Homily for Easter Sunday – Year A

Christ the Lord is Risen Today: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Readings: (1st: Acts 10: 34. 37-43; Ps 117: 1-2. 16-23; 2nd: Col 3:1-4; Gos Jh 20: 1-9)

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.

“Christ the Lord is risen today! A-a-a-a- alleluia! Christians haste you vows to pay a-a-a-a-alleluia!” A couple of weeks ago we started what looked like a hopeless, unending and sorrowful journey. But today we have come to the conclusive end of that journey. A journey that began sorrowfully has ended joyfully. The gloomy cloud has eventually given way to the bright sky, and light has eventually overcome darkness. The short and simple story is that, having brown-beaten the devil and his cohorts, the Lord Jesus Christ has risen in fulfillment of his promise: “I will rise on the third day.” The battle is over and there is no controversy or appeal to this case because Jesus is Lord! Let us rejoice and shout Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia because we can no longer be silenced, for we have done this enough. The Lord has conclusively and irrevocably won the battle. By his resurrection this Easter, Jesus makes a very important statement; and this is the fact that, he is the Lord of the living and the dead, that we ourselves have risen with him. Let us therefore key in to this great power and have ourselves liberated. We have died with him through our Lenten observances. Let us also rise with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. That same power that resurrected him is capable of resurrecting our fallen and forlorn bodies.
Today a new epoch has completely began because the historical Jesus, who suffered, cried, was crucified, died and was buried has now been glorified. He is now the glorified Messiah and lives to die no more. All of us therefore share in this glory of his and must rejoice as his earlier disciples did. Today therefore, as we hail Christ our Lord and master let us like his disciples be filled with joy, having seen our risen Lord. In this season of renewal, new life and new birth we like those early Christians who were filled with a joy so glorious that cannot be described. This is our song, this is our story: that the Lord God of Host has resurrected his Son our Lord Jesus Christ from death. Our testimony from this day on wards as his disciples shall be that from the sequence which says: “I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angel there attesting; shroud with grave clothes resting. Christ my hope has risen: he goes before you into Galilee. That Christ is truly risen from the dead we know. Victorious king, your mercy show, Amen! Like the apostles, our duty is to make this news of our Lord’s resurrection known to the entire world and to the ends of the earth. Like Peter in today’s first reading we must tell all and sundry: “Now we are those witnesses- we have eaten and frank with him after his resurrection from the dead…”
This Easter day as Paul succinctly puts it: “We bless God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead” (Act 2: 42-43). What this means is that the death of Christ was ours. Also, his resurrection and new life is ours too. Also his joy, glory and triumph are equally ours. So there is no more cause for alarms. He did not put us to shame, rather, we have a sure hope and promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled, an inheritance that can not fade away (Acts 2). Having been raised with Christ we must act like the living and not the dead. We must seek the things of light, the things that are noble and things that glorify God. We must seek heavenly things by living like citizens of heaven rather than “earth bound spirits.” This is what our brother Paul calls us to do in the second reading of today when he says: “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is…” Through this Paul calls us to be aware of our new and exalted position with Christ. In order words we must a live that is worthy of one who has risen and reign with Christ. Let us therefore sing with the Psalmist on this glorious day of Easter: “This day was made by the Lord; we rejoice and are glad. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

 

 

Homily for Good Friday – Year A

Indeed What A Good Friday! Jesus has cancelled Our Debt!!
Readings: (1st: Ish 52: 13. 53:12; Ps 30: 2-25; 2nd: Heb 4:14-16:5:7-9; Gos: Jh 18:1-19:42)

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.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life!”(Jh 3, 16) Today marks the summit of the Paschal Mystery. It is a Good Friday because today the Lord has paid the costliest price ever to be paid for the salvation and redemption of humankind and he has fulfilled his mission on earth. Today’s victory over the Satan the prince of darkness is a total knockout. Indeed what a Good Friday it is, when Jesus Christ cancelled our debt and asked us to walk away free!
Given the importance and the Magnitude of today’s celebration, the church invites us to first listen to the words of the scripture and strive to understand the true and real meaning of Christ’s suffering. Internalizing the word of God today will help us understand and appreciate the mind of Jesus in offering himself for our salvation. We are also called to pray earnestly with the Holy Spirit for most of our needs and those of our entire world. Of course, there is no better day to do so than today when the greatest sacrifice was offered to God. The blood has opened the doors of heaven and God is all ears and ready to listen all our prayers. He is ready to listen because his beloved in whom he is well pleased has accomplished his mission through faithful obedience even unto death as our second reading from the epistle to the Hebrews tell us today: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal life to all who obey him.” He is ready to listen to us because his only begotten son has triumphed over the powers of this world that torment us.
Furthermore, in today’s celebration we venerate the cross, because it is now a symbol of victory rather than of failure, a symbol of love rather than of hatred and a symbol of victory rather than of humiliation and defeat. Finally, today we are called to unite ourselves with our saviour, through the sacramental communion. In all of these, the summary is that Christ has paid the price and as we depart sorrowfully, we have the hope that He himself will fulfill by the power of the Holy Spirit to us the promise he made: “I shall rise on the third day.” Today’s celebration seems ironical in that even though we are sorrowful, we still rejoice and call it a Good Friday. While the sorrow we feel stems from our human nature, the joy we feel stems from the spirit of victory made possible by the sacrifice of our Lord. The absolute truth is that something good actually happened to us today. This sorrow will be short lived in fulfillment of the pronouncement of the Psalmist: “Weeping may endure at night but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30:5). Humanly speaking, on Good Friday we weep but shortly on Easter day our joy will be complete when we shall sing the great Alleluia.
On this Good Friday, Christ has first re-written our report and record by justifying us for salvation. He has broken the gates that barred us from entering the holy presence of God and shattered the bars of iron that locks out from divine presence. The good news is that we are free because “whoever the son of man sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). However, it is important to note that this freedom equips us with a key or ticket to enter this gate of salvation having been justified. This key or ticket is our faith. We must step into this salvation without looking back. Making the right choice is up to us. Second, He has re-written the record of the cross from the symbol of a curse and death to a symbol of triumph and life. Hence reminded the Galatians just as this Good Friday reminds us that: “Christ has redeemed us form the curse by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: cursed is everyone who is hung on a cross” (Gal 3: 13). This is the reason we venerate the cross today because it is now a symbol of our victory over the power of the prince of this world. We venerate it because it is on it that Christ forgave all our sins, “having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the power and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col 2, 14-15). Upon this cross we were restored to our rightful position and so there is every reason to venerate it. Also, the cross today has become a symbol of love rather than a symbol of hatred because it is on it that the greatest love ever was expressed: “But God demonstrates his own love us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us” and “…for God so loved the word that he gave his only begotten son…” (Rom 5, 8; Jh 3, 16)
Peace be with you all!
Maranatha!!

 

 

Homily/Reflection for Holy Thursday – Year A

RE-DEDICATING OURSELVES AS PRIESTS FOR SERVICE
Readings: 1st: Ish 61: 1-9; Ps 88: 21-25; 2nd: Rev 1:5-8; Gos: Luke 4: 16-21)

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), 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.

Holy Thursday is both the day of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and our birthday as both sacramental and ministerial Priests. So, I will like to begin this brief reflection on a very positive note by wishing my entire brother Priests and the Faithful all over the world: A Very Happy Birthday! Feliicitation!! It is a day of reminding ourselves of our root, who we are and ought to be – Alter Christus. It is a day of enkindling of the Priestly Spirit of Jesus that was imbued into us through the anointing we received (Ish 61:1; Luke 4:16). It is a day of re-presenting, rededicating and re-consecrating ourselves in humility as ever before to God for service and mission in his vineyard. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1589) tells us that before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy doctors felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose sacrament had made them ministers. Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus, as a very young priest, exclaimed: “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. Who then is the priest? He is the defender of the truth, who stands with the angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and even greater, is divinized and divinizes.” What then must we do to enkindle and re-invigorate our priestly spirit?
We Must Get Intimate With Our Lord
There is need for us as priests to continuously prepare ourselves through intimacy with Jesus Christ. This entails making daily efforts to live holy lives, prepare ourselves for salvation, nourish ourselves spiritually and then get ready to help and wash the feet of our brothers and sisters as Christ humbly did to his disciples. Therefore, our ability to help our brothers and sisters hinges greatly on our own intimacy with our Lord. This is because, unless we ourselves are in an intimate relationship with God, we cannot lead the people of God. It is from this intimacy with Jesus that we continuously draw the strength we need to work. This is especially, in an era like ours when life and mission have taken different dimensions and are getting tougher and tougher by day. We are not just Alter Christus in virtue of our sacramental configuration, but equally amator Christus by professing our love for Christ and the church in order to receive Christ’s mandate as shepherds. In view of this, therefore our intimacy with Christ must be both ontological and existential. That is, involving our very essence as human beings, as it is derived from both our sacramental and ministerial configuration to Christ and his divine priesthood. To give us life, we must therefore put this essential intimacy into action. Hence, we must daily fan the flames of that intimacy to our Lord through effective prayer, study and action of love. Therefore, we must pray for ourselves, and study hard if we must still be relevant in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Basil Cole, OP helps us to know the kind of mentality, attitudes and virtues that are needed to live the implication of this extraordinary intimacy when he says: “…We must develop the spousal character of Christ the bridegroom since we are all called to live Christ’s love for the church, his bride.” This, my dear brothers demands that we be capable of loving the faithful and the church with a genuine self detachment, with full, constant, faithful dedication and at the same time with a kind of “divine jealousy” (2Cor 11, 2), and even with a kind of “maternal madness.”
Developing The Spirit Of Leadership
As Priests, we must develop the virtues of leadership. This is because, as Christ is the head of his body the Church, so too we must possess all that is necessary to exercise spiritual leadership, faithfulness, integrity, constancy, wisdom, a welcoming decisive firmness in essentials, freedom from over subjective view points, personal disinterestedness, patience, an enthusiasm for daily tasks, a confidence in the virtue of the hidden working of grace maintained in the simple and the poor (Tit 1, 1-8, Pastoral Dabo Vobis 27). So, we must develop the heart of Christ the shepherd, going after the lost sheep by humbling ourselves as he did today to the extent of washing their filthy feet. The effectiveness of this aspect of our ministry will flow from personal spirituality and depends greatly on how much we are able to imitate the humility of our Lord. One way of being a very good shepherd is through developing a prayerful sensitivity to the scripture, tradition and Magisterum. How many of us still find time to study the scriptures, and in fact base our Sunday homilies on the well arranged and articulated Sunday readings. They are now obsolete or inadequate I suppose! The truth is that our flocks need the word that will inspire faith in them and equally lead them to Christ our Lord. They yearn for the food of the spirit that will enhance their faith in God from their shepherds. They need priests who are holy, priests who are available for them, priests who are intimately bound to the word of God and the Catechism of the Church, and priests who take their time to prepare their homilies.
Fulfilling The Expectation Of Our Flocks
In her article titled: “What Catholics need: A Letter to our Priests and Bishops,” Emily Stipmson wrote: “Our Spiritual Fathers, please preach the Faith! On Sundays, do not tell me to be nice; tell me to be holy. Do not tell me to trust God; tell me who God is. Do not even tell me to be faithful; tell me what faithfulness means. Explain holiness. Explain sin. Be specific. Preach on what lust, gluttony, selfishness, laziness, pride, anger, and vanity are, why they are bad for me, and how to avoid them. Preach the Creed. Preach the saints. Preach the story of salvation history. And preach it in all its fullness. While you are at it, let go of this idea that homilies are a separate thing from catechesis. They cannot be separate right now. The majority of Catholics sitting in the pews on Sunday do not know the basics of the Faith, and the only place most will learn them is from a homily. Do not waste your precious ten minutes in front of a semi-captive audience repeating fluff they can get from Oprah. Use the Scriptures to illuminate Tradition, not obscure it. Outside the homily, invest in catechesis. Talk to the kids. Teach RCIA. The more you let people know how important you think catechesis is, the more important they will think it is.” This is coming from a Catholic lay woman. Although she may not be absolutely right, yet what this means is that contrary to the belief of most Catholics are abandoning their faith for all sorts of jingoisms, they are actually interested in their Catholic tradition and teaching. They yearn for it like the deer yearn for running stream (Ps 42: 1). This is the reason most of them after straying eventually return. Take The Church’s Liturgy Serious
My dear brothers, Catholics believe that “the body expresses the person.” That is true for each of us, and it is true for the Body of Christ. The physical stuff of our Faith: the smell of the incense, bells, and buildings express the soul of our Liturgy and Faith – her doctrines, dogmas, and disciplines. The Church’s liturgy and architecture should reveal a richness of beauty and belief that robs the gruel fed to our parishioners by the culture of all its appeal. It should move the faithful to love God and neighbor more. It should make them long for Heaven. It should make them sorry for their sins. The music of Celine Deon, Tupac, Enya, Bob Marley, Don Williams, Asha, Michael Jackson, Flavor, D’ Banj, Two face Idibia, Lagbaja, etcetera, or the comedies coming from “Nights of hundred laughs” cannot do that. Hastily and haphazardly performed liturgical rites cannot do that. Pedestrian speeches, liturgical puppets, binding and casting, and felt banners cannot do it either. If we want Catholics to see the beauty of our Faith and liturgy, as Priests, we have to show it to ourselves. We have to make it manifest in Church on Sunday. We have to give them something extraordinary to help them realize they are called to do something extraordinary. In praying the liturgy of the hours, we discover the deep unity between ministry and intimacy with God. Also, in addition to the above, we need what theology refers to as “Counsels of Ease” or the “Evangelical Counsel”: Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty. Even when these are not professed as vows, as virtues they will help us live up to our personal dignity, mission and intimacy, and as one profoundly joined to Jesus Christ.
Chase Out Spirit of Judas And Magnus Simon
As we celebrate our birthday today, it is important to make mention one of the most dangerous vice that is eroding the priestly fabrics. This evil is Avarice. Fulton J. Sheen says of it: “Avarice indeed can be one of the greatest sins of the priest, and perhaps the most insidious. It is a kind of “clean sin,” because it parades under the guise of prudence, of “caring for old age.” To this I quickly add that it could also take the guise of “I am acquiring” to help the poor, the orphans, the sick, my family, etcetera, when actually we are rushing down the fast lane of spiritual decadence. It is worthy of note that it was this same Avarice that destroyed Judas Iscariot, and Simon Magnus who very quickly got the Idea that the laying on of hands was a very good way to make money and rushed into it (Acts 8:19). Unfortunately, the fever of “Ministry,” “Ministration,” and “Adoration Prayer Groups” for different motives has crept into our church and gripped those who are supposed to show the way. A great number of us are now like Simon Magnus, who must lay hands in order to impress people. Instead of directing people to Christ the Saviour, we now direct them to ourselves, just to impress for the “bowl of porridge” that we expect in return. The same avarice has turned many of us to pure and shear “businessmen in the sense of the world.” Hence, most of us now market one article or the other like: anointing oils with different names and for different purposes, stickers, posters, Tee-shirts, haphazardly written or pirated books, Sacramentals, herbal medicines, black stones, nutritional supplements. While some of us now go as far being importers and exporters of cars, estate managers and other assorted stuffs. All these are in the name of what has been tagged “Personal Efforts (PE)” aimed at taking care of the future. All of these are marks of priestly avarice or priest-craft. Trust in Divine Providence has been thrown overboard, after all, “God helps those who help themselves” and, “he who fails to plan for his future is planning to fail!” Again, Fulton Sheen reminds us today as ever before that: “The good priest lives for his vocation; the avaricious priest live on his vocation.”
My dear brother Priests, as we celebrate our birthday today, let us arise and chase out avarice, the spirit of Judas Iscariot replicated in Simon Magnus from our priesthood. It is doing us more harm than Alexander the copper smith did to Paul (2 Tim 4:14-15). Let us define and purify our motives and remain focused in our noble vocation. The Lord who has called us is able to provide for us because, he is a great provider. As a birthday gift to the Lord let us offer ourselves whole heartedly again to Jesus in complete self abandonment. Let us not re-write the Lord’s Prayer from: “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” to “Give Us These Days Our Daily Breads.”

Happy Birthday and Felicitation!
Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

Homily for Palm/Passion Sunday – Year A

Hosanna! Our Humble Servant-King Comes in Glory!!
Readings: (Mtt 21:1-11); 1st: 50: 4-7; Ps 21: 8-24; 2nd: Phil 2:6-8; Gos: Mtt 26:14-26:66)

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 Palm/Passion Sunday. This day marks the actual kick off of the Paschal Mystery, the journey of our salvation. It is the final journey that brings our Lord to the climax of his ordeal and costly sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. Hence, the Church celebrates Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem in order to accomplish his Paschal Mystery for our sake. Today Ignorant of what await Christ many proclaim him king and shout hosanna in the usual crowd mentality and fashion. Would these same hosanna singers still remain with him? We shall find out the answer to this question on Good Friday.
Today’s celebration is full of symbols. Some of these include: The palm branches and cloths laid on the way for Jesus. The green palm branch as we know is a sign of peace, freshness, royalty, and of course restoration; the crowd symbolizes both praise and denial because, it is this same people who today shout hosanna that will latter on shout crucify him!; Jerusalem of this time is a symbol of crown, glory and the cross because, it is in it that Jesus was crowned king and it is also in it that He will be crucified, and also it is in it that he will resurrect. Finally, the donkey or the colt which is a beast of burden on which Christ rode is highly symbolic and significant of Christ’s own humility in fulfillment of the prophecy: “…he is humble; he rides on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” Christ’s humility here is quite contrary to the flamboyant and reckless display of wealth, power and firm by our rulers and leaders today. In spite of the fact that he is God, he condescended so low as to ride on the poorest of beasts. He did not need to block all the roads and cause untold hardship to his people because he was passing by. He did not violate traffic rules because he is Lord; he needed no soldiers and heavily armed security officers or bullet proof equipments to intimidate his people because he was passing by and there was no need of sirens in order to clear the road for him alone to pass through it. Instead, he simply mounted a colt and made his royal, courageous and brave entry into Jerusalem. Of course, he knew it was time to accomplish his mission on earth and so there was nothing to be afraid of. He displayed the true quality of a self-sacrificing king.
Our first reading today, highlights the ordeal of the Lamb. This is one of the “ebed Yahweh” (Servant of God) song. The core message of this reading and song is the humility of the Suffering Servant of God who in spite of the pains inflicted on him did not shy away from his duty to serve both his master and those to whom he was sent to take care of. Hence, he says: “For my part I made no resistance, neither did I cover my face against insults and spittle.” This song is all about the humility of Jesus Christ whom we celebrate today as the triumphant King of the ages. It is all about the humble servant of God who in spite of being God himself, accepted to offer himself wholeheartedly and, it is about the one Isaiah says: “…But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Ish 53, 5).
In the second reading, Paul highlighted the greatness and depth of Jesus’ humility. He recalled the kenosis (self-emptying) of Jesus: “though he was in the form of God he did not count equality with God…” Paul therefore admonishes us to be like Jesus, by living a simple, humble, charitable, gentle and kind life. Unfortunately, we live in a world of show offs and flamboyancy, in a world where pride is the better half of our humanity. Humility attracts both God and human while pride repulses them. We must therefore make efforts to emulate Christ’s humility and ensure that our life is fashioned after his. Self emptying means being ready to sacrifice, to go to where ordinarily one would not wish to go to, it means being ready to die for the other, ones flock, friends and people. Pride on the other hand leads us nowhere but to humiliation and shame.
The Passion narrative of this Sunday according to Matthew in a nutshell, opens up to us like our first reading, the ordeal of Jesus Christ the humble servant of God. Also, the passion narrative according to Matthew like in the other three gospels can be divided into the following scenes: Jesus’ arrest, his arraignment before officials of the Sanhedrin on Holy Thursday evening, his trial before Pilate on Good Friday morning, his suffering, and his death. It has a dialectical undertone and character, and so presents us with the different aspects of life and characters we encounter or even exhibit in everyday life. It is a drama of praise and pain, a drama of royalty and servant-hood, a drama of denial, betrayal and humility. It started like a comedy but ended up in tragedy because, what started with Hosanna, Hosanna ended up with crucify Him, crucify Him! What an Irony that the same people who sang his praise a few moments ago turned out to be the same people now to shout crucify him, crucify him! They remind us that at the cross there is but a thin line between faithfulness and treachery. We are constantly tempted to broach that line. However, in all of these, God is at work. A journey that started joyfully and seemed to have been extinguished in sorrow will definitely be accomplished in the most joyful way at Easter which is our destination and the climax of today’s procession. If we do not lose hope or faint, the procession we started today will end up in the glory of Easter!
The passion narrative of Jesus Christ is very crucial in our grasping of a holistic and true nature of God and Christ. Christologically speaking, it presents us with the “nature” of Christ as true man, as a God who suffers, feels pains and can “die” like every other human being. In other words it is Christology from below. Through the passion of Christ, the cross has become our main symbol and he says to us: “In Hoc Signo Vinces (In this sign you shall conquer!”). So, instead of understanding Jesus simply and only as a great teacher, or as the glorious Lord of Easter, we can now think of him too as the crucified Christ, who gives his life for humanity. So, the way we think of Christ is important for our own lives. Jesus Christ calls us to be his disciples, taking up the cross, dying to our own selves, our selfishness, in order that we might look out upon the world to serve it. We are not called upon to do anything that Christ has not done. His death for us and for humanity is sufficient. But we are set free from the consequences of sin to serve others in the world. So, as we shout Hosanna! Hosanna!! Hosanna!!! today, let us be mindful of the yeast of the Pharisees and so pray God to keep us faithful till we see the final glory of Christ on Easter day, when we shall conclude our procession with the great Alleluia!, Alleluia!!, Alleluia!!!
Peace be with you all!
Maranatha!!

 

 

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent – Year A

The Spirit of Jesus Makes the Difference and Gives Us Life!
Readings: Ezk 7:12-14; Ps 129; 2nd: Rom 8:8-11; Gos: Jh 11:1-45)

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.

As we approach the Paschal Feast, today being the 5th Sunday of Lent, the Holy Mother Church in her infinite love and wisdom draws our attention to the power of the Holy Spirit which animates and gives life to our mortal bodies. The motto or slogan of one of the world’s popular soda (mineral) brand called Seven Up (7Up) is: “The difference is clear!” Today therefore the church says to us that what makes the difference in our lives is the Spirit of God just as Paul tells us that: “What gives life is the Spirit of God, the flesh profits nothing” (John 6, 63). Therefore, as we prepare for the Paschal Feast, we must open up ourselves to Christ’s life giving Spirit. We are also called in a special way to pray for those who are to be given new life of the Spirit in baptism during the Paschal Feast.
The first reading of today is a promise which we must claim and make our own in-toto. It is a promise of restoration, revival and regeneration of our weakened lives through the tiresome and hectic journey of life and especially, during this Lent. Although this promise was made to Israel of Old during their exilic predicament, it is still very much valid for us and our generation. In our own time too, though most of us are in our homes and countries, we are not far from being in a spiritual exile, far from God. In light of this spiritual exilic predicament, it is only the Spirit of God that can restore us to our normal state. Hence, the Lord in his loving kindness promises today: “…And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil…”
In the second reading, Paul seeing our exilic predicament reminds us that it is only the Spirit of Jesus that can restore us to life. Hence, he tells us that: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you…he will give life to your mortal bodies…” What Paul insinuates here is simple, the fact that without the Spirit of God having an upper hand in the believer’s life, the believer is as good as dead. This is evident in the life of Saul the former king of Israel. Immediately the Spirit of God left him, his life became miserable, devilish and of course, he was as good as dead (I Sam 16: 14-16). A true child of God needs no soothsayer to alert him/her that what keeps one going is the Spirit of God. It is the symbol and evidence of activity of life in us, and indeed in all God’s creatures. This is why Paul warns us sternly: “…Do not grief the Holy Spirit of God who is God’s mark of ownership of you for the day of redemption” (Eph 4, 30). If we do, He leaves us and we become as good as dead, comatose and barren. The Spirit of Jesus is what therefore makes the difference, because he is both our life line and support. Losing him means losing life, and drifting towards the dangerous domain of carnality and eventual death.
The gospel of this Sunday presents us with Jesus’ demonstration of the power that makes the difference, the only power that is capable of raising Lazarus from death and the power that restores life. He proved that he himself is “the resurrection and the life.” Jesus could not have achieved this safe through the power of the Holy Spirit whom he himself relied so much on. Often times we have seen or heard some self acclaimed “men/women of God” laying claims to their ability to either raise the dead, or that they themselves will rise from the dead as Christ did. Unfortunately, most of these claims have ended up as empty bragging motivated by the duo – vainglory and sheer spiritual arrogance! The reason is that they thought it was by power or mere might, worst still was the fact that they sought to take the glory while cajoling the power of the Holy Spirit. Resurrection, restoration and regeneration are all in the domain of the Holy Spirit and no man or woman can replicate this power. Rather, the only thing we can do is to humble and allow ourselves to be used by Him. A couple of years ago a self acclaimed man of God who was nicknamed “Jesus of Oyinbo”, arose and claimed that he will die and rise up on the third day as Christ did. How disappointed are his disciples who have since disintegrated that up till date the grave has swallowed and held him captive. Also and more recently, a couple of weeks ago some members of a Pentecostal sect came to a village close to mine and insisted that they must exhume the corpse of a young man who died abroad and was brought home for burial. This was after about a week of its. Funny enough, in spite of the resistance of the traditional ruler and the members of the community who viewed such an act as against their custom, these zealots insisted and promised under oath that they have the powers to resurrect the already decaying corpse. The villagers succumbed to their request but invited the press and the police to be around in order to witness and cover the miracle. Then, the prayer warriors went into action and started conjuring, shouting like the prophets of Baal throughout the day. Around 4pm some others came to join them in the battle. After all serious efforts they became exhausted and worn out due to their shouting, kicking and boxing the air. Then, they tried to escape but the villagers rounded them up and handed them over to the Police who whisked them into their cell where up till this moment they are still cooling off while awaiting trial for breaching the custom and peace of the poor community. In all of these, these people failed to realize that it is only the spirit of Jesus that gives life. This is why Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life.” Whenever he gives or restores life he does it for the glory of God as he said in the case of Lazarus: This sickness will end not in death but in god’s glory…”
There are a few lessons we must learn. First, is the fact that it takes love for any miracle to be carried out. We were told that when the message came to Jesus: “The man you love is ill.” Jesus went because of the great love he had for Lazarus and his family. Hence, their sorrow became his sorrow, their pain his pain: “And Jesus wept!” In order words, it was compassionate love that moved Jesus to demonstrate this power and not just mere emotion. All he did was borne out of love and for the glory of God, and not because he just wanted to show off. Second, our faith is very important in the working of any miracle for us. This is why Jesus constantly said and asked Mary and Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. If any one believes in me even though he dies he will live…Do you believe in this…?” In the case of resurrecting Lazarus, Jesus’ good will, compassionate love and the faith of Mary and Martha fused together in order to kindle the power of the Holy Spirit into action. The third lesson is that with Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit everything is Possible because Jesus has authority over life and death, and even in the grave He is Lord. Therefore, Jesus is ever willing to help us no matter what it will cost him. Not even the plots of the Jews to kill him could stop him from going to wake Lazarus up. Also not even our state or how long we have been “dead” or been in the “grave” of this world will prevent Jesus from saving us when the time comes for him to do so. He calls us by our name to today as he did Lazarus: “Here! Come out!” My dear friends, when you hear His voice do not hesitate to come out as the Psalmist says to us: “Oh that today you listen to his voice harden not your hearts!” If we hearken to his voice definitely, he will give command in the power of the Holy Spirit, to all the entanglements of this world that hold us bound: “Unbind Him, let him go free.”
Peace be with you all!
Maranatha!!

Homily for Laetare (4th) Sunday of Lent – Year A

Christ Our Shepherd-King Cares For, And Heals Us!
Readings: (1st: I Sam 16:1.6-13; Ps 22; 2nd: Eph 5:8-14; Gos: Jh 9:1-41)

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.

As we continue our journey this Lenten season, Jesus continues to manifest his authority as both shepherd and king over his people and the circumstances of our life. As the anointed one from the Davidic lineage Christ assures us his flock by his gratuitous saving help that though we are often assailed by fears and misgivings in this world of darkness, He, our Shepherd-King and the second David lights up our ways and leads us to his Kingdom unblemished. So, on this Laetare (4th) Sunday of Lent the Holy Mother Church exalts us to be joyful because, Christ our Shepherd-King comes to us with power, majesty and dominion in a special way in order to cure us of both the physical and spiritual blindness that prevent us from living our lives to its fullest potential. He is willing to do this because he cares for us and considers our well being more paramount above every other thing else.
In the first reading of today, we find that in making David the Shepherd-King, Samuel did not act out of impulse, emotion or human inclination. Instead, he simply obeyed and went to where he was sent to, Bethlehem and specifically to Jesse’s tribe to which God directed him. He could have gone to the tribe of Zebulun, Naphtali, or elsewhere, or even to any nearby town to anoint someone, but he went according to the mind of God and not according to his personal inclination. What do we learn from this? Quite simple! First, whenever we neglect God and the Holy Spirit in making decisions definitely we get it wrong and incur both the wrath of God and men as a direct or indirect consequence of our wrong action or disobedience. Second, we must be patient in carrying out the command or injunction of God. We must note the patience and humility of Samuel when he said: “Send for him, we will not seat down to eat until he comes.” Samuel stood up and waited for a long time, only God knows how many hours until the young David arrived. He was not weary or rushed into any rash decision of anointing any other person around because the right person was not yet there, but he waited patiently because no one could convince him to anoint any other son of Jesse beyond the conviction he got from God: “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.” Third, we must not allow physical appearance to deceive us. It took listening to God and discernment for Samuel to avert the danger of being deceived by the appearance of Eliab who was tall, handsome, elegant, and of course available. It is quite unfortunate that some of us so much rely on these physical qualities in selecting our leaders, rulers, shepherds, kings, etcetera. The result has always been catastrophic. But when we make the right choice and decision people are liberated, the blind see, the lame work, the hungry are fed, the poor become rich, the aggrieved and afflicted become satisfied and harmony returns to both the individual and the entire nation.
In the second reading of today Paul reminds us of our former and forlorn state before Christ our Shepherd-King came to liberate us from darkness. Sin clouds the mind in darkness and closes the heart to God’s love and truth. Only in the light of God’s truth can we see sin for what it really is, a rejection of God and opposition to his will. The Pharisees equated physical blindness and sickness with sin as we shall see shortly in today’s gospel. While the scriptures indicate that sin can make the body and mind sick as well as the soul, not all sickness, however is the result of sin. Hence, Paul admonishes us on the need to: “…Be (and live as) children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” We do this by trying to discover and do what the Lord our Shepherd-King wants us to do. What Paul is simply saying here is that Christ our anointed Shepherd-King is the light that illumines our life. Living outside Him means abiding in darkness. We must therefore this season of Lent make frantic efforts to draw close to Christ who cares for us and to the one who shows us the way and heals both our physical and spiritual infirmities.
In today’s gospel, we read of Jesus’ demonstration of power by restoring the sight of a man born blind. Here Jesus our Shepherd-King shows that he cares for the well being of his flock especially the sick and the weak. He, like David his ancestor, went out of his way without minding his detractors and distractions to tend his flock. Of utmost importance in today’s gospel is the question that Jesus’ disciple put to him concerning the blind man’s blindness: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” From this, it is quite obvious that the disciples’ question assumes that suffering is caused by sin. It could be the parents’ sin (Ex 34:7; Nu 14:18; and Deu 5:9) or the blind man’s sin, but he was blind from birth. The parents probably assumed that his blindness was their fault. But Jesus was quick to add: “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him!” in other words, this man’s situation provided an opportunity for Jesus to heal him, thereby revealing God’s works. Sickness befalls us for a variety of reasons. Paul reminds us that: “In everything, God works for good with those who love him” (Rom 8:28). So the blind man, once cured, marveled and proclaimed to the glory of God: “Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind.” This miracle remarkably reveals the power and glory of God. It is very important to mention here that although Jesus said that the man’s suffering was not caused by sin, however, we should not forget that there often is a connection between sin and suffering. Yes, it is absolutely true as Jesus our Shepherd king has rightly taught that not all suffering is caused by sin, but all sin causes suffering. Jesus shows us that sin and suffering are not always related, but not that they are never related.
The lessons which we must learn from this man include that the man was obedient to the instruction or injunction given to him: “Go wash in the pool of Siloam,” just as Naaman the Syrian was, though, after much argument and persuasion (II Kg 5: 1-15), and as Samuel obeyed God’s command to go to the house of Jesse to anoint the Shepherd-King. The blind man did not mince words there but simply obeyed what Christ asked him to do. Of course, he got his healing immediately. Many of us are so stubborn that we do not obey the commands of Christ our anointed Shepherd-King yet, we want to be liberated. The second lesson is that we must be consistent with our words, faith, convictions, and the truth. In spite of all the quizzing and intimidation of the Pharisees the man remained truthful and firm without caving in or denying that it was Christ that healed him. Instead, he insisted: “The man called Jesus…said to me go and wash at Siloam; so I went, and when I washed I could see…He is a prophet!” According to St. John Chrysostom: “The the Pharisees cast him out of the Temple; but the Lord of the Temple found him.” If our witness of Jesus and his redeeming power in our lives separates us from our fellow neighbors, it nonetheless draws us nearer to Jesus himself. Paul warns us to avoid the darkness of sin that we might walk more clearly in the light of Christ (Eph. 5:8-12). So my dear brethren, as we continue our journey this Lenten season, we must not allow any blind spot to blur our vision of what God is doing for us, offering us, and requiring of us? We must continue to say of our Shepherd-King as the Psalmist: “The lord is my Shepherd (and King); there is nothing I shall want” (Ps. 22:1)!
Peace be with you all!
Maranatha!!

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Lent – Year A

Refreshing Our Life With Christ The Eternal Living Water!

Readings: (1st: Ex 17: 3-7; Ps 94:1-2.6-9; 2nd: Rom 5: 1-2.5-8; Gos: Matt 4:5-42)        

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.

The Psalmist echoes thus: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God…”; “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation…”(Ps 42:1; 62, 1), while St Augustine corroborates and affirms him in his Confession: “O Lord, our heart is restless until it rest in you!” (Lib 1, 1-2, 2.5, 5: CSEL 33, 1-5).In other words, just as water quenches our physical thirst, only Christ the spiritual and Eternal Living Water can quench our spiritual thirst and give rest to our forlorn souls. Today the Holy Mother Church encourages us as we continue our journey this Lenten season to quench our spiritual thirst with the Eternal Living Water which is Christ. She also calls us to break all cultural barriers, prejudices and segregation in order to let the eternal living water flow into all hearts.

In the first reading and gospel of today, one finds that water was mentioned explicitly. Whereas in the second, it was implicitly referred to by Paul’s use of the verb: “to pour.” What is water and why is it important to us on this third Sunday of Lent? One of the most important requirements for the sustenance of all lives on earth is water (Greek – νερό, nero), a compound with one of the simplest chemical and structural formulae (H20). Studies have shown that it makes up to 60-75 percent of the total body fluid of the human person. The case is not different for most other living organism especially, plants. This means that complete withdrawal or dehydration of water from any living organism is the fastest means of killing it. Although, water in itself has close to zero energy value, its importance cannot be over flogged for the continuous existence of living organisms. The most important functions of water include that it lubricates and activates the cells which contains the energy and power house of life in living organisms, it flushes toxins, boosts immune systems, helps to relieve headache, prevents cramps and strains etcetera. Water is a common Old Testament metaphor for the satisfaction of spiritual needs (Ps 23:2; 42:1; Is 12:3).  Jesus’ use of the phrase, “living water,” has its roots in the OT (Jer 2:13; 17:13). This is also paralleled by his later reference to “the bread of life” (Jh 6:35) and “living bread” (Jh 6:51).

The first reading of today tells us of the ordeal of the Israelites in the wilderness on their way out of their captivity after 430 years (Ex 12, 40). They grumbled against Moses and of course, indirectly, against God because they were thirsty. Moses was instructed by God to strike the rock from which water came forth. They drank and were satisfied. Both the rock Moses struck and the water that gushed out from it allegorically and metaphorically prefigure Christ who is both our rock and the eternal living water. Though the Israelites felt only the need for their physical thirst, but the water that flowed from the rock was spiritual and thus played the dual role of quenching both their physical and spiritual thirst. Like the Israelites, most of us Christians do not know what we actually want, and because we are confused, we end up complaining about everything, and gallivanting from one adoration ministry, fellowship, night vigil, etcetera, to another. Unfortunately for most of us, we often times end up where there is no solution to our spiritual thirst. What we need is not just “miracles”, but a spiritual drink of the living water that flows from the Rock of Ages. Like St Augustine, we must allow our souls to rest in God if must be satisfied. Hence, we must:“With joy…draw water from the well of salvation” (Ish 12: 13), in order to quench our spiritual thirst on our own journey this Lenten season.

In the second reading, Paul employs one of the properties of water or fluids, that is, ability “to flow” or “to pour,” to describe how the Love of God (Christ the Eternal Living Water) “is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” He reminds us also of how helpless our life was and could still be without Christ the Living Water upon which our continuous existence depends. In other words, through his death, Christ made himself the source of our own life, because through the water and blood that flowed from his side when he was pierced on the cross (Jh 19: 34), he became the living spring and the source of our life. Cut off from this spring therefore we can do nothing (Jh 15: 5), because it is the water that flows from it that lubricates and gives life to the “spiritual cells” of our own life.

In the gospel of today, Jesus presents himself to the Samaritan woman as the Eternal Living Water. This underscores His importance in our life. Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan woman today is an eye opener to us Christians. Through it, he was able to prove to us that he is the spring, source and sustainer of our life. It suffices to note that the woman was surprised that Jesus asked her for a drink and says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Here Jesus is given the label “Jew” by the Samaritan woman, while at John 8:48, He was labeled a “Samaritan” by His fellow Jews. Both of these labels are given to him in less than a friendly manner, to say the least. He is a stranger to both groups, and this is a confirmation of what the scripture says about him: “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (Jh 1: 11). This hostile relationship between Jews and Samaritans apparently goes back to post-exilic times, and after so many centuries the wounds still festered. The use of racial slurs continues to drive a wedge between the two groups. In spite of all these, Christ was not discouraged but pressed on with his mission and feeding on his “food” which as he told his disciples is: “To do the will of the One who sent me!” The lesson from this is that we like Jesus, must not discriminate against people especially in helping to bring them to the Eternal Living Water. Jesus knew quite well who the woman was and what she needed the most in life just as he knows us. He knew that she was a Samaritan, “an enemy” of the Jew. Yet, he approached her to ask for a drink. It also suffices to note that while the proximate aim of Jesus in approaching the woman for a drink might be to quench his physical thirst (though John did not tell us whether He drank the water or not after all), his remote aim was to convert her by drawing her closer to Himself the Eternal living Water. By breaking the silence and going against the social customs, conventions, prejudices and the hostilities between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus becomes the gift of God to this woman and her people.

Like Jesus therefore, we must be ready to take a risk, challenge the unspoken rules of social structures and norms, break down walls that alienate people, open up possibilities to others so that they can experience and quench their spiritual thirst with the gift of God- the Eternal Living Water. Finally, the argument that ensued between Jesus and the woman represents the obstacles, question and hurdles that we must be ready to scale before we can succeed in convincing people about Christ, the Eternal Living Water. In other words, they represent the “rational” or “philosophical Stubbornness” that the society will present to us before they finally yield to the gospel message. However, if we ourselves are connected to the Eternal Living Water, we shall have a better and more convincing witness to bear to them without getting weary.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!