Homily For 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Winning Eternal Life for Ourselves in Heaven

Readings: (1st: Am 6, 1. 4-7; Ps: 145, 6-10; 2nd: ITim 6, 11-16; Gos: Lk 6, 11-16)

           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

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matt 5, 4)! On this 26th Sunday, both the first reading and the gospel sound judgmental and point to the final end of the wicked while also, ensuring the comfort of the poor and those who are oppressed here and now. In a nutshell, today the church seems to say to us for the sake of posterity: “Disce quid es quid eris: memor esto, quod morieris” (learn what you are, and what you will be: remember that you will die!) In the first reading, the prophet Amos continues his treaty against the wicked, rich, wealthy and influential of the society who oppresses the weak and the poor. He vehemently pronounces the judgment of Yahweh on those who deceive themselves thinking that they are comfortable. This comfort is as good as the comfort of one lying on a bed with explosives beneath, or seating on a heap of gun powder while savoring the sweetness of a cup of honey. Amos’ judgment against such persons is “exile”, which depicts depravation of comfort itself. In order words, when their time is up, they will no longer be comfortable because, tempus omnia revelat (time reveals all things).

After her first stage of studies, Adaobi was offered a temporary IT-job in a fast food company where she was paid stipend which she valued so much at the end of each month. She saved it in order to help her complete her studies since she came from a very poor family. However, the company had a rule that whatever product damage that occurred during one’s shift, its cost would be partly deducted from the person’s monthly salary until the whole amount was fully paid. During one of Adaobi’s shift, she ran into trouble which resulted to the damage of some products. She was so distressed because it meant that she must work for about a year and six months before she could finish paying her debt. Fortunately, when she told her manager, Mrs. Obioma the whole truth about what happened, she had pity on her and cancelled the debt for her. After her IT, Adaobi went back to school and advanced her studies to Masters Level. Two years later she got married to a man who unknowing to her had purchased the same company where she had her IT few years back. The management board had decided to lay off all the old staff and employ new ones. When Adaobi knew about this she pleaded on behalf of Mrs. Obioma. Her plea was granted, and so she was retained. A year later, Adaobi herself became an executive board member of the company and saw to it that Mrs. Obioma was promoted to the post of the general manager of the company. Yes, she deserved it because, one good turn deserves another.

The gospel of today is unique in the sense that it touches very important aspects of Christian Theology, precisely Eschatology. First it concerns the comfort of those who mourn on earth and now (Matt 5, 4). Second, it concerns the Last Things: Death, Judgment, and Reward of the human person after the earthly sojourn with either Heaven or Hell (Heb 9, 27). Another important aspect of today’s gospel is that we must “make hay while the sun shines.” In order words, we must pay heed to the instructions of the good news in order to better ourselves now while there is still ample opportunity for us to do this rather than wait for Masses and intercession from our relatives when we must have died, which may or may not suffice. In all of this, the summary is that life of excessive comfort, display of affluence and luxury here on earth which does not impart positively on our neighbours and especially on the weak and the poor of our society will not profit us much at the end of time. They will not guarantee our ticket of being in the “bosom of Abraham.” We therefore need a rethink now by paying attention to the word of God and the clarion call it makes to us to use our earthly possession to help the poor and weak. Many thanks to one of the world’s richest man, Bill Gates who considered it important to plunge back into the society a sizable part of his wealth. (www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2011/05/). He is indeed the true rich wise man of our time who is preparing a place for himself here on earth as well as in heaven. He is wise enough to understand this famous Latin adage which says: “cotidiana vilescunt”, (everyday things, especially money, lose their appeal or value). They retain their value only by serving and servicing the society from which they were derived.

Furthermore, being mindful of the fact that this world shall pass away will help us lot to prepare for the Eternal Kingdom which: “…shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel like jasper…” (Rev 11-12), where there will be: “no longer any curse…. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in the City, and his servant (like Lazarus), will serve him… there will be no more night…” (Rev 22, 3-4). This is the reward of those who while on earth prepared a place for themselves in the bosom of Abraham. On the contrary, those who oppress and neglect others like the rich man of today’s gospel will suffer damnation. It is however important to mention here that not all those who are rich and wealthy will be damned, because not all wealth were accumulated by “exploiting” people, but some people got theirs through their genuine effort of creating values. It is only those who became rich by trampling on and exploiting others, those who live recklessly with their wealth, those who mal-treat the weak and the poor of our society with impunity, and those who made the comfort and pleasures of this world their final destination. On the day of reckoning, it is our purple and fine linen, our luxuriant life of ease, comfort and love of wealth over and above our neighbour’s need that Christ will mock.

This 26th Sunday, and as he will ever be, Christ is the center of our celebration, who in the presence of Pilate stood like Lazarus covered with sores and wounds, speaking up as the witness of the truth. Only those of us who are focused and are not blindfolded by the excessive comfort of this world will easily notice and identify him in the numerous Lazarus’ around us in order to attend to Him. In light of the forgoing, Paul there advices us: “As a man (woman) dedicated to God…Fight a good fight of faith to win for your selves the Eternal Life…” This call to eternal life is extended to the whole of humanity, but only those who will work towards it with faith, patience, love of neighbour society, gentility of heart and reverence for God will get there. Only those who showed mercy to the poor and weak of our society will have a share in the in the bosom of Abraham in the Eternal Kingdom where “meliora speranda” (better things can be hoped for), after our sojourn here on earth.

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha!!

 

 

 

 

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Homily For 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Serving Jesus in the Poor and the Needy

Readings: (1st: Am 8, 4-7; Ps: 112, 1-2. 4-8; 2nd: ITim 2, 1-8; Gos: Lk 16, 1-13)

           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

As a Seminarian, during one of my pastoral experiences in the Garden and Oil-rich City of Port Harcourt Nigeria, I was shocked by the gory and dehumanizing state and sight of certain shanties surrounded by modern edifices and mansions just close to the church where I carried out my work. It was an ironical case of abject poverty embedded in affluence, and a case of a community being so rich and yet so poor. No matter how beautiful those mansions were, the site of the shanties made nonsense of their aesthetics. During my few weeks there, each time I passed by or through these shanties located very close to a swamp and heavily polluted river, I asked myself what crime the inmates of these batchers committed against God, the government, the rich and influential around them, with whom they shared the community? Are they less humans than the owners of those mansions or did God create them when there was no light and enough materials? Till I left the city I found no answers to these questions. To worsen my problem, when I returned to the same city a year later for a visit, I discovered that the shanties had been gutted by fire and, most of the poor living there lost all they had in life. How can we explain this than to say that there is too much inequality and injustice in our world? A missionary some weeks ago on EWTN, titled his documentary on one remote area of Philippines: “Life and Survival in the in the Refuse Dump.” Why should human beings live in the refuse dump? Injustice and man’s in humanity to man, greed, selfishness and oppression are the obvious  and handy answers!

This 25th Sunday, the Church enjoins us to reflect on our attitude towards money, material things and our relationship with the poor and marginalized. If there is anything that has perpetuated poverty all over the world, it is injustice and inequality in the social class. Hence, Amos in today’s first reading decries the injustices meted out against the poor of the land. He wrote at a time when the rich took all the land, enslaved the poor in their farm lands, and exported food that could have been used to feed the entire citizens because of their gains in foreign currencies. The same situation menaces us today. If we look around we see poverty and the poor all around us. Sometimes the excuse we give to exonerate ourselves from the injustice they suffer is that, “they are lazy and not hard working!” I do not buy this opinion in-toto. Rather, a majority of them are where they are because of our greed and selfishness. We capitalized on their weaknesses and carted away what belonged to us and them.  A certain fellow was chosen and sent by his people to go and represent them in a national house so that he could get their allocation of government contracts for infrastructural development in their community. They contributed money from their merger resources in order to pay for his flight to and fro, his accommodation and for his daily up keeps in the capital city. When the fellow got the allocations he sold them off to representatives of other communities who brandished huge sum of money before him. He opened a personal bank account right there in the city and “saved” the money. In order to prove to his people that things did not work out well as expected, he decided to board a public transport by road back home. Unfortunately, and perhaps because of his iniquity, the bus got involved in a ghastly accident and he was left half dead. Just before his death, he invited the elders of his community and confessed what he did, and asked them for forgiveness. What a shame! This is a true picture of the nature and shape of the injustice, greed and selfishness in our world.

This is why Paul implores us to pray for every one especially, Kings, Rulers, Leaders and all those In-charge. This prayer is necessary for conversion because, once we are converted we eschew corruption, injustice, greed and oppression of the poor from our system. This is very important because God as Paul puts it: “wants everyone to be saved and reach the full knowledge of the truth.” This truth is that there is only one God, and we all are children of this one God. Once we understand this then, selfishness and egocentrism will disappear. We shall no longer think of ourselves alone to the detriment of others. We shall begin to consider the common interest and good of all. It is the will of God that we should be happy here and have a share in the rich resources with which he endowed our world. This is what being saved means. It equally means being saved from starvation in the midst of plenty, and it means being saved from injustices, greed and corruption that perpetuates poverty.

In the gospel, Jesus brings to light the fact that money and material things do not last forever, and therefore advices us on how to make use of them without losing our salvation. “The best way to invest,” a saying goes, “is to invest in human beings, especially the poor”.  We should therefore learn from St Lawrence the martyr, patron of the poor and cooks, who presented to the Prefect of Rome fifteen hundred poor people he maintained as the Church’s treasure, instead of silver and gold. Amassing money and wealth for ourselves without using them to help those in need only amounts to shear greed and stupidity which profits nothing. It equally amounts to mere love of money and material things over and above God and our neighbours. This leads to idolatry because they become the only source of one’s happiness and joy. As long as they are there one remains happy, but when they are not there, one’s happiness fizzles out. That is why Paul warns us that: “The love of money is the root of all evil” (ITim 6, 10). Money and wealth only have value in so far as they are used judiciously to help oneself and the needy around us. Only fools hold tenaciously to money and wealth over and above God, and to the detriment of the poor. By doing this they indirectly, “say in their hearts there is no God” (Ps 14:1), because of the satisfaction they derive from their money and wealth. Only the ungodly use their wealth to oppress the poor and the weak, but the wise and the shrewd use them to help people. When we are blessed by God with wealth, it is important to realize that we are only but managers or stewards of it, for the purpose of its equitable distribution to those in need of it and not for our own selfish interest.

Finally, we are not to manipulate the poor and needy for economic gains. Jesus Christ who is their defender will surely fight their course because of the injustices meted out on them. He has sacrificed himself for humanity, the poor inclusive, and therefore any form of injustice or oppression of the poor or weak as Amos decries will cry out to Jesus for vengeance as the blood of Abel did from the earth against Cain. This is because He is the one who raises the poor from the dung heap and lifts the lowly from the dust.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!

Homily For 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

                 Jesus Our Lord! The Full Aroma of God’s Mercy

Readings: (1st: Ex 32, 7-11.13-14; Ps: 50, 3-4. 13.17; 2nd: I Tim 1, 12-17; Gos: Lk 15, 1-32)           

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

Part of the Common Preface – II (Salvation through Christ) in the Roman Order of Mass that I cherish so much reads: “…For in goodness You created man, and when he was justly condemned, in mercy You redeemed him through Christ our Lord…” This is the resume of the whole readings and teaching of this redemptive 24th Sunday of the Church’s Ordinary Time. The Church therefore, invites us and gives us another golden opportunity not only to reflect on, but most importantly to savour the sweetness of the Aroma of God’s MERCY made whole in Jesus Christ Our Lord. At the epicenter of today’s readings is the fact of God’s mercy and his readiness to welcome us, poor sinners back to himself. However, this return and welcoming back is strongly dependent on the effort we make to repent. In order words, our God being a merciful Father operates an “open door policy” because, he is ever ready to let the aroma of his mercy flow into us. Hence, he beckons us to: “Come let us settle the matter, even though your sins are as red as crimson, you shall be white as snow, if you are willing and able you will eat the best from the Land” (Ish 1, 18-19).

One very important lesson we are to learn from today’s readings is the power of intercession for both ourselves and for our fellow sinners. The Christ we celebrate today is the second Moses who in the Old Testament interceded for his sinful people. He is a merciful Lord and Master who came into the world not for the purpose of judging and condemning us its inhabitance, but to acquit and set us free. This is true because: “…When we were still sinners and powerless, Jesus Christ died for the ungodly…” (Rom 5, 6). He continues to intercede for us every day especially by being both our priest and victim at Mass. Jesus like Moses, never gives up on us. Rather, he untiringly and relentlessly continues to intercede for us.  So too, we must not be tired of doing same for one another and our ungodly world and generation because the God to whom Moses interceded to on behalf of his people is still the same God whose aroma of mercy we can still perceive and savour today if only we sharpen our spiritual oganoleptic senses.

In the first reading of today from Exodus, we are reminded of the imminent and blazing wrath of God just as Paul warns us that, “the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness” (Rom 1, 18). In this reading we also discover a God who knows and abides by his own promises once he is reminded of them, a God who is faithful to the vows he made, and a God whose love surpasses his anger and whose mercy overtakes his judgment. However, he says to us: If my people called by my name will turn away from their sins, I will heal their land…” (2 Chr 7, 14). Therefore, all we need do is to call upon the Lord and remind him of his promises as Moses did. A saying goes that to whom much is given, much is expected. This simply means that as we ourselves were accepted and brought back by God through his pardon and mercy, we must do same for others who sin against us. It is true that initially we might over boil with rage and frustrations as is usually the case and in tandem with our natural human inclinations yet, we must be ready to welcome back our offenders as our God did for us. As products of mercy, we must also be ready to show mercy to others because, “blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy” (Matt 5, 7).

In the second reading, Paul succinctly reminds us of the fact that like himself, we are all products of God’s mercy. Often times when the term “sinners” are mentioned, we tend to look for them elsewhere or distance ourselves from it. Actually, it is supposed to be rightly so, but unfortunately, the truth like Chinua Achebe of the blessed memory said is that, “things have fallen apart and the center can no longer hold” in our lives. Paul was not ashamed or afraid to identify himself with such instead, he examined and knew himself as Socrates advised, and then accepted to savour the sweet aroma of the fullness of God’s mercy through Christ. In all of these, we too like Paul, must be grateful to, “the the eternal king, the undying, invincible and only God” to whom, “be honour and glory forever”.

The gospel of today in which Jesus was, for want of evidence against him, accused of welcoming and dinning with sinners by the Pharisees and the Scribes brings to mind some of the accusation leveled against the Holy Father, Pope Francis at the inception of his papacy. While some accused him of being too liberal, others accused him of watering down ecclesiastical and hierarchical prestige, splendor and grandeur. Yet, some were highly embittered because they felt he was eroding the fabrics of an age long tradition by washing the feet of a poor woman on Holy Thursday. However, in spite of all these, Pope Francis has proved many wrong by the great success he has achieved so far through his demonstration of love, mercy and compassion for the poor, “sinners,” and the marginalized of our world.

In today’s gospel therefore, Jesus demonstrates to us how the mercy and love of God continues to pursue and search for us in spite of our sins. This is because he cares for our souls. Unlike in the first reading, where the wrath of God was so great, in the gospel He reaches out to sinners as a caring and loving Father. In spite of our prodigality, the merciful God is ever willing to go all out in search of us. And when he finds us, he embraces, kisses, and restores us. But the question is, for how long must we hide and stray from him? Is it not time we returned to our willing and able Father whose mercy surpasses his judgment? Are we not tired of being aliens in the domain of sin where there is no succor but pain and sorrow? God has made our return very easy through Jesus Christ as Paul attests. All we need is to sincerely and humbly cry out to him like the prodigal son: “I will leave this place and go back to my father”. We must cast shame to the wind, be free from the chains of sin and savour the sweet aroma of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ because, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never comes to an end, they are new every morning, and great is His faithfulness” (Lam 3, 22-23).

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!

 

 

Homily For 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Living Jesus’ Self-Sacrificing Spirit and Love

Readings: (1st: Wis 9, 13-18; Ps: 89, 3-6. 12-14; 2nd: Phlm 9, 10. 12-17; Gos: Lk 14, 25-33)

            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

Living Jesus’s Self-Sacrificing Spirit and Love, is what the Church turns our focus to, on this 23rd Sunday of Her Ordinary Time. The spirit of sacrifice helps one do a thing that sometimes beats the imagination of those around. Only the wisdom of God can help one unravel the power behind the spirit of self-sacrifice. It is this spirit that made Jesus give up all things including his life for our sake. So He reminds us this Sunday that it is through this same spirit of self-sacrifice that we can become truly his disciples. As difficult as this may seem, however, it is possible to live it through the unfathomable wisdom of our Creator who willingly gave up everything, including his Son due to his love for humanity.

Some months ago, I attended the burial Mass of “Chief Ama-Echina.” After the Mass, an elderly man named “Iche Ome-ogo” was introduced to the congregation in a special way as a hero, with a very strong affinity to the deceased Chief Amaechina. Afterwards, he got a resounding standing ovation. What did he do to merit this? Simple! He is an epitome of Jesus’ self-sacrificing spirit and love. In fact, he reminded me of two things; the title of Fr. Bede Ukwuije, C.S.Sp’s book: “The Memory of Self Donation” and, the heroic act of St. Maximilian Kolbe on July 31, 1941 in Auschwitz concentration camp. The story about Ichie Ome-ogo is that during the Nigerian-Biafran civil war, the deceased Chief Ama-echina, the only son of his parents was chosen from his clan for conscription into the Biafran Army since he was young and fits the job most. This became a source of grief for him, his family and the entire clan. Seeing the plight of his kinsman, Ichie Ome-ogo offered himself as a replacement for Chief Ama-echina so that he could get married, raise children and sustain his family lineage. Ichie Ome-ogo went to war, fought and returned alive. On his return he got married, and was equally blessed with children. The most touching aspect of the whole story is that, the same Ichie Ome-ogo who went to war was still alive to witness the death and burial of his kinsman, Chief Ama-echina. As a true disciple, Ichie Ome-ogo gave up and “hated” his own life, and so got it back in abundance for he still lives on till date.

This Sunday’s first reading therefore draws our attention to the depth of the wisdom of God who alone knowing his intention for forlorn humanity sacrificed his son for its restoration. No human being can divine or fully appreciate the magnitude of the will of God, and his sacrifice for humanity. He alone can, safe those he reveals his intention to through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we reflect on the intention of God for sacrificing his only son for our sake this Sunday, we must equally pray that He imbues us with his Holy Spirit from above. In the second reading, Paul in the spirit of Sacrifice was prepared to send back to Philemon, the dear friend of his captivity, a part of his own self, Onesimus. Although Paul had every right to retain Onesimus, he allowed him to return to his master Philemon who equally needed him. Paul here teaches us that we can equally sacrifice our own comfort in order to restore that of others around us, and for the peace of our world. Likewise, Philemon also, in the spirit of sacrifice was asked by Paul to be ready to let go of his misgivings and his ownership of Onesimus as a slave, and now treat him as a brother. What do we learn from all these? There is nothing we cannot let go for the sake of the comfort and peace of others. There is nothing, no matter how dear to us that is indispensible, and cannot be sacrificed for the sake of God and humanity.

In the gospel therefore, Jesus intensified this call for us to imbibe his self-sacrificing spirit if we must become truly his disciple: “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife…yes, and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.” What does the Master mean by “hating” here? He simply teaches us to learn to sacrifice, not that we are to literally hate people or members of our family in order to be his disciples. After all, they form part of those we are to witness to, and so must be loved too. He is not in any way preaching hatred, but rather detachment in the spirit of sacrifice. He wishes us to be willing to sacrifice our own comfort when duty calls as Ichie Ome-ogo did for his kinsman and clan, as Maximilian Kolbe did for his fellow prisoner, as the Apostle Paul did for Philemon, and as Jesu Christ did for all of us. To be Christ’s disciple then, means having the spirit of sacrifice. That is, being ready to give up anything. Without the sacrificial spirit, one remains attached to ones will. Without it, we cannot see the needs of others. Without it, we cannot understand the mind of God, and without it, the entire world remains static and non-adventurous.

Sacrifice then help us to give up everything and lose nothing at the end. It disposes us to become better Disciples of Christ. Therefore, what could qualify as suicide in the wisdom of men actually becomes heroic to the man willing and able to sacrifice in the spirit of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of sacrifice, the wisdom of God comes fully alive. It is only when we live out Jesus’ Self-Sacrificial Spirit and Love that we can conveniently and courageously proclaim: “O Lord you have been my refuge from one generation to the next”.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!