Saturday, March 31, 2018

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!!(Easter Sunday)

Homily Easter Sunday ABC:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 10:34a, 37-43;
·          Ps 118:1-2, 16-17,22-23;
·         Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8;
·         Matt 28:1-9 ;
·         Mark16:1-8;
·         Luke24:13-35,
·         John 20:1-9

  Christ is Risen, Alleluia!!

 Today is the “day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118).  Christ’s resurrection, which we celebrate today is the highest point of our Christian faith. It was planned by God, as narrated in the 9 readings of the Easter Vigil. Can you imagine what our Christian faith would have looked like without the resurrection of the Messiah, without today’s event, Easter?  The Easter we so joyfully celebrate today, is a “
Feast of Feasts” a “Solemnity of Solemnities.” Today death has not only been annulled and but defeated. By his Resurrection Christ, the Messiah guarantees us eternal life. He guarantees us that each of our tombs will never be our final destination nor that of our loved ones.  Christ’s resurrection transforms us from darkness to light and from the feeling of despair to hope. It brings us newness of life, beyond what seemed like a loss on Good Friday.

Christ’s Resurrection, commemorated today world over is a victory over the over the seeming defeat of Good Friday. The Good Friday passion ironically seemed humiliating, but the Resurrection truly glorifies. It is a victorious combat divinely directed, since the tomb was never going to be Christ’s final destination.

Commenting on how quickly Christ’s resurrection was, Saint. Leo the Great said in his Sermon (71.2), “That Jesus hastened to rise as soon as possible because He was in a hurry to console His mother and the disciples.” The resurrection of Christ consoles us of the temporary sadness of that Good Friday!
The resurrection is a fact not fiction, as witnessed by Peter in today’s first reading (Acts10:34, 37-43).  Evangelist Luke documents, Peter’s personal life encounter with the Jesus of Nazareth. Born of Mary, baptized by John the Baptist, commissioned and anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach, heal, liberate the poor and the needy, visit those in prison and the down trodden. Similar, accounts is heard in Luke 4, “the spirit of the Lord is upon, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sights to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor ( Luke 4:18-19). In spite of Christ’s goodness and selflessness, they put Christ to death on the tree, as we witnessed on Good Friday. But on the 3rd day, that is “today,” Peter affirms, God raised him from the dead.

Besides Peter, Saint Paul in his various preaching and writings, shamelessly bore witness to the resurrection of Christ (Rom 1:16-17). In 1 Corinthian 15:3-8 Paul reliably says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried …raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…appeared to Cephas, then the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all…he also appeared to me.”
 In today’s 2nd readings (Colossians or 1 Corinthians) Paul speaks of the resurrection of Christ metaphorically, in a coated language. In Colossian 3:1-4, the risen  Christ is already at the right hand of his Father, waiting for us, who are invited to constantly seeks things that “are above” holiness of life, those virtues, hope, faith and love. In Paul’s own ancient context, “right hand side” represents a pre-eminent place, an important position. Today’s events, Paul wants reassure us, that we have a chance and a better position of joy, hope and union with the Lord.  It has a transforming impact. As Paul would put it in 1 Cor 5:6b-8  Christ’s resurrection  is  like clearing of the sorrow of the old yeast, old malice, old habits, especially the bad ones,  and making room for the joy of the new yeast, the newness of life ( 1 Cor 5:6b-8).

 It transforms us, our homes, families, nations and communities, as it did to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples of Christ when they first encountered the empty tomb, and the linen cloth rolled by the side, as testified in all the Gospels (Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21).  In John’s Gospel we are told Mary, a woman, first got to the tomb very early in the morning, out of love and care for Christ. When she found the stone removed from the tomb she ran back to inform Peter, John and other disciples. They all came witnessing the empty tomb and the burial cloths rolled up in a separate place. Christ has been raised!
 Each of these witnesses to Christ’s resurrection reacted differently. Mary ran back with amazement to inform others. Peter and his fellow disciples hurried with Mary to the tomb, and believed Mary’s testimony! Paul, on the other hand preached this testimony throughout his ministry to both Jews and Gentiles. But one thing that is common among them, these witnesses, is a change, a reaction, a transformation, from one point to another, from unbelief to belief, from lack of understanding to understanding!  Scripture testify, they now understood, that Christ “had to be raised from the dead.”  In order words, as we read in the Easter vigil readings, it was covenanted, it was necessary, willed, planed, designed and purposed by God his Father! When God blesses you no one can curse you!

My questions then  would be, what is your reaction to the Messiah’s resurrection?  Like Mary, Peter, Paul and others, whom are you going to share your resurrection faith and story with, when and how? Remember, God can use any of us as his instrument to witness the gospel to: the poor, the rejected, the forgotten, the down trodden, the sick, the needy, the elderly, to those threaten by terrorism, war, religious extremism, as well as to those inflicted by unjust leadership from world’s socio- political and economic centers.
May the joy of the Risen Lord be sufficient to us and to those we share the Good News with!  Happy Easter!

Reflection Question:

1.      What is the meaning of Easter for you?

2.      Mary, Peter, Paul and others reacted giftedly and differently to the Messiah’s resurrection. What is your faith and personal reaction to this Good News?

3.      In what ways have you in the spirit of New Evangelization assisted members of your faith communities to joyfully believe, live and confess the Resurrection!




Joy and Newness in the Risen Christ!(Easter Vigil)

Homily, Mass of the Easter Vigil Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         (1)Gen1:1–2:2; Ps 104:1-2,5-6,10-14,24,35or Ps 33:4-7,12-13,20-22;
·         (2) Gen 22:1-18; Ps 16:5,8,9-11
·         (3) Exod 14:15–15:1; Ps Exod 15:1-6,17-18;
·         (4) Isa 54:5-14;Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13;
·         (5) Isa55:1-11; Ps 12:2-3,4-6;
·         (6) Bar 3:9-15,32–4:4; Ps 19:8-11;
·          (7) Ezek 36:16-17a, 18-28;Ps[a] 42:3,5;43:3-4;[b] Isa 12:2-3,4bcd,5-6[c]Ps 51:12-13,14-15,18-19;
·         (8) Rom 6:3-11;
·         Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23;
·         Gospel[a] Matt 28:1-10;[b]Mark 16:1-7;[c] Luke 24:1-12.

  Joy and Newness in the Risen Christ!

Every Easter vigil is a vigil of vigils and a night of all nights, we all looked forward to. It is a joyful night of sanctification and a solemn evening of justification. Though it’s four-part spiritual, salvific  celebrations may seem humanly long, what a hidden divine blessing to patiently recall that, no matter what, in a challenging world of “darkness”[evil, misfortunes ,tragedies, terrorism, etc] we live in, Christ is the “Light”[the goodness, love, good fortunes, hope, mercy ..] constantly shining our ways. He is the Light of the world (in the world we live in today) symbolized in the light of the paschal candle, the procession and in joyful hymn and prayer of exulted. What a blessings to patiently go through 9 carefully selected passages the Holy Scripture, retelling our Salvation History! What a blessing to relive tonight our baptismal liturgy, theology, spirituality and promising of sin cleansings, and dying and rising to newness with the Risen Christ, whose last supper, in the  4th part, we joyfully celebrate tonight, and share in the table of the Holy Eucharist- the summit of our worship.
Our salvation and justification in Christ we celebrate tonight constitute a long walk, scripturally speaking. We all know that! And don’t we say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”!

 In the Genesis creation account (the 1st reading) and the Psalms, the Risen Christ we celebrate tonight, is traceable to his Father, a God of goodness, universalism, orderliness, love, sovereign of all creation, nations, continents, political, social and economic, technological empires, plants, the seas, lights, lands, mountains, animals and human, male and female in his own image of love and kindness, mercy and forgives, joy, patience an charity (Gen1:1–2:2).  So also in the 2nd reading, Genesis 22, the great-great-great…grandfather of Jesus, Abraham, by faith is willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac. And worthy of note is the unconditional and loving covenant of blessings that God the Father entered with us through Abraham, and others, after the fall of our first parents, the rivalries of Cain and Abel, and the tower of babel which ended with the flood of Noah. As Christ the Risen Lord we celebrate tonight would have done on the trying Cross of that Good Friday, Abraham (a polygamy of three wives and eight children; Gen 16:16; 21:1-3; 25:1-2), despite challenges including long period of childlessness, with Ishmael in –between, and when Isaac finally came, Abraham was willing to give back to the Lord, that which the Lord had given him, in the first place.
All we have and are belong to God. God is our inheritance, as tonight’s Psalmist would have it (Psalm 16).  God the Father of our Risen Lord watches over our going and coming. This is true in the Exodus story of the 3rd reading (Exod 14:15–15:1).  As he saw the Israelites through the clutches of Pharaoh and the dryness of the desert we are assures salvation through the Risen Lord we celebrate tonight.

Where we are tonight took a long journey that we are not tired of appreciating.  While in exile in Babylon as a result of sin, God did abandon his people, our parent, the fore-parents of the Christ we celebrate tonight. He kept the covenant promised of comfort and blessings he made with those who would called upon his name, who would worship him. Second Isaiah, the, 4th (54:5-14) and 5th readings (Isaiah 55:1-11. ) evidence, God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s unwavering protection upon his chosen people- Jesus, great, great grandparent. Baruch in the 6th reading, affirms these divine blessings and promises fulfilled for us tonight in the Risen Christ the Messiah, equally witnessed by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans 6:3-11.
 Paul was never “ashamed of the Gospel,” Christ. He knew the gospel of the Risen Christ, celebrated tonight, world over, was the power of salvation for all who believe, Jews and Gentiles. And through this gospel, this Christology, is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom 1:16-71).

As part of celebration tonight, Paul was aware as narrated in tonight's Epistle, Romans 6:3-11, that sacramental transformation can lead to moral and spiritual transformation. In baptism we all are plunged into the saving death of Christ, raised to new life in his Resurrection, in the mystery of the empty tomb with stone rolled back, witnessed by those Marys, celebrated tonight, and set gloriously and joyfully on a path towards ongoing sanctification.
Like those women, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, on the first day of the week, in today’s Gospel (Mark 16:1-7), we are witnessing tonight, despites the long walk, as narrated in the scriptures, the joy and the glory of the empty tomb. We are witnessing the hope, the peace, the sanctification, and the newness of life  which the Risen Lord brings us and our families. May we continue joyfully to witness the hope and peace the Risen Lord brings to peace less-nations, communities inflicted with artificial-political corruption, misfortunes, terrorism and threats of war and disorder.

May the Joy of the Risen Lord renew us and remain with us always! Happy Easter!

 Reflection Questions;

1.      What is the meaning of Easter for you!

2.      In light of today’s 9 readings, do you feel reassured that the Lord of history revealed in the Risen Christ, the Messiah is with you always!

3.      What effort have you made to catechize, to share this joy, the joy of the empty tomb with others, especially those plagued with despair, betrayals, sorrow of violent, unforgiven-spirit, corruption, religious extremism and threats of war?


Friday, March 30, 2018

The Mystery of Christ’s Redemptive Suffering (Good Friday)

Homily Good Friday Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isa 52: 13–53:12;
·          Ps 31:2,6,12-13,15-16,17,25;
·         Heb 4:14-16;5:7-9;
·         John18:1–19:42

 The Mystery of Christ’s Redemptive Suffering (Good Friday)
On Palm Sunday we began the mysteries of the Holy Week celebrations, when Jesus willingly and lovingly entered Jerusalem, on a donkey, to suffer on our behalf.  That love-journey culminates on the Cross of Christ on Good Friday, which we celebrate today, and as witnessed by the scriptures, and in the sacraments, meant to strengthen us today in our sufferings!
Sacramentally, what makes today’s Friday good? What is good about the symbolic red vestments priests and deacons, wear today, at the beginning of the liturgy? What is good about the altars left completely bare, without a cross, without candles and without fanciful altar cloths? What is good that the Holy Mass, sacraments are not celebrated today, except for penance and anointing of the sick? These are legitimates questions?  

Answers to these questions are not single dimensional.  Some answers are discovered when we deeply and faithfully meditate on the crosses we shall soon venerate. Its meaning may be revealed through our meditation on the Stations of the Cross re-enacted across the global church.  Still its meaning may be revealed through the writings of the Church Fathers, Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters of various Popes.
For example, John Paul II in his 1979 Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man, n.8) wrote: “The redeemer of the world! In him has been revealed in a new and more wonderful way the fundamental truth concerning creation to which the Book of Genesis gives witness when it repeats several times: “God saw that it was good. [The “Good Friday”] The good has its source in Wisdom and Love. In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man–the world that, when sin entered [hatred, jealousy, false accusations, oppression of the poor, corruption, illnesses, poverty, death, etc], “was subjected to futility”– recovers again in its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. Indeed, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” that whoever believes in him should not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16).  In his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, On the Meaning of Human Suffering (n.14), John Paul II insisted that, “these words spoken by Christ in his conversation with Nicodemus, introduce us into the very heart of God’s salvific work,” which leads him to the Cross of today’s Good Friday!

Scripturally, the redemptive and salvific elements of Good Friday is revealed in in the 1st reading, Second Isaiah’s 4th Song of the Suffering Servant of God (Isa 52:13–53:12).
Isaiah says:

“He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed… he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses”( Isa 53:4-12).
The Letter to the Hebrews, our 2nd  reading  also reveals the salvific nature of Good Friday when the homilists writes:

 “In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was he learned obedience from what he suffered, and when he was made perfect, he became source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” And we heard one of those Jesus’ humble loud cries into today’s responsorial Psalm, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit “(Ps 31; Luke 23:46), repeated during every night prayers, during the liturgy of the hours.
Finally, what makes today’s Friday, good, saving, victorious and redemptive, is particularly, and perhaps more comprehensively revealed in the passion theology of John’s Gospel (John 18–19), familiar to us, who may also be experiencing our challenges and crosses!

Throughout the Johannine Passion, Jesus “yet” is control.  He gives Judas Iscariot instruction to do quickly what he is about to do (John 18:2). In the garden of the Kidron Valley, Jesus asked whom they were looking for. As soon as he declared himself- the “I AM”, they all felt helplessly to the ground.  Here lies the Good Friday?
In all, the Jesus of John is the Son of Man that came down from heaven to whom the Father has turned over judgment.  When he is interrogated by the high priests, Jesus turns back the interrogation: “Why do you question me?” He makes it clear to Pilate that he has no authority over him. Throughout his ironic trials, Pilates is nervous and shuttles back and forth between the Jews outside the praetorium and Jesus, ironically, rather is inside the Praetorium.  The shuttling Pilates finds no guilt in the innocent and steady Jesus, yet he had him scourged innocently, and Pilate lacks the courage to speak the truth. In John, only Christ is the truth, the life and the way!

Jesus dies kingly and triumphantly in John.  His title- “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews,” is universally written in three “universal” languages, spoken by the messiah himself (Hebrew, Greek and Latin), on top of his Cross. Good Friday is a universal Good Friday! A Friday that saves the world? Even though his garments are divided as foretold, his priestly tunic, the alb is intact, a priest forever! As long foretold, that on being lifted up he would draw many to himself, on the foot of the cross, came the fulfilment (tetelestai): Mary his mother, the sister, wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, the disciple whom he love,  Roman soldiers, Jews, Gentiles,  and secrete believers like Nichodemus, Joseph of Arimathea  were all there! Jesus is also given a kingly burial and laid in a garden! This is the ironic narrative that has really made Good Friday, good and redemptive.

Today the victim has become the conqueror!  As Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized, it is a gospel of suffering endurance for all who have in the course of history been persecuted and abused by those who are politically, socially, religiously and economically powerful; plagued by diseases, natural tragedies, man-made violent structures, religious extremists, poverty, ignorance, but who realize that God is with them, and that the power of the oppressing forces are temporary.
Good Friday is good, since believers in Christ, those begotten, and adopted by God, like sons and daughters (the huiosthesia]; 1 John 5:4; Rom 8:15), like all of us, who suffer and endure patiently with him, in all circumstances, have the hope of eternal life.  

 Reflection Questions:

1.      In the light of Good Friday’s liturgy what are the areas of our sufferings worthy of offering it to the Lord?

2.      Do we believe in the hiddenness of salvation in the Cross?

3.      How do we assist others to bear their daily crosses with hope and trust in the Redeemer’s Assistance?






Thursday, March 29, 2018

A New Way of Love Offered Us By Christ!

Homily Mass of the Last Super Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Exod 12:1-8, 11-14;
·         Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18;
·         1 Cor 11:23-26
·         John 13:1-15
 A New Way of Love  Offered Us By Christ!
[On Tuesday evening here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Bishops, clergy, religious and the entire faithful gathered around the Archbishop at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to celebrate the Chrism Mass (which is also celebrated in dioceses all over the world). That evening liturgy was an expression of our faith in Christ, the High Priest, the unity of the Sacred Priesthood and appreciation of Christ’s, messianic one redeeming Sacrifice of Love. Oils of Catechumens, the Sick and of the Chrism were blessed. These are the Oils that the Holy Father, Pope Francis during his Chrism Mass in Rome has encouraged every priests to go out and anoint the faithful with, especially the sick, the poor and the needy!]

Tonight we begin the Sacred Triduum, three solemn days which encompass the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ and draw each and every one of us into remembering the passion, death and resurrection of the messiah. You and I know the power of memory, remembrance! Remembering is so powerful. It revitalizes, reactivates and keeps past reality alive in us.  Holy Thursday recalls three gifts:  the gifts of the Lord’s Super/the Holy Eucharist, the gift of the Sacred Priesthood and the gift of Christ redeeming love. This love is stronger than death, stronger than the fear of the fleeing disciples, stronger than the untruthfulness of the power mongering Pilate and of the few “Jewish elites”; a love stronger than the betrayal of Judas, the denials of Peter, the mockeries of the Roman soldiers and the human selfishness.  Christ, the High priest loves his own to the end- all of us, our pastor, our priests, deacons, sisters, mom, dad, our children, friends, grandpa and grandma (Jn 13:1). Where ever you are located here in this Church tonight or standing out there in the narthex, know that Christ loves you! And nothing as St. Paul has said in Romans 8:35 will ever separate us from this love of God.
 The Eucharist of which institution we reenact today is a banquet of love, gratitude and service. It provides us a particular opportunity to remember not only how much God loves and would want to “wash our feet” but His ever living presence in our lives, in our homes, families, religious and worship communities. This love teaches us to cultivate a sense of gratitude.
 I remember growing up in a family of six children surrounded with many nieces and nephews. We ate together and served one another from the same plates and drink from the same cup. In sharing and serving I would feel the deep love, the friendship, the nourishment, the strength and the support of my family and a sense of gratitude to my parents. We would laugh, joke and talk with trust about life events and experiences, and some of them very important.
 I want to believe that when Christ gathered his disciple in that upper room for that Last Super, a night before his passion he knew the importance of a shared meal, a meal of love and sacrifice; a meal that nourishes and strengthen us in our weaknesses. He wanted this sacred meal, this new Passover, and update of the story we heard in Exodus 12, the first reading, to be remembered.  In the Gospels Christ insists “Do this in memory of me” (Mk14:22ff; Matt 26:26ff, Lk 22:19ff and John 13:1-15), instituting also the Ministerial Priesthood.
 It is in light of this that Paul vested in Jewish Scriptures, the Exodus Passover story, and in the teachings of Christ, the Messiah, writes passionately and convincingly in the second reading, saying to the Corinthians and to us today:
“ I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took break, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “this is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” With the cup Christ said, “this is cup is the new Covenant in my blood, do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me (1 Cor 11:23-26).”
  The Jesus of Paul, who’s Good News he preached to the Jews and Gentiles, will always remain really and substantially present with us in the Holy Eucharist despite the events tomorrow’s Good Friday.
 After this meal tonight Jesus would walk across to that garden of Gethsemane (in the daily chapel) from there he would be arrested, harshly interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas and brought to Pilates’ Praetorium for trial. Jesus as John will testify will be killed  on the cross sacrificially at the same hour the paschal lamb of the Jewish Passover is slaughtered in today’s first reading, (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14), making Christ, in this new dispensation, the new Passover Lamb, the cup of the new Covenant of  New Love and of New  unwavering service ( Rom 8:1-39).
Unwavering love. On the Cross his bones will not be broken and his priestly inner - seamless tunic will not be torn nor shared among soldiers. In this Jesus is unwaveringly protective of each and every one of us, our Christian marriages and religious vows, family values, Christian unity (“May they be one” Jn 17), our priesthood, friendship and faith. He also knew the journey to that cross would be rough, but his priestly dignity would remain unwaveringly intact, a challenging and teaching message for priesthood today, in need of prayers to reach out particularly to the margins, to the peripheries as recommended by Pope Francis.
Off course, the Holy Father’s continuous invitation of the Church to reach out to the forgotten, to the poor, to those in prison, to those with dirty feet, “colorful skin” on the streets, is not far from the heart of today’s Gospel and ritual of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-15).
 By washing his disciple’s feet, our Messiah, Jesus shows the world the depth of his love, a love leading to the cross; a suffering love! He teaches the hesitant Peter and all of us new way of sacrificial Love, a new way of service, friendship and forgiveness.  Not a new way of “eye service.” He teaches us a new way of self-transcendence not a new way of self- aggrandizement. He teaches us a new way to serve not a new way to be served.
By washing his disciples feet Jesus overcome by love the inequality that existed by nature between himself and those whom he had chosen as friends. I always believe that how we treat one another publicly or in private is the true measure of the condition of our interior life, especially of our life of prayer. This is the same message, our Holy Father, Pope Francis has continuously promoted in his ministries!
 As we celebrate this Last Super sharing in the bread and wine of new covenant of love, gratitude and selfless service, Christ has brought us, and ready to adore him at that Altar of Repose in that garden, let us know that Christ sees us, in every nation, state, county, town, dioceses, villages and out-reach stations. He loves us and recognizes us. He sees the rich, the poor and the downtrodden.  Let us know that having been washed clean, we have been given the spiritual capacity and blessed with the divine strength of his examples (John 13:12-15) to joyfully love and gratefully serve one another as Christ has first loved and served us.
Reflection Questions:
1.      In the Light of tonight’s celebration and worship to what extend do we appreciate, or recognize our vocations, positions, priesthood, marriages religious life etc., as a gift from a loving and forgiving God?
2.      How do we make use of this recognition in reaching out to those on the margins, neighborhoods, offices and altar of life with a bulletproof assurance that God loves them?
3.      In your Christian pilgrimage, could you think of any service(s) you have recently rendered to someone (the poor in particular) out of God’s love, without thinking of personal  or material gain?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Palm Sunday And Christ's Victory Over Death!

Homily Palm Sunday Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Processional Readings ABC:
·         Matthew 21:1-11;
·         Mark 11:1-10; or John 12:12-16,
·          Luke 19:28-40.
 Christ’s Humble Journey to Jerusalem,
Every year brings something new, some changes in our bodies, in our homes, families, villages, towns, in our local churches, Counties, local governments and nations! And in each of these changing years, the Church celebrates Palm Sunday which ends the Lenten Season and marks the beginning of the most Holy week in our Christian Liturgy.  It is a week our savior will be exalted on the Cross. It is a week of that hour of glory come to fulfillment. In this Holy Week Christ, our Lord and Savior, Son of God will be betrayed, falsely accused, plotted against (John 11:45-53), arrested (Matt 26:47-56), interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin ( Matt 26:57-58), tried by Pilate ( Matt 27:1-14), denied by Peter (Matt 26:59-66), mocked and executed in a Roman way (Matt 27:15-56).  In this very week Christ our savior, will draw everyone to himself, Jews and the Gentiles alike, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). It is a Holy and Salvific Week of grace, hope and victory over death. It’s a Week of victory over violent, injustices of our time, lies and hatred. It is a week we see new life in the death of Christ. It is a teaching week for our religious communities, families, homes and nations!

It is a week we also learn to resist evil not with violence, not by chopping off “Malchus’ ear,” but with prayer, endurance and through peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation.  Holy Week is a week we all learn not to act like Pilate, remaining indifferent to truth nor being in a hurry to condemn our neighbors, brothers and sisters, friends and children. It is a week each of us is invited to the foot of the Cross. It is a week that Mary will be handed over to us, faithful disciples of Christ (John 19:25ff), as our mother and mediatrix of all graces.
The Palms we bless at this Mass reminds us of many things, particulalarly of those ordinary people, those pilgrims on the street of Jerusalem (those men, women and children) who, sang the Hosanna” (Psalm 118:26; Mk 11:1-10 and Luke 19:28-40), who gave Christ  such a royal welcome to Jerusalem  for his paschal mystery( suffering, death and resurrection).
 Christ entrance into Jerusalem reminds us of the love that Christ has for each of us. It reminds us that each of us are also on a pilgrimage to embrace Christ on daily journey, into our lives and families, with enthusiasm and courage.  Our procession of course will take us to the table of the Eucharist, a place where we encounter. A place where we receive him into our lives, homes and communities.
Humility, of course, is needed for this journey, to embrace Christ, to carry and spread the palms, to be part of this Jerusalem pilgrimage.  From that Gospel account (s) he is the source of this humility.  For choosing to suffer for us. For choosing ride on that donkey not a horse.  He is the King of peace, who arrives willingly, with humility and love to Jerusalem on a donkey to die for us.
 Inspired by his love and humility lets begin our procession in peace, praising Jesus, our Messiah, Son of God. As we process into the Church, into the “new church Jerusalem,” let us sincerely and consistently welcome him into our lives, homes, dioceses, and nations!


Homily Palm Sunday Year ABC: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isa 50:4-7;
·         Ps 22:8-9, 17-18,19-20,23-24;
·         Phil 2: 6-11
·         and(A) Matt 26:14–27:66
·         (B) Mk 14:1–15:47
·         (C) and Luke 22: 14–23:56
 Palm Sunday And Christ's Victory over Death!
 Palm Sunday begins our Holy Week; a week of grace, love and Christ’s victory over death. It is a week we line up on the streets of Jerusalem, in the corners of our churches, offices, dioceses, worship centers and homes to welcome Christ. It is a week we wholeheartedly refocus on Christ, the Suffering Servant/Son of God (Mark), the Messiah (Matthew), the Savior of the world (Luke) and God’s Incarnate sent to us by the Father (John). A Holy Week is a week we re-embrace the gospels; and spread our palms of love and sing consistently with the Church, “Hosanna to the Son of David…; the prince of peace, the trainer of humility, unwavering courage, endurance and the source of hope!
 The meaning of this Week is equally uncovered in the long Passion narratives of Christ, just proclaimed at this mass of Year B (Mark 14-15).  Years A and C are from Matthew and Luke respectively.  Irrespective of the year, this Passion narrative focuses on Christ and on the meaning of his unwavering journey to the Cross that would eventually lead to his resurrection.  Even though we have journeyed along way, thus far in our Christian journeys, focusing on Christ, in our daily activities, this week we are invited to intensify our focus on him.
In this Holy Week we are encouraged to pay closer attention to that which Christ’s gospel-passion teaches us: patience, humility, courage, love, endurance of betrayal by friends an enemies; and forgiveness of their hurts, injuries, injustices; offenses, abuses, discriminations, disappointments, calumnies, violence,  misunderstandings, and bullies! This will lead to the irony of the cross; the fulfilment of that gospels’ "hour of glory" long foretold!
 We learn from this gospel passion Christ’s experience of betrayal from one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot. Christ is  falsely,  accused, plotted against (John 11:45-53), arrested (Matt 26:47-56), interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin (Matt 26:57-58), tried by the Roman Prefect, Pilate (Matt 27:1-14), denied by Peter (Matt 26:59-66), mocked and executed in a Roman way (Matt 27:15-56; Mark 14:1­15:47).  How would you feel in any of this circumstances?
Humanly speaking, what we learn here looks ugly. But as Christians and believers, we also learn that endurance pays off!  Christ endures his Passion; everything that went against him!  He forgives sinners especially that robber who was on the cross with him.  He remembers to entrust Mary, her mother, our mother to us and prays Psalm 22, “my God my God why have you abandon me.”
We must see some teaching moments in all this, even in what seems like a temporary abandonment, humanly speaking, there is a divine-hidden presence!  How do we handle our personal experiences of pains, persecutions, poverty, failures, injustices, and seeming absence of God in our lives?  What happens when we are frustrated?  In the case Christ, even at the end, his prayer was, "Into your hands Lord I commend my Spirit.  How often do we commend our seeming failures into God’s hands, knowing that, a Holy God is able to turn things around, as he does for his son Christ!
Ironically, Christ dies a Holy death on the Cross in a Holy Week. In his Holy and Glorious death he draws many people to himself: Jews and Gentiles, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 12:32). Apart from his mother Mary’s presence at the foot of the Cross, the Gospel Centurion, a witness  to Christ’s death  and the  tearing of the temple veil, cannot, but believes and professes  “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:1-39).
  Today, and throughout this Holy Week, some of us may choose to be like this Centurion reaffirming our faith in Christ, the true Son of God. 
 It is a week we may also choose to learn to resist evil not with violence, not by chopping off “Malchus’ ear,” as one of the gospel disciples did, but with prayer, endurance and through peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation. This will make sense in today’ world, prone more to vengeance, war, violent, terrorism, religious and ideological extremisms.
   It is a week we may also learn not to act like Pilate, remaining indifferent to truth nor being in a hurry to condemn our neighbors, brothers and sisters, friends and children. It is a week each of us is invited to the foot of the Cross, a week Mary will be handed over to us the faithful disciples of Christ (John 19:25ff).
Christ’s ironic and victorious journeys to the Cross we must not forget has been foretold by many of Israel’ prophets as we  learn in the 1st reading, the Third Isaiah's Song of the Suffering Servant of YHWH. He gave his back with humility without resistance to those who beat. He gave his cheek to those who plucked and his face to spitting and mockeries (Isa 50:4-7).
It’s a mockery, a Jerusalem journey, a Palm Sunday event familiar to Paul, Jewish and Gentile Apostle of the paschal mysteries of Christ. The more reason we hear Paul preach in the 2nd reading   “Christ Jesus though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped…he became obedient to death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-11); for each of us!. 
 May the gospel events of this Holy Week inspire each of us to Christian victories through our obedience of faith, love, hope, endurance, forgiveness, peace, patience, dialogue, humility, charity towards our neighbors and nature planet!
Reflection Questions:
1.      How do you relate to the ironic and glorious events of Christ’s Jerusalem Journeys and gospel passions?
2.      How do you react when you are wrongly accused, mocked, persecuted, frustrated, terrorized or feel abandoned?
3.      How do you help members of your faith communities to trust in God and in the savings events, - the victorious Cross of his Incarnate Son, Christ?
4.      What does Philippians 2:6-11 say to you personally?
5.      How do you discern or help others to discern the hidden presence of God and lasting divine success in moments of temporary failures!