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Year: 2021

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year C

First Reading: 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Gospel: Luke 2:41-52

THEME: FAITH, SACRIFICIAL LOVE, RESPECT AND UNDERSTANDING SUSTAIN OUR FAMILIES.

The Family is a Divine Institution, not man made! It is the most fundamental community in human society in which couples are called to give themselves in mutual love and respect. It is also the first place where children learn about, both human and moral values, and the social virtues which every society needs. Virtually, all aspects of daily life are being taught in this basic community by parents to children on an informal level. That is why the scripture says, “Train children in the right way, and when they become old, they will not stray(Proverbs 22:6). Just as the foundation of every building is very important for its durability, same with that of the family.

Furthermore, one important aspect of creating this family community is the task of teaching the children. Parents always remain the primary educators of their children, both in theory and in fact (practice). The primary ‘lessons’ they teach are: how to pray, to be disciplined and to have reverence for God. Also how to be a truly human person: one who is free, able to make choices with a properly informed conscience; one able to love, care, forgive, respect, trust, apologize, appreciate, take responsibility, and serve others.

Certainly, when the children are trained properly in this manner, then the society becomes peaceable and habitable. For such are the examples they have learnt from their parents. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others, that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children (Familiaris Consortio, Pope JohnPaul II, Nov. 22, 1981, no. 36). 

Unfortunately, our society is in a despicable situation simply because, the foundations of some families are very faulty. Many families do not give their children good parental upbringing, and that is why when they grow up, they become wicked, disobedient, proud, traitors, and begin to constitute nuisance in the society. Of course, if the family’s foundation is not rooted in love, peace, unity, respect, fear of God, patience, mutual understanding, etc (Galatians 5:22-33), then there is bound to be hatred, acrimony, jealousy, suspicion, rash judgment, etc (Galatians 5:19-21).

The FIRST READING presents Hannah to us; a very humble, obedient and prayerful woman, whose faith in God was so strong that nothing could ever deter her from believing God’s promises for a child. At the appointed time, after fervent prayers, God blessed her with a child – Samuel. Meanwhile, Hannah refrained from making their annual pilgrimage possibly out of a desire to prolong the time she would nurse the child and give him good parental upbringing before presenting him to God as she promised. But she never took any decision on her own without a mutual agreement with her husband, Elkanah who always had reverence for God. No wonder Samuel grew up with the fear of God, respectful, responsible and obedient.

In the GOSPEL, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us by the Church as a model for our families. That we call them “The Holy Family” does not mean that they didn’t have problems. They did have, rather they resolved it within themselves and not publicly. They also performed their respective roles diligently.

Certainly, the 3 Model Characters in this Holy Family lived exemplary lives. For instance, Joseph (Father) who was told about Mary’s pregnancy without his knowledge, being a reputable man of faith and someone that has reverence for God, he did not want to disgrace her publicly, but obeyed the instructions given to him by the Angel (Matthew 1:18-25). Even when Herod wanted to kill the Child Jesus, out of Love, he took absolute care of Him and Mary (Matthew 2:13-15). Also, he patiently and humbly worked at his carpenter’s bench so as to provide the necessities of life for his wife Mary and for the child Jesus. Can our Fathers love their wives like this?

Virgin Mary (Mother) was a very humble, patient, caring, lovely, selfless, respectful, obedient and prayerful woman, always compassionate, observant and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When she noticed that wine had finished at Wedding in Canaan, she interceded immediately so as to save the couples from unnecessary embarrassment (John 2:1-5). These virtues were the weapons she used to conquer the world, which are worthy of emulation! Can our mothers be compassionate and observant in the family like her?

Jesus (Son) stayed back in the Temple after Passover to converse with the Scholars and to teach them, as part of His mission in the world, but as soon as His parents who had been searching for Him came around, He followed them immediately and was obedient to their instructions all His days (Luke 2:43-52). He later grew up as a responsible, humble, obedient, respectful, caring, lovely, patient, compassionate and merciful personality. Can our children always emulate Him and be obedient to their parents like Him?

Meanwhile, for any family to live in Peace, there should be SACRIFICIAL LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING. This implies that, one of the partners should be “BLIND” to some extent on certain issues concerning the family. By that I mean, he or she should overlook certain things in order for peace to reign, otherwise there would be misunderstanding and quarrels. The Husband should love his wife sincerely and treat her with gentleness, as Christ does for her bride (Ephesians 5:25). Also, the wife should be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22), and the children should be obedient and supportive to their parents (Sirach 3:1-18)

Moreover, in order for Sacrificial Love, Respect and Understanding to be eminent and be sustained, these should be put into consideration: Praying Together, Tolerance, Forgiveness, Patience, Endurance, Trust, and Frequent use of Magic Words (I am sorry, please, excuse me, thank you, forgive me, I am grateful, etc). For it takes courage and personal integrity to teach children the truth: that people are more important than things; that human life has infinite value unconnected with wealth, beauty, intelligence, ability, etc.; that all people are equal; that they are lovable and loved; that they are called to chastity and holiness; that the ability to pray is the greatest gift they can have. Education is not just for human success; it must include the truths of our faith.

Finally, parents for their part, have the responsibility to train, care and nurture their children in every aspect of their lives, especially to teach them to be prayerful, to be disciplined and to have reverence for God. Also how to be a truly human person, able to make positive choices with a properly informed conscience; one able to love, care, forgive, respect, trust, apologize, take responsibility, and serve others. If parents fail to give their children good parental upbringing while they are growing, they may be indirectly contributing to the decadence of our society.

May the Almighty God through the anointing Power of the Holy Spirit, bring divine healing, breakthrough, restoration, everlasting joy, peace and love in your family, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

Jesus Christ born in a manger

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

1st Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7; 52: 7-10; 2nd Reading: Titus 2:11-24; Hebrews 1:1-6; Gospel: Luke 2:1-14; John 1:1-18.

THEME: OUR LONGAWAITED MESSIAH IS HERE WITH US!

Life seems to be meaningful when after experiencing a long period of suffering, one’s hopeful expectancy of relief comes to fruition. Moreover, many women undergo terrible painful experiences during pregnancy, especially during delivery (pangs of birth) when they usually cry uncontrollably, but hopeful for a sign of relief. This relief occurs as soon as they hear the cry of their child; only then, would their tears metamorphose into joy. For the scripture says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).”

Meanwhile, through the disobedience of Adam, the relationship between divinity and humanity was marred, humanity became wounded and her source of life which accrued from divine was truncated. Consequently, sickness, suffering and death entered into the world, and humanity wallowed in darkness. However, due to God’s love for humanity, and in order to restore humanity back to her original state, He continued to send His prophets so as to bridge the gap that separated humanity from Him, but all their efforts could not salvage or restore humanity’s fall. Thus, God promised to send a Messiah into the world to redeem humanity.

In the FIRST READING, prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of that Messiah: “For to us a child is born…, and His name will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).” He gave hope to the Israelites who were passing through excruciating experiences while in exile; that those who had been suffering or walking in darkness for a long time as a result of the Fall of Adam, have now been illuminated. This good news of salvation which was not yet fulfilled as at that time, brought immense joy and happiness to the Israelites as they longed to see the Messiah.

Consequently, at the fullness of time, God sent His only begotten Son – Jesus Christ (divine light) to redeem humanity from darkness. Through the Power of the Holy Spirit eternity is born in time (aeternitas in tempore nascitur), the infinite becomes finite and the omnipotent becomes a weak child. God took the form of a slave, became man and born of the Virgin Mary in a manger, and dwelt among us. Hence, through the incarnation, a marriage between humanity and divinity is being established. This is the greatest, mightiest and far reaching event which ever took place in human history.

Joyously, today being Christmas, we commemorate such great/ wondrous event: The Infinite Mercy and Unconditional Love of God. For God so love the world and gave His divine Son (Jesus Christ) as a precious gift to humanity so that the self-giving of God may be the model and motive of all our gifts to others, especially the gift of oneself (John. 3:16).  His birth brings good news to the poor, healing for the broken-hearted, deliverance to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to prisoners and favour to all (Luke 4:18-19). This calls for an exultant praise, and gratitude to God (Psalm 136:1-4).

Since Christ has brought divine joy and happiness into our lives, and shared His stupendous blessings which no human can give us, then how do we reciprocate this act of Unconditional Love of God for us? In the SECOND READING, St. Paul urges us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, but to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world. These can concretely be actualized when we extend the Peace, Joy and Love of Christ to others. For Love invites a return of love.

Finally, as we welcome our Redeemer – “the Light of the World” (John 8:12) into our hearts this Christmas, let us not be talking about love only, rather we should endeavor to ”DO” the following:

  1. To search for those that are eking for life and put smiles on their faces, especially this Yuletide and beyond through our kindness and generosity.   
  2. To render assistance to those looking for job opportunities; we may offer them job if we can, or give them connections if we know any.
  3. To go to confession (Sacrament of reconciliation).
  4. To reconcile with those that have hurt us in one way or the other, and apologize to those we might have offended.
  5. To ensure that justice, equity, tolerance and fairness thrive in our homes and society.

Therefore, I pray that by the Power of the Holy Spirit, you and your family may be liberated from the forces of darkness, and may the Joy, Peace, Prosperity of the New Born King envelope you and your entire family, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp

Merry Christmas Logo
Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!
GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.

Homily of 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

THEME: GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.

1st Reading: Micah 5:1-4; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10; Gospel: Luke 1:39-45.

The ways of God are certainly not our ways and His mercy surpasses all human understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yes, God does not choose people based on their class, positions of honour or popularity in order to fulfil His divine plans, rather He chooses the poor, lowly, weak, humble, or those that are always ready to selflessly sacrifice their comforts so as to save others.

In the FIRST READING, through Prophet Micah, God promised to send a Messiah (Saviour) to the world who would redeem humanity. Though, He wouldn’t come from a great city like Jerusalem or from a rich powerful family, but from a small, unknown, poor and insignificant tribe of Judah – Bethlehem. Meanwhile, many Prophets of the Old Testament had references to the coming Messiah, but Micah’s prophecy was one of the clearest, for he was precise on the birth place of the Messiah, which really helped the Magi to know the exact town the Messiah would be born.   

In the GOSPEL, the prophecy of Micah came to limelight when Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit revealed to her and to the unborn child in her womb that her visitor and cousin was to be the Messiah’s Mother. Hence, filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit immediately the Virgin Mary greeted her, Elizabeth was inspired to proclaim the dignity, the special position given to Mary in God’s plan for our redemption: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this been granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? … Blessed is she who believed that the things spoken to her from the Lord would find their fulfilment (Luke 1:42-45).”  

The SECOND READING reminds us today, the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, of the real meaning of the incarnation. It shows the deep sacrificial love, humility and obedience of Jesus Christ – the Messiah, who truly knows why God chose Him, and offered Himself to come into the world in order to save humanity from her precarious conditions. Undoubtedly, to be chosen by God so often means both crown of joy and cross of sorrow. The piercing truth is that God does not choose a person for ease, comfort and selfish joy, but chooses someone in order to use him or her for a serious task that will require the person’s commitments and devotions (Isaiah 49:5-6).

Finally, from the readings of today, it is obvious that God works in mysterious ways that are beyond human comprehension. He does not actually choose people that are popular, influential  or rather those that feel that they are powerful in the society in order to carry out His mission, rather He chooses those that are humble, obedient, and are willing to sacrifice themselves selflessly for the sake of others, for special and great tasks. For Love is Sacrifice. To love is to sacrifice one’s own convenience, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others. Where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity.”

Although, we may be insignificant in the eyes of people in the world, perhaps because we do not belong to high class (bourgeoisie) personalities or rich powerful family, but once we sincerely and humbly love God and our fellow human beings, then God may use us at the appointed time to carry out big tasks, which may make us famous in the world, just like Bethlehem. Therefore, since Christ sacrificed His life for our sake, let us endeavor to sacrifice ourselves for others, and be the saviour of many families who are passing through difficult challenges in this Yuletide.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

BEING COMPASSIONATE: A SHORTCUT FOR GAINING DIVINE JOY AND PEACE.

Homily of 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

THEME: BEING COMPASSIONATE: A SHORTCUT FOR GAINING DIVINE JOY AND PEACE.

1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18; 2nd Reading: Philippians 4:4-7; Gospel: Luke 3:10-18.

Naturally, many people like to associate, or rather, engage themselves with things that they feel would always bring inner joy, happiness, peace, as well as solace into their lives. Some of these things are wealth, fame, beauty, intelligence, position, drugs, etc. But most times, the joy, peace and happiness they experience afterwards seem to be momentary; operating on the altar of temporality. So, if all these mentioned above do not give inner and lasting joy to our souls, then what can we do in order to experience it?

In the Gospel, John the Baptist elucidated the prerequisites for gaining inner and lasting joy, peace and happiness into our souls: being compassionate to those in need by giving them the basic necessities of life (food, cloth, shelter, etc.); being contented with what we have and not to defraud people in order to enrich ourselves; not to intimidate others either directly or indirectly because we are superior to them; not to accuse others falsely because we want to gain favour; not to be arrogant, proud or selfish, rather, to be kind, charitable and humble in everything we do.

Certainly, only when we truly repent (frequent sacrament of reconciliation) from our wrong doings by refraining from anything that would mar our relationship with God, or jeopardize the life of others; touching the lives of others positively by putting smiles on their faces, especially in this Yuletide; and then, wrapping ourselves with the clothes of humility and meekness, then we shall obtain divine joy, happiness and peace of God, which surpass all understanding . Since before God, the right attitude is one of humility and meekness, because one no longer counts on one’s own strength, but relies solely on God. For the Joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Meanwhile, the Church celebrates Gaudete Sunday (Joyous Sunday) today, a special day in which we are reminded of the joy in Christ’s redeeming work among us, which we are about to commemorate in few days to come, precisely on the Christmas day. When we prepare ourselves properly for that day, then we shall truly experience the inner joy and peace promised to those who welcome Christ in their hearts. For in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy (Psalms 16:11).

Finally, it is very important to note that, wealth, fashion, beauty, intelligence, fame, positions, etc., do not actually give one inner and lasting joy, peace and happiness. But the only condition for us to experience them is to love our fellow human beings sincerely by constantly alleviating their problems daily.

So, we are called to rejoice this Sunday by spreading the joy of Christ’s coming to the ends of the earth through love, charity, justice, righteousness, tolerance, patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc, with the help of the Holy Spirit. For being compassionate to people is the only short way to gaining inner (divine) joy and peace. When we do these, then with joy, we shall draw spiritual nourishments from the Lord’s well of salvation (Isaiah 12:5) in this forthcoming Yuletide, which will help us gain eternal life when our earthly life expire.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

LET US REPAIR OUR DEPLORABLE SPIRITUAL ROADS.

Homily of 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

THEME: LET US REPAIR OUR DEPLORABLE SPIRITUAL ROADS.

1st Reading: Baruch 5:1-9; 2nd Reading: 1 Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Gospel: Luke 3:1-6.

In our contemporary society, many rich people especially our leaders do not like to travel by land (road transportation), even within their own locality due to insecurity or the deplorable state of most of the roads. They rather travel by air (flight transportation), because it makes them feel secure, peaceable and comfortable. Also, they prefer it because it helps to fasten their journey.

Regrettably, some of our roads are very horrible. Those that travel on them regularly encounter a lot of discomforts accruing from incessant delays at the military checkpoints, numerous potholes, banditry, kidnapping, etc., Some of these roads seem to be abandoned, and each year they would continue to dilapidate. Most times, the contract may have been awarded to a contractor, but it is either the contractor used inferior materials (asphalts, bitumen, etc.) for the project so as to have more gains, or that he squandered the money for the project and absconded; or the contract was totally ignored (not awarded) by our leaders, perhaps because they usually travel with flights and seldom ply the roads.  

However, if any important dignitary (president, minister, governor, etc.) would come for an official visit in that locality, the contractor or ministry of works would wake up from their slumber and fix the roads overnight, so as to impress their august visitor, and possibly to gain  cheap popularity. What an astute and proactive measures! So, if this kind of earthly preparation or impression is obtainable, then why is it that we are not enthusiastic in fixing our dilapidated spiritual roads for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?

In the FIRST READING, Baruch, a friend and secretary of prophet Jeremiah, made a prophecy of the glorious future and merciful intervention of God in favour of humanity. He gave hope and encouragements to the exiled Jews who were under Babylonian captivity. He told them that their days of sorrows and afflictions are over, and that the peace and glory of God shall be made manifest in their lives once they accept His righteousness (justice & fidelity). For this reason, they should repair all deplorable roads, fill up the valleys and level every mountainous path on their way, so that they may, with joy, embrace God’s light, mercy and righteousness and then work safely in His glory.

The GOSPEL presents St. John the Baptist (Precursor of Christ) as the fulfillment of what Prophet Isaiah foretold concerning the expected Messiah: “A voice cries out, prepare the way for the LORD, make a straight highway in the desert for our God. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall become level. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Undoubtedly, what John strongly emphasized here, is the need for us to rebuild our deplorable roads, and make the crooked paths straight and level, in preparation for the coming of our Supreme King – Jesus Christ.  However, these are not really physical roads, but spiritual roads – that is, the potholes and crookedness in the lives of people. They are people’s sins of pride, greed, hatred, selfishness, victimization, corruption, wickedness, injustice, etc., which should be filled with bitumen or asphalts of humility, love, generosity, righteousness, honesty, forgiveness, justice, equity, fairness, etc.

In the SECOND READING, St. Paul was deeply touched by the good works and the supports rendered to him by the Philippians in the spread of the gospel. Hence, he prayed that they may continue to abound more in love, with knowledge and all discernment, so that they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ. Also, they may attain Christian perfection, which should be the desire of every true Christian. This perfection means a continual growth in love of God and of neighbor and deeper knowledge of God in order to grow in union with Him.

Moreover, the prerequisite for us to experience the fullness of God’s glory in our lives is when we return to Him through repentance and forgiveness. Therefore, we are called to purify ourselves via genuine repentance (Isaiah 1:18-20) in order for us to see the salvation of God, which comes with peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This will make the way smooth and easy for Jesus Christ to come and be born anew into our lives, so that, people will begin to see Him in our character and utterances. Meanwhile, this repentance is not really a change of one’s religion; from Christianity to Islam or vice versa, but a complete change of heart to love others sincerely, which is a proof of our love for God.

Finally, since Christ will definitely come one day, though no one knows the hour, each person must appear before Him to be judged at the moment of death, and that moment will decide for us how His second coming will affect us. So, to make sure of a happy death, that is, of a successful judgment, there is but one guarantee and it is to lead a successful, a true, Christian life that is void of crooked paths, potholes and mountains.   

PRAYER:

May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, grant you forgiveness of all your sins and grant you the grace to make way for the coming of the Lord and repair all your deplorable spiritual roads that hinder your access to His divine love; also for you to love your fellow human beings sincerely, so that at the end, you shall reign with Christ in His Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

ADVENT: A CALL FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION

Homily of 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16; 2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Gospel: Luke 21:25-28; 34-36.

ADVENT SEASON: A CALL FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION.

Challenges, misfortunes, turbulence and difficulties are the most unavoidable parts of life journey. Some of these catastrophes, though terrific, tend to test our courage, strengths, weaknesses, and faith. However, most times, we may stumble upon obstacles that will come between the paths that we are destined to take.

Moreover, some of these obstacles can be blessings in disguise, only that we do not realize that at the time due to fear of unprecedented tribulations, or that we may not be able to actualize our dreams before we die. Since no one knows when he or she will die or when our world will come to an end, but the scripture makes us to realise that it will definitely come one day. Even while some people are still alive, and the disturbances in the universe and perhaps more still, the realisation of their unpreparedness for the judgement will cause some of them to die out of fear.

Meanwhile, today, being the First Sunday of Advent is the ecclesiastical new year day in the Catholic Church. It is the beginning of the Church’s annual liturgical cycle of feasts with a period of four weeks preparation for Christmas. It is also a period of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and His return at the Parousia.

In the FIRST READING, through Prophet Jeremiah, God promised to restore the Israelites who were suffering terribly under Babylonian captivity due to their obstinacy. He promised to send a “righteous branch” from Davidic dynasty, who will establish peace and justice in the world. This promise of divine restoration also extends to all those who are currently suffering from diverse challenges. That their predicaments will soon come to an end by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

In the GOSPEL, we see Jesus Christ as that righteous branch, the Son of David and the Prince of Peace, who out of love came into the world to bring salvation to humanity. He is the fulfilment of the aforementioned prophecy in the first reading. Through His disciples, He presents us with the imminent terrific revelations that will precede the end of the world, which are very phenomenal. These may come in form of wars, tumult, international conflicts and natural disasters with cosmic terrors.

However, in order not to live in fear, Jesus Christ assures us of divine restoration in spite of the catastrophes or tempestuous situations of our contemporary society. He further gives us words of encouragement, that we should not be afraid, because those impending cataclysms are indications that our divine restoration is close at hand.

But, the question is, can we be able to face these calamities confidently and courageously? The answer is Yes!; only when we have genuine love for God and our fellow human beings, just as St. Paul enunciated in the SECOND READING, then we shall remain unperturbed amidst any unprecedented tribulation, and thus be ready for the Parousia – the great day of judgment. For the scripture says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18)”, and also, “love covers multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”

Therefore, in order to be worthy to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for humanity in this yuletide, the Church enjoins us through the readings of today and that of the three coming Sundays, to prepare ourselves spiritually so as to welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts and share in His divinity. Also, that we may be found worthy and acceptable in His Kingdom when our earthly life expires, and confidently stand before His throne on the last day.

Finally, through the incarnation, God has made available to all humanity an eternal home of peace and happiness, there we shall be free from sin, catastrophes, troubles, earthly limitations, etc. But, we need to prepare ourselves spiritually (loving God & our fellow human beings in sincerity, doing charity to the needy, going to Sacramental Confessions regularly, forgiving our offenders and even our enemies), which is the prerequisite for entering our eternal home on the last day.

PRAYER:

I pray that the Holy Spirit may increase your faith, hope and love, and grant you spiritual strength and power, so that without fear of any imminent tribulation, you may love God and your fellow human beings sincerely; that when Christ finally comes at the Parousia, you will be accepted by Him, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

Kingship of Jesus Christ

Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B

THEME: CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY: A KINGDOM OF LOVE AND HUMBLE SERVICE.

1st Reading: Daniel 7:13-14; 2nd Reading: Revelation 1:5-8; Gospel: John 18:33-37.

Historically speaking, many kings or leaders have risen in this world with their respective kingdoms. These kings reigned with all their mighty power, and became so powerful that just their mere spoken words could cause mayhem in the society.

For instance, kings like Pharaoh, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, Ahab and Jezebel, Antiochus Epiphanes, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin and so on, were among the notable kings or leaders that reigned in the past. These kings or leaders were proud, autocratic, brutal, inhumane, and thus, committed many unjust and abominable acts, which made them to be feared by many people and nations. During their earthly reigns, they commanded so much authority that their instructions were strictly enforced in a manner that they would never be disobeyed by anyone, but attracted so much severe consequences whenever anyone violated or breached them, to the extent of subjecting the defaulters or victims to painful or excruciating deaths.

Unfortunately, these kings or leaders thought that they would reign forever. It did not cross their minds that one day, they would meet their waterloo and their kingdoms would collapse; neither did they remember that death awaits every human person living under the face of the earth. Surprisingly, when they died, their kingdoms also died and faded away with them, and could only be remembered as memories as the occasions arise.

In the FIRST READING, Prophet Daniel received a divine revelation of the rise and fall of different kings that had reigned on earth, and the subsequent enthronement of the King of kings, who was given dominion and Glory; that all peoples, nations and languages should adore and serve Him. The one whose dominion is everlasting, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom can never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14).

In today’s GOSPEL, Pilate became astonished when he heard of the chief priests’ accusation about Jesus’ claim to be King, and their demand for His crucifixion. He was also dismayed when Jesus Christ stated categorically that His Kingship is not of this world’s type, which thrives in violence and tyranny, but a heavenly type that fosters love and peace. He also declared the real nature of His mission in the world, which is to bear witness to the truth and everyone who is of the truth listens to His voice (John 18:36-37). These statements made it impossible for Pilate to comprehend and marry the situations presented before him by the Jews.

Moreover, as a governor Pilate was a failure, he was indicted three times due to his bad records. He seemed to have begun with a complete contempt and lack of sympathy for the Jews, and was too proud to involve himself in what he regarded as Jewish squabbles and superstitions. Hence, the Jews blackmailed him into assenting to the death of Christ, because his previous mistakes had made it impossible for him both to defy the Jews and to keep his position.

Undoubtedly, it is imperative to note that, most kings are always afraid to witness anybody that comes up to challenge their kingship, more so, to claim to be the new king, even when the current king is still alive. For when kings’ wrath is stirred by fear for their crowns, it is a great and inextinguishable wrath.

This was evident during the horrible tragedy in Bethlehem, when Herod the Great massacred the innocent children because he heard that a new king was born (Matthew 2:16-18). Even in our contemporary society, many leaders who are overambitious and power conscious, can even go extra mile to annihilate anyone they see as their rival; either directly or indirectly.

However, our Lord Jesus Christ – the King of kings and the Lord of lords, came into this world, not in the manner of the earthly kings mentioned above, but as a compassionate and humble servant who actually came to demonstrate the kind of Kingship that pleases the Almighty God. A King that rules with love, peace, humility, obedience, truth, holiness, mercy, justice, equity and fairness. A spiritual Kingdom which begins here on earth (the Church) but has its completion and perfection in heaven.

Moreover, because the Jews had a prolonged domination and oppression by successive foreign powers, they anticipated a political messiah who would forcefully revolt against their oppressors. That was why they misunderstood the word “kingdom” to mean only earthly authority that can dominate, subjugate and victimize any oppositions. But for Jesus Christ, kingdom means “humble service.” No wonder, despite being the King of kings, yet, He obediently humbled Himself even unto death in order to gain salvation for humankind. Now, He reigns supreme forever and ever, and at the mention of His name, every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord (Philippians 2:6-11).

The SECOND READING gives us a clear description of the true identity of Jesus Christ:  “The Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8).” He loves us and has freed us from the bondage of sins by His blood, and has made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father. He established His messianic Kingdom, in which we, His subjects, are given the power and the privilege of serving God with true service. Behold, He will return in glory and majesty to demand a reckoning from each one, and every eye will see Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Consequently, each person will have to stand before His tribunal one day to give account of his or her works on earth.

Finally, Christ exhibited the nature of humility even when He is fully aware that He is King and very powerful, and that an utterance of His Word can challenge any human kingship. But, amidst all these He remained calm as well as became an advocate of service to humankind.

Therefore as Christians, let us reflect on these simple but pertinent questions:

  1. Can we emulate Christ’s style of Kingship by becoming humble servants to our subjects instead of being tyrannical or inhumane in our leadership positions or dispositions?
  2. Can we consistently and sincerely foster justice, equity and fairness in our society?
  3. Can we promote other people’s good works, especially those that are talented in a particular field instead of being jealous or indignant when they are progressing more than us?
  4. Can we humbly acknowledge those higher than us in one way or the other instead of assassinating their character directly or indirectly?  
  5. Since death awaits us one day, can we daily demonstrate genuine love to our fellow human beings by being merciful and compassionate to them?

Therefore, may the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, grant you the spirit of humility, selfless service to humanity, and increase your faith and love for God and your fellow human beings, so that at the end, you shall reign with Christ in His Kingdom, this is my prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

WITH LOVE, WE SHALL FACE THE END-TIME REALITIES

Homily of 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

THEME: WITH LOVE, WE SHALL FACE THE END-TIME REALITIES!

1st Reading: Daniel 12:1-3; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Gospel: Mark 13:24-32.

The book of Ecclesiastes made us to understand that there is time for everything under heaven. “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).” Since there was a time the world was created, then, it implies that it must surely come to an end one day, even its inhabitants, though unknown to humanity. In spite of these biblical insights, many people are still ignorant of these end-time realities, while some are afraid of their occurrences, and others do not even believe in them.

Meanwhile, as we draw closer to the end of the liturgical year, the Church presents us with readings that hinge on apocalyptic theology (end-time realities) or eschatological crisis. This calls for a deeper reflection, genuine repentance and patience in our trials and tribulations, so that that terrible day would not invade us like a thief or meet us unprepared. However, the readings are not meant to terrify us, but for us to be alert, awake and ready at all times, since we do not know when such mysterious cataclysm would occur, and the day or hour when our earthly life would expire is also unknown to us.

The FIRST READING brings to limelight, a glimpse of that apocalyptic theology, which highlights the triumph of God’s goodness and power over the evil of the tyrant kings, as well as His imminent triumph over the evil of this world. When that time comes, many who had died shall awake, the righteous and faithful ones (elect) will be saved and share in the joy of everlasting life in the Kingdom of God, while the wicked will be subjected to eternal disgrace and damnation.

Besides, this biblical passage was written in the second century, about 166 BC, with the purpose of encouraging the Jews to remain faithful to God despite the harsh persecutions they were facing that period through their savage persecutor, Antiochus Epiphanes.

Furthermore, in the GOSPEL, Jesus Christ also made reference to the apocalyptic imagery of the Old Testament in order to describe the events that will precede the end of the world. According to Him, there will be an unprecedented cataclysm: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and powers in the heavens will be shaken (Mark 13:24-25).” That should be enough to terrify even the courageous hearts.

Nevertheless, this eschatological theology is to be understood not only in a future goal, but as a reality which has already begun with true historical coming of Christ. It is the basis for Christian hope and perseverance, and we should understand these readings within the context of the calamities we are facing currently. Nonetheless, if we love God sincerely, and our fellow human beings as well, then no matter any calamity that may befall us, we shall not be terrified, because, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).”

The SECOND READING reminds us of how the Levitical priests of the Old covenant offered daily powerless sacrifices for sin, but Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant has offered the perfect sacrifice once and for all, with His own body and blood, and is now seated in heaven, waiting for the fulfilment of all scriptural prophecies, whereby His enemies will be made His footstool (Hebrews 10:13).

Finally, since our earthly life is ephemeral, are we ready to witness the eschatological crisis? When the trumpet sounds now, what shall be our fate? Can we confidently stand before God’s throne? Should we be found worthy as part of the elect or those doomed to perdition? As true Christians (those who love God & fellow human beings sincerely), we should not be afraid of death or the cataclysms that engender death, for Jesus Christ has conquered death,  and His death has given meaning to our own death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57); ipso facto, in Him, death is a gain (Philippians 1:21).

Certainly, creation made us mere mortals, but only death brings us to be with our Immortal God. Hence, every human person must have to answer this call one day, and be committed to the mother earth, in as much as Christ has died and resurrected to life, then when we die, we too shall have and share life with Him.

Therefore, as we draw closer to the end-time and await the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us persevere with the following:

  1. Constant Prayer life (Luke 18:1-5, Isaiah 62:6-8, Mark 14:37-39).
  2. Constant Studying of the Word of God (2Timothy 2:15, John 6:63).
  3. Constant Sacrament of Reconciliation – Confession (2Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:8-10).
  4. Forgiving others their offences (Matthew 6:14-15).
  5. Constant reception of Holy Communion (John 6:51).
  6. Charity Work (Galatians 6:9-10; Matthew 25:31-45).

I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to continue being steadfast in the Lord so that with love, you may be able to face the end-time realities, and on the last day, you shall be welcomed into His Heavenly Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

KENOTIC SACRIFICE: A GATEWAY TO HEAVENLY SANCTUARY

Homily of 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

THEME: KENOTIC SACRIFICE: A GATEWAY TO HEAVENLY SANCTUARY.

1st Reading: 1 Kings 17:10-16; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28; Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

The true measure of a human person is not in his acquisitions (wealth, academic qualification or positions of honour), but in his character (distinctive qualities). Hence, honesty, sincerity, faithfulness and generosity, are the hallmarks of an authentic or reputable personality. Unfortunately, dishonesty, fraudulence, hypocrisy, unfaithfulness and stinginess seem to have become the norms in our contemporary society. Many people especially Christians, lack these distinctive and essential qualities in their lives; they even find it difficult to sacrifice anything for the sake of others, instead, they try to defraud others in order to enrich themselves.

In the FIRST READING, due to the generosity and willingness of the poor widow of Zarephath, who sacrificed all she had in order to satisfy Prophet Elijah when dire poverty stared on her face, God rewarded her. She believed in the prophetic utterance of Elijah: “the jar of meal shall not be emptied nor shall the jug of oil fail, until the day when the Lord sends rain to the earth (1 kings 17:14).” Hence, she, her son and entire household were spared from famine which ravaged the entire Israel.

Similarly, in the GOSPEL, while watching the crowd as they put money into the treasury, Jesus Christ observed many rich people who donated large sum of money, and also a poor widow who put in two coppers coins. Astonishingly, He said to His disciples: “Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living (Mark 12:44).” Despite the fact that the rich offered more than the poor widow, yet Christ affirmed her generosity and willingness, because she offered all she had in order to enrich God’s treasury.

Meanwhile, a common trait unites the two widows in both the first and the gospel readings of today. Both of them were poor, but they generously gave all their material possessions in order to enrich others, and thus, depended on divine providence for the following day’s needs. This is contrary to what we see in our current society. For many people are money conscious; always seeking after what they will gain, and not what they can contribute for the growth of others or their society. Even when they try to contribute, they would like it to be pronounced, or they would like to create public awareness, so that, everybody would hear it and applaud them (Matthew 6:1-8).

Undoubtedly, Jesus Christ is always watching our hearts daily, to know the motives behind our conducts (honest or hypocritical); the words we speak (hurtful or consoling); the sacrifices we make (generous or stingy); as well as the opinions we express (sincere or deceitful). Whether we perform them with pure motivesfor the love of God and the good of others, or they stem from ulterior motivesvain glory, selfish interest, self-aggrandizement, showoff, etc.

Moreover, the act of giving comprises of two types: quantitative and qualitative. When we give, there should be some elements of our self in what we give, which makes it more valuable and sacrificial. For real giving must be sacrificial. The amount of the gift does not matter so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts. In other words, whatever we give out, either to God or to human beings, must not be what we no longer need, but denying ourselves what we value so much. However, our generosity must be done willingly and cheerfully, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Furthermore, Jesus Christ warned us not to imitate the selfish and hypocritical attitudes of the sanctimonious scribes mentioned in the gospel, who often like to be greeted obsequiously; always craving for top positions of honour, and exploiting the vulnerable widows in the society. This is evident in our contemporary society, where many fake pastors who sanctimoniously claim to be prayer warriors, defraud their congregations especially the poor among them. According to Jesus, any external piety without a proper internal disposition of heart, is hypocritical, and thus condemnable.

Also, the SECOND READING juxtaposes between the sacrifices made by the High priests of the old order and that which was made by Jesus Christ, the true High Priest. The former, which was the Levitical sacrifices designed to purify the means of earthly worship, that is, physical tabernacle, used the blood of animals from the abundance of many animals to offer sacrifices annually. However, the latter is superior over the former, not like the earthly sanctuary, but God’s own heavenly sanctuary.

So, Christ’s sacrificial offering brought about the cosmic redemption that purified the whole universe, seen and unseen. He did not use any earthly victim or from any of His abundance like the High priests of the old order, who used the blood of animals to offer sacrifices, but He used everything He had; His own body and blood. Thus, Christ made a Kenotic sacrifice (self-emptying) of Himself, once and for all in order to save humanity.

Finally, God has done a great thing for us. Due to the love He has for us, He offered his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ as a sacrifice in order to save us. So, the type of offering He demands from us is a kenotic sacrifice, which comes from the heart willingly. Just like Abraham, who wholeheartedly demonstrated his love for God when he wanted to sacrifice his son, Isaac at God’s command (Genesis 22), same goes to Abel’s sacrificial offerings to God (Genesis 4). Therefore, whatever we do, if it does not stem from love, and with the sole aim of salvaging others, then we shall not get any reward, even if we pull the crowd to applaud us.  

Conclusively, today’s readings enjoin us to be mindful of the followings:

  1. Christian charity demands that we deny ourselves some of our basic needs so as to enrich the poor, not only when we have abundant resources, but also when we have only the bare essentials for ourselves; while relying on divine providence.
  2. Since out of love, Christ sacrificed His life for our sake, then we too should always be ready to risk or sacrifice our lives in order to save others. For thus says the Lord: “Greater Love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”
  3. We should not always seek for what we can gain from others, rather what we can give. However, our generosity should be done willingly and cheerfully in order to attract God’s reward, for God loves a cheerful giver, and givers never lack.
  4. We should always see our position as a privilege to render selfless services to all. Instead of using it to compound people’s problems, we should rather use it to alleviate their poor conditions.
  5. We should strive to be honest, sincere, and faithful in our dealings with others, knowing fully well that, Christ is always watching our hearts daily, to know the motives behind our conducts.

Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the spirit of generosity, sacrifice and selflessness, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

WE ARE CALLED TO EMULATE THE SAINTS

Solemnity of All Saints

1st Reading: Revelation 7:2-4; 9-14; 2nd Reading: 1 John 3:1-3; Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO EMULATE THE SAINTS

Light houses do not ring bells to call attention to their shining, rather they just radiate their illuminances. Since action speaks louder than voice, then it is better to live a saintly life than to talk about it (Matthew 5:16). However, we can be influenced positively or negatively depending on who we emulate (Hebrews 13:7; Proverbs 27:17). Hence, the Church celebrates today, those who lived exemplary lives worthy of emulation. Their heroism in being righteous and as ideals in practicing Christian virtues.

Meanwhile, the FIRST READING highlights the visions of the sealing of God’s elect. The 144, 000 people sealed here are not numbers to be taken literally as only those that will enter heaven, but a symbolic number which represents a multitude of the redeemed who constitute the perfect Israel. For the Israelites: 7 signifies a perfect number, 4 for the earth, 12 for Israel and 1,000 for a great number.  This gives us an anticipated glimpse into the eschatological redemption in heaven. The two visions portray, first; the militant Church on earth (living Saints) and second; the triumphant Church in Heaven (glorified Saints – both canonized & uncanonized), those who have cleansed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. How? What actually did they do in order to gain entrance to the throne of God?

In the GOSPEL, Christ enunciated the prerequisites for gaining entrance to God’s heavenly throne. These include: those who bore many trials and troubles of life patiently, as part of God’s plan for their sanctification, and accepted most of their challenges as their own share of suffering in following Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Also, those who have their blessed state of eternal happiness because, they carried out what is recommended in the Beatitudes.

For instance, the poor in spirit are those who do not depend on their ability, but solely rely on God for help; the mourners are those who bear much earthly pains and griefs; the hunger for righteousness are those anxious to serve God truly; the merciful are those who are companionate, kind and forgives their offenders easily; the pure in heart are those who love God sincerely and always ask for forgiveness whenever they make mistakes; the peacemakers are those who foster love among people by settling disputes; those persecuted for righteousness are the very ones that suffer for their uprightness, and those falsely accused, but they do not revenge.

Moreover, as Christians, we may not suffer the same martyrdom like the saints, but may encounter it in subtle ways through severe oppositions or persecutions occasioned by sociopolitical, economic and religious pressures in our contemporary society. For the Psalmist says: “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord delivers them all (Psalm 34:19). Jesus Christ affirmed this, when He told His disciples: “In the world, you will suffer many persecutions, but be courageous, I have conquered the world (John 16:33).” However, no matter how turbulent our challenges may be, God is still in control and is always with us (Matthew 1:23; 28:20).

Finally, the greatest proof of God’s love for us is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we all have been made God’s children. Therefore, since God wants everyone to be saved, and has adopted us as His children, then we should have hope in Him, just as St. John said in the SECOND READING. Hence, we need to live a life worthy of our calling, enduring all our tribulations patiently, just like the glorified saints did while they were here on earth. If we purify ourselves through righteous living, then we shall surely triumph in the end by the power of the Holy Spirit, for our victory is a divine certainty (1 John 5:4).

May the Almighty God, empower you so as to live a life worthy of your calling, enduring all your tribulations patiently, so that at the end, you may be crowned a Saint in Heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

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