Homily For 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Humility: A Compulsory Path to Salvation!

Readings: (1st: Ecc 3, 17-20. 28-29; Ps: 64, 4-11; 2nd: Heb 12, 18-24; Gos: Lk 14, 1. 7-14)

            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

Today, the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C), the Church turns our attention to this very important virtue which characterized the whole life of our Master and Lord Jesus Christ: “Who, being in very nature of God…humbled Himself…” (Phil 2, 6-8). This virtue is HUMILITY, which is the compulsory path that every true Christian must walk in order to be qualified to join the millions of Angels and Saints in Mount Zion the heavenly city of our Living God. It is an attribute and quality of God, the Saints and Angels which all children of God must strive to possess and live. We are therefore enjoined this Sunday not only to reflect deeply on humility, but also to imitate the humility of Jesus Christ our Lord, the mediator of the new covenant. It is a call to make this virtue that bears witness to the truth the basis and standard of our Christian life and journey towards our final destination which is the city of our Living God.

During a certain fund raising ceremony, Nwaganga entered the scene with lots of accolades, show off, and flamboyancy. On his arrival, his friends and entourage started hailing him. His presence caused so much distractions that people were wondering who he was. Meanwhile, there was a middle aged man who sat calmly watching what was going on. When it was time to make donations, Nwaganga was handed the microphone to speak and make his donation. When he took the microphone, the first thing that betrayed his emptiness was his grammar. He spoke thus: “I have came here today to let you people know that I has arrived.” Immediately the audience went agog with laughter and some of his colleagues buried their heads in shame. Since he was not aware of his emptiness, he continued releasing more and more devastating grammatical missiles. Next, murmuring started and people started yelling at him: “Please make your donation! Please make your donation!! Make your donation and spare us more of this shelling of yours!!! Thinking he was the richest in the gathering, he made a pledge of Fifty Thousand Naira. When all others have made their donations, the unsung middle aged man walked up the stage, and requested to be given the microphone. When it was given to him, he spoke just a few words in well polished, simple and impeccable English, and announced a donation of one million naira and behold the entire audience gave him a very resounding standing ovation. He handed in his check and off he went. Out of shame Nwaganga took his leave quietly, and nobody knew or took note of his exit from the gathering. Foolish Nwaganga neglected the admonition of Paul: “Do nothing out of selfishness, but in humility. Consider others better than yourself (Phil 2, 3).

In the first reading the Preacher gives us the key to a successful relationship and harmony with both God and humanity: “Behave humbly and you will find favour with the Lord.” This is absolutely right and we must take it to heart here that favour with humanity is implied also. It is also right because this virtue is a core and basic element of our Christian life, because God made-man, Jesus Christ whom we are called to imitate allowed Himself to be born in a manger. This reading also brings to light the fact that humility is a sign of maturity, which consequently, leads to simplicity and gentleness of life. Pride the opposite of humility, which they say go before a fall, the Preacher tells us is a disease and malady. The only therapeutic approach to this malady is imitating the humility of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The second reading therefore reminds us of the fact that our destination and abode is the place of the Living God – the Heavenly Mount Zion! In this city, only those who humble themselves like the Million of Angels and Saints will partake in its joys. The proud hearted cannot subsist in this Holy Place. Hence the Psalmist asks: “Lord who may dwell in your sanctuary, who may live on your holy hill? (Ps 1, 1). Certainly, the proud cannot because, the God in whose presence we shall dwell humbled Himself first and so, everyone who must dwell there must be humble too. Furthermore, in this city “everyone is first born and a true citizen.” But what will qualify one for this exalted position is this golden virtue of humility. This is because without it, one like Lucifer, who wished to exalt himself above his Creator, would not be able to worship God, not to talk of submitting to His will.

The gospel takes us to the echelon of today’s good news. In it, Jesus himself our role model of humility summarizes thus: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus teaches us simplicity of life, that optima medicina temperantia est (moderation is the best medicine), and that it is God himself who exalts the lowly. In this regard we need to borrow much leave from the Blessed Virgin Mary who humbled herself so much in spite of being the Theotokos (Mother of God). In her Magnificate she simply stated: “My soul glorifies the Lord …, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant… he has brought down rulers from their thrones and has lifted up the humble” (Lk 1, 47. 59). There is little therefore to wonder about as to how and why our Lord is humble. The reason is simple, he had humble parents and learnt it from them, because fire they say begets fire and, snake never gives birth to any short offspring. In like manner, we have a humble saviour and must also learn from Him if we must be where he is.

There is nothing to lose being humble. It is a win-win game, and indeed, a clean sheet win. On the contrary, pride profits nothing but shame and disgrace because, “ex frixis ovis pullus numquam venit ullus (from fried eggs no chick ever comes),” and as Jesus tells us today, “…whoever exalts himself will be brought down.” Any spiritual life that does not have humility as it foundation will definitely be an empty one. Humility is very important for a Christian’s salvation and indeed for shear sanity. “Humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought’, are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. Man is a beggar before God” (CCC 2559). Prayer is the task of all of us just like it is that of the millions of Saints and the Angels who humbly and constantly remain in the presence of God worshiping him in the heavenly city – Mount Zion! We cannot do well or get there unless we learn to live this golden virtue of humility.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!

Homily For 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Gathering Unto the Lord of Glory!

Readings: (1st: Ish 66, 18-21; Ps: 116, 5-7. 11-12; 2nd: Heb 12, 11-13; Gos: Lk 12, 22-30)

            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

The readings of this Sunday, especially the first and the gospel are closely related. Both bear a very strong message of hope: God’s firm resolve to gather and restore his people unto himself. It is not only Jews nor Christians that the Lord will gather unto himself, but people from all nations who submit themselves to his loving discipline and care. One remarkable and interesting thing about this gathering and restoration of people unto God is that it has both a universal and individual dimension.

Kim was the only son of his parents and his father owned a multinational company. As Kim grew up his father noticed an extravagant tendency in him. He made frantic efforts to help Kim become more frugal, accountable and responsible but it was to no avail. Instead Kim accused his father of being wicked and not loving him. In order to equip him with managerial acumen and prepare him to take over the leadership of the company, after his first degree, his father sent him to study in one of the best school of management in the world. In spite of his academic qualification, Kim refused to learn his lessons and continued seeing his father as a dictator who would not allow him live his life the way he wanted. Unfortunately, Kim’s father got involved in a plane crash during one of his numerous business trips abroad and died. Few months later, Kim took over the leadership of the company. Just a year after, the company went bankrupt and completely collapsed. Kim took to drug trafficking business in order to make quick money so as to sustain his extravagant lifestyle. Though he succeeded a number of times, however, on one of such trips he was apprehended in a country in Asia with a large quantity of Cocaine. He was sentenced immediately to death. Before his execution, Kim dropped this short note for his mother through a friend who visited him in prison: “Mummy, Daddy was right and I was absolutely wrong. My stubbornness and waywardness has killed me. Forgive me and do pray for me and Daddy. This is the last time you will hear from me because, I will be executed in a couple of hours from now. Please forgive me Mummy. Bye Mummy!”

The first reading speaks to a time when God’s people were back in Jerusalem. It is an assurance that God will fulfill his promises to us. Here the prophet makes three important points. First and foremost, is the fact that God will soon make well his promise of restoring us to himself. He will surely do this to show his might and saving power. The second is the fact that God has a purpose for this gathering which is for the glory of his name. In order words, every work he does or uses us to do must have the remote aim of giving him glory. Hence, Thomas Aquinas clearly defines the remote aim of spirituality as the glory of God, while its proximate aim is the sanctification and salvation of the human person. The prophet’s third point that we must consciously reflect upon here is the fact that not only will God gather us his people unto himself from different nations; he will also make us afterwards his AMBASSDORS to other nations. Of course, this is when we must have learnt from him through the signs he gives to us: “I will give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations…to the distant islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory.” The purpose of this is simple. To witness to the glory of God! What this portends is that we are also partakers in the “business” of helping our “lost brethren” return or gather unto the Lord. God initiates it and then uses us to accomplish it. Each one of us therefore has a role to play here, irrespective of our calling and status. Hence the God commissions us to: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news.” The core of this good news is that there is hope, that our God will gather and restore us to our lost glory, for the sake of his own glory. We are to proclaim it because the more we do, the more we are enriched by its aroma.

The second reading from Hebrews reminds us that it is through loving obedience and discipline that we can be better positioned to hearken to the clarion call for us to return and gather unto the Lord. Neither the path to this gathering unto God nor the effort to witness to the glory of God promises to be very easy. It will involve walking through the wilderness, thorns and thistles, physical and spiritual chastisement from God our Father who allows it in order to strength, toughen and guide us along the right path we must walk to achieve a better result. Therefore, only those who endure and yet see God as a loving Father will succeed in life. It is often said that: “for a doctor to be kind he must be ‘cruel.’” The doctor has to pierce one painfully in order administer some drugs effectively for the good of his patient. This is the way God also handles us. He is the porter and we are the clay. He knows what shape he desires to get out of us. So he crushes, rough handles, and finally moulds us into a beautiful finished product (Jer 18, 1-17). Unless we learn to endure and obey as Christ learnt to obey through suffering and death on the cross (Phil 2, 4), we may not see or witness to the glory of God. Success is achieved through hard work and hard work through discipline.

In the gospel, Jesus answers a very difficult question: Sir, will there be only a few saved?, in a smart way: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door…! Through this, he reminds us that in as much as the gathering unto him has a universal character and outlook, it does not preclude the fact that we must struggle as individuals. In order words, it behooves us as individuals to make effort to be in the glorious gathering of the saints. Paul therefore admonishes us to: “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2, 12). What this means is that we have to put ourselves together by making use of the available opportunity in order to get ourselves prepared at all times. We are therefore called upon to train ourselves in the act of righteousness and discipline if we must be relevant to the great gathering of the saints by the Lord and for the sake of his glory.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!

Homily For 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jesus, Purifier and Saviour of our Souls!

        Readings: (1st: Jer 38, 4-6. 8-10; Ps: 39, 2-4.18; 2nd: Heb 12, 1-4; Gos: Lk 12, 49-53)           

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

Today, the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church encourages us, and raises our morale to fight against evil following the footsteps of Christ our Lord, who came to bring “fire” upon the earth in order to communicate to us something of his tremendous zeal. Jesus comes to purify, transform, and save us, our families and society from the perils that afflict us.

In the first reading, Jeremiah the prophet of God suffers grave injustice, for the sake of the message he preached. He became a man of dissension for all the land where he preached the word of God. His message was so discomforting to the leading men. So their best option was to get rid of him by setting the king up against him. Although they succeeded, in their plot, God proved himself a powerful Saviour. As the one who sent the prophet, he did not allow him to perish but in his own way came to his aid. Our God is ever faithful and ready to deliver us in times of difficulty as the Psalmist testifies: “I waited and waited for the Lord, and He stooped down to save me, He heard my cry.” This is especially, at those moments that our troubles are heightened by the fact that we are on the path of truth and justice, and at those times when our life is a contrast to our society. The second reading from Hebrews encourages us to keep running steadily. We are to “look up to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who saves and brings us to perfection.” We are also to emulate his zeal, courage and fortitude in the face of opposition from the harsh situations and systems that heralded his coming and message. Although, we are not called to commit suicide in the face of oppositions, we are to continue resisting and fighting evil even to the point of death. This may sound rather absurd, but at times, situations could warrant or demand this. The strength and energy we need to do all these will definitely be supplied by Jesus Christ Himself. The gospel of today is one of such that has proved an enigma to scripture scholars, and especially, to fundamentalists who have employed it variously in a very negative way. Granted that the periscopes contained therein are very incisive and zeal provoking, yet, one needs the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to understand what the Lord wishes to communicate to us through today’s gospel.

Brother Ike-Jesu came home one day, and started smashing and throwing away his television, radio set, and other electronics in his Parlour. When his neighbours asked him what was happening to him, he was quick to interject: “I am now born again, behold the old things have passed away in my life!” As they listened to him, he continued: “My Master says, ‘if any of your fingers will lead you to sin cut it off!’” It then dawned on them that he has joined one of the fundamentalist movements wrapped in the cloak of Christianity in other to preach their gospel of hate and destruction. Worst still was the fact that he soon refused to associate with any member of his family again because he viewed them all as sinners and unbelievers. In addition to frequently quoting: “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world…” (Rom 12, 2), he quoted Jesus in today’s gospel as saying: “I have come to bring fire on earth…Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? From now…son against father, daughter against mother, brother against sister…” To the utmost surprise of his neighbours, it was not long before they saw his Pastor preaching on the television and radio, even to the extent of selling tapes and VCDs. After some months Ike-Jesu left the church for another. Before his neighbours knew it, more electronics than he ever had found and walked their way back into his Parlour.

There are occasions in the Bible when fire did fall from heaven. Fire and brimstone fell from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24ff). One of the ten plagues against Egypt was fire and hail from heaven (Ex 9:3). The prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven that incinerated Ahaziah’s soldiers (2 Kings 1:9-17). Does it mean that Jesus is longing and wishing for destruction? No the fire that Jesus came to cast on the earth is none of those fires. It is not a destructive fire. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit, which fights the ballet for our souls. In describing this fire St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “We affirm therefore that the fire which is sent forth by Christ is for men’s salvation and profits….For the fire here is, I say, the saving message of the Gospel, and the power of its commandments; by which all of us upon earth, who were so to speak cold and dead because of sin, and in ignorance of Him Who by nature and truly is God, are kindled unto a life of piety, and made fervent in spirit.” (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, 1859, Sermons 89-98, pp. 409-459).

Hence, this Sunday, Jesus reassures us of his willingness to continue the work of salvation which he started in us, through a continuous purification of our souls. The fire he wishes to bring is that which is very positive and objective. Far be it from the “Consuming fire” stuff pejoratively construed and employed by most Christians today! Rather, it is for our own purification and good. It is meant to consume only the debris and fabrics of inordinate attachment, immorality, injustice, evil, and corruption in our lives. The aim of this is simple, our purification, liberation and salvation. It is meant to convict and convince us of the need to turn a new leaf, and help us re-examine our past and present standing before God in order to foster a better future for ourselves and our generation. It will test our deep inner self, thus revealing our attitudes and motives. Jesus, through this purifying fire will expose among us the worthless dross of the refining process. This fire will reveal those who are the precious metals that could be purified and made suitable for the Kingdom where God is the Sovereign and Jesus, the appointed King. It is the fulfillment the prophecy of Mal 3, 2-3.

What is the cause of the division that Jesus talks about here? It is the good news we preach with our purified, positive and contrasted life which challenges the injustices in our families, churches, society, country and the world at larger; the good news that  salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life is attained through faith in Jesus Christ. Because this message excludes those who refuse to turn to Jesus, it offends them, angers them, and often opposition and division result. However, it is important to note here that in spite of this, we must bear in mind that it is the sinners who eventually become the saints as Saint Augustine depicted in his De Civitate Dei contra Paganos (City of God against the Pagans). Therefore, we must love them but not their sin. We must welcome them still as our brothers and sisters in need of salvation. Ostracizing them will make us loose them completely, and by this we would have failed in the mission entrusted to us by Jesus our Saviour. In as much as today’s gospel raises our morale in the fight against evil, unbelief, and injustice, it is also important to appreciate that our world needs more love than hatred, more peace than war, and more unity than divisions.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!

Homily For 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

We are truly the Elect: God’s Chosen People!

Readings: (1st: Wis 18, 6-9; Ps: 32, 1.12.18-22; 2nd: Heb 11, 1-2.8-19; Gos: Lk 12, 35-40)

            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

The concept of God’s elect is one which is very strong among the Jews referred to as the “Kahal Yahweh.” That is, the people or elect of God. Biblically and historically speaking, this is right. However, the coming of Christ the first born son of God (Col 1, 15), the New Testament and Covenant broadened the scope of this concept to embrace all who are baptized in Christ Jesus. This is because, Baptism… makes the neophyte a new creature, an adopted son of God, who has become a partaker in the divine nature…” (CCC 1265). Also, “to be the People of God”, according Pope Francis, “first of all, means that God does not belong to any particular people, because, He is the one who calls us and this invitation is addressed to all, without distinction, because God’s mercy wills everyone to be saved”

Just before his death, Mazi a very wealthy man in all ramifications, decided to put down a Will having being diagnosed of a deadly cancer and advised to prepare for death. He had ONLY one son known to everyone including his very good lawyer friend and his wife. But when he was writing his Will, he simply wrote: “Share all that I own equally among all my SONS and wife.” Thinking he was out of his mind, his lawyer friend said to him: “Sir, but you have only one son!” Mazi asked him: “Do you have any problem with that?” His lawyer responded: “What I mean Sir, is that you wrote SONS instead of son.” Mazi said to his Lawyer: “Yes, I know. I have only one son that is known to you, but there are two others that you do not know and have not seen before. I adopted them when they were very tender and they live abroad.” Then, he brought out a complete document for the adoption of his two other sons and handed it over to his lawyer friend (only God knows why he kept this a secret to himself all these years). Finally, he reiterated what he had already written: “Share all I own equally among my SONS and wife” and added: “Because, they are equally my sons and I have equally included them in my Will!”

On this 19th Sunday therefore, the Church, calls to mind our heritage as the elect and people of God. She acknowledges that though we are a little flock, we have a very strong history which has its firm root and route in the dim and distant past. We worship an awesome and caring God. Therefore, we have the courage to look forward into a glorious future in the kingdom of our Father. Thus, the Psalmist exalts us: “Happy the people the lord had chosen as his own.” In order words, our God has extended his hands to all of us through Christ and considered us worthy of being called his people (Gal 4, 1-7). Unfortunately, many of us Christians have failed to realize our exalted position in the presence of our Father. This failure has resulted to so many setbacks in our lives. Although we are sons and daughters of God, we have remained like aliens in our father’s house. This is why the church today reminds us of our rightful place before God and encourages us to appreciate and take full advantage of this position.

The first reading of today alerts us to the quality and strength of the covenant or oath by which our citizenship as the people of God is established. Therefore, we are admonished to be joyful and courageous because ours is not a position based on mediocrity, but one built on a solid foundation. As God’s elect and people, we have Him as our Father, and so are not supposed to be afraid of the unknown, because he is the master of the future. If we as the elect of God remain righteous and firm on our faith in our Father, then, “the saving of the virtuous will not be cut short.” We are therefore reminded today of the firmness of the divine accord by which we were made children of God and that this accord enables us the people of God, share the same blessings and forthwith, chant the hymn of our Father. The community of the elect is a community built on the foundation of faith. Hence, the 2nd reading highlights this significant element of what qualifies us as God’s people – FAITH. It is faith that characterizes us as God’s people and consequently manifests itself through our professions, actions and activities. This same faith aided our adoption as sons and daughters of God sharing the same Father and heritage with Jesus Christ. Without it we have no claim or place among the Kahal Yahweh. Faith is like the DNA that identifies people of the same lineage or family. It is our proof of paternity to one common Father. As the elect and people of God, God himself has revealed himself fully to us in Jesus Christ who is the fullness of revelation. Hence, we are the elect because unto us have the Mystery of the Kingdom of God been revealed. In light of this, we must take hold of the revealed Mystery which is Christ himself the fullness of our Father’s revelation.

In the gospel, Jesus further reassures us of God’s willingness to consolidate the heritage earmarked for us. This heritage is His Kingdom. First, He alleged our fears that there is no cause for alarm. He went ahead to address us with a pet-like name to strike a note of fondness just the way our earthly parents do. He calls us “little flock”, meaning, my beloved people or my dearest ones etcetera. He did not stop at this, but goes further to bring us a good will message from our Father: “For it has pleased your Father to give you the Kingdom.” This is the resume and apogee of today’s message and good news. However, as the elect of God, Christ warns us to be watchful. This is a conditio sine qua non for us to retain our heritage. If we are caught napping, we might be in danger of losing this exalted position. Therefore, as God’s elect, we must live lives that bear testimony to our Father and heritage, a life that will attract and interest our master during His Parousia. This life is a life of watchfulness! Watchfulness here simply means being conscious of who we are, cherishing and safeguarding our heritage and its distinguishing character, OUR FAITH! It is only through this that we can be that “happy people the Lord has chosen as his own.”

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha!!