Homily for 7th Sunday of Easter (World Communications Day), Year A

What and How We Must Communicate To Our World In This Age!
Readings: 1st: Acts 1: 12-14; Ps 26: 1.4.7-8; 2nd: 1Pt 4: 13-16; Gos Jh 17: 1-11

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.

Today, the 7th Sunday of Easter is World Communications Day. In light of this, we must appreciate Christ’s prayer to the Father to give Eternal Life, to all of us entrusted to him. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s and the Church’s source of prayer and praise. He is also the Chief Communicator, the one who enlightens us on what to communicate and on how to go about it. Let us therefore this great Sunday, invite the Spirit of God to rest upon us as we offer sacrifice of praise to God. Giving the significance of this special Sunday, there is no better way to begin today’s brief reflection and homily than to listen to the Holy Father: “Today we are living in a world which is growing ever “smaller” and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours. Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalization makes us increasingly interdependent. Nonetheless, divisions, which are sometimes quite deep, continue to exist within our human family…In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity…The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.” (From the message of Pope Francis for the 48th World Communications Day: “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter”, Sunday, 1 June 2014).
The pertinent question we must ask ourselves today is: What are we to communicate to our world, and how best do we go about it? The essentials we must communicate include: Faith to a world that is fast rejecting God as the Creator. Paul asks: “But…how can they believe if the message has not been proclaimed…So then, faith comes from hearing the message and the message through preaching Christ” (Rom 10, 14-17). We must communicate Love to a world bedeviled with hatred, bitterness and rancor. We must communicate Peace just as Christ communicated it to his disciple, “peace be with you”, (John 19, 21), to a world in absolute chaos. We must communicate Hope to a despairing world where most people’s future looks very bleak and hangs in the balance. We must communicate Unity once again in the words of Christ, “may they be one” (John 17, 21), to a world so divided that “everything seemed to have fallen apart and the center can no longer hold”. We must communicate Eternal Life (which is Jesus Christ Himself) to a world that is approaching its “Omega/Zero point” and its eminent demise. The last but not the least, we must communicate Justice to a world with an unprecedented and “scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor,” a world where the majority of its “inmates” suffer from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty due to a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives.
In today’s first reading, the church reminds us of the need to be up and doing like the early disciples of Jesus. For us to effectively communicate Christ to our world, we must first wait on the Lord to equip us. To wait on the Lord means, going into our closet to pray earnestly for the strength to lunch into our mission, it means inviting the Holy Spirit to fill us with the message, energize and empower us. Communicating the good news is not a task to be approached carnally. One must be duly educated and prepared by the Holy Spirit because the message we are to bear is not a carnal one. Hence, we must patiently not only pass through the school of the Holy Spirit, but through his furnace and crucible as the Disciples of Christ did by heeding his injunction: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift I told you about…” (Acts 1: 5). The disciples did not take this for granted, because if they had done otherwise, their mission would have been a total failure, and their message, even if communicated with the most technologically advanced media would have been a flatus vocis, to their listener. Unfortunately, in our own time, many “men and women of God” have neglected this injunction. We have left the part and path of praying and wondered away playing. The end results has been woeful failure because, rather than preach and communicate the crucified and risen Christ we end up preaching and communicating ourselves. This is why banners, posters, hand bills and all form of media ads for crusades, seminars, workshops, revivals and even pastoral visits must bear a well polished and “galvanized” photograph of “the wonder – working man or woman of God”, else people will not turn up. This is a complete aberration of how communication should aid in the spreading of the gospel. Communication of the good news starts in our closets, upper rooms, and in our “mitochondria.” It is here that we receive the message, the language, and the modus operandi for communicating the message. If we fail in there, no size of bill boards, microphones or megaphones, speakers, etcetera will convince anyone that listens to us.
In the second reading, Peter reminds us of the fact that in our bid to communicate Christ and the above essentials to the world it is definitely not going to be an easy task. However, we should be consoled and be gladden by the fact that “we have some share in the sufferings of Christ because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.” Therefore the many obstacles, challenges, and persecution we shall encounter, even with the best of modern technologies in communicating Christ and these essentials to our world must be seen as our contribution to the good of our world. Therefore, Peter encourages us today to remain steadfast in the mission of communicating Christ to our world. In today’s gospel, Jesus having completed his mission according to the mind of the Father, confidently, requested the Father to glorify him. It is important to note that this confidence stemmed from the quality of work He did for the Father. He communicated eternal life to his disciples. Therefore, we as Christians on this day are equally called upon to transmit and communicate the same eternal life to our world. As Christ pointed out, eternal life is to know God and Christ the son of God. Paul realized this and insisted thus: “All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 310-11). The world yearns for this, and we must give it to them. We must teach our world how to rely on prayer, how to live in harmony, and how to love one another. These are the things that Christ taught, and we in turn must become the medium through which to communicate them to our world.
Arise Christians! Take over modern means of communications available, dominate them, and through these wonderful gifts make God and Christ known to our world through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate World Communications Day this Sunday, let us pray to God to grant us the Spirit that will help, equip, and teach us what, and how to communicate to our world for its upliftment and good. Therefore, let us bid: “Come, Oh Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful and en-kindle in us the fire of your love and mission. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

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Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter -Year A

Bearing Witness to the Risen Christ In The Spirit of Truth
Readings: 1st: Acts 8: 5-8. 14-17; Ps 65, 1-7. 16. 20; 2nd: 1Pt 3, 15-18; Gos Jh 14: 15-23

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 being the sixth Sunday of Easter, the Church in anticipation of Pentecost, invites us to celebrate the coming of the Advocate, Christ’s Spirit of truth to us his people and Church. We are called to celebrate the Spirit of truth because he is our source of strength and animator in the proclamation and dissemination of the message of truth. The message we bear is not false or lie but it comes from the Spirit of truth himself, the advocate whom Christ our Lord asks the Father to send to us.
A story from the ancient moral fables of Aesop’s about the need to bear witness to the truth at all times, rather than to lie or falsehood goes thus: Once there was a shepherd boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain. He used to feel lonely during the day. He thought of an idea whereby he could get some company and excitement. He went down to the village and shouted, “Wolf! Wolf.” On hearing his shouts, the villagers came to save him. But no wolf was seen. The angry villagers went back. The boy enjoyed this trick and after a few days repeated the same act. Once again the villagers came to help him. They realized they had been fooled once more by the naughty boy. One day a wolf actually came to attack the boy and this time, the boy shouted, even louder than before. But the villagers thought that the boy was trying to fool them once again. So no one came out to help him and the wolf took the boy away. As the wise saying goes, “No one can know when a liar speaks the truth.” The message we bear and the spirit in which we proclaim it has the label: “TESTED AND TRUSTED!” It is not a lie because the one who we talk about and the one who help us bear the witness are not lairs, because our “God is not a man that he should lie” (Nu 23, 19) like the shepherd boy. The summary of this message of truth which the advocate, the spirit of truth helps us to propagate is that, the Lord has set his people free and that whoever comes to him now, he will set free! This message is of truth and not a false alarm, it is not a product of the human imagination or flesh (sarx) but of the Spirit of truth himself – the advocate.
In the first reading of today, we continue to see the activities of the apostles and disciples of Jesus as they continue in spite of all odds to make frantic effort to disseminate the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth. Most importantly, in this reading, we see the Samaritans receiving their “Sacrament of Confirmation” for the out pouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. On this day, Peter, the first bishop of Rome and chief shepherd of Jesus’ flock performed his function by going for a pastoral visit to Samaria, “Philip’s Parish,” and there laying hands upon the converts in order that they might receive the Holy Spirit. A few questions suffice here. Since Philip preached to, healed, and baptized these people why did he not lay his hand on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit, why was it necessary for Peter and John to travel the very long distance and through the dangerous paths without fear of being ambushed by brigands and the enemies of the gospel on their way to Samaria, just to lay hands on the already baptized converts of Philip, and why do the Samaritans and of course we, need the Holy Spirit? A tint of Catholic doctrine and catechesis is very important in understanding and answering these questions. The first is that what Philip did by inviting Peter is absolutely in line with the Church’s teaching on Confirmation of already baptized candidate: “The ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the bishop. If the need arises, the bishop may grant the faculty…to priests, although, it is fitting that he confers it himself mindful that the celebration of Confirmation has been temporarily separated from baptism for this reason, Bishops are the successors of the apostles” (CCC 1313 p. 299). However, it is unfortunate that today all manners of “religious maniacs, zealots and bigots” have arrogated this authority unto themselves for myriads of selfish reasons. The Samaritans needed the Holy Spirit as much as we do today because, it is the Holy Spirit that strengthens, leaves an indelible mark on the believer, and of course, makes him/her a true soldiers of Jesus Christ, fit to proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth (CCC 1303-4). It is the Holy Spirit that helps us bear witness to the truth without fear: “For you did not receive the spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry Abba Father. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s Children” (Rom 8, 15-16). Therefore He is the one that confirms the truth we preach as ambassadors of Jesus Christ and harbingers of truth. Finally, it is the Holy Spirit who is the principal agent of evangelization in the propagation of the gospel truth. We preach, but he converts and confirms the truth we preach which is Christ Himself.
In the second reading of today, Peter encouraged us to have reverence for Christ and even those who oppose us and pick holes in the gospel truth we bear and preach by responding to them courteously and respectfully. He equally, reminds us of the animating power of the Holy Spirit even in the life of Christ: “In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life.” It is the same spirit that raised Jesus that helps us to remain true to ourselves, the other and of course to the Trinitarian God while bearing testimony to the truth. What this means is simply that once the Spirit of God is alive and active in us, we become energized and lively enough to work for Christ this is why Christ says: “What gives life is the spirit of God, the flesh (sarx) profits nothing” (John 6, 63).
In the gospel, as we are a couple of weeks away from Pentecost, Jesus promises us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. However, there is a condition for receiving this Advocate: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” When we do this, he adds: “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that spirit of truth…I will not leave you orphans.” What is this commandment that we must keep in order to receive the Spirit of truth? It is: “Go into the whole world and preach the good news to all creation (Mk 16: 15). It is also, loving our God with our whole heart as well as loving our neighbor as we do ourselves (Luke 10, 25-27). When we do these, we are certainly preaching the good news of truth. The promise and the coming of the advocate strengthens us in the way of truth. He comes to make us as firm as the apostles after their “Pentecostal” experience in Acts 2. Christ knows what we need most. That is why he is ready to equip us with the spirit of truth who will help us bear good witness. Therefore, because of this promise, let us all “cry out with joy to God…and say, how tremendous your deed” Lord God of Host; Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter -Year A

The Chosen Race, With Priestly-Royal Heritage, And A Heavenly Abode
Readings: 1st: Acts 6: 1-7; Ps 32: 1-2. 4-5. 18-19; 2nd: 1Pt 2: 4-9; Gos Jh 14: 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.

On this 5th Sunday of Easter and as we continue to celebrate the triumph of the Risen Lord, the Church reminds us in a special way of who we are and where we ought to be: “The Chosen race and the royal priesthood who reign with Christ and would definitely, if we tarry though, be where Christ is. Therefore, as we gather today for Eucharistic celebration this Sunday, the Holy Mother Church encourages us to exercise our royal priesthood by offering the spiritual sacrifice which Jesus Christ by his own great and superb sacrifice has made acceptable to God the Father.
While reflecting on today’s readings especially the first and the second which remind us of who we truly are, and the exalted position we occupy as a result of Christ’s great sacrifice, I recalled a story told about a “Sheepish Lion.” The cub of a Lion lost track of its mother in the jungle but eventually found a flock of sheep looking for greener pastures and joined them. The cub remained with the flock until it grew into a full Lion. However, it did not realize it was a lion because it grew up among a sheepfold. The sheepish lion thus behaved like a sheep, ate grasses, was as weak as a sheep, was timid and worst of all, could not roar like a lion instead, it cried and bleated like a sheep. One day, as another lion was moving around in the forest, it came across this sheep flock and thought to himself, “Today, God has buttered my bread!” But at a close look, he discovered a fellow lion in the midst of the flock. The marauding lion wondered what a fellow lion was doing in sheep’s fold. So it moved closer, targeted and caught the sheepish lion while the rest of the sheep ran for their lives. He inquired from the sheepish lion what he was doing among sheep. But the sheepish lion responsed that he was there because he is a sheep. Then, the Marauding lion said to him, “no, you are a lion and not a sheep.” While the argument lasted, he took him to a nearby river where he asked him to look and see his true self through his reflection on the water. So, seeing that he was a lion, from that day the sheepish lion ceased to follow the sheep and assumed his exalted position as a royal caste and king of the Jungle.
In the first reading of today from Acts 6, 1-7, the drama that unfolded and led to the election of seven deacons in order to cater for the social needs of the believers has the following lessons to teach us. The first being that we must not neglect or take for granted the social and material needs of our flock, brothers and sisters. Second, neglect of complains in a group without finding quick and lasting solutions to them can wreck havoc for our ministry. If we neglect such complains they will distract us when they are fully blown. So it is important we act fast before they undermine the work of God. Third, we must make sure we find means of balancing both the spiritual and material needs of our flock and brethren. The fourth is that, as members of the royal priesthood, we must not forget who we are or neglect our primary calling just as the sheepish lion did. We must not allow the care of the mundane to distract us from our major duties as the Apostles took precaution: “It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food…we will hand over this duty and devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word of God.” If we pay too much attention to material needs, the spiritual will certainly suffer. We cannot do everything by ourselves as members of the royal priesthood. We must draw a line between what we can combine with our priestly ministry and what we cannot combine with it. Finally, we must be wise and prayerful in selecting those who help us in any kind of work in our ministry so that they themselves do not constitute obstacles to us in the exercise of our priestly ministry. They must be “men (or women) of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom.” When we neglect the spiritual (core) aspect of our calling in order to attend to the mundane alone, we reduce ourselves to mere social workers or NCOs. While this is not bad in itself, the problem is that we might become trapped by materialism, and forget that: “Man must not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4: 4).
In the second reading from 2Pt 2, 4-9, Peter reminds us of who we truly are: “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises if God…” Here, Peter highlights our participation in the priesthood of Christ through the “common or general priesthood” of all believers by virtue of our baptism (CCC 1268, p.291). Yes, baptism configures us to become “priests.” That is why each and every one of us can bless one another, bless some articles, pray for one another, and even baptize someone who is in danger of death (CCC 1284, p. 293). By virtue of our anointing with the oil of chrism during baptism, we are equally consecrated to God and thus set apart. Furthermore, the sacrament of confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace and thus through it leaves on the believer an indelible character by the power of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1285, p.293). Thus, in this pastoral letter, Peter highlights the efficacy of the “Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) on us as believers. Through this Peter therefore reminds us of our priestly and royal heritage. He equally calls us to live it out in a manner that is proper. In order words, if we set ourselves close to Christ our chief priest, we must live up to expectation by offering acceptable sacrifices to God. By and through this, we become acceptable to God and become ourselves spiritual houses.
In today’s gospel, Jesus assures us “his fellow priests,” of a place in his kingdom: “Let not your hearts be troubled…there are many rooms in my father’s house…so that where I am you may be too.” This is a clear indication that by virtue of baptism we are truly children of God and share in the priesthood and royalty of Jesus Christ. This is why he considers us worthy of being where he is going to be. Unfortunately, many of us like the sheepish lion in our story above do not know who we are, or even believe that there is a beautiful place being prepared for us by Christ in his Father’s house. So, we act just like the “doubtful Thomas” and the “ignorant Philip.” It is because we doubt this truth told by Jesus, or because, we are ignorant of it that we live our lives anyhow and so forget who we are. This is also the reason many of us cannot maximize our priestly and royal potentials. As priests and people of royal decent and blood, we must assert ourselves positively. It takes faith to log ourselves fully into this position and to live it. Jesus tells us: “I am the way the truth and the light (via, veritas, lucis)! Therefore, if we follow him and fashion our priesthood and priestly life after his, we shall do well, as well as be where he is. Let us therefore ask God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to help us live as members of the royal and heavenly dynasty where Christ our high priest reigns and has set up rooms for us his “fellow priests.” My dear friends and brethren, with this great awareness on this glorious and gracious season of Easter, let us: “Rejoice in the Lord,” we who have been justified and counted worthy of being Christ’s fellow priests, who himself has assured us of a place in heaven, because, “praise is fitting for loyal (and royal) hearts.”Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)-Year A

Christ Our Good Shepherd Leads Us through the Difficult Terrains of Life!
Readings: 1st: Acts 2: 14.36-41; Ps 22: 1-6; 2nd: 1Pt 2: 22-25; Gos Jh 10: 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.

As the Church celebrates Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls on this 4th Sunday of Easter, and as we her Faithful continue to rejoice in the Lord who leads us through the difficult terrains of life, Maud Lindsay’s short story titled: “The Little Shepherd” comes to mind. The shepherd was sick, and his wife looked out from her door with anxious eyes. “Who will carry the sheep to the pasture lands today?” “I will,” cried her little son Jean. “I will, mother, let me.” “Let the lad go,” said his old grandfather. “When I was no older than he, I watched my father’s flock.” “Never fear,” said little Jean. “The wolf shall not have any of my white lambs.” Off he went. Other shepherds were already there with their flocks, so Jean was not lonely. He watered his sheep at the brook, and led them along its shady banks to feed in the sunny fields beyond, and not one lambkin strayed from his care to the forest paths. Soon, out on the king’s highway, beyond the hill, Jean heard the sound of pipes, drums, and tramp of many feet. The other shepherds heard it too, and they began to listen, to stare, and to run. “The king and his knights are coming,” they cried. “Come let us see them as they pass by.” Jean asked: “Who will take care of the sheep?” But nobody answered. “I must stay with the sheep!” Jean insisted, turned and went back, though the pipes and drums all seemed to say, “Come this way!” That day, though there appeared to be nothing in sight to harm the sheep, and the pasture lands were quiet and peaceful, but suddenly came into the forest a very hungry wolf. His eyes were bright, his ears sharp, and his four feet were as soft as velvet. As he came creeping under and through the wood, he spied the sheep left alone in the meadows. “Now, it is my chance,” he said, and out he sprang just as little Jean down the hill. “Wolf, wolf, wolf!” shouted Jean. He was only a little boy, but he was brave and his voice rang clear as a bugle call over the valley. Jean’s cry attracted the shepherds and knights and the king himself who came running and riding to answer his cry, and the gray wolf sped away to the forest shades. At eventide, Jean led his flock home and none was missing.
In the first reading of today, Peter himself, a good and chief shepherd among the “Apostolic Shepherds”, the “primus inter paris” (first among equals), played his leadership and pastoral role well by being the first to speak on behalf of the rest by the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, his efforts did not go in vain or un-noticed because his speech made the difference and led to the greatest conversion of souls ever recorded in the history of mankind in a single day – three thousand! The lesson here is quite simple. A shepherd who prepares himself and parleys with the Holy Spirit will definitely become a powerful instrument of conversion in God’s hands. God knew that Peter was capable, so he gave him a bumper harvest of souls. This is the reward of a good shepherd!
In the second reading, Peter also, in his pastoral letter reminds us of the fact that to be a good shepherd, we must endure ordeals as Christ our good and chief shepherd did for our sake the sheep of his flock. He was not selfish with his life, did not shy away from his duty, but instead endured. Peter reminds us thus: “Christ (the good shepherd) suffered for you and left an example for you to follow the way he took…He was insulted … was tortured, he made no threats…He was bearing our faults in his own body on the cross…through his wounds you have been healed.” Yes, these are the ordeals, the pains and also, the qualities of a good shepherd. In spite of all these, a good shepherd offers everything for the sake of his flock leaving out nothing. He does not believe in half measures. Instead, he believes the Latin adage which says: “Aut optimuim, aut nihil (it is either all or nothing).” We must imitate Christ the good shepherd who dared the devil in order to save us. We must say like Jean, “I will.” Lord, let me take care of the sick, the orphans, the weak, the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed; let me fight and foster their course, let me be their light, their hope, their pride and their shepherd. As good shepherds, we must remain focused in order to aspire to, acquire, and accomplish the task given to us by Christ our chief shepherd. Each one of us has a responsibility towards someone. If we must succeed, we must not abandon our duty posts to the detriment of our flock. Today’s celebration reminds us that we ought to be contrasts to most “mundane shepherds” of our time who exploit their flock, and feed fat with their wives (“the cows of Bashan as Amos 4, 1 refers to them) and their children on the resources God generously made available for everyone, while their flock grow thinner and thinner. Such leaders are like dogs that feast on the bone with which they were decorated (nkita n’ata Okpukpu anyawara ya n’olu).”
In the gospel, Jesus points out more qualities of the good shepherd: “…The one who enters through the gate is the good shepherd of the flock… the sheep hear his voice… he calls his own sheep and leads them…the sheep follow because he knows his voice.” How do we approach those under us, our subordinates, workers, juniors, maids, wards, cooks, gardeners, drivers, office assistants, congregation, parishioners, students, etcetera? Are we like “the terror of the ocean” to them? What is their disposition towards us, and ours towards them, do they flee or become frigid when we are around? What Jesus teaches us here in addition to directing us to himself as the gate is that, we need to build a good relationship with our flock, a relationship based on love, trust, mutual respect, and above all, a Christ-centered relationship that drives away all fears. Above all, each of us must make Christ the shepherd of our soul. This simply means getting attuned to his voice through the scriptures, the teachings of the Church’s Magisterium, the Traditions of the church, and other forms of divine revelations approved by the church. To be truly the sheep of the Lord’s flock, we must listen to him. We must also trust in the ability of Jesus our good shepherd much more than we trust in the ability of our earthly pilots, captains, and drivers to take us to our destination. He never fails because he is an expert in the business of shepherding. Our business is to follow him, while his, is to lead us on kindly and gently along the difficult terrains of life. He knows the terrain we walk and are about to walk because, he himself has walked it. He knows when to put us on his shoulders like kids, when to take us by the hand like little children in order to drag us through the rough edges of life, and also, when to let us alone just for a jiffy, so that we can acquire some shepherding experience. Most importantly, he knows when to pamper as well as trash us, all for the good of our souls.
Coming closer when we hear his voice means drawing closer and closer to life, whereas, drifting away from him endangers our life. This is because, out there is the devil, the thief and devourer who is ever ready to prey on our souls. This is why Peter as a good shepherd, warns us before hand: “Be alert…the devil is prowling like a wounded Lion looking for whom to devour” (1Pt 5, 8). We are in a perilous time. So, just as not all that call Lord, Lord are genuine disciples, also, it is not all that beckon us “come, come”, are true shepherds. The good shepherd cares, nurtures, trashes gently with a godly intent. He beckons us: “Come unto me all you (my sheep) who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 1, 28). On the contrary, the ill-mannered shepherd and crafty wolf bruises, crushes, and feeds on his flock. So, let us make the risen Christ our shepherd because, if we do, “there is nothing we shall want, and surely, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life (Ps 23, 1.6). Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter – Year A

The Precious Blood of Risen Christ: Our Ransom for New Life!

Readings: 1st: Acts 2: 14.22-33; Ps 15: 1-2. 5-11; 2nd: 1Pt 1: 17-21; Gos Jh 24: 13-35)          

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.

On this 3rd Sunday of Easter, we continue to appreciate God’s love for us by allowing his only son Jesus Christ to die for us and triumph over death through his resurrection in order that we ourselves might have life anew. Hence this Sunday, the Church enjoins us to continue to be joyful this season because Jesus Christ has not only ransomed us with his precious and priceless blood from the useless way of life handed down to us, and made known to us the true way of life, but most importantly, he is with us always. He continues with us in the way of life through the scriptures (liturgy of the word) and in the breaking of bread (liturgy of the Eucharist), both of which form the core of the Mass.

While reflecting on today’s readings especially on the second, I recalled the story told a couple of years ago about paying of ransom. The story has it that in a certain diocese, a priest was kidnapped by some mischief makers who considered it the easiest means of making cheap and quick money. Afterwards they contacted the bishop of the poor priest and informed him that they were in custody of one of his priest. They requested him to cough out a whooping sum of money as ransom before they could release the priest. They added that failure to meet their demand on time, that they will kill the poor priest. In response, the bishop gently addressed them thus: “My dear sons, that person you are holding is a priest of God. I thank you for taking good care of him. As for ransom, his ransom has been already paid by Jesus Christ, so I cannot pay any other ransom for him.” When they advanced their threat that they will kill the priest if the bishop fails to comply, the bishop finally added: “My dear sons, that priest has died long ago with Christ during his ordination. So, whether he lives or dies, he belongs to Christ. Please do take good care of him.” Few days later the poor priest was miraculously released. Of course, had the bishop succumbed, the wave of kidnapping of his priest would have continued till the diocese goes bankrupt. Indeed, the life we live today belongs to Christ who through his death and resurrection has ransomed us. Hence, no better ransom can be paid for our redemption that could equate or be better than the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Risen Lord.

In the first reading of this Sunday, after the “Pentecostal Experience,” Peter continues to bear witness to the risen and glorified Christ, the power of his resurrection, the same power with which Christians have been transformed from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life. He argued that since it was impossible for Christ to be held captive by the power of death, it is equally impossible for those (us) whom he has ransomed with his precious blood to remain captives to the powers of fear and death either. This therefore, calls for joy because David the Psalmist prophesied earlier before now concerning this new life purchased for us through Christ’ Paschal Mystery: “You have made known the way of life to me, you will fill me with gladness through your presence.” Yes, now we abide in the presence of the Risen Christ who ransomed us. For this reason, my dear friends, there is no more need to panic because: “Those who abide in the presence/shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91:1). Our aggressors and oppressors – poverty, sickness, pains, hardships, persecutions, phobias, sins and even death have lost their power and grip over us. It is important to note that in mentioning the prophecy of David here, Peter employed it to substantiate first that: “The promises of God are, yes and amen!” (2Cor 1: 20)Secondly, he used it to add credence to his witness to the risen Christ whom the prophets spoke about. The Jews having great respect for their prophets especially David, could not dispute the fact that what he prophesied will come true. We must therefore ask the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus and empowered the apostle Peter to teach us so that, as we witness, we can also rely on the power of the scriptures which is the word of God and another form of Christ’s divine presence with us. This was exactly the method the glorified Christ employed in order to illumine the minds of the scrupulously minded Emmaus-bound disciples in today’s gospel. In the pages of the scriptures (God’s own Word), we find truths about Christ which no man can dispute and which will certainly help us convince and strengthen the faith of those we minister to because, the Word of God, is Christ himself present with us (Jh 1: 1. 14).

In the second reading, Peter calls us to live a life that is ad rem to our new state of life made possible by Christ’s precious blood and victory over death. In order words, if we have God truly as our father, we must try to live impeccable lives, life of holiness because: “Those who call upon the name of the Lord must depart from iniquity,” a life characterized by witnessing to the risen Lord and of course, good works, a life always punctuated with the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit in action in us, and a life that shows that we are truly alive in, and with Christ. This is because the new life we now live and enjoy in Christ was made possible through the precious blood of the Lamb without defect.

Today’s gospel draws our attention to yet another very important aspect of our Christian life and liturgy – The Mass (liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ). It is important to note the sequence of Christ’s action with these Emmaus-bound disciples because it clearly illustrates the core parts of the Mass.  First, Christ having illumined their minds with the scripture (liturgy of the Word): “Then starting with Moses and going through the prophets, he explained to them the passages through the scriptures that were about himself.” After this, Christ went a step further to celebrate the liturgy of his body and blood (the Eucharist) with them: “While he was still with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.” And something very important happened! What was it? “…Their eyes opened, and they recognized him…” This simply underscores the importance of Christ’s injunction: “Do this in memory of me.” Christ himself understood the quagmire that engulfed and challenged their new life, and that it could only be quelled by the celebration of these two important liturgies (Word and Eucharist). Indeed, he has ransomed and given us new life through his precious blood, and his entire Paschal Mystery. Yet, in order to sustain and nourish this new life purchased with the costliest and most precious of all prices in the world, he left us himself in these two important recipes of the Holy Mass (Word and Eucharist). Hence, the saying: “Liturgy is Life!” What this means is that if we forget these liturgies celebrated by Christ himself we forget our new life in him. Christ did this today to remind us that each time we celebrate these liturgies worthily, he opens our eyes in order to recognize his ever abiding and divine presence with us. Also, he reminds us that in the words of the scripture and through the breaking of bread in memory of him, he polishes and nourishes our life and makes it new every day. Therefore, each time we attend Mass, we gain new life afresh because we recognize Christ anew in our own life. This is because Christ at Mass offers himself again and again as a priceless and precious ransom for the renewal and newness of our own life. Let us therefore ask the Risen Christ who ransomed us and continues to remain with us through his Word, Body and Blood to open our eyes, and “show us the path of life,” Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Peace be with you all!!

Maranatha!!!