Saturday, March 16, 2019

Paths to Heavenly Citizenship!,Homily for Second Sunday of Lent Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily for Second Sunday of Lent Year C:   Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Gen 15:5-12, 17-18;
·        Ps 27: 1, 7-9,13-14;
·         Phil 3:17­–4:1
·         Luke 9:28b-36.

Paths to Heavenly Citizenship!

It is interesting to listen to the American Politicians: Democrats and the Republican or even European Union debate immigration. Both parties and different nations, debate the path of immigrants to citizenship. Each party and nation has different views and criteria to one becoming an American Citizen or of any nation. Lent is a time we contemplate the “exodus” the paths or the ways (change, transformation , conversion, charity, reaching out to those in the margin, the poor, the voiceless...)that lead every Christian to heaven, or the path to becoming a citizen of that eternal and heavenly city.

In the transfiguration episode in today’s gospel Jesus' face changes in appearance, during prayer, while his cloth becomes dazzling white to the amazement of his disciples, Peter, James and John who were with him. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus about the glory of the cross in the language of the exodus, known to both of them.

In the exodus God was in charge. Even before then, after the fall of man and woman, he called Abraham, our patriarch, from a pagan territory, UR, in Genesis 12.   In today’s first reading, he established a covenant, a bond, a sacred relationship with Abraham, during which God promised him descendants as numerous as the stars as well as the  Land, place of rest (katapausis, Gen 15:5-12,17-18). Although, the righteous Abraham put his faith in the Lord, the journey to inherit the Promised Land was never going to be easy: they would encounter, hostile kings, wars, temptations, famine which will take them to Egypt. Moses and Joshua would continue to be God’s viceroys through the exodus, the departure from Egypt through the wilderness, desert, the sufferings, “the cross” the thirstiness, hunger, murmuring, rebellion, and other ups and down as they journeyed towards that Promised Land.

As clearly stated in the Letter to the Hebrews 4:1-13, that promise remains; that exodus departure would be completed in the paschal mysteries of Christ, which lent prepares us for, as cited by Evangelist Luke in today’s gospel, and by Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei. While acknowledging the challenges, the deserts and the difficulties of times we are in (n.7), he summons all of us, pastors, everyone to imitate Christ, by setting out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life; towards friendship with God (n.2), towards the heavenly kingdom.

St. Paul an Apostle of the Gentiles experienced the desert himself- beaten, imprisoned, and shipped wrecked and killed. Paul and exemplary leader knew, and reminds us today that our citizenship is not on earthly desert, or old ways of life restricted to misinterpretation of misapplication of the Laws of Moses, as such, but in peaceful, inclusive, and friendly heaven (Phil 3:17:1). As he would have invited the Philippians, Paul invites us to stand firm in Christ, in spite of the trials, temptation, and the wilderness of life that each of us might experience in life in forms of poverty, discrimination racism, ethnocentrisms, lack of good leadership, and effect of corruption and corrupt- socio- political structures etc.

Prayer, courage, perseverance exemplified in the passion of Christ during Holy Week (his exodus), as well as conversion, charity, reaching out to the margins, the poor and the needy, and the type of faith and firmness displayed by Abraham and Paul and Christ, himself, are the true paths that will guarantee us that heavenly citizenship.

Reflection Questions:

1.      In the light of today’s readings in what ways do we consider ourselves earthly citizens on a journey to that heavenly city, where we shall encounter Christ!
2.      What change, spiritual, social and religious have we noticed in our lives, in recent months, seasons, and years!
3.      What are life’s trials that prevent us from change, transformation and conversion from old ways of life to Christ-like values?
4.      How often do we keep our baptismal/sacramental promises, covenants, vows and those terms that established our relationship with God, through Christ, his Son?

Homily [alternate] Second Sunday of Lent Year C:   Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
·        Gen 15:5-12, 17-18;
·        Ps 27: 1, 7-9, 13-14;
·        Phil 3:17­–4:1
·        Luke 9:28b-36.

Our Citizenship is In Heaven

 “Our Citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself,”
These words of Saint Paul to the Church in Philippi capture the essence of what we celebrate today: that all of us, throughout history, are on a journey like the Israelites (Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers 1–10). We are immigrants, migrating to our heavenly Father. As believers, and children of the covenant, where we are now is not our final home.  Heaven is our final home. That “promised land” promised by the God of “our fathers,” through our ancestors! It takes courage, patience, courage, endurance, perseverance and attentiveness to the voice of God to get there! It is costly. I mean the "cost of discipleship" to get there!

In today’s first reading, Genesis 15, God unconditionally establishes a covenant, a loving relationship with Abraham, our ancestor. Abraham’s descendants; Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, David, the prophets, Christ, Paul, renewed in us, in the Church, in our communities, and families today, will be as plentiful as the stars in the sky and as the sand of the sea shore. Abraham and his descendant shall be given that land for a possession (Gen 15). Abraham believes and puts his faith in God. He is accredited as a just man, as a righteousness man.
Abraham, by believing, and putting his faith in God, teaches us how to be believing people, a compassionate, church, a believing, family and community. Abraham’s response to God reminds us that our work and Lenten disciplines here on earth will never be in vain. Those spiritual and corporal works of mercy will never be in vain. Abraham teaches us to be docile, faithful, righteous, open to change, renewal, confession, acceptance of the will of God, and the teachings of the Church; conversion, metamorphosis, and transformation from our “UR of Chaldeans” to the “Promised Land.”

On Mount Tabor, in the transfiguration episode of today’s Gospel Jesus' face changes in appearance, during prayer. His cloth becomes dazzling white to the amazement of Peter, James and John, his disciples who were with him. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus about the glory of the cross in the language of the exodus, known to both of them. Peter wishes to remain on this peaceful, glorious, beautiful earthly mountain of Tabor. But, truly their citizenship were beyond the earthly mount Tabor. Christ speaks to them about his journeys to Jerusalem! Heavenly citizenship can only be accomplished through the Cross and good works we do here on earth, especially during this season of Lent….. It can only be accomplished through, change and conversion, endurance, and charity.

Today we encounter our daily crosses in different forms; the cost of discipleship in different forms. In acts of charity, forgiveness, suffering, pains and penance; the insult we bear for the sake of Christ. What about the pains of the loss of our loved ones. The rejection and discrimination and abuses we experience.

 There are some that have experienced  the cross of Christ in forms of poverty, terrorism, illnesses,  inhumane-deportations, wars and various forms of institutional or organized, socio-political unjust structures– as they journey through this life. Some live in fear! Some in anger! Some in excess materialism and uneasiness to forgive, or feel forgiven by God of their past sins. Whatever, our various challenges in life might have been as Christians- Lent, especially (in this Year of Mercy) re-invites us to patience, a change of old ways of life to a new way of life in Christ, trust and willingness to listen to the voice of Christ, who daily speaks and invites us to his eternal citizenship!

Reflection Questions:
5.      In the light of today’s readings in what ways do we consider ourselves earthly citizens on a journey to that heavenly city, where we shall encounter Christ!
6.      What change, spiritual, social and religious have we noticed in our lives, in recent months, seasons, and years!
7.      What are life’s trials that prevent us from change, repentance, transformation and conversion from old ways of life to Christ-like values?
8.      How often do we keep our baptismal/sacramental promises, covenants, vows and those terms that established our relationship with God, through Christ, his Son?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Managing Our Temptations - In the Light of Christ!;Homily First Sunday of Lent Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily First Sunday of Lent Year C:  Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·        Deut 26:4-10;
·        Ps 91:1-2, 10-15;
·        Rom 10:8-13
·        Luke 4:1-13

Managing Our Temptations - In the Light of Christ!

In today’s Gospel we heard “One does not live by bread alone.” These are words of Jesus,  charging back to Satan in that wilderness area, where he was led by the Spirit, for 40 days- long period of fasting with prayers,  and to be tempted after his Baptism. Lent, among other things, commemorates these 40 days. Lent, introduces us, as it did on Ash Wednesday, to these moments of intensive prayer, fasting and acts of charity. Lent invites us to  pay renewed attention not only to Moses, and Paul, but to Jesus and his life style, of charity, forgiveness, compassion, reaching out to the poor, the voiceless, endurance, in order to learn from him on how to manage crises, troubles, trials, and temptations.

In other words, historically no one is above or immune to temptation.  It could be temptation, even to over eat, or drink or over study putting our health in danger. It could be the temptation to get angry at our neighbor or over react when we are offended or provoked. It could be the temptation to abuse all that God has given us, including modern technology, our phones, computers, iPad, cars and other electronic, or to spend time gossiping, back-biting, doing to others, what we ourselves would not like done to us.  It could be the temptation to be selfish, not to be accountable, for those elected to serve the public. Or to disrespect our parents, or presume that experience does not matter, if you are a child, or temptation to commit one sin or the other, or do things offensive and unacceptable by our communities!

 How to manage temptation should not be taken for granted. It is an important aspect of our faith. This is why our three Evangelist Matthew, Mark and Luke took note of this, with slight variations, in the light of Christ’s events. This is why the Church is delightful with these stories and starts every First Sunday of Lent with stories of temptation in the Bible, especially that of Jesus in the wilderness.

In the first reading, Deut 26:4-10, Moses reminded the people of the need to profess their faith, to pray their “credo,” to bring their first fruits of harvest in thanksgiving to God for all that God has done for them- freedom from slavery in Egypt, won battles for them, protected them through the desert, kept his promise and covenant with Abraham. For this leader, prophet, Moses it was important for them to keep their covenant and faithfulness with God. How easy sometimes is it for us to be carried away, to be tempted to forget the Goodness of the Lord upon us and our families through our neighbors. Lent is a time we renew ourselves in the Lord, a period of gratitude, a new exodus, a new covenant, new promises and a change of old ways life.

In the Second reading, Romans 10: 8-13, Paul and Apostles of the Gentile appeals to the early Christian convert from Judaism to Christianity to learn to tolerate one another- Jews and Gentiles(covenantal nomism), and not to go back to old ways of life of temptation of discrimination, and racism, "holier than thou attitude," all in the name of Mosaic Law. None of us according to Paul, who was all things to one, Jews and Gentiles, can bribe God. Justification and righteousness is God’s free gifts to each of us. Racism, tribalism and discrimination are common phenomena world over today. We are invited to resist such temptations.

And lastly, in the Gospel of Luke 4:1-13, Jesus exemplarily resists the three temptations he was confronted with, in the wilderness, a lonely dry place, (in fact, good for prayer, fasting and penance!): temptation to turn stone into bread,  to worship Satan and to jump from the pinnacle of the temple. These temptations could represent sometimes our human inordinate urge for material things, money, wealth, political power to control others, and pride that are not called for. In others words, they warn against the temptation of losing self-control, lust, and against inordinately searching for power- especially those ones that does not come from God!

In spite  of all the oppositions, and temptations during the course of his ministry, Jesus overcame all of them through prayer, fasting, penance and effective use of the word of God. He told Satan “One does not live by bread alone,”  “you shall worship the Lord your God,” “you shall not put the Lord your God, to test.”
Each of us on our Christian journeys, especially during this Lent, can learn from Moses’ and Paul’ generations on how to overcome temptation. We can learn from Christ, mastering our scriptures and through prayers, and Lenten discipline on how to conquer temptation, knowing fully well that the grace of God will always be sufficient onto us. And none of us will be tempted beyond the strength God has given us, since none of us can live by ordinary bread alone, but with every word, promises, strengths, graces that come from God.

Reflection Questions:
1.      Have you ever been tempted and how, and how have you in the past managed your trials and temptations?
2.      How would you have handled the situations of Moses’ and Paul’s generations differently?
3.      What specifically have we learned from Christ’s responses to the tempter in today’ Gospel?
4.      Could you think of any time you have assisted you neighbor to overcome  few trials of life?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Celebrating our Words and Deeds of Love and Mercy;Homily Eighth Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo Michael Ufok

Homily Eighth Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo Michael Ufok
·         Sir 27:4-7
·         Ps 92:2-3,13-14, 15-16
·          1 Cor 15:54-58
·         Luke 6:39-45

Celebrating our Words and Deeds of Love and Mercy

On this Eighth Sunday of the Year we come together as a church- family to worship God; to celebrate Christ who challenges us on the proper use of word and language for the building up of our homes, the church and communities.  

We all live in a human world today that is so often characterize by our use of fouls language, gossiping, back-biting our neighbors, passing rash judgment on neighbors, passing thoughtless and damaging judgment, insulting and painful remarks . Sometimes with our language and words, we may bring down our neighbors' reputation, and causing them irreparable damage. Sometimes we do this in the name of politics. And sometimes in the name jokes!

Scripture readings today exhort us to avoid all this. Rather, like Christ, our words and language should be that of love, hope, faith, empowerment, up lighting, complimentary and healing. Our words should be descent, clean, modest, polished, compassionate, charitable, full of love, and good manners. We should say to others what we would want said unto us, publicly or privately!

 In the 1st reading from Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus found mostly in the Catholic Bible, written in Greek, around 180 BC, but later translated into in Hebrew and other languages, we learn from this man, an experienced observer of life, though originally addressing his contemporaries on practical matters of faith and morals.  Ben Sira speaks to us today.

Ben Sira teaches us that what is inside each and every one of us could be revealed through our language, words, utterances and speeches we make, here and there! He gives us practical and agricultural examples. As the grains, such as rice, beans, corn, or maize and husks are separated in a farmer's sieve, as the quality of metal is determined in the potter’ fire, and as  the size and quality of the fruit shows the care the mother tree had received--- so are our words! Therefore, we should be prudent in judging others or leave all final judgment to God!

Echoes of Ben Sira’s moral teaching are also heard in the Responsorial Psalms (Ps 92), which says “Lord it good to give thanks to the Lord.” What the psalmist means here, like Ben Sira, is that it is better to spend time, praying, singing praises to the Lord, thanking him for all the blessings he has bless us with, instead of spending all our energies quarreling, gossiping and fighting. For Paul, doing this will not bring us the victory that is in the resurrection of Christ for those who persevere in faith. That is why Saint Paul, in the 2nd Reading, says, to the quarreling Corinthian community, “brothers and sisters be firm, steadfast, and always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

We hear parallel message in the Sermon on the Plain, today’s Gospel, Luke 6:39-45, which is a continuation of last Week’s Gospel reading. In it Jesus condemns hypocrisy, or any careless, malicious or rash judgment about the feelings, behavior or actions of others. If we do this it is like a blind person leading a blind person. Both of them may not safely get to their destinations. Jesus condemns those with woods in their eyes criticizing a tiny splinter in their neighbor’s eyes. Jesus advises us to remove the wooden beams first in our eyes before we make an attempt to get rid of splinter in our neighbor’s eyes.

 Each of us can draw up many examples in the light of the lessons of today’s scriptures.  I am also sure, there are many stories on this subject of hypocritically judging our  neighbors. These are very practical matters. I remember a story of one saint, called St. Philip Neri who after observing the misbehavior of a sinner and a drunkard soliloquizes “there goes Philip but for the grace of God.”  And St. was also known for the expression, “I am what I am for the grace of God.”

Let us pray at this worship, particularly in this era of Pope Francis, a Pope of mercy, that we compassionate, and merciful in judging our neighbors. And that the Lord, through his agent, the Holy Spirit may always inspire, or give us the right word, attitude and manner to use when talking to our fellow brothers and sisters. That our language may always bring hope, restore life, instill faith, joy and love in our families,  in the church, communities, our institutions, places of work, and society as a whole.

Reflecting Questions
·         How do we relate to today's readings, beginning with Ben Sira, this wise observer of life?
·         Can we think of the number of times we have failed to address our brothers and sisters prudently and in healthy manner?
·         What have we done to redress the damage our bad languages and gossiping may have done to our neighbors.
·         How often do we encourage members of our faith and religious communities to address one another with Christian love and manner?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

ONLY MERCY AND MISERY REMAINED Homily Seventh Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo Michael Ufok

Homily Seventh Sunday of Year C: Fr. Udoekpo Michael Ufok
·         1 Sam 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23
·         Ps 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13
·         1 Cor 15:45-49
·         Luke 6:27-38


Scripture readings today, together with that responsorial Psalms, “the Lord is kind and merciful,” reminds me of the 2016 Pastoral Letter, Misericordia et Misera (Mercy with Misery), issued by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on November 20 of that year, to mark the end of the Extraordinary  Jubilee of Mercy.  This letter draws from John 8:1-11, the story of Jesus’ mercy on the woman caught in adultery, by the Pharisees, and captures, Pope Francis’ understanding of the true mysterious nature of God. In that text of John 8 when the accusers of the woman left without the courage to stone her to death, only Jesus’ Mercy and the Misery of the woman remained!

This is who God is when we trace our salvation history, from nothingness to becoming a people, a nation. Part of this history is found in Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 85:1-3, Psalm 103:8-12, and in many other places in  the Bible (cf. Mic 7:18-20), especially in today’s reading, that God’s love for us, sinners, our friends and enemies, family and nations, is  a mystery. Mysterious, in that He loves and forgives us our sins, without boundaries and in spite of who we are.  Of course, He expects us to do same to our neighbors, those we live with, those we work with, those we study with, those we trade, and worship with, those we play politics and democracy with, those we meet on the way, our fellow parishioner, prayer group and fellow members of our pious societies and youth groups.

In the story of today’s first reading, David and Abishai (were political people………), had the opportunity to kill his political opponent and enemy, Saul and his military commanders, but David was faithful and just. He was merciful. He would not harm God’s anointed. In this story David teaches us, as individual, family, village, town, and nation to be kind, patient, non-violent, merciful and charitable to one another, in our communities, allowing mercy and misery to remain!
St. Paul, a convert, a Pharisee Emeritus (Acts 9), does the same in the second reading (1 Corinthian 15:45-49). He invited the Corinthians then and us now, to imitate heavenly values. And Paul is aware of this, especially in 1 Corinthian 13, that no heavenly value is more prizing than love, mercy, charity; patience and forgiveness  of those that may have wrong us! Allowing mercy and misery to remain!

As reported by St. Paul’s Companion, Luke in today’s Gospel, imitating God’s nature is all that Jesus taught his disciples; treating people well, “turning the other cheek”, forgiveness,, giving generously, doing to others what we would like done to us, being merciful as our heavenly father is ( Luke 6:27-38), eating with the so called ‘sinners and tax collectors” (Matt 9:9-13). Allowing mercy misery to remain and as a church reaching out to the margins as recommended by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

This may sound very challenging in our today’s world of economy, religion and politics. But, I tell you it could be done, forgiveness and being merciful, loving and charitable to our neighbors is possible. David and Abishai did it why not us? Paul did it why not us? Christ did it why not us? Remember Maximilian Kolbe, why not us.  Remember John Paul II (forgiving his would be assassin) why not us?

We pray at this worship that in our various locations in life we may always remember to treat one another with love, kindness, and mercy, even in the face of misery!

Reflection Questions:
·         In what way can we relate to today’s readings?
·         How often do we remember to extend God’s mercy, love and kindness to our neighbors?
·         Any way we can recall few times we have failed to be merciful, kind, loving, and forgiving and why?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Blessed Are those Who Hope In the Lord-Homily Sixth Sunday Ordinary Sunday Year C- Fr. Udoekpo, Michael Ufok · Jer 17:5-8

Homily Sixth Sunday Ordinary Sunday Year C- Fr. Udoekpo, Michael Ufok
·         Jer 17:5-8
·         Ps 1:1-2-4,6
·         1 Cor 15:12,16-20
·         Luke 6:17,20-26

Blessed Are those Who Hope In the Lord

In the light of today’s scriptures, we celebrate the blessings that awaits each of us, the poor, the humble, the remnant, those who endure hardship for the sake of the Gospel, the Church's mission, Christ's values, who places his or her hope in the Lord, especially in moments of challenges and despair which are inevitable in every time, place and culture. We are also reminded to stay away from those unethical behaviors that may attract us curses!

Supposing we begins with ourselves, since “charity begins at home.” What challenges are we facing today in our various nations, cultures, places and works of life? For some it might be poverty, political instability and uncertainties, lack of willingness to engage in a meaningful dialogue with others, inordinate desire for material things, neglect of the poor and the voiceless, violence, and terrorism. For others, it might be lack of faith, rejection of Godly- family values, celebrating our towns’ men and women, who return home with looted public funds and properties, misplacement and misunderstanding of “God’s Blessings,” and total disregard for mother earth. Whatever, our challenges are, the question remains how do we handle them? With hope for a brighter day in the Lord, or with despair?
Today’s readings beginning with Jeremiah’s experiences offers us some spiritual suggestions and exhortation. As a suffering prophets, Jeremiah saw the temple of Jerusalem on fire and his people tortured, killed, oppressed and led to exile. Many were left undecided, to keep the Torah or not, to follow the Lord or human beings and their desires? For Jeremiah, those who follow the Lord, come what may are like those planted beside the waters. They are blessed for they will experience the new exodus!

 Similarly, we hear this messages of hope, curses and blessing and ethics of which way to follow in today’s Psalm 1, “Blessed are those who follow not the counsel of the wicked.”  It is a Psalm of which choice to make and which way to follow- of the wicked or of the righteous?

Saint Paul of Tarsus after his Damascus conversion/call experiences, in Acts 9 (as narrated by his companion Luke), had a choice to make. To return to Jerusalem first or to spread the Good News. He chose the latter, moved from plaza to plaza, town to town, church to church (Corinthian church in today’s reading), starting from the eastern Mediterranean of Arabia to western Rome towards Spain (thought he never got there), preaching hope,  in Christ, and what he had received from the Lord(justice, fairness, unity, hard work, patient endurance, humility, sense of common good, community life, sharing our talents and gifts etc), to those who were divided on such matters of faith and morals, including the subject of resurrection (1 Cor 12, 16-20).

The Good News of hope Paul received from the Lord, and heard from the Prophet like Jeremiah is reiterated elaborately in today’s Gospel of Luke 6:17,20-26 ( the sermon on the level ground cf Sermon on the Mountain in Matt 5-7), whom Paul might have accompanied in evangelization. Still this Good News is that of abundant blessings that certainly awaits those who hope in the Lord. These are the poor, the anawim, the dalim, the humble, the level-headed (not the arrogant, who trust in themselves alone, and in their moneys and material wealth etc) the remnant, those who insistently and patiently trust and place all their hope in the Lord in moments of all kinds of trials, including the ones mentioned earlier, depending on your state of life, cultural and socio-political locations.

Whatever are challenges are today, let us prayerfully hope and believe the Lord, in today’s scriptures that “blessed are those who hope and trust in the Lord.’?

Reflection Questions
1.      In what ways can we relate to today’s Bible Lessons?
2.      What are our challenges and how do we handle them as believers?
3.      In what way have we assisted members of our faith or religious communities to handle their challenges with hope in the Lord?
4.      What is God’s Blessings? What are Curses, biblically? When can we truly say that we have been blessed by God? What is expected of us so as to belong to that group “blessed by the Lord?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Surrendering our Unworthiness to God’s Throne and Grace!;Homily 5th Sunday of Year C- Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily 5th Sunday of Year C- Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·         Isa 6:1-2a, 3-8;
·         Ps 138:1-5, 7-8;
·          1 Cor 15: 1-11
·         Luke 5:1-11
Surrendering our Unworthiness to God’s Throne and Grace!

Today’s readings from the Prophet Isaiah, Saint Paul and Evangelist Luke remind us among many other themes, of our unworthiness, our brokenness, as well the need for us to always rely upon the grace of God in our missions, and in whatever we do.  We are to remember that it is about God who takes initiative in calling us to our various states and offices in life.

Behind the first reading of today there is a story of a marching Assyrian army, marching to engulf Judah. Everybody is panicking looking for what to hold on, including the two successive Kings, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Ahaz wants to put his trust in foreign gods and rely on Assyria for help, rather than the true God of Israel.  When Isaiah was call to take up this difficult mission of convincing and converting Ahaz from idolatry, from Assyria to Trust in God, he thought he was not worthy. He said to himself, “Woe is me, I am doomed!, for I am a man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips.”

What is interesting in Isaiah, just like in the case of Jeremiah and other calls in the Bible, is that he finally disposed himself and surrendered himself, including his mouth, to God’s grace. His wickedness removed, his mouth clean, and Isaiah was able to say, “Here I am Lord, send me.” And I come to do you will. This who we are called to be. To always be able to say, here I am Lord send me!
Isaiah’s call story is not different from that of Paul of Tarsus. Behind Paul’s calling and conversion is God’s grace and initiative (Acts 9). It is only with the special grace God that he was chosen to embark on this special mission of preaching the gospel of Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. By no means should this make him pompous and arrogant, but he considers himself,” the least of the apostles not even fit to be called an apostle.”  Of course, his apostleship came from God not from man, despite Paul’s unworthiness and old life style been a persecutor to Christians. No wonder after his calling/conversion Paul proceeded to Arabia not to Jerusalem to inform the others!

Like the Centurions’ words, which we repeat at every mass, “Lord I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” Paul completely relied on God’s grace and throne of mercy in all his missionary endeavors. He is a challenge to us today. Our trust and reliance must be in the power of God, his Grace, his Love, his Mercy, his Kindness, his Word and Command!
 Of course, this need is confirm in the Gospel narrative as well. Here, Simon Peter and other fisher men had professionally toiled all night without catching any fish. They could not catch anything on their own, except with the grace of God, at the command of Jesus they were able to such a great number of fish that even threaten to tear their nets. This so much touched Peter and his companions that they left everything and followed Jesus, the source of grace and everlasting wisdom.

In our present day life’s circumstances ( raising our kids, working hard to pay our bills, visiting the aged, the sick, keeping our vows, reaching out to the poor, preaching the gospel) we can learn from Moses, we can learn from the prophets, Isaiah. We can learn from Paul. We can learn from Simon Peter, to not only acknowledge our unworthiness, our limitedness, our "unclean lips," our "least apostleship," but our readiness to always rely on God’s grace and divine mercy (Exod 34:6-9).

Even when we are sick, weak and when we must have taken our medication, see all our doctors and nurses, consult all our spiritual directors, done all our home works ,duties, and responsibilities to our very best, we always want to finally rely on God’s grace. Or surrender ourselves upon the Grace of God's throne. And be able to say always, “here I am Lord, I am not worthy, and I have tried my very best, but do with me whatever thou wilt.

Reflection Questions:
1.      How often do we rely on God’s grace, love, mercy, kindness, tenderness, compassion, in our life pursuits and journeys?
2.      How often in the light today’s scripture passages reflect on our unworthiness or uncleanliness?
3.      In what ways can we allow the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah and the gospel’s apostles to inspire us?
4.      How do we often assist members of our faith community to respond faithfully to their callings in the light of Christian faith?

Homily [2]5th Sunday of Ordinary Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
·          Isa 6: 1-2a, 3-8;
·         Ps 138:1-8;
·         1 Cor 15:1-11
·         Luke 5:1-11
The Need for God’s Grace on Our Missions!

There are many times we work hard, and toil in life –but all seems to be in vain, not appreciated - except for the grace of God that boost our trust in him. This message foregrounds today’s Bible lessons. The grace of God legitimizes our missions!

The Disciples of Christ were toiling and fishing all night in vain, in today’s Gospel reading. With frustration they were washing their net ready to return home. But at the word of Jesus “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch,” they disciples were overwhelmed with success. At the command of Jesus “they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.  The weight of the fish also threatened to sink the boat. Responding, the “sinful Peter” was on his knees.  So also the rest of the disciples. They were amazed at the Power of Christ. Following this, they were called to abandon, their fish, net and even their families to follow Jesus, to be messengers of God, fishers of men and women– which they did! This means, with God everything is possible. With his grace we can let go certain things in our lives to follow him, to trust more deeply, the Lord, as the Prophet Isaiah did in the first reading.

In that first reading, the call story of Isaiah is dramatically presented to us. It is like the appearance of God to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exod 19:16-19). In that first reading, Isaiah sees the "otherness" of God, the Holiness of God in his visions. Remember holiness in Hebrew is not a personal quality of piety, but to be separate from others. To be set apart. The God of Israel is Holy, Holy, Holy! He is the holiest- the sovereign of all creations; the ruler of every nation. We learn this reading that often we are like Isaiah man of unclean lips, living among unclean people. Like Isaiah we or encouraged to believe in the Holy God, who cleanses our lips and commissions us his messengers and servants in different capacities that we have been placed. The authority and the grace of God foregrounds all our life’s endeavors!

Paul found himself in similar situation while preaching to the Corinthian community. In his journeys he met trials and challenges. He knew prior to his experience on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), he was once a sinner. But soon became an apostle least expected by human beings, since he was known as a persecutor of the faith- enemy of the Church of God.  God acts in a mysterious way. The reason that Paul attributes all his successful missions to the grace and power of God: Paul says, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. I have toiled harder than all of them, not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

 We are call to allow Saint Paul to inspire us. He challenges us to trust God more and more and acknowledge the fact that with God everything is possible. Isaiah and Paul challenge us in our various vocations and positions in life to always rely on God’s grace, his holiness, no matter our personal weaknesses, uncleanness and talents. This is applicable even to civil workers, factory personnel, priests, religious and ministers of the Gospel.  It is not always about you, our egos. But it is about God! It’s only the divine authority that legitimizes and foregrounds our missions!  He is the one that initiates our callings!

As we celebrates today’s liturgy let us reflect on those moments we have refused or resisted God’s in our lives? May today’s scriptures assist us acknowledge our unworthiness and our need and dependence on God the source of all Good things!

Reflection Questions:
1.      How often do we rely on God’s grace, love, mercy, kindness, tenderness and compassion in our life pursuits and journeys?
2.      How often in the light today’s scripture passages reflect on our unworthiness or uncleanliness?
3.      In what ways can we allow the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah and the gospel’s apostles to inspire us?
4.      How do we often assist members of our faith community to respond faithfully to their callings in the light of Christian faith?