Saturday, October 29, 2016

Homily Thirty-First Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily Thirty-First Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         Wis 11:22–12:2
·         Ps 145:1-2,8-9,10-11,13-14
·         2 Thes 1:11–2:2
·         Luke 19:1-10
Everyone who believes in Him shall be saved
The Alleluia verse of today, “God so loved the world that he gave his only, Son, so that everyone who believes in him might be saved” (John 3:16) captures the central theme of today’s Bible lesson: namely, that our God is merciful God , a loving and forgiving God to everyone. Everyone here, reference the Jews in diaspora  of today’s the 1st reading, book of Wisdom,  as well as the Gentiles of the Thessalonians Community of Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, or the likes of Zacchaeus, in today’s Gospel of Luke, and beyond. In other words, God cares, God loves, and God looks after each and every one of us, no matter what, and beyond all boundaries and cultures. 
In history, this has been the nature of God (Exod 34:6-7); a merciful God, a theme that Pope Francis runs home with throughout his papacy. God is the ereke payim. He is steadfast in love, gracious and full of mercy and kindness. This theme is also rendered into music by the Psalmist today(Psalm 145).  This  merciful God frees Israel from the hands of Pharaohs. He forgives them when they fashioned golden calf for themselves as their gods. When they were in diaspora, in various exiles, he brought them back. When they were discouraged,  and were tempted to worship other gods, belonging to other cultures, like the Greek culture during the time Hellenism, noted in today’s 1st reading, the Book of Wisdom, God pitied, warned, encouraged, rebuked, judged, forgave and still loved Israel. He overlooked their sins, so that they may repent and return to him. He empowered, and exhorted them through his messengers, the prophets and Apostles of the Gentiles, as is the case in today’s 2nd reading- St Paul encouraging the discouraged Church in Thessalonica.
Whenever you are discouraged for one reason or the other, nasty and uncertain politics, poor economics or personal mistakes, know that, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. God is watching over you. Think of Peter who once denied Christ. Things were turned around. What about the doubting Thomas? He acknowledged his unbelief and became a believer. What about the supposedly episode of the woman caught in adultery? What about the man born blind? This is who God is ,as manifested in Christ, of today’s Gospel of Luke 19:1-10, the savior of the(soter tou cosmou), the Son of Man who came to seek and save what was lost and to heal the unhealthy!
What a faith story! In today’s Gospel as he was passing through Jericho conquered for Joshua and his generation  by God himself in  Joshua 6, Jesus, 'the Joshua" of the NT, asks Zacchaeus ,a rich tax collector, thought by some to be a sinner to come down from the tree. Christ forgives the repentant and restituted Zacchaeus, dines with him and blesses him. If the restituted Zacchaeus could be saved to the grumbling of those who thought they were holier, than Zacchaeus, any of us could be saved, provided we acknowledge our sins, as well as our Lord  Jesus as our God and savior.
 At this Mass may we return to God in humble prayer; ask for forgiveness and blessings upon us, nations and upon our families, the church, especially in this Year of Mercy. And may we also strive to make use of the different ways the Church has provided us for repentance, especially the sacrament of penance and anointing of the sick. And as the Lord  continues to be compassionate and merciful to us, may we, wherever we are readily share the Lord’s compassion, love and mercy with our neighbors, “for God so love the world that he sent his only beloved Son, that whoever believes in him, might be saved!.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Homily 30th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 30th Sunday of Year C: Fr.    Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Sir 35:12-14,16-18;
·         Ps 34:2-3,17-19,23;
·         2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18
·          Luke 18:9-14
Trusting Humility and Willing Service to God and Neighbors
In today’s Gospel of Luke chapter 18, our Lord continues his journey to Jerusalem in order to die for us. On this journey, began in Luke 9:51, he teaches, heals and forgives sins.  Today in particular, he uses the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to teach us trusting humility, self-surrendering like St. Paul, in the 2nd reading, and willing services to our neighbors, particularly to the poor and to the lowly.
From this Gospel (Luke 18:9-14), and historically speaking, we know the Pharisees were those that Jesus had to face throughout his ministry. The Pharisees were those who kept the law, or at least thought they kept the law, while the tax collectors however were engaged in a profession that some thought extortion and dishonesty might slip in. The differences between the two as the went up to pray in the temple area is that the former(the Pharisees) thought he had everything and claim to be righteous; while the tax collector(the  later) had a sense of unworthiness, humility and needs for God’s grace.
In this gospel parable the behavior of the Pharisees represents pride, arrogance and self-justification, especially when he says, “I thank you God I am not like the rest of humanity- greedy, dishonest, adulterous, and even like this tax collector… I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes…. The Pharisee thought that God is a company manager one could bribe or go to work for, a prevalent in our society today- the corruption and the “pay-to-play.”   But how many times do we not ourselves think that we have it all, or tends to behave like this Pharisee?
Truly, as believers, what the Lord expects of us in our relationship with him is nothing else than the spirit of prayer, humility, and total surrendering to God in good times and in bad times. This attitude of humble prayer and total surrender to God is what Psalm 34, and Ben Sira of the 2nd century BC, emphasize in that 1st reading.  To the poor, the oppressed, the humble, those who surrender themselves to him, the orphans, widows, and the marginalized in the exile, the Lord hears their cry (Ps 34).
 Another good example on one who was once a sinner, but later decides to surrender himself to God is Saint Paul of today’s 2nd reading. He was once a persecutor of the faith, but later reverses his life style and won the crown of Glory, by serving the poor, pouring his life like a libation, for the sake of the gospel!  In fact, being a new creation in Christ or getting to wear that crown of glory and righteousness, Paul says, demands that every Christian, all of us, reverses our natural tendencies (2 Tim 4:6-6, 16-18); to dominate, keep for oneself, control next door neighbor, follow the money, follow the politics, embrace false sense of security, neglect the truth, discriminate against our neighbors, especially those who do not look or speak like us, claim self-righteousness, like the Pharisees of today’s gospel parable, or pretend to be self-sufficient to the neglect of the poor!
No, the Lord invites us today to rethink and rearrange our priorities. We can do this in many ways, especially by imitating the humility and total self- surrendering of the tax collector of today’s gospel,  and that of St. Paul and others, who poured their lives as a libation, by prayerfully trusting in God's saving grace in their relationship with God and with their neighbors.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Homily 29th Sunday Year C:Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily 29th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         Exod 17:18-13;
·          Ps 121:1-8;
·         2 Tim 3:14–4:2
·         Luke 18:1-8
The Staff of God is with Us
God is with us in our life’s journeys, in many ways. In the prayer we consistently pray; in the staff (matah) our leaders consistently raised, as they lead us. God is with us in the bread and wine we share. God is with us in the Word of God, the scripture we read, hear, preach, meditate upon, and share (2 Tim 3:14–4:2), day in day out.
In the first reading of today (Exod 17:8-13) as the Israelite were physically battling their way to the promise land, God was spiritually fighting for them, against the  Amelekites in   Raphidim.  An interesting saving story! While Joshua physically led the charge, Moses stood on the top of the mountain with the symbolic staff of God, in a raising posture, supported by Aaron and Hur. By the way, a Staff in this context as we say in the crossing of the read sea (Exod 15), is a symbol of God’s saving power, God’s presence, his love, his sovereignty, and saving power. What a divine drama here. In this battle, as long as Moses raises the staff, and of course with the support of others, Aaron and Hur, the Israelite prevails in the battle. Each time Moses lowers his hands perhaps because of human fatigue, the Amelekites prevails.  One of the lessons here is that we can only prevails in whatever we do when we call upon the name of the Lord; when we not only trust in God and pray to him, but when we do it selflessly, supporting one another.
  We learn this also from Jesus. In Jesus’s days, as he set out on his missionary journeys to Jerusalem, he taught his disciples many things (Luke 9:51), especially charity, modesty, forgiveness, inclusiveness, and prayer (Luke 11) which must be done persistently as highlighted in today’s gospel parable of a poor widow who persistently ask the unjust judge for justice (Luke 18:1-8).
 But how do we pray? What tools do we use in prayer? For Paul’s 2 Letter to Timothy, scripture, the Bible, the Word of God, the passages of the Bible, the Psalms, like today’s Psalm, “Our Help is in the name of the Lord” (Ps 121), the teachings of the Torah, the messages of the Prophets, the gospels, the Pauline Writings, the Letters, the Epistles, are useful instruments for Christian prayer. This is why  Paul says, to Timothy, “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (cf. 1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 1:19-21; Isa 40:8 and Verbum Domini, n.1).
  Granted that we do have our own religious, and socio-political challenges and battle to win: the poverty, the corruption in nation’s capitals, the illnesses, the threats of war and terrorism; Prayer, rooted in knowledge of the scriptures, is the key. Prayer for one’s self and one’s neighbors. Trusting in God’s presence through the staff of our leaders is another key. And this trust as, Paul charges, must be consistent- inspiring us to imitate not only Moses, but the poor widow of the gospel. If the unjust judge in the gospel could listen to the persistent widow, and blessed Israel through Moses’ persistent staffing, our God who is just and righteous, certainly, would listen to each and every one us, whenever we persistently lead with the fear of the Lord, and truly call upon him in prayers! The Staff of God is with Us!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Homily for 28th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo

Homily for 28th Sunday Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·         2 Kings 5:14-17
·         Ps 98:1-4
·         2 Tim 2:8-13
·         Luke 17:11-19

The Saving Power of God is Universal
Today’s readings reveal to us that the saving power God is universal. It reaches to everyone: men, women and children of all nations, cultures, and walks of life; lepers and non-lepers, prisoners and non-prisoners, the rich and to the poor. God’s mercy has no limitation. It has no boundary. It cannot be put in chain, says St. Paul. We must therefore, be thankful to God.

In the 1st reading of today (2 Kgs 5:14-17) Naaman, a military commander of a foreign origin, from Damascus is healed of his leprosy, through the intercession of Prophet Elisha. In this story, after his healing, you notice Naaman returned, stood before Elisha and thanking God and acknowledged the God of Israel as the ruler of all, and  the sovereign of all creations and nations. Naaman, says, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”

What sustains Paul in his missionary journeys, as indicated in the 2nd reading, his 2 Letter to Timothy, perhaps from prison, was his courage, faith, firmness, and steadfastness in the Gospel Christ. It is this call to faithfulness, and steadfastness the Paul recommends to Timothy, and of course, to us, in spite of  the sufferings and all kinds adverse difficulties we may encounter. In the case of Paul, even though he was in prison, in chain, Paul  made sure that, the word of God  was not in chain
Remember, 'prisonness" or “illnesses” are not limited to bodily diseases like leprosy or confinement in a particular location. Fear, terrorism, and all forms social and political leprosies and imprisonment do exist in societies and roam our streets today. Some of them  can come in form of natural disasters; earthquakes and hurricanes. Or lack of educational facilities for our children. We must not allow these modern ills to imprison the Word of God. Or blind us of the wonders of the Lord. But, like Paul, a for prosecutor of Christians,  and Naaman the foreign leper, we must be on our toes, dispose ourselves for God’s grace and be grateful for what God does for us, daily.

In today’s Gospel of Luke 17 several lepers, in fact, ten of them, were also healed. They disposed themselves for God’s healing mercy and saving power. Among them was a Samaritan leper, another foreigner, like the Naaman of the first reading. Interestingly, the cleansed Samaritan is the only one among the ten who returned with gratitude to God.
What a good example to those of us that God has blessed everyday: the gift of life; the gift of our families, vocations, children, grandchildren, jobs, educations, affordable health care, security. In fact, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves perseverance, taught us, by Paul is important. We must remain grateful to God, and of course, reach out to others; and share the goodness of the Lord with our neighbors. For God’s saving power and mercy, especially, in this Year of Mercy, is Universal. It is sufficient unto the Jews and to the Gentiles, to the “Naamans” and to the “Samaritans,” of all nations and cultures.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Homily [2] 27th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2] 27th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Hab 1:2-3;2:2-4;
·         Ps 95:1-2,6-9;
·         2 Tim 1:6-8,13-14
·          Luke 17:5-10
The Righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)
The importance of faith, a supernatural gift from God, which enables us to believe him and in the teachings of the Church, is central in today’s readings. How do we remain faithful, trusting(emunah) in  God’s plans, and  believing in him, in the midst of hardship, threats, terrorism, war, joblessness, lack of shelter, lack of food, frustration, poverty, illnesses, temptations social injustices, prevalent in our world today.  For Habakkuk, the righteous, people, like Abraham and his descendants, Noah, Joseph etc, no matter what, shall live by faith. We are all Abraham's descendants, invited to share in this righteousness ,despite our personal stories. Yes, we do have our stories when we feel God is not listening to us,  when we feel God is not acting fast to assist us in our troubles, in our needs, in our lacks, in our oppressions, and in our deprivations!
 Habakkuk of today’s 1st reading must have felt this way. In the midst of sufferings, deprivations, threats of wars, the Babylonian armies, hunger, deprivation of his people Habakkuk says to God, “O Lord I cry for help, but you are not listening. Actually, God was listening. It will only take faith, patience, and humility, righteousness to realize that God listens to us in a divine, and in mysterious ways! As was the case with Joseph and Mary, during her mysterious pregnancy, God spoke to Habakkuk in a vision, in a dream.  In Habakkuk chapter 2 God proves that he was listening to  Habakkuk's  cry, prayer, lamentation, and to the plight of his people. The Babylonians will not reign forever. They will eventually be defeated!
In the 2nd reading, Paul also realize that it was nothing else, but the gift of faith from Christ Jesus that enabled him to move without shame from being a persecutor to becoming a believer. It was the same faith, steadfastness  for his love of the Gospel that sustained his confidence, trust, endurance, courage, strength and self-control to proudly bear his sufferings and hardships, including imprisonment throughout  the duration of his missionary journeys!  How many times was Paul not beaten, mocked, tried and imprisoned ? With faith, we can bear our temporary sufferings, and carry our crosses, daily, to follow Christ!
And this is what Christ expects of his disciples in today’s Gospels. When the Apostles asks the Lord to increase their faith. Jesus says, yes, surely, if you have faith, even as little as the size of the mustard seed, everything is possible. With faith, you could say to that deep rooted mulberry tree be uprooted and be planted in the sea, and it will obey you.
It is all about faith, trusting in God in the face of dangers, in the face of terrorism today, in the face uncertainties, poverty, inequalities in our society; in the face of illnesses, and in the face of the loss of our loved ones. Sometimes, it is easily said, that done. Let us like Christ’s disciples, ask the Lord at this Mass, to “increase our faith,” and bless us with the steadfastness (emunah) of Habakkuk.