Homily for Holy Family – 1st Sunday of Christmas (2)

The Holy and Ideal Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings: (1st: Sir 3, 2-6. 12-14; Ps: 127, 1-15; 2nd: Col 3, 12-21; Gos: Mtt 2, 13-15. 19-23)           

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.

Today, the first Sunday in the octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. She presents us with the ideal or role model after which every family should be fashioned. The family as an institution which is the nucleus of society has suffered greatly in our time, and consequently, the society at large has suffered too. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the fabrics of the family are speedily been corroded and eroded away by the acidic, deadly and unprecedented culture that has seriously threatened this institution.

Some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl after being consoled and encouraged by her mother to go ahead with her project, brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” The man was embarrassed by his earlier over-reaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They are all for you, Daddy.” The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness. Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there. In a very real sense, each one of us, as humans beings have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses… from our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, family members, relatives, friends, and God. There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than the love that comes from one’s family. Also, there is no other precious gift that the world could cherish more than the gift of Family that God gave to us.

All the readings of this Sunday are carefully selected instructions concerning an ideal family and the duties of each member in order to maintain the sanity and sanctity required in a family. The first reading from Sir 3: 2-6. 12-14,in a nut shell speaks of the need for children to be responsible and obedient to their parents: “He who honors the Lord respects his parents.” The reason is obvious; they are the representatives of God to their children. A child who does well by obeying the good counsel of his parents is highly rewarded with great blessings both from God and from his parents. Hence: “…Whoever respects his father 1s atoning for his sins, he who honors his mother is like someone amassing a fortune. Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own.” In other words, in an ideal family, it is the role of children to make their parents and God happy. When they do, definitely a blessing follows them as Paul admonishes us: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honour your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth” (Eph 6, 1-2). In the second reading Paul outlined the qualities and virtues a Christian and an ideal family should possess to guide and sustain it. “…You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and in humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.” Of course, he did not forget the greatest of all virtues: “Over all these…put on love.” In a Christian family each member knows his duty, boundary and onions. If each carries out his / her duty well the unity and love of the family blossoms. If the father and husband loves his wife and children by caring, protecting and providing for them, he wins their favour and admiration. If the wife and mother give way to the father and m nurture her children well, things will go well. Finally should the children play their role of obedience to the latter then a Christian and happy family is the end result. But where these are lacking, nothing works and the family breaks down.

There is no other time in history that the stability of the family has been threatened more than in our age. This is the age when the father has almost lost control of “the steering” of the “automobile” called family in which the society, nation and the world at large ride. It is a time when the world has dubiously and shamelessly tried to redefine marriage and family from the union of man and woman and their legitimate children, to the union of man and a fellow man; woman and a fellow woman and of course with “borrowed” or “adopted children”. What a shame! This does not and will never make a family. It is rather a corruption of the institution ordained by God himself. This is why the church calls us especially to reflect again and again on this God-given- institution through which He (God), regenerates, revitalizes and sustains humankind and the world at large; this institution which is as old as creation of the world and ordained by God himself. It is the ideal and role model for all who fear the Lord and work in his ways. What are we to emulate from this holy family? They include unity, love, commitment, willingness to survive as one entity, solidarity at moments of difficulty, good morals, peaceful co-existence, etcetera. These are among the essential qualities that our “modern day families” lack and of course, this is the reason we are have lost grip of virtually everything we have and ought to be happy about. This is why our generation appears to be bewitched with all sorts of evil because we have neglected and abused this wonderful system instituted by God himself ab initio. To allow this institution or God’s product of love to undergo any form of “mutation” in the form of modernization or secularization is a sin against God and Nature. We must therefore ask ourselves on this great day, is this the will of God, and do I actually have a family that I am proud of? We all need a family because, Nemo sibi nascitur (no one is born for himself alone).

The gospel according to Matthew (Mtt 2, 13-15. 19-23)presents us with the difficulties that could befall a family and also how they could be overcome. It reminds us that problems and obstacles are inevitable in a family but if the members remain united and courageous they will definitely overcome them all. It also throws a great light on the fact that the father is very important in a family. Of course, he is the protector and defender of the family in the face of adversaries. Joseph as we see today played his part very well and is a role model for all fathers. Mary also played hers very well by providing the tender, loving, care and succor the baby required throughout the course of the rough journey. On his part, the little Jesus was not problematic. Even in his infantile nature, he understood the difficulties of the presents at the time and so remained calm throughout the journey in the dessert. He was not disobedient! In life problems are inevitable and so, we must not allow them to tear our families apart. Instead, they should strengthen our unity and love for one another. Furthermore, one more lesson we must learn from Joseph and the Holy Family in general is that we must not delay action when danger or difficulties come knocking. Joseph acted fast and so averted the danger of having the little Jesus killed by Herod. Fathers must live up to expectation; they must listen to God, and must learn to act fast in faith.

An ideal family is therefore, a family fashioned and modeled after the Holy Family of Nazareth comprising of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. An ideal family is made up of father (husband- male), mother (wife – female) and of course Children (male or female, if it pleases the Lord). It is a family that sticks and prays together. It is a family that though having differentiated roles all work and walk together in harmony. It is a family where respect and dignity is accorded each member. An ideal family must have love, health, work and God. In an ideal family all the members are happy. They understand, love and help each other. Husband is the bread winner of the family. All members of the family share difficulties and responsibilities. Money is important but it cannot make a happy family. On the contrary, a poor family is not an ideal one. In other words in an ideal family there balance because in its entire ramification. This is the model of the family that the church presents to the entire world today and wishes that her faithful emulate it.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

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Homily for Holy Family Sunday – 1st Sunday Christmas, Year

The Holy and Ideal Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings: (1st: Sir 3, 2-6. 12-14; Ps: 127, 1-15; 2nd: Col 3, 12-21; Gos: Mtt 2, 13-15. 19-23)           

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.

Today the first Sunday in the octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the Holy Family of Nazareth: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. She presents us with the ideal or role model after which every family should be fashioned. The family as an institution which is the nucleus of society has suffered greatly in our time, and consequently, the society at large has suffered too. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the fabrics of the family are speedily been corroded and eroded away by the acidic, deadly and unprecedented culture that has seriously threatened this institution. 

Some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl after being consoled and encouraged by her mother to go ahead with her project, brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.” The man was embarrassed by his earlier over-reaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside? The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They are all for you, Daddy.” The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness. Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there. In a very real sense, each one of us, as humans beings have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses… from our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, family members, relatives, friends, and God. There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than the love that comes from one’s family. Also, there is no other precious gift that the world could cherish more than the gift of Family that God gave to us.

All the readings of this Sunday are carefully selected instructions concerning an ideal family and the duties of each member in order to maintain the sanity and sanctity required in a family. The first reading from Sir 3: 2-6. 12-14,in a nut shell speaks of the need for children to be responsible and obedient to their parents: “He who honors the Lord respects his parents.” The reason is obvious; they are the representatives of God to their children. A child who does well by obeying the good counsel of his parents is highly rewarded with great blessings both from God and from his parents. Hence: “…Whoever respects his father 1s atoning for his sins, he who honors his mother is like someone amassing a fortune. Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own.” In other words, in an ideal family, it is the role of children to make their parents and God happy. When they do, definitely a blessing follows them as Paul admonishes us: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honour your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may be well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth” (Eph 6, 1-2). In the second reading Paul outlined the qualities and virtues a Christian and an ideal family should possess to guide and sustain it. “…You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and in humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.” Of course, he did not forget the greatest of all virtues: “Over all these…put on love.” In a Christian family each member knows his duty, boundary and onions. If each carries out his / her duty well the unity and love of the family blossoms. If the father and husband love his wife and children by caring, protecting and providing for them, he wins their favour and admiration. If the wife and mother give way to the father and m nurture her children well, things will go well. Finally should the children play their role of obedience to the latter then a Christian and happy family is the end result. But where these are lacking, nothing works and the family breaks down.

There is no other time in history that the stability of the family has been threatened more than in our age. This is the age when the father has almost lost control of “the steering” of the “automobile” called family in which the society, nation and the world at large ride. It is a time when the world has dubiously and shamelessly tried to redefine marriage and family from the union of man and woman and their legitimate children, to the union of man and a fellow man; woman and a fellow woman and of course with “borrowed” or “adopted children”. What a shame! This does not and will never make a family. It is rather a corruption of the institution ordained by God himself. This is why the church calls us especially to reflect again and again on this God-given- institution through which He (God), regenerates, revitalizes and sustains humankind and the world at large; this institution which is as old as creation of the world and ordained by God himself. It is the ideal and role model for all who fear the Lord and work in his ways. What are we to emulate from this holy family? They include unity, love, commitment, willingness to survive as one entity, solidarity at moments of difficulty, good morals, peaceful co-existence, etcetera. These are among the essential qualities that our “modern day families” lack and of course, this is the reason we are have lost grip of virtually everything we have and ought to be happy about. This is why our generation appears to be bewitched with all sorts of evil because we have neglected and abused this wonderful system instituted by God himself ab initio. To allow this institution or God’s product of love to undergo any form of “mutation” in the form of modernization or secularization is a sin against God and Nature. We must therefore ask ourselves on this great day, is this the will of God, and do I actually have a family that I am proud of? We all need our family because Nemo sibi nascitur (no one is born for himself alone)!

The gospel according to Matthew (Mtt 2, 13-15. 19-23)presents us with the difficulties that could befall a family and also how they could be overcome. It reminds us that problems and obstacles are inevitable in a family but if the members remain united and courageous they will definitely overcome them all. It also throws a great light on the fact that the father is very important in a family. Of course, he is the protector and defender of the family in the face of adversaries. Joseph as we see today played his part very well and is a role model for all fathers. Mary also played hers very well by providing the tender, loving, care and succor the baby required throughout the course of the rough journey. On his part, the little Jesus was not problematic. Even in his infantile nature, he understood the difficulties of the presents at the time and so remained calm throughout the journey in the dessert. He was not disobedient! In life problems are inevitable and so, we must not allow them to tear our families apart. Instead, they should strengthen our unity and love for one another. Furthermore, one more lesson we must learn from Joseph and the Holy Family in general is that we must not delay action when danger or difficulties come knocking. Joseph acted fast and so averted the danger of having the little Jesus killed by Herod. Fathers must live up to expectation; they must listen to God, and must learn to act fast in faith.  

An ideal family is therefore, a family fashioned and modeled after the Holy Family of Nazareth comprising of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. An ideal family is made up of father (husband- male), mother (wife – female) and of course Children (male or female, if it pleases the Lord). It is a family that sticks and prays together. It is a family that though having differentiated roles all work and walk together in harmony. It is a family where respect and dignity is accorded each member. An ideal family must have love, health, work and God. In an ideal family all the members are happy. They understand, love and help each other. Husband is the bread winner of the family. All members of the family share difficulties and responsibilities. Money is important but it cannot make a happy family. On the contrary, a poor family is not an ideal one. In other words in an ideal family there balance because in its entire ramification. This is the model of the family that the church presents to the entire world today and wishes that her faithful emulate it.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year A

Indeed God-Is-With-Us!

Readings: (1st: Ish 7, 10-14; Ps: 23, 1-6; 2nd: 1, 1- 7; Gos: Mtt 1, 18-24)          

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

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and just three days from now our expectations shall be fulfilled and our efforts and patience justified by the birth of the Messiah whose coming we have earnestly and eagerly longed for. These three days calls for more caution and vigilance, else we might be caught napping. Therefore, we should be readier than we have ever been, fill our lamps with oil and be ready for the arrival of the Groom and Master (Mtt 25, 1-13). We must at this juncture not emulate the actions of the five foolish virgins. Rather, we should hearken to the voice of wisdom which beckons us: “be ready for your salvation is close at hand” (Rom 13, 11). One of my professors during my study of Philosophy would always tell us: “Beware and careful about the introduction and the conclusion of any book or write up.” I have tested this saying, and experience has shown that it is true. These are critical points in reading a book as well as in every other aspect of life. We may start well waiting for the Lord’s arrival but if we do not take time, our waiting might be in vain as was the case of the five foolish virgins. God forbid! So, as we have followed patiently this season, we must also these three last days be more vigilant.

The sign that God revealed finally on this last Sunday and week of Advent is highly significant. This is because it is shows that God’s choice rested on the house of David which was highly favoured to bear the Emmanuel, God-Is-With-Us. However, Mary’s child was to belong to all of us and to all nations. Therefore, you and I are one of the nations who by the loving and trust worthy invitation of God belong to Jesus Christ. Hence, in the first reading of this Sunday through a brief dialogue which ensued between the God and king Ahaz, God revealed to us one of the greatest signs ever to be made known to humankind: “A maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means God-Is-With-Us!” It is therefore important to note that this sign was revealed after king Ahaz humbled himself and refused to put God to test. The lessons we are to learn from this are enormous. First, we must allow God to be God without poking or trying to preempt him. Second, we must learn to trust not only God’s good sense of judgment but his ability to decide what is good for us. Third, we need not run after signs anymore because the Lord God of Hosts Himself has made known to us and the entire humanity at large the fullness of signs or revelation in his only son Jesus Christ. This is what he has done for us this season.

Both the 2nd reading and the gospel of today are narratives about how Christ was born or about his life. They are testimonies of how God fulfilled his promise to us his people thereby proving that the sign he gave to us were not a product of mere flatus vocis (empty words). They are therefore an assurance that our God is equal to the task. He is able and willing at all times to bring to fulfillment his promises to us. Paul takes us memory lane by reminding us of the promises that came through the prophets. He starts his narrative thus: “This is news about the son of God…It is about Jesus Christ. Through him, we receive grace and our apostolic mission…you are one of these nation, and by his call belong to Christ.” From this Paul clearly reminds us of our great heritage in Jesus Christ, of our mission and call, and most importantly, he re-enkindle and re-instills confidence in us for us to believe that “the promises of God are all of them sure” (II Cor 1, 20), and will come to pass. In the gospel, Matthew in his infancy narrative tells of “how Jesus came to be born.” how the word came to take flesh and dwell among us. Of significance in this story is the central positions occupied by Joseph and Mary as not just instruments for fulfilling God’s promises, but as collaborators, and cooperators in bringing about the fulfillment of God’s promises for the salvation of humankind. This is highly significant and laden with lessons. The first being that God is ever willing to fulfill his promises come what may. The second gives much credence to the saying that “in creating us God did not need our cooperation but in saving us he needs our cooperation.” Of course, this is not to underrate the power or ability of God to save us without our cooperation; or better still, that with God all things are no longer possible. No! Rather, it is a way of saying that God in spite being our creator respects our freedom especially to be saved. This simply means that we must make ourselves available for God to use us in advancing the course of humanity as Mary and Joseph did. It is because of their cooperation and availability that God-Is-With-Us! As we expect the coming of the Messiah, each one of us must make himself available as worthy instruments. We must be ready to cooperate with God as Mary and Joseph did in order that the promises of God might be fulfilled for our good. We must allow ourselves to be instruments through which God will better the lot of humanity. We must not resist God or even become obstacles to what God wishes to do in our lives. We must simply behave like Joseph whom we are told that “when he woke up, he did what the angel told him to do; he took his wife home.” We must be ready to do what God tells us to do if it must be accounted to us as those who cooperated with God. So, in whatever capacity we are called by God to serve his purpose and for the sake of humanity we must cooperate like Mary who bore God-Is-With-Us, and Joseph who protected Mary and God-Is-With-Us.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

 

 

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A

A Moment of Joy: Moment of Refreshment and Renewal!

Readings: (1st: Ish 35, 1-6; Ps: 145, 6-10; 2nd: James 5, 7-10; Gos: Mtt 11, 2-11)           

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.

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall be exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not stumble!” (Ish 40, 30-31). Today is Gaudete Sunday. That is, the third Sunday of Advent. This term Gaudete simply means rejoice! The significance of this Sunday to us Catholics and perhaps some other mainline Christian Churches like the Anglicans, Methodists etcetera, is that having engaged ourselves for a couple of weeks now with solemn and penitential preparation for the Lord’s coming, the Church encourages us to lighten our mood this Sunday. This is also why symbolically the church lightens the colour of her liturgical vestment for today’s celebration from purple to possibly rose. The Church also gives us a pat in the back by way of saying well done for the courage and sincerity you have exhibited so far. She says to us, be joyful because very soon your expectation and efforts shall bear good fruits. As a comforting mother she says to us today: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (Rejoice in the Lord always…, Phil 4, 4). She equally re-echoes to her faithful the traditional Jewish encouragement that we find in the Scriptures in the Old Testament: “Go and enjoy choice food sweet drink…this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8, 10).

In the first reading of this Sunday the prophet Isaiah exalts us to be joyful because God himself is coming to save us his people. He says to us: “Courage! Do not be afraid, look your God is coming.”  Our God being a generous God will come with lots of gifts and goodies. He is the “Real Father Christmas Par Excellence,” when it comes to dishing out gifts of well being to his people. Hence, the prophet lets the cat out of the bag for us concerning what the Lord will bring when he comes: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be open, ears of the deaf unsealed…for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.” Most important of all these is the joy that will accompany the Lord’s coming with which his people who waited patiently and faithfully shall be filled to over flowing: “They will come to Zion shouting for joy, everlasting joy on their faces; joy and gladness will go with them and sorrow and lament ended.” Therefore, the joy that fills our heart today is only a foretaste of that which we are to experience when Jesus comes. It is only a tip of the iceberg and a sign that the future is bright with lots of prospect for us.

Two men, Utondu and Izundu were sent on a special mission for the well being of their community. It was a very long and painstaking mission that required lots of courage, discipline, maturity and dedication to the mission. However, as they embarked on the mission they were warned beforehand to beware of the goodies they might encounter along the way. They were no doubt asked to help themselves with some of them if need be, but must not fail to bring back the item they seek for the wellbeing of their community. After many days of toiling, being thirsty, they came across a very clean and beautiful stream. Since they were barred from entering the stream without a fetching bowl, a very pretty young lady there offered to help them fetch water with her bowl in order to quench their thirst and be refreshed. After drinking, Utondu became infatuated and “fell in Love” with the young lady, and so, refused to continue with his mission. In spite of all the persuasions and advice from Izundu, he refused to continue saying: “I have found joy here, a beautiful stream and a beautiful lady. What more do I need in life?” After making a frantic effort to win him back to continue their mission without any headway, Izundu forged ahead alone. Of course he did succeed and was adequately rewarded and made one of the pillars of his community.  He became a renowned figure, got married to one of the prettiest ladies around and became wealthy in every ramification. A couple of years latter Utondu, appeared from oblivion looking haggard and devastated. Of course, he remained very wretched until his death. This is sad! But he of his own free will lost focus and did not get to his final destination because it was truncated and punctuated by what was supposed to be a brief moment of joy and source of strength for the journey ahead.

In deed the strength that we need to complete our waiting stems from the joy that we derive from being Christians and ultimately as God’s children. One former military head of state (according to his personal military philosophy and ideology) once said that: “A soldier should smile only once in a month – the day he/she receives his/her pay package.” In order words, after that day, the soldier must returns to serious business of keeping watch and being security conscious. This does not mean that on this day the soldier should lax because, because if he does, he might be taken unawares by the enemy as was the case of Troy and the Trojan’s war horse in Greek mythology. Gaudete Sunday therefore is one of such days in our Journey this Advent when we must lighten up our mood with a smile. Yes, this Sunday we are called to rejoice, but not to be carried away because the preparation and the battle is not yet over! It is only a moment of refreshment. Take in some fresh air, fresh water and a few slices of well buttered bread, be rejuvenated, and strengthened for the rest of the journey ahead. Today in order not to be carried away by this joyful mood, the church simply and gently re-echoes in her encouraging, gentle and caring words as the angel of God spoke to Elijah in the wilderness: “Get up and eat for the journey is too much for you” (1Kgs…). Gaudete Sunday is only but a moment of refreshment not an aeon to be spent jubilating. It is a time of spiritual re-strategizing on how we shall get to the end of our project. It is to be done joyfully, yet, with watchfulness. It is only but a stopover at a “God’s filling station” in order to have a spiritual refill for the rest of the journey. It is not our final destination even though there are plenty of pleasant goodies in it that gives joy to our heart.

In the second reading James of course, having worked with and tasted the Lord, is cocksure of the fulfillment of the promises of Christ. So he is emphatic in his assurance. Hence he tells us: “Be patient brothers until the Lord’s coming…. Do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon!” In the game or exercise of waiting, patience is the key word and the basis of endurance. These two come together to produce the joy which keeps us moving. Today therefore as we relax, let us check the level of our patience for the rest of the journey ahead. We must re-assure ourselves like the athlete that we can do it, we shall get there and that we must get that hand shake with the Lord Jesus who brings with him fullness of joy. In the gospel of today, Jesus’ work elicited great marvel, joy and response. Here, he fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah to the extent that even John the Baptist heard of him from his prison. Therefore, at his coming Jesus will fulfill the expectation of the prophets. His gifts will include that “he will make the blind see, the lame work, the deaf hear” amidst other things. This therefore calls for great joy, and so the Church this Sunday gives us the opportunity to have a glimpse of what that joy looks like.

Therefore this season, God and the Holy Mother Church in their wisdom have arranged our journey in such a way that there is a brief moment of joy and refreshment – Gaudete Sunday, the mean or middle point along our journey. It is like the timeout or half time period during games when we find ourselves in “God’s dressing and refreshing room” briefly, only to return for the final round of the context. Today, the Holy Mother Church has blown the timeout/half time whistle. Let us therefore rejoice, enjoy, and be refreshed while yet being mindful of the rest of the journey ahead of us. Let us take full advantage of this special Sunday, this moment of joy and refreshment this Advent, but we must come back to the rest of the journey with vigor, diligence, and courage to succeed.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A

Purging & Purifying Ourselves for the Lord’s Coming

Readings: (1st: Ish 11 1-10; Ps: 71, 1-2.7-8.12-13; 2nd: Rom 15, 4-9; Gos: Mtt 3, 1-12)           

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.

After Peter’s preaching and testimony about Jesus on Pentecost day, his message provoked the congregation to ask: “Brothers what then shall we do?”  Peter responded: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2, 14-38). There is no other time better than this season of Advent when we, must ask this same question: “What shall we do to be worthy of the Lord’s coming? In response to this question the Church says to us on this second Sunday of Advent: “Repent for the kingdom of God is Close at hand”, purge and purify yourselves for the Lord’s coming! Repentance and reconciliation are necessary because, they are very important aspects of our preparation for encountering Christ. This is considering the word of the scriptures which says: “Make effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12, 14). One of the simplest ways that leads to this holiness is REPENTANCE from past sins and of course a firm resolve to remain pure as Christ taught us in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Mtt 5, 8). In other words, one condition for seeing the Lord at the end of Advent is that we must repent by purging and purifying ourselves of all that will be stumbling block for our encounter with him.

Many years ago, there lived a great and holy teacher called Rabbi Saadiah. He had hundreds of pupils, and all of them had a great thirst to learn. One winter morning, two of his pupils who happened to be walking in the mountains, while approaching its summit, saw to their great surprise, their master sitting on the snow covered ground, weeping, praying and engaging in other acts of penitence. This beat their imagination and they wondered: “What could such a perfectly righteous person as their teacher possibly need to repent of? Could he have committed some sins, God forbid? They hurriedly departed from that place. Later that day, they asked their teacher what the scene they witnessed was all about. “I do that every day,” he said to them. “Every day I repent and plead with God to forgive my shortcomings and failings in my service of Him.” “Of what failings do you speak?” They asked him. Then the Rabbi told them this story: “One day an old inn keeper received and served me so well without realizing who I was. When I left the next morning someone told him: ‘That was Rabbi Saadiah.’ Immediately, he came after and in search of me. When he caught up with me, he jumped from his carriage and fell at my feet, weeping: ‘Please forgive me! Please forgive me!! I did not know that it was you!’ I made him stand up, and then said to him: But my dear friend, you treated me very well, you were very kind and hospitable. Why are you so sorry? You have nothing to apologize for. ‘No, no, Rabbi,’ he replied. ‘If I had known you were the one, I would have served you in a completely different manner!’ Suddenly I realized that this man was teaching me a very important lesson in the service of God. I thanked and blessed him, and returned home.” “Since then” the Rabbi concluded, “every evening when I say the prayer before sleeping, I go over in my mind how I served God that day. Then I think of that old innkeeper, and say to myself, Oh! If I had known about God in the beginning of the day the way I know him now, I would have served Him in a completely different manner! And that is what I was repenting for this morning.” This is what we must do every day this season of Advent and beyond. Nothing must be taken for granted if we must be ready to welcome Jesus when he comes. This is why we are warned: “If anyone thinks he stands let him take heed least he falls. There is something we need to repent of this season as a way of making the paths straight and smooth for the coming of Jesus Christ!

In the first reading of today, Isaiah prophesied of the Lord’s coming. Remarkable about this prophesy is the manner in which He will come: “Integrity is the loin round his waist, faithfulness the belt about his waist…His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless; his sentence brings death to the wicked” Therefore only those who themselves possess integrity shall be acquitted. This reading thus invites us all to look inward and see if there be any thing that will make the Lord strike us ruthlessly when he comes. We must turn away from these and prepare to meet him. If we mend our ways and meet him in good standing then we shall enjoy his reign of peace and justice. In the second reading, Paul reminds us of the salvific power of Christ and equally tells us how best to conduct ourselves especially during this period of Advent. He says: “Follow the example of Christ so that… you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Restraining from hurting others, developing a charitable and good spirit towards others is very important this season of Advent. Paul did not stop at this. He further explains that to follow the example of Christ this season means: “…for you to treat each other in the same friendly way that Christ treated you.”

In today’s Gospel John warns us against the sin of presumption. He put it thus: “Do not presume and tell yourselves that we have Abraham for our father.” In other words, we must avoid the temptation that all is well, we are already prepared, my brother is a pastor, reverend father, bishop, cardinal or even Pope, and the likes of such deceitful self confidence. These will not count in any way for us. The only thing that will count is our state of holiness and purity of heart when Jesus comes. Of course, presumption will breed procrastination which will consequently, expose us to the danger of damnation. We are therefore called to examine and re-examine our ways and like Job, offer daily sacrifice for our sins of omission and commission (Job 1, 5).  Also like Rabbi Saadiah, we must say and do: “Every day I repent and plead with God to forgive my shortcomings and failings in my service of Him” and “Oh! If I had known about God in the beginning of the day the way Him I know now, I would have served Him in a completely different manner!

The core message of this second Sunday of Advent therefore is that we must rid ourselves of everything that will present a stumbling block to being with Christ when he comes. Hence, we are encouraged to retrace our steps and make amend for the wrongs we have done. This season we must expressly take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the purification of our souls. It is a time of making and suing for peace with all people. It is a time of repenting of the wrongs we have done them. It is a season of knocking down all the unnecessary mountains, hills and mounds; filling all the valleys, gullies and potholes in our lives that would present themselves as obstacle to us from encountering Jesus this season. What are we to repent of? Lots my brethrens! We must repent for not loving ourselves enough, of the sins against our neighbours, and our Creator. We must repent for the sins against our state, nation, people and government. We must repent of the sins against our environment, other creatures of God and the entire creation. Most importantly, we must repent of our sins against charity and our lack of humility.

Finally brethrens, If we purge and purify ourselves when he comes he will sanctify and make us whole again. He comes quickly! But only those who are blameless will see him. Let us therefore ask God this season of Advent to open our hearts in welcome, and so remove everything that will hinder us from receiving our Lord with joy, so that we may share in his wisdom and thus become one with him when he finally comes in his glory.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!!