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.