Saturday, September 24, 2016

Homily for 26th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael

Homily for 26th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo, Michael
·         Amos 6:1a,4-7
·         Ps 146:7-10
·         1 Tim 6:11-16
·         Luke 16:19-31

Acting to Ease the Sufferings of others-especially the Poor
Today we live in a world of “you are on your own attitude,” what Pope Francis would call “globalization of Indifference.” There are recorded violent on the street, political corruption in many political capitals, religious abuses in  some worship centers, the poor, and the weak, “the Lazaruses,” the voiceless and family values neglected. Today’s readings is a reminder of what each of us, political class and religious people,  must do to ease the sufferings of our neighbors, of our family members, of my colleague, of my spouse, of my friend and of the poor- “the Lazaruses” of our towns and neighborhood.
These were the concerns of the Prophet of today’s 1st reading. A lay man, a famer, a cattle breeder, Amos responded to God’s call from Tekoa, south of Jerusalem to preach to the kings, and the priests – the political and corrupt religious establishment in the north, who were complacent and indifferent to the plight of their poor brothers and sisters, of their time- the 8th century BC.

Amos says, woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall,” when the majority poor were staffing. They also waste drinks. The wealthy drank, not from ordinarily wine glasses, but from bowls, when others were suffocated by thirstiness. They, the rich, anoint themselves with oil, when the rest of the house of Joseph/Ephraim/Israel were suffering. The word of God is ever alive. Many of us can relate to this from various nation capitals- where the gap between the rich political and religious leaders, and the poor is daily expanding.
In the time of Saint Paul, as noted in the 2nd reading, 1 Timothy 6, - false teachings were floated, to the disadvantage of poor members of the community. As in the time of Amos there were rivalries, insults, evil suspicions and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, deprived of the truth, and who thought religion was a means for material gains ( 1 Tim 6:3-6). Paul says to Timothy, “you man of God,” referring to religious leaders, “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness,’ (vv.11-16), essential qualities of biblical spirituality: righteousness ( sadeqah), justice( misphat), truth ( emet), kindness (chesed), steadfastness (emunah), needed not only by selected preachers, but by every man and woman of God!

But, remember, this is not the first time the expression “man of God “is used in the Bible. We heard in Deut 33:1 with reference to Moses, as Israel’s prophet.  In 1 Sam 2:27 God sent a man of God to speak to Eli, when his children were abusing the temple. In 1 Kings 12-13, an unknown man of God is sent from Judah, to address the sins of Jeroboam- corruption, idolatry and disobedience to the Lord. A man of God, is God’s prophet, and messenger! A woman of God, a child of God, is God’s prophetess and messenger.
How often, or easy is it, sometimes for us to blame the neglect of the poor only on the political establishment. We are all, in our own capacities, called to be prophets and prophetess, men and women of God, who assist in easing the burden and the suffering of the poor our society, today- in various ways, no matter how little, show that little kindness, especially to the poor- and the “Lazaruses”.

This is what Jesus truly meant to communicate in today’s Gospel parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Notice, in this parable, how many times did the rich man not ignore the poor man, Lazarus. Notice, the clothing, the behavior, the food, the wine of the rich man. He was like the rich of the time of Amos. These things are not new, Corruption has always been there. But, on the judgment day, Lazarus is saved while the rich man is condemned.

Each of us, men, women of God, political elites, religious people, can easily inherit eternal life through the means in which we respond to the needs of one another; through the way in which we actively act daily to alleviate the sufferings of our neighbors, and the “Lazaruses” of our communities!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Homily [2]25th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]25th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Amos 8:4-7;
·          Ps 113:1-8;
·          1 Tim 2:1-8
·         Luke 16:1-13

 Serving God In the Poor

 Today’s readings are quite interesting. They focus on the need for us to always treat one another especially the poor and the margin of the society with dignity, a message that Pope Francis continues to run home with, since taking the seat of Peter. It is also about the need for us to wisely make good use of all the material things God has blessed us with, including our money. Wealth has to be gotten honestly. The readings again invite us to always act, even in living and preaching the gospel message with a spiritual foresight and pursuit of spiritual security.

Christ particularly passes on this message to us in this parable of a rich steward who plans to fire his corrupt steward. Finding this out, the steward tells all those who owe his master some money to forget about the interest. By doing this the cunning and dishonest servant acted with worldly foresight and shrewdly bought friends for himself in the future, knowing that soon he would be unemployed. Again he was not punished by doing this. Perhaps he made his master also look good by writing off the debts of all the borrowers.

 Towards the end of the parable, Jesus reiterate, “You cannot serve both God and mammon,” referring still to dishonest and inordinate wealth, wrong profits-making, ill-treatment of the poor, worldly foresight and behavior of the shrewd steward for buying off future friends with money. How wish we can channel our energy, our smartness in spiritual insight, and in matters that does good to everyone in the light of Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, it is always, me, me, me, that selfishness, that neglect of the poor—those acts of corruption and injustices!

 This type of behavior is not limited to the time of Christ. In the mid Eight century BC, during the time of Amos of Tekoa, when Jeroboam the II was the king of Samaria, and Amazia served as his priest, injustices, corruption, ill treatment of the poor was also prevalent. There was greediness everywhere as well as hypocritical practice in worship. And the widow’s head and the poor were trampled into the dust and some were sold out with a pair of sandals or for just a little silver, as the shrewd steward of the gospel parable(Amos 8:4-7). Amos was called as we are called today to challenge the ugly ills of the society.

 In the US Senate and Congress now, and I believe in many other parts of the world as well, there is a constant debate on how to bridge the yawing gap between the rich and the poor. How do we help those on food- stamps? What do we do with our brothers and sisters without job, employment and health insurance? Is it necessary for some to keep 10 or more homes or cars when others have none, especially homes or those material goods gotten in a wrong and dishonest manner? Pope Francis recently has also demonstrated in words and action the need to reach out to the poor—the essentials of the message of Christ.

 In the face of the disparity between the rich and the poor today what would Jesus have done? He would reach out to them because in the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, in the same very Luke’s gospel, Jesus proclaims “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaimed a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

 From then on Jesus reached out to the sick, the leper, the blind, the poor, the widow, the needy, the rejected, men, women and children. Jesus wants everyone to eat. He wants every to be clothed. He wants everyone to be healthy.   He wants everyone to have a roof over their heads. As Saint Paul would put it in the Second Reading, He wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:1-8).

 Money especially wrong use of money is not everything. There is a story of a very hungry and starving rich sick man who received a huge parcel in the mail, which he presumed was food. He greedily tore open the box and proclaimed, “Oh my God, it is not food, but gold.” The poor man would have preferred food, instantly, than gold.

  We need Christ-like values, good choices, steward- like approach and spiritual insight in our preaching, in our daily living, in our government decisions, in our relationship with God and with our neighbors, recognizing that material things, particularly money is not everything- selfishly used, but was meant for the common good, for the service of God and our neighbors- especially of the poor!


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homily [2]24th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2]24th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14;
·         Ps 51:3-4,12-13,17,19(R/v Lk 15:18);
·         1 Tim 1:12-17
·          Luke 15:1-32

God mercifully finds us when we are lost

What a  wonderful mercy-filled scripture readings today- from Exodus 32, Paul’s First Letter to Timothy and from the 3 great parables in Luke’s Gospel chapter 15. All these scripture passages remind us of who God truly is: a merciful father who loves us, a merciful God  who doesn’t judge us as we deserve, a merciful God who searches for us,  a loving God who finds us when we miss our ways, and when we get lost: like the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost prodigal son.  In these readings we also find a God who wants us to be a prayerful people, a forgiving people, who pray and intercede for one another(E.g....).

In the 1st reading this is who Moses is: a leader, a liberator, a prophet, a man of prayer and an intercessor who intercedes for his people gathered sinfully at the foot of Mount Sinai. Sinfully in the sense that as Moses was on the mountain praying and encountering God on behalf of his people, the very people were busy practicing idolatry, making golden calf- other gods for themselves. They got loss. They lacked focus- drawing God’s anger who contemplated of punishing them, except for intercessory role of Moses who prayed “why O Lord, should your wrath blaze against your covenanted people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt.”  Some time we get loss and we need to pray for one another; our friends, our families and our nations.

Same could be said of Paul in today’s second reading (1 Tim 1:12-17), whose past anti-Christian attitude we are familiar with. He was lost not only in blaspheming but in hating and persecuting the Christians (Acts 26:9-11)- only to be saved by God. Today Paul is prayerfully grateful to God who has mercifully treated him. Writing to Timothy he says, “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord because he considers me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated, because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”

Some of us get lost in our sins, our selfishness not because of our own faults, but because of one factor or the other. It could be our environment. It could be the type of company we keep. It could be the type of books we read. It could also be the type of movies we watch. It could be ambition or the wrong choices we make in life. Even political ideologies can make us lose track of the universal mercy of God.

 But in the tender eyes and love of God there is always room to make- up, for a rediscovery, for atonement, for a renewal. And this is again demonstrated in the three parables of today’s Gospel: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son. In all these “losses” there is this image of merciful, concerned, caring owner who left everything to search for the lost item. At discovery they are all very happy and joyful.

Our Merciful God loves us. He searches for each and everyone one of us. All that he expects of us is to be people of prayer, men and women, with a forgiving heart. And each time we offend God to be able to say like the 2nd son in today’s Gospel and in the responsorial Psalm “I will rise up and go back to my father.” Let us rise up at this Mass and go back to God our Father.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary : Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         Micha 5:1-4a OR Rom 8:28-30
·         Ps 13:6ab, 6c (R/ Is 61:10)
·          Matthew 1:1-16,18-23
Conformity with Christ: Our Birth Day Gift to Mary
Today we celebrate Mary’s birthday. The birthday of the mother of God. As the responsorial psalm Isaiah 61:10 would put it, “we rejoice in the Lord.” And what a joy this was to the parents of Mary, Joachim and Anne. And what a joy this was to God the Father, the Holy One of Israel, the master planner, who had planned for this Day!
That God had a purpose for Mary to be a devoted and conforming mother of God, just as he does for each us is evident in the sacred scriptures and in the teachings of the church.  God planned that Mary be conceived immaculately. She is the one spoken of in Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin, a parthanos, or an Alma’ shall conceived and give birth to a Son, Immanuel and the prince of Peace. She is the one foretold in the alternate 1st reading of today, the Prophet Micah 5:1-4a.
Saint Paul also speaks of this plan of God, and the need for us to conform to this divine plan in the Romans 8:28-30. Paul says “we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Continuing, Paul says those God foreknew he predestined to conform to the image- summophos tes eikonos of his son; the icon of Jesus( Gen 1:27).  In Ephesian 1:4 the same Paul says, we all were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy before God. For Paul, we are call to imitate Jesus in Good times and in bad times like our mother Mary. Interestingly, in that 1st reading, Paul also adds, those he predestined he called, those he called, he justified, those he justified he glorified. Very strong aorist, past-undefined verbs to highlights the plan of God for us- for which we are all invited to follow.
Remember, everything about Mary whose birthday we celebrate today, points to Christ, whose birth of course is narrated in today’s Gospel. Imagine on the birth day of Mary the story about the birth of Christ, his genealogy is told.  What does that say to us? Everything points to Christ.
Think of Mary and the joyful mysteries- the annunciation, the visitation, the birth of Christ, his presentation and the finding of Christ in the temple- Mary and Joseph walking back and forth searching for him. Think of Mary and the sorrowful mysteries. She remained faithful, devoted and conforming to Christ in all these. Her favorite line is Fiat. Be it done to me according to your word. In John 2 at Cana in Galilee she told those who ran out of wine at the wedding party, - just listen to him, do what Christ tells you!
In fact, our Marian prayers and devotion are nothing else than asking Mary, how is your Son. Please, lead me to him. Our Mariology must be Christocentric! On this Birth day of our Lady, the greatest gifts I believe we can offer her is by allowing her to guide us to Christ, to teach us on how to conform to Christ- in patience, in holiness, in courage, in endurance, in humility, in every circumstances of our life.
As we engage in our studies and shared ministry this semester—may we strive to imitate Mary, conforming to Christ, and be ready to always say Fiat- be it done to me according to your Words.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Homily [2] 23rd Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2] 23rd Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Wisdom 9:13-18b;
·          Ps 90:3-6, 12-17;
·         Philm 9-10, 12-17;
·          Luke 14:25-33
Like Mother Teresa: What it takes to be the Disciple of Christ

 Today we celebrate the 23rd Sunday of Year C, in the ordinary season. We gather around the table of the Lord, who is our rock and refuge (Ps 90:1), according to the Psalmist. Fortunately, today, our Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, familiar to all of us( because of her charitable works, simplicity of life style, compassion for the poor, the sick, the needy and the homeless children), is recognized as a saint, in the Vatican, in the universal Church, by Pope Francis. The Life of Saint Mother Teresa, be it, in poverty, in chastity, in obedience in detachment from riches, power and worldliness, a life of faith, empathy for the poor, inclusiveness of everyone and total abandonment to the will of God, echoes also in today’s Bible readings.

 By the time today’s 1st reading, the Book of Wisdom was written – perhaps fifty Years before the coming of Christ, human wisdom, human control and enslavement of others, wealth and power were regarded as the highest good. Justice, kindness, charitable works, care for the homeless and orphans, the type that mother Teresa and her missionary sisters embraced were not common- particularly in the communities of exiled and post exilic Jews. In these communities there were elements of arrogance, struggle for power, neglects of spiritual matters, pursuits of false wisdom, corruption, and oppression of women, children, elderly and the voiceless.   For the author of the Book of Wisdom God’s ways are not our ways. Even though none of us can fathom the mind of God, one thing we are sure of is that God seeks out for us. He wishes us well. He is and will always be our refuge.  Salvation History proves this (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greek Roman.…). Therefore, we out to always see life through the prism of faith, like Mother Teresa, like Saint Paul.

 Writing from the Roman prison Paul in today’s 2nd reading advices Philemon his friend to pardon and take Onesimus back as his friend and brother in Christ Jesus,  but no longer as a slave. Even though this seems to be the ancient practice in  the Covenant Code,  as recorded in Exodus 21, that is slavery, maltreatment of women, children and others. it should no longer be the case in the in the new Law, in the second law. For example, Moses warned the Israelites in Deuteronomy 15:15 to be humane and charitable to others, since they themselves were once slaves in the land of Egypt. The more reason the same Paul who wrote to Philemon in the 2nd reading wrote in Galatian 4:7 we are no longer slaves but adopted sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ .

 Detachment from human control, enslavement of others, power, and material things makes us brothers and sisters and better Disciples of Christ, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The more reasons Christ says in today’s Gospel “anyone who does not renounce all his possessions… [friends, parents, material things] cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-33).

 The question for us then in this Year of Mercy, on this very day of the canonization of Mother Teresa is: What stops us from following Christ? What stops us from imitating the footsteps of Mother Teresa of Calcutta? What prevents us today from reaching out to the poor, the orphans, the needy, and the less-privileged of our world? What stops us from forgiving those who may have offended us? What stops us from living our vows of chastity, poverty and obedience? What prevents us from living our catholic faith? What prevents  us from giving up our old bad habits? What do we possess that prevents us from doing charitable works like mother Teresa? What prevents us from being compassionate like Mother Teresa?  May we pray for ourselves, the church and our communities today, and keep these faith challenges in mind as we proceed to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Asking Saint Mother Teresa to intercede for us!