Saturday, August 26, 2017

Homily Twenty-First Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Twenty-First Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isaiah 22:19-23;
·         Ps 138:1-3, 6, 8;
·         Rom 11:33-36
·         Matthew 16:13-20

 A God of Surprise and Giver of Keys Of Responsibilities

Many of us do not like to be surprised, except with anniversary gifts! But our God is a God of surprises. To be surprised implies that we have surrendered at least some of our autonomy(ies). It means events, wonders and amazements have taken place in which we have little or no control, but only to trust in God. Many of such events abound in our lives. In those moments, God is at work. He creates and recreates. He admonishes sinners and welcomes the repentant. He can make king and has the power too to bring kings down. He promotes and demotes.  He changes sufferings into joy, failures into success, illness into good health, and death into life. This is true when we take a closer look into today’s Bible lessons. The Lord entrusted us with the keys to join in building the kingdom.
 In the first reading (Isa 22:19-23), there is a contrast drawn between two court officials during the time of Hezekiah. They were Shebna and Eliakim. Shabna was irresponsible, building a tomb for himself, faithless, abusive, unstable, pompous and selfish (Isa 22:1-18). As a result he was disgraced out of office (v 19). God surprisingly replaces him with Eliakim, whom he calls his servant (v 20). Eliakim is a father to the people (v 21), dependable and solid like a peg.  What a surprise from Shebna to Eliakim! We are invited to be servants of God and of one another.

Above all during prayers we are challenged to believe in a God of surprises. He surprises us through others and through daily events and circumstances. Some of them may initially look ugly. But don’t lose the mystery of hope. Saint Paul reechoes this surprising nature of God in the second reading (Rom 11:33-36) when he says: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom, and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways.”
 Similar elements of divine surprises occur in Matthew’s Gospel today. Who would have thought that the same would-be “Denying Peter,” during the Passion Week would surprisingly get the answer put by Christ, “who do people think that I am.” Surprisingly, ahead of other disciples, Peter got it. He professed Christ as the Son of the living God (matt 16:6).   As a result, and like Eliakim who was given the symbols of power, the keys of the house of David in the first reading (Isa 22:23), Peter is divinely entrusted with the keys of responsibilities: to lead, love, forgive and preach faith and hope. He is pastorally blessed and confirmed as the rock upon which Christ’s Church shall be built (vv.18-19).

Each of us has role to play in using the keys entrusted to us by God for the service of God and our neighbors. We are to be a rock and a pillar for one another!
Metaphorically, rocks in rural African families are used for multiple purposes. They are used to crack or produce kernels (from palms) sold for economic livelihood of many families.  Rocks are also used in most cultures for homes, offices’, road or bridge constructions to support and sustain nations and society. In another sense, they are used to build bridges of unity, forgiveness, reconciliation, and ecumenism, inter- religious or cultural dialogue and peace much needed today in our world! O course, God is the "Rock of all Ages."

I know when we experience wars, threats of terrorism, tragedies, civil unrest and other forms of disorientation, we often succumb to the fallacy that God is not really interested in our affairs and concerns. We may feel that we are not persons, only numbers in a gigantic universe. Like Peter and his successors including Pope Francis, in particular, we are encouraged to trust in God. We are invited to be our neighbor’s and planet’s rock of hope and support. We are called to be the rock, keys, and the pillars for our neighboring poor, the immigrants, the rejected, the homeless, the voiceless, the sick, the needy and the suffering of our generations.    

Reflection Questions:

1.    Do you see yourself in Shebna, Eliakim, or Peter in today’ readings?

2.    How have you been using your keys and your assigned responsibilities to foster dialogue, unity, protect the planet, family values, love and empowerment of the poor and marginalized of your faith community?

3.    Name  one or two ways you have used the pillars and the rocks of your gifts to give glory and thanks to God’s name.

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.