Saturday, February 25, 2017

Homily Eighth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U Udoekpo

Homily Eighth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isa 49:14-15;
·          Psalm 62:2-9;
·         1 Cor 4:1-5
·         Matt 6:24-34

God, the Provider In-Chief
 Today we celebrate Christ, the rock of our salvation and Provider In Chief. He is God’s Son who loves and comforts us in our worries. He never abandons us (his children, stewards and servants) in our lacks, needs, challenges, “tomorrow’s frustrations and uncertainties” as stressed in today’s scripture passages, especially the Gospel, which says, “do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself”(Matt 6:33-34).  Remember there has always been worries throughout history!

In the first reading (Isa 49:14-15) while the Judeans complains in Babylonian exile  of their hardships and sufferings- the loss of the temple, land, relatives and properties, Isaiah the prophet is also busy  reminding them that God will never abandon Israel. And rhetorically likens God’s love and compassion to a loving mother who would never abandon her child, no matter what! Can a mother forget her infant? We are God’s children, the renewed Zion. Our Lord constantly watches over us in our worries and troubles! He will never abandon us!
Today’s Gospel particularly also reflects a Jesus, God's incarnate who knows and understands human nature, especially his disciple’s nature, of which we are a part today. They worried so much. We worry so much about many things and life’s vicissitudes: What to eat, what to wear, what to possess! Some people today  go to the extent of worshiping money, power, position, material things, which sometimes could be a hindrance to their faithful relationship with God and their neighbors! Christ toes a different line. For him, when we seek first the values of the kingdom of God, love, humility, simplicity of life, total abandonment, deep trust in God, every other things will be added to us by God his father, who is the source of life and “Provider in Chief” of all things we need in life!

Even to the distracted, worried, conflicted,  quarrelling, judgmental, material-oriented, boastful and self-seeking Corinthian Community, this was also Paul’s message to them in that 2nd reading, 1Corinthian 4:1-5. He advises them “Thus should one regard us; as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”
How trustworthy are we of God’s love by serving God alone and by loving our neighbors in our little ways? How trustworthy are we of God’s love by seeking first the kingdom of God? How trustworthy are we of God’s protection by adhering to the spirit of evangelical poverty, using what we have judiciously for the common good (CCC2545,)? How trustworthy are we of God’s love by using our power, position and wealth ethically, and selflessly? How trustworthy are we by relying on God’s comfort and on his foundation as our rock, rejecting frivolous pleasure and inordinate pursuit of material things?

Pope Francis recognizes the importance of these questions and wrote, in his Joy of the Gospel, “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures and a blunted conscience” (n.2).
This does not mean that we should not work and study hard, farm or earn a living; have a roof over our ahead, plan our calendar for the next day, week, month, and year. But for our Lord, in as much as we toil in this life, work hard, ethically and sometimes encounter setbacks, we should never feel abandoned by God. In fact, just as a loving mother does not forsake her baby, our Comforting God will never abandon us in our needs and difficulties, even at the ninth hour. He is our comforter and the rock of our salvation (Psalm. 62). He is our Provider In Chief

 Reflection Questions:
1.     In challenging times do you feel loved by God? Do you still see him as Provider in Chief?
2.     In moments of lacks, exiles, sufferings and worries do you think of the Christ of today’s Gospel that you should not worry about tomorrow since tomorrow will take care of itself?
3.     And in what ways do you, like the Prophet Isaiah share the Gospel of comfort, total abandonment, evangelical poverty, maternal care, deep trust in God and hope with members of your faith communities?




Saturday, February 18, 2017

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

Homily Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Lev 19:1-2, 17-18;
·          Ps 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13;
·          1 Cor 3:16-23
·         Matt 5:38-48
 Love and Charity: the fullness of Law in Christ!
Today’s readings from the Sermon on the Mount on “Love of One’s enemies” and “love of one’s neighbors from the Book of Leviticus may at first hearing/reading sound very challenging. But in taking a second look the readings are all about God’s mercy, love, justice, holiness of life, making room for changes in our lives, making room for renewal and forgiveness. The strongest response to hatred is Love which is a great form of holiness, the true nature of God (Lev 19:2).
Many of you were born before, during and after the Vatican II. For those who were born before the Vatican II Council, you would testify that there have been a lot changes, updating, innovation and renewals, particularly in the areas of liturgical teachings and laws in the Church to meet the needs of the time and culture. Remember, there were times priests were celebrating the Holy mass backing the congregation. But today Masses are celebrated facing the people. There were times Scriptures at worship were read only in Latin. Today we can read it in English. Different nations and cultures can also read it in their native languages. Thanks be to God!
In some nations there were times women and the minority were not allow to vote at elections. But today those laws have been changed around.  In other parts of the world where cast- system and dictatorship style of government are practice, many are beginning to realize the need for changes. What about the issues of equal pay? In the past men were paid higher than women. Today, we are all agitating for equal pay. What about the “stand your ground laws” in different parts of the United States, Florida in particular?  Or immigration laws. Some are asking that this law be reviewed while some are pushing back!
There has always been changes.  In the first reading Book of Leviticus 19 we are told “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But in today’s Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “love your enemy” (Matt 5:44), no retaliation, be charitable to all. We were told in the Book of Exodus 21:24-25, quoted even by Jesus, today, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (Matt 5:38-42).
 Jesus saw the need for changes and renewal with these laws just as we do today experience changes and renewed ways of interrelating our day to day civil and ecclesiastical laws. The retributive ethics of the Covenant Code, ‘an eye for an eye or a tooth for tooth” that Christ is working on today from Exodus 21:24-25 was not meant to promote revenge and retaliation. Rather they were meant to protect the citizens against un-proportional, illegitimate and unending retaliation. They were meant to say if a “fly perches on your food you don’t need to attack the fly with an atomic bomb or AK47.  Otherwise you might cause more damage than the fly.
 I remember the last Russian –Georgia war the language of disproportional use of force was constantly used on the media. But for Christ, charity must overcome the thought and the acts of retaliation and violence and disproportionate wars not meant to dissuade attacking enemies and acts of terrorism.
Christ also takes up the Holiness ethics of the first reading, Leviticus 19:18, which says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who our neighbor in this passage? Granted that it was referring to a fellow Israelite, since a different attitude was required towards those other nations that were hostile to them (see Deut 23:1-3). Certainly, Jesus requires a different approach to things. Not as business as usual!
In the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus teaches us today to take a different spiritual and moral steps and a refined position with regard to our relationship with everybody including those we do not like so much, or those we know do not like us. Or those we disagrees with. Everyone is your neighbors, love them (Matt 5:38-48).
This could be challenging no doubt. But requires faith. Without faith and prayers, Christ invitation to holiness of life of non-revenge and non-violence or practice of charity to everyone, and good neighborliness, sounds frightening and impossible. They are possible with the grace of God. And we can do this in many little ways. In the way we treat the immigrant, the poor, the aged, fellow student, worker, spouse and family members, or  those we meet in travelling bus, train, sailing ship and in the flight etc.
It is uncharitable even to select those we say “good morning” to. Or engage in gossips, negative criticism, retaliations or spread falsehoods about our neighbors. For Christ this will be a pagan way of travelling. And none of us would want to travel that low road. We want to live and travel the law which is of fullness of love in Christ! Let us pray at this Mass for the grace to live this law of love with deep universal charity and spirit of faith- perseverance to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy (Lev 19:2).
Reflection Questions;
1. How do you feel when someone offends you: retaliate, love or forgive?
2. What counselling do you give to members of your faith community who feel offended or violated by others or the unjust socio-political structures?
3. Could you think of a few instances in your life where you have chosen to love than hate or retaliate against those you thought might have offended you?
4. Do you consider everyone you meet on the way your Gospel Neighbor or not and why?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Homily Sixth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Sixth Sunday of Year A:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Sir 15:15-20;
·          Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34;
·         1 Cor 2:6-10
·          Matt 5:17-37
 Law of Love and Grace in Christ!
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn that “the new Law is called a law of love because  it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ” (CCC1972).
 It is this Law of love, grace and freedom in Christ that we celebrate today. These Laws are particularly evidence on the pages of the Sacred Scripture, both OT and NT, especially in today’s readings. These laws were constantly renewed, studied, updated and reinterpreted to meet the signs of times. Just as the laws of our various nations and societies, are today constantly scrutinized and reinterpreted to meet the needs of time. Laws in Scripture, especially in the Hebrew Bible, in the OT sections are reinterpreted in light of the mercy, love, compassion of Jesus Christ as fulfilled in the NT, to meet our needs and the needs of the Church.
For example, the three major codes of the OT, if we may begin from here: the covenant Codes (Exod 19–24; 34), the Holiness Codes (Lev 16–27) and the Deuteronomic Codes (Deut 12–16) all  were constantly updated, innovated, renewed and reinterpreted by Israel’s prophets and sages. The goals of these sages were to preach justice, peace, righteousness, faith, orderliness and holiness of life, trustworthiness in God and in the covenant of love he had established with his chosen people, Israel.
These goals transcend time. Who does not need justice? Who does not need Peace? Who does not cherish righteousness, righteous acts? Who does not appreciate the role faith in our lives? Who does not love orderliness? Who does not recognize the importance of holiness of life? These are necessities for all times. They are boundless and timeless.
In the time of Hellenism, when Israel’s faith was threatened by secular and Greek philosophical thoughts Ben Sira (200-175BCE) insists in today’s first reading that keeping the Torah or the fear of the Lord was the greatest wisdom and the best way to approach the challenges of life.  He says, “If you chose you can keep the commandments it will save you…. if you trust in God you too shall live… immense is the Wisdom of the Lord…no one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin” (Sir 15:15-20).
 So also with Christ, who was emphatic on his divine mission. He did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it, to fulfil it and to teach us new ways of living these laws, as clearly presented in today’s gospel (Matt 5:17-37).  I am sure as we listen to this gospel passage, the difference with Christ is love and compassion which he has profoundly displayed in the course of his ministry;  In his forgiveness to sinners, prostitutes and adulterers; In his healing compassion to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the cripple and lepers and tax collectors;In his breaking of the barrier of discrimination and racism;  In his reaching out to the Samaritan and the Syro-Phonician women in John 4 and Mark 7, something unprecedented in the old laws. The list of love, grace and freedom in Christ goes on!
Recall also, in the old Law the sinful high priest sacrificed and atoned for his sins and that of the community, repeatedly(Leviticus 16), but in the new law the sinless Christ sacrifices himself once and for all(Letter to the Hebrews).  In the old law whoever kills his neighbor would be liable to judgment. But in Christ Jesus no one should ever dare to call others name nor abuse his or her neighbors. In Christ these are forms of subtle killings. When we abuse, intimidate or call others names, assassinate their characters, especially our children and the weak, the defenseless, it makes them feel they are good for nothing, and dampens their spirit and confidence. Even sometimes the pseudo-media propaganda against other nations, especially the poor ones can also be very damaging and killing.
 When we deny our poor nations or neighbors’ children access to good education, when we exclude the poor, we have indirectly kill their social, political and economic future (cf. Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis). We have killed their prospect of good jobs. Good jobs comes with good health care insurance, descent homes, good income, clothing, and livelihood that stands to be handed on to future generations.
The law of Christ is the new law of love, trust and freedom, forgiveness and compassion. We should not have to swear before we believe or trust one another. For Christ, our yes should be our yes, and our no our no! This law of trust and confidence in Christ Jesus; the mystery of God’s love is powered by the Holy Spirit and it is written in the hearts of every human person invited to share this love.
Paul says, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heart, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for who those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:6-10).
This is the law of love, the law of grace and the law of freedom in Christ Jesus! And blessed are those who follow these laws of Christ even in challenging times and circumstances!
Reflection Questions:
1.    Are we open to change and to the mysteries of God’s love?
2.    How often and in challenging moments of interpreting our various laws do we ask for God’s grace and seek wisely, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know what Jesus would have done in such circumstances?
3.    How often do we share the laws of God recorded in the sacred texts and in the Church’s documents with our neighbors through the prism of Christ of today's Gospel?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Homily Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·        Isa 58: 7-10;
·         Ps 112:4—9;
·         1 Cor 2:1-5
·        Matt 5:13-16

Christ's Light Shall Rise For You In Darkness!
The importance of light and precautions against darkness in our daily lives cannot be over emphasized. We use light for cooking, reading, studying, driving, worshiping and brightening up the darkness of our cities, towns, rooms, streets, plazas and environments.  Light is also needed by plants and crops as they experience photosynthesis. The list goes on!! In worship, spirituality, scriptures and sacraments, Christ, God’s incarnate and his values is this “Light” of the world (John 8:12), whom we are invited to worship and imitate exemplarily, in our charity and works of mercy. On the other hand, darkness represents anti-Christ’s values, evils and misfortunes we see, read about, hear of, or experience in today’s world. Yet the light of Christ triumphs over the darkness of this world! 

Today’s Gospel of light is vital for our spiritual growth. This truth spans from one generation to another. The generation of Third Isaiah, the returnees from Persian exile are reminded in the first reading by the prophets Isaiah of the need to reject every form of darkness of false accusation and malicious speeches against fellow community member. What matters or brightens the community spiritually, socially, economically and religiously, the prophet stresses, include the sharing of ones’ bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked, as the rebuild and worship at they rebuilt temple.  These corporal works of mercy also makes the just person of today’s Psalm 112 an agent of light in any given form of darkness. How many of us today in this generation are daily prepared to continue to be that just man, that just woman, that upright person, that source of light in the darkness of our present world as we worship and share our bread with our neighbors?
Be it at worship, study, work, administration, in leadership and family care, we are called to be and participate actively in that listening and doing audience of the disciples whom Jesus addresses in today’s Gospel, saying “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world….your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matt 5:13-16).

For Paul this shining light comes mysteriously to the quarrelling and boasting Corinthian Community of his generation in form of the mixtures of worship and charity, humility and mercy, spirit and power. To them, St. Paul writes, “When I came to you brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God. For I resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ crucified… I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom... I came to you in weakness and fear and trembling” (1 Cor 2:1-5).
Like the generation who heed to Paul’s Letter, sometimes fear of the Lord, trembling and humility could assist us appreciate the place of charitable acts within and outside our worship contexts. Prayers, fear of the Lord and humility, could assist us appreciate the Gospel of joy of Pope Francis  in promoting economic equality in our villages, towns and community, by challenging  every forms of the darkness, especially the darkness of the exclusion of the poor in the socio-political and economic fabrics of our society.

This is how we ourselves would become the light of the world and the salt of the earth, by not only fasting and worshiping God in his terms­, but by also loosening the bonds of injustice. By undoing the thongs of the yoke. By letting the oppressed go free; by promoting peace not war. Rejecting terrorism and racism; by sharing our bread with the hungry. By bringing the homeless into our homes. By forgiving those who may have offended us. By seeking the common good not ourselves. By holding the door of an elevator for those seniors and for those elderly people. By visiting the sick and home bounds. By clothing the naked and welcoming everyone, no matter their language, looks, color, culture, gender and age. In sum, as the Prophet Isaiah rightly puts it, if we keep doing all these good works, then, the Light of Christ will rise for us, will shine in our communities, families, homes, for our friends and nations in any given threats of darkness!
Reflection Questions:

1.   What are your priorities during worship?

2.   In the light of today’s scripture what would you identify as darkness in your faith communities?

3.   In what ways are you the source of light and salt of the earth to your faith communities?