Saturday, July 14, 2018

Divine Missionary Journeys and Benefits!( 15th Sunday Year B)

Homily Fifteenth Sunday Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Amos 7:12-15;
  • Ps 85:9-14;
  •  Eph 1:3-14
  • Mark 6:7-13
Divine Missionary Journeys and Benefits!
Pope Francis in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaiudium, the Joy of the Gospel, sees the Church, all of us, as a prophetic and as a missionary church; a community that should goes forth, that go  out there to preach the gospel, irrespective of our locations, geography and culture! This is what we celebrate today, a Christ who sends us out on a mission. In fact, three verbs in today’s scriptures support this mission. These are, the verbs “to go,” to choose,” and “to send.” They are used in relations to the ministries of the major characters mentioned in today’s readings: the prophet Amos, St. Paul and the Twelve disciples selected and sent by Jesus in the Gospel.
Like the prophet Amos sent to preach in Bethel, or like Jesus who chose and sent his Twelve out, God calls us from different areas, homes, occupations, and families. He sends us to different places. He expects us to go without fear, without anxieties, without much worry, to respond generously under the different circumstances, challenges and locations that we may find ourselves, knowing and hoping for divine blessings that awaits us!
 Sometimes this is easier said than done. Personally, I still remember few years ago around the months of June 15 to July 7, I was chosen by the Dean of our Seminary/School of Theology, where I teach to join in leading and directing a pilgrimage and archaeological study trip to the Holy Land. Since I have been there before, in fact, several times, as a student and as I teacher,  I know the challenges of the hot weather, dehydration, long flight to a contested zone among the Jews, Palestinians, Moslems and Christians; and frightening machine guns you see in the hands of security agents, here and there in the Holy Land. This journey is also time consuming. While digging you role on the dirt, breath in and out a lot of dust. With these and many other challenging reasons, I thought of declining the invitation. But the spirit of the Lord said to me, “Michael do this, I am sending you, go lead the students, my future ministers to the Holy Land. I listened to the Lord. It turned out to be very good and refreshing. I experienced such a spiritual joy and benefits than my previous trips. We had morning prayers and daily Masses at significant places. Starting from Jerusalem, we went to the city of David, Hezekiah’s tunnel, St. Peter Galligantu, Temple Mount, Western Wall.
 In Nazareth we visited and celebrated Masses at Saint Joseph’s Chapel and in the Church of the Annunciation- took part in rosary and candle procession. Explored Bethlehem and celebrated Mass in the church of the Nativity. Visited, Masada, Jericho, swam on the Dead Sea, went to En Gedi and Qumran Community. We were also at Caesarea Philippi/Marittima, Beth shan, Hatzor, Meggido and Dan. In Galilee we walked and lived the evangelical triangle of Jesus- places, he walked and performed most of his ministry- Capernaum, Chorazin, Tiberias, Mts. of Beatitude, and Tabor, Kursi, Magdala, Bania, and Bethsaida.
Doing excavation in Bethsaida was fun. Lots of finds were discovered that link us to stories we read in the Bible. The people we met from different institutions including Australia, Canada, Israel, Africa, and the United States were amazing in faith, knowledge and experiences. Till today we remain friends in Christ.
 The spiritual and pastoral benefits of the journey were overwhelming. It was worth listening to the voice of the Lord, to “go to the Holy Land,” again! I saw it as God’s Will. And I did it for the common good and the glory of God!  Walking the station of the cross publicly in the busy road of Via Dolorosa and celebrating Masses in the Church of all nations/garden of Gethsemane and in the Church of Crucifixion/ Holy Sepulcher benefited all of us spiritually.
Some of you may also have 100s if not 1000s of personal stories to tell that sound like my—initially hesitating, but finally with the grace of God sayings, “yes Lord, here I am, I come to do your will.”  This is what the ancient prophet Amos, of today’s first reading did. As a farmer, he was chosen and selected by God to go from his southern home town of Tekoa and prophecy or mission to God’s people in the north. It was not an easy mission for him.
 As I thought of the risk in the Holy Land, Amos must have thought of the risk of confronting the priests, the religious and socio-political powers of the north.  He knew he might be misunderstood and perhaps rejected.  He risked his life by confronting Amaziah and Jeroboam and by condemning their false sense of healing, worship and spirituality.
  Similarly, the Twelve chosen by Christ in today’s gospels, and commissioned in pairs to evangelize, preach repentance, heal, anoint and cure diseases, never had it easy. They faced challenges such as the need to travel light, go without food, money and excess tunics.
In each of this case, be it that of Amos or the twelve chosen and sent by Christ, God’s blessings and divine grace were sufficient unto them.  Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, Ephesian 1:3-14 speaks of these blessings and divine providence and spiritual benefits on our journeys especially when we trust the Lord.  Saint Paul who also experienced mission first hand, says, “ In him we were also chosen(ekglegomai),destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory…”
 In other words, we are the Amos(s) of today. We are the Twelve of today. We are the Saint Paul(s) of today. The Lord has called us in our respective roles to prophesy with courage, love, hope and share our faith with joy. Like the Amos and the Twelve he sends us to bear witness to him in different situations and circumstances of or lives’ journeys, as priests, pastors, religious lay men and women, in families, offices and factories.
Reflection Questions:
  1. Do we see ourselves as part of the church, the twelve, the Paul(s), and the Amos(s) sent on mission?
  2. What are the challenges that we face in our various places of missions or services
  3. How do we help ourselves or assist others to draw inspiration from the prophetic faith and missionary stories handed to us in the scriptures?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Prophets and Thorns on Their Flesh!(14th Sunday Year B)

Homily Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Season Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Ezekiel 2:2-5;
  • Ps 123:1-4;
  • 2 Cor 12:7-10
  • Mark 6:1-6
Prophets and Thorns on Their Flesh!
 The Bible readings of today speak of the challenges that face a true prophet. Saint Paul calls this his “thorn on the Flesh” (skoloph tē sarki), which was given to him, as prophet, and apostle to the Gentiles.  First of all a true prophet does not send himself. He is sent by God. He does not speak on his behalf but on behalf of the one who sent.  He or she is brave, courageous, truthful, and remains the conscience of his or her society, people and next door neighbor. Secondly, a prophet is human, and could even be weak in eloquence and stature. He is mortal, prone to disabilities.  Besides human weaknesses, and disabilities, he could be rejected by those he or she is sent to evangelize. Thirdly, there may be many other forms of hardships and sufferings, opposition, resistance, mockery a prophet must have to endure in the course of fulfilling his or her ministry. This is where Ezekiel, Christ and Paul belong. By our water of baptism this is who we are called to be- a prophets to our families and next door neighbors realizing that, there is power in weakness, there is need to appreciate the paradox of the cross!
 In the case of Ezekiel’s ministry of today’s first reading, he was called while in exile in Babylon and sent as a human prophet, with his own human weaknesses, ”thorns on the flesh,” to preach to the rebellious Israelites.  His prophetic humanity is made clear repeatedly in the entire book of Ezekiel where he is constantly addressed by God, as ‘the son of man” or “mortal,” about 93 times. This simply means that Ezekiel was human. That Ezekiel knew that he was human, mortal, son of man, imperfect helped him relied totally on the grace of God in his prophecy of hope and change of heart to the exiled community of Israel in Babylon.  It is important we also ways recognize that we are human, we are broken, and we are weak always in need of God’s mercy and his divine grace! That we are ill, or hurt our feet, eyes, legs, arms etc., should not separate us from the love of God, from the mission we are called to mission.
We notice in the Gospel reading (Mark 6:1-6), Jesus also called himself a prophet. Of course, he was called and sent by God his father (John’s Gospel), but often rejected here and there. Having been insulted and rejected in his home town of Nazareth, in today’s Gospel, Jesus said to himself, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place among his own kin and his own house.” By calling himself a prophet Jesus recognizes his father sent him to do his will: to baptize the unbaptized, forgive sinners, teach courageously in the synagogue and healed the sick without charge. By calling himself a prophet, in the likes of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Israel’s prophet, Jesus recognizes that human honor was immaterial to the mission that his father had sent him.  He recognizes that he didn’t need to come from the most important city of his time to serve, to do the will of his father. In spite of his hardships that span through the garden of Gethsemane and via delorosa and even to the cross (which we relived  when we pray and walk the stations of the cross in our religious communities/Holy  Land),  the spirit of the Lord was upon him (Luke 4:18), as he walked his way heroically to the Calvary!
Saint Paul in his mission to the Church in Corinth understood these challenges. In the 2nd reading Paul says, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, to keep me from been too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Throughout his missionary journeys, Paul whom we know must have been a very proud person in his upbringing. Ironically he had his own “thorn on the flesh…illnesses, weakness. Like Ezekiel, and Christ he also endured those “thorns on the flesh, including insults, crises and opposition  from false-preachers in Corinth,  hardships, rejections, persecutions, constraints and dishonor, for the sake of the Gospel, which he knew was the source of salvation for Jews and Gentiles (Rom 1:16-17).
How many of us today in our various places of ministries first of all would be humble to recognize that we are human, weak and vulnerable? How many realizes that they are mere messengers, mortals, sons and daughters of men, like the prophets Ezekiel, or instruments in God’s hands?  How do react when we feel wrongly challenged or opposed by false prophets? Does dishonors, insults, illnesses, hurting our legs or arms, or eyes, or persecutions and hardships and other challenges stopped us from doing the good that must be done (love our neighbors, be charitable and forgiving), or from preaching the gospel that needs be preached?  Hasn’t St. Paul also elsewhere reminds us that nothing should separate us from the love of God( Rom 8:35-39).
Friends taking Ezekiel, Saint Paul and Christ as our missionary and prophetic models may we recognize that there is that hidden divine strength in every seeming human weaknesses and dishonor we may face in the course of doing good,  evangelizing, or in the course of being faithfully and truly prophetic to our neighbors, whom we share our bread with, whose midst we live our spiritual and corporal works of mercy and exercise those Gospel Beatitudes, that Pope Francis daily reminds us of.   As Christians and believers, may we continue to carry the death and dying of Christ in our mortal bodies so that we can reveal the life, the love, the compassion and the tender mercy of Christ to others!
Reflection Questions:
  1. In what way can we relate to the ministry of Paul, Ezekiel and Christ in the light of today’s bible readings?
  2. What would you consider your “thorn on the flesh” in your Christian and religious practices?
  3. How do we help ourselves and  members of our faith/ religious communities--- called to be prophets and prophetess to realize that there is power in weakness?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Lord, Our Rescuer and Giver of Life(13th Sunday Year B)

Homily Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Wis 1:13-15;2:23-34;
  • Ps30:2,4,5-6,11-13;
  • 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15;
  •  Mark 5:21-43               
 Lord, Our Rescuer and Giver of Life
 In the responsorial Psalm of today, “I will praise you, Lord, for you are have rescued me” (Ps 30.2a) lies the historical essence of our relationship with God. In history, and as presented in today's scriptures, God remains our savior, our rescuer, our healer, the giver of life, who deserves our praise.
In the Gospel of Mark, today, God’s Son, Jesus not only ministers his Father's kingdom- values to the multitude (oxlos), in the neighborhood of the sea of Galilee, but he rescues many people from illnesses, including  Jairius 12 years old daughter, and the woman who was afflicted with hemorrhages for a complete 12 years. To the 12 year girls, the dying daughter of the synagogue official, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” meaning “little girl, I say to you arise!” She arose to the amazement of the on-lookers, and walked. To the woman afflicted for 12 years with hemorrhage, he said, “daughter your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction. In each of these healing episodes in Marks Gospel faith is involved in the part of those rescued from death to life and from illnesses to wholeness.
By faith, we mean “assurance of things hope for, and the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1); faith that with God everything is possible—the progress we need to make in life is possible, the gift of life and good health is possible.
 This is why we are been assured in the 1st reading, the Book of Wisdom that our “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creature of the world are wholesome.”
Saint Paul also attested to this graciousness of God in the 2nd reading, that, though Christ was rich, for our sake he become poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor 8:7, 8, 9,13-15). He went to the cross that we might have life; that we might be healed like woman and synagogue’s official daughter of today’s gospel.
No doubt there are moments today that we find ourselves in the situation of this synagogue official and the woman of today’s Gospel.   Sicknesses as we all know are not limited to the materially poor. Children and relatives of the synagogue, church and government officials do fall sick. Even though, some can afford to take their relatives to expensive and specialist hospital, here and there, faith must be part of this process.  Do we realize that there are illnesses that money, positions and the best hospitals in the world may not necessarily be able to  cure? Even in the medical treatment we receive we must in faith, as believers see God touching us through them- the doctors, and nurses. Do we have faith? What challenges our faith? What are the enemies of faith?
 The synagogue official of today’s gospel seemed to be aware of this fact. I want to believe, the more reason he came to Jesus for the healing of his 12 years old daughter. Interestingly, the other woman, for good twelve symbolic years, perhaps may have travelled everywhere, seeking for healing but found none   but, until she touched Jesus’s cloak with faith, as we saw in today’s gospel
In  our today’s desperate moments of loneliness,   wars and threats of wars, terrorism, and threats of terrorism , gun violent and threats of gun violent, poverty, oppression, injustices, illnesses, and loss of a loved ones, may we imitate with gratitude to God, the  synagogue official, Jairius and the sick woman of today’s Bible readings. We have other models of faith including those listed in  the Letter to the Hebrews 11----- such as, Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, some of the Judges, the Prophets  Kings, as well as our mother, Mary. They found healing and their wholeness in God.
Also when we find our healing, life and wholeness in Christ may we in the spirit of Christ’s generosity, as preached by Saint Paul in Corinth(2 Cor 8:7, 8, 9,13-15), be willing to share the love, the wholeness and the life-given Christ with our neighbors, especially the poor and the immigrants of our communities.
Reflection Questions:
  1. Do we see Christ as our healer, rescuer and source of wholeness?
  2. How often do we share God’s healing generosity and wholeness with members of our faith community?
  3. In the spirit of today’s readings who is your faith model, the synagogue official or the woman who suffered hemorrhage for 12 years?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sharing in John the Baptist’s Prophetic Calling(Solemn Nativity of John the Baptist)

Homily --- the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist- Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

  • Isaiah 49:1-6
  • Ps 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14c-15
  • Acts 13:22-26
  • Luke 1:57-66,80

Sharing in John the Baptist’s Prophetic Calling

Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist,  son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, a God fearing prophet, whose birth story we have just heard in today’s Gospel of Luke ( Luke 1:57-66,80)- a Gospel of promise and fulfillment, a Gospel of salvation. In this Gospel- story John was not just the last of Israel’ prophets who prepared  the way for Christ our Savior, but like most of Israel’s prophets, his birth, calling and mission were not by chance. They were planned and designed by God, to fit into God’s plan of salvation.  His birth and mission were meant to be a lesson for us today- in our humility, in our service, in our callings, in our endurance, patience, in our courage and in our dedication in serving God and one another.

Remember, prophets were called and sent. Prophets were God’s mouthpiece. They were God fearing people, who worshiped one God as we heard in the stories of Elijah/Elisha at weekday masses, this past week. Prophets were God’s messengers. Israel’s prophets interpreted the will of God. They acted as society’s conscience—as defenders of the poor and voiceless, intermediaries and prayer warriors. They were servants of God who often would allow themselves to be  seen as those truly called- as were Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Prophets were guided by divine providence to plead and intercede for all. They were good leaders who also cherish the place of humility in leaders. Some of them were very creative and fearless too.  They loved peace and promoted justice. They transmitted God’s love and divine promises. They were also risk-takers and ready to suffer, or even die, for the sake of truth. John the Baptist whose birthday we celebrate today was one them.

We know today in our parishes and communities that there are dedicated and God fearing people, priests, religious and lay faithful --- called them modern prophets, sitting by our sides, or living in our neighborhood,—think about that, and look around! What do you make of Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, or Pope Francis? We are called to be prophets!

In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, we are told, providentially conceived her at old age—when people thought that she was barren. She celebrated John’ birth and thank God for His divine mercy. His father would have named him Zechariah, but, still by divine providence they named him John, to the amazement of everyone in Israel. John “grew up and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80).

Generally, his parents were very thankful to God. His Father Zechariah praised God in the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79), and recognized that God has raised a mighty savior in the house of David. In his prophetic ministry John prophesied with humility. He acknowledged Christ as the Lord and knew that the one, Christ, coming after him was higher than him. He was only there to prepare the way for our savior because he was being sent. Even though he baptized with water, he prophesied that Christ will baptized with water and the Holy Spirit.

In other words, he saw himself as a servant to his own people. He stood on the prophetic tradition of Israel’s Servant of God (Ebed Yhwh) heard in today’s first reading Isaiah 49:1-6. In Isaiah 49, no matter the circumstances of exile and loss of the land, experience of pains, and afflictions, injustices and oppressions of their time, through his successive prophets, including John the Baptist, God will live up to the covenant promises he made to  Abraham and David his servants. God will free Israel. He will send them a servant, who will suffer for them; who will free them. He will make them ‘a light to the nations, so that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

John the Baptist spent his prophetic ministry, serving, and pointing Israel to this light to the nations, namely, Christ our Savior. He is the one St. Paul preaches about in the synagogue, in today’s 2nd reading, Acts of 13:22-26. Paul notes that God protected Israel in Egypt. He led them through the desert into the Promised Land. He set up the judges till the time  of Samuel when Israel asked for a King, and so God provided them with Saul and David. From David’s descendant, God gave Israel a savior; Jesus Christ as promised (Acts 13:23).  In Acts 13: 24, Paul says, “My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Our birth is also a gift from God. It’s a calling.  We have been called and sent words of salvation. By our baptism, we are called to share and participate in the prophetic mission of John the Baptist- bringing people to Christ and Christ to people; including our children, grandchildren, friends, and family members and to those we share neighborhoods with. We are invited to spread the kingdom of God, to preach God’s grace, his tender mercy and love, from our respective locations, and culture, to people we meet in our daily lives, especially the poor, the voiceless, migrants and immigrants—no matter the challenges.

Reflection Questions:

    1. What have we learned from the birth of John the Baptist? Do we see our lives and callings as gifts from God- as a result of his love and mercy?
    2. In what way do we share in the prophetic mission especially the type lived by John the Baptist and our role models?
    3. Could you think of few modern prophets in your faith community?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

We Walk by Faith Not by Sight ( 11th Sunday Year B)

 Homily Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • Ezekiel 17:22-24;
  •  Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16;
  • 2 Cor 5:1-10
  • Mark 4:26-34
 We Walk by Faith Not by Sight (2 Cor 5:6-10)
 On every Third Sunday in June we celebrate Father’s Day here in the United States of America. Many of us…. are familiar with its social history that goes back to the 1907 mining incidence in West Virginia. As a faith family (at Mother Cabrini Church and elsewhere), with eyes on the Kingdom of God, it is an ideal time to take a little moment to pray for our families, and recall the importance of parenting, mentoring and father-figures in our lives; as well as the gift and place of faith; trusting in God,  and in the workings of the mysteries of his kingdom in our lives and for our friends and families in different parts of the world.
As we heard in the parables of today’s scriptures (parables of the eagles, of the trees and of seeds), God accompanies each of us, including our parents, our fathers, our mothers, on our journeys; in everything that we do; small or big.  But it only takes faith to realize this—the hiddenness of God’ Kingdom, of his love and mercy in our lives.
 In the concluding section of the parable of the eagle (Ezek 17:22-24), Ezekiel, a prophet of exile explains how God protects those who trust him, even when they found themselves in exile- there is hope for return, provided they kept the faith. In his prophecy, Ezekiel seems to be referencing king Zedekiah, in particular who broke his oath and faith in God, in the face of the threat of “the eagle” Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  Although Zedekiah is removed, God will provide Israel a savior, a messiah in a very mysterious way, in the person of Christ of Mark’s Gospel, Son of Mary, as prophesied by Israel’s prophets( Isaiah 9:6-7). He is the one that sows a mustard seed in today's Gospel parable.
 This little mustard seed that Jesus, Israel’ Messiah sows in today’ Gospel parable of the kingdom is the word of God, the message of the Kingdom of God- love, peace, forgiveness, parental responsibilities, corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. It is a mystery. This mysterious message of the Kingdom requires a faith-response from each of us, by loving others back, for God first loved us; by caring of one another, because God first cared for each us.
We are invited to grow this message; to run home with it.  We are invited to allow this message of the kingdom to grow in our lives and in our homes-, becoming like a big tree, welcoming every bird, welcoming everyone, training our children, loving our spouses, giving , even if it is a  cup of cold water to travelers and immigrants we may not have met before; forgiving those who may have offended.
 This Kingdom of God, as portrayed in in Marks Gospel, and as preached by Paul in 2 Corinthian 5:6-10, requires faith, hope and courage, no matter how small. It is a mystery that can only be perceived and practiced by those, who place their faith and hope, in Christ Jesus, believing and hoping that Christ is the herald of the Kingdom of God. Each of us from all walks of life and culture has a place in this kingdom even with the minutest faith, love and acts of charity we daily perform.
  I have no doubt that even in the face of adversities, mysteries, disappointment, threats, bad economy, unfaithfulness, insult, war, famine, illness, loss of our loved ones, many of our parents, particularly our fathers know how to persevere. They know how to love their wives and children. They know how to teach hard work, endurance, patience, respect, care and forgiveness to their children. 
 We want to honor our husbands today. We want to pray for our fathers and father- figures today, including our mentors and teachers, our brothers, friends, nephews and uncles. We want to appreciate them. And share in the gifts that God has blessed them with, especially the gift of faith in God. For we “walk by faith and not by sight.”
Reflection Questions:
    1. What jumps out for you in today’s scripture passages?
    2. How often do you recognize the presence of God’s kingdom in your live and faith community- even in little things and places?
    3. What challenges our faith and trust in God?

Friday, June 8, 2018

We are Invited Members of God’s Kingdom(10th sunday Year B)

Homily Tenth Sunday In Ordinary Time Year B; Fr. Michael Udoek Udoekpo
  • Genesis 3:9-15
  • Ps 130:1-8
  • 2 Corinthians 4:13-51
  • Mark 3:20-35
 We are Invited Members of God’s Kingdom
We celebrate on this 10th Sunday of Ordinary Season, the mystery of God’s kingdom (hē basileia tou theou), the mystery of his sovereignty, the mystery of his works and deeds, peace, joy, healing and eternal life. As we carry on with this celebration we are reminded of what all of us must do, as individual and as a church to enter into this kingdom.
We must welcome everyone; knowing that our next door neighbor could be that saint; those saints, Pope Francis spoke about in his Gaudete et Exsultate, whom we are daily called to imitate. We must build our lives around Jesus’ values. We must reject Satan, and all his evil deeds. We must trust always in God and rely in the teachings of the Church handed to us by the Apostles, especially as recorded in the scriptures.
For example in today’s scriptures, beginning with that Gospel of Mark, just heard, the story of Jesus' healing, exorcism, welcoming everyone including his parents, or Jesus himself being constantly misunderstood by religious leaders, by the power that be, is Evangelist Mark’s unique way of narrating the Christology of Jesus, or of reminding us of the mystery of the kingdom of God, that you and I strife every day to enter.
In Mark the Kingdom of God is not necessarily a place, but a metaphor of God’s sovereignty, of God’s rule over creation and history. The entire ministry of Jesus in deeds and words, is nothing else, but the proclamation of this kingdom.
Look closely at the deeds and words of Jesus in today’s Gospel of Mark 3:20-35. As he was ministering and healing the people who had gathered and even made it impossible for them to eat, his relatives came to seize Jesus away from the crowd, thinking that he was “out of his mind.” The scribes who saw him healed thought he was doing that using the power of Beelzebul. Why would they think that Jesus was out of his mind or using the power of Beelzebul to heal.? A mystery! Humanity is trapped, needing God's help and manifestation of his rule in a decisive and new manner. Again as he was doing this, his mother and brothers sent words to him from outside that they were waiting to see him. But, he said, “Who are my brothers and sisters.”?  Looking around at those that had encircled him, he said “here are my mother and my brothers…for whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”
His words, his healing, his exorcism proclaims the kingdom of God. Jesus’ healing in today’s gospel proves the power of God in the world. It proves the power of God in his Son, Jesus, over Satan. That same Satan that caused the fall of our first parent, Adam and Eve,  read in  today’s first reading, Genesis 3:9-15.
In God’s kingdom, Jesus is also not out of his mind as thought by the Scribes. But, in Jesus’ kingdom, which is a mystery, beyond our ordinary human expectation, all are welcomed (young and old, male and female), especially those who do the will of God, who love, who are forgiving and generous to their neighbors, especially the poor. In God's kingdom there is mercy, there is fullness of redemption and there is no division.
In Jesus’ kingdom preached by Apostle Paul in the 2nd reading (2 Cor 4:13-5:1), the Corinthian community, members of the church are invited to be humble, endure in their suffering, trustful and hope in God. Not just on earthly things power and influence. They are invited and reminded that “they have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
In spite of the challenges of our times, and cultural vicissitudes, let us pray at this worship that we may always build our lives around the values of Jesus, around the values of God’s kingdom: peace, joy, inclusiveness, and forgiveness, charity to the poor, the elderly, and total commitment and surrendering to the will God--- his healing touch, his tender mercies, his love, his compassion, his rule and leadership.
Reflection Questions:
  1. In the light of today’s scriptures what is your reassessment of the mystery of the rule and kingdom of God?
  2. In what ways have we helped in spreading this kingdom of God?
  3. Could we think of  a specific instance when we assisted a member of our faith community to recommit his or her trust in God and in the foundation built for us by the Christ of Mark’s gospel?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Restoring Our Rightful Relationship with God( Solemnity of Corpus Christi Yr B,)

Homily- the Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
  • ·         Exodus 24:3-8;
  • ·          Ps 116:12-18;
  • ·          Heb 9:11-15
  • ·          Mark 14; 12-16, 22-26

 Restoring Our Rightful Relationship with God

We come today as a Church, and family of faith, to solemnly celebrate God’s continues presence in our midst, through Christ, His Son.; through the efficacy of the Body and Blood of Christ which we celebrate and receive at every Mass.  The more we celebrate Christ at Mass, received his body and blood, listen to Christ address us through the scriptures,  sacred music, through one another, the more our relationship with God is strengthened, and restored, for those who may have had a broken relationship with him, for one reason or the other.

Historically, this has been the understanding of Pope Urban IV who in 1264, who, during the time of the great- Saint Thomas Aquinas, instituted this celebration by encouraging each of us, every year, from different parts of the world to be devoted to Christ, to worship him, to adore him, to sing his praises, to visit with him in the Blessed Sacrament, to venerate him in songs and processions, wherever and whenever we can, knowing that we have an unbreakable relationship with God. 

Today’s solemnity reminds us that we are God’s children of the biblical covenant- a biblical story of what God has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ. Relationship as a whole is found in different cultures and contexts and comes with different signs and symbols!

What we do specifically in our faith context today is rooted in the scriptures, especially in today’s well-chosen passages of the Bible.  You may want to ask yourself, why is today’s first reading from Exodus 24:3-8, on the ritual of sprinkling of animal blood on the altar and on the people chosen for this celebration? One of the answers could be, because it takes us back to the ratification of the sinaitic covenant that God established with his people, Israel. When you read Exodus 19-24 you see and appreciate in full, details and significance of this important covenant rituals. This ritual is repeated in Leviticus 16 and 17, on the Day of Atonement, when blood is again sprinkled by priests in the Holy of Holies.  Since ancient times this sprinkled blood was not only a sacred symbol, but a symbol of life, a sign of purification from sins, filthy things, blessings, peace (shalom), good luck, covenant and life’s renewal in the years ahead. 

We celebrate today, our lives in Christ. The Exodus’ sinaitic covenant provides us the framework for understanding this,  and even for understanding God’s earlier promises to Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. It reminds us of the importance of what we read in the entire, Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. It reminds us that it is God that watches over our lives and successes, and our journeys as exemplified in the entire biblical history- for the Old to the New Testaments.  The covenant ratification of the first reading was also used in measuring the faithfulness of Israel’s Kings. It forms the backdrop for the preaching of Israel’s prophets- leading up to events fulfilled in Christ of the Gospel and of the Letter to the Hebrews- the New Covenant.

Recall, Jeremiah, one of Israel’s prophets, familiar to us, prophesied about this “new covenant”. In chapter 31:31, Jeremiah, foretold,” in the days to come I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah.” A new covenant. Not with animal blood, but written in our hearts- spiritual, powerful, apriori with a new meaning, and symbols, through the events of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us on the Cross.

  The author to the Letter to the Hebrews in the Second reading, Hebrews 9:11-15 eloquently preaches on Christ’s event, n the efficacy of his body and blood.  With his body and blood our rightful relationship with God his father, is guaranteed.

Unlike the Levitical priest, human not divine, Christ, human and divine, our High priest is sinless. He is both the perfect high priest and the perfect sacrifice. Christ’s blood, shaded us on the Cross, on that Good Friday, has a deeper and different meaning.. For us, Christian-believers it is more effective than the blood of the animals shaded annually and sprinkled on the altar and on the people, during the ancient sinaitic days!

Think of it also this way. If the ordinary animal blood could be effective in the context of earthly sacrifice, how much more the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, his body and blood- that gives us life!

Today as we celebrate this Solemnity, Christ invites us, as narrated in that gospel of Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 to remain partakers in his Body and Blood, the source of life, - that puts us in a rightful relationship with God.  In that gospel passage, is it not interesting to hear Christ of Mark once again says,, “Take, this is my body… and for the cup, this is my blood of the covenant,” words we repeat and hear at every Mass we celebrate and attain. 

 By sharing in the body and blood of Christ, we are cleansed from sinfulness, from dead works and we are protected spiritually and morally, and strengthen to worship the living true God. We are kept in that track of holiness that Pope Francis, in March spoke of in his new Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate. We are restored to a rightful covenant- relationship with God, who loves each and every one of us, irrespective of our culture, region and location.

By every one of us we mean the poor and the rich, our families and children; the healthy, the sick, the borne and the unborn, those who are physically alive, and those gone before us marked with the sign of faith.

 Remember also that the Christ we share at Mass, at worships is also alive in our relationship with one another. He is the source of life. He is in the scripture we break, preach and Share. He is in the sacred music we sing. He accompanies us on our journeys. He is the Christ of the peace makers, of good leaders, of champions of unity and of those who are merciful, who live the gospel beatitude and who forgive wrong doings done to them; and promote the culture life.  
As we celebrate this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ may we continue to share our faith experience of the efficacy of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with our neighbors, friends and family members!

Reflection Questions:
  • 1.      How strong is our faith in the real presence of Christ, in the Bread and Wine blessed by our priests at every Mass?
  • 2.      In light of today’s scriptures how far have we kept the covenant we established with Christ at Baptism?
  • 3.      How does today’s solemnity help us restore our rightful relationship with God and with our neighbors?