Thursday, November 24, 2016

Homily- First Sunday of Advent Year A (2016). Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily First Sunday of Advent Year A (2016). Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Preparing for Christ’s Coming
·        Isa. 2:1-5;
·        Ps. 122:1-9;
·         Rom. 13:11-14;
·        Matt. 24:37-44

 Every year we set out with joy on a spiritual journey of reliving and reflecting on the mysteries of Advent, the coming of Christ.  Or as the Psalmist would put it, every year we set out on a journey to that holy mountain, to the house of the Lord- for salvation, for eternal life! The Psalmist says, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” We are joyfully gathered here today because today ushers- in a new Advent, a new journey, a refreshing journey, with new skills of evangelization, technology, and musical equipment (look at the new things around us) that we may not have had thousands of years ago. So many advantages for this new Advent. Advent is a new season of hope and joyful expectation and preparations for the coming of Christ.  Scripture readings today take us through that historical channel and propose ways in which we must prepare for Christ and for our salvation!

 In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem reminds the distressed, frustrated and even waring nations to stream to the mountain of the Lord with hope.  On that mountain God will re-establish Jerusalem (Zion) as the peace center of his worldwide kingdom, reconciling hostile nations to himself. Nations shall not raise sword against another, nor shall they train for war anymore (Isa 2:3-4; Mic 4:2ff).

 Even though Isaiah’s prophecy of hope was originally addressed to Ahaz, Hezekiah and his contemporary Judeans of the eighth century BC, who were faced with  threats of war, exile and lose of the promised made to their father, David (2 Sam 7), we too today,  members of the United Nations can be nourished with this prophetic advocacy for peace, hope and reconciliation, especially in world that wars, threats of wars, terrorisms, conflicts, neglects of the poor,  violence of all kings and divisiveness, continue to me major issues. In the midst of all these, Advent reassures us, the new and renewed Jerusalem that God is nearer to us, wherever we are, than we can possibly imagine- at home, school, roads, and works places.

Since God is so near with us, at all times, Saint Paul, in that second reading stresses the importance of preparation for Christ (Rom 13:11-14). Writing originally to the Romans, who also had their issues, Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believe…Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Of course for Paul darkness represents all that is not good in human communities, while light represents goodness, and the realm of Divine which is nearer to us. The garment of light that Paul recommends is nothing else, but hope for salvation when we tend to be hopeless. It represents a renewal, or an effort to reconstruct, to repair that which was once destroyed: hope, that city, peace, joy, good health of mind and body, a beautiful Jerusalem, the house David, that beautiful mountain of today’s psalm 122. That question then remains: What in your life, in your family, in your church, diocese, need a reconstruction, as we await the coming of the Lord?

 As we reconstruct, our brokenness, in Advent we consciously strife to stay awake, positive, optimistic, joyfully, forgiving ourselves, our neighbors, and those who may have offended or betray our trust, reaching out to the poor and the needy, the orphans and the homeless, shining the light of Christ in our neighborhood and places of work.

 This is the type of preparation, and eschatological watchfulness, that today’s Gospel (Matt 24:37-44) proposes. The Matthean Jesus, the new Moses proposes that unlike Noah’s generation, in the book of Genesis, who were careless, indifferent, and carefree in their drunkenness and merriment, we must avoid their past mistakes, rather stay awake, for we do not know the time nor the hour when the Son of Man will come. In other words, being prayerfully vigilance, or a conscious awareness of God's presence in our lives, is key to Advent.

This conscious awareness also demands our being sensitive to our environment, culture, towns and villages since each of us can encounter Christ in most of our daily activities. It does not matter where you are, and what you do. Christ comes to us in our children and in our neighbor’s children. Christ comes to us in our husbands and in our neighbor’s husbands. Christ comes to us in our wives and in our neighbor’s wives. Christ comes to us in our priests and pastors. Christ comes to us in our brothers and sisters, in our neighbors. He comes to us in the Scriptures and in the sacraments we celebrate.  In this season of Advent, he comes to us in our friends, in the poor of out towns, cities and villages, in the sick, and the needy and in the less fanciful.  He comes to us, even in those that may be less friendly to us. He comes to us in every event of our lives, in our sufferings, illnesses and crosses. The question then remains, can we stay awake, watchful with hope, in whatever situation we find ourselves. And can we offer hope to others who are struggling to recognize the nearness of Christ in their life's vicissitudes?

 Reflection Questions:

1.     In what way are you consciously aware of God’s presence, his nearness in your life, family or in your faith community? Or avoid an attitude of indifference to the plight of your neighbors, especially the poor and the less privileged?

2.     How do you help members of your faith community, reconstruct their lives, faith, hope, love, relationship, and stay awake for the coming of Christ?





Saturday, November 19, 2016

Homily Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Year C (Christ the King): Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Homily Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Year C (Christ the King): Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         2 Sam 5:1-3;
·          Ps 122:1-5;
·         Col 1:12-20
·         Luke 23:35-43

 Christ, our King and Redeemer!

 Today we celebrate the universal kingship of Christ- the Son of David. This celebration in a sense reminds us of many things, particularly of the true meaning of divine anointing-leadership, or kingship for everyone, in spite the sense of divisiveness that pervades our societal politics today. The kingship after the style of Christ is achievable provided we recognize that there are still something in leadership called, humility, care, love, hard work, endurance, compassion, fairness, and forgiveness, a sense of common good, prudence, truthfulness, selflessness, faith, hope, patience and trust in God’s plan evidence in the ministry of Jesus, our master King and Redeemer!  This is recognition is more true, and urgent granted that today, there may be different nations capitals (especially the US) experiencing changes in leadership from President Barack Obama to the President Elect, Donald J. Trump. Remember, there would always be changes.  So was, even the case with Saul and David, in biblical story, familiar to us.

In 1 Samuel 8 the people asked Samuel “give us a king so that we might be like other nation.” Saul became that first king of Israel only to be rejected after in 1 Samuel 15 for his disobedience, the breaking of the harem/ban. David became his successor, through divine anointing.

Today’s first reading ( 2 Sam 5:1-3)  underlines the unique kinship of David, his family and human problems, his struggle with Saul, but also the everlasting covenant God had established with his house(2 Sam 7; 1 Chr 17).  Through divine intervention “In those days, all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said, ‘here we are, your bone and your flesh…. And when all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the Lord, and they anointed him king of all Israel.”

 David rose and consolidated power in central place of Jerusalem, with a sense of universalism, unity, togetherness and divine promise. Significantly, David was never a king of some elders, some few tribes or some parts of Israel, but the king of all Israel, the king of everyone, a theme that is resolutely developed in 1 &2 Chronicles, and in Second Temple Judaism. Unity separate David from several other divisive and idolatrous kings of Israel. David is model for us.  He challenges modern divisiveness in our homes, families and nations. No wonder the generations of prophets (Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah etc) and later biblical books (Ruth etc) would glorify and yearn for another king like David. And Jesus, certainly, for example, in the book of Ruth is be traced back to the tribe of David. He is the son of David (Mk 11:9, 10).

 This Son of David, unlike  the secular kings of his time(Herod, Pilates) and some of our contemporary kings and nation's leaders today, in his ministry down to his passion on the Cross, ruled and ministered with patient, compassion, prudence, love and kindness. From the strength of the ross, he reaches out to the poor, the despised, the rejected, the weak and the strong. He led by examples. He led from the front not from behind! He led from the cross!

What an irony, Pilate and those who prosecuted  him, in today’s gospel proclaimed him the king of the Jews and of the Gentiles not only by those ironical interrogations, but also by the inscription they placed on his cross in several languages “This is the King of the Jews.” What a divine intervention! A divine anointing, like in the case of David.  On that same cross, the criminal on the other side of the cross was moved to recognize the universal kingship Christ, saying “Jesus remember me in your kingdom” (Luke 23:35-43//John 18:33-37).  Its a kingdom of love and peace; a king of forgiveness, a king joy; a kingdom of mercy. In spite of our  human weaknesses, brokenness, divisiveness and disunity,  we are invited to partake and work for the  kingdom of Christ.

Paul in the Second reading speaks of this kingdom in terms of redemption and forgiveness of sins, particularly of disunity. Paul says " God has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son… for in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him reconcile all things to him, making peace by the blood of his cross, through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven" (Col 1:12-20).

For those of us on this divisive earth, living in broken nations, broken families and institutions of ironies and injustices, democratic and republican institutions, diverse political parties, with different ideologies, the challenges grow every day. They are enormous. The challenges for our elected,  (at all levels) to lead selflessly  and peacefully, with patience, humility, transparency, care, love, hard work, endurance, compassion, sense of universalism and shared common good, harmony, exercise of administrative prudence, truthfulness, selflessness, faith, hope, patience, availability to our subjects, and trust in God’s plan that we saw in David and in Christ Jesus, models of a true Kingship!



Friday, November 11, 2016

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

Homily Thirty-Third Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Mal 3:19-20a;
·          Ps 98: 5-9;
·         2 Thess 3:7-12
·         Luke 21:5-19
God Comes to Rule the Earth with Justice (Ps 98:9)
The readings of today, including that responsorial Psalm (God comes to rule the earth with justice), offer us a sense of hope and perseverance in our life journeys as Christians and believers. Also prayer, orderliness, simple life style, faith, trusts in God, perseverance in justice and righteousness are true sources and signs of security, for a prosperous future and joy even in the face of persecution and seeming hopelessness. Sometimes each of us do experience moment of emptiness! Scripture offers us hope and lessons!
In today’s first reading, the returnees from exile, the golah, the Israelite community optimistically sought for these sources of security in the New Jerusalem they had return to rebuild. But what they saw was still a deeply divided community and corrupt officials. They encountered resistance from “the people of the land” those who had not experienced exile and foreigners who had infiltrated the vacuum created by the exiled! The returnees saw a community plagued with rift, social injustice and disorderliness. Power politics, despair and hopeless had also taken root. Many of the post-exilic prophets Haggai, Zechariah, Trito-Isaiah (56–66) and today’s Malachi were called to address hope to the hopeless of the New Jerusalem and heal their wounds injustices, laziness, corruption and idolatries that are still there in our societies today!
Some of these prophets were even critical of the Temple and the priests since there was absence of proper worship that takes cognizance of people’s daily living conditions.  There were also lingering problems that Ezra- Nehemiah had face. The problem of who should be included in the New Jerusalem: foreigners, everyone or a selected few or what the new community should look like? Tithes and offerings were abused while justice and righteousness were nowhere to be fully found in this newly reconstructed Jerusalem Temple areas.  Malachi in particular preaches hope and perseverance to the disillusioned members of this divided community, especially to those who trust in the Lord. For such people, “…there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20).
These rays, after many years, would come to a fulfilment in the person of Christ of today’s Gospel,  who dies on the Cross in Jerusalem (Luke 21:5-19). Christ's message in today’s Gospel remains vital because he knew, that with his death on the cross, his disciples and many of us would face persecutions, hardships, trials, divisions, confusions, uncertainties, temptations and contradictions, as it was in the community of Prophet Malachi. But just as Malachi, God's messenger assured Israel of the help of the sun of justice, the Lukan Jesus assures his followers of  the God’s assistance,  and the grace to persevere in moments of trials and persecutions, and the hope  of the resurrection!
Each of us in our ways at different times , cultures and nations, may have had our own moments of trials, fears, temptation, despair, frustration, tragedy, loss of our loved ones, hurricane tsunami, sandy, typhoon, violent cause by war,  terrorism and inordinate use of guns and divisiveness in politics. Many have also experienced poverty, hunger, illnesses, racism, ignorance, lack of proper education and functional or stable government, discrimination, joblessness and hopelessness.
In such moments what do we do?  Where and to whom do we go? Yes, to Christ the New Temple! Trusting in God enables each of us handle hardships, disappointments and difficulties with a discerning spirit of perseverance, knowing that, Christ, the sun of righteousness is constantly watching and shinning over us.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

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

Homily Thirty-Second of Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
·           2 Mac 7:1-2,9-14;
·          Ps 17:1.5-6,8,15;
·         2 Thess 2:16–3:5
·         Luke 27:27-38
  The King of Life and the Lord of the Resurrection
 Today we celebrate the King of Life and the Lord of the Resurrection. What a, powerful message of hope. There is life after death. There is a great joy that awaits believers who may have to suffer temporally. Jesus gives us this example.  Even though Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem to die for us (Luke 9:51–19), his tomb was never going to be his final destination. This call to hope and faith of a believer, in the Lord of the resurrection is at the core of today’s scripture readings.
 In the first reading when the faith of the Jewish people, God’s children was under threat, in the 2nd Maccabees era, around 180 BC it was important that they be reminded that their God who had once spoke to Moses face to face, the God of their father, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exod 3:14-15) was not only alive, but was still with them. Even when they were being persecuted, tortured and killed because of their faithfulness and obedience to the Law (Torah) all hope was not lost.
A good example is in the moving story of a mother, a family woman and her seven sons  of the Second Maccabees.  They not only remained defiance to an earthly and faithless king, but gave up their lives for the sake of their beliefs, convictions, and faith in God and hope in the Lord and the King of the resurrection.  Can this faith speak to us when we are confronted with modern challenges?
 Of course, this faith spoke to Saint Paul during his trials and missionary journeys. From his personal  faith and encounter and trials, Paul preached faith and hope to his persecuted, worried and despaired Thessalonians church community.  To the troubled Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word… the Lord is faithful he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thess 2:16–3:5).
  God is the source of our strengths . Evil ones, evil things, teachings, and temptations, frustrations, disappointments, threats and uncertainties can come  our ways, as followers of Christ. What is important is our awareness of this  and be able to learn and imitate the Maccabean family and Saint Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus.
 Christ himself was confronted multiple times in the course of his ministry, the ultimate one been his journey to the cross. In the Gospel reading of today Jesus is confronted with a funny question he Sadducees (Luke 20:27-38). First of all, they did not believe in the resurrection yet had the audacity to dishonestly ask Jesus if Mosaic levirate marriage will be practiced in heaven, in the resurrection! But the point of Jesus’ brilliantly and divinely amazing soothing response to the Sadducees' mischievousness is what we celebrate today- Our God is a living God. He is not a God of the dead! He is the King of life and the Lord of the Resurrection.
 In moments of crises, persecutions, modern mischievousness, hatreds, wars and terrorism, illnesses and economic hardships we do not wish to abandon our faith. And may the faith and hope exemplified in today’s scriptures speak to us, friends, colleagues, family members  and our society. We mean that faith, that hope in Christ, who is our life, the King of life, and the Lord of the resurrection whom we are all invited to embrace.