Saturday, April 21, 2018

Love & the Healing Power of Christ the Good Shepherd!(4th Sunday of Easter)


Homily Fourth Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 4:8-12;
·         Psalm 118:1-9;21-23,26,28-29;
·         I John 3:1-2 ;
·         John 10:11-18
Love & the Healing Power of Christ the Good Shepherd!
Today we celebrate the gift, the healing power of love which Christ, the corner-stone of our lives, the Good Shepherd, has lavished upon us- his sheep. This shepherd-sheep relationship heard in today’s Gospel is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (Jer 23, Ezek 34, Ps 23 etc). Its meaning and demand were familiar to the people of Jesus’ time, in the Mediterranean. No wonder the Johannine Jesus, the savior of the world, unequivocally and metaphorically declares:

“I am the Good Shepherd (He didn’t say, I am the false shepherd). A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….I know mine and mine know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father… I lead and they must hear my voice and there will be one flock.. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again,” (John 10:11-18).

 Christ's power lies in his love for us and in how he leads us. It lies in how he cares, and how he listens to us. Christ knows us by name. He knows our in and out. He knows our weaknesses and strengths. He leads, feeds and loves us voluntarily and with compassion and exemplary humility and holiness of life. It is not forced. It is not faked. It is not parochial. It is universal- crossing human barriers and boundaries. It is not for material gain. He was not hired, but Christ, this “Good Shepherd,” unlike “Israel’s shepherds) is God the Father’s incarnate taking a healing and a loving journey in His Son in order to save us, the blind, the crippled and the poor and the homeless so dear to Pope Francis’s heart.

Compare that with a bad hired shepherd, who works for money. This type of shepherd does not care if the sheep is scattered or is devoured by wolves. Remember modern wolves could come in different forms including false teaching, poor leadership, secularism, Gnosticism and pelegianism cited by Pope Francis in his Gaudete ex Exultate).
 Israel’s Scriptures including Ezekiel 34, that today’s gospel passage may be alluding to-distinguishes Christ from false shepherds. 
Ezekiel 34 says:
“You shepherd of Israel you have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherd feed the sheep. You eat the fat, you cloth yourselves with the wool,...you have not strengthen  the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back he strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”
The difference cannot be too clear. The ultimate power of false shepherds is selfishness, while the ultimate power of Christ the Good Shepherd is selflessness; His voluntariness in, feeding, listening, knowing, caring, loving healing, and saving us.
The healing of the crippled in today’s 1st reading is rightly taken by Peter to be the healing power of Christ the Good Shepherd.  Filled with the Holy Spirit Peter of the post-resurrection church proclaims in the temple area “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved,” (Acts 4:8-12).
 Are not today’s scriptures challenging to us in our respective needs, and faith –struggles. As well summarized in the 2nd reading, 1 John 3:1-2, part of the challenges facing us today is how we can get to know Christ, the Good Shepherd and appreciate how much he constantly cares, loves and watches over us, his flock. It is get to decipher between a Good Shepherd and strange voices of false shepherds today. It is how to get to realize that he is that spiritual physician and healer who does not turn anyone away from treatment and care as he did not turned away the cripple of the Acts of the Apostle chapter 4.

Remember the Gnosticism and pelegianism of Pope Francis’ 2018 Apostolic Exhortation.   False shepherds can show up in inappropriate TV ads and shows. They can show up in bad literature, abusive politics, wrong choice of nations' leadership and philosophies. They can even show up in the bad company we keep, in the trials that come our way, and in the forms of economic, political, cultural, religious and social hardships we go through.

But we have the confidence that the power of Christ, the Good Shepherd, the corner stone of our lives and families endures forever. His power to lead us, love us,  feed us, provide for us, listen  to us when we pray, know each of us by name, care for us, look after us especially when we  go astray, heal us when we are sick, console us when we are bereaved, and  save us with his saving grace, lives on! Love is the power of Christ the Good Shepherd!

Reflection Questions:
  • 1.      In the light of today’s Scriptures what would you consider your weaknesses that Christ the healer –Good Shepherd is able to take care of?
  • 2.      What would you consider signs of false –shepherds in our modern society? And what about responsibilities of the flock?
  • 3.      How do we lead the cripples of our culture, dioceses, and faith communities to the care and love of Christ the Good Shepherd?






Saturday, April 14, 2018

Christ, Author and Prince of Life! (3rd Sunday of Easter)


Homily [A] 3rd Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Acts 3:13-15, 17-19;
·         Ps 4:2, 4, 7-9;
·         1John 2:1-5a
·          Luke 24:35-48
Lord, Let Your Face Of The Resurrection Shine Upon Us!
The Responsorial Psalm of today, “Lord, let your face shine upon us” (Ps.4) sets the tone for the joy of the resurrection we celebrate on this 3rd Sunday of Easter. This song, “let your face shine upon us Lord” is a metaphorical and trustful prayer of the Psalmist on divine benevolence, his blessings, his peace and love. It is a wonderful reminder of the priestly blessings of the Book of Numbers 6:24-26: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!”

 Today we are asking for the face of the resurrected Christ to shine upon each and every one of us; the poor, the rich, young and old of all nations and continents!  Of course, the resurrection of Christ is factual and truthful! It remains the source of our hope, the channel of our faith, and the conduit of our joy and peace. It brings us uncountable blessings including the courage to trust him, to know him deeply and be able to bear witness to Christ in our daily lives and in our communities, in good times and in bad times, in old age and when we are young!

In today’s Gospel the two Disciples of Christ, who were on their way to a village of Emmaus, 7 miles from Jerusalem, recounted how difficult it was for them, initially to believe the stories of the resurrection, especially as first told by the women. They did not understand its meaning not until Our Lord himself manifested himself to them in the breaking of the bread.  In the Gospel, while they were conversing, the Lord appeared again and said to them “Peace be with you!  Such an umbrella of blessings! Peace be with you! He showed them the wounds inflicted on him on the cross by his enemies! By those who misunderstood him.  He also ate baked fish in front of the disciples!  He shared scriptures with them, the laws of Moses, the Torah, and the Psalms. What a blessings! In other words, he shone his face upon the disciples!

Christ’s appearances after his resurrection brought strength and energy to his disciples.  It strengthened their faith, and opened their eyes to know the Lord more and more.  Chris reassures us that the author of life. Of course sharing a meal with one another, especially with the poor and strangers, is fantastic way of expressing love and witnessing to Christ.  Sharing a meal with our neighbors closes or at least narrows the gap of doubt among members of the community! It enhances friendship and gives us opportunity to know one another better.

In the case of Peter, the resurrection of Christ made him a better Peter an ardent witness to Christ as evident in the 1st reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19). After the resurrection Peter went about preaching the glory of the empty tomb and rebuked those who ignorantly put the innocent Jesus to death. All these, however, happened so that what he had long foretold, that the son man will suffer, die, and be raised on the third day, might be fulfilled.
Each of us is called not only to be like Peter, but also like those two disciples on the way to Emmaus, allowing our encounter with Christ, through the passages of scriptures, we hear and read and sing today, to change us. Like the Disciples of Christ who knew Christ more and by sharing, fish/meals with him, we want to be transformed with a better knowledge of Christ and his values each time we receive the Holy Communion.

 Of course, the Jesus of the Gospel and Acts of the Apostle witnessed by Peter is the Jesus of the 2nd reading that had washed away our sins. We are called to know and trust him.
 As the 2nd reading (1 John 2:1-5a) would put it, “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments”,  the 10 commandments, the teachings and precepts of the church, often better summarized as love of God and one’s neighbors!

Even if we are not able like Peter to run around preaching on the streets, market squares, synagogues and churches, we can as much as we can share our meals and clothing with the poor. We can reach out to them through our friends. We can pray for peace in the world. We can visit our loved ones in hospital and stop by their sick beds for a few seconds of prayer and support! We can also forgive those who may have offended us in one way or other.  We can dispose our heart for the word of God. We can pray for those we have offended, to be merciful unto us. We can always trust in God’s benevolence, knowing that he will always shine his face upon us!

“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you,
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!”

Reflection Questions:

  • 1.      How often do we recognize God’s Plan, His Will and His Hiddenness in our Lives?
  • 2.      How often do we see ourselves in the Disciples on the way to Emmaus?
  • 3.      And how often do we assist suffering members of our faith community to see their fates and challenges in light of God’s plan of redemption?


 Homily [B] 3rd Sunday of Easter Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

·         Acts 3:13-15, 17-19;
·         Ps 4:2, 4, 7-9;
·         1John 2:1-5a
·          Luke 24:35-48
Christ, Author and Prince of Life!
Another way of looking at today’s scriptures, as a whole, is by recognizing from our different areas and walks of life the thematic unity of divine necessity, plan, will, promises and fulfillment evident, particularly in the Gospel and in Acts of the Apostle. In these readings God has a plan for his son and for us that must surely come to pass. The events of Good Friday and the joy of the Easter Sunday-Resurrection are good examples for us. The Christ crucified, is alive as planned by God in his redemptive planning.  This makes His Incarnate- Son  the author, founder and prince of life (archēgon tēs zōēs) for those who believe in him and trust in God’s plan of salvation (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19).

This is Luke’s message in today’s worship. As noted in Luke 24:35-48,  the two Disciples of Christ, who were on their way to a village of Emmaus, 7 miles from Jerusalem, recounted how difficult it was for them, initially to believe the stories of the resurrection, especially as first told by the women. They did not understand its meaning not until Our Lord himself manifested himself to them in the breaking of the bread.  While they were conversing, as any of would do, the Lord appeared again and said to them “Peace be with you!   He showed to them how wounded he was on the cross by those who misunderstood him.  He also ate baked fish in front of the disciples to prove to them that he was truly alive.  He shared scriptures with them.  In v. 44 he reminded them that the laws of Moses, the Torah, and the Psalms and prophetic messages, about him, the messiah, were meant to be fulfilled (plērōthēnai).

In the 1st reading, Luke’s 2nd volume, Peter, in his preaching and speech in the temple area, understood, demonstrated that God has a plan of salvation for us, for the church, that goes back to the stories of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob Moses, and the prophets  recorded in  the Old Testament scriptures. These stories have been fulfilled in the events of Christ, that the Messiah will be persecuted, crucified on our behalf (1 John 2:1-5a), but will rise again as the author and prince of life ([archēgon tēs zōēs] for believers (Acts 3:18; cf. Stephen and Paul speeches as well in Acts 7 and 13).

I have no doubt the resurrection of Christ made Christ’s disciples (those women, those on Emmaus journey, Stephen, Paul), including Peter, better disciples. It strengthen them and increased their hope and faith in the Risen Lord! Each of us is called not only to be like Peter, but also like those two disciples on the way to Emmaus, allowing our encounter with Christ, through the scriptures we hear and read and sing today, to change us, strengthen our faith and urge for holiness and longing for the kingdom, everlasting life, with the author of life, as stressed by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exultate (2018).

Granted that we are confronted with daily challenges of loss of our loved ones, jobs, threat of wars, terrorism, violent, selfishness,  inhumane acts etc. we should not forget that the Author of life is in our midst. Again, even if we are not able like Peter to run around preaching on the streets, temple areas, market squares, synagogues and churches, as much as we can, with perseverance, patience and meekness share our meals and clothing with the poor. We can reach out to them through our friends. We can pray for peace in the world. We can visit our loved ones in hospital and stop by their sick beds for a few seconds of prayer and support! We can also forgive those who may have offended us in one way or other.  We can dispose our heart for the word of God. We can pray for those we have offended, to be merciful unto us. We can always trust in God’s benevolence and plans. These are all signs of our recognition that, Christ, the Messiah, and the Author of life is Alive in our midst, where ever we are.

 “May  the Lord, the Author of Life bless you and keep you.
May he make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you,
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!”

Reflection Questions:

  • 1.      How often do we recognize God’s Plan, His Will and His Hiddenness in our Lives?
  • 2.      How often do we see ourselves in the Disciples on the way to Emmaus?
  • 3.      And how often do we assist suffering members of our faith community to see their fates and challenges in light of God’s plan of redemption?







Saturday, April 7, 2018

Dipping our Hands into the Wounds of Christ!


Homily 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Acts 2:42-47;
·         Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24;
·         1 Pet 1:3-9 (A);
·          Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6 (B);
·         Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13,17-19 (C)
·         John 20:19-31(ABC)
Christ: Conduit of Divine Mercy!
Today the Church celebrates “Divine Mercy Sunday” commemorating Jesus’ revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy. Pope John Paul II granted this Feast to the Universal Church on the occasion of his raising Sr. Faustina, a young Polish woman to Sainthood on April 30, 2000 and was decreed to be celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. 
It is a teaching Sunday that invites us to embrace Christ’s enthronement on the Cross, his Resurrection and his multiple appearances to his seemingly disillusioned and doubting disciples  as nothing, but acts of love and divine mercy towards us. It was God’s mercy towards humanity that led Christ, his Son to the Cross. A saving Cross culminating in the event of the resurrection.
Peter in the Second reading, particularly of Year A recognizes this when he says: “Blessed be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3-9).
His resurrection is our hope as it were for the early disciples after the events of Palm Sunday and Good Friday. His resurrection proves that he accompanies us on our journeys, with mercy and love. I am sure we still recall the other day, in Luke Chapter 24: 13-35, at Emmaus, when Jesus walked besides Cleopas and his friend on their return from Jerusalem, clouded in sad conversation they did not recognized Jesus until the Risen Christ spent time breaking bread with them. Besides, accompanying, walking with his disciples, or breaking bread with them, he ate baked fish with them (Lk 24:35-48) during other appearances. He also gave them encouraging instruction by the beach at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14)
In today’s Gospel (John 20:19-31), the Risen Lord appears to the restless and frightened disciples with blessings of Peace (Shalom)! He accompanies them!  He breathes on them and commissions them on a preaching mission with the power to forgive sins, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jon 20:23).
With this command, Christ inaugurates, in a way, Divine Mercy Sunday, so to say. He encourages, each of us, his disciples to be merciful to one another, in our homes, families and communities. He encourages us to appreciate the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation in the Church.
Besides encouraging us to be "masters of divine mercy", Christ invites us like Thomas to stop doubting; to be believers. Christ invites us today to touch his wounds (John 20:19-31); wounds that  would heal Thomas’ wounds of disbelief and faithlessness; wounds that replaces lack of peace with Peace of Christ; wounds that replaces the spirit of darkness with God’s Spirit of Light. Christ’s wounds, a catalyst for testimony of the healing truth, courage, unlimited mercy and inexhaustible love of Christ.  Christ’s wounds expels the power of injustice and heals the wounds corruption and of indiscriminate shootings in our communities. It is this wounds that Thomas touches in today’s Gospel. The wounds of love, unity; wounds that would empower communion, the sharing (konoinia) and the preaching of the early Christian Community of today’s 2nd reading.
 In Acts of the Apostles “All who believed were together… (as we are today in this church) they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life (Konoinia), breaking of bread and praying together….” (Acts 2:42-47, Year A).  In additionThey were of one heart and mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…they bore witness to the Resurrection of Christ…” (Acts 4:32-35 Year B).
 There are moments in our lives we are not acting mercifully towards our neighbors. Like Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Cleopas, and the Eleven Disciples, we also do have moments of doubt. We do have moments of uncertainties, confusions, disbelief, hopelessness, selfishness and frustrations. 
In those moments, Christ ways of mercy, love, hope and faith should be our hope and our ways.  In the Eucharist we celebrate, may see the merciful face Christ. May his face of mercy and peace reflect on how we daily peacefully treat and accompany our neighbors on our pilgrimage journeys of faith, love and mercy!
Refection Questions:
1.      If God is merciful onto us how often do we share his Divine Mercy and Love with one another?
2.      If not so often what prevents us from doing so?
3.      And how do we encourage members of our faith communities to see the act of Divine Mercy in the paschal mysteries of the Christ of Easter?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Homily Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy) ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·         Acts 2:42-47;
·          Ps 118:2-4,13-15,22-24;
·          1 Pet 1:3-9 (A);
·         Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6 (B);
·         Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13,17-19 (C)
·         John 20:19-31(ABC)
 Dipping our Hands into the Wounds of Christ!
From Easter Sunday to Pentecost the Church celebrates those fifty days that the Risen Jesus goes around by his appearances strengthening the faith of his “seemingly” disillusioned disciples over the events of the victory of the Cross; that supernatural event beyond the powers of Anna, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and Pilate other opponents of Jesus. Even it took a while, for friends of Christ, his mother, Mary Magdalene, his disciples, the apostles, especially Thomas, being human like any of us to come to  terms with the mystery of the Resurrection (John 20:24-29). He needed to deep his hands into the wounds of our Savior wounds; the wounds of peace and assurances!
They needed the power of Christ’s Peace (love, reassurance, well-being, okeyness) to calm their fears and be strengthened in the supernatural gifts of faith and fortitude by the Holy Spirit, wherever they were hiding for fear of persecution. You would recall that in Luke’s Gospel 24: 13-35, at Emmaus, when Jesus walked besides Cleopas and his friend on their return from Jerusalem, clouded in sad conversation they did not recognized Jesus until the Risen Christ spent time breaking bread with them. Besides, walking with his disciples, or breaking bread with them in other appearances, he ate baked fish with them (in Lk 24:35-48). He also gave them encouraging instruction by the beach at the Sea of Tiberias (in John 21:1-14).
In today’s Gospel, John 20:19-31, the Risen Lord invites the Doubting Thomas to touch his wounds. These wounds would heal Thomas’ wounds of doubts, disbelief and faithlessness; wounds that replaces lack of peace with Peace of Christ; wounds that replaces the spirit of darkness with God’s Spirit of Light. Thomas touches wounds of testimony to the healing truth, courage, unlimited mercy and inexhaustible love of Christ.  He touches wounds of love, unity; wounds that would empower communion and the sharing and the preaching of the early Christian Community of today’s 2nd reading.
  In today’s 2nd readings, Acts of the Apostles “All who believed were together… (as we are today in this church) they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life (Konoinia), breaking of bread and praying together….” (Acts 2:42-47, Year A).  In additionThey were of one heart and mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…they bore witness to the Resurrection of Christ…” (Acts 4:32-35 Year B).
Our world and society today is broken or wounded with war and threats of war. We are wounded by nuclear threats, and religious extremism. We are also wounded daily by all forms violence and abuse of guns and shootings, in our schools, homes, streets and public places! We are wounded with rifts in our families, poverty and lack of consideration for the lowly, especially by the upper class of our political elites.
 Like Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Cleopas, and the Eleven Disciples we all do have moments of doubt, uncertainties, confusions, disbelief, hopelessness and frustrations.  But the good news is that those moments of wounds can only be healed and soothed by our embrace of the meaning of the wounds of Christ! Or when we respond like Thomas dipping our hands and our daily activities and challenges into the wounds of Jesus, saying, My Lord and my God!
 
Reflection Questions:
1.      1 If God is merciful onto us how often do we share his Divine Mercy and Love with one another?
2.      If not so often what prevents us from doing so?
3.      And how do we encourage members of our faith communities to see the act of Divine Mercy in the paschal mysteries of the Christ of Easter?
4.      What does Thomas’ dipping of  his finger into the wounds of Christ and proclaiming My Lord and My God, say to you?
 
 

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?