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Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Isaiah 53:10-11; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; Gospel: Mark 10:35-45

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:  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Wisdom 7:7-11; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 4:12-13; Gospel: Mark 10:17-30

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Genesis 2:18-24; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 2:9-11; Gospel: Mark 10:2-16

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 am sorry 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 love you. 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!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

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 faith into 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!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

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; though He 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!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  6. Homily of 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  7. EDUCATION WITHOUT CHARACTER AND MORALS: A CASE OF PARALYSIS OF THE MIND

My Homilies, Theological Reflections

The Dynamics of Life Journey!

 

Life is imbued with plethora of unforseen circumstances. Nevertheless, we must always trust in God Almighty for His Divine assistance…

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Homily of 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

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.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

POSITIONS OF HONOUR DEMAND HUMBLE SERVICES TO ALL. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

My Homilies

Homily of 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Isaiah 35: 4-7; 2nd Reading: James 2:1-5; Gospel: Mark 7:31-37

THEME: WE ARE GOD’S INSTRUMENTS OF HEALING AND RESTORATION.

In our contemporary society, some of the horrendous and 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.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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My Homilies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Theological Reflections

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

Introduction:

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

Definition of key Terms:

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

The Goals/ Objectives of Education:

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

An Overview of Paralyzed Education System and its Causality.         

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

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

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

Moral and Character Formation in Education.

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

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  1. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  2. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  3. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  4. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

 

My Homilies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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