Friday, August 11, 2017

Homily 19th Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily 19th Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

 ·       1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a;
·       Ps 85:9-14;
·       Rom 9:1-5
·        Matthew 14:22-33

  God of Our Peace: It is he; do not be afraid!

 Today we gather on this mountain, God’s presence, God’s abode to celebrate the God of peace; to worship the God of truth; to adore the God of love and gentleness. A God who can walk on the sea. Who can calm the storms and the waves of life?  On this mountain, he says to each of us today do not be afraid of violence.  In this house God says to us today do not be afraid of wars, threats and waves of war. Do not be afraid of Ahab and Jezebel. Do not be afraid of the wild winds and storms, it is I (ego eimi, ayer asher ayeh). This God of peace is revealed not only in the songs we sing today, or the Eucharist we celebrate, but also in the passages of today’s scriptures.

 In the 1st reading (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a), we are told the prophet Elijah came to the mountain and sheltered himself in the cave. But first of all what brought Elijah to the mountain? He was fleeing from the threats and persecution of Ahab and Jezebel, who had accused him of challenging and defeating their 450 false prophets, Baalism (1 kings 18:1-19:8).  Elijah was searching for peace, truth, and security.

 What brings you to the church, today, if I may ask?  I am sure we came to pray for peace, joy, calmness, God’s blessings, good health of mind and body. None of us come here to pray for nuclear war in our neighborhood or for violent and threats of Jezebel and Ahab, who had threatened Elijah!

In the case of Elijah peace was not found in the cave. Peace was not found in the fire and fury! Peace was not found in the storm. Peace was not found in the earthquakes, as he stood on top of the mountain. Prophet Elijah found peace, security, truth, and God in the gentle breeze that passed by.

 In our daily challenges, and storms, when you are being pursued or chased around by economic hardship, threats and fear of the unknown and debts, this is the type of peace each and every one of us are looking for, especially when the world seems to be against you!

Do you notice that in today’s Gospel (Matt 14:22-33), Jesus, the new prophet, like Elijah, was also on the mountain by himself to pray? This is after he might have generously fed the crowd and directed his disciples, including Peter, into the boat, who preceded him to the other side. It was not long when Peter’s boat was being tossed around by the waves, for the wind was against it. Peter and his colleagues were afraid. They even mistook Jesus on the sea to be a ghost!

 Peter’s faith was not strong enough as he stepped  out of the boat or attempted walking on the water to meet Jesus! Peter was afraid of the wind! And cried out, “Lord save me.” It only takes the Jesus, the Lord of peace not only to calm the sea, but to save us, and to save Peter, even with his little faith, even with his little courage of stepping out of the boat to meet Jesus!

Think of our own situations and problems today. We do have our waves and storms of life in form of disunity, racisms, conflicting opinions of theologies and spiritualties; persecutions and misunderstandings, threats of war, poverty, ill health, loss of our loved ones, and hostilities even to the planet and our environments; break down of family values; global indifference to the plight of the poor; secularism and consumerism tendencies. As we gather on this mountain today to pray like Elijah and Jesus, let us remember that, in our storms, waves and life’s turbulence, that Jesus is the source of peace and calm! And we want to always listen to him say to us “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Homily Feast of Transfiguration August 6 Year A: Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily Feast of Transfiguration August 6 Year A: Michael Ufok Udoekpo

·         Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

·         2 Peter 1:16-19

·         Ps97:1-2,5-6,9

·         Matt 17:1-9(Yr. A) Mark 9:2-10(Yr.) and Luke 9:28b-36 (Yr.)

 

Placing our Faith In the transforming Power of Christ

 When the Feast of Transfiguration falls on a Sunday (like today, the 18th Sunday of the Year in Ordinary time, this year), Transfiguration replaces the Sunday Liturgy. It is an important celebration that points us to the transforming effect of Christ, empowered by God his father, who in the first place sent Jesus his Son as the savior and redeemer of the world, to touch us with his healing hands so that we may be transformed and be not afraid!

 This message of be not afraid runs through today’s readings. Looking and listening again to the scripture just read, the mystery of transfiguration is nothing else, but a feast of hope, courage, faith, and trust in the Lord, when we face trials, when we are confronted with the unknown, when we are uncertain of the future, when we are afraid, disillusioned and frustrated, as people would always do in history. The passages we have just read from Daniel and 2 Peter were written at various times in biblical history, to strengthen the faith of their believing audiences who were persecuted, who were afraid of their present and future.

Have you ever been persecuted, or read about persecution in literature or watch them on TV? Have you ever experience fear or feel uncertain of today, or tomorrow? If so, this feast is for you. Today’s readings are for you. The gospel message is for you and your family!

 Transfiguration is an important, or call it a significant event. Perhaps the more reason the feast is recorded in the three– synoptic gospels: Mathew (17:1-9), Mark (9:2-10) and Luke (9:28-36), almost in the same context. In the midpoint of their stories, and soon after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.

 We are told in today’s account, after being led up the mountain( abode of God) by Jesus, Peter James and John witnessed Jesus being changed and transfigured before them. Jesus’ face shining like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold Moses and Elijah, two great prophets of Israel came charting with him. It was so peaceful that Peter proposes that three tents  be constructed for them: One for Moses, and the other two for Elijah and Christ.  Remember when man proposes God disposes. Barak in the Book of numbers wanted Balaam to curse Israel, but God directed Balaam to bless Israel. Peter in this gospel is directed by an angelic voice from heaven to listen to God’s beloved Son, whose mysteries we celebrate every day.  With the touch of Jesus, the new prophet, the disciples were told to rise up and never to be afraid again!

 
Let me ask again, have you ever been afraid? What are your fears! What are you afraid of: Power, money, health? Transfiguration allows Jesus to consult God his father in order to reassures his disciples, of the healing power and transforming touch of Christ. As Jesus touches his disciples in today’s gospel, and dispels their fears uncertainties, he touches us through our various sacraments- Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Order and anointing of the sick. He touches us, he anoints us through the scriptures and through the charity we do, and through the good relationship we build and nature with our neighbors.
 
When God anoints us, we are transformed and changed from sorrow to joy, from despair to hope, from a sense hatred to that of love, from vindictiveness to mercy and forgiveness, from exclusion to that of inclusion, especially of the poor, women and children, from hostilities to the planet and environment to the care and love of the planet, our common home…messages of Pope Francis as well. When Jesus touches us, we are transform. We listen more to him, as Peter, James and John. When he touches us we Dialogue with one another, with the sensus fidelium.  We regain our peace!

  Let us pray at this Mass for the spirit of love, faith, hope, peace, trust and openness to the transforming effects, and healing touch of Jesus.

 

 

 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Homily17th Sunday of the Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily17th Sunday of the Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

·         1 Kings 3:5, 7-12;
·         Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77,127-130;
·          Rom 8:28-30
·          Matt 13:44-52


Understanding the treasure of God’s Love

Throughout history the Lord is always loving, forgiving and ready to assist us with all our needs. In the first reading of today (1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12) the Lord at Gibeon appeared to the young and inexperienced king Solomon in a dream. Divinely encouraged, Solomon asked the Lord neither for riches, long life, fame, nor for power to dominate those he disagreed with, but for the gift of the spirit of understanding and discernment of God’s ways of dealing with us. He ask for an administrative prudence as well!

In his dealings with us, God forbids tyranny, pursuit of evils, rash and harsh judgments of our neighbors and other creation. God rejects dictatorship of all forms that we sometime find in our contemporary society. In dealing with us, God forbids apostasy and worship of false gods, and rushing into decisions without first discerning and committing them to God in prayers.  Even in the midst of our daily sufferings and persecutions we need discernment to realize that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Rom 8:28-30).

And those who truly love God will, but pursue the values of His Kingdom, which Jesus in parables, compares with a “treasure,” and a “pearl,” discovered unexpectedly. It is also compared with a “net” that hauls in fish “of every kind”, bad and good (Matt 13:44-52).

What is important in the first two parables of the discovered treasure and pearl is our joyful and total response to finding God after a long, committed, dedicated and successful search. It doesn’t matter how long it takes us to succeed, to discover the treasure of God’s love and forgiveness.  Commitment and dedication are recommended for every Christian. God's time frame is not our time frame. When we succeed God wants us as his disciples, and like the Evangelist Matthew to share with joy and humility our experience and giftedness of Him. He wants us to carry along those who are yet to succeed!

These gifts and faith we received from God as Christians must be at the service of our families, ecclesial and civil communities made up of people of all kinds, saints an sinners hauled in by the “net.”  In our times, we want to share the stories of our faith with our children and grandchildren today, and everyone one, the poor and the rich, saints and sinners.. We want to tell them where we came from in faith, the journeys thus far and how God has blessed us, and how things were done before now, the movies that were watched, the seniors and the aged that were cared for and even the parents and the teachers that were respected. We want to share with our fellow workers, colleagues and friends- those values and honesty that were taught and promoted – the Christ that you have discovered. These treasures are not meant for our selfish custody.

Truly, sometimes our times are filled with selfishness, materialism, subjectivism, and abuse of power in some quarters, neglect of faith and the role of God in our lives, lack of understanding of our neighbors, our subjects, bosses, fellow workers and family members. Our times are also being mixed up with inability to separate evil from good, right from wrong. What some people would call “mixed bag.” Anything goes! Sometimes freedom without responsibility!

Like Solomon let us pray for God’s wisdom today in our daily choices, judgments, evaluations, administration, and discernments. Let us also pray for the grace to always understand the treasure of God’s love, His goodness for us   and the values of His Kingdom
!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Homily 16th Sunday of Year A, 20117: Michael UfokUdoekpo


Homily 16th Sunday of Year A, 20117: Michael Ufok Udoekpo

·         Wisdom 12:13, 16-19;

·         Ps 86:5-10, 15-16;

·         Rom 8:26-27

·         Matthew 13:24-43

 
 Whoever is sown in Christ Grows abundantly in love, mercy and patience!

 Last Sunday, Christ, in his simplicity spoke to us in the parable of the sower ((Matt 13:1-23). This Sunday Jesus presses on many more parables from the same Matthews Gospel (Matt 13:24-43,). Together with the 1st and 2nd reading, we are being reminded today that we are a blessing and gifts in God's hands.  These include a little sown mustard seed that gradually grows into a big bush with wide branches which later come to accommodates varieties of birds of the sky. We are also in the hands of God, like a small yeasts that a woman mixes with three measure of wheat flour until the whole batched was leavened.

 In addition, God sows each of us like a good seed sown in the field with great expectations. Though good seeds, they usually grows alongside other competing bad weeds. Those who cultivate Wheat and Rice know the risk of impatience or not handling the wheat skillfully or mercifully in the midst of competing forces of weeds. In dealing with Wheats and Weed we need to practice patience and a lot mercy! Topics that Pope Francis has made the center and front of his ministry.

 From today’s parable, it is better and wise for us to wait till harvest time to separate the weed from the wheat. Don’t forget this is a parable. “Wheat,” good ones, good life, the rich, wealth, good fortunes. “Weed,” perhaps not so good ones, the poor, the forgotten, and theill fortuned etc. “Wheat” and “Weed” all represent us, family members, and members of the Church, of saints and sinners and of the society as a whole. From creation and through the history of Israel, God has planted us in this life amidst other weeds and tribulations or exiles, persecutions, injustices, acts of racism, discrimination, tribalism, parochialism, wars, terrorism, and other forms of  human- made hardships.

 But in the midst of all these, it is proven, particularly in the first reading of today, Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 that, there is no other God besides our God, and he “cares for all.” His might is the source of justice once denied, men, women, children, the poor, and the weak of all ages.

Don’t forget, even plants and nature, the birds of the air, that neither till nor sow, God loves them and cares for them. St. Francis of Assisi whom  Pope Francis took his name from , sings of this kind of boundless divine  love and patience with all , in his Cantle of the Creatures, also cited in the LaudatoSiˊof Pope Francis, paragraph 87.This Canticle affirms the main lessons of today’s that God judges us with a great deal of clemency and patience, and gives ground for hope and repentance. He is erekehpayim (steadfast love, merciful) and full of hesed(kind) and tsedigkim (righteous), for those who are like little children, transparent and disposed to his kindness, love and righteousness.

 We are called not only to be patient with our weak brothers and sisters, but to be kind and nice to them, to the plants, trees, birds, oceans and nature. By so doing we remind ourselves of what Paul says in today’s second reading, that, “the spirit comes to the aid of our weaknesses, for we do not even know how to pray as we ought.” For Paul we should be patient with ourselves and with one another, because “even at our worst moments the Holy Spirit is there guiding us… even though we may sometimes recognize his presence!

Our acts of charity, kindness, mercy, encouragement, empathy to the “Weeds” in terms of the “poor” in our society can prompt the “weeds” empower them, to be more fruitful and learn to become like “wheat” and feel more inclusive in the society, economically, politically, socially and even religiously.

In other words, like seeds sown by God that faces worldly competitions and all forms of temptations to sin, to fight back, to curse, to revenge, to terrorize, to be unkind, to discriminate, to lie, to be deceptive, to be selfish, to un-love, to be nasty, to gossip- may come back to Christ, realizing that whoever abides in him or whoever is sown in Christ grows into abundance of his love, goodness, kindness, mercy and patience.

 

 

 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Homily 15th Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily 15th Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·       Isa 55:10-11
·       Ps 65:10-14
·       Rom 8:18-23
·       Matthew 13:1-23

 The Word of God that Nourishes Us

Today we celebrate the Word of God, verbum domini that nourishes us, that transforms us, when we read it, when listen to it, when we preach it, when we sing it, when we receive in in the Holy Communion, and when we live it positively in our daily lives.  And going by the readings of today, Jesus, God’s incarnate is this Word of God.
Throughout the course of his ministry, this God’s Incarnate, Jesus, loves speaking in parables, because he loves simplicity. He speaks in parable to drive home his points in a manner understandable to his brothers and sisters; to his listeners who were men and women like us, who were children and adult like us, who were rich and poor like us, who were learned and some without a college degrees like some of us today. These parabolic teachings of Jesus will continue in the next couple of Sundays ahead!

But, as for today’s Gospel parable, Matthew 13, in it, the Word of God, the love of God, the commandments of God, the values of God, the promises of God have been sown as a seed in our hearts, in various soils of our hearts. There are 4 different soils, representing 4 different hearts of the baptized. The first 3 are not hospitable, accommodative, approachable or fertile enough to host the Word of God, the love of God, his mercy, his kindness and his forgiveness.  They represent anxieties, worries, tribulations, jealousies, anger, hatred, distrust of divine providence, disobedience and all kinds of temptations with anti-Christ’ sentiments of this world.
The 4th soil represents those who hear, read, preach, teach and live the Word of God, listen to it a 30 fold, who understands it a 60 fold, and obeys it and puts into fruitful practice of love, mercy, forgiveness, patience and love of God and ones’ neighbors, a 100 hundred fold, no matter where they come from, or look like.

Don’t forget the 4th soil also represents those who endure sufferings and hope in the Lord. This is where we find a very strong link between the Gospel and the first reading of today, Isaiah 55, known also as the Book of Consolation. Though originally addressed to the exiles who would return from Babylon to Judah ... in their scarcity of lack of food and water and defenselessness God out of his mercy will provide all their needs against their enemies. Like the rain and snow provided by God to water and irrigates the fields of ancient Israel, God will surely see us through our present day challenges.
What are your challenges if we may ask?  Are there lack of faith, loss of our loved ones, worries about our future, our health, jobs, insurances, social security, our children, our retirement benefits and our homes ….Paul in that 2nd reading, who is convinced of the promises of Christ, insists on Christ’s messages of hope and openness to the Word of God, that “the sufferings of this present time is nothing compared to the glory of the Lord to be revealed to us.”

Paul says, just as all creation groan with labor pains, let us bear our suffering patiently, knowing that our redemption is near at hand. In other, words, May we continue to read the word of God everyday starting with prayer to understand and live the word of God. May we continue to listen to the word of God as read and preached in the church during weekday and Sunday Masses, by our priests and pastors. May we continue to listen to our parents and experience elders, and daily ask for God’s special grace to remove all types of road blocks, worries, confusions and burdens of un-repented sins that hinders the word God from touching our hearts and transforming us, our children and our society.
Finally, “the parable of the sower challenges us to see how deeply the word of God has taken root in our lives, how central God is to the very fabric of our day-to-day life. And how kind and forgiving we are to one another." Still, in the Spirit of Pope Francis, our humblest offers of help to anyone in need may be the seeds that fall on that good soil,  on that 4th soil, and yield an abundant  harvest of 30-60 and a100 folds.

 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Homily 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Zech 9:9-10
·         Ps 145:1-1,8-9,10-14
·         Rom 8:9,11-13
·         Matt 11:25-30

A God who walks on the Side of the Poor

Today we celebrate a God who is always on the side of the poor. A God who cherishes humility. A God who defends and fights for the oppressed in every generation. A God who preserves Jerusalem and his temple. And a God who loves His Church. Including all of us gathered here today. A Church full of saints and sinners, men and women, children and the elderly. A Church who listens and sometimes a Church who does not listen enough.

 But how do we know this is true? We know that this is true when we look around and see the blessings God has blessed us with, in spite of who we are. The oxygen we breathe; the roof over our heads, our children, grandchildren, our vocations, families and jobs. This is also true in the stories we hear and share. The lives of the saints. With God everything is possible (CCC385).This is true when we also go by the scripture readings of today.

In today’s Gospel Mathew 11, we see a humble Jesus who came from God his father to be with us, to identify with us, to heal us when we are sick, to feed us when we are hungry, to encourage us when we are discouraged, to protect us when we are threatened by the enemies and to teach us through his disciples the 12, who he had gathered and commissioned in Matthew 10 to go out and preach the good news, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse leapers, cast out demons, teach love, peace and reconciliation(Matt 10:5-15).

But Jesus’ ministry was resisted not by the poor, but mostly by the rich, by scribes, Pharisees and by the arrogant cities. This why the humble Jesus while in the midst of his confused disciples is so happy to take time not only to give thanks to God for always, since the beginning of time, standing with the poor and fighting for the needy, as a divine warrior, but to communicate hope to his disciples and to each of us:

Knowing that we have our own challenges, Jesus does this in more pastoral way, and with a very simple cultural language. He invites us, saying: “Come to me all you who labor are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In ancient days yokes were placed on animals to carry heavy loads. And some of them were really heavy. Today we have our spiritual, psychological and material loads in terms of poverty, insecurity, health issues, and corruption in some political capitals, arrogance in our leaders, that only Jesus who is meek and humble can help us carry these yokes and burdens.

In the ancient days Israel’s yokes included constant military threats by their powerful surrounding neighbors like Assyria, Egypt, Babylon and Persia. Their yoke and burden also included the loss of the temple, their loves and the horrible experiences in exiles as refugees. It is to this ancient Israelites yokes and burdens that the 1st reading Zechariah 9 also addresses. Israel’s king will come. Their messiah is on the way. A savior is here, meek and humble. Israel’s enemies will be defeated by this messiah. Peace shall be proclaimed  and the sovereignty of God will  extent from coast to coast.

This promise was fulfilled not only in the liberty and freedom of the children of God and their return to rebuild the Jerusalem temple once destroyed (Zech 9:9-10), but in the ministries of our Lord Jesus Christ. With God everything is possible. With God no hope is lost. Do not say that you cannot make it. Don’t think that that illness could not be cured, physically and spiritually. Don’t think that, there is no hope of life or resurrection after death.

What the Lord requires of us today, most, is a humble spirit of disposition that all that the Lord has promised us would be fulfilled. This is the Spirit that Paul talks about in the 2nd reading, the Letter to the Romans. He discourages the spirit of the flesh, doubt, infighting, hatred, violent, jealousy, and selfishness, lack of self-control, gossiping, idolatry and sinfulness. He rather recommends the spirit of Christ for us. It is a spirit of humility. It is a spirit love. It is a spirit of faith and trust in the Lord. It is a spirit of hope and selfless services. A spirit of mercy and forgiveness. A spirit that enables us to respect and treat our neighbors  with dignity. And a spirit that constantly reminds us that no matter what, that our God is constantly watching over us. He is fighting for us day in day out.

 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Homily Seventh Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily Seventh Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 1:12-14;
·          Psalms 27:1, 4, 7-8;
·         1 Pet 4:13-16
·         John 17:1-11

 The Mission of the Church after the Ascension!
 What we are to do after the Ascension of Christ is evidence in today’s Scripture readings. In today’s Gospel, the last chapter of the Book of Glory Jesus prays for the church, and speaks of his glory with God to whom he has ascended in heaven (John 17:11a). He prays, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.”

This prayer is an expression of Jesus unity with the Father. It is an expression of love for the Church he established. It also a report of his missions of love, compassion, feeding the poor, forgiving sinners, and healing he sick while on earth. It is a report of the faith he taught, the suffering he endured, the cross he carried on our behalf, and the community of believers he formed (vv.6-8). In his glorification he will give eternal life to this community of faith. This eternal life includes the knowledge of God and his inspiration and spirit for the church, the Christian community to continue his mission.
Of course Jesus was a man of prayer from Baptism to the Cross, which he continues after his ascension. The first reading (Acts 1:12-14) presents his disciples who continues in this mission of prayer in the upper room soon after his ascension. We are told, “After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem…. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of  James… all devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus and his brothers.”

Each of us are invited to be Peter and John,  James , Andrew and Philip, Thomas and Bartholomew, Matthew, James, Mary, men and women of prayer who delight in following the footsteps of Jesus at all times.
Truly there are moments of challenges (frustration, low grades in exams, hatred, insult, discrimination, racism, disappointments, betrayals, illness and loss of loved ones). Christ himself before his Ascension faced those challenges and sufferings, even to the cross.

1 Peter 4:13-16, the second reading, reminds us of how to react to sufferings. It teaches us how to handle those challenges of life. It says, "But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of his name. Peter also stresses joy, saying ‘rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings (glory) of Christ.”
Granted that we live in a divided world of the rich and the poor, the west and the east, north and south, joy and sorrows, wars and terrorisms, we are hopeful that Christ will never leave us orphans.  He constantly prays and watches over us. And we ask the Lord to help us realize the importance of prayer, faith and hope, and of the oneness of the post-Ascension- Christian communities in keeping the words of Christ and promoting his values and mission to people of all walks of life, especially the poor and the weak of every nation.

Reflection Questions:

1.    And so what after the ascension—prayer, faith, togetherness and witness!

2.    Do we encourage members of faith community to imitated this post- ascension biblical community and how?

3.    Who do you owe your life’s glorious moments to? And what are there?

 

 

Homily Ascension of the Lord (Solemnity): Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo


Homily Ascension of the Lord (Solemnity): Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 1:1-11
·         Ps 47:2-3,6-7,8-9
·         Eph 1:17-23
·         Matt 28:16-20

“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32, CCC662).
This passage from John 12:32 is also quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to stress the significance of what we celebrate today, the Ascension of our Lord Jesus in to Heaven. It also points to the fact even though he suffered, knocked down, he was spitted up. Though crucified the tomb was never going to be Jesus’s final bus stop. He was lifted up to draw everyone to himself, to save the world, all nations to the ends of the earth.

Recall, on the foot of the cross, as he was been lifted up on that tree-were standing everyone: the Jewish elites, who handed him over, the faithful  women and  men, including Joseph of Arimathea, and the Roman soldiers, who nailed him to the cross.  The implication is that when he was lifted up “he drew everyone to himself.”

These Jewish elites, and those on the foot of the cross were not the only ones he drew to himself. His resurrection and ascension attracts his Apostles, his disciples, and propels them to witness beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem, but Judea and Samaria, even to the “ends of the earth.” What is the meaning of the “ends of the earth” here? For Luke, “ends of the earth” here means Rome- Gentile regions! Christ’s mission is universal! It sounds like Pope Francis!!

Preparations to do this, and the power of Christ’s ascension, which we celebrate today, are obvious in today’s first reading, Luke’s 2nd volume, Acts 1:1-11. As they disciples were gathered, they wanted to know if Christ is that expected political leader, that messiah, that anointed one (Luke 2:11), by asking “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel.” In response, Christ reminds them, it was not their duty to know when and how, or to restrict his blessings to the geographical area Judea or Palestine. As he was explaining this to his disciples, Christ was lifted up to heaven. He ascended into heaven before their very watching eyes.

In heavens Christ is seated at God’s right hand, as witnessed by Paul in the 2nd reading, Ephesians 1:17-23. Addressing the Church Ephesus Paul testifies, “Raising him from the dead God seated him at his right hand in heavens.” And an important position of strength, where he watches over us. And from where he sends the Power of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead the Church in her evangelizing missions. The power of Ascension! The Blessings from Christ’s Ascension!

In Galilee in today’s Gospel, Mathew 28:16-20, the Ascended Christ assures this disciples that “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He showers his disciples with the Holy Spirit and blessings. And commissions them to go out to all nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Ascension assures us that in spite of our daily challenges, poverty, violent, loss of our loved ones, terrorism, stories of book haram, corruption in political capitals, and effects of poor and bad leaderships, Christ is with us.  When we are out there to keep our doctor’s appointment and undergo medical procedures or take our examination, tests, or at work, or in our families, Christ is with us!

Finally, may we appreciate the significance of today’s celebration? The challenges placed before us that we are not to keep Christ, selfishly for ourselves, but are meant share of the blessings and the joy of the Gospel with our friends and neighbors of the “ends of the earth?” and of all nations (Matt 28).   WHEN I AM LIFTED UP I WILL DRAW EVERYONE TO MYSELF!

Reflection Questions:
1.    When you are knocked down, in your own ‘location” do you believe with faith and hard work you could be lifted up?

2.    How do you relate to the lessons of today’s scriptures?

3.    Who is Christ for you and how have you witnessed Christ to your neighbors, or to the Lukan's “ends of the earth” or the “ all nations” of Matthew 28?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Homily Sixth Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo (2017)


Homily Sixth Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo (2017)
·         Acts 8:5-8, 14-17;
·         Ps 66:1-3, 4-5,6-7,16,20;
·         I Pet 3:15-18
·          John 14:15-21

Holy Spirit: Stimulant of Love and Hope..!
In the Gospel reading of today (John14:15-21), Christ says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…..”
This message of Christ comes to us on the eve of his ascension to God his father, which we shall celebrate on Thursday, or next Sunday. The point of this Gospel message is that as Christ departs to the Father he wants us to be consistent in our Love for him, his teachings and in keeping God’s commandments.  He wants us to remain a community of hope. This is the point Peter stresses in the Second reading (1 Pet 3:15-18). Sometimes, this demand of Christ could be difficult, in the midst of daily challenges, poverty, terrorism, wars, and threats to wars and divisiveness, unless we appreciate that fact that Holy Spirit remains our guide and stimulates us to hope.
In the 1st reading, it is this same spirit that came upon the Samaritan when Peter and John prayed and laid hands on them (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17). But before Peter and John arrived to lay hands on them, we are told, with the grace of God, the Samaritans received healings because they paid attention to Christ Jesus, the wounded healer, proclaimed by Philip. Christ heals those who listen to him and brings them the spirit of joy, happiness and hope.
As we approach the Ascension and Pentecost, this spirit comes to us in a various ways. It comes to us in the readings we read, in the liturgy we celebrates the psalms and songs we sing and in the bread and cup we share. This spirit of God comes to us on our journeys and in the people we meet, the peace we promotes and in the justice we champion. It comes in the sins we forgive and in the wrongs we put right.
 What a journey. Sometimes we do feel the Spirit of God, the yearning for his love and truth that only God can give on our daily journeys, today. So also were the Disciples of Christ before Christ journeyed to the Cross in today’s Gospel (John 14:15-21). They are worried. But Christ reassures them he will send them another Advocate who will accompany them on their journeys of bearing witness to the resurrection. On their journeys of sharing their bread with the poor. In their journeys living together as a community. In their journeys of healing and forgiving sins in the name of Christ. In their journeys of keeping Christ’ commandments!
Various components of the Church (members and leaders) needs this spirit, this Advocate in today’s changing world. The church needs it in her evangelization. She needs it to challenge terrorism. She needs it to reach out to the poor. She needs it to challenge religious intolerance. She need it to challenge corrupt political capitals. She needs it to bear to perceive the smells of the sheep and to appreciate the ministry of Pope Francis. She needs it to celebrate and bear witness to hope in the resurrected Christ! May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire us, lead us, stimulate us to love and hope!
 Reflections Questions:
1.    Do we keep God’s commandments and encourage others to do the same?
2.    When last did we minister hope to the hopeless?
3.    Could you think of moments you expressly feel opened to the Advocate, the Holy Spirit in your life’s journey, irrespective of your location?