Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C), April 28, 2013

Living In The New Dispensation of Love

Readings: (1st: Acts 14, 21-27; Ps: 144, 8-13; 2nd: Rev 21, 1-5; Gos: Jn 13, 31-35) 

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

This fifth Sunday of Easter, Jesus takes us a step further. As he gradually approaches his Ascension and final departure, he hands us a new promise and commandment of love, which is very important in our witness for Him. In today’s first reading, Paul affirmed a truth which many of us shy away from and vehemently deny: “We all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.” We should note carefully, that Paul leaves no exception when he says “We all.” However, it is unfortunate that many so called “men/women of God” these days preach a Crossless Christianity, which is a contradiction of what the apostles of Jesus Christ preached and experienced. It suffices to note that it is the love for the word of God, the kingdom of God, and of course of our neighbours or of one another that motivates one to endure sufferings and hardships. Without this love whatever one does becomes an empty sacrifice or for selfish interest. Love is out going and so reaches out to others irrespective of the difficulty one has to go through in order to accomplish it. Hence, love for others must propel us to seriously look out for them wherever they are in order to share with them the joys of being Disciples of Christ.

In the second reading of today God promises to make all things new: “I am making the whole of creation new.” What a promise! But how are we expected to live in this new dispensation that God has brought about by the rising of Jesus from the dead unto glory? We find this answer in the gospel of today from Jesus himself who gives us a new commandment necessary for us to live in this new dispensation instituted by God. Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment, LOVE one another; …, you MUST love one another…” Here Jesus lays down the rules, the principles and the commands that will guide us to live safely in this new dispensation. “Another” here does not in any way refer only to the Disciples of Christ but it is all encompassing irrespective of religious inclination, race, or background. Of course this is not neglecting the fact that “charity begins at home”. The early Christian community lived this very well and so attracted such comments from their admirers: “see how they love one another” (as Tertullian noted in Apology [39.7] in the 3rd Century).

Indeed only those who possess this quality and actually live them out sincerely can truly enjoy life in the New Jerusalem that God has prepared for us all. It is only in the hearts and among the faithful who have love for the other that God will dwell as he promises to do. In talking about love here therefore, it is not to be construed in the way our society and world understand it because, the word itself means different things to different people. This is ranging from positive to negative passions, from real to fake expression of emotions, and from altruistic intentions to ego centric intentions. Instead, the love that we need in this new dispensation is that which bears the character that Paul describes in I Cor 13. The love that cares without exploiting the other, that forgives, that empathizes, and that is garnished with humility. This love as many of us may wish to say may be blind yet, very sensible, reasonable and godly. The love that Christ talks about here is an Identification Mark or Code. He says: “…by this love everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In other words, it is what defines a true disciple of Christ. The love of Christians for one another should be the distinguishing mark by which the world recognizes them as followers of Jesus. This kind of sacrificial love is what F. A. Schaeffer has referred to as “the final apologetic” (Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1970), 138.This love is a mark of the newness of life that Christ brings to his people this Easter season.

Finally, it is important to note that what Christ gives us is a command, i.e. an Imperative, and so it must be obeyed to the latter. Therefore as true Disciples of Christ we must obey Christ’s command to the latter even in difficult situations. We can truly bless the Lord’s name forever only when we love another as Christ commanded us to do.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter (Year C), April 21, 2013

Jesus Christ: The Good Shepherd Of All Nations

 

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

Readings: (1st: Acts 13, 14. 43-52; Ps: 99,1-3. 5; 2nd: Rev 7, 9. 14-17; Gos: Jn 10, 27-30)

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. So, dominant in almost all the readings of this fourth Sunday of Easter include themes like: Hope, God’s protection, the elect or chosen ones, Salvation for all nations, God’s divine favour, etcetera. Once, a poor widow decided to buy three pairs of trousers for her triplet boys. Because of her poverty she decided to shop for the trousers in a second hand cloths (popularly called “okirika” or “bend-down-select”) market. On returning home with the trousers, a little fracas broke out among two of the triplets as to who chooses what and first. Meanwhile, the third boy remained unperturbed and was ready to take anyone of the three trousers. When the other two have made their choices, the humble boy quietly took the one they both rejected and went into his room. During the course of trying to wash their cloths, the humble boy discovered right inside the back pocket of the rejected trouser a squeezed hundred Dollar note. In amazement he screamed: Mummy Dollar! Mummy Dollar, Hundred Dollar note in my trouser!!! How did the Dollar find its way there? The answer is simply: It is the Lords doing and divine favour!

Today’s readings point to the facts of God’s favour upon us all, and to the fact that God favoured us, and came to us upon rejection by his “first elect” to whom the good news was initially preached. The “gentiles” or people of other nations who received the gospel cheerfully represent this humble son, the highly favoured ones who through no merits of theirs enjoy God’s special favour. The rejection of the good news by God’s first elect and its acceptance by others is a clear case of one taking advantage of the opportunity missed by the other. When God decides to favour his people he does so without any prejudice. The rest of the nations therefore became God’s elect not by merit but due to the ignorance and the stubbornness of the “first elect.” Today we lean therefore that there are possible ways we like the first elect, can reject the mercy and salvation God. The first reading mentions just few of these ways, jealousy, blasphemies and contradictions. Ours may not fall within any of these categories, but we must examine and ask ourselves: Is there any way I have rejected God in my life?” Indeed one important point to note here is that any form of stubbornness, or disobedience is tantamount to rejecting God. This could be for instance by not trusting God enough, despairing against God, mocking God by returning to the same sin again and again, and even by our failure to recognize Jesus in other people.

The second reading is a sure manifestation and assurance that God willed to save not just his first elect but all who believe in his Son. In order words, God’s salvation and kingdom is inclusive especially to all who humbly and cheerfully embrace him. His mercy, love and salvation does not discriminate, neither is it the sole prerogative of any single nation. Everyone who welcomes the good news is a share holder in the kingdom of God. However, there is a saying that “you can take a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink”. So, in as much as salvation is free, it does not in any way preclude one’s effort to achieve it. One can also lose it through carelessness, laziness, and sinful living. That is why Paul tells us: “work out you salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2, 12). God’s salvation is like a public spring flowing freely, only those who wish can draw life from it. So as the sheep of God’s flock let us heed his call as he says: “behold I stand at the door of your heart and knock if you open the door I will come in…” (Rev 3, 20)  Yes, Jesus the good Shepherd of all nations stands there patiently and endlessly knocking and, it is our choice to welcome or lock him out of the castle of our lives that will make the difference. “Oh that today you will listen to his voice harden not your hearts” (Ps 95, 8). May the Almighty God grant us the wisdom and grace we need to make the right choice of accepting Jesus each day into our lives.

Peace be with you.

Maranatha!

 

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C), 14th April, 2013

Obedience, Commitment and Faithfulness to the LordImage

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

(Readings: 1st: Acts 5, 27-32; Ps: 29, 2. 4-4. 11-13; 2nd: Rev 5,11-14; Gos: Jn 2, 1-19)

Both the first (Act 5, 12-16) and the second (Rev 1, 9ff) readings of today are a firm and resolute testimony by both mortals (the followers of Jesus) and immortals (the angels and saints) that all power, glory and honour are due and belongs to Jesus the worthy Lamb of God. The God we serve is an awesome God and so does mighty things. Our situations, what we think, or feel about him does not diminish this greatness. So he delights in the obedience and praises of his people. Obedience to God manifests itself in faithfulness to our vocations. It also manifests itself through the kind of witness we bear for him. Hence, we can share in the glory of God only if we are docile to the spirit of God, and if we are obedient to His will rather than to men’s.

In today’s gospel (John 20, 19-31), we find Jesus asking Peter for three times: “do you love me”? This reminds me of what usually happens in my cultural setting where an elderly person calls a younger person (during the course of an advice) thrice by his/her real name, and still poses this question to the younger person: “how many times did I call you”? Then, the younger person’s response will definitely be, thrice! This triple and intense calling of name immediately sends a signal that what follows is a serious advice or warning. In a similar way, the emphasis Christ lays in his question to Peter shows how serious the work he was being called to do is. This seriousness is further demonstrated by the fact that rather than call him “Peter”, Jesus calls and asks him: Simon son of John do you love me” This is a way of indicating that for Peter to succeed, he needs serious commitment to Jesus and his call in the form of agape-bond. In the Greek text, one finds that during the first two calls, Jesus used the word Agapas me (v15-16), whereas in the last he used the word Fileis me (v17). There is no agreement among biblical scholars as to what difference these words make. However, what is important here is that Christ demands from Peter, as well as from us, a very strong commitment and obedience to his call and mission. It is a way of letting us know that: “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Jesus’ triple question could be due to the fact that Peter and some of his colleagues in spite of having heard and seen that He has risen from the dead, displayed some kind of laxity and unbelief by returning to their old ways / profession. Worst still, Peter who was supposed to strengthen others was the initiator of this idea. So, what Jesus appears to be saying to him as he says to us too is: You are to show good examples to your brethrens. Rather than leading them astray, you are to take good care of them, show them the right way and protect them from backsliding! Although one could excuse them by saying they were trying to keep themselves busy. But, busy doing what? Busy in whose work or vocation?

The lesson we must learn from this is that, if we return to our old ways or become busy in the wrong place or job we may end up achieving nothing and being frustrated as these disciples of Jesus were in spite of their experience. Often times, we go out of our way to change our call or vocation, or even do our will rather than the will of God for us because, we are bored and have waited for too long for God to act. So we shift our base to a supposedly “more interesting vocation or place”. Unfortunately, instead of progressing we find ourselves stagnated and unprogressive. The Psalmist tells us: “be still and know that I am God” (Ps.46, 10).

Peace be with you.

Maranatha!

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year C), 7th April, 2013

Witnessing to the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ

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

On August 3rd, 1997, Olukoye Ransome-Kuti, a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, stunned the nation by announcing the death of his younger brother Fela Anikulapo Kuti from Kaposi’s sarcoma which was brought about by AIDS. A night before, Fela’s burial I witnessed a parade of commercial motorcycle riders who displayed different forms of acrobatics on their bikes. What really struck me was the song they were singing. It was our own very popular Christian song that they have converted in honour of their master and afro beat legend: “He is alive, Amen! He is alive!! Fela is alive forever he is alive, Amen!!! At first, I laughed, but on reflecting over what Fela’s disciples sang, I came to the conclusion that indeed Fela is still alive even though he was dead at least in the annals of history and in the memory of his followers. Indeed “Fela lives on”, as most of his posters today bear.

The question we must ask ourselves is: If the disciples of a mere mortal (Fela) strongly believe he is still alive or lives on, and so, were proud to witness to what they believed, what of us Christians whose Lord and Master – Jesus Christ, tell us: I am the Living One. I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld…”? (Rev 1, 9ff) As we see from today’s first reading, the resurrection power is at work in the life and works of believers and the apostles of Jesus Christ. Through this power many are coming to believe and miracles are worked. Jesus himself is manifesting his ever-living presence through his apostles and among people of all nations. Thus, bringing to fulfillment what Paul tells us that: “… If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies…”(Rom 8, 11). In the gospel of today, Jesus showed himself to his timid disciples who for the fear of the Jews locked themselves up in the upper room. This visit is very significant first of all in order to convince them that he is real. In order words, he did this to dispel their doubts. Second, he understood quite well that they were afraid and needed to restore their confidence. Hence, he came in and said “peace be with you” and breathed into them the resurrection power in order to empower them for the work ahead. Once Jesus accomplished this mission of showing himself to the disciples and empowering them, they became courageous again and the cloud of fear and doubt disappeared.

Today therefore, Jesus reassures us of his ever living presence with us, this time around, in a more substantial, powerful and glorified manner. We therefore need to tap from his resurrection power in order to live as he lives. However, before we can experience this power and begin to witness to it as the apostles did we must first of all cast away all fears and doubts within us. Doubt and fear are twin brothers and limit the greatest effort and power in the world. We must therefore expel all “thomistic tendencies” that make it difficult for us to believe in the resurrection power of Christ. We must allow the peace that the resurrected Christ brings to us permeate our lives and so cast away every doubt and fear of the unknown in our lives. This power brings us healing of body and mind and restores us to life which is God’s purpose for us. Beloved, as we witness to the resurrection power of Christ let us give thanks to God whose love and mercy endures forever, and who counted us worthy of sharing in this power.

Peace be with you.

Maranatha!

Easter Reflection

Living And Walking In The Spirit of Easter

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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

In this octave and season of Easter, we have to key-in to the right spirit for us to really get the proper sounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ echoes. The spirit of Easter is the spirit of peace, it is the spirit of Glory, it is the spirit of joy and the spirit of fulfilled expectation. In this season therefore, every true Christian MUST radiate the glory of God. In the next couple of weeks and days, we continue in the Easter season. Hence, we shall remain in the alleluia domain for this period of time. Therefore, this season we are to be fearless, joyful and be renewed in order to truly live the spirit of this Easter season. This season which commenced with Easter Sunday and spans for fifty days presents us yet another beautiful and great opportunity to prove that we are faithful Christians. The very pertinent question we must contend with this period is: What does it mean to us to live in the spirit of Easter Season, and what is expected of us Christians during this wonderful and soul – refreshing season? Living in the spirit of Easter entails among other things:

Living Joyfully: What is joy? It is a down-to-earth gladness that cannot be taken away. Even the presence of sorrow is not enough to quench its radiating and refreshing effect. The Paschal Mystery (i.e. Passion, Death and Resurrection) of Christ teaches us that our sorrows and pains are transformed through faith in our glorified Lord Jesus Christ. This faith therefore sustains us irrespective of the perilous moments and difficulties we have to contend with in life.  It keeps us poised in spite of our inability to attain the heights we aspire to in life. It is the joy of the Risen Lord that should keep us going. It is our hope raiser!

Living without Fear: The Resurrection teaches us that God can overcome anything, even death. When the Risen Christ appeared to the women at the tomb and later to his disciples, his first words are “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5, 10) These words speak volumes to our hearts, helping us cope with the fear from the loss of a job, a serious illness, childlessnesss, oppression, injustice, depression, unwholesome habits and even a crumbling relationship. Our faith allows us to trust that God can overcome our most serious problems.

Living in Peace: One of the most important gifts that we receive from the Risen Lord during this season is the gift of peace. Jesus Christ knows very well that our hearts are troubled and that is while during his appearance to his disciples at the upper room his first greeting was “peace be with you” (John 20, 19). In order to buttress that he understood their serious lack of peace he reiterated and repeated it again as the evangelist John writes: “Again Jesus said, Peace be with you! As the father has sent me, I am sending you.” So this season, not only that we must live in, and enjoy the peace that Jesus brings us, we are to be also disseminators of peace.

Living with New Minds: Living in the spirit of Easter means to live with a sense of newness. Just as the return of rains lifts our spirits and make us feel like the whole world is new, the Resurrection of Jesus makes “all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) The Easter spirit is a spirit of renewal that enables us to show up at work, or school, with a positive attitude, to renew relationships that have been taken for granted, and to express appreciation and affection to those closest to us. It means to see the world through new lens’ of God.

Peace be with you.

Maranatha!