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Month: December 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.

THEME: 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.

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