Saturday, July 30, 2016

Homily [2] 18th Sunday of Year C. Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily [2] 18th Sunday of Year C. Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·        Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23
·        Ps 90:3-4, 5-6,12-13
·        Col 3: 1-5,9-11
·        Luke 12:13-21

The Meaning of Life is found in Sharing
When we were growing up as teenagers we had different nick names….. A good friend of mine took “Experience” as his nick name. And often when asked why he did that, he said, he liked it, particularly, because of the common expression: “experience is the best teacher.” Experience about what, one may ask? I guess about life as a whole.  The common theme of today’s reading is built around life experiences of a 3rd century BC, anonymous preacher and teacher known as Koholeth, or Ecclesiastes, today’s 1st reading.
Koheleth lived among his brothers and sisters, his contemporaries, who were so greedy, pessimistic, selfish, and attached to material wealth, possessions, power, career, human recognitions, earthly things, and fame. Based on his experience the preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes, is convinced that life is found in sharing with our needy neighbors all the blessings that God has blessed each of us with: time, treasure and talents (TTT).
 For him, greedy acquisition of material things is useless after death. Qoholeth uses the familiar expression “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” In his ancient languages, Hebrew and Greek this sounds like Hevel hevelim, hakol hevel or matoiotēs matoiotētōn… translated as emptiness, nothingness, futility, breath, perishable, void, transitory etc. For “what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?” he asked.  Material things, earthly things that we have will pass. We can only preserve them spiritually, heavenly, if we use it well to love God and our neighbors. Without God all that we have is useless.
Similarly, Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, while speaking to the Colossians church, who were also anxious for material things, re-directs their attention to Christ and things that are above, heavenly and spiritual. Paul says, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry.”

In the Gospel parable of the foolish rich, man (Luke 12:13-21) who thought he would not die soon, Christ warns us against all types of greed and possessiveness to fame, honor and material things. Of course, all these sound familiar to us today. They sound counter cultural to the way we live today and what we like most today in place of God: money, fame, material things, those passion spoken of by Saint Paul in the 2nd reading, and attachment to human recognitions. What are your idolatrous greed?
Many of us have witnessed wealthy, beautiful and handsome celebrities and famous people come and go. Needless of naming names here...! What matters most is how they lived their lives and shared their wealth and talents. Talents or wealth here is not limited to finance.  Even though we may be financially poor, some of us may be rich with good smiles, sense of humor, intelligence, gift of counselling, ability to encourage, empower, uplift and support others. Christ invites us today to control our various forms of greed: search for others approval, recognition, excessive eating, drinking, gambling habits, playing pokemon excessively, control of others, power and materialism. He invites us today to look heavenly and be always generous in sharing our blessings and life with our neighbors, since life is too short, and all is vanity! An unshared life is not worth living!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Homily[2] 17th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily[2] 17th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·       Genesis 18:20-32
·       Psalm 138:1-3,6-7,7-8
·       Colossians 2:12-14
·       Luke 11:1-13

God’s Mercy; Persistence in Prayer,

Today, and in this Year of Mercy, we celebrate once again God’s Mercy and the need to constantly praise God, worship him, and petition him for our needs, pray for one another: our nations, our churches, families and friends. This need is evidence in today’s Bible Readings.

In the 1st reading (Genesis 18:20-32), we find Abraham, our father in faith, one of Israel’s “earliest prophet”(Gen 20:7) interceding, persistently for the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In response to his intercession God shows that he is not only merciful, forgiving, and kind to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah but also because of lives of a few tens of innocent, prayerful people in these communities. This is true of us. You never know how far your prayers, those rosaries we say, those masses we attend—how far your holiness of life and goodness has contributed in the blessings of God upon our sinful lands and families.
As Pope Francis would remind us when he kicked off in this Year of Mercy, Christ Jesus (in our NT time) is the face of the God of Abraham, the Father of Mercy. Christ went to the Cross on our behalf. This is why Saint Paul says in the 2nd reading (Col 2:12-14) that even though we were sinners, through Christ’ passion, and intercessions, we, like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been saved!

It is through Christ that we offer our prayers to God the Father. A persistent, short, sweet prayer of praise, worship, lamentation, and thanksgiving for all that God has done for us: the life he provides, the air, mountains, seas, food, clothing, nations and families. Through this Christ should be our request to God, to always do his will and petition for what we need and lack in life- forgiveness of sins, and blessings upon our land.
This is exemplified in the today’s Gospel (Luke 11:1-13) the Lord’s Prayer which we recite at every Mass.  We mastered this prayer by heart, when we were preparing for our various sacraments. In this prayer, Christ teaches us how to pray. He reminds us that prayer is a relationship, a communication, a dialogue with God. It requires the intimacy that we find in a child parents relationship. And must be done with the consistency we saw in Abraham, who interceded for the cities Sodom and Gomorrah.  This is the meaning of “seek and you will find, knock and he door will be opened.” Do we value prayer? Do we pray? When and how?  What and whom do we pray for? These are some of the questions we may ask ourselves as we reflect on today’s scriptures.

We may have had our set-backs (like Job, Habakkuk, Sarah, Hanah, Abraham Lincoln etc.…) disappointments, threats, failures, loss of our loved ones in life, we must not give up in prayers. Never Give Up! Prayer is essential for every Christian. Prayer to our merciful God is essential for family members, friends, and elected officials. Prayer for ourselves, the church, the sick, the deceased, sinners, sick nations like Sodom and Gomorrah and for our friends and children.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

Homily [2] 16th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily [2] 16th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Gen 18:1-10a
·        Ps 15:2-3,3-5
·        Col 1:24-28
·        Luke 10:38-42

Listening and Serving the Lord in our Neighbors
 As we worship today, as we listen to the Bible readings of today, the first reading, the second reading, the Psalms and the Gospel of Luke, what stands out for you? Hospitality or sitting at the feet of Jesus? Is there anything we could learn from Abraham, Sarah, or Saint Paul? What would you consider more important: service to your neighbor or spending some time, perhaps hours, with the Lord, before the Blessed Sacraments, daily? Hearing not doing, or doing not hearing? What seems to stand out for me are both? That is, we need the listening Mary and the busy Martha. We need the contemplatives, and the non-contemplatives. We cannot put the word of God into practice, without listening, reflecting on it, or understanding what the Lord wants us to do or where to go. We need both, hospitality and listening to the Lord.  Perhaps, we also need to have some priorities set in our lives, to be better listeners and doers of the word of God.
I am thinking this way, because in the first reading (Gen 18:1-10a) we witness how Abraham and his wife Sarah offer hospitality to three unknown strangers who turn out to be angels. As a result Abraham and Sarah were blessed and were rewarded. They had a son, Isaac, together, in their old age.  Of course, ancient people, Jews and Christian always believed that the best way to serve God was to be hospitable to our neighbors. Remember, last Sunday, we learn about who our neighbor is, in the parable of the Good Samaritan(Luke 10:25-37). The way we treat one another, might end up been the way we might have responded to God!

In the Second reading, Saint Paul acknowledges himself as God’s steward chosen to preach the gospel and reveal the mystery of Christ to everyone, Jews and Gentiles (Col 1:24-28). He also invites all of us, Christians, to dispose ourselves, receive and share hospitably the mysteries of Christ. There should be no barriers in sharing the love and the mercy of Christ with others.

In the Gospel, Martha welcomes Jesus and runs around preparing dinner for him, while her sister, Mary spent her time sitting, talking, chatting and listening to Jesus. Martha, as any of us would, complains. She thinks Mary who was not helping her was burning her out. The more reason, I ask in the beginning which one is more important. Who is more important, Mary or Martha? It’s challenging. Isn’t it?

Granted that in our various professions, doctors, teachers, professors, parents, priests, chefs, factory workers, military, police officers etc; we are all serving our nations and our neighbors. But we also need at some point to make time to recharge our spiritual energies. This could come in form of daily masses, personal prayer, retreats, saying the rosary, lectio divina- meditative reading of the scriptures or taking part at family prayers. Not always work, work; work!

On the other hand we need the Marthas in our homes, communities, churches and nations. We need people who can get the job done. Our nations, our parishes needs dynamic parishioners, men and women, boys and girls who are generous, and who belong to various groups, the knights, pastoral councils, the choir , the women and youths organization to get things done. We need both the “listening Marys and the serving Marthas.”
I have mentioned listening here many times.  We live today in a world that is not only noisy with sounds, TV, radio, all forms of music and fireworks, but we are isolated from one another because of cell phones and ipads. Sometimes these things makes is difficult for us to listen to our spouses, our children, and seniors, our parishioners, and our parents.

No matter how active we may be, in our works and services, we need to set our priorities right, find the time, no matter how short, to listen to God and to one another. And this must be the basis of what we charitably do and how we relate and treat one another. As we participate in this Holy Eucharist today, may be nourished with the spirit of hospitality and service, as well as with the zeal to be better listeners and doers of the word of God.




Friday, July 8, 2016

Homily [2]15th Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]15th Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
·        Deut 30:10-14;
·        Ps 69:14,17,30-34,36-37;or Ps 19:8-11;
·        Col 1:15-20
·        Luke 10:25-37.

Loving God in our Neighbors!

 In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 10:25-37) there is this great scholar, a scribe, a professor of the law who wants to know what he must do in order to inherit the kingdom of God. What must I do to inherit the kingdom of God? The answer which Jesus led him to- is central to the bible lessons of today namely, that loving God (with all our heart, mind and soul) as well as our neighbors as we would have truly loved ourselves! Moreover, we gain eternal life by loving God whom we encounter not only in the sacraments, in the Holy Eucharist, in the songs we sing this day, in the scriptures, but more importantly in how we visibly treat one another. Somebody sitting by your side. Somebody who needs help. Somebody, that man, that woman, that child we meet on our way- is my neighbor!

Deuteronomy 30:10-14, the first reading, which is generally a humanitarian sermon preached by Moses, on mount Nebo, tells us that this law, the love of God and our neighbor is written in our hearts. It is apriori. It is self-evidence. It is divine. It is written in our hearts.  One does not need a college or a university degree to learn how to love, how to be merciful, how to be respectful, how to be compassionate to our next door neighbor, or somebody we meet in the train, in the school, in the work place, or in our churches.

Besides what is written in our hearts, which Moses, reminded Israel of his time of,... Saint Paul, in the second reading (Col 1:15-20) reminds the Colossians, by implication, each of us, that just as Jesus Christ is the “visible image of the invisible God,” so our neighbors (rich and poor, tall and short, white and black, brown and yellow, heavy and slim, young and old, male and female, boy and girl, Jews and Gentiles, N-S, E-W), are the visible image of Christ living in our midst. God speaks to us in our hearts. He speaks to us through Christ and through our neighbors.

This is what we mean when we sing that Matthew 25 "whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren so you do unto me..?" And this is truly what Jesus meant by telling that scribe, that professor of the law- the gospel parable of today, that familiar and popular parable of the Good Samaritan.  In that parable, the Good Samaritan, unlike the other two uncharitable religious leaders (priest and Levi) went to the assistance of the man who was almost beaten to dead, and abandoned with fatal wounds, on the Jerusalem-Jericho road. What a beautiful way of reminding us that we can only truly say we love God by loving our neighbors, by behaving like the Good Samaritan- who responded with mercy and compassion to this robber’s victim.

It is true that no single person can solve all the world’s problems in all the continents: the poverty, the racism, the gun violence, the selfishness, the decline in Christian parenting, and the “you are on your own attitude.” Neither is God asking us to board a plane from (JFK etc)…. now to Jerusalem-Jericho road in Palestine to assist the robber victim. Not Necessarily! Rather, as believers, there is another road from Jerusalem to Jericho that passes right through our homes, parishes, our streets, our home towns, our neighborhoods, dioceses, schools, and work places. In these roads, there may be some spouses, children or parents lying emotionally wounded in our homes, due to one form of abuse, insults, violent or another!  There may be a brother or a sister living nearby, sitting nearby, living next door who has special needs that we can meet. It could be a simple greeting or a smile! It could be a simple looking into their eyes, saying, hello!

Finally, the Good Samaritan challenges us today, especially in this Year of Mercy, to be open-minded to everyone, to be charitable, to be compassionate, to be forgiving, to be down to earth, to be approachable, to be available, to be loving, to be merciful to our neighbors, those in need, the church in need, that town in need, or to people of all walks of life- irrespective of color, height, race, culture and religion!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Homily[2] 14th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily[2] 14th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
·       Isa 66:10-14c;
·        Ps 66:1-3, 4-7, 16, 20;
·        Gal 6:14-18
·       Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

 We Are Called to Share the Good News of Peace, Joy and Mercy

 Today we celebrate a merciful and inclusive God, manifested in Christ Jesus; and in each of us, and in daily events. He calls us today as his disciples. All of us, the new 72 disciples to go out and share the Good News of the Kingdom of God- basileou tou theou. That is the divine message of peace, joy, mercy, bearing our crosses patiently, forgiveness and prosperity- as missionaries and evangelizers!

Granted that, we have a long history of travelling with our God, the God of Israel, the God  of our Fathers, who assists us in our challenges, we live today in a world of Orlando shooting. A world that experiences the breakdown of family and Christian values, the Brixit vote, the Syria Isis, the Nigerian Boko haram, the Istanbul, Paris, and Brussels’ attacks, the world of the 2016 UEFA and COPPA America tournaments, the Era of Trump vs. Hilary- is the message of the kingdom of God still relevant? How do we as Christians today, in a New Jerusalem, with increase in vocations, priesthood and religious life, respond to the challenges we face? What do we make of the Bible lessons of today?

As noted in the first reading (Isa 66:10-14c) when the Israelites left Babylon and Persia, around 400 BC, and travelled back home to rebuild their torn Jerusalem, they were met with their own challenges of a deeply divided community between the rich and the poor, injustices, rivalry, power politics, despair, and hopelessness; Something that might still be lingering around in our modern society today.

This is where today’s message of the prophet Isaiah makes sense. It is a message of hope and God’s generous response to us, the New Jerusalem. Isaiah says, “Rejoice Jerusalem…I will spread prosperity over her like a river, and the wealth of the nation like an overflowing torrent…As a mother comfort her child, so will he comfort you.”

 In traveling or missioning to this same Jerusalem and beyond Christ deployed not only the
Twelve (Luke 9), but the 72 in today’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-22). He instructed them of
what was important on the journey? No heavy bags of money, sacks of shoes, nor power, but
rather,  they must carry with them God’s peace, shalom, joy and divine mercy.
They were to cure the sick in his name and to announce the kingdom of God. They were asked to
 preach to everyone, saints and sinner, male and female, young and old, Jews and Gentiles- since
the Goodness was intended  for people of all cultures, race and nationalities, the poor and the rich.

The 72 were to do this with great kindness, humility of life style and ultimate love, exemplified on
 the Cross of Christ, which Saint Paul is so proud of in today’s 2nd reading(Gal 6:14-18).
 Paul says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the
World has been crucified to me..." For the 72 what was necessary was invoking the name of
Jesus, what he has done for us, what he will continue to do for us.

 In those moment we feel lost, hopeless, helpless, terrorized or dried up on our Christian pilgrimage, today, let us count ourselves among the 72 disciples, the remnant Israel, and pilgrims who rely on God’s promises of peace and prosperity that “he will spread prosperity over us and our families like a like a river, and the wealth of our nations like an overflowing stream.

Therefore, if God has blessed us with peace and prosperity, we want to go out there in the manner of the 72 disciples of today’s Gospel: joyful, selfless, inclusive, peaceful, merciful, generous, humble, forgiving, and be bearers of that peace and conduits of God's prosperity to our neighbors.