Homily For 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Total Commitment In Serving The Lord

Readings: (1st: I Kg 19, 16-21; Ps: 15, 1-2. 5. 7-11; 2nd: Gal 5, 1.13-18 Gos: Lk 9, 51-62)

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 and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843

On this 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church encourages us to: “Acclaim Jesus Christ who is more to us than the entire world, and whose Spirit has made us resolve to follow him wherever he leads us.” In the readings of today, one would at a close glance find themes like: Calling, Following Christ, Commitment, etcetera. All of these point to one central theme – Total Commitment in Serving the Lord. Eleven year old Ofeke disturbed his uncle (a priest) so much about going to spend his next long vacation in his parish. Knowing the solitary nature of the parish house and his busy schedule, his uncle tried to dissuade him but to no avail. Eventually, his uncle caved in to his demand and asked his mother to bring him. Ofeke arrived on Friday, spent the weekend, and by Monday morning he has packed his bag ready to end his vacation. He went to his uncle and asked him to take him home immediately. His uncle knew his problem. Ofeke could not cope with the solitude of the Parish house in spite of the food and DSTV channels at his beck and call. He was asked to wait till the weekend for his mother to come and pick him. Reluctantly, he agreed and waited for Friday to come. Very early on Friday morning Ofeke picked up his bag and told his uncle: “I am going home whether Mummy comes or not!” Most Christians are like Ofeke, quick to follow but without much commitment.

In the first reading, God called Elisha through Elijah. Although Elisha was busy with his business he had to severe every tie in order to follow his new master Elijah. He committed his entire life to his call. The kissing of his father, the slaughtering of his oxen, and bidding of farewell to his men, are all symbolic gestures to prove that he has made up his mind to follow his master. Most importantly, the slaughtering of his oxen bears a great meaning. He “killed everything” that could constitute a distraction to serving God. Perhaps he knew that if he had bequeathed them to, or asked someone to take care of them for him, sometime in future he might either be tempted to go and pay them a brief visit or return to their service. To eschew this temptation, he slaughtered them, offered them as sacrifice to God, and as food to his men. He did this to show them that he was totally committed to his new found love. Is it not baffling today that Christians are not committed to Christ in spite of our Baptismal, Religious and even Marital vows to follow Christ? This is because, our Oxen still lives. We must “slaughter” them as a sign of total commitment to Jesus Christ or, our attention will continue to be divided because: “You cannot serve God and Marmon at the same time” (Lk 16, 13).

In the second reading Paul reminds us of the freedom we have in Christ. This freedom like the one Elisha got from his service to his oxen is for a purpose. This freedom enables us to be free from other commitments that enslave us in order to be totally committed to Christ. Therefore, it is freedom not to be wasted on frivolities of life. That is what Paul describes as “self indulgence.” It is not freedom to become busy-bodies or a mediocre. Instead, it is freedom to follow and serve the Lord closely. Jean Jacques Rousseau in one of his philosophical thesis writes: “Man is free, but everywhere in chains.” Therefore ours is a freedom that also binds us to Christ and Charity towards others. This is why Paul says: “I am in chains because of Christ” (Phil 1, 13). Yes, even though he was saved from the perils of the world, he remained “a slave” for a worthy course. In short, ours is a freedom that helps us commit our entire life’s endeavour to Christ and his course: “But once I found Christ, all those things that I might count as profit, I reckon as loss” (Phil 3, 7-8). Yes, we have freedom but it is for the sake of serving Christ.

The gospel brings us to the zenith of this total commitment to the Lord. In it, Christ himself saw the lopsided nature of the commitment of the young men wishing to follow him. Having addressed their individual situations and complains, He makes a categorical statement: “Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Of course, we know the consequences of looking back. It turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt (Gen 19, 26). What Christ means and wants here is total commitment! This is not neglecting the fact that occasionally we might go off the track. However, when we do, we must as a matter of urgency return to the Lord. “Looking back” is therefore a dangerous venture in our Christian journey. So this Sunday, the church calls us to be totally committed to Christ and to her, the visible sign of Christ on earth. Like Elisha, we must “slaughter” or “kill” all the forces, obstacles and vices like: selfishness, materialism, greed, pride, laziness, immorality, cheating, backbiting, gossiping avarice, nepotism, tribalism, etcetera, that prevent us from serving the Lord well. This is the only way we can cry out and say: “O Lord, you are my portion and cup.” If we are totally committed to the Lord, He will definitely show us the part of life and true freedom in this world and beyond.

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha!!          

Homily For 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Looking Up To Jesus Christ!

Readings: (1st: Zec 12, 10-11; 13, 1; Ps: 62, 2-6. 8-9; 2nd: Gal 3, 26-29 Gos: Lk 9, 18-24)

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 and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843

Taking a cursory look at most religions of the world, one will find a common phenomenon. Each time their followers come together for worship, they align themselves either physically or spiritually in the same direction. For instance when the followers of Christianity and Islam gather to pray, they face one direction. Of course, this is not to say that God is not everywhere. The Christians face their sanctuary while the Muslims face the direction of the Sun (which of course determines the positioning of their Mosque). When they pray, they all spiritually try to channel their attention or gaze to the one to whom they entreat. If there is anything the church has always encouraged her faithful to do always, it is to be united in seeking the face of God. This is very much evident in the recent call of Pope Francis on the 2nd of June, 2013 to be united in one holy hour of adoration (prayer) for peace in the world and in our families. This was a call to be united in looking up to God. On this 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, therefore, the church once again re-echoes this call of looking up to Jesus Christ. “Therefore in today’s celebration, with all our differences, we become one as we gaze in prayer on the Christ we have contributed in bruising, and who gave his life as a ransom for our sake.”

In the first reading of today, God promises to allow us as one people share in the one Holy Spirit. It is this one Holy Spirit that unites us in our single quest of looking up to Jesus. In this we find that though bruised and derided, the Christ who the prophet speaks about is the epicenter and fountain of life from which we ourselves draw life. Hence, Isaiah writes that: “By his stripes we are healed” (53, 5). In order words, united in looking up to Jesus, we ourselves share both in his sufferings and joys. As we channel all our “spiritual energies” towards the author of life, who though was crucified, we ourselves become liberated, purified and worthy of his eternal presence. The second reading of today, though scanty in words has a very powerful message to communicate to us. One finds that it also reminds us that Christ is the one who unites us. We become the faithful of God through one baptism, and also, share in the life of Jesus Christ in whom we are baptized. Thus, Paul writes: “You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptized in Christ…there are no distinctions between Jews and Greeks…but you all are one in Christ Jesus”. This means we are to walk towards and look up this same Jesus in faith as one people with one goal. All we do must proceed from him and at the same time tend towards Him. This is what John the Apostle means when he refers to him as:  “The Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 22, 13), the terminus ad quo and the terminus ad quem. Because Christ is the one in whose life we share through our baptism, we are to faithfully approach him in all circumstances of life. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival (Heb 12, 2). Looking up to Jesus therefore means trusting him, depending on him, and waiting on him in all circumstances of life. It equally means clinging to him for good. This is what Paul means by “clothing yourselves in Christ”.

In the gospel, in spite of the many troubles and death our Lord Jesus Christ experienced, we still find in him the source of our strength and entire life. Hence, Jesus’ admonition of “take up your cross and follow me” also means fixing our gaze on him. To look up to Jesus faithfully, we must detach ourselves from all distractions and all that will prevent us from comprehending fully the power and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is also the idea behind renouncing oneself. When we renounce ourselves to follow Jesus, we concentrate on him, and we are lost in the contemplation of him. Therefore, looking up to Jesus as a Church is equally a call to pray. This is what the Church does any time she gathers her children together in prayer. It is a renunciation of the individual self in order to be united as one big family in “looking up to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.” When we as a church and one big family are lost in this glorious gaze we find ourselves face to face with Jesus Christ in whose suffering, baptism and life we share. Not only do we find ourselves in his presence, we are transformed for good as a family. It suffices to note however, that for us to achieve this, we must constantly as a church mean it, earnestly work towards it, and say like the Psalmist: “O God, you are my God, for you my soul is thirsting…so I gaze on you in your sanctuary”

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha!!

Homily For 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jesus’ Forgiveness and Our Faith!

Rdgs:(1st: I Sam 12, 7-10.13; Ps: 31, 1-2. 5-7. 11; 2nd: Gal 2, 16-21 Gos: Lk 7, 36-8, 3)

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 and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com & canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com
Phone:  +23408063767512 , +23408024942843

On this 11th Sunday of the Ordinary time, the Church wishes us to reflect on one of the core elements of our Christian faith: Forgiveness or better still, Jesus’s Forgiveness. However she wishes us to do this in relation to our faith in Jesus Christ. Most times I have had to take time to counsel some faithful on the need to approach the sacrament of reconciliation with faith. This is because most of them come to re-confess again and again, sins for which absolution and of course forgiveness had earlier on been granted, not necessarily because they have committed them again. On pressing further to find out why they are back with it, one will discover these twin factors in action in their lives: Absolute lack of faith in the forgiveness already granted them by Jesus Christ during their initial confession of the sin, and a very destructive scrupulous conscience which over laden them with the burden of guilt. There is nowhere in the scriptures where Jesus ever said to someone “Go your sins are forgiven or you are healed, pick your mat and go” and recanted or relented in fulfilling his promise or the person remains there.

Idika was invited for an interview to a city where he knew no body. By the time the interview was over, it was late for him to travel a long distance back home. Fortunately, he ran into Raphael, a former schoolmate whom he however had hurt badly years back. Raphael had long forgiven Idika, and in order to prove this to him, offered him shelter for the night. After much persuasion and reassurance, Idika reluctantly accepted to go with him. However, he was greatly afraid that Raphael would seek revenge. So, when Raphael rushed out to a nearby shop to pick some foodstuff for their supper, Idika took his leave. Unfortunately, that night he ran into the hands of some bad boys who robbed, molested and left him almost dead. Most of us are like Idika! Even when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven: go in peace”, we lack enough faith to accept it. Instead, we continue to be crushed by the burden of guilt.

All the readings of today including the psalm, anchor on the forgiveness and mercy of God and Jesus Christ. In the first reading, God confronts, convicts, forgives and acquits David through Nathan. The forgiveness was of course after David realized his sins, repented of them and cried out: “I have sinned against the Lord.” And so earnestly beckons on God: “Forgive Lord the guilt of my sin”. Even though David had to do his penance or suffer the consequences of his sins later on in life in accordance with Catholic doctrine (CCC 1473), it never changed God’s forgiveness for him: “the Lord for his part forgives you; you are not to die.” David accepted this in faith and reigned as the best king Israel ever had. Also in the gospel, Jesus did not mince words when he defiled all odds to say to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven”. This woman got her forgiveness through her faith-based-action which communicated volumes to Jesus. She equally claimed and sustained this forgiveness with her faith by picking up her emptied jar and walking away. If this woman is actually Mary Magdalene as some scholars make us believe, she was never seen again returning to Jesus (for the same reason), safe at the tomb of Jesus (Jn 20, 1-2) with other women and for a noble purpose. Stressing on the importance of faith in our Christian journey, Paul in the second reading writes: “What makes a man righteous is not obedience to the law, but faith in Christ Jesus… I live … with the life of Christ who lives in me.” This is a strong profession of belief in the power of Jesus to forgive and save us from our sins. In spite of Paul’s enormous sins and ugly past record which he though occasionally remembered and recounted in his testimonies, he walked about very satisfied and confident. Jesus who pronounced him FORGIVEN and ACQUITED meant every bit of his word because He says of His word: “…it shall not return unto me void” (Mt 24, 35).

Forgiveness lies in the domain of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and requires enough faith for it to be effective and bear the desired fruit for us Christians. So when the Priest In Persona Christi, says I absolve you from your sins in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit”, he equally means and says as Christ in today’s readings: “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven”. Even though he gives a little token of penance to the forgiven penitent, the sins are forgiven. This is of course with the resolve not to return to the same sin again. This is why God says: Come let’s settle the matter, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Is 1, 18). It is quite unfortunate that many of us unlike the figures in today’s readings, rather than forge ahead with our lives after been absolved and forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation, faithlessly and scrupulously continue to allow themselves be crushed by the burden of guilt and past life. We are too quick to forget what the scriptures say to us: “…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8, 36).

The Sacrament of Reconciliation makes us new persons because: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old things have passed away…” (2 Cor 5, 17). Therefore, when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven,” he means every bit of it, and we must accept it in faith because: “He is not man that he should lie” (Nu 23, 19). So when next you hear these healing words: “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Spirit,” believe strongly that Jesus has forgiven you, and rejoice because: “Happy the man whose offences are forgiven.”

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha!!

Homily For 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

 Oh Lord Jesus, Restore Us to Life!  

Readings: (1st: I Kg 17, 17-24; Ps: 29, 2-6. 11-13; 2nd: Gal 1, 11-19 Gos: Lk 7, 11-17)

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

Since Pentecost the Church has been celebrating solemnities that fall within the ordinary time. Today we return to the normal readings of the Sundays in ordinary time. Today is the 10th Sunday of Ordinary time and one theme that one could find running through all the readings of today is: New Life or Restoration to Life. A close look at both the first reading and the gospel of today shows that both stories are quite similar and revolve around the same story line – bringing some one back to life. One finds the following similarities: A mother or mistress is involved, a son is involved, the son was dead, a man of God miraculously restored the dead son to life and ultimately returned him to the mother, the restoration to life in both cases brought about feelings of joy and praises to God, etcetera. There is some level of agreement among most biblical scholars that Luke got his story from I Kings. However, he used Jesus to replace Elijah.

In the second reading, Paul recounts his conversion. Of course, the former Saul when placed in the “scale of life,” would almost weigh nothing, and was as good as dead. However, he was restored to normal life through his encounter with Jesus Christ. He was dead because his activities as Saul were prompted by his human nature or Flesh, whereas as Paul he became fully alive through the grace and love of Jesus Christ. A story was told about a certain woman named “Ojionu” who attended a Church programme with her husband. When the Pastor invited widows for a special prayer session, Ojionu stood up from her seat and started walking towards the Pastor. Citing his wife from his own sitting position, the man called out to her: “Ojionu, the Pastor is calling widows, I mean those whose husbands are dead!” The woman who heard him well turned around, took a mean glance at him and responded: “Do you still consider yourself alive? As far as I am concerned you are dead!” This is the type of response one gets when one could no longer fulfill the obligation required of some one that is alive.

Such a man in this story, like Saul and the young men in our readings of today need to be restored to life. Some scholars (like David Hume in Philosophy of Religion who are opposed to Miracles), would argue that these young men as well as Lazarus (Jn 11), were not actually dead, but were in the state of coma or deeply asleep. They would perhaps further argue that if they were actually dead Christ would not have been able to raise them. Whatever the case is, the question is, of what good is a comatose? It takes the grace of God to restore the person because he or she is as good as dead, and in fact neither useful to the living nor to the dead. He simply hangs in a balance. There is no doubt today that most Christians are comatose in nature and so need to be restored back to life. In fact owing to our condition in this state, we cannot call out to Christ for help, safe our loved ones do so for us as these mothers did it for their sons. This is why we need to intercede for others and also humbly implore others to do so for us in order to invite Christ to restore us to life. This is why David cried out to God: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Ps 51, 12).

We die every day like the young men in our readings today. It is Christ who restores us to life every day. In other words, like Paul, it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are restored and live again. The life we live is therefore only but a grace granted unto us, and it is for a purpose! For what purpose are we restored to or are we given new life?  Paul was restored to life in order to bear witness to Christ. This is why he says woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (I Cor 16, 19). He was restored to life so that he himself could become an instrument through which others are restored to life also. He was restored in order to affect others no more negatively, but positively, and as a source of joy, peace and hope unto others rather than being a source of sorrow as was the former Saul in him. These are also the reasons for God restoring us every day to life through the Sacraments we receive. When Christ restores us to life he also expects us to live it to the fullest and this simply means walking in truth, appreciating the gift of life itself, and by extending it to others. Another purpose for restoring us to life is for it to bring joy to those around us just as the restoration of these young men became the source of joy of their mothers and the people around them. In order words, our life – that is, the fact that we are alive both physically and spiritually should bring joy and hope to those around us. Furthermore, the fact that we are restored to life daily by God must move people to praise God and thank Him for what he has done for, in and through us.  The restoration of life to us must elicit a positive testimony to the glory of God. This is because, when we do well in life definitely those around us will give glory to God for our being. Jesus therefore tells us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 5, 16). This is the only way we can say we have a meaningful life.

In all of these, what it means is that when God plays his role of restoring us to life, the onus therefore, lies on us to make God’s gift of life and call a permanent experience (2 Pt. 1, 10). Jesus restores us to life for us to complete our mission, to make those around us happy, in order to give us another chance to better our lot and those of others around us. It is also in recognition or appreciation of our good life as was the case of Hezekiah (Is 38), and Dorcas (Acts 9, 36). In fact, for whatever reason God decides to restore us to life, all of them point to one fact: That God is the author of life. He is the one who through his Son and the Holy Spirit sustains us. What we do with this life is therefore very important because we do not just live for ourselves but for God and others. So in appreciation of this wonderful gesture of God, like the Psalmist, we must also say: “I will praise you Lord, you have recued me.”

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha!!