Holy Thursday, 28th March, 2013 – Institution of the Holy Eucharist and Priesthood

Happy Birth/Feast day to all My Brother Priests !

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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 Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, 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 contact him on:canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com or +23408063767512

As I was about to begin this brief reflection on priesthood on this eve of Holy Thursday, the birth/feast day of all priests of the holy mother church and the commemoration of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, one voice appeared to have echoed into my ear saying: “but you are still too young in this institution to talk, say or write anything about it, why not wait until you are perhaps five to ten years old in it!” At first, I almost accepted and caved in to this seemingly good advice from an unknown destination and being. However, as it is characteristic of me, I decided to reflect over the whole issue before taking a final decision on the issue. So while my reflection lasted, another but more convincing and prophetic voice came crashing into my ear, reminding me thus: My dear you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek of old, there is no small priest and finally, remember you are the oracle of the most high God. So, you are not bared by time and age in this ministry.” Immediately, I woke up as though I were David Hume who was woken up from his dogmatic slumber by Immanuel Kant.

Humbly, I admit that, I will not be able to write much here, because honestly speaking, I lack enough experience. Yet, it will not stop me from expressing myself at least, based on the little moment I have been into it. This is also not a thesis on priesthood, but rather, a way of appreciating who God called me and my brother priests to be. So, I will only speak briefly on two aspects of this institution that intrigues me.

The Priesthood is God’s gift. Gifts are usually free offers made to one who is also at will to accept or reject them. However, this offer is not extended to all classes of people as in the case of say for example, when a company decides to give out writing materials to primary school pupils. Automatically, all university graduates are not qualified to appear at the venue of the distribution. Yet not all, primary school students for whom the offer is made will appear for the free offer on the day of distribution for various reasons best known to them. Thus, in describing priesthood as a gift, it is simply to say that God is the one who freely calls and decides to whom he gives it. It is not merited by virtue of any action one has performed or because one worked for it. Of course, that is not neglecting the fact that the one to whom this gift is offered must strive strongly in order to take care of it. This is simply what both initial and ongoing formation is all about.

Another dimension to the priesthood which I have realized is that, it is a mystery. This mystical nature of priesthood derives first, from the fact that the life of the one in whose order the priest shares today (Melchizedek) still remains a mystery going by the account giving in the scriptures about this man (Gen 14, 1ff).  Melchizedek was one of those puzzling people in the Bible who appeared only briefly but was mentioned again as an example of holiness and right living (Hebrews 5:8-10). The Bible does not shed any light on Melchizedek’s religious rituals either, except to mention that he presented bread and wine to Abram. This act and Melchizedek’s holiness makes him a type of Christ. He is one of those bible personalities who show the same qualities as Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. With no record of father or mother, and no genealogical background in Scripture, this description is fitting. Some scholars go a step further, theorizing that Melchizedek may have been a theophany of Christ or a manifestation of deity in temporary form. He and his order is a bundle of mystery and it is into this order that the Catholic Priest is ordained. Second, this mystical nature comes to its full manifestation in what happened at the Last/Lord’s Supper. The action of Christ, i.e. the consecration of bread and wine which transforms into his body and blood that the priest performs also as an Alta Christus is a great mystery. The institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ on Holy Thursday equally marks the institution of the priesthood. Personally, I have tried to understand this mystery, but I am yet to fathom it. May be, experience will help me unravel this mystery soon. However, if it is a matter of experience in unraveling the mystery behind this sacred institution, I am sure assure that most of my elder brother priests would have helped me. May be someone has done that somewhere, but I am yet to get a gist about it.

In my short period as a priest, so far it has been so good and there is nothing to regret not even the fact that I do not know what the future holds. Whatever it holds, I strongly believe that it is in the hands of God. He is the one who instituted this ministry and provides the spiritual energy and moral fibre with which it has been sustained for ages. God made it a noble call ab initio and it still remains so. However, I must admit here that it is not a bed of roses. It is not at all an escape route for any one fleeing from marriage responsibilities, neither is it a platform for enjoying the goodies of life. It has its own ups and downs as some events of the past years have shown and proved. There are lots of thorns in it, but these can be turned into luxury beds by the power of the Holy Spirit the “general overseer” of this sacred institution of Priesthood. It has lots of thorns that must be endured patiently and courageously. It is in fact a celebration of courage.

On this note therefore, I congratulate and salute all the authentic priests of the Holy Mother Church on this wonderful occasion of their birth / feast day. I equally, encourage all to be faithful and steadfast in preserving this gift, call and mystery of God as St. Peter the Vicar of Christ admonishes us: So then, my friends try even harder to make God’s call and his choice of you a permanent experience; if you do so, you will never abandon your faith” (2 Peter 1, 10).

Once again, congratulations to all brother priests! Congratulations to all the Faithful of God who love Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and who still love and hold their priests in high esteem!! Congratulations the Holy Catholic Church!!!

Peace be with you all.

Maranatha!

Homily For Easter Sunday

Alleluia! Alleluia!! The Lord is Risen!!!

Readings: (1st: Acts 10: 34. 37-43; Ps 117: 1-2. 16-23; 2nd: Col 3:1-4; Gos Jh 20: 1-9)

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 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 Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

As a young boy, I longed for Easter season because I loved to sing and hear this traditional Easter hymn (Vic­tim­ae Pasch­a­li): “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! Christians, haste your vows to pay, Alleluia! …” (Composed by an Un­known au­thor, between the 11th or 12th     but trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Lane E Leesen in Ca­tho­lic Hymns, 1853). I was simply interested in this song without actually reflecting on the import of Easter. However, as I grew up, I realized that Easter is more than this, because I came to understand the full meaning of the Paschal Mystery.

Once, I was passing by a neighbor’s house and was attracted by his little son who was sitting expectantly in their small flower garden as if he was waiting for someone. I called out to him, Chuka! What are you doing there? His quick response was, “Father, I have just planted my seed here, and I am waiting for it to grow now, so that I can have my seed back.” I smiled at him and said to him, Chuka, but before you get your seed back it must remain there for some days, rot, germinate, grow and bear fruits. This will take some weeks okay? The poor boy looked at me in disappointment and said, “If that is the case let me take my seed back.” Of course, he dug up his seed and off he went.

Today we sing and shout Alleluia because unlike Chuka, our patience, hope and faith has not failed us. Chika was not ready for the ordeal, for his seed to rot, and “resurrect” in order to bear him more and better fruits. Today is the greatest of all Sundays in the Christian calendar because of the newness and renewal of life that it brings. Not only is it the beginning of the new life of the glorified Christ, it is equally the beginning of the new life of all true Christians. We celebrate today the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, and of peace over chaos. We celebrate also hope, patience and the fulfillment of God’s Promise to his people. We also celebrate today what makes the Christian religion unique amongst other world religions, the resurrection of our Lord. 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. So, his resurrection and new life is equally ours now.

Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus left the linen cloths with which he was buried in the grave when he resurrected. In order words, he did not cling to any “worldly” thing or allowed them to pull him down. There are two questions we need ask ourselves this Easter. The first is: Did I resurrect with Christ this Easter? The second question is: What have I left in “my grave” this Easter? If we must rise like Christ, we must be equally ready to detach ourselves from all unnecessary mundane things that we are strongly and madly attached to. Jesus understood and obeyed the natural law which holds that for one to rise up he/she must leave something behind. If we fail to do this, the law of gravity which Jesus himself understood and obeyed might prevail against us. God forbid!

The core message of Easter therefore, is that today, day we like Christ have risen above all the obstacles that pined us down in the grave. It is a message that, even though death and the grave were parts of God’s salvific plan, they will not linger for eternity (Ps. 30, 5). It is a blessed assurance that God is faithful to his promises, and will deliver us from all the perilous situations. It is an assurance that our day of glory will surely come. Today is indeed, “a day that the Lord God Himself has made, let us rejoice and be extremely glad in it (Ps118, 22).” Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Peace be with you!!

Maranatha!!!

Homily For Holy Good Friday

What Is Good About Good Friday?

Rdgs: (1st: Is 52, 13- 53, 12; Ps 30; 2nd: He 4, 4-16, 5-9: Gos: Jn 18, 1-19, 42)

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   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 Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

There are certain expressions that can present lots of difficulties at times. This is most especially when they sound or look ironical. In order words, saying one thing and meaning the other. Hence, we hear expressions like “beautiful nonsense”, “shameless boldness” and the likes. Also, I am reminded of one of my lecturer who some of us believed to be melancholic. If you encounter this man in the morning and innocently greet him “good morning sir!” The most probable answer you might get as his response and of course, with a very harsh and scaring tune is: “What is good about this morning?” As a result of this, most students used to pray not to meet him in the morning.

Like this lecturer of mine, most of us have asked this question: “What is good about this Good Friday? What is good about a day that someone was innocently condemned to death and crucified? A day that we are not to celebrate; a day we are asked to abstain from all the goodies of life; a day when God was crucified; a day when the hopes of those who looked up to Jesus as the Christ and Messiah were shattered; a day that everyone is expected to leave the church mournful and silent; and a day when the altar of the Almighty God is reaped of its beautiful decorations and laid bare. This question also reminds me of an inscription I once saw on the body of a rickety vehicle which reads: “do not mind what is written on me, just enter and you will be fine!”  This brings us at least few inches close to the answer to this question. Good Friday is the Friday within Holy Week. The first shot at the question is that without this day (not doubting the power or the ability of God the Father to use any other means to accomplish his mission) perhaps, there would have been no salvation for humanity. This is because, had Christ not died, there would not have been washing away of our sins (John 16, 3; Rom 5, 8). So it is good because, it is a blessing in disguise. It is actually on this day that the devil was put to shame and the power of death was defeated. Hence, Paul asked: “death where is your sting, death where is your power?” (I Cor 15, 55). According to the Catholic Catechism: “Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men” (CCC 1992).

Secondly, it is on this day that the barriers preventing all the saints of the church from entering the holy of holies is torn apart (Mt 27, 51). Thirdly, it is on this day that the journey of salvation is actually instituted. In fact some scholars consider this day more important than Easter Sunday, for they feel that without this day, the Christ event of Easter Sunday would not have been feasible. The term Good Friday and the activities that surround it could be likened to one of the lines in the Exultet song during the Easter Vigil Mass which describes the fall of Adam and Eve as:  “Oh, what a happy fall.” So, just as the fall of Adam and Eve helped in fulfilling the salvific plan of God, so also does the sacrifice and death of Jesu Christ on Good Friday not only help in fulfilling the salvific plan of God, but is, in itself the fullness and the highest point in this plan. It is a day when the “drama script” written by God is fully “directed and acted out” by Christ his Son. Even though on this day there appeared to be the absence of God by human reckoning, instead, God was fully present and somewhere beaming with smiles as his son accomplished his mission for the salvation of humanity. Indeed, it is a Good Friday!

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

My prayer/ letter to you my friends this blessed Palm/ Passion Sunday

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Royalty and the Cross!

Beloved in Christ Jesus, 

this special sunday as we celebrate: Humility in Suffering and Service; Royalty and the Cross, may you find this day, the strenght to remain faithful in the journey ahead. Humbly, I also employ these words of St. Ambrose (CCC 2852) to bless you thus:

“May the Lord who has taken away your sins and pardoned your faults also protect you and keep you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not suprise you.”

As we Journey with Christ this holiest of all weeks let us bear in mind that any one who entrusts himself / herself to God does not dread the devil, for, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Fr. Canice Chukwuemeka Njoku, C.S.Sp

Homily for Palm/Passion Sunday, March 24, 2013

Humility in Suffering and Service

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(1st Reading – Ish 50:4-7; 2nd Reading- Phil 2:6-11: Ps.22, 8-9ff; Gospel-Lk 22:14-23:56)

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 Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, 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 contact him on:canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com or +23408063767512

The Church today celebrates Palm/Passion Sunday which is the last Sunday before Easter. While Palm Sunday signifies royalty and triumph, Passion Sunday signifies both suffering and love. Both of these however, portray humility in action. Hence today’s celebration has a double barreled-phase and also bears a dual meaning. While reflecting on the nature of today’s celebration one scenario came to my mind. I was quick to remember the activities of a particular specie of tiny rats in my village. These tiny creatures operate in the night and specialize in chopping or eating off part of someone’s toes or fingers. The remarkable thing about these creatures and their activities is that they play dual role. While they are biting and eating off part of one’s toe, they at the same time blow a gently breeze over the area, such that the victim rather than feel pain and wake up to chase them away, feels a soothing sensation that keeps him/her sleeping while they comfortably carry out their mission.

On this day in the church’s liturgical calendar, the Christian community begins the re-enacting of another phase of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ (his Death, Burial and Resurrection) upon which the salvation of humanity is anchored. We re-enact the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem as well as his passion. Hence it reminds us of the double-aged nature of our Christian lives and journey. We are celebrated today and persecuted tomorrow; loved today and hated tomorrow; praised today and castigated tomorrow. A very important lesson we are to learn from all these, is that life presents us with its different dimensions as it unfolds. The same people who cheer us up in good times shouting: “Hosanna! Hosanna!! Hosanna!!!” might equally be the same later on in life, to shout: “Crucify him! Crucify him!! Crucify!!!” This is the mystery and dialectics of life. Mystery because, at times understanding it is beyond our reach and imagination, and dialectical because these two aspects of life certainly help us to know truly who we really are and what we mean to people.

A look at today’s readings portrays the humility with which Christ approached these situations. In the first reading (Ish 50:4-7) taken from one of the “ebed Yahweh” (servant of Yahweh’s) songs, one finds the prefigured Christ humbly bearing his suffering without any resistance. Also in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:6-11), we see humility at its apogee. This is the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ: “though he was in the form of men he did not regard equality with God.” In the gospel (Lk 22:14-23:56), at supper he humbled himself to the point of accepting to eat at the same table with the one about to betray him. “…And yet behold the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on table.” In spite of all these, he taught his disciples to humble themselves as he humbled himself before Pilate and the chief priests even till death.

In all of these we learn humility in all circumstances of life both in good and bad times. Christ was strong but humbly, he became weak. He taught us as Pope Francis I said during his installation Mass on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 that: “True power lies in service” and humility. During his triumphant entry he rode on a colt which symbolizes humility. In his suffering he abandoned himself to his enemies without resistance or striking back. Let us therefore pray at this Mass that the Almighty God may grant us the humility with which to follow Christ during this Holy Week. So that in the days beyond we might find the strength we need to live truly as Christ lived without losing our faith in God who truly cares and never abandons those who put their trust in him.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent (Liturgical Year C)

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Seeking New Life & Perfection In Christ

(Readings: 1st -Ish 43,16-21; 2nd-Phil 3, 8-14; Gosp – John 8, 1-11; Ps.125)

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 Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, 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 contact him on:canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com or +23408063767512

Gradually, we are drawing closer to the end of Lent and closer to Easter season. In order words, we are gradually moving away from the zone of hardship and suffering towards the zone of glory. Hence, virtually all of today’s readings give us hope, and paint a very bright future for us. In the first reading (Ish 43, 16-21), God tells us of the new things he is about to do amongst us. This means that in spite of the difficulties of this present moment and season, in no distance time the Lord will rise up to the occasion of our situation. Surely, he will because he tells us in Ps 30, 5 “that weeping may endure at night but joy comes in the morning.” So there is sure hope that we are approaching morning. Therefore, we must be positive about the future as we approach Easter because, what God promised he will do, he will surely do. This is why Paul himself decided to mortgage everything he owed and labored for, in order to gain the future glory and perfection revealed in Jesus’ resurrection power (Phil 3, 8-10). He understood the gimmicks of new life and its worth, and so, made this great sacrifice. He knew that “Nke iru ka” (What lies ahead is greater), as Haggai 2, 9 tell us that: “The glory of the latter shall be greater than that of the former.” Paul therefore, remained resolute in his faith even to the point of “reproducing Christ’s death” in himself.

Many of us are quite familiar with today’s Gospel reading from John 8, 1-11. The emphasis I wish to lay on this reading would not be much on the hypocritical activities of the Pharisees in relation to the crime of the adulterous woman. However, what is most important here is the fact that Jesus restored life to this woman. Not only did he save her from her antagonists, he gave her a new injunction, GO AND SIN NO MORE! What Jesus gave her was new life and the mandate to live it to the fullest. Should this woman continue in her old way of life what do we think would be her fate? Of course both physical and spiritual death! Daily in our journey of faith “many elements” like the Pharisees stand as obstacles to us. They often times make life very difficult for us, because they have taken very good hold of us they always stand as our “accusers” and “thorns in our flesh.” If you like, you can call them “the skeletons in our cupboards”. These skeletons remind us of our true selves and indict us of the wrongs of our past life. So, we are held captive and become almost perpetual victims. We often try to avoid them to live on, but because they are keeping close watch over us and ever ready to accuse us, we prefer to remain where we are least we are exposed. Do you have one? Jesus says to you today, they have no more powers over you again, but do not welcome them back again through sin! The truth is that when these skeletons encounter Christ, and we ourselves draw closer to him as the adulterous woman did, they are disarmed. Our life is transformed for good. We should be encouraged by these words of Jesus “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” What more could be newer and more perfect than Jesus restoring us to new life?

 As we approach the glorious season of Easter, the Lord equally says to us “go and sin no more,” He promises us a better future if we heed his command. He promises us transformation and a place in his future glory if we remain faithful till the end. Therefore, we must constantly run to Jesus irrespective of our situation because, he is ever ready to acquit us of the charges the accuser brings against us. When we do this we can then shout out with great joy: “what marvels the Lord worked for us, indeed we were glad!”

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Lenten Refrection

At This Juncture: Six Questions I Must Ask Myself!

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 Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, 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 contact him on:canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com or +23408063767512

For the past four weeks and a couple of days now we have been in the season of Lent. Let us therefore pause for a while and ask ourselves these very important questions.

1.     How far have I advanced in this journey?

In this, we reflect on where we were before the beginning of Lent, starting from Ash Wednesday to where we are now, the fourth week of Lent.

2.     Am I spiritually better or worse now?

Here we reflect on the spiritual progress we have made so far to know if we are truly advancing or static

3.     During this period have I forgiven anyone I owe forgiveness?

Let us do a critical examination of ourselves and conscience in order to find out those we are still holding captives in our hearts. Let us drop them at the foot of the stations, so that Christ may take care of them.

4.     Have I been Charitable enough towards anybody during this Period?

We ask ourselves this question in order to allow ourselves be God’s instrument and source of upliftment to the less privileged amongst us. If your answer is in the negative, there is still ample chance to do so. Take it now!

5.     Is there any bad habit or sin I have fasted from during this period?

Perhaps you are still struggling with a certain habit, this period intensify your prayer life and take advantage of the stations of the Cross, and Christ will grant you the grace with which he was able to go through those stations. As you go with him, drop the habit(s).

6.     Have I taken advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation this season?

Christ wishes to reconcile us to the father. That is why he left this wonderful sacrament for us. So, He bids us, “come let us settle the matter” through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Wishing you all more Strength, Peace, Love and Happiness during this Lent

Smile Jesus Loves You!