Homily for Presentation of the Lord (4th Sunday) – Year A

 

  Authentic Presentation of Ourselves to God

Readings: (1st: Mal3, 1-4; Ps 23, 7-10; 2nd: Heb2, 14-18; Gos: Luke 2, 22-40) 

 

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation 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, in this 4th week of the Church’s Ordinary time Year A, is the Feast of the presentation of the Lord. As Christ is presented and offered to God today in the temple, the church also invites us to re-present, re-consecrate and rededicate ourselves totally to God. Offering ourselves unto God, total submission of our will, intellect and body to God is what pleases Him as Paul admonishes us: “…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” (Rom 12:1)

Julia Duin in the Washington Times Sunday, February 1, 2009 told this story. Just after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, an act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice. When the Army ship Dorchester was torpedoed by the Germans just south of Greenland that night, its passengers and crew had 25 minutes to get off the boat. As 902 people went for the life jackets, it quickly was discovered there weren’t near enough. Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned. In the ship’s final minutes, Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, were helping passengers leave the vessel. Then four men appeared all of them without life jackets. The chaplains quickly gave up their own vests and went down with the ship, perishing in the freezing water. Survivors saw them, locked arm in arm, praying and singing the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” just before the ship dove beneath the waves. It was a night as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic but without a blockbuster movie to record the drama. “The Four Immortal Chaplains,” as they are now known, have been honored many times, including on a stamp issued in their honor by the U.S. Postal Service. The first Sunday in February is known as “Four Chaplains Sunday.” They presented and offered themselves completely for the well being of others.

The prophet Malachi today prepares our minds for the coming of the Lord to us: “And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter the temple… yes he is coming…” The questions we must ask ourselves today is, with what do I meet the Lord, what present have we prepared to offer the Lord when he comes to us in the temple of our being? Quickly, as I reflected on these questions and today’s celebration Jude Nnam’s song come to mind: “What shall I offer to the Lord to make Him happy, oh tell me? What shall I offer to the Lord to please him? If I give him the gift of a car He will not take it… A loving heart, a caring heart, a humble heart, a patient heart he will love…! This is truly the only thing the Lord delights in. If we can present this to him in ourselves he will be happy with us because we would have fulfilled our covenant with him. In other words, the gift of ourselves is the only thing that will keep us standing before him else, we melt away like wax before light. When he comes, he expects us to be strong and holy so as to be able to pass the “litmus test” to which his blazing presence will subject us. Malachi draws the curtain thus: “The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the lord as in former days, as in years of old.” It is only when we are good gifts to God that he will receive us. So, we must constantly prepare ourselves for the Lord God of Host.

In the 2nd reading, Hebrews in a most intricate manner expounds on the fact that Jesus offered himself to us first. He presented himself unto God as an oblation for immolation in order that we might be delivered. He completed his dedication and presentation in the temple with the final dedication and presentation of himself on the public cross of Calvary; “…So by his death, he could take away all the power of the devil who has power over death, and set all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by fear of death.” For Jesus to succeed in this mission of offering himself, he had to pass through the furnace of temptation (Mtt 4, 1-12). Thus, he presented and allowed himself to be purified and humbled through temptation. However, in spite of this he did not sin, instead he remained pure, holy and faithful unto God the father. He did not in spite of all these betray the Trinitarian agreement that he should come and deliver us.  So the presentation which was initiated in the temple was finally made public at Calvary. Little did his adversaries know that in crucifying him publicly, they were presenting publicly to the world the King of kings presented privately in the temple before Simeon and Anna.

The presentation of Jesus reached its climax on the cross. As a toddler, his parents assisted him in beginning the process just as our parents helped us through infant baptism and child dedication. However, as an adult he climaxed his presentation and offering of himself by shamelessly going public on the cross. On the cross, he seemed to say to us by the spreading out of his hands: “I am now a “PLC or PLP” That is “a public liability company or person.” By this public presentation and offer of self, we are now share holders in the “company” of Jesus Christ. It is however important to note that as share holders in his company, on demand we are expected to present our share certificates in order to claim our dividends. What is this share certificate? It includes our holy, purified and humble self as well as the many souls we ourselves have touched and harvested for Christ. The lessons we are to learn from this include that there is no limit to which one can present and offer oneself to God and humanity. Our lives like that of Christ and the four immortal chaplains in the story above must be presented and offered as a sweet smelling sacrifice for the salvation of others. Like Christ, we must pass through the great furnace or crucible of temptation and oddities in order to be prepared for the great offering of ourselves to God and for the sake of humanity. The presentation initiated by our own parents through our infant baptism and dedication in the church must be taken to its crescendo by our own actions, faith and self immolation.

Today’s gospel reminds us that God is faithful to his promise especially to those who love and have faith and hope in him. Like Simeon and Anna, their eyes shall see the salvation of the Lord. Malachi’s prophecy in our first reading was fulfilled in the life of Simeon and Anna in today’s Gospel. This is because, they encountered the Lord in a fashion and at a time they least expected. They knew about him, longed to meet him but never knew when this meeting would be until this sudden day of his presentation when their desire sustained by their hope and faith were fulfilled. Hence Simeon sang the Nunc dimittis: “At last all powerful master you give leave to your servant…for my eyes have seen your salvation…” A very important significance of today’s celebration is that we must re-consecrate and rededicate ourselves to God afresh, we must continue to offer ourselves to him and for his service unending not only in the temple but every where we find ourselves.  So let us pray that God who enabled Jesus to present himself in body and flesh today may sanctify and purify us in body and mind so that we might authentically present and offer ourselves to him as well to his glory.

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

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Homily for 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Jesus Christ Our Great Light!

Readings: (1st: Ish 8, 23-9.3; Ps 26, 1. 4. 13-14; 2nd: I Cor 1, 10-13.17; Gos: Jh 4, 12-23)       

 

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.

The Holy Mother Church on this 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, in her infinite wisdom and love once again as she has always done, draws the attention of her beloved children to the Great Light, Jesus Christ. She enjoins us to draw closer to Him so that the reality of our being and life might become fully manifested, and so that the shadows that chase and dominate our lives might diminish. We are therefore to turn to the Great Light so that all the dark spots in our live may be illumined to the detriment of the evil one, but to the glory of God. The Church therefore, exalts us her faithful today, not to be contented with the lesser, false, or man-made lights because the good news already preached to us is a powerful beacon of light which irresistibly, draws us to Christ. There is a simple truth in the study of formation of shadows and mirages in optics (Physics). When a person or an object comes close to the source of light, his/her shadow diminishes and the person or object becomes more real unto oneself or itself. On the contrary, the further one moves away from the source of light, the longer or larger ones shadow becomes.

A few years ago, during what I prefer to describe as the peak of the “Pentecostal Madness” one parlance common to those who had merely changed their church for another was: “I have now seen the light, all these while, I have been living in darkness.” Unfortunately, a close look at most of such people definitely reveals that their entire lives were still shrouded in darkness and the shadows of themselves. The twist about their lives is that, “they have seen the light” not necessarily because they have changed their lives or been “inwardly transformed” by it (Rom 12, 2-3), but because they have changed their “business environments, orientations and strategies.” Such was the case of one young lady – “Ikedinaukwu”, who “saw the light” and suddenly left her former church for another reigning one. Sadly enough, it was not long before it was discovered that she was pregnant. To worsen her case was the fact that she could not say exactly which of her new “brothers in Christ” was responsible. Finally, it dawned on her that she had merely and only changed her “business environment,” and thus drifted millions of miles away from the Great Light. The only light that has the full potentials to chase away humanity’s shadow is the Great Light which is the good news and Christ whose, light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (Jh 1, 5), the same light which the Magi needed in order to find their way (Mtt 2, 1-12), and this is the same light that shone on Saul, and he was never the same, but became transformed to Paul (Acts 9, 3). This Light is “Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2, 20), in you, and in the good news.

In the first reading, Isaiah pops and pumps up our hope. This hope stems from the fact that the Lord God Himself chose to be our light. What more do we need? This is the reason the Psalmists tells us: “Happy the people whose God is the Lord” (Ps 33, 12)! It is a message of deliverance from the power of darkness that formerly enveloped and harassed us. Isaiah declared: “The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in the land of deep shadow a light has shown.” The light which is God himself is capable of achieving so many impossible feats in the life of any child of God who humbles himself as the land of Zebulon and Naphtali did. The Great Light breaks the yoke that weighs us down, shows us the way and clears all doubts and fears in our heart, so that we can join the Psalmist in echoing: “The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27, 1).

In the second reading, Paul expressed his disappointment over the Corinthian Church or Community. He rebuked them because by their behavior, they still loomed in the shadow of darkness and ignorance. Their quarrels and segregation betrayed and shut them out of the range of the illuminating power of the gospel. Hence Paul reminds them that the bickering and hankerings amongst them is not a good sign that they have received the light of Christ. Hence, he recalled his purpose of being in their midst: “…God did not send me to baptize, but to preach the good news.”  So he refused to be a champion in their “dirty ecclesiastical” politicking or their colloquial politics of divide and rule. Paul does not however mean that baptism is not part of his mission. Instead, he teaches us that the good news is the light that illumines and prepares the soul for baptism. Before one is baptized, one or ones parents are properly catechized using the illuminating light of the good news. In other words, through this, Paul draws our attention to the very essence of the good news which is, casting off the shadows of darkness and ignorance and thus, preparing us for baptism.

Furthermore, Paul simply without any harshness or brutality perfectly allowed this Great Light to pass through him unto them in a very simple manner. This is what he means when he says: “…not to preach that in terms of philosophy in which the crucified Christ cannot be expressed.” How often do we much ado about frivolities in the house of God like this Corinthian Community? When we do this, we betray the good news preached to us, and so drift away from Christ the Great Light, thus relishing in the shadow of our lives. While most of our Christian communities today are like war torn regions, battle fields, dangerous terrains, boxing and wrestling arenas, most of us members, carry in our hearts weapons of mass destruction, dangerous amours, deadly venoms, and the “earth of our hearts” are heavily polluted and loaded with dangerous “land mines,” that could incapacitated fellow brethrens instanta. A community fashioned after this Corinthian Community has not seen the light. It is a pity that in the name of zeal and service to God most of us are actually advancing the course of darkness and elongating the shadows of our communities. We do this by creating dichotomies and comforts zones accessible to us alone. No good Christian or Community receives the Great Light and remains the same as did Paul’s Corinthian Community partitioned between Apollos and Cephas!

In the gospel, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled through the action of Christ. His presence made a great difference in the life of the people of Capernaum as well as those of neighboring towns of Zebulun and Naphtali. He brought light into their hearts and region. His light was strongly felt because it brought healing and deliverance. He proved to be their “balm of Gilead” (Jer. 8, 22). What we must learn from this is that as replicas of the Great Light, our presence too must be felt and dispel the darkness in people’s lives. The good news we bear in us must alleviate people’s problems; draw them closer to Christ our Great Light so as to diminish their shadows. Today the Church beckons us to turn our entire focus to the Great Light, Jesus Christ who says: “I am the light of the world, the man who follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”(Jh 8, 12). Wherever there is this Great Light darkness ceases to hold sway, quarrels disappears, despair, fears, anger, greed, betrayal, lying, cheating, lust, and all other vices melt away. Wherever the light of the good news and Christ shines, “the people who lived in darkness see a Great Light.” Therefore, if we follow and come closer to the Great Light, Jesus Christ, we become light ourselves and no shadows would be found around us anymore because, “in His light we see light” (Ps. 36,9)!

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

Homily for 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Doing the Will of God As the Chosen One

Readings: (1st: Ish 49:3. 5-6; Ps 39: 2.4. 7-10; 2nd: I Cor 1:1-3; Gos: Jh 1:29-34)        

 

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 second Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical calendar, Year A. This Sunday, the Church presents to us through the prophetic eyes and insights of Isaiah and John the Baptist, the: Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi (Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world)”, and the “Chosen One.” One very remarkable lesson the Church wants us to learn from this Sunday’s readings and reflection is that, though this Lamb of God was a “Servant” of God, yet he was more than a “mere servant.” The simple reason being that, He carried out with utmost and perfect obedience, the Will of the Father with whom He and the Holy Spirit are One. What this portends is that to be the Chosen One is to be ready to do the Will of God. Then, we must pause to ask ourselves this Sunday, as one chosen by God, by virtue of my baptism:  Am I making any effort to do the Will of God?

In the first reading of today from the prophet Isaiah, God honored his Servant, and sealed this honour with a promise and mission: “Thus says the Lord, I will make you a light to the nations.” Of course, there is a purpose for this promise, and this is: “So that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth!” There are three basic suppositions that could be taken for granted here about this promise and mission of God to his Servant. The first is that, this Servant is a trusted and tested One. In other words, God has found him worthy and capable. Second, he has accepted the Lord’s message and salvation because one cannot give what one does not have. Third, this Servant will not keep this salvation to himself, He is not selfish. Rather, he will reach out to others in order to let them have a share in this salvation. In other words, he will do the will of Him who sent him as the Psalmist says today: “Here I am Lord I come to do your Will.” As Christians, we are all chosen and called for one purpose, to do the Will of God. This will is simply to make known the salvation of the Lord and to help establish the kingdom of God in men’s heart. It is to allow the light of Christ with which God endowed and decorated us to shine forth on others. So, today as the church celebrates Jesus Christ the Servant and Chosen One of God who came to do the Father’s Will in perfect obedience, we are equally called to toll his footsteps in doing God’s Will. But first, we must know and equip ourselves with this Will.

In the second reading of today, Paul affirms his call to be an apostle. In this reading, he equally proves the fact that having answered this call he bent down to do the will of God in obedience. Of course, it was not an easy task to do this. Furthermore, he highlights another very important element of doing God’s will, living a saintly life. Hence, he speaks of the call of the Corinthians thus: “…To the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere…” In other words, one of the greatest missions entrusted to us on earth is to be holy, to work towards being among the saints of God. By so doing, we speak volumes to those to whom we are called to minister or evangelize. It is the Will of God for us to be holy because he says to us: “Be Holy for I the Lord your God am holy” (1Pet 1, 13-16).

In the gospel of today, John the Baptist identifies and vividly presents to the world the Saviour. By this act, he John has completed his mission. He has come to the apogee of doing the Will of God. It is for this reason he was called to be a prophet, to be the forerunner of he who was to be the Saviour of the world and this, he has perfectly and obediently completed according to the mind of God. John therefore is a perfect example to us of how we ought to approach the call and Will of God for us. What more does God expect from us than to lead others who have not known his son Jesus Christ to Him? We are therefore today reminded that as John the Baptist did the Will of God, we are also to continue from where he stopped by continually helping people find Christ, and by showing people the way of salvation. All we need do is to accept to do this and then, like in the days of John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit of God will confirm our efforts.

One question that we must ask ourselves today is, when Jesus appeared why did people not recognize him, were they physically blind? No! Instead they suffered from “spiritual Glaucoma” or blindness that prevented them from recognizing the Saviour whom they have waited for so long. It took the combination of an anointed prophet, and the confirmation and testimony of the Holy Spirit to identify him. Therefore, as children of God endowed with prophetic eyes and insights through our baptism, it is our call and duty to help the spiritually blind see and identify Christ. This is because, though Christ was in the midst of his people, yet they needed help in order to recognize him. The only difference that the presence of Jesus Christ will make in the life of the spiritually blind is US, our testimonies, our gestures, our verbal/vocal pronouncements of: “Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi (Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). These point not to us, but to Jesus Christ especially, when like John the Baptist we insist and add: “Yes, I have seen, and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.” Jesus was a Servant and yet, much more than a servant, this informs the reason John the Baptist called him the Lamb, the Chosen One. He is chosen to do the Will of God the Father which is the establishment of the reign and kingdom of God in the world, and in particular in the hearts of men and women. John the Baptist kick started it through his testimony and witness. Both Christ and John the Baptist have played their roles as far as doing the will of God is concerned. So, the rest of the job is ours to continue to spread the kingdom already established. On us lies the onus to discover new territories, virgin and even barren regions in the hearts of men; develop and make them fruitful for Christ to reign as King and Lord.

Another important requirement for us to do the will of God perfectly is to be in tune with the Holy Spirit of God. God supplies the grace that we need to do his will while the Holy Spirit supplies the power and the foresight we need to fulfill our function. If we are in tune with the Holy Spirit as John the Baptist was, he will reveal to us all we need to know and the best way to communicate and make him known to others. Had the Spirit not revealed to John these hidden mysteries how could he have done the Will of God or accomplished his mission? Or put the other way round, had John the Baptist not aligned himself and obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit how could he have fulfilled the will of God for him? The Holy Spirit is operative in doing the Will of God, and in communicating the merits of salvation to those who of their own accord cannot identify Christ in their midst. It is pertinent to mention here that those who are not led by the Holy Spirit can only bear witness and testimony about Jesus only to the extent that He is “a great man”, an eloquent and authoritative teacher”, and perhaps “a master” or “a guru.” But like John the Baptist, to bear witness to Jesus Christ and see him as the Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi, the Chosen One, and Son of God, is only possible through the aid of the Holy Spirit, because: “No one” as the scripture tells us, “can say Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 12, 3). It is the Spirit of God that helps us in doing the Will of God day by day because, He takes the things about Christ and the Kingdom of his Father and makes it known to us the adopted children of the Father for on ward transmission to our brethrens in real and dare need of salvation. Brethrens let us jubilantly shout out to our God and Father as the Psalmist teaches to say today: “Hear I am Lord! I come to do your Will.”

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

 

Homily for 1st Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Baptism of the Lord: We are The Beloved Children of the Father!

Readings: (1st: Ish 42, 1-4.6-7; Ps: 28, 1-4.9-10; 2nd: Acts10, 34-38; Gos: Mtt 3, 13-17)

           

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation 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 celebration of the Lord’s Baptism and equally marks the end of Christmas season, Year A. The Lord’s Baptism is providentially situated at the beginning of the year in order to remind us of our own baptism and God’s gratuitous call of us to belong to his fold and flock. It is situated thus as a way of re-awakening in us at the beginning of a new year, of who we are, and ought to be. It is a reminder that we share in the Great and One Baptism of Jesus Christ who “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man” like us.

Baptism cleans and releases us from the bondage of Original Sin, and makes us children of God. It configures us as adopted children of God and confirms that we are members of God’s Great house hold with its embassy on earth and its administrative head quarters in heaven where the Trinitarian God reigns supreme. On this day therefore, of utmost importance is the need for us to reflect on how far we have kept our baptismal vows. How faithful have we been to God in terms of keeping these promises. Are we still saying “I DO” to questions like: “Do you reject Satan? Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children? Do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin? If our answer is on the contrary, it is time to retrace our ways and come back home to God to whom ab initio we made these vows and so betrothed ourselves. Today, God the Father says of the son: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” while God the Spirit in the form of a dove bears testimony of the sonship of Jesus Christ. What testimony does God bear of me and, can God testify that I am truly His child who does his will and keeps his promises?

Our first reading from the book of Isaiah is a prophesy about the Messiah who was to come, which was of course fulfilled in the gospel of today during Jesus’ baptism. The Spirit of God rests on Jesus and also bears testimony that he is the son of God. In this reading, as in the gospel, we see the Trinitarian God united in action. God the Father spoke thus: “Here is my servant/this is my beloved son; whom I uphold/in whom I am well pleased.” God the Spirit bore the testimony by resting upon the son as a dove. They worked together in order to initiate the redemption of humanity through the water of baptism. Through today’s celebration, Jesus Christ brings not only redeemed men and women, but also the unredeemed creation to the steps of Calvary and has opened the way. This is why in our second reading from Acts 10, 34-38, God extended His grace of redemption to Cornelius the gentile and his entire household as he did to us through the same water of baptism. Peter himself surprised at the all-encompassing love and mercy of God testifies thus: “The truth I have now come to realize is that God has no favorites, but any one of any nationality who fears God is acceptable to him.” In other words, the water of baptism sanctified by Jesus does not segregate.
A certain priest was good to a group of students. So they decided to come around in order to show their appreciation and express their profound gratitude. After expressing their joys over what he has done for them, the students punctuated their speech with: “God bless you Father!” At this, the Priest objected and responded: “Oh no! You are not the one to say ‘God bless you’ or to bless me, I am the one ordained to bless you people.” So the students asked him: “So then Father, what shall we say to you for your kindness to us?” Then the priest said to them: “Simply say thank you Father!” Where the students wrong? I do not think so, because as baptized Christians they too can bless people. However, as a matter of the order things should follow, the priest himself was also not wrong. This is similar to the scene we find in our gospel today. Although Jesus was greater than John the Baptist and in actuality was supposed to administer the sacrament on John, He allowed and insisted it to be the other way round. This is an extreme act of humility which we ourselves must emulates and make effort to live out. The most important lesson here is that Jesus tried to underscore the importance of baptism to the redemption of humanity and the life of a Christian. It is not a mere sign. Rather, it is a sacrament which leaves an indelible mark on the receiver. Once we receive this mark, we must not allow it to be covered by the “dust of life.” We must make enough effort to leave it as visible as possible, so that God could see it always and testify of us: “This is my beloved son (or daughter), in whom I am well pleased!”

One question that often lingers is this, was it actually necessary for Christ to be baptized since he said to John the Baptist: “Leave it like this for now; it is fitting that we should, in this way to fulfill all that righteousness demand.” Why did Jesus subject himself to this process? First and foremost, Jesus proves to us that though being God he was fully and equally man. In order words, he shows us to what extent he fully identifies with us. Through this, he manifested his full humanity through the water of baptism. Ordinarily, baptism was not necessary for Jesus because “he was like us in all things except sin” (Heb 4, 15). He was not tainted in any way by Original Sin due to the fall of Adam and Eve. However, as true human that he is, his baptism as he rightly insisted was in order “to fulfill all that righteousness demand,” and remarkably, as a sign of solidarity with us whom he came down from heaven to redeem. It is a sign that he himself was ready to go through any ordeal in order to guarantee our salvation, the greatest reason for his incarnation. That which He was to seal with his blood latter on, he initiated through the water of baptism today. Hence, he begins and initiates the process of saving humanity by himself dying and rising with us in the water of baptism. By this act, Jesus proved right the song which says: “You came from heaven to earth to show the way…” He is the pacesetter in whose foot step every true believer must follow.  He not only came to show the way, he proved to be the “Via, Veritas, et Vita (The Way, the Truth and the Life)” himself (John 14, 6).

Also, through his baptism, Jesus assures us that redemption is only through him in whose name we ourselves are baptized: “There is no other name by which man can be saved except through that name Jesus Christ (Act 4, 12). Having gone through the waters of baptism, he has sanctified it and so paved the way for us to step into it. In this way therefore, Christ differs from other Old Testament Priests and Prophets. He is: “One who has no need to do as those other priests did…what he has done, he has done once and for all; and the offering was himself” (Heb 7, 27). This offering of himself for our redemption begins with his baptism, with which he opened the way for us to be first cleansed of Original Sin. This is the gateway to our salvation and a significant one indeed! After all, how Original sin could be forgiven without Jesus’ abiding forgiveness through the water of baptism? Therefore, my dear friend, today the church calls us to renew our baptismal vows to God. This is very important because unless God sees a difference in the places we frequent, in our activities, in the pleasures in which we indulge, in the language we use, in our fashion, in our work, in our relationship with others and with him, in our attitude towards creation, etcetera, He can not testify about us: “this is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased” Finally, in the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen: Separated from the world, separated unto God – these are the negative and positive sides, and signs of our own baptism and Christianity.”

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!  

Homily for Ephiphany Of The Lord- 6th January, Year A, B & C (1)

 Beloved, Arise & Shine!

Rdgs: (1st: Ish 60, 1-6; Ps: 71; 2nd: Eph3, 2-3.5-6; Gos: Mtt 2, 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). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.           

Today is Epiphany of the Lord which informs the choice of the theme of our reflection, Beloved, Arise and Shine! There is no better season to ask one to arise and shine than during this glorious season of the birth of the Messiah and the New Year. This is the best time to call to mind once more the story of the rusty shield which said to the Sun: “Dazzle me!” While the Sun responded: “Polish yourself, and I will dazzle you!” Therefore, this season we must rise and shine because: “In His (Christ’s) light we see light” (Ps 36, 9).

The term Epiphany is of Greek origin, epiphaninen. It is a verb with the following synonyms or meanings: “to reveal,” “to manifest” or “to make known.” It celebrates the many ways through which Jesus has revealed himself to us. These include the events that bring to light his mission and divinity; the visitation of the Magi (Mtt 2, 10-12); the baptism of Jesus (Mk 1, 9-11; and the miracle at Cana (Jh 2, 1-11). Objectively speaking only good things are revealed while the bad ones are hidden to avoid shame. Even when the bad ones are revealed, it is done in order to expose evil. They are not revealed with pride or joy.

The first reading of today from the prophet Isaiah enjoins us to: “Arise and Shine out Jerusalem, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you.”  This glory of the Lord is Christ himself who has come to dwell amongst us. He is the source of all lights in the world. He is like the Sun, the source of all natural and earthly lights. We are called to be like the moon, lenses and mirrors that pick up the light and reflect it without of course diminishing its intensity or brightness. For this to be possible, we must first position ourselves on the same axis with Christ the source of our light and life.

In the second reading, Paul makes a very important salvific point. This is the fact that this light which Christ shines upon us does not segregate or discriminate. He writes: “It means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.” Paul simply affirms the scripture which says that God allows his light/rain to fall on both the good and the bad. He allows it upon the good in order to make him better and upon the bad in order to transform him to good.

Today’s gospel reminds us that Christ, revealed himself to us through his stars. So, we are called like the three wise men in our gospel today to follow and adore him because: “All nations shall fall prostrate before you O Lord!”(Ps 71, 3). However, our worship must be sincere like the Magi’s as opposed to the false proposal of king Herod. It must be a genuine worship devoid of deceit. In light of this, we must offer ourselves completely to Him. If we humbly adore and pay our new born king fitting and sincere homage, our own light and star will equally shine forth and others will see it and search for us in order to pay us homage.

Today, God reveals himself to us because he is good and loving. The light that shines forth upon us today is the light of life. Today the Lord Jesus Christ further extends and expands the horizon of his love to us by not being selfish. Rather, he allows his light to shine on us in order to illumine the darkness of our lives. The lesson today is that as Christ illumines our lives this New Year with his own light and divine presence, we too must pass on the light. Another is that if we must get to our heavenly destination, we must continue to follow the star and light that Christ shows us.

Finally, we must not allow ourselves to be deceived or distracted. Trusting that God will not mislead or misguide us, we must continue to look out for his star and light along the part of our journey to eternity. Any time we are confused or come to the cross roads of life, we must seek divine guidance and counsel in our lives. Let implore the Lord: Father, guide us with your light. Help us to recognize Christ in the Eucharist and welcome him with love, for he is Lord forever and ever. Amen!

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!