My Homilies

Homily of 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; 2nd Reading: James 1:17-18, 21-22.27; Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

THEME: LET US ALWAYS ALLOW GENUINE LOVE TO MOTIVATE OUR ACTIONS!

Prior to his demise, and knowing fully well that the Canaanites’ pagan practices would be so tempting to the Israelites, Moses exhorted them in the FIRST READING, to always remember and be faithful to God’s Ten Commandments that were given to them at Mount Sinai, without any form of alteration. So that, all may go well with them when they eventually settle down in Canaan. Even though the pagans would be superior to them in all earthly skills and traditions, but the Israelites’ knowledge of God would definitely astound those worldly-wise people.

Unfortunately, as time went on, the Israelites were negatively influenced by the Canaanites’ traditions, and thus, became wordily-minded and trivialized God’s laws. Subsequently, from the Ten Commandments, the Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees & Scribes) created/enacted about 613 additional man-made religious and traditional laws, which were very complex and confusing, oppressive and legalistic. They sanctimoniously prided themselves on their strict and rigorous observance of the law and human traditions, which they carry out to an intolerable extreme. Hence, they placed higher premium on those traditions than God’s Commandments. Even when one engages in bribery, stealing, sexual immorality, slandering, gossiping, wickedness, jealousy, pride, killing or character assassination, etc., for them, it wouldn’t matter, provided the person piously keeps those human traditions, then he/she is righteous (Isa. 29:13).

Moreover, one of those additional laws was the washing of hands up to the elbow before eating, which was not merely a hygienic requirements, rather a ritual observance. Even though someone’s hands were clean already, he/she would still have to wash them before eating, so as to fulfil his/her religious practices; just like what the Muslims do before their daily prayers (Salat). Disdainfully, the Pharisees confronted Jesus Christ based on this ritual observance in today’s GOSPEL pericope. That His disciples violate the tradition of the elders and eat with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. Meanwhile, according to the Talmud (Jewish authority for traditional ritual observances), only the priests were bound by this law of washing their hands before eating, not obligatory to all Jews.

But because of jealousy, the Pharisees and Scribes were always finding faults with the good works Jesus Christ was doing throughout His public ministry. They accused Him of blasphemy when He forgave the sins of the paralytic; criticized Him for eating with tax collectors/ sinners; accused Him for violating the Sabbath by allowing His disciples to pluck ears of corn when they were hungry; just to mention but a few. Similarly, so many people in our society today, behave alike. They are very intolerant and judgmental in their dealings with others. Some are very jealous of others because of their gifts/ talents; while others are disdainful because they have more talents than others. They often forget that, every gift (tangible or intangible) we have, whether it is innate (natural) or acquired (learnt), actually came from God for the common good or edification of humanity; we didn’t give them to ourselves.

However, Christ never despised the law and traditions of the elders, but always wanted to correct the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes. That it was not about mere keeping of human laws, but to respond to the Divine Law of Love, which is Salus animarum (salvation of souls) (Jn. 10:10). For Him, the human laws are good and should not be trivialized, rather they must benefit the welfare of humanity. Nevertheless, when the observance of those laws would be detrimental by reason, to human beings, epikeia should be applied. Epikeia (virtue of legal justice) is a term in Moral Theology which gives room for a law to be broken in exceptional cases, in order to achieve a greater good. But, epikeia, per se, cannot be used with regard to the natural laws (Divine Law of Love), but only with regard to inadequate and imperfect expressions of the human laws.

Although the Pharisees and Scribes performed many acts of virtues, but their sense of self-sufficiency or self-glorification vitiated their good deeds. This made them developed a proud superiority complex, and despised those who did not belong to their exclusive class. Contemporarily, there are people like that, who always exhibit superiority complex over others, or see themselves as righteous ones; simply because they are wealthy; or are God’s ministers, prayer warriors, good preachers; or they have adoration ministries; or are always performing one or two external religious rituals/ devotions. These spiritual exercises are good, but they are not what really make someone righteous or authentic Christian.

Meanwhile, in the SECOND READING, St. James gave us a picture of what makes one an authentic Christian. He exhorts us to be Christians in practice, not in theory, how? By keeping God’s Ten Commandments daily, which Christ summarized into two: Love of God and Love of neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). We show our love for God by real love of our neighbour, and so, a pure (authentic) and undefiled (sincere) religion, must produce works of charity to all, not only orphans and widows. For James mentioned only the duo because, they were the people in dire need of charitable help as at that time.

Finally, we owe our existence and every natural and supernatural gift we possess to God Almighty, since according to St. James, everything we have comes from Him. Therefore, we should not allow human traditions to influence us negatively, like the Pharisees and Scribes, who were insensitive to human needs; or be intolerant and judgmental in our dealings with others; or be jealous of people because of their gifts; or be disdainful of others because of our positions; or create draconian rules that engender injustice, tribalism, hatred, jealousy, poverty, etc. Rather, we should charitably use all the gifts and resources we have to alleviate poverty (physical, psychological & spiritual) in our homes and communities. Also, let us always be conscious of our thoughts towards others, so as to free ourselves from being eaten up by jealousy, which is very cancerous, but allow Genuine Love to always motivate our actions, which will definitely pave way for us into God’s heavenly throne (Matt. 25:31-41).

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Theological Reflections

EDUCATION WITHOUT CHARACTER AND MORALS: A CASE OF PARALYSIS OF THE MIND

Introduction:

The prevalent problems of corruptions and delinquencies confronting contemporary societies especially in Nigeria are horrendous. Violence, dishonesty, and downplay of the value of justice and truth have become commonplace in our society. Unfortunately, most of these problems are often stimulated by the acclaimed “learned persons.” Paradoxically, some of our ancestors, though devoid of sophisticated academic learning that we enjoy today, lived truthful and harmonious lives. In their days, people could keep their belongings and travel, later when they returned, would still find them there. Thus the crux of the matter is, despite the high-level academic qualifications (FSLC – PhD) with distinctions obtained by so many people, there seem to be a serious lack of good character and morals amongst them. Does it mean that people living in this era are different persons all together with corrupt and paralyzed minds? Or does it mean our direct parents did not take the pains to give us good parental upbringing that is saturated with moral values which they received, or are we resistant to their teachings? Sequel to the above perplexing questions, effort would be made in this work to explore the rationale behind the problems mentioned above, and then proffer possible solutions on how our education system should be restructured so that people would not only acquire academic excellence but also be imbued with moral rectitude during the course of their academic pursuits, since education devoid of character and morals renders the mind paralyzed and deformed.

Definition of key Terms:

Etymologically, the word “education” is derived from the Latin word “educare” meaning to bring up, to train, to rear, and also from the gerund word “educatio” meaning “a breeding, rearing, or bringing up.” It is the gradual process of acquiring knowledge or the result of good upbringing especially knowledge of correct social behavior. The word “moral” comes from a Latin root “moralis” meaning “goodness or manners.” It is concerned with the principles of right and wrong or conforming to standards of behavior and character of a person in the society. The word “character” is derived from the Greek word carakthr meaning “engraved mark,” or internal disposition which constitutes part of a person’s moral identity distinguished from others. It can be measured in virtues like: honesty, patience, truthfulness, kindness and the like.

The Goals/ Objectives of Education:

Education has for its objectives, academic learning and formation of character. For Plato, the ideal aim of education is the liberal training of the human mind and character so as to move them from darkness to light as well as develop in a child the qualities of mind and character that most fully express the ideal of human nature (Morrow 1960:297). Similarly, the aim of education is geared towards self-realization, enhancing human relationships, economic efficiency and civic responsibility; to develop the ability to think rationally and the ability to have respect for human persons as well as grow in insight apropos to ethical values (Okafor 2006:132-136). Hutchin R.M. also opined that the goal of education is to provide for the perfection of man’s rational and spiritual faculty, which sets him apart from other animal. Therefore, the primary aim of education is to enable the child to assimilate moral and cultural values as well as foster growth and development for personal maturity and self-discipline. The secondary aim is the acquisition of the skills and knowledge necessary for playing useful roles in the society. If people are deprived of these opportunities, they are no lesser than animals unfortunately born as human because education is not just for human success, it must include the truths of our faith, so that in the end, the child becomes a reputable personality.

An Overview of Paralyzed Education System and its Causality.         

The advent of technology has made some persons to know several ways to carry out illegal activities. The more most of them acquire academic qualifications, the more they are involved in the biggest of scams. One of my lecturers once made an allusion to a boy whom he said is “only intelligent in books.” By that he meant that the person in question has good retentive memory in academics, but lacks good character. According to him, the boy is self-centric, disrespectful, proud, aggressive, snobbish and involves in internet money laundering. Of course, he is the best academic student – with distinctions in all his results. But is academic excellence the sole reason why we go to school? According to Theodore Roosevelt, to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to a society. This means imparting skills to a person without passing on the requisite morals to make good use of the knowledge will be harmful for the society.

The lack of character and moral education in our society is increasingly apparent. Our current education system is filled with sophisticated knowledge which pride herself in academic excellence and degree conferment, with little or no room for the application of moral values in her teaching, neither much emphasis is being given to our character building process. Some of these problems accrue from homes, because most of our parents seldom give their children training based on moral principles. Even those who acquire these principles are often stifled by immoral persons in the society, and thus join the bandwagon. Almost every day, there are increase in crime rates: juvenile delinquency, sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, banditry, etc.

Furthermore, academic dishonesty has also been the bane of some of our schools. Some of our lecturers are morally bankrupt and cannot bequeath moral principles to their students, their interest is only in making money. Sometimes, they hardly award higher or appropriate marks to students without bribes (sorting), and mostly ladies become victims of sexual assaults in this regard. Some of the students who patronize these lecturers later graduate and become nuisances in the society; unable to defend their certificates or give sensible judgments, while those who could not comply would continue to fail that course and thus become frustrated. These individuals may automatically become wicked themselves, either by joining cultism in order to avenge their cause or become dropouts, who may later culminate into high profile criminals, bandits, kidnappers or terrorists. This is one of the reasons why Sathya Sai Baba said that, “The end of education is character, and virtue makes education worthwhile which is a sign of an educated person. Politics without principles, education without humanity, and commerce without morality are not only useless, but positively dangerous (Character – True end of education, November 20, 2001).”

Moral and Character Formation in Education.

In the past, informal learning was the major form of education. The homes served as the vehicles for such training. Virtually all aspects of daily life were taught in the home such as; moral instructions, cultural patterns, historical events, and spiritual guidance by parents to children on an informal level. A prime example of this is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where parents are exhorted to teach the commandments of God to their children and discuss them throughout the day. Another biblical injunction to parents has it thus, “Train children in the right way, and when they become old, they will not stray;” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents must be acknowledged as the first educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. 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, November 22, 1981, no. 36). In addition, conscious efforts should be made in this endeavor with the content delineation in its broad contours from the religious standpoint. Subsequently, formal education which involves learning and acquisition of intellectual skills in different areas of academic specialization through the teachers in school should be made available for the children, which also must be imbued with moral instructions. Meanwhile, the training should not be done by the application of force or harshness; it has to be done gently so as to discover and enhance the peculiar bent of the genius of each person, since knowledge which is acquired under force or compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. With these modes of learning, the students would become rectitudinous, responsible as well as reputable human beings in the society, able to give right judgments. Thus, their consciences would be formed adequately; always making reference to all they learnt which acts as a springboard to their behavior (Cf. Proverbs 4:13). This is what holistic education is all about: a blend of academic/ intellectual excellence and worthiness in character. It is not enough to know truth, but we must love it, say it, sacrifice for it and live by it (Cf. John 8:31-32). Hence, for anyone to be given an honorary award, he/ she must be worthy in character and in learning.

The Panaceas to lack of Proper Education: The Church’s Teaching.

The development of the children’s personality is the most excellent task of the parents, and the state has the right to enforce an educational standard appropriate to the needs of the community and its culture. For only thus will children be able to make a decent living and be useful members of the community and not a burden to it (Peschke 1996: 592-598). True education, therefore is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his final end and the good of the society. Children should be helped to develop harmoniously their physical, moral and intellectual qualities. They should be trained to acquire gradually a more perfect sense of responsibility in the proper development of their own lives by constant effort and in pursuit of liberty, overcoming obstacles with unwavering courage and perseverance (Vatican II, Gravissimum Educationis, no.1).

According to St. Pope John Paul II, the education of the moral conscience, which makes every human being capable of judging and of discerning the proper ways to achieve self-realization according to his/ her original truth, thus becomes a pressing requirement that cannot be renounced (Familiaris Consortio, no. 8). For the resulting dereliction of the eternal principles of an objective morality which educates conscience and ennobles every department and organization of life, is a sin against the destiny of a nation, a sin whose bitter fruit will poison future generations (Cf. Pope Pius XI, Encycl. Mit Brennender Sorge, March 14, 1937, no. 29). Thus, any education which forgot or, worse still, deliberately neglected to direct the eyes and hearts of the youth would be an injustice to the youth, an injustice against the inalienable duties and rights of the Christian family and an excess to which a check must be opposed, in the interests even of the people and of the state itself (Cf. Pope Pius XII, Encycl. Summi Pontificatus, October 20, 1939, no. 67).

Conclusion:

From the forgoing, it is obvious that education without good character and morals will engender paralysis of the mind. For it is difficult to acquire adequate knowledge which would enhance the development of a given society without morals, otherwise there would be problem in the society. For holistic education must involve both the acquisition of academic knowledge and formation of character, they must go hand in hand. Effective moral education should be an integral part of the curriculum, not taught as a separate subject. Classroom rules should be based on the principles of good character, and teachers should model good character for the students to observe through hands-on service activities that contribute to the school, the community, and the society in general.

Our education system should strive to develop student’s intrinsic motivation and commitment to do what is right. Therefore, all school teachers, priests, counselors, civil workers from all facets of life, traders and bus drivers must be involved in this learning process by discussing and sharing responsibility for character education. If it is to have any effect, the reeducation of mankind must be, above all things, religious. Hence, it must proceed from Christ as from its indispensable foundation; must be actuated by justice and crowned by charity (Cf. Pope Pius XII, Encycl. Summi Pontificatus, no. 83). Finally, the acquisition of knowledge or skills without acceptable moral values and discipline is meaningless since discipline is an essential part of purposeful education and without it, our society would continue to be in a decadent or a comatose state.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

CHRIST, OUR ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST HEALS OUR SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  2. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  5. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
My Homilies

Homily of 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Joshua 24:1-2; 15-18; 2nd Reading: Ephesians 5:21-32; Gospel: John 6:60-69

THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO MAKE POSITIVE RESOLUTE DECISIONS IN LIFE.

As rational beings, everyday, we are always in a dilemma of making wise or influential decisions that would help us actualize our dreams or desired earthly goals. Even to make a choice concerning our spiritual growth, which will help us attain our Heavenly goal, is always a hard nut for us to crack.

In the FIRST READING, Joshua observed that the faith of the Israelites in their formative stage were being threatened by the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites, and thus, he reaffirmed the Sinaitic Covenant at Shechem. After recalling the wondrous deeds God had done for the Israelites out of love, He then asked them to take decisive action: “If you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose today whom you will serve…” Hence, availing them with the freedom of renewing their resolution to either remain loyal to God or not. Most of them agreed to remain faithful to God, but later apostatized.

Similarly, in the GOSPEL, Jesus observed that some of His followers found His teachings very hard to accept, and started withdrawing. He then turned to the twelve and, giving them the freedom to make a decision, asked: “will you also go away?” Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Sometimes, following Christ more closely requires a lot of patience, courage, perseverance and sacrifice. This is because, most of His teachings seem not to be palatable, and are always contrasted with the worldly standards, which are against the standard of God’s Word. Meanwhile, in 2007, I could remember when I was in a dilemma of making a firm decision; either to resign from my reputable job as an Engineer, in Port Harcourt, and answer God’s call to the Priesthood, or to ignore and abandon it. Later, after several fervent prayers/ meditations, through the help of the Holy Spirit, I made up my mind to enter the seminary; and fortunately, I am now a Catholic Priest to the glory of God. See my Biography for more information… So, it only takes a courageous person, filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit, to make a firm decision to follow Christ more closely without compromising. Can you make your own firm decision today?

However, there is no doubt that, the road of the decisions or choices we make may be turbulent, but at the end, we will never regret it. Besides, Jesus Christ even made it clear, that, in the world, we must suffer many tribulations, but we should be courageous that He has conquered the world (Jn. 16:33). He then ratified this statement and said, “anyone who wants to be my disciple must be ready to carry his/her cross (patient endurance in sufferings) daily and follow me (Mark 8:34).

Unfortunately, due to societal influences, many Christians impatiently trivialise these scriptural passages, and do not want anything that will stress their lives. They would protest vehemently that suffering is not their portion; that it is a curse. This category of people always want an immediate (sharp-sharp; ozigbo-ozigbo ministry) positive answer in every situation, and are easily provoked when their requests seem to be ignored. Another category of people literarily see Christ’s teachings as antiquated, very hard to practice, and only relevant during early Christianity. Others are “favourable weather Christians”, with microwave spirituality (hot by day & cold by night), they choose which teachings of Christ they will accept, and which ones they will reject or perhaps take with a pinch of salt. All these are as a result of lack of faith (Heb. 11:6, 2 Cor. 5:7, Habk. 2:4). Are you among any of these categories?

In the SECOND READING, St. Paul enunciates Christ’s self sacrifice for the Church as a model for us to emulate. That through His sacrificial death, which was done out of deep love, Christ made the Church worthy to be His bride (2 Cor. 11:2). Hence, Christian marriage represents and symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church; and by the virtue of our baptism, we are espoused to Christ. Consequently, this covenantal love that binds married couples, is exactly how our relationship with God should be. So, we too ought to be loyal to Christ, since His love for us is unquantifiable and endless.

Finally, we are called today to make a positive resolute choice or decision; either to reciprocate this love of Christ by following Him more closely, in spite the challenges, and earn eternal life, or abandon Him to follow other gods and loose everything.

Therefore, I pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to make wise decisions that will help you fulfil God’s divine purpose for your life aspirations, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6.10; 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Gospel: Luke 1:39-56

THEME: WE SHALL SURELY TRIUMPH BY EMULATING MARY’S VIRTUES.

Our world is a battlefield between good and evil, which seems to be only for the survival of the fittest; with many forces (physical & spiritual) engendered by the evil ones. Contemporarily, this is evident in the lives of many people who are encumbered with many prevalent challenges (socio-political & economic issues, prejudices, injustices, tribalism, betrayals, diseases, etc.), and sometimes they become depressed and hopeless. So how do we navigate or survive these sufferings?

Meanwhile, in the FIRST READING, St. John described the beginning of the messianic era, in which the powers of evil, represented by a dragon, fought vehemently to thwart the victory of the Messiah. It tried to devour the Woman (Blessed Virgin Mary) who was in her pangs of birth to deliver her Child (Jesus Christ), but failed. Thus, fulfilling His mission, the Child triumphantly and gloriously ascended to God’s Heavenly Throne (Acts 1:6-9).

Similarly, the Church celebrates today, the completion of God’s triumph in the Woman (Blessed Virgin Mary), who was intimately connected with her Son (Jesus Christ) in the fulfilment of His salvific mission. Even though Mary was human, with flesh and blood as we are, but she differs from us to a greater extent because of her honored and most special relationship with God. For God chose her ahead of time (Immaculate Conception), the first moment of her existence, and preserved her from the taint of original sin due to the foreseen merits of Christ. She was conceived immaculate, pure and free from any human stain simply for the sublime dignity of motherhood (Theotokos – Mother of God or God’s Carrier) of His incarnate son. For, it would certainly be against right reason to think that the All-Pure God, the Second Person of the Trinity could take flesh in a woman who was tainted by sin. So, God exceptionally prepared Mary in her conception that He might one day be born of her in time. 

Therefore, from the very beginning, the Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, holds that, having completed the course of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory, sharing in the resurrection of Christ. This was ratified as a dogma of the Church, through the infallible declaration of Pope Pius XII (Munificientissimus Deus, 1950, no. 44). For Christ who never experienced bodily decay could not allow the body of His mother to experience decay like every other human body, since it was a holy dwelling place of God which was specially prepared for the incarnation.

In the GOSPEL, filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit, Mary sang the Magnificat; praising God for His divine favor upon her, the poor and lowly ones, and a revolutionary reversal of socio-political status quo that would take place with the coming of God’s mercy in Christ. Surprisingly, Elizabeth was filled with the Power of Holy Spirit immediately the Virgin Mary greeted her. Consequently, the Holy Spirit inspired her to proclaim to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” This shows that, to encounter Mary is to experience the Power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Christ told Philip, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father… (Jn. 14:9),” so Mary, in an analogous way, could say, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Holy Spirit.”

Moreover, Mary’s mission is not only to attract us to the Holy Spirit, but in fact to attract Him to us. Hence, St. Louis de Montfort affirmed this and said, “It is Mary who can brings us into that deeper and more personal relationship with the Holy Spirit wherein we feel His effect in our lives.” For she reflects the image of the Holy Spirit, not only by her outer appearance, but also by her inner virtues: Profound Humility, Selfless Love, Lively Faith, Blind Obedience, Continual Mental Prayer, Universal Mortification, Forgiving Heart, Surpassing Purity, Ardent Charity, Heroic Patience, Angelic Sweetness, Divine Wisdom, etc. These virtues were the weapons she used to conquer the dragon (evil), which are worthy of emulation!

Furthermore, as the mother of Christ, Mary is the most perfect image of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, and, in a sense, for all humanity. Thus, St. John Paul II averred this in his encyclical, that, “…the Church sees Mary in the saving mystery of Christ and in her own mystery; deeply rooted in humanity’s history and eternal vocation according to the providential plan which God has made for her from eternity. Mary is maternally present and sharing in the many complicated sufferings which today beset the lives of many people; … helping Christians in their constant struggle between good and evil, to ensure that they do not fall, or, if they have fallen, will rise again”(Redemptoris Mater, 1987, no. 52).

Finally, St. Paul assures us in the SECOND READING, that there is life beyond the grave; an eternal life which Christ has won for us by His passion, death and resurrection, and which God had planned for us from all eternity (Col. 1:15-28; 1 Cor. 15:57). He did this so as to free those incarcerated in the grave and make a way for the resurrection of the believers, subsequently at the Parousia. Just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven in a glorified state next to her Son, we too, would be raised from the dead one day to rule with Christ in His Heavenly Kingdom and have dominion over the evil ones; provided we emulate Mary’s virtues.

Therefore, I pray that, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, no matter the kind of sufferings or challenges you are passing through now, with faith and hope in God, and through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, you shall surely triumph to the glory of God Almighty, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

 

My Homilies

Homily of 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

First Reading: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30-5:2; Gospel: John 6:41-51

THEME: CHRIST IS THE BREAD THAT SUSTAINS US IN OUR LIFE JOURNEY.

Jesus Christ is our Bread of Life.
Jesus Christ is our Bread of Life

As humans (Body & Soul), food is one of the basic needs that enhances the energy level in our body system so as to discharge our duties effectively, otherwise delirium would set in, or even death if we are starved for a very long time. This is one of the reasons why many people struggle to acquire educational qualifications or engage in many enterprises so as to earn their daily bread. Nevertheless, the funny thing is that, no matter how many years we have been eating physical food, we are never satiated. So, what then can assuage us ad infinitum?

In the FIRST READING, Elijah longed to meet God, the only reason for his existence. After his encounter with the prophets of Baal, he fled because Queen Jezebel was after his life. On the way, he became very tired, hungry and exhausted. Thus he entreated the Lord who sent His angels to feed him miraculously with bread and water. Subsequently, he was filled with Power and Strength which sustained him for the journey. This implies that God can never allow us to starve once we are in Communion with Him.

In the GOSPEL, which is the continuation of last Sunday’s, Jesus said, “I am the Bread which came down from heaven… if anyone eats of this bread, he will never die, but will live forever.” Unfortunately, due to lack of faith, overfamiliarity and strict monotheistic belief, the Jews could not accept this Eucharistic Doctrine and thus murmured. Reason, because, they were having a human/ ordinary perception of Jesus whom they see everyday. For them, to admit His divinity would imply two Gods. Hence, Jesus said, “No one can come to me except the Father who sent me draws Him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” However, we can only come to Jesus Christ through the help of the Holy Spirit, only if we can open our hearts to seek God in sincerity.

Unfortunately, among many Catholics there is a privation, a sense of absence and even estrangement from true communion with God. Many people, out of ignorance do not believe that there is Power in the Holy Eucharist (Real Body & Blood of Christ), which is the only food that can satiate humanity spiritually. Consequently, they tend to approach the Holy Eucharist with triviality, probably due to over familiarity, lack of faith or perhaps, they were not well catechized. This is a paralyzing reality among some believers and that is one of the major reasons why some are spiritually, emotionally and psychologically sick. For whenever we starve our spiritual being, we may be subjecting ourselves to a tsunamic fatality.

However, for an effective spiritual satisfaction, adequate preparation (Sacrament of Reconciliation) and proper disposition, prior and during Eucharistic celebrations would pave the way for holistic healing and nourishment. This is because the nourishment and sanctification we receive from the Holy Eucharist daily, go a long way in helping us navigate through the vicissitudes of life unscathed. Unlike the Bread and Water Elijah took on the mountain, or the physical food we eat, which momentarily satisfies our body and helps to boost its energy level to do work, when we actively and worthily celebrate the Holy Eucharist, our commonness in need of God would definitely have a profoundly unifying spiritual effects on our souls.

Meanwhile, in the SECOND READING, no matter the challenges we are facing, St. Paul urges us not to live lives filled with bitterness, hatred, murmuring, anger etc, which only make the Holy Spirit sad. Rather, we should live as those who have encountered God in a very special way in the Holy Eucharist; by living in Peace, Harmony and Love with one another. “Thus, our minds would be renewed by a spiritual revolution; having a new life in Christ, which can only come from the transforming power of the Holy Eucharist.

Finally, since Jesus Christ Has offered us His Body and Blood as our spiritual food and drink so that we may live forever, let us continue to make sincere efforts daily to receive Him with Faith. He will definitely transform our sufferings into hope in the resurrection and new life in the world to come.

Therefore, I pray that through the Power of the Holy Eucharist you may grow in Faith and Love of God and not grieve the Holy Spirit, and may God send you His Angels whenever you are in need through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

I am the Bread of Life
My Homilies

Homily of 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Exodus 16:2-4; 2nd Reading: Ephesians 4:17. 20-24; Gospel: John 6:24-35

THEME: LET US SEEK CHRIST, THE TRUE BREAD FROM HEAVEN WITH FAITH.

God sent Mana from Heaven for the Israelites.
God sent mana from heaven for the Israelites

God created us uniquely in His own image and likeness. We are composite beings with body, Soul and Spirit. These essential aspects of humanity are always in need of satisfaction. The food of the body is physical (bread, meat, water etc.). When we are hungry, we become weak and tired. Even after eating, we are not fully satisfied but still become thirsty. The food for the Soul is spiritual (Eucharist and Word of God) (cf. John 4:34; 6:35).

In the FIRST READING, due to Impatience and Lack of Faith, the Israelites became annoyed with Moses and God, for leading them into the desert where they did not have enough food to eat. But they were given Manna and meat to eat subsequently. Meanwhile, the food they ate in the desert did not actually come from heaven, but were in themselves natural to that region. The quails were migratory birds that left Africa for Europe during Spring, flying over the Sinai peninsula. They usually pass over the Sinai desert for 6 months every year and returned in Autumn by the same route. After a long flight over the sea, they would be exhausted and could be easily captured when they alighted in Sinai. Evening was the best time to catch them as they settle down to rest. Furthermore, the manna also came naturally from the Tamarisk trees. When insects stinged on them, viscous substances would exude from them. When they fall on the floor, they harden into sweet wafers-like (flakes) substances, but would melt again when the sun grows strong. They had to be collected early in the morning. It is interesting to note that both the quail and manna were natural products of the place, but the abundance of them in that vicinity as at that period was God’s miraculous deeds.

In the GOSPEL, Jesus says, “I am the True Bread that comes down from heaven.“ Anyone who truly believes in me, and eats, will never go hungry nor be thirsty. Jesus Christ is the bread of life that satisfies us. His love motivates us and gives us the strength or grace to do the will of God. Just like Christ, His food is to do the Will of His Father, because He is always in Communion with Him (John 4:34). Meanwhile, there are so many people who want to do good, but they are finding it difficult. The good news is that, the key that unlocks the power to do God’s will is eating the spiritual food (Holy Eucharist and Word of God). However, before we receive the grace, we should genuinely repent from our sins by going to sacramental confession which is the prerequisite to gaining divine strength.

Surprisingly, the Jews in the gospel were not really interested in Jesus, nor were they looking for Him because of the miracle He performed, but because of material food (bread), and thus demanded for signs for them to believe in Him. Similarly, many people today are trooping into the Church: for Adorations, Crusades, Vigils, etc (these are good) overnight because of one or two challenges or problems in their lives. But the question is, are they truly looking for Jesus? Assuming they have all their material needs fulfilled, would they still have time to go and worship God the way they were doing beforeOr if they don’t get instantly what they want, would they still be patient and have Faith in God?  Some people grumble too much when the things they hoped for are not forthcoming and have even engaged themselves into different devilish endeavours due to impatience, why? Because of Impatience and Lack of Faith (James 4:1-12).

Finally, in the SECOND READING, St. Paul urges us not to live aimless lives without a purpose, or following the illusory. Rather, “our minds should be renewed by a spiritual revolution, having a new self in the way God created us.” Since our body is the Temple of God (1Cor.6:19), when Christ comes in us via His Eucharistic Body, blood or Word, He will detoxify our spirit from evil. Thus, we receive life, and ought to become what we eat; having Christ-like character. Recall John 2:13-22 (Cleansing of the Temple…). Therefore, since Christ Has given us His Body and Blood as our spiritual food and drink that we may gain eternal life, let us be confident in receiving Him daily.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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