, the sick and the widows. Elijah was also a proponent for worship of God alone. To accompany Elijah on this mission, Elisha left everything including his oxen, father and mother- total abandonment.

We see this total abandonment in Christ's mission. His mission was not only to baptize, to help, to cure diseases, but also to love everyone and to do the will of God his Father. He was not interested in riches, nor in power. He made this known to the Satan who tempted him after his baptism, earlier on in Luke chapter 4. We also see Jesus’ selflessness in his response to his Mother at Cana in Galilee, in John 2. Jesus says to Mary, "Woman my time has not yet come." After the Passover commemoration Jesus stayed back in the Temple to do his Father's will, preaching and dialoging with rabbis in the synagogue. A mystery that Mary and Joseph continuously wrestled with. On top of everything, Jesus leaves his mother and his biological family and went to the Cross of Calvary, in Jerusalem.

In today’s (Luke 9:51-62) Christ is freely and resolutely determine to journey to this Jerusalem. But, are his disciples willing to seriously journey with him? Or are they just talking the talk without walking the walk. Are they willing to journey with him? Or must they go back like Elisha to bury their parents and say farewell to them first? 

In some contexts neither of these excuses: burying the dead or saying hello to ones' family is wrong. I think what matters is serving God responsibly, imitating him, and being volitionally dedicated to him in our various settings and contexts, through the services we selflessly render our neighbors and communities. These excuses may also serve as a reminder to us that it is much better to avoid inventing reasons to justify lack of charity, firmness in faith or adequate response to the needy and the plight of the poor or refusal to willingly participate in the dialogue for the healing of brokenness, selfishness, subjectivism and disunity facing various segments of our society today.

St. Paul puts it well in the Second Reading  in his address to the Galatian church(Gal 5:1, 13-18) "For freedom Christ set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to yoke of slavery. For you were call for freedom ...but do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (things that takes us away from God, evil), rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

 God and all that he stands for, is this love, Deus Caritas est!  The Psalmist rightly calls him " our inheritance"( Ps 16:5a).  May we willingly follow him in our daily works and acts of charity, and listen to that whispering of the Holy Spirit with patience! And may he show us the path of life as we journey responsibly with faith, freedom in Christ, resoluteness and determination to follow God's will, not ours, especially in the challenging world of today!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Homily [2] 12th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily [2] 12th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Zechariah 12:10–11; 13:1
·         Psalm 63:2,3–4,5–6,8–9
·         Galatian 3:26–29
·         Luke 9:18–24

 Following Christ with our Crosses!
Today we live in a challenging world of violence  and re-definitions of family values (the Orlando shooting, the London stabbing, war in the middle east, the havoc of boko haram and Isis etc.). There are also corruption in nations' capitals, search for power, materialism, and indifferent attitudes to ones’ neighbors; racism, hunger for war, terrorisms, discrimination of all kinds, and acts of selfishness without hope. It is to this present world, the Modern World, according to Gaudium et Spes (the Church in the Modern World), that the readings of today, in the light of Christ, are addressed. The readings invite us not only to be prophetic in our Christian living, but, as Christ’s disciples, as the Messiah's disciples, to be willing always to deny ourselves, take up our daily crosses and follow Jesus– seeing also ourselves, everyone human person, young and old, male and female, as our brothers and sisters. 

In the Gospel( Luke 9:18–24) Jesus asks the apostles who the people thought he was. They thought he was the great former prophet  Elijah, Jeremiah, the latter prophet, John the Baptists or one of Israel’s prophets come back to life. But, Peter prophetically professes the identity of Jesus, as “The Christ of God.”  For Peter, Christ is truly that Messiah long expected to liberate them from the foreign rule of Rome.

Echoes of this Messianic coming is also heard  foregrounded in today’s first reading, the prophecy of Zechariah(Zechariah 12:10–11; 13:1). Zechariah’s prophecy points to ancient events before Christ. From the house of David a Messiah would come to restore holiness, forgive sins and purify the people of God–but not without personal suffering and sacrifices as we saw in the suffering servant of God in Second Isaiah. But, they shall look on him whom they shall pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.”
Zechariah’s messianic prophecy  in the light of today’s Gospel, in the light of our Christian faith, points not only to the suffering death of Christ, but invites us to identify ourselves and our ministries, propheticially, with that of Christ, especially in moments of sufferings, hunger, pains, violence, bad political leaders, and when we experience discrimination, terrorism and even the loss of our loved ones.

This is why when Peter prophetically declares that Christ is the Messiah, Christ quickly explains the type of Messiah he was, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised…If any one wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Three points are outstanding here, for Christian discipleship: self-denial, carrying our daily crosses with Jesus, and following him. Self-denial requires that we remove selfish desire and destructive desires from our hearts and allow the spirit of God to be with us, to fill our homes and our nations.  Crosses can come to us, as it came to most of the saints and holy people (we hear of), in different forms: through illnesses,  tragedies, sacrificial love of one neighbors, helping the poor, being patience with one another; as pastors and leaders bearing a pastoral hearts, helping our spouses, Fathers helping their children, children assisting and visiting with the aged and ailing parents–giving one another our time and practicing the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy, especially in this Year of Mercy.

As followers of Christ, we are invited to live our Christian life in accordance with the Gospel values and of the teachings of the Church– welcoming everyone, male and female( Gal 3). Even in this challenging time of: war, terrorism, poverty, hunger, selfishness, greediness, consumerism etc.; we are invited to speak, take up our daily crosses  and live prophetically.

For Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading (Galatian 3:26–29),   taking up our daily crosses to follow Christ, as baptized Christians also involves, striving to become children of God through our ardent faith in Jesus Christ, by living like him, tearing down unjust barriers of gender, color, race and class, making social justice a priority in the mission of the Church as constantly emphasize today, by Pope Francis– for there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female’ for you are all one in Christ.” A female religious , Gesila Nneka Uzukwu , not long ago, also stresses this point in her doctoral dissertation entitled: The Unity of Male and Female in Jesus Christ: An Exegetical Study of Galatians 3.28c in Light of Paul's Theology of Promise.

Let us also personally ask ourselves, who am I? What am I doing? Where am I from (country, continent), what is my occupation? Am I a parent, child, church or civil leader, student, an entrepreneur,  professor, factory worker, farmer, celebrity, sport person, young, old, male or female, a transporter? In what form am I ready to take up my daily crosses, in faith, and follow the Messiah, the Son of God?  At least, Am I doing my best day in and day out to treat all people I meet with dignity and respect?


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Homily [2] 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2] 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         2 Sam 12:7-10, 13;
·         Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11;
·          Gal 2:16, 19-21
·         Luke 7:36–8:3

 Forgiveness with Love

 The Bible readings of today remind us of who God is. His name is Mercy!  His name is Love! God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and kindness (Exod 34:6).  The readings, when you look at it closely also teach us how to forgive with love, and how to live with faith in Christ who is the face of God his father! Wonderful message of love and forgiveness that fit into this Year of Mercy- declared by Pope Francis- who invites us, the Church to review her practice of the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy and deepen our witness to the Gospel.

  What I have just said is found in Nathan- David’s story in the first reading. David is great warrior. He defeats Saul with the help of God. Samuel anoints David the 2nd ding of Israel. David battles on, leads, repulses the Philistines and brings the Ark of the Covenant to the central place in Jerusalem. David expresses the desire to build a house for the Lord. Through Nathan’s prophecy, God says no. God, rather builds a house for David. Not an ordinary house, – but a dynasty, and everlasting house through and everlasting covenant. Why because God loves him, loves us (2 Sam 7:14).

 Ironically, the same David, is found committing what Nathan has pointed out in 1st reading: David spurns the Lord. David commits adultery with someone’s wife, and orchestrated the death of her husband- Uriah. The Lord, will punish David and his house. We don’t know how far the Lord had intended to punish David, but what is important is David’s acknowledgement of his sins and the merciful God sparing David’s life. As Nathan would put it, “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sins: you shall not die.” (2 Sam 12:7–10.13).

  David is joyful. David is grateful. He recognizes the mercy of God and prayers:
“Blessed is the one whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile. I acknowledge my sin to you, my guilt I covered not…You are my shelter’ from my distress you preserve me…”

 How many of us reciprocate God’s love for us, his mercy, or our weaknesses and the need for confession! How often do we not forget or be so insensitive to those we have offended?  It is a true sign of our love for God, and all he stands for: peace, truth, love, faith, and hope- when we turn to say “sorry” to our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members, particularly those we have offended. We also express our love for God when we openly and sincerely receive back, with love those who may have offended us.

 Imagine Paul who was once an enemy, and an ardent persecutor of those who had anything to do with Christ. Today in Galatians 2, that same Paul is able to say, “I live no longer, but Christ who lives in me.”

 This Christ, is the face of the God David.  He is mercy in our midst. Christ embodies mercy- his preaching, his teaching, his listening, his reaching out to children, elderly, men and women.

 Christ completely forgives the sinful woman in today’s gospel, as God would have forgiven David. Each of us can relate to this story, because we are all sinners, in need of God’s mercy and love.  God knows and sees our weaknesses and strengths. This woman, though a sinner, like any of us, welcomes the forgiving grace of God, by her gestures of gratitude, humility and love- weeping before Christ, anointing, kissing and cleaning Christ’s feet with her hair not with a towel or paper napkin, and enduring the mockery of the society and of the elites of those who presumed to be better of! David was also able to say to Nathan, “I have sin against the Lord.” And Paul was able to say, “I live no Longer I, but Christ lives in me.”

May the Christ, who is the face of God’s mercy, love and peace, continue to live in us, in our homes, in our families,( in this...), in our broken society and divisive politics, as we place all our hope in him?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Homily [2]10th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily[2] 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         1Kings 17:17-24;
·          Ps 30; 2-6, 11-13;
·          Gal1:11-19
·           Luke 7:11-17

  Last Sunday on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we encountered Christ the compassionate High Priest, Incarnate of God the Father, God of Elijah and of ancient prophets, a miracle worker, healer, who feeds and blesses the multitude. In today’s readings he heals the sick and strengthens the widows, skeptics and those who are physically, psychologically, materially and spiritually weak and helpless in our world today.

Many of us may think that we cannot make it; that the war will never end, that terrorism will never cease, that the economy will never be better, the kidnapping has started again (in Nigeria); schools, hospitals, and social infrastructures are still below standard, compared to other nations; that our government and politics will never be better; the racial divide in our world today; or we will never be healed of this or that illness; or manage well the grieving of the loss of our loved ones...; the hunger, the poverty! With the readings of today, the story is different. There is hope. There is a healer on the way and in our midst!

 In the Gospel, Jesus sees the coffin of the only son of Widow of Nain. Moved by the sorrowful mother, He touches the casket, and the deceased child of the widow was brought back to life. Christ is acknowledged as “great prophet... arisen in our midst.”

In the first reading, similar incidence happens in Zerephath between Elijah, an ancient prophet and the sick child of another widow,  who is healed and brought back to life (1 Kings 17:17-24).

 These incidences are great reminder to us that our God is a merciful God. He is compassionate and forgiving. He is committed to the poor, the afflicted, the weak, the needy, the sick, the suffering, and the dying, and of course their entire families. He manifests himself to us through the loving and pastoral presence of not only our prophets and pastors, but through our sincere presence for one another.

 We are called to be prophets, men and women of God, like Elijah: God’s mouthpiece, spiritually dynamic, able to bring God to others, and others to God; consciences of our society, communities, parishes and dioceses; courageous in faith and good deeds, conscientious, merciful, forgiving and truthful, and conduits of God’s healing love like Israel’s prophets. We are called to be intercessors, proclaimers of the Gospel, and prayer warriors for one another as Elijah and our Lord, Jesus did throughout his ministry. He prayed and touched the widow’s son to life, miraculously.

 In the 2nd reading God works the same miracle through Paul. As weak as he was in his former ways– hating and persecuting the Christians, Paul, with the grace of God, changes things around in his life. He is called by God. God reveals himself to him. Paul becomes an ardent proclaimer of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Gal 1:11-19).  Paul became a prophet to his own people. He made Christ audible to his community.

Like Elijah, Christ and Paul each of us are invited to be in solidarity with one another, our friends, our spouses, the sick, the weak, the aged, the skeptics, and the needy, the dying and the sorrowful. It is also important for us to remember, to always be grateful to God (Ps 30) and continuously be conscious of God’s presence in our cultures, in our communities, in our  homes, in our daily lives!