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?

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

Homily Fifth Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 6:1-7;
·          Ps 33:1-5,18-19;
·         1 Pet 2::4-9
·         John 14:1-12

Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life
 Last Sunday we celebrated Christ the Good Shepherd. Today, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, a Mother’s Day in some parts of the world (USA), we celebrate Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We celebrate Christ who loves us as a good mother would love her child.  A greater understanding of these metaphors or imageries of the way, truth, life and motherhood, are important as we approach the mysteries of the Ascension and the Pentecost in the coming weeks of our liturgical celebrations! 

However, we may want to interpret  or exegete these imageries of the way, life, truth and motherhood, for our various audiences, and against the backdrop of the choices we make in life, the goals we pursue, the pains and illnesses we endure, those we forgive and love, how generous we are to our neighbors and faithful to our baptismal promises, to Christ and the teachings of his Church, ..openness to the Holy Spirit must be taken into account.
One of the criteria for the choice of the seven deacons (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicarnor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas) to serve the poor in today’s 1st reading, is one who possess the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, which we all receive at baptisms. The 7 deacons must also be men of integrity with good reputation. They must be seen as a “holy nation”  and a "chosen race," of today's  2nd reading, as well, 1 Peter 2:4-9. These 7 deacons  allowed themselves to be called, to be chosen! They did not chose themselves but were at the disposition of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

These 7 deacons needed this spirit of God for greater and better service of the poor and temporal goods of the Church. So also ourselves in whatever we do, in and outside the church, in our families, in our places of work, civil and ecclesiastical, we must let the spirit of Christ lead the Way. We must allow Christ to call us, to choose us, and to lead us, by how we daily live our baptismal promises, and civil duties, with total abandonment and humility!
No wonder Christ re-emphasizes this in his last supper, to his disciples, in today’s Gospel (John 14:1-12). In this last discourse, before he went to the Cross Christ indirectly reminds us, his present day disciples, that he is the way, the truth, the life in all that we do. Even in our daily challenges, and family relationship, and importantly, as we celebrate mother’s day today.

On this day, let the role Christ in our lives, in the church, with the poor, with the orphan, with the needy, with the oppressed, with women, male, adult and children, narrated in gospel passages, remind us of the roles of our mothers and women, in scriptures, in the society, in our cultures, in our families, in the Church—and the love we owe them as well!
Few days ago one of the basketball star Kevin Duran, while receiving NBA award speaks positively and highly of his mother who sacrificed so much to raise him and his brother as a single parent. Every night the mom would go to bed hungry but made sure that he and his brother ate. They were poor, moving from one unfurnished apartment to another. In the midst of this poverty, their mom was always there for them.  This is who good moms.

They lead the way for their kids and care for them. They are like Mary Magdalene. They bear witness to the resurrection, no matter how early the hour of the morning, of the first day of the week. They are like our Mother Mary. They care for their spouses and children,  and constantly trust in the voice of the Angel Gabriel! They are like mother Teresa. They reach out to the poor. They are compassionate, sensitive, hardworking, caring, loving, listening, trusting, merciful, generous, patience, kind, selfless, diligent, believing and opening to the Holy Spirit, like the 7 deacons of the 1st reading.
 On this Mother’s Day, may we resolve, may we always allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in appreciating our mothers, in our motherhood, in our service to the poor, in all that we do, to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

 Reflection Question:
1.    In our life’s challenges, motherhood, family relationships, how often do we remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and encourage our friends and members of families and faith community to do the same?

2.    In our life’s choices, are we filled with faith and opened to the Holy Spirit, and encourage our friends and family and community members to do the same?

3.    Which of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, chastity (Gal 5:22), is your delight?






Saturday, May 6, 2017

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

Homily Fourth Sunday of Easter Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 2:14a, 36-41;
·         Ps 23; 1-3a, 3b-4,5,6
·          1Peter 2:20b-25
·         John 10:1-10

Christ, Gate and Our Good Shepherd: Listen to His Voice

 Fourth Sunday of Easter celebrates Christ the Good Shepherd and Gate to life. It is also a world day of prayer and vocation. It anticipates Mother’s Day celebration, on May 14th, in some nations.  However, in the light of today's readings, the metaphorical emphasis is placed on Christ as the Good Shepherd, and the Gate to the sheepfold, who loves, guards our souls, and wipes our tears, the tears of his sheep.  What we see in Christ of today’s reading often reflects in the persons of our good mothers, our parents, the human shepherds  and mentors who shepherds the vocation of each and every one of us. They care for us. They feed us, they love us, pay our tuition fees, mentors us  with the direction of the and inspiration of  Christ, the Chief Shepherd and the great I AM, whom we are called to listen to his voice!  Listening, of course is much more than hearing! It requires a disposition for learning!

In fact, we mean, a listening  and learning Church members and leaders ,with a synodic model,  grounded in compassion and respect for peoples of all walks of life, and cognizant of their material and spiritual needs. This is the listening Church, the listening flock, to the voice of the Good Shepherd, that Pope Francis continuously stress during his pontificate.

Flocks and sheep listening to the voice of the master-shepherd has always been important especially in moments of disillusionment and uncertainties, as was the case with the early disciples, after the dead and resurrection of Christ.

It is to this Church that Peter addresses in the 1st and 2nd readings (Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1Pt 2:20b-25).  Peter is preaching to a Church that is experiencing difficulties, such as crises of faith, corruption, and doubt of the future. Members this church, Peter's addressee,  are persecuted, for the sake of Christ ,who is no longer with them—physically and humanly speaking. But, with Peter’s reassurance, Christ continuously and spiritually, watches over his church as a Good  Shepherd, an imagery very well known to the early Church and Semitic culture.

 This  Semitic imagery, as powerful as it is, repeatedly finds expression in many other scriptural passages, including Jeremiah chapter 23 and Ezekiel chapter 34. And of course, in today’s Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” The question remains, in our needs, and confusion do we remember that the Lord is our Good shepherd?
In the Gospel, John expands on this Semitic imagery. He sees Jesus not only as the Good Shepherd who feeds, listens, smells, protects the sheep, but also as the Gateway of the Church.  For him who ever enters through the gateway, and listen to Christ, will be saved.  The Christ of John welcomes us comes.  He embraces us as a good mother, father, friend and mentor would embrace their mentee and apprentice.  In his embrace we must therefore listen to him, in our vocation journeys, choices and discernments (John 10:10).

This invitation becomes more challenging in a world filled today with competing voices of secularism, ideologies, fake media, relativism, violent, terrorism and wars. What about the voices of materialism, neglect of the poor and the mockeries of family values and vocations to the priesthood and religious life?
As challenging as our times might be, and as thick and heavy as our doubts, and disillusions may be, may we not lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ, the everlasting Good Shepherd, and the true Gate who knows each of us, his flock, by name!  May we in our various places of work, and life imitate Christ, listen to his voice by welcoming and opening the door and the gates to the poor and the needy! And by bearing witness to the Gospel!

 Reflection Questions:
1.    Do we trust in Christ, Our Good Shepherd, and how do we assist members of our faith community to relate to today’s readings, especially to the Semitic imageries of Christ the Good Shepherd, the great I AM, and the Gateway (Jer 23, Ezekiel 34, Psalm 23, and John 10)?

 2.    How do we imitate or relate to Christ’s leadership style in our places of leadership and responsibilities?

 3.    As sheep and flocks of Christ, what prevents us today, as individuals and as a Church, from listening or hearing and practicing the voice of our Chief Shepherd, the Christ?
4. How do we promote vocations to the priesthood, religious and family lives?