May you be filled with the Miraculous and Anointing Power of the Holy Ghost!
Author: Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
A Roman Catholic Priest of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers; Y.C.S Chaplain, a member of the Eucharistic Adorers, Confraternity of the Holy Spirit and Catholic Charismatic Renewal (Evangelical and Intercessory Ministries).
Also, a Teacher, Electronic and Computer Engineer (proficient in Electronic/ Computer configurations and repairs, as well as Satellite installations and networking, Graphic and Web designing); an Artist, and a Formator of Students.
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.
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.
1st Reading: Daniel 7:13-14; 2nd Reading: Revelation 1:5-8; Gospel: John 18:33-37.
THEME: CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY: A KINGDOM OF LOVE AND HUMBLE SERVICE.
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 “humbleservice.” 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:
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?
Can we consistently and sincerely foster justice, equity and fairness in our society?
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?
Can we humbly acknowledge those higher than us in one way or the other instead of assassinating their character directly or indirectly?
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!!!
1st Reading: Daniel 12:1-3; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Gospel: Mark 13:24-32.
THEME: WITH LOVE, WE SHALL FACE THE END-TIME REALITIES!
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:
Constant Prayer life (Luke 18:1-5, Isaiah 62:6-8, Mark 14:37-39).
Constant Studying of the Word of God (2Timothy 2:15, John 6:63).
Constant Sacrament of Reconciliation – Confession (2Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:8-10).
Forgiving others their offences (Matthew 6:14-15).
Constant reception of Holy Communion (John 6:51).
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!!!
THEME: KENOTIC SACRIFICE: A GATEWAY TO HEAVENLY SANCTUARY.
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 orhypocritical); 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 motives – for the love of God and the good of others, or they stem from ulterior motives – vain 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 Kenoticsacrifice (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:
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.
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).”
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.
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.
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!!!
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: 7signifies 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 arethose 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!!!
THEME: TO LOVE IS TO SACRIFICE OUR LIVES FOR GOD AND OTHERS.
In our cotemporary world, many people are always longing for peace, tranquility, prosperity, happiness and God’s blessings in their lives. They always want to be loved and cared for, and also to acquire the best in the world. However, some of them fail to unlock the gate which paves way for such stupendous blessings from God, even when they know it.
In the FIRST READING, Moses explored the meaning of God’s commandment which should be obeyed, in order to gain divine blessings. He told the Israelites to always remember God (One Eternal and Supreme Being), who out of His infinite love and mercy, saved them from bondage in Egypt. He exhorted them with the great SHEMA. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).” He urged them to remain faithful to Him, have reverence for Him and not apostatize.
Meanwhile, this Shema is the Jewish confession of faith, which, together with appropriate prayers, forms an integral part of their morning and evening services; with a call to learn, to study and to observe God’s commandments. It is the bedrock of deuteronomic theology in which love is almost synonymous with obedience to God’s will, which paves the way for prosperity (physical & Spiritual), but disobedience to God’s will leads to curse and death.
In the GOSPEL, in response to the scribe’s cunning question, Jesus quoted the SHEMA as the greatest and the first of the commandments, and the second is: “You shall love your neighbour (God’s Creature) as yourself (Mark 12:31).” These underscore the basic inner dispositions of the disciples. Besides, to know and understand God’s commandments like the scribe, which are the prerequisite for gaining divine blessings and subsequently, eternal life; are not enough. But practicing them out of love, with great reverence and obedience gives us full access to divine blessings and eternal life. Yes, we should obey God out of love, and not necessarily for fear of eternal damnation.
Moreover, to have reverence for God means to place oneself in front of Him in attitude of self-giving and trust, and of acceptance of His divine will. This confronts us with great urgency, and demands a personal response, which is faith in God as well as reciprocating the love He has showered upon us, by giving us His beloved Son Jesus Christ, who, out of love, sacrificed His life in order to redeem humankind. To love Him also means to accept His gifts, share in His plan for humanity, that is, salvation of souls (salus animarum), and to become instruments of His genuine Love for humanity.
The SECOND READING highlights how Jesus Christ, the Superior High Priest, out of love and obedience to God, humbly and patiently sacrificed His life, and bore His sufferings in order to save humanity. His sacrificial death on the cross has obtained once and for all, an everlasting freedom for all mankind. Moreover, His priesthood (new order), which is heavenly, eternal and spiritual in nature, is being contrasted with that of the Aaron’s priesthood (old order), which was earthly, temporal and carnal. His self-offering for our sins is not to be repeated, unlike the old order where the high priests offered daily or yearly sacrifices for their sins and for the people, but His sacrifice has been made perfect forever.
As a proof of God’s Love for us, Christ died for us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). So, anyone who claims to love, sacrifices of his or her time, energy, resources, etc, should be the basis for such love.Remove the sacrifices, then there is no love, and where there is no love, there is no Christianity. These will definitely pave way for God’s blessings, prosperity and finally eternal life.
Finally, since Christ has suffered for us out of love, we too should emulate His footsteps and reciprocate that love, by obeying God’s commandments which hinge on: love of God and love of neighbour. In fact, the proof of our love for God is the love we show to our fellow human beings. For we cannot claim to love God whom we have not seen while we hate our fellow human beings, it is not true (1 John 4:20). Loving our neighbor means to sacrifice our life for their wellbeing, and to always forgive them when they offend us. These are what pave the way for stupendous blessings from God and eternal life at the end.
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to Love Him and your fellow human beings sincerely, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
THEME: CHRIST, OUR ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST HEALS OUR SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS.
Poor governance, marginalization, nepotism, tribalism, and downplay of justice, equity and fairness, have been the major factors that stimulate community feuds, insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and violence resulting in gruesome killings and destruction of properties in our society today. These have engendered incessant deterioration of affairs in many parts of the world, feeling of estrangement, hopelessness, discouragement and serious tension in the atmosphere. Consequently, many people have been wondering why these prevalent cataclysms persist, and also why God allows our society to remain in quagmire without any intervention. The answer is very clear: we arespiritually blind.
In the FIRST READING, due to the triviality of God’s instructions given by the prophets, the Israelites were captured by their enemies (brutal leaders), and were sent to exile where they suffered grievously. They became spiritually blind and thus, wandered away from God’s marvelous light into darkness for a long period of time because of their sins. When their situation aggravated, they cried bitterly and entreated the LORD to have mercy on them. Subsequently, out of His infinite mercy and love, God later answered their prayers, and through prophet Jeremiah, promised to restore them; that is, the blind, lame, downtrodden etc., back from hopelessness and slavery (blindness) to freedom (sight).
Certainly, this is the same predicament that is bedeviling our contemporary society. When any nation trivializes God’s instructions, He steps aside and allows them to wallow in darkness (spiritual blindness). This is evident in the book of Psalms: “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes (Psalms 81:11-14).” Undoubtedly, we all have neglected God’s instructions, and have become spiritually blind; that is why He allows our enemies to subjugate us. However, if we can humble ourselves and entreat the LORD like the Israelites, then our restoration would come speedily.
In today’s GOSPEL, the promise made by God for the restoration of Israel in the first reading, has been fulfilled in the healing of Bartimaeus (blind beggar). He had been in that hopeless situation for a very long time, waiting eagerly for divine intervention. When he heard that Jesus Christ was passing by, he did not want to miss that opportunity, even when people discouraged him. Hence, he cried out immediately: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” When Jesus asked him what he wanted, his response was, “Master, let me see again”(Mark 10:51). Through his faith, he was miraculously healed, and instantly, he regained his sight through Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12).
Obviously, Bartimaeus here symbolizes the deplorable situation of humanity; especially those who lack faith in God; those that are sinfully malodorous, or those suffering grievously, but are sincerely longing for liberation. Sometimes, like Bartimaeus, there could be obstacles (societal problems) which may tend to frustrate us in our life journey. We usually encounter a lot of discouragements accruing from poor governance, marginalization, injustice, unemployment, hardship, sickness, wrong advice etc., especially from people that are very close to us, who may even want us to remain in perpetual agony.
Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged by such dissuasions, rather we should continue to make persistent efforts like Bartimaeus, who had strong faith and trust in the gracious mercy and healing power of Jesus Christ (Holy Eucharist), and never allowed himself to be silenced or discouraged by the crowd. Consequently, his perseverance and open confession earned for him the miraculous restoration of his sight. So we should have faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ who has the power to deliver us from such deplorable conditions, that is, our spiritual blindness, in order for us to see clearly and to love sincerely. For whenever we fail to love God and our fellow human being sincerely, then we are spiritually blind.
Fortunately, as elucidated in the SECOND READING, God has given us an eternal High Priest in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who offered once and for all, His own body on the cross as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all humankind. Since sin breaks the relationship which exists between God and man, and creates a barrier between them, hence, Christ’s sacrifice restores that relationship and removes that barrier (Hebrews 9:11-28).
Moreover, Jesus Christ, having gone through the experiences of humankind and understands humanity in all its strength and weakness, He is always sympathetic with her. That was why towards the end of His public ministry, He instituted the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist as a sacramental expression of His paschal mystery. The priesthood is not an office which someone takes upon himself; it is a privilege and a glory to which he is called. This ministry of God among men is neither a job nor a career but a calling (Hebrews 5:4).
Therefore, an ordained priest is appointed on behalf of people to deal with the things concerning God, especially to offer sacrifices to God and to shepherd people’s souls. He acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi Capitis). His three primary duties (munera) which are modeled by Christ Himself, are: (1) To Teach (munus docendi), based on Christ’s role as a Prophet; (2) To sanctify(munus sanctificandi), based on Christ’s role as a Priest; and (3) To Govern(munus regendi), based on Christ’s role as a King. Hence, through these duties, the priest heals people from spiritual blindness when he prays for them; preaches the gospel to them; baptizes them; celebrates the Holy Eucharist; absorbs their sins at the confessional; unites couples in marriage, and anoints the sick among them.
Finally, we should always give thanks to the Almighty God who has given us victory in Christ Jesus, the eternal High Priest, who is able to heal our spiritual wounds and restore us from hopelessness and slavery to freedom (1 Cor. 15:57; Rom. 8:11). So, we need to avoid the occasions of sin, which tend to subject us to deplorable conditions. Even when we sin, we shouldn’t hesitate to meet a priest for confession and absolution. Also not to create more obstacles for those in difficulties, but to render our help to them. To forgive those that have offended us since we have received healing from God. However, we cannot achieve this on our own effort, but through the help of the Holy Spirit. For when the Holy Spirit heals us from spiritual blindness, then we will be able to see clearly to understand what it means to follow Christ faithfully.
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may heal you from your spiritual weakness or blindness, and then shade His divine light up you, so that you may see His wondrous deeds clearly in order to Love Him and your fellow human being sincerely, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
THEME: POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL.
Power, authority and positions of honour are what many people always aspire to attain in life. Whenever a new regime is about to assume office, many people would begin to lobby so as to secure political appointments as ministers, commissioners, ambassadors, chairmen, etc. Unfortunately, some of them see those attainments as opportunities to show off, enrich themselves, and trample on others, rather than rendering humble services. They might become indignant whenever they notice that other ambitious persons are also craving for that same position, and thus, may plot to eliminate them.
Meanwhile, many Sundays ago, we have continued to witness the ambitiousness and wrong conception of Jesus’ disciples as regards the messianic Kingdom, despite Jesus’ three predictions of His passion (sufferings and death) to them. Since they were already anticipating an earthly messiah, they never envisaged Jesus Christ to come and suffer any misfortune here on earth. That was why Peter wanted to dissuade Him when He spoke about His sufferings and death (Mark 8:32).
In today’s GOSPEL, due to the same wrong conception of the messianic Kingdom, James and John requested that Jesus grants them prestigious echelons in His glory. They wanted to begin early to lobby for top ministerial positions before Jesus Christ establishes His earthly kingdom. Consequently, the other disciples became indignant with them for being so greedy and selfish, since they themselves wanted such positions. This was evident when they were arguing who was the greatest among them, so as to define who holds the principal post of honour among themselves, during Jesus’ regime.
Having observed their ignorance and the emptiness of their self-preoccupation, Jesus Christ took the occasion to educate them on discipleship and leadership, and also to clarify the kind of Kingdom He was going to establish. That His sufferings and death would be the necessary prelude towards its establishment. So, anyone who wishes to have a seat in His Kingdom, must be prepared to follow the same route of suffering (Mark 8:34).
Furthermore, Jesus Christ also instructed His disciples about the demands of His Kingdom. That the power concepts of the ordinary are radically inversed. For Him, leadership means servanthood. Anybody who wants to hold any position of honour or authority over others must be the humble servant of others, and consider himself or herself as a slave of all, and not to seek his or her own gain. This may sound preposterous, but that is part of the demands of Christ’s Kingdom, which He demonstrated when He washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-17). This implies that, those at the helm of affairs (political and religious), as well as those seeking for such prestigious positions are the very ones to do the serving and not the other way round, any other contrary view is fake (Matt. 20:26).
In the FIRST READING, prophet Isaiah clearly enunciated the doctrine of expiatory sufferings of a sinless servant. That, out of His infinite love and mercy for humanity and her salvation, Jesus Christ, voluntarily went through an excruciating humiliation and suffering, and offered His life in atonement for her sins, in order to reconcile her back to God. Hence, since Christ has sacrificed His life for humanity to live eternally, those in positions of honour, especially Christians, must be ready to bear any obstacle, trouble and trial they may encounter while discharging their duties as part of sharing in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Certainly, there is always a purpose for every difficult situation we may find ourselves in life. Perhaps, God may want to use such situation to teach us some lessons, or He is trying to prepare us for a greater task ahead; or it may be a way of atoning for our sins or that of others. Nevertheless, a constant gaze at the crucifix should always make us realize how little we are asked to suffer for our own salvation, when compared with what Christ suffered in order to redeem us (Hebrew 12:2).
Finally, today’s SECOND READING urges us to always stand steadfast in the faith. For Jesus Christ, the merciful and faithful High Priest, who passed through many trials and sufferings for our sake, yet without sin, has entered Heaven before us, and is preparing a place for us. He is always sympathizing with those who struggle along with moral weakness. So, let us be confident and always approach the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Therefore, as Christians, let us be mindful of the following:
That leadership means servanthood, that is, those who are seeking for prestigious positions must be ready to lay down their lives in humble service to others, and not the opportunities to show off, enrich themselves, and trample on others.
That power or authority is like grains of sand, the more we grab it, the more it leaves our hands. So we must not lobby or be ambitious in the acquisition of any prestigious position.
That suffering for Christ’s sake is a necessary condition for attaining God’s Kingdom (John 16:33). So, we must be ready to bear any obstacle, trouble and trial as part of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
Whenever there is a misunderstanding among members of any given society, group, organization, family, etc., their respective leaders should always, with justice, equity and fairness address the issues in a diplomatic manner, just like Christ did among His disciples in today’s gospel.
We must always endeavor to frequent the sacrament of reconciliation so as to be purified from our sins and be confident to stand before God on the last day (1 John 1:9).
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to always endure the challenges and sufferings you encounter in life, and to always render humble service to humanity to the glory of His Holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
THEME: TRUE WISDOM: OUR GUIDE TOWARDS HEAVENLY RICHES.
Our world is a multifarious environs, where many people live below acceptable living standards. Many people struggle daily so as to achieve their desired dreams of becoming wealthy or influential personalities in the society. Invariably, wealth seems like an end goal to happiness for some people, because being wealthy would mean for them, the end of their undesirable living conditions. Consequently, they become so engrossed in their pursuit of earthly possessions, which are transient, but have no time for God (the source of true happiness and wisdom).
In today’s GOSPEL, Jesus Christ gave a startling proclamation of the radical demands of the Kingdom of God, and the utter impossibility of attaining it through human efforts, except by the grace of God. Surprisingly, His response to the rich man’s question:“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” That, “No one is good, except God alone”, seemed to have engendered a conundrum among the disciples, concerning His divinity. However, He only wanted to correct an impression: that, the preacher must never draw people’s attention to himself or herself, but to God, so as to avoid self-glorification (Ps. 115:1).
Moreover, Jesus Christ applauded the rich man for having observed God’s commandment right from his youth, but still, wanted him to be free from any hindrance towards gaining eternal life. Hence, He asked him to go and distribute his riches to the poor, and then come and follow Him. Unfortunately, the rich man was infuriated, and then went away. This made Jesus Christ to exclaim: “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God…it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than rich people to enter God’s Kingdom (Mark 10:23-25)!”
Meanwhile, Jesus Christ is not saying here that acquisition of earthly riches, which are also gifts from God (James 1:17), is bad in itself, but to detach ourselves from them; always putting them at the service of the poor, willingly and generously, and not to allow them become our obstacles towards gaining eternal life.
Certainly, the necessary condition for following Christ more closely is total submission to His precepts, and detachment to earthly riches, which often tend to distract us from actualizing God’s purpose for our lives; for no man can serve two masters (God & wealth) at the same time (Matt. 6:24). But, for us to achieve this, we need True Wisdom, which King Solomon acquired in the FIRST READING. It was an answer to his fervent prayers, and he valued it more than the riches and honour of this world. For him, Wisdom (a gift of the Holy Spirit), is the breath of the power of God, an unending radiance, a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty, which brings with it, the really good things for humanity’s genuine welfare.
Unfortunately, many people lack True wisdom, and that is why they are overambitious, jealous, selfish, hateful, unforgiving, deceitful; and always craving for wealth at all cost, as if they will remain in this world forever. This is the reason St. James said, “Anyone who lacks wisdom, must ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given”(James 1:5).
Remarkably, according to St. James, True wisdom is the power to discern truth, and practical knowledge of the deep things of God; a knowledge turned into humble actions in the decisions and personal relationships of everyday life. It is pure, peaceable, gentle, obedient, merciful and faithful(James 3:17). So, a wise person learns to give things their proper importance and value, and is able to make choices according to the plan of God, which can be known through a deeper intimacy with God. He or she always forgives those who have offended him or her, no matter the gravity of their offences, in order to be free from any heavy burden, which may prevent him or her from gaining entrance to God’s kingdom.
In the SECOND READING, we are warned to always live, act and think wisely as true Christians, if we want to gain eternal happiness. Since our secret thoughts and motives are always known to the omniscient God, who will be our judge on our day of reckoning.
Finally, as Christians, we should note that:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Provb. 1:7). So, a truly wise person is one who is always submissive to God, and avoids self-glorification.
True Wisdom can only be gotten through constant studying of the sacred scriptures (Spiritual Sword) and fervent prayers. These will make us to be closer to God, to always know His will and the guidelines on how to actualize them.
Too much acquisition of earthly riches do not guarantee true happiness. Therefore, we must always travel light, and not allow our earthly riches to come in conflict with the Will of God. But always be ready to sacrifice our resources (time, energy, talents, money, etc.) for others.
To always be patient in sufferings and challenges for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Not to be ensnared by the attractions of this world, its wealth, position of honour and pleasures.
Since we offend God daily by our sins, yet He forgives us, and wipes them away when we repent, so, we must always let go and forgive others from our hearts (Matt. 6:12-15).
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you angelic wisdom so as to always discern the truth; and the grace to detach from earthly riches, and always use them in helping the poor, for the sake of the Heavenly Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
THEME: CHILDLIKE ATTITUDE IN MARRIAGE: A GATEWAY TO GOD’S KINGDOM!
Some of the prevalent problems confronting our contemporary societies, mostly accrue from marital issues, of which; pride, selfishness, unforgiving spirit, discontentment, insincerity, comparison, communication gap, discord etc., are invariably the main causative factors. Many spouses are living in regrets, or under the yoke of a vow they wished they had never taken. Unfortunately, they feel the best option for peace to reign is to divorce each other; which has become commonplace in our society. However, this is contrary to God’s intention about marriage from the beginning.
Meanwhile, the FIRST READING of today deals with the institution of marriage, which is a divine and sacred institution, an indissoluble bond that has stood the test of time. As the scripture says, “… a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).” For God willed that husband and wife should be one in every sense; and by creating the duo, He called them to an intimate communion of life and of love in marriage. Undoubtedly, this shows the equality of woman with man – one complementing the other, and their lifelong union in a monogamous marriage are historical truths.
However, due to the proud, selfish, unforgiving and insincere attitudes of some Jews, as well as their hardness of hearts, they compelled Moses to allow them issue a woman a certificate of divorce, which became widely practiced among them ever since the time of Moses. But, this was a violation of God’s law, as is clearly revealed in the first reading. Consequently, with the same mentality, the Pharisees cunningly questioned Jesus Christ on the issue of divorce in today’s GOSPEL, so as to know if He would contradict the Law of Moses, as indeed he did, and thereby to formulate a charge of heresy against Him. But in response to them, Jesus Christ, not only reaffirmed the original plan of God concerning marriage bond (Gen. 2), but upholds its sanctity by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament, giving spouses a special grace to live out their marriage as a symbol of Christ’s love for His bride – the Church.
He further added that, “…what God has joined together let not man separate.” This implies that conjugal union is indissoluble, and whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery (Lk.16:18). Meanwhile, the affirmation of marriage has long been a concern of the Church. Having steadfastly defended the indissolubility of the marriage bond through the centuries. Thus, in one of his encyclicals, Pope Pius XI averred that: “it is an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that marriage was not instituted or restored by man but by God; …hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves(Casti Connubii, 31st Dec. 1930, no. 5).”
Moreover, according to the teachings of the Church, for a marriage to be valid, Consent has to be established between persons who are legally capable of marriage (viz. psychologically mature, baptismal status, degree of relationship, potency, etc.). Matrimonial Consent here means, an act of will by which a man and a woman, by an irrevocable covenant, mutually give and receive one another for the purpose of establishing a marriage (Can. 1057). Meanwhile, the consent needs to be both true and lawfully manifested, which involves each spouse actually intending what he or she says. But if someone deliberately consents to marriage, but in reality denies his or her internal consent to marriage, in that case, excluding the marriage itself or some essential part of it, that consent is said to be Simulated or a Pretense, and the marriage is invalid, because of the grave defect of consent. So if the consent is not valid, no marriage is created and the consent is null and void (Can. 1095-1103), otherwise every valid marriage is indissoluble.
Unfortunately, due to the little value some people attach to marriage in our contemporary world, many couples today often resort to divorce on any slightest provocation or little challenges, even when some of them know the implications. So, when couples fail to resolve their marital issues in a healthy and constructive manner, their children may be influenced negatively.
Interestingly, Jesus Christ gave us the antidotes to marital issues in the Gospel. That, “anyone who does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child, shall not enter it.” This implies that couples should develop childlike attitudes for peace to always prevail in their marriages. This is because Children (not corrupt ones) are innocent and simple, they do not hate, discriminate or argue unnecessarily, but love sincerely from their hearts; they forgive easily and would be quick to say I amsorry without holding grudges against anyone. Their hearts are very clean, and can easily tell you their minds without reservations. No wonder, in the Beatitudes, Christ said to His disciples, “Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God” (Matt.5:8).
Furthermore, in time of trouble, children easily trust their parents, and are full of hopes. Christ also emphasized this in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5:3).” To be poor in spirit means, to put your trust, not in your own ability, but in God Almighty for His guidance and assistance. Proverbs 3:5 puts it clearer and says, “Trust wholeheartedly in God and do not rely on what you think you know, acknowledge Him in all you do…” This is God’s intention for creating human beings in His own image and likeness, so that they would reflect His attributes on earth like children.
In the SECOND READING, we are called to emulate Jesus Christ, our Master, who in spite of all the suffering He passed through, yet persevered and brought us salvation.
Therefore, couples should always note the following:
Everyone partner has a dark history: No one is an angel, therefore, avoid digging one’s past. What really matters is the present life of your partner, so focus on the present and the future. Always forgive and be tolerant.
Marriage is not a bed of roses: Every shining marriage has gone through its own test of hot and excruciating fire. True love is proved in time of challenges. Always be patient.
Do not compare your marriage with another: People can never be equal. Be contented, work hard and with time, your marriage dreams shall come true.
There is no perfect marriage: Every marriage is imbue with plethora of challenges. It is like a Computer or Vehicle with a hard disk or engine, respectively. If these parts are not properly maintained, they will crash or breakdown.
Always Pray together: A family that prays together, stays together peacefully.
Finally, marriage is a divine and sacred institution, which is indissoluble. Therefore, couples, or prospective couples should always pray very hard and make serious inquires before entering into this life time bond. To be happy in marriage is not to have a life without troubles, but to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, and love in discord, always bearing with each other. It is not only to enjoy the smiles, but also to reflect on the sadness; not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified; courage to always say I am sorry, and the ability to always say I loveyou. When one partner makes mistakes, he or she should humbly admit them, apologize and start all over again. Instead of opting for divorce in difficult times, couples would later discover that to be happy is not to have a perfect married life. But, to use their tears to irrigate tolerance, and their losses to train patience.
Therefore, I pray that your marriage or family may be sustained by the Power of the Holy Spirt, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
1st Reading: Numbers 11:25-29; 2nd Reading: James 5:1-6; Gospel: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
THEME: CHRIST ENJOINS US TO BE TOLERANT AND MODEST!
God created everyone uniquely. He freely endows each person with different capabilities (graces) at His own discretion for the common good, and can actually use anyone as He pleases, to execute His salvific mission. Unfortunately, due to sectarianism, exclusivism, tribalism, fear, envy, injustice and the like, which have been the major cankerworms that stifle the progress of any given society, many talented or qualified persons have been deprived the opportunity of contributing positively towards the growth and development of that society.
In the FIRST READING, when the task of ruling the Israelites became too burdensome for Moses, he saw the need for assistance, and thus entreated the Almighty God so as to carry out the duties entrusted to him effectively. Compassionately, God responded to Moses’ plea, by replicating his power and grace (transference of spiritual gifts), and thus instituted a collective leadership of 70 elders to share his burden. Remarkably, two persons (Eldad & Medad) who were not in the camp also received the same power and grace. Consequently, Joshua, engulfed by zeal, envy, sectarianism, or perhaps, fear of his own position, wanted to stop them. Thus, Moses repudiated him, and wished that all the Lord’s people had such prophetic gifts, and the Lord gave His Spirit to them.
Similarly, in the GOSPEL, due to envious, overzealous and exclusive mentality of Jesus’ disciples, or perhaps, fear of their own positions and the authority of their leader, they could not approve the stranger who was performing a salvific duty in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, without authorization. Hence, they wanted to stop him. But, Jesus reacted to their exclusivist views by underscoring the decisive importance of His person and mission (liberation of humanity from slavery of evil powers). He instructed them not to stop him, that, no man could do a mighty work in His name and be altogether His enemy. Thus, He laid down the great principle that, “he who is not against us is for us.” Even though, there are fake pastors who feign Jesus’ authority, but we can test their spirits (1 Jn. 4:1), and can also know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:20).
Meanwhile, in one of our desert experiences many years ago, in Port Harcourt, before I became a priest, during intercessory prayer sessions, many people were praying in the spirit (glossolalia), precisely the prayer warriors, I was also inspired by the Holy Spirit to pray as such, though not yet in Praying Ministry then. But one brother approached me and started rebuking every familiar spirit in me. According to him, the gift of glossolalia was only meant for those in Praying Ministry; just imagine his perception! Sometimes, some Christians are beclouded by such attitudes, like Joshua, Jesus’ disciples and that brother. When they see others outside their religious group performing the same good works like them, they become apprehensive, as if those people would outshine or overthrow them, or that some gifts are only meant for special people. This is ignorance of the highest order.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit acts in diverse ways, and is not limited to a group of persons, or given through official channels; rather God freely inspires anyone who believes in Him (Acts 10:34), and no one is a monopoly of spiritual gifts (like prophecy & exorcism). It is a wrong mentality to think that, graces or gifts are always given to people according to their status or religious group.
Surprisingly, there are many Christians who form different sects or cliques, and do not see the relevance of other people’s good works, outside their group. Even when those people may have the panaches (wonderful ideas or suggestions) on how to improve their current society, but due to exclusivism of the group, they are being silenced. Such group, no matter how talented you are, they may see you as a threat or obstacle, and will always look for a way to discredit or criticize your actions, either through assassinating your character or not speaking friendly with you. But if another person among them does the same thing you have done, they would applaud him or her. This attitude may be scandalous to many, especially those with little faith.
Furthermore, Christ also warned us in the Gospel, not to cause scandals to others, especially the little ones. For scandal is doubly sinful act that involves one’s sin and that of another person being scandalized. It could be caused by teaching wrong doctrine, giving wrong advice, exhibiting queer or bad attitudes, which may be imitated by others especially children. According to John Locke (British philosopher), in his behavioral perspective, children’s minds are Tabula Rasa (blank slate), and are largely shaped by their social environment, which exerts its effects through associations between thoughts and feelings, behavioral repetitions and imitations. In other words, children are influenced by what they see people do. So, we have grave obligation, especially those in positions of authority such as parents, teachers, formators, etc., whose duty it is to bring up children in a true Christian faith, not to scandalize them or lead others into error.
Consequently, this is the reason St. James, in the SECOND READING prophetically condemned those who put their hope in earthly or perishable things. Same goes to those who accumulate earthy wealth unjustly, most especially through bribery, oppression, suppression, deprivation and injustices of all kinds against the weak, the poor who labour for them, and those who do not belong to their group, clique or class. For these earthly acquisitions may deprive us of eternal life, if we do not use them wisely in helping the poor and needy.
Therefore, our lessons in today’s readings are:
As Christians, it is very pertinent for us to eschew pride, and always seek for assistance (collaboration) in our work when the load becomes too much; instead of burning ourselves up because of vainglories, or be afraid that our efforts, successes or achievements may be attributed to others.
We should avoid sectarianism, exclusivism, etc., and not stifle the Spirit of God, or be envious of the gifts of others; or see those performing the same work with us as threats, especially those who do not belong to our religious group or denomination; rather we should do everything possible to uplift their human dignity.
We should always carry people along, and always communicate our knowledge and experiences without hoarding them. This would help them to reproduce more of our ingenuity or talents for the betterment of humanity.
We should avoid causing scandals to others especially children, or lead those with little faithinto error.
We should not treat people unjustly or deny the poor and laborers their fair wages. Also, not to allow any earthly possessions deprive us the everlasting prize, but sacrifice them for the sake of eternal life.
Finally, the Holy Spirit works outside the Church community, as is evident in the works done by people who have the good of others at heart. Since no man can possibly grasp all truth, we should always be open to dialogue with others, and not be intolerant with them, which is a sign both of arrogance and ignorance. However, we should be tolerant with people no matter their tribe, class or religion. Though not a gullible acceptance of anything, but through the Holy Spirit, subject everything to the test.
Therefore, I pray that you and your family may be filled with the Power of the Holy Spirt, so as to fulfil God’s divine purpose for your life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; 2nd Reading: James 3:16-4:3; Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO HUMBLY SERVE ALL WITH A CHILDLIKE SPIRIT!
The quests for power, fame, supremacy, position, and the likes, have engendered a lot of rivalries among many people in our contemporary society. Surprisingly, Christians are mostly the very ones that exacerbate this cancerous phenomena due to their ambitiousness and cravings. Consequently, these tend to hamper growth, development, peace, unity and love in any given society.
Last Sunday, the Church presented to us, the mission of the Messiah, which was embellished with plethora of sufferings (humiliations, persecutions, hatred, opposition, etc). Meanwhile, in the first century B.C., the God-fearing (innocent) Jews experienced the same ordeal in the hands of the ambitious and ungodly people. They were put to the test, and were subjected to an intense influence of Hellenistic (Greek) culture and oppression by some fellow Jews, who had apostatized and converted to Hellenism. However, suffering can be a period of trial and testing for the righteous ones.
The FIRST READING of today highlighted the gimmicks of those renegade Jews, who despised and hated the innocent Jews, because their way of living (righteous) reminded them of their own apostasy. Hence, they always conspired and did everything within their power to humiliate and exterminate them. Paradoxically, these sufferings of the innocents and the success of the wicked are puzzles that continue to confuse many who believe in a Just God. This seems to be the reason why many Christians, seldom make any effort to lead righteous lives again, since they see the ungodly prospering very well here on earth, despite their atrocious acts.
In the GOSPEL, Christ gave the second prediction of His passion, death and resurrection. This, He did, in order to prepare the minds of His disciples before it happens. Nonetheless, due to their worldly-mindedness, His disciples couldn’t grasp the meaning of such prediction, since they were already anticipating an earthly military messiah who would subdue the pagan Romans, and restore the former glories of the Israelites. Ipso facto, this gave rise to their arguments on whom should be the greatest. Perhaps, they wanted to establish a political ranks or distinctions as regards who would hold the principal post of honour among themselves, when Jesus Christ eventually conquers their enemies, and sets up His earthly Messianic Kingdom.
Moreover, Jesus Christ, perceiving their worldly thoughts, confronted the emptiness of their self-preoccupation by presenting them a little child as a model or symbol of His followers. That His followers are called to serve in humility and faith, with a childlike spirit and trust in the grace of God. This implies that, anyone who wants to be a disciple of Christ must become like children and consider himself or herself as a slave of all. Hence, the one who is the greatest would be the humble servant of others, particularly the poorest(Matt. 20:26).” So, as Christians we must place the poor and marginalized at the centre of our interests, initiatives and plans. Not ambitiously seeking our own selfish interests, which engender dispute, discord and disharmony.
Regrettably, our discontentment with ourselves and our cravings for what another person owns destroy our inner peace, distort our perspective on life and make it difficult for us to love others. St. James enunciated this in the SECOND READING; that the basic violation of Christian code is concentration on self alone (selfish ambition) to the exclusion of others. Many people who are proud and ambitious especially when it comes to worldly affairs, always see themselves as wise persons. For selfish ambition is the worldly wisdom in its worse sense, and St. Paul made it clear to us: “To be worldly-minded (carnal) leads to death, but to be heavenly (spiritual) minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6).” Unfortunately, many people resort to the former instead of the latter, and that is the reason why they often become impatient with their fellow human beings; always stirring up quarrels, hatred, disunity, revenge, rivalry, and the likes, anywhere they are (Gal. 5:17-21).
Moreover, pride, jealousy, hatred, selfish ambition and covetousness are the most offensive sins to God, and they are cancerous phenomena that are very injurious to humanity, which stem from the evil one. They are the rationale behind every family feuds, village quarrels and global confrontations. So, anytime we begin to nurse or exhibit hateful, revengeful, jealous, or antagonistic feelings against one another, then the evil spirit is at work within us to destroy us. Consequently, if care is not taken, these feelings may lead us to nefarious actions, and the climax is murder, either directly or indirectly (character assassination).
However, St. James gave us an overview of the wisdom that comes from God. It brings the person who is spiritually-minded: love, joy, peace, patience, humility, etc., (Gal.5:22-25). Therefore, we need to be on our guard against our human inclinations, and embrace humility which Jesus Christ our Master exemplified; thoughHe was God, yet He emptied Himself as a humble servant, and was obedient unto death(Phil. 2:6-8). We can succeed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, when we make a resolute decision to love God sincerely as well as our fellow human beings. Furthermore, we can also achieve this by frequently going to confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) so as to receive the grace to eschew hatred, jealousy, or antagonistic feelings against one another, and thus begin to love genuinely.
Finally, as Christians who belong to the same body of Christ, we are called to serve all in humility and faith, with a childlike trust in the grace of God. Placing the poor, destitute and marginalized at the centre of our interests, initiatives and plans. These will pave the way for us into God’s Heavenly Kingdom at the end of our sojourn here on earth.
Therefore, I pray that you and your family may receive the Power of the Holy Spirit, so that you can serve God and humanity with love, peace, humility and patience; and for those who are under oppression and attack by ungodly people, may the Almighty God deliver you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
1st Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9; 2nd Reading: James 2:14-18; Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
THEME: GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN OUR SUFFERINGS.
Naturally, every human person likes comfort, and abhors sufferings, sacrifices or anything that would discomfort or inflict pains upon him or her. However, life itself is imbued with plethora of sacrificial enterprises. Even in our secular world, any successful person would tell you that achieving greatness is not a bed of roses. Like many successful entrepreneurs: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckenberg, Philip Emeagwali, etc, who achieved material greatness for the betterment of humanity, had no secret formula for their success, rather they were faced with many sufferings and sacrifices. This implies that, challenges, misfortunes, sufferings (cross), etc., are, but the very essential aspects of life, and in order for anyone to achieve greatness in life, he or she must be ready to embrace sacrifices or sufferings as his or her companions.
In the FIRST READING, prophet Isaiah foretold the mission of the Messiah, which would be to liberate humanity. As God’s servant, His heart and ears would always be open so as not to miss any instruction from God. However, in the process of carrying out God’s plans for humanity, He would experience humiliations, persecutions, hatred and oppositions which would culminate to His sacrificial death on the cross; but through these sufferings, He would enter into His glory (Lk. 24:26).
In the GOSPEL, despite many good works Jesus had performed, yet people never recognized His true identity (the Messiah), but gave divergent opinions or conjectures about Him. But Jesus wanted His disciples to give a personal account of Himself instead of what others were saying about Him. Thus, through the revelation given by the Holy Spirit, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus admitted the truth of Peter’s declaration, and thus plainly announced His real mission, which would be embellished with sufferings, death and resurrection. He revealed this to them so as to forestall and erase any wrong ideas of a political leader which some of the Apostles might have, but instructed them not to disclose His real identity until His mission is being accomplished.
Interestingly, what Jesus did here in the Gospel is similar to a term in psychology known as Johari’s Windows, which is a useful model for self-awareness and identifying the personality of a person in a group. Ipso facto, it is very pertinent for us to always seek for feedback which helps us to grow both socially, intellectually and spiritually. It is not enough to have the Ecclesiological and Christological knowledge that talk about the Church and Jesus Christ respectively, or to obtain a PhD in theology, without having any personal discovery of Christ, through our daily crosses, so that we can bear authentic witness of the gospel.
Astonishingly, Christ’s disciples couldn’t imagine a Messiah with such power from God to be put to death, and how could a dead man rise again. Moreover, because the Jews had a prolonged historical political domination and oppression by successive foreign powers, it made them began to anticipate an earthly military or political messiah who would forcefully revolt against the Pagan Romans, as at that time, and thus, restore the glorious days of the Israelites during King David’s reign. They never envisaged a Messiah to come and suffer any misfortune, and that was why Peter, as an elder, wanted to dissuade Jesus Christ from His mission, since no one brags with suffering.
However, seeing the manipulative utterance of Peter who just professed Jesus as the Messiah not quite long ago, Jesus immediately, rebuked him saying, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but man’s.” Meanwhile, Peter was not actually referred to as devil, but a tempter (opponent) whose way of reasoning is carnal or human construct. He was having a human outlook on God’s purpose and wanted to stop Jesus Christ, not knowing that his perspective was actually opposing God’s will. This implies that, sometimes certain thoughts or decisions we make as humans, may not actually be divinely certified, since they do not help us in fulfilling God’s will, rather our own selfish gain. For the scripture says, “There is a way that seems right unto a man and the end is death (Provb. 16:25).” When we do not pay attentive ear to the voice of God for the direction of His divine plans for us, we may not actually know that He is always present amidst our sufferings, not to talk of knowing what He is saying to us at that moment, which may gain us salvation.
Certainly, the cross (suffering) is a symbol of Christ’s redemptive action, which every Christian should be ready to endure, since out of love and obedience to the voice of God, Christ humbly and patiently sacrificed His life, and bore His sufferings in order to save humanity. He told His disciples that anyone who really wants to follow Him, must be ready to pay attention to the instructions that would be given him/ her through the Holy Spirit, which sometimes may lead to the paths of suffering (Mk. 8:34). So, if we want to experience the glorious splendor of the divine majesty, then we should be ready, like the Apostles of Christ, to endure the challenges accruing from the vicissitudes of life (Rom. 8:16-17), for God’s grace will always be sufficient for us even in our struggles (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
Surprisingly, many people often forget that suffering or sacrifice is the conditio sine qua non (necessary condition) for authentic Christianity, and without which no crown or glory can be attained. For they are ways of partaking in the sufferings of Christ. So, anyone who claims to love, sacrifices of his or her time, energy, resources, etc, should be the basis for such love.Remove the cross or sacrifice, then there is no love, and where there is no love, there is no Christianity. For instance, like St. Paul and other disciples of Christ who brought down the gospel to us, suffered grievously in order to be glorified or crowned saints. At a point, when the suffering was too much, and St. Paul wanted them be removed, but God told him, “..my grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:7-10).” Thus, he began to boost in his sufferings for Christ’s sake.
Similarly, just like St. Paul and many Christians, I personally (Fr. Ben), had passed through plethora of sufferings before I became a priest: When I was young during my primary education, I fell from a storey building and broke my ribs; during my secondary school days, I had severe accidental leg injuries; at the university level, I broke my ribs again during football. Also when I was doing my national youth service (NYSC) in 2005, as the best goalkeeper then, I represented Edo state at Abuja, and during the match I fell on top of a stone and broke my ribs again for the third time. In 2009, when I resigned from my job and entered seminary, that first year, I had an accident and my lips tore, and was stitched. After 6 months the same year, I had a slipped disc, which kept me bedridden for two months. In 2016, I broke my leg again, my ankle pulled out from the joint and faced backwards. I was on Plaster Casts (POP) and with clutches for almost one year. The climax of all these challenges was on 23rd December 2016, when I caught pneumonia, which blocked my heart and lungs and I could not breathe again. Consequently, I passed away, but through divine intervention I later came back to life after some hours to the glory of God. In all these sufferings, I never despaired, but had faith in God, and His grace was really sufficient to carry me through, and thus I was very joyful amidst the pains; seeing them as my own share of sufferings in following Christ.
Unfortunately, many Christians, like St. Peter in the Gospel, make the mistake of attributing sufferings to manipulative or projected curse, which is unacceptable and must be resisted by force. Hence, they spend more time moving from one prayer house to another looking for deliverance, or for a way to get quick riches without making any reasonable effort to push away the frontiers of illiteracy or ignorance, and then begin to work hard so as to achieve greatness or even to earn a living. Even some pastors or ministers of the Gospel tend to brainwash their congregation into believing that a child of God cannot suffer any misfortune (sickness, disappointment, lack & want, etc.), instead of going to the hospital first for the treatment of the sick ones (though not all cases are medically oriented) and waiting patiently for God in prayers (divine assistance). This is a wrong Christian teaching (theology).
Surely, there are moments in our lives we may undergo serious training or drilling in order for us to achieve our purpose in life. Like gold, which must be refined in a furnace before it can actually produce a pure or fine gold. For the scriptures made us to understand that, “Good people suffer many tribulations, but the Lord will deliver them (Ps. 34:19).” Jesus Christ even confirmed this when He told His disciples that; “In the world, you will suffer many tribulations, but be courageous, I have conquered the world (Jn. 16:33).”
Therefore, since Christ has suffered for us out of love, we too should emulate His footsteps and reciprocate this love, by accepting difficulties or sufferings for the sake of others. Just like St. James said in the SECOND READING, our faith is dead without the heart of God. It is meaningless without compassionate service to the poor and needy. For authentic Christian life demands that one is ever ready to sacrifice one’s own convenience and pleasure for God’s Sake. This is the real meaning of faith in action, ipso facto, practical Christianity.
Finally, we should always:
(1) Give gratitude to God the Father for allowing His Son to undergo such rigorous roads for our sake;
(2) Bear our own daily crosses patiently and gladly; and
(3) Help the needy to carry their crosses by providing them with the basic necessities of life, while relying on divine assistance (God’s Grace) to see us through.
I pray that by the Power of the Holy Spirit, may the Grace of God be sufficient for you in your difficulties or sufferings, and at the end, may you gain eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
THEME: WE ARE GOD’S INSTRUMENTS OF HEALING AND RESTORATION.
In our contemporary society, some of the horrendousand precarious situations (insecurity, injustice, crime, delinquency, poverty, inflation, wickedness, etc.) encumbering us, mostly occur as a result of our insensitivity and deafness to the truth or common good. Unfortunately, many people are tired of listening to sound doctrine (truth). Some intentionally close their ears from listening to God’s Word not to talking of proclaiming it, while others are too shy or nonchalant to evangelize, or to speak against societal ills. Also, many who are at the helm of affairs (civil & religious) intentionally close their eyes and ears to the sufferings of their subjects (proletariat), especially the poor (anawims).
Sequel to this, evil prevails unabatedly, and our society continues to swim in the ocean of socio-economic, cultural and political quagmires. Due to the prevalence of all these overwhelming debacles, many people, especially Christians are dismayed, and beginning to doubt the efficacy of God’s word or His presence in our society.
In the FIRST READING, seeing the precarious situation of the Israelites, God made a promise through prophet Isaiah that He will come at the appointed time (messianic era) to avenge the cause of the poor, and free them from that which oppresses them or hinders their fruitfulness. His coming will be victory over all forms of maladies (physical or spiritual), slavery and inhuman situations.
Fortunately, today’s GOSPEL brings to limelight the fulfillment of this messianic prophecy, where Jesus Christ, out of compassion, healed a man who had suffered serious speech and hearing impediments, which subjected him to cultural stigmatization, social discrimination, and psychological trauma; thereby limiting his association and communication with others in the society. Meanwhile, this man represents those whose ears or hearts are closed, and cannot listen to the gospel of Christ or proclaim His wondrous deeds with their mouths; and also those who are insensitive to the plights of people around them.
Although Christ did heal the deaf and dumb, blind and lame physically, however, there is more implied here than mere bodily cures; which are signs of the spiritual restoration. Moreover, this restoration is being ratified during our baptism, when the priest touches our ears and mouth by saying: ”The Lord Jesus Christ made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. May He (soon) touch your ears to receive His word, and your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” This sacramental or spiritual gesture empowers us to listen and be illumined by the power of God’s word, and thus, proclaim it to all nations.
However, it is not only having the ability to hear and preach God’s Words, but to become Christ’s instruments of healing and restoration in our society: With our eyes, we see the challenges and impediments of our neighbors; with our ears we listen to their problems; with our legs we reach out to the poor (physical, spiritual & psychological), and with our mouths we speak words of consolation and encouragement for the voiceless in our society. For God cannot come down physically to solve human problems, rather through the Holy Spirit, He uses human persons (us) to communicate or reach out.
Furthermore, one of the ways we mediate God’s creative power to others is by listening attentively to them without discrimination. St. James avers this in the SECOND READING, that fraternal charity can make no distinction of persons. Our ability to give listening ear to people is more important than what we speak or do for them. For many people are looking for whom to share their problems with; since problem shared is half solved. Hence, that act of listening to people in a non-judgmental manner, and giving everybody (both rich and poor) equal treatment, can be a powerful life-giving spirit to them.
Regrettably, there are people, mostly Christians who because of their worldly wealth or positions expect and demand special respect for themselves. Even some of our religious leaders, discriminatorily marginalize and oppress the poor, and give special honor to the rich because of the fat envelopes they would gain from them. But according to St. James, Christians who give special honour to such persons are already passing judgement with evil thoughts, and thereby usurping God’s right. For the earthly wealth or position are no criterion for distinction in the Christian community, since all are equal before God (Gal. 3:28).
Finally, as Christians, we are called to be God’s instruments of healing and restoration in our society. There should not be any form of social discrimination or cultural stigmatization among us. For God does not discriminate (Rom. 10:12). As a matter of fact, He even shows preference for those that are poor in worldly goods, but are rich spiritually. Therefore, let us be sensitive to the challenges of those around us, especially the poor, so that they may experience God’s healing touch through our relationship with them.
Therefore, I pray that you may be healed from every maladies of spiritual deafness and dumbness through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
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 DivineLaw 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 (DivineLaw 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’sTenCommandments 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).
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. SummiPontificatus, October 20, 1939, no. 67).
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. SummiPontificatus, 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.
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.
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, andpreserved 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.
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.
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 Breadand 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.
THEME: LET US SEEK CHRIST, THE TRUE BREAD FROM HEAVEN WITH FAITH.
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 Israelitesbecame 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 thatboth 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 Eucharistand 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 before? Or 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.