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Month: November 2021

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 Christ

Homily of 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (Solemnity of Christ the King).

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.

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.

Selfles Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

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.

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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