Homily for 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

A Life Changing Encounter With Jesus Coming Our Way Today!

Readings: (1st: Wis 11, 22-12, 2; Ps: 144, 1-2. 11-14; 2nd: 2Thes 1, 11-2, 2; Gos: Lk 19, 1-10)

            This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), 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.

With just three more Sundays to go in this liturgical year, today the 31st Sunday of ordinary time, year C, the Church reminds us that to the Lord and our God, the whole world is like a grain of dust. That is to say, tiny compared to his greatness. In spite of this, He loves all that exists and comes to dwell with us sinners. No matter how weak, sinful, or stubborn we are, the fact remains that Jesus our Lord is in our midst and is ever ready to ensure and secure our salvation just as he said to Zacchaeus today: “Today salvation has come to this house…” Because he is in our midst, Jesus keeps coming to us every day in other to seek us out. However, he says to us: “I stand at the door of your heart knocking, if you open I will come in and eat and dine with you” (Rev 3, 20).

In today’s first reading, the book of Wisdom eulogizes the mercy of God which extends to all his creatures irrespective of their state and status. Hence, in spite of our weaknesses and sins, God continues to be merciful as Wisdom puts it: “Yet you are merciful to all because you can do all things and over look men’s sins so that they can repent”. In order words, our merciful God gives us the opportunity to retrace our steps. This explains the reason he does not punish sinners immediately. This is the nature of God’s mercy! As a father who would not despise his own child, so will God not despise his creatures because he values each one of us. Even when we offend him, Wisdom says: “Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend, and you admonish and remind them how they have sinned…” In the second reading, Paul prays for us to persevere in good deed and faith in Christ. He equally encourages us to continue without being carried away by false rumours of the Lord’s imminent coming. In order words, in as much as the Lord will come to be in our midst in fulfillment of his promise to us, we must go ahead living our lives. We must not just sit down with our arms “akimbo” Rather, we have to get ourselves busy with good deeds so that when he eventually comes, he will meet us in the right position.

While reflecting on the gospel of today, the song “Jesus is coming this way, this way, he is coming this way today” continued ringing bell in my heart and head. Every day Jesus keeps coming to us through various means. He comes our way through our neighbours, through the sacraments, through the whole of creation. The looming and important question is: Do we see him, do we even know that he comes our way, and above all how much effort do we make to have a glimpse of him, or a life changing encounter with him as Zacchaeus did? The story of Zacchaeus is a true indication that Jesus Christ the Son made Man comes to seek out and save not only the righteous but also those that are lost. Irrespective of the human obstacles that made it extremely difficult for Zacchaeus to see Jesus who was passing his way, his dexterity doggedness and courage paid off. Unlike most of us Christians, he refused to be limited by the crowd. He refused to accept his diminished height as a disadvantage. In life, there are so many things preventing us from a holistic encounter with Jesus Christ, things that dwarf our mentality, and things that hinder our success in life. What efforts do we make to overcome these? If we make frantic efforts as Zacchaeus did to catch a glimpse of Jesus, He himself will also see us. Therefore we must rise above all obstacles that prevent this necessary divine encounter. Paul advised Timothy thus: “Do not to allow any one look down on you because you are young” (I Tim 4, 12). Likewise, we must not allow any weakness or short coming of life ware us down or prevent us from getting where we want to get to. The physical shortness of our being does not matter. Rather, if we remain spiritually tall we shall overcome all physical obstacles of life. We must be positively desperate like Zacchaeus, increase our heights, and occupy our space firmly, physically, and spiritually. This is only possible by doubling our efforts towards reaching out to Jesus who comes our way every day of our life. Like the woman with issue of blood, we must think, “if only I can touch the helm of his garment I shall be healed”, we must move into action, and finally, we must believe that it will work for us (Luke 8, 43-48). This is the simple principle of life that Zacchaeus employed and it worked for him. An advice goes thus: “Do not hide that sickness or that sickness will hide you forever!” We must expose ourselves to Jesus so that He could see us and come quickly to our aid. My friend, timor omnis abesto (do away with all fears)!

Humility helps us to accept who we are and our short comings. However, it does not prevent us from trying to overcome our shortcomings. Instead, it spurs us to search for other godly means through which we can achieve success in life in spite of all the odds against us. Zacchaeus’ humility is worth emulating. He acknowledged the fact that he was too short, in fact, dwarfed by the crowd and so, could not contend with them for space. He did not go causing trouble or picking quarrel with anybody for blocking him like most of us would do even on Sunday’s communion line. He did not push anybody down in order to have his way. No! Rather, he decided to explore other avenues at his disposal. As difficult as it was, he decided to climb a thorny sycamore tree just to get what he wanted because he knew its value and how much it would benefit him. My dear, there are so many other options in life other than that one that has failed you and made your life miserable. It might be “that thorny sycamore tree” starring you in the face: It could be that rough road, that unpleasant job, that ugly woman/man that you detest so much, and it could be that bitter enemy or that teacher or student you never liked his/her face. Try them, and you may be surprise they will take you to the apex of your success in life. Only humility will help us bend down and see other options available to us in life without given up. So let us obey this adage which says: “Ora et labora, deus adest sine mora” (Work and pray; God will aid you without delay)!

Finally we must also avoid, and ignore distractions and detractors to our success. These come in form of complains from those around us as the crowd did to Zacchaeus: “They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house…” Sympathizers and gossips must play their roles in our lives but we must not cave in because of their negative comments, complaints, and castigations. Instead, we must stand our ground as Zacchaeus did, remain poised and unperturbed in our quest to achieved the life changing divine encounter we are looking for. Also, it is important to note that an encounter with Jesus will not leave us the same. It must cost us something! It must make us shade some weight and drop some heavy burdens that prevent us from having smooth movement along the journey of life. Therefore, like Zacchaeus, we must reassure the Lord of our willingness to turn a new leaf in life and say: “…If I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount…!” If we do this sincerely from our heart, then Jesus Christ in turn will say to us: “Today salvation has come to this house…!”

Peace be with you all!!                                                             

Maranatha!!!

Homily for 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

The Judgment of Our God is True and Upright!

Readings: (1st: Sir 35:12. 16-19; Ps: 322-3. 17-19; 2nd: 2Tim 4, 6-8.16-19; Gos: Lk 18, 9-14)

           

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 of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), 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.

 

Theodicy is the vindication of God’s Goodness and Justice in the face of the existent evil. It is from two Greek words; “theo”, god and “dike”, justice. Our God does not show favoritism, he is firm in his judgments and decisions; and he cannot be biased or bribed. Yet he is a compassionate and loving Judge who does not treat the offender with impunity or harshness of sentence. His judgment is true and right! On this 30th Sunday of Ordinary time, the Church draws our attention to the fact that the Lord is our Just Judge whose judgment we know for sure favours the humble.

One little novel that left a very positive impression on me during my early college days like George Orwell’s Animal Farm is that titled: The Incorruptible Judge by Olu D. Olagoke published by Evans brothers in 1972. It focused on the real-life value of a judge who portrayed exceptional type of honesty, fair play patriotism, bravery, truthfulness, purity of purpose and an excellent strength of character. It exposes the ills of a society where the script and the spirit of the law are no longer respected. In this novel, Ajala was considered a suitable candidate for a government advertised job. However, the recruiter insisted on being offered some “Kola” (bribe) before he would offer him the job. Aware of the lawlessness of such a demand, Ajala reported the issue to the police. On taking the case to the court, the accused having weight around, contacted the wife of the trial judge, his father in-law, the customary chief of the community and the judge himself with the aim and means of getting judgment perverted. But unfortunately for him, the judge would not oblige. Without fear, favour, ill-will or impoliteness, the judge warded off the ill-tenders.  In the court room the judge and the jury would not be swayed or confused into condoning or venializing crime by the rigmarole of the defense. Finally, the accused is sentenced as due. This is the way God operates and sees to the vindication of the upright and the correction of the sinner. But as a Father he does not apply capital punishment; rather, he gently corrects and wins us back. Such is our God and His justice. He knows full well as the Psalmist says: “If you O Lord mark our iniquities O Lord who will survive, but with you there is forgiveness…?” (Ps.130, 3-4).

In the first reading, Sirac exalts us on the justice of God towards the poor, injured, orphans, widows, and in fact the weak of our society. This is coming at the heels of a time when just judgment has become a thing of the past and the highest bidder wins the case, and when cases are decided over a bottle of cold bear in a joint with a briefcase of cash to smile home with. In the “Heavenly Court”, God the Just Judge remains resolute to ensure that justices is upheld, just as the incorruptible judge. When we are faced with such situations, what do we do? God expects us to borrow a leaf from him by being firm. We are called to be like God the Just Judge who acquits the virtuous by delivering just judgment. Also, Sirac assures us that in as much as we are humble, prayerful and persevere in doing good, God will surely be there to vindicate us because, as the psalmist says: “This poor man called and the Lord heard him” (Ps. 34, 6). Certainly, because he does not go to sleep, he will hear us.

In the second reading, Paul, having played his part perfectly well on the earthly stage, now confidently awaits good judgment from the hands of the Just Judge. He boldly asserts himself: “I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to finish, I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, … on that Day.” Mark the confidence of Paul here! There is only one thing can give one such confidence – a life well-lived in humility, fear of God, and according to the holy will of God. This is the reason John tells us that: “Perfect love drives away all fears” (1Jn 3, 10). If we live a righteous life, a life that leaves no skeleton in our cupboards, towards the end of our life time we shall not be afraid of death, “hell fire”, or even consider a stopover at purgatory because, there will be no need for all these. Most importantly, we shall not be afraid of what the Just Judge will decide about us. We shall approach his throne of judgment with confidence as Paul did. We must mark the phrases with which Paul punctuated his confidence: “to the end!” and “to the finish!” My dear, it is not over until it is over! If we are already living good and humble lives, we must not diminish in it. Rather, we must struggle to the end and to the finish. When Paul was yet to accomplish the race, he wrote: “I do not claim that I have already arrived…I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Phil 3, 12-14).

In the gospel, Jesus further buttressed the fact that, judgment belongs to “God who searches what searches the mind.” He is the one who knows all our intentions and actions. It is not for us to judge others because the judgment of mortals is biased, selfish, egocentric and easily confused. What transpired between the publican and the tax collector is typical of the type of scenario we find in our religious gatherings or organizations, where some brethren with their holier than thou attitude like the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat (Mtt 23, 2), to judge others. Another facet of the problem is manifested here: religionizing of everything; invocation and the use of the name of God, and holy words in the doing or defense of unholy works and actions. The word “ God” or “Yahweh”, a title of the holiest, most upright, most just being in existence, supposed to elicit reverence from human mortals, is now the most used word by unrepentant thieves, hypocrites, sycophants and hypocrites. Self righteous people often judge people wrongly because of their own weakness of mind and ignorance of how God operates. Such people look at themselves as the role models others must imitate or as if they are the real, pious and holy ones. They are quick to condemn the dressing, make up, sitting position, hair style, and shape of hair tie of others. These are not the ways of God, the Just Judge.

Finally, we must not place ourselves where we do not belong and place others where we feel they should be like a certain proud and arrogant professor; who on encountering one for the first time addresses him/her thus: “I am Professor, Professor… and you are Mr.…? Fool, he has passed judgment by placing himself so high (Dual Professor) while assuming that the other must be a “Mere Mr.…” Rather, we must humbly acknowledge our nothingness, vulnerability and weakness like all mortals before the Just Judge. This is why Jesus the Just Judge who acquitted the humble tax collector says to us today: …“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Peace be with you all!!                                                             

Maranatha!!!

Homily for 29th Sunday, Year C – World Mission Sunday

Uphold Your Mission O Lord, and Bless Our Efforts!

Readings: (1st: Exodus 17, 8-13; Ps: 120; 2nd: 2Tim 3, 14-4, 2; Gos: Lk 18, 1-8)

           This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), 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.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news (Rom10, 15)! Today, the 29th Sunday of ordinary time (Year C), and 3rd Sunday of October is World Mission Sunday! It is a special Sunday set aside by the Church for the public and annual renewal of our commitment to missionary activities. Mission Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 as the day of prayer and propaganda of mission. Therefore, Christ who opened wide his arms on the cross, and the Holy Mother Church, the visible sign of Christ on earth ask us to join our hands and hearts in continual prayer for the success of missionary activities. They encourage us never to lose heart in order that Missio dei (God’s mission) may be sustained, and all peoples come to know the salvation of our Lord and God.

In today’s first reading, God showed the Israelites that he is the one in charge of their lives and circumstances. As long as Moses’ hands were lifted up to God in prayers, the Israelites gained victory. This reading is indeed very suitable for today’s Mission Sunday celebration. This is because the Lord is our Rock in mission! He is the one like the stones that supported Moses’ arms for victory, who supplies the strength we need in His mission. “He is the one who trains our arms for battle” in mission (Ps 18, 34). Without him we cannot stand the heat, cutting and rough edges of mission. Therefore, as collaborators in God’s mission, we must continually remain steadfast in the Lord who strengthens us if we must remain afloat in the wide and at times, very turbulent sea of mission. We must ask him to continually supply us the strength to pray, and the wisdom that comes through his word which are the tools we need so much if we must succeed in mission. We must ask Him to supply us the strength to work and love those to whom we bring the good news in mission. Above all, we must constantly remind ourselves in mission that: “Cura omnia potest (careful effort, of course with the help of God, accomplishes everything).” Mission as Missio or Opus dei (Mission or Work of God), belongs to God and we ourselves are mere instruments. Therefore, for an absolute success in it, whether ad-extra or ad-intra, we must rely on the help that comes from God as the Psalmist encourages us to say today: “Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Like Moses also, we must say to God: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Ex 33, 15).

In the second reading, Paul reminds us of the demands of our duty and the need to be dedicated to our call in the mission of Christ. Most importantly, he places before us one of the most important tools we require to successfully accomplish mission – The Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures. He reminds of the need to be steadfast in preaching the truth as it was handed over to us undiluted and uncompromised. Hence, as a very important instrument, and at the same time the core of mission, scriptures must be readily at hand. It must however, be used not for selfish objectives, not for scaring people away or for imparting fear, not for exploiting people, and not for enslaving them. Rather, it is must be employed in such a manner that it will make those who hear us holy and thus, liberated from all forms of slavery. This reading therefore says to us directly or indirectly: “Memento semper finis (always keep the goal in mind). Which goal? The goal in question here is that of mission and that of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures. Thus, Paul reminds of this goal: “All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy.” It is quite sad to note that some who parade themselves today as missionaries have lost sight of this very important purpose of the Word of God as an invaluable instrument for achieving success in mission. One therefore wonders what business a person who is completely ignorant of the scriptures or even a quack in the word of God has in the mission of God. The Word of God is, and should be our primary business in mission, and as such, must be well prepared and delivered, “ not simply for sordid money” as is common today, or for self aggrandizement, but for strengthening and guiding the people’s lives, and teaching them to be holy. It is only through it that we like Paul, can become all things to all those we encounter in mission. Without it, a missionary is reduced to a mere social worker or a representative of an NGO. It must be preached in and out of season and with our lifestyles especially, in Missions of Presence where we are prohibited to verbally proclaim it. The word of God is what makes the difference because it is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 4, 17). It is the “active ingredient” in mission, and that which keeps the “potency” of mission high and alive as the letter to the Hebrews tells us: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (4, 12).

In today’s gospel, Jesus casts a great light on another important tool and dimension of mission, upon which all our missionary exploits and endeavors must be anchored. Luke tells us that: “He (Jesus) taught them how to pray and never to lose heart.” Of what use is a missionary who cannot pray, how would such a person succeed if he is not connected to the Lord and Master of the mission Himself? A missionary’s life must be synonymous with prayers. He must pray and preach in and out of season. He must first conquer in his closet before stepping out to proclaim the word which he bears. This is why Paul asks us to: Pray in the spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and request…pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6, 17-19). The only way we can remain in touch with Jesus Christ, the Lord of the mission is through prayer. It is through it that we derive the strength we need for our daily exploits in mission.

This Sunday therefore, we must earnestly pray to the Lord of the mission for the strength to persevere in our mission activities. In a special way, we must commend into his hands our brothers and sisters who are engaged in extremely difficult missions all over the world and, most especially those involved in “Missions of Presence.” May they find the strength to carry on in spite of all odds. We also pray for Christians all over the world, that the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, the first missionaries may spur and encourage us to succeed in our various missions. Amen!

Peace be with you all!!                                                             

Maranatha!!!

 

                                                   

 

 

Homily For 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

I lift Up My Hands in Thanksgiving to You O Lord!

Readings: (1st: I King 5, 14-17; Ps: 97, 1-4. 6-9; 2nd: 2Tim 2, 8-13; Gos: Lk 17, 11-19)

           This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, 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

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: His love endures forever… Let those who fear the Lord say, His love endures forever” (Ps. 118, 1-2). When was the last time you sincerely thanked God in appreciation of at least, the health and life he has given to you? As simple as this might seem yet, it is too heavy on our lips and hearts to say, “I thank you Lord Jesus”. The simple reason most times is that, we take lots of things for granted including the gift of life and indeed other mercies that God granted us through Jesus Christ. This Sunday therefore, just a couple weeks to draw the curtains of the Church’s (Year C) Liturgical Calendar and 2013, we are encouraged by the first reading and the gospel to give thanks to God; and to offer Him sacrifice for having made known to us his salvation, and for having cleansed us from our sins. During my office hours, I noticed that about seventy to eighty percent of those who visit start their discussions with either complaints or recounting of their woes, failures and disappointments. So, I usually ask people like this to be still and reflect for just a moment and then check if there is any reason for which they could thank God in their lives. Surprisingly, most of them end up recounting more reasons than they could have ever imagined for which they should thank God. Thus, they become more lively and positive before we begin to discuss their problems.

In today’s first reading, the story of Naaman the leper and Elisha is a typical example of how we should thank and express our profound gratitude to God. While Naaman did what simple courtesy demands of every one of us, to show appreciation and thank those who have been good to us, Elisha teaches us that in as much as he appreciates Naaman’s good gesture and effort, that the most important issue in thanking God is not how much of material possession we bring to Him. Also, this reading teaches us that God does not come to our help just because of how much material goods we are able to offer him in return, after all He says: “All the silver and gold in the whole world are mine” (Haggai 2, 8-9). This reading simply teaches us that, it is good to thank God, irrespective of what we can afford. It however, in no way condemns material offerings for the good of the Church in appreciation of what God has done for one. This is important because the Church is the visible sign of God on earth and so whatever we bring in thanksgiving to the Church is offered to God, and He will surely be happy for our generous donations.

Once a king was passing and noticed a poor beggar. He took him to his palace and assisted him very well. On his way home, the poor beggar was disturbed over how to return and thank the king for all he has done for him. So, he decided to wrap a stone-like but, beautiful and glittering object which he picked up somewhere around the palace sometime ago in order to offer it to the king as a token of his appreciation. Although the beggar did not know what this object was or its worth monetarily, yet he cherished it so much and would not allow any one take it away from him. However, he pondered over one problem. And that was whether the king would accept his gift or not. Eventually, he summoned the courage to go ahead with his plans to offer it to the king in thanksgiving for what he has done for him. When he presented his humble gift, the king accepted it. The beggar was surprised to see that after unwrapping the gift, the king jumped up from his stool and started screaming: “I have found it! This is it!! Here is it!!!” It was the king’s cherished ball of pure diamond that got missing some months ago. The king was so delighted and happy with the poor beggar that he gave him a job in the palace and placed him in charge of his valuable items. Like this poor man we must make the move to thank God, first and foremost with our hearts full of praises to him and then, with anything that we can afford. In today’s gospel, Jesus buttressed the importance of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for favours received from him. In this reading one would have noticed that, what pleased Jesus or what caught his admiration about the Samaritan who came back to thank Him was not whether he brought something or not, but simply, the fact that he: “turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” My dear, when was the last time you said sincerely from your heart “Thank You Jesus!” To thank God is a firm expression of faith in the God who saves us.

Many of us hardly consider it necessary to show gratitude to God for what he has done for us. Even using the gift he has lavished on us to thank him at times could become a burden to us, and in some cases we even consider it a waste of exercise especially when we become entrapped by “negative rationalizations.” Some who make donations do so as though it were a gamble they have played with God. In order words, God must do something for me in return I because I have given to Him or, I give to God because he gives to me! This is the idea and mentality behind the slogan: “Offering time, blessing time!” instead of: “Prayer time blessing time!” The people of God must not be psyched to give. If they are converted they will learn the act of giving thanks to God, if they are healed and become sound spiritually, they will learn to give thanks to God freely.” Thanking God is important. However, it must not be seen as a burden or as “paying God back for what he has done for us.” The truth is that we cannot pay him pack! The willingness to thank God must flow from our hearts and from a good and pure conscience, rather than from coercion, psyching, or out of fear of what will happen if one did not do it.

Finally, in light of this, we must approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist or Mass everyday because it is a sacrament of thanksgiving to God. Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistien, and means “thanksgiving or gratitude.” It is one whole sacrifice through which the Church gives thanks to God when she gathers her children as on big and united family of God. Therefore, when we gather, we are there to say as in the prayer after meal: “We give you thanks Almighty God for these and all your benefits (both spiritual and material) to us ….” This is the reason the Psalmist asked: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? And in answer to this question he posed he says: “I will raise the cup of salvation and call on God’s name” (Ps 116, 12-19). It is not all about material things or gifts to God alone, but most importantly, thanksgiving and gratitude that gushes forth from our innermost heart.

Peace be with you all!                                                              

Maranatha!!

 

 

 

 

 

Homily For 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

O Lord! Please, Increase Our Faith For Action!

Readings: (1st: Hab 1, 2-3. 2, 2-4; Ps: 94, 1-2. 6-9; 2nd: 2Tim 1, 6-8. 13-14; Gos: Lk 17, 5-19)

           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 the Church draws closer to the end of The Year of Faith, declared by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI with his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011, Porta Fidei, and which began on October 11, 2012, today in a special way we reflect on the theme Faith which is a core element of our Christian life. This rhymes well with the Catechetical week celebrations ahead. Faith gives us a new version of the world. Without it we see only the ugly and darker sides of life, and perhaps, still remain helpless and slaves to despair and hopelessness. It is faith which liberates us and makes us see the spirit of power and the love at work in our lives and those of our neighbors.

The readings of this 27th Sunday make a very important reference to faith and highlight the fundamental role this very important virtue should play in our lives as Christians. In the first reading, in response to the lamentation over his woes and persecution, Yahweh encourages prophet Habakkuk to be patient because it will not take time for his oppressors to be vanquished. However, on his path, the prophet and all true children of God must hold firmly to their faith because it is the true mark of the righteous one: “…But the upright man will live by his faithfulness.” In pronouncing this, God is simply admonishing us to remain faithful to him, faithful in good deeds and actions, faithful in keeping watch and faithful in joyful hope that in spite of the odds against us He will come quickly to help us. This faith in question is a strong trust in God that irrespective of what we face, He will not abandon us. It is a saving faith but should not however be understood in the context of the theological debate which tilts towards justification by faith alone (sola fidei). Indeed, God says that the Just shall live by faith, but who is the Just here and what qualifies one to be the Just, or what does living entail here? Am sure it is not folding our arms, sitting down all alone by ourselves and waiting for God to act. Instead the Just here is the one whose deeds and action are good enough to attract the saving power and attention of God. The justification involved here is that achieved through a living, and in fact a lived faith. It is justification that comes factis, non verbis (by means of deeds, not words).

In the second reading, Paul taps on the same string and strikes the same note by admonishing us thus: “Fan in to flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you…keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from us, in the FAITH and LOVE that are in Christ Jesus.” Here we must note that Paul pointed out that we have to preserve the teaching first, in faith and secondly, in love. Love here is the expression of the faith in action and deeds because, this is one of the many ways we prove our faith in God and consequently, a good reason for our justification. Therefore, Paul further encourages us to guard by the help of the Holy Spirit that precious gift of faith which God entrusted to us.  In all of these, our journey is a journey of faith that must be lived out in our actions; good deeds, steadfastness, perseverance, and good will towards our neighbours and God our Creator. This faith must “indulge” in actions and good deeds for it to merit us the justification that is so much needed since: “As the body without the spirit is dead so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2, 26).

Some years ago, a young man who claimed to have faith in the power of Jesus to deliver him from the Lion’s den as God delivered Daniel, decided to dare a starving Lion in a zoo in the South Western part of my country. He claimed and boasted that as a Man of God he had the power to speak and command the Lion and it will obey him and shut its mouth. One morning, he picked up his bible after some weeks of “dry fasting, prayer and meditation on the word of God”, and headed straight to the zoo. Of course, he paid his ticked to gain entry into the zoo, but kept his intention secrete to himself without informing the zoo attendants. Suddenly, he clinched his Holy Bible with his left arm and began to climb into the cage of the Lion. Before anyone could stop him he landed inside the cage and was face to face with his host. As soon as he landed the fierce and hungry looking Lion charged him immediately, and the Man of God with “enormous faith” reached for his Holy Bible from his arm pit, raised it up to heaven and started shouting: “I decree and command you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, be still and shut your mouth there now!” He had barely completed pronouncing his decrees when the Lion bounced on him and devoured him. What a suicide he committed in the name of demonstrating his faith in action.

This is shear ignorance of what faith in action means, and am sure this is not what Jesus means in today’s gospel. What faith did the apostles ask for today? It is not faith to dare or tempt God. Rather, it is the faith to do good works, to remain steadfast in the face of difficulties, the faith that will enable them hold on to God irrespective of the turbulences in their lives and journey. It is equally, the faith that will help them to reasonably demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ when they are in difficult situations not faith to attempt suicide missions, it is the faith that will help them persist in doing good even when everyone around them seems to follow the wrong things in vogue. This is the faith they craved for when they pleaded: “Lord Increase our faith!” We must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are weak in this important Christian virtue and then plead with Jesus: “Lord, increase our faith”, and when he generously does it for us, we must be ready to fan it into flame for our spiritual upliftment and eternal salvation.

A rusty shield once said to the sun, “dazzle me,” and the sun gave it a simple condition, “polish yourself and I will dazzle you.” This means that our God is ever ready to increase our faith, but we must first be ready to ask, take the steps and then make the necessary efforts. This calls for a stronger commitment in words, work and deeds. It calls for a wholesome expression of our love for God and for our neighbours. It also calls for being ready to follow faithfully and tenderly the precepts of the Lord our God. As we draw closer to November 24, 2013, the end of the Year of Faith, we must humbly continue to ask the Lord to increase our faith for action in the coming days, and years ahead of us in order to enable us remain faithful to him in a world that is decaying at the speed of light every day. The institution of the Year of Faith came at the right time, and I am sure that having prayed for faith this one whole year, God has strengthened His Church the more with abundant faith for actions and good works. All we need do now is to continue fanning it into flame by wisely demonstrating it through our actions and deeds for our good and for our eternal salvation.

Peace be with you all!          

Maranatha