Homily for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Who is this Almighty, Awesome, and Wise Lord To Me?
Readings: 1st: Ish 22, 19-23; Ps 137, 1-3.6. 8; 2nd: Rom 11, 33-36; Gos: Mtt 16, 13-20

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…To him be all the glory. Amen!” It is on the note of this amazing and beautiful outburst of joy from our second reading today that we begin our reflection on this 21st Sunday of ordinary time. In a special way the church enjoins us to recognize, reverence with “sacred awe”, praise, and glorify the Sovereign, the All Powerful and Wise Lord. It is only when we know him (as much as he chooses to reveal himself to us though), that we can respect his ordinances, appreciate his greatness, burst out in amazement and declare to others who he really is as Paul and Peter did today.
A young girl was asked: “Who is your father, and how would you describe him?” She was quiet for a couple of seconds as if he was lost in wondering contemplation. Eventually, she mustered enough courage and responded thus: “My Father?” She retorted. “He is that man who leaves home before I wake up in the morning; that man who comes back home when I am already asleep, at times with some bars of chocolate, ice cream, cake, peanuts, and fried potato chips; that man who punches mummy in the face whenever he returns home drunk and, he is that man who never cares or gives me a hug.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she concludes: “That is my father, but how I wish I never knew him” Finally, she burst out crying. Is this little girl wrong or to blame? Not at all! This is the picture of her dad she has, and in her innocence, she has painted it and thus, expressed her emotions. Like this little girl (who was right in her case), some of us have a very pejorative view of God, some wrong notion of what he stands for and can do, yet others are indifferent in their opinion about who Jesus is to them. Who is Jesus to you?
In the first reading of today, God exhibits his power over all sovereignty, throne and kingdom. In his wise judgment, he reduces the proud and wicked hearted while exalting the lowly and faithful. While Shebna was dethroned because of his pride, wickedness and lack of obedience to the ordinances of the Almighty God, the humble Eliakim was elevated to the throne. In this, Eliakim becomes a prophecy of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of Himself: “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” (Rev 3:7). Jesus is the one with the keys of Hades and of Death (Rev1:8), and he is the one who has all authority both in heaven and on earth. Jesus delegates this authority to anyone that pleases him, and as it pleases Him, just as he did to Peter today in our gospel reading (Matt 16:19).
In the second reading, we see Paul this Sunday bursting out in jubilant excitement and exaltation over the wisdom of God. Like a mountaineer who has reached the apex of Kilimanjaro, the apostle turns and contemplates. Depths are at his feet, but waves of light illumine them, and there spreads all around him an immense horizon which his eye commands. The plan of God in the government of mankind spreads out before Paul, and he expresses the feelings of admiration and gratitude with which the prospect fills his heart. Today therefore, Paul not only presents to us the greatness of the wisdom of God, but also His sovereignty over all creation. The Lord’s plans are as marvelous as his wisdom, acts and justice; his designs are as profound as his doings are vast. Creation is immeasurable, and the wisdom displayed in it unsearchable. God alone possesses wisdom in the absolute sense: “…For with Him are wisdom and might. To Him belong counsel and understanding.” (Job 12:13). Paul presents to us the Creator not created by any one, the Counselor not counseled by any one, and the one whose ways, methods and designs are obviously different from ours. Of course, when we realize this we cannot but like Paul burst out in jubilant praise: “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…” and “How great is your name O, Lord our God, through all the earth…” (Ps 8, 1). How do I see God, and how great is my God, is a pertinent question we must ask ourselves today! For us to realize how great he is, we must seek him sincerely. As humans, we cannot fathom his greatness, but he reveals himself to those who seek him in truth and honesty. He has done this in, and through Jesus Christ, but only those who humbly allow the eyes of their mind to be illumined by the Holy Spirit will see and know him.
For lack of space and time, it suffices only, to take note of the importance of today’s gospel to the Apostolic Succession and the Papacy of the Holy, One and Catholic Church. So, we leave it for the solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul or the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. In this gospel, Jesus fully aware of the on-going debate about him and the ignorance of the people about his personality, decided to also know the mind of those close to him – His disciples: “Who do people say I am…and…You, who do you say I am?” We must not distance ourselves from this question today. Rather, we must ask ourselves: “Who is Jesus to me? This is because, it is possible that we have been baptized, received Holy Communion, got married in the church, ordained as a pastor or minister, served, and in fact still serving in the church in different capacities and yet do not know who Jesus is. I am not kidding you brethren! A very sincere and humble priest once confessed that he never had an encounter with Jesus Christ until after seven years of his ordination. Many of us have a distorted view of God, views of God that are distorted because of our background, experiences or perhaps just simply because of our ignorance. So, we do not realize that we are actually worshiping the greatest Deity. Much of our lives and much of our time is spent worshiping a figment of our own imaginations and so, what we fail to realize is that God exists independently of our views of him. God exists as he is regardless of our woeful and inadequate views of him. Our goal as Christians should be to bring our understanding of God in line with the truth of who He really is.
My dear, you cannot answer this question of your own accord. Therefore, like Peter and Paul, we must seek the counsel of the wise God. We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us and, we must ask God himself to reveal his son to us as he did to Peter today, else we will continue to have very wrong and distorted opinions about Jesus Christ as the Jews had: “…Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah…” Who do I say Jesus is? May be, he is the “universal” or “cosmic policeman” standing around every corner just waiting for us to break the law so that he can punish or trash us; the “indulgent old man” who is a little senile but very friendly; the “shrewd” or “frantic manager” sweating profusely because the world is such a mess and he is trying to hold it all together, or the “workaholic father” trying to meet the needs of his family, the miracle worker, the healer, the problem solver, the defender, the rock of ages etcetera. Indeed, he all of these and even more than these, but only God in his great wisdom can make him fully known to us if we humble ourselves. Peter got the answer not just by his own power, but by the grace of God. It was a gift offered to him by God in order to prepare him for more blessings and the exalted position from the Son himself. He is blessed and happy today because he knew who Jesus is. In order to be blessed and be exalted like Peter, we must first of all declare: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!” And, “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…To him be all the glory. Amen!”
Peace be with you all!!

Homily for 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

God’s Invitation And Mercy, Without Boarders!
Readings: 1st: Ish 53, 1. 6-7; Ps 66, 2-3. 5-6; 2nd: Rom 11, 13-15. 29-32; Gos: Mtt 15, 21-28

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Today the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church draws our attention to God’s invitation and mercy to entire humanity, which is definitely without borders. It suffices to note beforehand that this does not mean “Universal Salvation”, least one slips fast into the heresy of “Universalism.” “Invitation and mercy without boarders” simply means that each and every one of us (without exception) has equal opportunity of the mercy of God if we respond accordingly to His invitation. Therefore, the church through all the readings of this Sunday presents to us a God whose invitation and mercy is not the sole or exclusive right of any individual or group; a God whose invitation to mercy reads: “It is for all” – Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Atheists, Blacks, Whites etcetera; and a God whose mercy like water does not discriminate or have enemies.
While reflecting on today’s readings, I recalled an old TV commercial. In it, people were walking along a busy and broad street with different sizes and shapes of umbrella in anticipation of imminent rain. Eventually, there came a powerful wind and down pour, too powerful for small and weak umbrellas. But only one man had a very big umbrella, the size of a room. With a wave of hand he invited all others whose umbrellas had succumbed to the power of the wind and down pour. In a fraction of minute, many threw away their umbrellas and took shelter in the man’s. Also, another ad from a particular political party reads: “Our Umbrella is big enough to contain all of us, there is room for you in here, come in right away!” Indeed, the invitation and mercy of God is large and strong enough to restore all of us, but it is for only those who are ready to throw away their, small and weak umbrellas (that is their pride, shame, and disobedience), in order to come to Him. Are you ready?
In the first reading, Isaiah makes the mind of God known. In addition to the “faithful Israelites”, “foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name…these will I bring to my holy mountain.” I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.” In this, God is fostering the “ecumenical spirit” which has to begin with praying together. Imagine a prayer house made up of Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Traditional religionist, Pagans, Israel and Hamas, America and Al Qaeda, Churchill and Hitler, Nigeria and Boko Haram, Iraq and ISIS, and lots more praying together to God. For us it seems difficult, but with God, it is not because, he designs and controls all of history. So, when we put this reading into both historical and political perspective, we simply encounter the truth that God designs and controls all history in order to display the glory of his mercy to all of us. However, the only condition he requires is that we must attach ourselves to Him, serve him and love him.
In the second reading, Paul also strikes on the same note as did Isaiah. In this reading it suffices to note that when Paul says: “Mercy to all”, he is not saying that God will save everyone, rather, that His mercy is available to all those who will respond accordingly to his invitation. This is the reason he tells us: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling!” (Phil 2, 12). God has played his part by extending his invitation to all and making His mercy available in abundance. We must play our own part by responding accordingly to his invitations. If we do we “pluck” his mercy. We must not forget the truth that the “Jews” are the beloved of God. He is sovereign in their salvation and it is not because of any merit passed on from the patriarchs, but because God chose Israel and that choice was, and forever will be irrevocable. The gentiles are also favored and considered worthy of the good news. When Paul says: “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, he means that because God hardened the Jews, the gospel has now gone out to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11-12, 15. 28). Irrespective of the reason, the fact is that God has made them a promise also. He has counted us among those worthy to take refuge under his umbrella, and as potential candidates for salvation. And this promise stands because: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it…?” (Nub 23:19; Mal 3:6). The lesson from this is that when one person or a people become disobedient and rejects God, it becomes an advantage to others. In spite of Israel’s rejection of God, it has not made God change his mind towards loving them. Right now the good news is that the same mercy flows for all of us, and we are all potential recipients of God’s mercy in this period as the gospel go out to the nations.
Today, Jesus’ journey to the territory of Tyre and Sidon is amazing and fascinating, but it leaves much to be desired in the light of His former instructions to His disciples: “Do not go to Gentile regions…Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-8). So, what did he go there to do himself? One could possibly say there was a paradigm shift in Jesus’ view of the gentiles. Today’s gospel goes further to illustrate the universality of God’s mercy. However, that Jesus was initially hesitant to listen to the woman perhaps must have been a tactical way of testing her faith. In order words, in spite of the fact that God is ready to show us mercy unequivocally, he requires something from us. Something Jesus himself described as: “a faith as small as the mustard seed” (Mtt 17, 20). I am sure the faith demonstrated by this woman surpassed the expectation of Jesus. Let us tell ourselves the truth here. Who among us would be called a: “Nigger”, “White Monkey”, “Black Monkey”, “Gringo”, “Bushman”, “Americow”, “Sand Monkey”, “Abo” or “Brit” that will not angrily and quickly leave the scene. But this woman endured this derogatory calling of name and persisted in her plea to Jesus for mercy. Far from being offended by Jesus, instead, she was inspired by Him to ask for what she desired. For this, Jesus commended her faith in a way that no Jew was ever commended. The lesson this woman teaches us is simple! Though God may test us in seemingly strange and unpredictable ways, he will not turn away from his promises to help those who call on him in their time of need. And he will never turn his back on true faith. This is the type of faith that our first reading refers to when it says: “Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to love and serve him.” Jesus found that faith in this woman after making her pass through the “acid test”. Like this woman, each and every one of us in a certain way is in need of God’s mercy. Somehow we have been disobedient and so, as Paul recounts in our second reading: “God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.”
My dear friends, one of the greatest requirements in order to respond accordingly to the universal invitation of God and to share in his mercy is faith in his son Jesus Christ. Today, Jesus is close to us. Are we going to let him pass us by without insisting on having his mercy? We must take our opportunity, grab his clock right now, kneel down, cry if you will, shout until he hears you, and shut your ears to all the insults, discard your small and weak umbrella, and insist on entering into Jesus’ large umbrella of mercy. Does our Lord give you humiliations to bear? Perhaps it seems that he rejects your prayers! When he humiliates you, remember and imitate the example of this “Canaanite dog”. Say to him now: “Lord Jesus, I will never let you go unless you bless and show me your mercy” (Gen 32, 22). When you feel the burden lifted off your shoulders then join the Psalmist in saying: “Let all the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you…because your faithfulness, love, and mercy endures forever!” (Ps 66, 4; 100, 5).
Peace be with you all!!

Homily for 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus Our Lord And Saviour Is Our Peace!
Readings: 1st: I Kg 19, 9. 11-13; Ps 84, 9-14; 2nd: Rom 9, 1-5; Gos: Mtt 14, 22-33

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of the Republica Dominicana-Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“Storms” are part and parcel of our human existence. They are inevitable in this world, just as the waves are inevitable in the oceans and death is inevitable to humankind. Sometimes, they hit us so hard that we are crushed, devastated, and almost annihilated. Yet, in spite of this, we still see ourselves going on. Who is responsible for this “going on”? The Church on this 18th Sunday of ordinary time joyfully reminds us that even though storms are inevitable and bring us anguish, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is always close to us calming the storms of our life and restoring our peace.
The Readings of this Sunday have a lot to teach us and they offer me personally a golden opportunity to share this great testimony with you. Just a couple of days after my arrival in the “Isla del enchante” (Island of enchantment) – Puerto Rico (The Rich Port), the news and warning was all over the air that the storm was imminent. This news so terrified people that a day before the storm was to hit the island, many families went shopping. On the D-day almost all the streets were deserted for fear of being hit by the storm. Every one took precaution because, “to-before-warned is to- before-armed.” However, the good news is, thank God, the storm never came in spite of the fears and worries that enshroud the island. Jesus heard our prayers and took the storm away without us knowing it. He proved to be stronger than the storm that terrified us, Alleluia! The imminence, sight, and presence of the storm and all that it represents definitely bring us confusion and deprive us of peace. It leaves us confused in life. Often times it’s so devastating that one may not be able to sail through it except by the grace of God.
In the first reading, the scared and embattled prophet Elijah found God, who quelled the storm of his life and restored his peace. Elijah taught he was all alone in his storm of life, but God said to him: “My dear you are not and will never walk alone because I am here to restore your peace!” When we are calm internally, and when we move our hearts away from the internal storms and noise, especially the “noise of biology and chemistry,” that rage within us then, we will hear God speak to us about things we know nothing about, things that will restore our peace and tranquility of mind. In saying that God eventually spoke to Elijah after the gentle breeze is simply to say that, it was at the point in time when Elijah had fully recollected himself, calmed down, and retracted from the internal fear and storm that enveloped him. Often times, we seek God with a chaotic mind, and in an environment so full of distraction. In these, we definitely cannot hear the voice of God. But, when we are fully recollected, we hear him speak to us.
In the second reading, Paul expresses the grief or storm that he bears in his heart for his people. He had his people so much on his mind because they have rejected the very Christ who offered them the salvation and peace that is so wonderful. Through this reading, Paul reveals to us one of the greatest secret through which we can attain inner peace. What is it? It is our readiness and the altruistic way of life which enables one to empty oneself wholly for others. This fills one with peace! Paul says of himself today: “I will willingly be condemned if it could help my brothers.” In order words, he feels greatly the need for his brethren to be saved just as he himself has been saved. His peace is therefore not complete safe he has helped in achieving that of his brethren. Paul teaches us therefore, that we must not only think about ourselves, but also, about the good and well being of others. It is through it that we derive our own inner peace and experience the complete divine presence and dialogue with God. When others are not safe, and saved there is chaos around us, and we are not safe too because our peace is disturbed. Therefore, just as persecution helped Elijah find the God of peace, we must help our brethrens find lasting peace in Jesus Christ the prince of peace.
In today’s gospel the earlier disciples of Jesus experienced the storm of their life and Jesus was readily at hand to calm their storm. Like these earlier disciples of Jesus, each one of us has experienced the storm in diverse ways in our life. Some are facing it right now even as I am penning down this homily. The storm represents our sicknesses, family problems, shaky marriages, stubborn children, many struggle of life, lack of inner peace, barrenness of all sorts, joblessness, dwindling finance, poverty, dejection, lack of love, castigations, abuse, discriminations against us, bad habits, struggle with sin, lack of moral, spiritual and psychological courage, and on and on the list continues unending. The sea is our world. Whenever these and lots more are in, or surround us, the boats of our lives begin to experience turbulence, and consequently stagger. If we do not have any one or better still, if we are “ignorant like Elijah”, that there is a friend like Jesus who can help us out, we might crash out. God forbid, because Jesus our peace is always there for us! What storm are you contending with? Has it taken your peace away, and left you desolate? My dear, there is hope because Jesus our peace is very close to you right now calming that storm! Today, these burdens will encounter Christ because he has stepped into the sea and situation of your life in order to restore your shattered peace. As to his earlier disciples, he says to us today: “Courage! Do not be afraid, it is I”, the Lord, and the Prince of Peace who is stepping into the sea of your life! Once again as ever before, he says: “Caste all your burden on me because I care…” (1 Pt 5, 7)! What else do we need brethren?
In conclusion, like Elijah we must make ourselves available, be where God wants us to be for the divine dialogue, encounter and manifestation of his power and peace. Again, it is necessary that we must always have a meeting point with God, and also know what moments and place he waits for us. Because he never comes late or misses appointments, he will always wait for us there. Do you have a meeting place with God and Jesus? Where is it? That place should be your heart and your conscience – your innermost sanctuary, where God is supposed to dwell. It has to be prepared and kept ready at all times for the divine presence. We must rid this divine meeting place of noise, worries, anger, revenge, lies, cheating, backbiting, greed, chaos, fear, and in fact all that Jesus tells us defile a man (Mk 7, 15-16). Also, we must be patient by not looking for, or expecting to find God (in the mighty winds, earthquakes, or fire) where he is not to be found, but in the solitude of our heart and quiet time of our life. Second, like the disciples, we must learn to trust Jesus when he says to us: “COURAGE, DO NOT BE AFRAID, IT IS I”, because, he is willing and able to sustain us and quieten the storm of our life. We must like Peter, who walked on the sea with Christ step out with boldness against the storms of our life. But unlike “the sinking Peter”, we must not allow our faith in Jesus Christ to drop even by an inch. Instead, we must hold on firmly to Jesus who is ready to lead us kindly and gently amidst the raging storm of our life. Jesus is our peace. In him we must live, move and have our being (Acts 17, 28). He is the voice that speaks for and of peace. Let us humbly say with the Psalmist today: “O Lord, let us see your mercy and give us your saving help!”
Peace be with you all!!

Homily for 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A God’s Unconditional Love: Heals, Frees, And Feeds Us!

God’s Unconditional Love: Heals, Frees, And Feeds Us!
Readings: 1st: Ish 55: 1-3; Ps 55: 1-3; 2nd: Rom 8: 35. 37-39; Gos Mtt 14: 13-21

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of the Republica Dominicana-Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

On this 18th Sunday of Ordinary time our attention is drawn once again to the unconditional love of God fully manifested in his Son Jesus Christ. This great Love which we celebrate today, as well as being the source of our entire life, equally sustains our life with the food of the Eucharist, made visible in Jesus Christ. God’s divine love for us is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility (Mk 10:45), the highest kind of love (John 3:16), the noblest kind of devotion, the love not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. The measure of love, human and divine, is how much it gives. By this standard the love of God is immeasurable, because both the greatness of the gift and the cost of giving it are beyond our power to grasp. All human parallels fall short, while all comparisons are inadequate.
In our first reading today, God extends a special and universal invitation to all of us and offers us everything FREE OF CHARGE! His gifts, his love, and care are as free and as limitless as the air we breathe, and most importantly, he knows the basics of our needs. The things we need most in life as today’s psalm says: “You open wide your arms, O Lord, you grant our desires” (Ps. 144: 16). One problem we have however is that most times, because of the worries, difficulties and even, our own pride and ego, we do not get the benefits and dividends of God’s love which are ever over flowing. The only thing God wants from us as he invites us today is: “Oh come…listen, listen to me…Pay attention, come to me, listen and your soul will live…” What a simple condition this is? No money to be paid, no labour, and no energy to be expanded. All He wants is “Come”, Listen”, and “Pay attention!” This is a universal invitation. No one is exempt; it applies to all. It is available to all and all need it. Whosoever wills may come! The prophet used this word “come” three good times to highlight God’s offer of salvation and of a life that is truly satisfying and meaningful. When God says “come,” he means every bit of it. He says, “I have what you need and I want you to have it.” This type of invitation points first of all to the fact that we are not at the place of blessing or relief, and so we must make a decision now! Also, this invitation expresses the urgency of the matter. It is urgent because the longer we delay, the harder it is for us to come, and the less opportunity there is for us to come. Finally, through this invitation Isaiah expresses the loving heart of God who wants us to experience His love, comfort, and provision (Ish 40, 1).
In the second reading, Paul speaks with great confidence and surety about the love of God for us. He of course, speaks as one who has experienced this love. He assures us that nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, “not troubles, persecutions, lacks…for I am certain of this, neither death nor life, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God…” Paul stresses the inability of all these things to separate us from the love of Christ. Shall they, can they, do it? No, by no means! All this will not cut the bond of love and friendship that is between Christ and true believers. Christ did not and will not love us the less for all this. All our troubles are very consistent with the strong and constant love of the Lord Jesus. They are neither a cause nor an evidence of the abatement of his love. A true Christian loves Christ never the less, though, he suffers for Him. It is pertinent to note that this love of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Yet, we cannot tell why God sets his love upon us. Why He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, connecting our destiny eternally with Christ His beloved Son, we cannot tell. We must therefore bear this fact in mind, simply, that God has loved us even as He loved Christ (Jh 17:26). Even when we fail utterly, and are overwhelmed, that is the time to say: “We have been accepted in Christ-only in Christ, and wholly in Christ.” Our place is unchanged by our failure. We are ashamed before God, but not confounded. Just now His eyes are on us in Christ, as they ever have been. Christ having died for us never gets tired of loving us. He is a faithful groom and means every bit of his word when he says to us his bride: “I will love and cherish you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times and indeed in all circumstances of your life.” The difference between our human marital vows and that of Christ, is what Paul stresses today – “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” So, instead of “until death do us part”, Jesus says to us: “Not even death can do you part from me, because, whether you die or live you belong to me!”(Rom 14: 8).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus practically demonstrated and manifested his love for us, his people. He proved his love by not only taking care of our spiritual needs, but also our mundane needs. His love caters for our body and soul. The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness and love towards us. Twelve baskets full of fish and loaves that were leftover show the overflowing generosity of God’s gifts to us – gifts that bring blessing, healing, strength, and refreshment. God never rests in caring for our needs. Jesus never disappoints those who earnestly seek him out. His compassion showed the depths of God’s love and care for his people. Jesus speaks the word of God to strengthen us in faith and heals our sicknesses. What do we learn from today’s gospel? Quiet a lot! First Jesus both sympathizes and empathizes with us in our distress – he feels what we feel and comes to our aid. Second, whenever we come to him, he never casts us away or feels inconvenienced by our presence, instead, he reads and interprets our weaknesses and needs, and compassionately attends to them. Third, he defiles all odds in order to make us comfortable. He makes the impossible happen just for our sake and good. Fourth, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, when Jesus said the blessing, broke and distributed the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, is a sign that prefigures the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist and Love of God which sustains us on our journey to the kingdom of heaven.
The love of God keeps healing us every day of our life, it keeps multiplying our loaves, and it keeps comforting, and satisfying us. This same love is banner over us (Song 2: 4)! God multiplies the little we have so we can bring his blessings to others. As Christ loves us, in like manner, we too must extend this love to others. This is the only way we can show that we are God’s children, replicas, as well as instruments of love in his hands. When God gives, he gives abundantly. He gives more than we need for ourselves that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need. Also, God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others. Do you trust in God’s provision for you, and do you share freely with others, especially those who lack? The ones who presented their loaves and fish were instruments of love in Christ’s hands and so, participated in the miracle. Jesus needed those items to perform his miracle of love. He counts on us to provide them!
Peace be with you all!!

Homily for 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Seeking Understanding for the Mysteries of the Kingdom
Readings: 1st: I Kg 3: 5. 7-12; Ps 118; 57.72-77.127; 2nd: Rom 8, 28-30; Gos Mtt 13, 44-52

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Today is the 17th Sunday of Ordinary time and in it, the Church encourages us to pray for understanding and wisdom in order to enable us discern the true value of things especially the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, she reminds us that the greatest of all treasures is the Kingdom of God. If we gain it, we gain all, whereas, if we lose it we lose all. In light of this, we must pull together all the energies in us in order to ensure that we get it. This is especially given the fact that God himself has chosen us and prepared it for us before time. However, we must avail ourselves of the opportunity presented to us by God through asking as Solomon did as well as by working and walking our way into the Kingdom.
Today’s first reading began in a very interesting way. Interesting in the sense that it resembles a situation where a very poor man is suddenly given an open check and asked to fill in any amount he feels like having, and it will be all his. If you my brethren were Solomon what would you ask for? Best cars, houses, shoes, foods, more money in your account, to be made the world’s president, power, children and the likes of these I suppose! Today however, Solomon rather than ask for material wealth asked for wisdom and understanding, something that would benefit his earthly kingdom and of course the kingdom of God in his people’s heart. He begged God to give him understanding: “Give therefore your servant understanding…” By this, he simple means: “give me that which is necessary for the services in which I am employed by you.” An understanding heart is God’s gift (Proverbs 2:6). So we must ask and pray for it (James 1:5)! We must like Solomon say to God: “Give me an understanding”, not to please my own curiosity with, or puzzle my neighbours, but to know the right thing and do it, an excellent sense of judgment. That is, the best knowledge that will be serviceable to us in doing our duty. It enables us to discern between good and bad, right and wrong, sin and duty, truth and falsehood, so as not to be imposed upon by false colors in judging either of others’ actions or of our own. It will also keep us attuned to the things of the Kingdom. If like Solomon we make a pleasing request to God, definitely he will bless us. Therefore, we are to learn the following from Solomon: that the way to obtain spiritual blessings is to be unrelenting in our request for them, to wrestle with God in prayer for them, as Solomon did for wisdom only because it is important for his service and ministry. Solomon was given wisdom because he did ask for it and, wealth because he did not ask for it. The more we abound in God’s work the more comfort we may expect in him, the more his glory will shine on us, and we will hear a voice saying to us, Ask for what you need, I shall give it to you. Solomon did not neglect God’s offer. Instead he made a pious request to God. He readily laid hold of this offer. So we too must not neglect it in our lives, like Ahaz, who said, I will not ask? (Isaiah 7:12).When God says ask it shall be given to you… (Matt 7: 7), he means every bit of it. However, he expects us to ask reasonably, according to his mind and not selfishly. Also, our request must benefit us and others for the Kingdom of God.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us that: “By turning everything to their good God cooperates with all those who love him…” Commenting on Rom 8, 28 Raymond Ortlund writes that: “The hand of God is at the helm. He’s steering us through the storms of life toward home, toward a safe haven (in his kingdom). And He takes care to order all the events of our lives right now to speed us on our way there. This is what we call Providence, God’s overruling hand at work everywhere in a fallen world. The Providence of God is clearly taught from one end of the Bible to the other. And our confidence in the Providence of God is a faith so bold, so demanding, so unapologetic, that we cannot believe it without being transformed. Either all things work together for our good, or nothing makes sense. So let’s be bold about it. “All things” is utterly comprehensive, having no qualifications or limits. Neither this verse nor its context allows for restrictions or conditions. “All things” is inclusive in the fullest possible sense. It includes your present trouble, your aching head, your heavy heart, your joblessness, bareness, poverty, sickness, etcetera – “All things, “everything” and nothing left out! Nothing existing or occurring in heaven or on earth “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (8:39). There is nothing idle in God’s domain. “All things work together.” There is no discord in the providence of God. The strangest ingredients go to make up the one matchless medicine for all our maladies. “It suffices to note that Paul is not saying that God prevents His children from experiencing things that can harm them as most prosperity preachers would interpret this passage today. He is rather attesting that the Lord takes all that He allows to happen to His beloved children, even the worst things, and turns those things ultimately into blessings. No matter what our situation, our suffering, our persecution, our sinful failure, our pain, our lack of faith-in those things, as well as in all other things, our heavenly Father will work to produce our ultimate victory and blessing. The corollary of that truth is that nothing can ultimately work against us.” (MacArthur, J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press). Indeed we must be mindful of what Paul means here. He equally indicates that: “They are the ones he chose especially long ago…” Yes all things will work well for us, the chosen. However, what guarantees this promise is that we must continue to pay allegiance of love to God over and above all things, because it is for: “All those who love him.” Therefore, we must constantly polish our love for God and for things of the kingdom. Indeed, God has already earmarked us for heaven, but it does not preclude the fact that we must ask for it, seek, and find it. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2, 12).
In the gospel of this Sunday and for the third consecutive week Jesus uses parables to speak to us. This he does because he knows that as candidates of the kingdom, we are endowed with the understanding and wisdom required for unraveling the mysteries behind them, appreciate them and consequently find the kingdom. Hence, we must put in every of our time, talent and treasure in order to attain it. The first two parables of this Sunday’s reading are intended to instruct believers to prefer the Kingdom of heaven to the whole world, and therefore to deny themselves all the desires of the flesh, that nothing may prevent them from obtaining so valuable a possession. We are greatly in need of such a warning; for we are so captivated by the allurements of the world that eternal life fades from our view; and in consequence of our carnality, the spiritual graces of God are far from being held by us in the estimation which they deserve. Justly, therefore, does Christ speak in such lofty terms of the excellence of eternal life that we ought not to feel uneasiness at relinquishing, on account of it, whatever we reckon in other respects to be valuable. The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid from the world, and from the most wise and prudent in it. He that finds this treasure, (perhaps when he thought it far from him) hides it deep in his heart, and gives up all other happiness for it.” If we lack wisdom and understanding we cannot understand the parables of this Sunday which focuses on the need for us to seek the kingdom of God as the most valuable of all treasures. Jesus knew this very well and so asks his disciples: “Have you understood all this?” He asked this question because he was fully away that only those with the understanding that come from God can grasp the meaning of the parables of the kingdom. Let us therefore this Sunday ask for this understanding as Solomon asked, so that the kingdom might not elude us owing to sheer ignorance.
Peace be with you all!

Homily for 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

The Lord Our God: The Just and Merciful Judge Is kind To Us!
Readings: 1st: 12, 13. 16-19; Ps 85, 5-6. 9-10.15-16; 2nd: Rom 8, 26-27; Gos Mtt 13, 24-43

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Given our constant request, and need for mercy and forgiveness due to our weakness, the Holy Mother Church on this 16th Sunday of ordinary time turns our attention to the Lord the Merciful and Just Judge who assures us of forgiveness when we repent and remain faithful amidst all oppositions the world posses to us. She also, in a special way calls us to get glued to the Holy Spirit who is ever ready to help us, by pleading our case in our weakness.
A priest once put up the following questions to his congregation: “In whose hands are the souls of the righteous? They happily responded: “In the hands of God!” Again, he asked them: “In whose hands are the souls of the wicked?” Joyfully again they responded with a deafening shout: “In the devil’s hands!” Finally, he asked them: “In whose hands is the soul of the devil?” At this juncture, there was a grave silence. However, after some fractions of minute, and as if they have woken up from David Hume’s dogmatic slumber, they reluctantly responded: “In God’s hands!” Indeed, we all belong to God. I am sure someone there is already asking me: “You mean, including that wicked fellow and devil incarnate that has been a thorn in my flesh and made my life miserable? Yes my dear, even he/she! However, God being the just judge knows what to do with each one of us on his great harvest day. It is not within our jurisdiction to decide because we ourselves are weak and in dire need of help.
In the first reading of today, Wisdom extolled God for being a just judge, and a caring Father: “You never judge unjustly. Your justice has its source in strength.” This is the nature of our God, the just judge who over looks our sins in fulfillment of what the Psalmist says: “If you mark our iniquity, Oh Lord, who will survive?” (Ps 130, 3). Therefore, God as a merciful father is never too hard on us. He gives us the due attention necessary for our wellbeing. At times though, it could involve chastisement. Yet, it is just and for our good. He gives us ample room to retrace our steps and make amends. Hence, Wisdom says of Him: “…and you have given your sons the just hope that after sin you grant repentance.” What must we make of, and learn in from this? Quite simple! Since God is just and ready to acquit us by granting us repentance which sincerely speaking is grace, we too must do same to others. Just as the Lord is kind in judgment to us, we too must do same to our brethrens: “…By acting thus, you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men!” In order words, we must learn from God as our father not to be too hard in judging our fellow men and women. This calls for emulating God’s very high sense of judgment.
In the second reading of today, Paul highlights one very important ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is given the fact that as mortals and frail beings, there are definitely times in life when we cannot help ourselves. Swiss scholar Frederick Godet called Paul’s Epistle to the Romans “the cathedral of the Christian faith,” in the nineteenth century, and so, compared it to the great masterpieces of medieval architecture: “We do not know which to admire the most, the majesty of the whole or the finish of the details” (The Epistle to the Romans, 1879). When a Christian comes to Romans 8 he cannot but enter the beautiful inner sanctuary of this impressive cathedral. Surrounding the pilgrim are stunning sculptures and frescoes that teach what it means to walk in the assurance of what Christ has done for us. Prominent in the display is God the Holy Spirit. The Greek word πνεῦμα (Spirit) occurs 21 times in Romans 8. It would appear that only two of these occurrences (v 15a, 16b) do not refer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s ministry within Christianity and for Christians takes center stage in this most comforting chapter. The Holy Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. This weakness of ours is expressed in many ways, but mostly, in and during the course prayer. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in to help us in addition to bearing witness that we are God’s children (Rom 8, 14-15). In order words, it is the Spirit of God that strengthens, energizes, and in fact, advocates for us before God. The reasons are quite simple and obvious: we are weak and “do not know how to pray”, he alone can succeed wherever we fail because, He alone speaks the language that God understands: “…The Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put in words…God knows perfectly well what He means.” As a mother understands the meaning of the cry of her weak and helpless baby and tends to it, so does God understand the words of the Holy Spirit spoken on our behalf. He it is, who also stands before God’s council and his judgment throne in heaven to plead our case, course, and innocence. Though sin makes us helpless and weak before God, the Holy Spirit pleads for us and makes us acceptable to God because he communicates and reminds God of our weakness as the Psalmist humbly proclaims: “In weakness /sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51, 5)! Therefore, as the Spirit comes to aid us in our weakness, we too though weak, (and yet “stronger or better” than someone else), must help and intercede for those around us in their own weakness. This is what Wisdom means when He says that: “The virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow man!”
In the gospel Jesus used three parables to illustrate not only what “the kingdom of God is like”, but also how open minded and just the judgment of God is, and promises to be. These three parables illustrate how welcoming and accommodating God’s kingdom is. The parable of the weed and darnel however, of all these three parables, in one piece tells the whole story about the nature of God, His Kingdom and of course, His just judgment. God, “the owner” of the field, the darnel, and (of course by owning the land), the weed as well, did not succumb to the idea of pulling out the weed prematurely. The weed was given time to flourish alongside the darnel. We live in a world that comprises saints as well as sinners as St. Augustine of Hippo wrote in his book Civitate Dei, and both cohabit. It is the strength of our character and the combined help of the Holy Spirit that sustains, and will distinguish saints from sinners. God knew this before time began yet he did not create two separate worlds apart from each other for them. Rather, he allows all of us to cohabit. Each playing his/her own part towards the other. The saints, seeing the misery of sinners, learn their lessons and continue to struggle in order to remain virtuous. Sinners seeing the triumph of the saints equally struggle to take a leap out of their misery and sin. So, the parable of the weed and darnel portrays how God himself the just and merciful judge does kindly with all his creatures. “His judgment is true and just and salvation belongs to him,” and “he allows his to shine and his rain to fall on both the good and the evil.” This just judge knows what to do with each of us on his great harvest day
In allowing this “dangerous” and “mysterious” cohabitation, God gives us ample opportunity to repent, and prepare ourselves for the great day of harvest. As a seasoned and professional Gardner, he knows at a glimpse which is the weed and which, the darnel. He needs no “medicated glasses” to distinguish them because he is experienced in the business and knows those who are his and mature enough for harvest into his barns. So, just as what helps the darnel survive the stiff and harsh opposition, and competition for soil and space was its viability, will to survive and of course the Gardner’s ingenuity, so also, what will help us survive in this world of sin and weakness include: The strength of our character, dealing kindly with our fellow men and women, and of course, our constant and continuous reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit who is ever ready to intercede for us in groans that words cannot express, but only God the Father – the just and merciful judge, and his council understand. Let us then echo with the Palmist: “O Lord, you are good and forgiving!”
Peace be with you all!!

Homily for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus Christ Sows Viable Seeds (Word) in our Hearts
Readings: 1st: Ish 55, 10-11; Ps 64, 10-14; 2nd: Rom 8, 18-23; Gos Mtt 13, 1-25

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Today being the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we celebrate Christ who came to sow the seed of the Word of God both in our hearts and in the world at large. Through this celebration, the Church enjoins us to re-evaluate our relationship with the Word of God which his ministers and Christ representatives sow in our hearts every day. We must also re-evaluate the fertility of our souls, and how much fruit we allow this Word bear in our life.
In the first reading of this Sunday, the prophet Isaiah compares the Word of God to rain and snow that falls on the ground: “As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth…so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty without carrying out my will and succeeding…” this is a statement of fact and also, of assurance to those who believe, accept it with faith, and live it out in their life. The Word will accomplish because it is itself not empty since fire begets fire. This is a sign that the seed of the Word that God sends forth into our hearts and the world is viable and not sterile. “His Word (the seed) is Yes and Amen” (1 Cor 1, 20) only for those who allow it to influence them positively. It has full potency and must give life to anyone that provides a conducive environment for it to germinate, grow and bear abundant fruits. However, it can also bring condemnation upon those who toil with it and refuse to believe it as Jesus Says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (Jh 5, 24). Also, He says: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (Jh 3, 18). This is because it will stand to testify against us on the day of reckoning. In this case, either ways, it will not return to God void or empty; it is either that we allow it to present us before the throne of God as worthy children of God or on the contrary , it will present us as culprits, and un-repented souls only fit for damnation. It can never return void because it will either acquit us or convict us. This is why the Word of God is a two edged sword (Heb 4, 12). God’s Word therefore, has a valuable purpose which must be accomplished!
In the second reading, Paul makes two categorical statements. The first is all about the expectation or longing of the world: “…The creation is eagerly waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.” The second is: “From the beginning till now the entire creation, and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first fruit of the Spirit.” In the first, Paul sets one wondering what the outcome of this manifestation would be. Of course, it is to be taken for granted that it will be positive, since those whom he is talking about are sons of God. This manifestation means to bring forth, to bear, or to reveal what is borne within us. Therefore, as vessels filled with the Word of God, we are expected to emit good fragrance when we are eventually revealed or manifested. To cap it all, Paul went ahead to talk about how we and the entire creation groan in one great act of giving birth. What are we to give birth to? It is the fruits of the Holy Spirit which we bear within us by the reason of the Word of God and anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is only when we have manifested ourselves as good fruit – bearing children of God that we can be set free ourselves. If not, like a pregnant woman under the pains of labour we shall continue to groan under the burden. This means that as children of God in whom the seed of the Word of God has been sown, and upon whom the anointing of the of the Holy Spirit rests, there is great expectation from us. And the product of this expectation of our manifestation should be nothing short of positive. Anything short of this means a negation of what and who we ought to be. It must be good because what God placed in us is good – a viable seed. In order words, it is garbage-in, garbage-out and, whatever goes in must come out even better and of course without corruption or shortage.
Looking at the gospel of this Sunday on Jesus’ parable of the sower, the questions that suffice include: Does it in any mean that some of the seeds were not viable for sowing, did the sower not do his job well by being careless with the seeds, and whose fault was it that some of the seeds fell on sandy, thorny and rocky soil? I thinks the seeds were viable ones, if not the sower would not have carried them. This is a parable, and simply put, God is the Sower and our hearts, the different types of soils upon which the seeds fell. By spreading the seeds everywhere without considering the nature of the soil and where they fall is an indication of God’s openness, outstretched arms, and his willingness to let all and sundry have and hear his Word which the seed represents. It is a sign that “God has no favorite” (Acts 10, 34), and that he wishes that all peoples hear the good news and repent. However, it is only those who are open and whose hearts are fertile that will receive this Word and allow it to germinate, grow and bear fruits in them.
The parable of the sower speaks to all of us. If we examine and tell ourselves the truth, each one of us will convincingly find our position within it, the type of soil we are and how far we have handled the seed sown in us. What do we do with the Word of God we hear proclaimed to us every day is one question I constantly put to my parishioners. This is because, for many, we have become used to it that it no longer makes meaning to us, and we have developed a very hard and tough skin towards it that it can no longer penetrate the walls of our heart. Do we still heed the call and instruction of the Word of God, and has it brought any ontological or functional change in our lives? If after hearing this Word preached to us every day and we still did not make heaven, who is to blame? Our pastors, priests, parents, brothers and sister, who? Of course, the obvious answer is, “I”, because to whom much is given much is expected. The Word of God is meant to transform us and help us live a better and healthier life. Above all, it is supposed to help us affect others positively. God does not send and sow his Word so that plants and trees are able to grow and live, but rather, so that we are able to grow and live. His Word gives and sustains new life in us. Yes, his Word brings “new life” because without that Word, we were dead in sin. Yes, without the knowledge of Jesus as our Savior, we were dead people. Maybe we are walking around and breathing here on this earth, but unfortunately and practically speaking, most of us are dead because we have no hope in eternal life Word of God, and there is nothing to look forward to except eternal death in hell as a punishment for our rejection of God’s Word.
Therefore, if we have faith in our hearts, we have life given to us and created in us by that powerful Word. And that faith in your hearts is a proof that God’s Word powerfully accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it. Sadly though, many people doubt the power of that Word. They doubt the value of that Word and what it can do for them in their lives. Unfortunately, and sadly also, sometimes we are those people! Our faith depends upon hearing God’s powerful and life-giving Word as Paul says: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Rom, 10 10-17). May we all grow and mature in our faith, and may we see the necessity of accepting the Word of God in giving us life. Amen!
Peace be with you all!!