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True Love is Sacrifice empowered by the Holy Spirit
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

1st Reading: Acts 14:21-27; 2nd Reading: Revelation 21:1-5; Gospel: John 13:31-35.

THEME: TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Love is Sacrifice empowered by the Holy Spirit

Many people have written different wonderful and classical definitions of love in their own level of understanding. Most times, however, they only talk eloquently about love, but in the actual sense, they do not understand its implications not to talk of practicing it. For love goes beyond mere feelings or what most people imagine; it is action embellished with mercy, kindness, compassion, care and sacrifice for the welfare of others no matter what it may cost, even in the face of persecution.

In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas were very happy to proclaim the Gospel of Christ during their first missionary journey despite suffering severely from the Jews. No wonder they were “courageously strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God(Acts 14:22).

Undoubtedly, the secret behind the successes they recorded, in spite of all the persecutions and hardships that encroached them which they patiently endured, and always ready to sacrifice their lives for God and for humanity, was because of the Power of the Holy Spirit they received which propelled and strengthened them. Of course, the reason is very clear: They were motivated by the love of Christ, and were hungry for the salvation of souls. That was the main reason why they never despaired when faced with tribulations and hardships.

In the Gospel, Jesus Christ says to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another(John 13:34-35). But how can this be new? Does it mean that people were not required to love before the time of Jesus? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love enunciated in Deuteronomy 6:5 (love of God) and Leviticus 19:18 (love of neighbour). Even Jesus Christ affirmed them to be the first and second greatest commandments of the law (Matthew 22:37-39). So how is the commandment given by Jesus new?

Meanwhile, the Jewish commandment of love was “Love your neighbour as yourself”, that is, the way you treat yourself. Even some people do not love themselves not to talk of loving others. But Jesus’ New Commandment is: “Love one another even as I have loved you” (John 15:12). So, how did He actually prove this? Jesus Christ made it clear to His disciples: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends(John 15:13). Subsequently, He practically demonstrated His new commandment of love by His sacrificial death on the Cross for the salvation of our souls (salus animarum). His disciples understood this sacrificial love very well and demonstrated it in an exact manner; and that was why they were called Christians at Antioch, because they were doing exactly what Jesus Christ did (Acts 11:26).

Unfortunately, some people who claim to love, reject sacrifices, pains, persecutions, insults, etc in the process; forgetting that they are the conditio sine qua non (necessary conditions) as well as the consequences or elements of love. They always think that love is all about what they can gain from their friends, which engenders momentary happiness and enjoyment that is void of hurts and pains. Yes, they may be right to some extent, but that is only 20% of what love is, which is a selfish one, the other 80% of what love is all about is sacrifice imbued with sufferings, which is a selfless one.

It is worthy of note that, the purest form of love is sacrifice, which is the expression of selflessness, and it is far more than anything related to the physical body. Sacrifice goes beyond what most people imagine. Unlike other kinds of love, selflessness does not care about what it gains or whether it is worth it.

True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. Where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Only those who are possessed by the Power of the Holy Spirit would be able to endure sufferings and pains for the sake of others, and thus derive their joy when people’s lives are touched positively.

Moreover, once we allow Jesus Christ to dwell in our hearts, definitely we shall receive His Power to love selflessly, which is the Holy Spirit. Without this, we may be acting like the stone-hearted Pharisees who lacked human sympathy, and always laying more emphasis on the external observances of the law to the detriment of humanity. For the presence of the Holy Spirit engenders love, happiness, joy, peace, patience, forgiveness, kindness, endurance, and pushes away the frontiers of hatred, pains, anxiety, animosity, etc., amidst all sufferings. Once He is present in our lives, then He will wipe away all tears from our eyes; just as was revealed to John in the second reading: “The New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God(Revelation 21: 2). Surely, this Book of Revelation is full of visions, which attempts to describe in symbolic language, the past, the present and especially the future.

Finally, as Christians who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we are called to love selflessly as Jesus Christ did. Nevertheless, we may not necessarily offer our lives to be crucified or martyred physically, but to sacrifice or deny ourselves certain things we need in order to save the lives or souls of others, even our enemies (Luke 6:27) no matter what it may cost us. However, we cannot achieve these with our own ability, but relying on the Power of the Holy Spirit through fervent prayers. For when we allow ourselves to be possessed by the Holy Spirit and motivated by the love of Christ, then, that is the only time we will have inner joy and peace even amidst our sufferings for the sake of others.

When we must have passed through difficulties and challenges in carrying out our duties with love of God and humanity, then at the end of our lives here on earth, we shall gain eternal life, and enjoy the New Heavenly Jerusalem where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more. For there shall be true unending joy, happiness and peace.

PRAYER:

May the Power of the Holy Spirit strengthen and protect you and your family, so that you will be able to selflessly sacrifice your life for the sake of others amidst all tribulations, and at the end of your life here on earth, may God welcome you into His Heavenly Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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CHILDLIKE ATTITUDE IN MARRIAGE: A GATEWAY TO GOD’S KINGDOM CHRIST ENJOINS US TO BE TOLERANT AND MODEST! CHRIST IS THE BREAD THAT SUSTAINS US IN OUR LIFE JOURNEY. EDUCATION WITHOUT CHARACTER AND MORALS: A CASE OF PARALYSIS OF THE MIND. GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN OUR SUFFERINGS HUMANITY GAINED HER REDEMPTION! LET US ALWAYS ALLOW GENUINE LOVE TO MOTIVATE OUR ACTIONS! LET US SEEK CHRIST The Dynamics of Life Journey The Love of God The Mercy of God The Power of God THE TRUE BREAD FROM HEAVEN WITH FAITH. THROUGH VIRGIN MARY WE ARE CALLED TO HUMBLY SERVE ALL WITH A CHILDLIKE SPIRIT WE ARE CALLED TO MAKE POSITIVE RESOLUTE DECISIONS IN LIFE. WE ARE GOD’S INSTRUMENTS OF HEALING AND RESTORATION WE SHALL SURELY TRIUMPH BY EMULATING MARY’S VIRTUES.

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd caring for His Sheep
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)

1st Reading: Acts 13:14,43-52; 2nd Reading: Revelation 7:9,14-17; Gospel: John 10:27-30.

THEME: ALWAYS LISTEN ATTENTIVELY TO THE VOICE OF CHRIST, THE GOOD SHEPHERD!

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd caring for His Sheep

The Almighty God created us for a good purpose which is to fulfil His Divine Will. For God says: “Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, the plan of good and not disaster, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).

Besides, we cannot understand the Will of God properly, except when we pay attention to His Voice. This implies that, for anyone to fulfil God’s Divine Will effectively, he or she must be docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit; for guidance, direction and information on how to actualise that good purpose.

Meanwhile, in the Catholic Church, the fourth Sunday of Easter every year is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” or “Vocation Sunday” simply because the Gospel reading is centered on Jesus Christ being the Good Shepherd. It is also a day set aside to pray seriously for vocation in all facets of life, particularly that of the priesthood and religious life.

Although, the image of a shepherd and his sheep may not be familiar to people living in urban areas, but not with those living in rural areas, especially where nomads inhabit. It is obvious that Jesus Christ was very much familiar with the image of shepherd and sheep than we are because He used it so very often. The shepherd commits himself to care for the sheep, to lead them to fresh and green pastures (Psalm 23:2), to defend them against the wolf and other potential predators (John 10:28).

Moreover, the sheep for their part, are expected to listen to the voice of the shepherd and follow where he leads. They are to follow him alone, and not strangers. Although, the sheep may refuse to listen to the voice of the shepherd, thereby choosing not to follow him. If and when that does happen, the sheep are exposed to grave danger from the wolf and other predators.

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who knows, guides and guards His sheep (disciples) with His life such that no one can snatch them from Him; for His sheep will listen and follow Him. The description of a good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep alludes to the Servant offering his life as a sacrifice according to Isaiah 53:10 which says: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his life; through him the will of the LORD shall be done.”

Certainly, discipleship is not only adhering to particular religious rules or devotions, but recognition of the master’s voice and following His guidance. Now, the question is, do we listen to our Shepherd? Always … or only when it suits us or it is convenient, doesn’t cost us much? If and when we do listen, do we follow where he leads? Or do we prefer to go where our own whims and caprices, appetites and fancies lead us? Even while Jesus Christ was in the world, He was always listening attentively to the voice of His Father; “Early in the morning, He would go to the mountain to pray alone” (Mark 1:35), and “would not do anything or make any judgement except what He hears from heaven(John 5:30).

Undoubtedly, one of the easiest ways of hearing from God is through the scriptures. For the book of Amos says that, “God cannot do anything without you revealing it to His Prophets(Amos 3:7). He speaks to us in diverse ways, but the problem most times is that, either we do not know actually when He is speaking to us or we are not ready to listen to what He is telling us to do. Unfortunately, this could be as a result of many distractions in our contemporary society accruing from social media, bad governance, global economic meltdown, unemployment, poverty, discrimination, persecution, insecurity vis-à-vis banditry, unknown gunmen, insurgency, etc.  

However, amidst all these distractions, God is still speaking to those who are attentive to His Voice and are diligent in obeying His commands. For no one can separate us from the love of God, not even hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, etc (Romans 8:35-39).

For instance, permit me to recount my vocation story: My vocation to the priesthood is a Divine Call, and was born out of attentive, diligent and conscious listening to the Voice of God through the Scriptures on a daily basis. I never dreamt or planned to become a priest one day, as a matter of fact, I am the first son. Also, I had already studied engineering in the university, and after that, I got employment and was working comfortably in a reputable company in Port Harcourt.

At a point in 2007, I started having an inner yearning and a driving force to serve God in a very special way, and that became a disturbance to me. As if that was not enough, I started having dreams and visions where I became a priest and was celebrating Holy Mass. Initially, I trivialised the dreams and visions, and even suppressed them.  Subsequently, many people started asking me why I did not want to become a priest. One of them told me that anyone who has the Spirit of discernment would see priesthood boldly written on my forehead, that my own is not hidden.

Surprisingly, even one of the ladies I was thinking of settling down with as a wife, gave me a shock of my life the day I came to propose to her. After preaching in her family house, she joyfully exclaimed:  “I will go to Seminary schools and tell them that one of their brothers is here; that something is wasting away.” That I supposed to be a priest. I tried to ignore and discard these unprecedented disturbances about priesthood because, I saw myself unworthy to be called to such Sacred Ministry, but the revelations continued unabated; more than eighteen (18) different times. I never knew that God was using those people to talk to me.

After several fervent daily fasting and prayers/ meditations in the Chapel before the Holy Eucharist, booking of Holy Masses, going for desert experiences for more than 6 months and finally engaged in indoor prayers, God showed me beyond reasonable doubt that He was the one calling me. One of them was, a day when there was a downpour with heavy thunder and lighting, I just said a short prayer: “Lord, if you are the one that has been speaking through the mouth of all these people about priesthood, let this rain stop.” Shockingly, the rain stopped instantly. When I eventually entered the seminary, I began to pass through moments of excruciating challenges and persecutions, just like Paul and Barnabas in the first reading, but by the grace of God, I surmounted the challenges.

Finally, if we constantly and attentively listen to Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd, and follow where He leads, He will definitely direct us to God’s plan and purpose for us in the world. Surely, He promises us eternal life, and we shall never be lost because no one will ever be able to snatch us from Him. “No one” includes Satan and all the forces of darkness and evil that serve his cause.

Also, God has entrusted us with the responsibilities of shepherding His sheep in different capacities. Therefore, are we good shepherds in our families, work places and among our friends such that they listen and follow us? Can we accept sacrifices, endure insults and persecutions for the sake of our sheep, just like the multitude of Saints enunciated in the second reading: “…who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb(Revelation 7:14)? So, let us always listen and follow Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd who emptied Himself for us.

PRAYER:

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and direct you in all your endeavours, and protect you from every persecution and harm, and grant you the grace to always listen attentively to the Voice of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

SERMON OF 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (Audio Ministration)

The presence of God radiates tremendous Power that brings about divine protection against all kinds of evil metaphysical powers and attacks, both in the physical and spiritual realms. His presence infuses the Spirit of Courage/ Boldness and Holy Fear upon those who sincerely and diligently seek Him, as well as changes every ugly situation, and thus restores whatever has been damaged or lost. Once the power of God’s presence is eminent, total victory in all circumstances is certified.

Power of God's Presence
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

1st Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; 2nd Reading: Revelation 5:11-14; Gospel: John 21:1-19.

THEME: GOD’S PRESENCE DISPELS FEAR AND ENDOWS US WITH DIVINE POWER!

Power of God's Presence

The presence of God radiates tremendous Power that brings about divine protection against all kinds of evil metaphysical powers and attacks, both in the physical and spiritual realms. His presence infuses the Spirit of Courage/ Boldness and Holy Fear upon those who sincerely and diligently seek Him, as well as changes every ugly situation, and thus restores whatever has been damaged or lost. Once the power of God’s presence is eminent, total victory in all circumstances is certified.

In the Gospel, however, after the death of Jesus Christ, Peter and other apostles were so filled with fear of what the future may hold for them, and that was why they wanted to go back to their former occupation (fishing) before they were called by Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ had chosen Simon Peter to lead His Church prior to His passion. He had even changed his name from Simon to Cephas (Peter, meaning Rock), and promised that He would build His Church on that Rock (Matthew 16:17-19).

Unfortunately, when Jesus Christ was arrested, due to fear, Peter denied Him, not once but three times, even before an ordinary maid. Ironically, Jesus Christ had earlier warned Peter that he was going to do just that, but Peter had boasted that he would never do such a thing. Certainly, fear can make us put respect for human beings before our respect for God. It can also bring about a grave loss of our sense of the sacred, for example unworthily receiving Holy Communion, until we receive Divine Mercy through sacrament of reconciliation. This is the reason why we should not boast with our human capabilities, but only with God (2 Corinthians 10:17). Also to have remorse whenever we offend God and then make efforts to reconcile with Him immediately.

Surprisingly, after the resurrection, Jesus Christ would have been fully entitled to take away the leadership of His Church from Peter. He could have concluded that Peter was so unreliable, that it was risky to entrust him with the responsibility of being in charge of the Church. But Jesus did not do that. Instead, He gave Peter a chance to reverse his threefold denial with a threefold profession of true love for Him. Thrice He asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Thrice Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Three times Jesus said to him: “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.”

Meanwhile, Jesus Christ simply wanted to reassure Peter that he would still be in charge of the Church; the leadership of the Church would not be taken away from him as a result of his tripartite denials. He also wanted to let him understand the manner in which he would carry out such great responsibility as the Supreme Pontiff, which are: compassion, mercy and tender loving care (TLC).

The Power of the resurrection dispels the darkness of fear, filling us with the awesomeness of God. This sense of awe creates in us the fear of the Lord, which is indeed the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that makes us to respect God and not want to offend Him in any way, and also courageous witnesses of the gospel in all situations.

Moreover, this power can only be experienced fully by those who love and obey God sincerely. Just like Peter in the first reading, after experiencing the Mercy and Power of God’s presence, he was empowered and, thus became a changed person. The same Peter who denied Jesus Christ in the presence of an ordinary maid due to fear of being arrested, now confronted the high priest himself, and told him to his face: “We must obey God rather than any human authority… we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:29-32). He then proceeded to give testimony of the resurrection to the entire Supreme Council of the nation of Israel, the Sanhedrin. What a transformation!

That is exactly what can happen to anyone who experiences the Mercy and Power of God’s presence. He or she can be so thoroughly transformed or converted – to use a more technical term that he or she will do great things for God. That was what happened to Saul of Tarsus after his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. The same thing happened to Augustine of Hippo after his conversion from a wayward life, and also Mary Magdalene, who was totally transformed after receiving the mercy of God, no wonder she was the first to see Jesus Christ after His resurrection.

Undoubtedly, the Sacrificial Death of Jesus Christ has redeemed us from eternal damnation, and through Him we have obtained seven powerful gifts enunciated in the second reading, through the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive Power and Wealth and Wisdom and Might and Honour and Glory and Blessing!(Revelation 5:11-12).

Finally, it is also worthy of note that, apart from the Holy Mass which is the easiest way to experience God’s presence in the Holy Eucharist (Real Presence of God), “Praise” is another way of attracting the Power of God’s presence. For the scripture says: “God is enthroned at the praises of His people(Psalms 22:3). Paul and Silas were freed from prison through the Power of Praise (Acts 16:25-26); same goes to Jehoshaphat and Joshua who gained victory over their enemies through Praises (2 Chronicles 20; Joshua 6).

Therefore, we can easily attract the Mercy and Power of God’s presence and be free from fear only when we constantly obey God’s commands and always sought for His mercy (constant confession) whenever we offend Him. When we do these, no force would be able to stop us and we will not be deterred by anything, because we shall courageously be obeying God rather than human authority, just like Peter and his companions, with compassion, mercy and tender loving care (TLC).

PRAYER:

May the Power of God’s presence transform, protect and empower you to courageously obey God, and thus achieve great exploits, 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 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY).

1st Reading: Acts 5:12-16; 2nd Reading: Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; Gospel: John 20:19-31.

THEME: DIVINE MERCY: A POWERFUL GIFT TO THE CHURCH!

Today, the Holy Mother Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy, a feast added to the Church’s liturgical calendar by St. John Paul II in honour of St. Maria Faustina. It is a day we celebrate in a very special way the overwhelming, compassionate, unconditional love and mercy of God, which He lavished upon humanity via His Son, Jesus Christ. The mercy which He demonstrated when He came into the world to salvage humanity from that which deprived her of Total Freedom and Peace of Mind.

Also today, we celebrate Mothers’ Day. We remember our mothers in a very special way for cooperating with God in order to give and nurture life in the world through the act of childbearing; those who are generally believed to have tender and compassionate hearts 💕 just like our Blessed Virgin Mary (epitome of compassionate heart) who through the incarnation brought our Saviour, Jesus Christ into the world.

Surprisingly, despite the atrocious acts perpetrated by the Pharisees, Jewish authorities, sycophants, betrayers, deniers, etc during the Passion narrative, yet Jesus Christ still forgave them all without any grudge or malice. He demonstrated His loving mercy upon humanity by wiping away her sins with His precious Blood and sanctified her with the water of Baptism (1 Corinthians 6:11). Hence, God’s saving plan for humanity has been accomplished once and for all by the redemptive death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This is the heart of the Easter message, and that is where God’s Power 💥 lies.

Meanwhile, one of the most powerful gifts Jesus Christ gave to the world via the Church after His resurrection is “Divine Mercy!” It is a spiritual gift that engenders Love, Faith, Hope, Joy and Peace among the children of God. Without this gift one may be experiencing anxiety, tension, fear and guilty conscience in his or her life. Unfortunately, these often hamper growth, development and conviviality as well as cordial relationships between God and humanity, and also between two persons. So, we all need to embrace the divine mercy.

In the Gospel, after His resurrection, Jesus Christ entrusted His disciples with the responsibility of continuing His redemptive work on earth in drawing humanity closer to God’s friendship by giving them Power 💥 to forgive sins, and thus become agents of His Divine Mercy. Therefore, whenever we commit any sin and go to any priest for confession, by the power endowed on him on the day of his Priestly Ordination he will absorb us and our sins will be forgiven. For the most practical way of showing this mercy is in the forgiveness of sins, which is Christ’s gift to humanity via the Church (John 20:23; Hebrew 8:12).

Moreover, by the virtue of our baptism, we have all been cleansed from original sin and thus become adopted children of God, ipso facto, possessing His attributes of Love, Mercy, Care, Compassion, Community Spirit, Charity, etc. These attributes we possess are the proof that we are really victorious children of God (1 John 5:4). They create habitable atmosphere for the healing Power of God to manifest in our lives, just like the way the early Christians witnessed the power of God in the first reading.

Undoubtedly, everyday we experience the ubiquitous, oceanic, overflowing, unquantifiable, and unconditional Mercy of God in our lives. For God doesn’t treat us according to our sins, but forgives us even before we approach His throne of Mercy. We can attest to this undeniable fact when Jesus Christ forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11), and also when the Prodigal son was forgiven and welcomed back by his Father (Luke 15:11-32).

This is the reason why Jesus Christ enjoins us: “To love our enemies, do good to those who hate us” (Luke 6:27); and also “to forgive those that offend us so that we may as well be forgiven by God and thus have Peace of mind” (Matthew 6:14-15).

Finally, since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) yet God continues to offer His Divine Mercy (Lamentations 3:22-23; Psalms 103:3-4) to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, then we have the moral obligation to extend the same gesture to others because, to refuse to forgive those who have offended us is automatically excluding ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness. Unless we believe in this Loving Mercy of God without doubt, then the peace and power of God wouldn’t have any effect in our lives.

PRAYER:

May the Divine Mercy of God envelope and possess you and your family for great exploit, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen 🙏!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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A Call to Repentance
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR C

1st Reading: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Gospel: Luke 13:1-9.

THEME: GOD GIVES US GRACE AND TIME TO REPENT.

A Call for repentance

In the past, the Jews had a superstitious notion that misfortunes only invaded bad people, while divine favour or good things only embraced good people. This was evident in the life of Job when he was passing through moments of excruciating sufferings. His friends tried to convince him that the reason why those terrible misfortunes befell him must have been some sins he had committed, perhaps without knowing it (Job 22:5).

Sequel to this Jewish ancient belief, many people always tend to attribute one’s misfortunes to be caused by the atrocious acts he or she might have committed in the past. Yes, there is no gainsaying that nemesis or karma does catch up with people later in life, however, it is not always the case, because calamities or misfortunes can befall anyone, both righteous and sinful persons alike. God may allow them for a purpose, only when they may be springboards towards salvation.

Amidst our misfortunes, God still loves and cares for us, and He is always making plans daily in order to deliver us from our predicaments, even when we do not take cognizance of His graciousness towards us. In the First Reading, God (I Am who I Am) calls Moses from the burning bush and entrusts him with the responsibility of delivering the Israelites, His chosen people from bondage in Egypt, where they were being systematically persecuted and gradually exterminated for four hundred and thirty years. Was it because of their sins that made them remained in perpetual agony for those number of years? Not at all!

In the Gospel, while responding to the crowds’ questions as regards those Galileans in the past that were invaded by misfortunes and subsequently met their untimely death, Jesus Christ uses the opportunity to correct the ancient notion of the Jews; that the desire to find direct correlations between sufferings and sin are fruitless and miss the point, which is that all are sinners in urgent need of repentance. Hence, their death should serve as a warning to us unless we repent, turn to God and change our ways (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Unarguably, the people who suffer misfortunes are not necessarily the worst sinners; they may, in fact, be quite innocent. Just like Job, the righteous man, or the little children in Bethlehem who were massacred by Herod (Matthew 2:16); so, what sins did they commit? As the scripture says: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers them from them all” (Psalms 34:19). God alone knows why misfortunes invade good people sometimes, including innocent children, while a lot of wicked people prosper materially, and can easily get away with their crimes.

However, the truth is that nobody will get away with any crime he or she has committed, unless the person repents. That includes those who think wicked thoughts about their neighbours and say wicked things about them, as well as those who perpetrate evil. The day of reckoning may be long coming, but it will surely come. If it does not come in this life, it will surely come on the judgment day. That is when sinners who fail to repent will most certainly perish forever (Romans 2:6).

Moreover, the good news is that every sinner who repents receives forgiveness from God. Some people may not like that, rather, they may wish to see some particularly wicked sinners pay dearly for their crimes even after they have repented. Fortunately, God is not like us; “His ways are not our ways, just as His thoughts are not our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). Also, through Prophet Ezekiel, God stated categorically: “I do not take pleasure in the death of anyone, says the LORD GOD. So repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).

Undoubtedly, we can repent of our sins at any time during the year, but Lent is a privileged season for genuine repentance and forgiveness. We should take full advantage of this season while it lasts and repent, so that we do not perish. Just as Jesus Christ talks about the parable of the barren fig tree in the Gospel of today, which is being given a final chance, a period of grace, to bear fruit, so God gives us time and grace to repent and to bear good fruits (love, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, etc.), and to use our positions to touch the lives of others positively in order to deliver them from their misfortunes.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul admonishes us through the Christian converts in Corinth, to avoid overconfidence or making similar mistakes the Israelites made in the past, when they turned away from God even after delivering them from bondage, and because of that, they perished and did not reach the Promised Land. But, we are to show gratitude to God always by our righteous way of living.

Finally, just as God called Moses and used him to deliver the Israelites from bondage, He also calls us in various capacities to use our talents, positions, occupations, vocations, etc. to salvage or alleviate human sufferings as well as deliver people from their misfortunes, instead of using them to victimize people or to perpetrate evil in the society (Matthew 25:31-46).

Nevertheless, even if we have made mistakes in the past, God will still forgive us once we repent and confess our sins (Isaiah 1:18-20). For the scripture says: “…with the LORD one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promise, as some think of slowness, rather He is patient with you, because He does not want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:18).

PRAYER:

May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, deliver you from all your misfortunes and grant you the grace to repent from all your wrong doings this period of Lent, and also the grace for you to help and deliver those who are passing through excruciating 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.

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The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ at Mount Tabor
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 2ND SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR C

1st Reading: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; 2nd Reading: Philippians 3:17-4:1; Gospel: Luke 9:28-36.

THEME: ATTENTIVE LISTENING TO GOD’S WORDS: A FUNDAMENTAL TASK OF A CHRISTIAN.

Transfiguration of Jesus Christ

Listening attentively is one of the major challenges many people struggle with in life. Sometimes, people may be gazing at a speaker, but in actual sense they are absent minded, perhaps their frame of mind may be distracted or tainted with biased thoughts. They can only listen properly if the speaker’s message is in tandem with their aspirations.

Unfortunately, due to globalization orchestrated by technological advancements, many people do not have time to listen attentively to God’s Word or Voice, even during Holy Mass or Church service. But, they can easily resort to strange or destructive voices accruing from friends, social media, society, etc., which tend to influence their behaviors and mindsets negatively.

Historically, Abraham became a very close friend of God simply because he was always docile and attentive to His Voice and Commands. The first reading of today lends credence to this historical fact. Abraham had absolute faith and trust in God that what God promised him would surely come to fruition. His unwavering faith is praised, because he believed God’s promise despite the fact that his wife Sarah was barren. Sequel to this, God reckoned it to him as righteousness and thus established a covenant with him. Hence, faith is the basis of God’s covenant with humanity, and those who receive God’s word with faith enter into a covenant with Him.

Last Sunday, we saw how Jesus Christ refused to perform a miracle the devil requested of Him despite the fact that He was famished after 40 days fasting. The reason is very clear: His main food is to always listen to His Father and to do ONLY what He wants Him to do (John 4:34). In other words, obedience to the voice of God takes precedence in His life.

In the Gospel of today, Jesus Christ went up to the mountain to pray with His three disciples (Peter, James and John) and to seek the approval of God for the decisive step He was about to take. He would never do anything or take any step without the approval of God (John 5:30). While praying, He transfigured, and Moses (great law-giver of the people of Israel) and Elijah (greatest of the prophets) appeared in glorious splendour and spoke to Him about His passion and death, which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Suddenly, God’s voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35).

Moreover, Jesus Christ had earlier told His disciples about His impending passion and death, so He also wanted to use this medium to show them a glimpse of what His glorified humanity would become after His ascension, so that they would be encouraged and remain steadfast in the terrible test of faith which His passion and death would be for them.

Surprisingly, His disciples were distracted by a deep sleep (mental lethargy) initially, but only saw His glorious splendour when they were fully awake. Peter, then requested for a permanent residence for themselves and Jesus, in the fellowship of the saints in Heaven, but immediately, God made him to understand that the prerequisite for having access to that abode is to always listen to the voice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, Jesus Christ also made this clear while addressing His disciples: “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). His mother (Blessed Virgin Mary) knew actually that once anyone listens to her Son, divine blessings would surely ensue. Consequently, she told the servants during wedding at Cana in Galilee: “Do whatever He tells you to do” (John 2:5).

In affirming the statements of Jesus and Mary, St. James further averred that listening to Jesus Christ entails doing whatever He tells us and not just listen and deceive ourselves (James 1:22). This implies that listening attentively to Jesus Christ (Word of God) and obeying His commands are the preeminent tasks of an authentic Christian.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul enjoins us through the Philippians, to imitate his footsteps just as he always imitates and listens attentively to Jesus Christ both in words and in actions, rather than listening to those strange or destructive voices (friends, social media, society, etc.) that tend to influence our behaviors and mindsets negatively. One of the ways of imitating Christ is to die with Him (destroying our selfishness) (Mark 8:34). Also, to always have faith and trust in God, meditate on His Words daily, and thus, develop the habit of waiting patiently for His divine intervention in all circumstances.

Finally, God loves us so much and that’s why He gave up His Son on the Cross as a Sacrificial Lamb for our salvation. He always wants to be in communion with us at all times. For the scripture says: “In the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many moments; but in these last days, He has spoken to us in the person of His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Since by the virtue of our Baptism, we have made a covenant with God, let us always be docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and eschew the things that engender mental lethargy or deafness to the Word of God in our lives.

PRAYER:

May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, free you from every spiritual deafness, grant you the grace to always listen attentively to the voice of God with faith and trust, and be obedient to His commands in all circumstances, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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First Sunday of Advent: The Temptation of Jesus Christ
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR C

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; 2nd Reading: Romans 10:8-13; Gospel: Luke 4:1-13.

THEME:  ABSOLUTE TRUST IN GOD’S GRACE: A KEY TO OVERCOMING TEMPTATIONS.

First Sunday of Advent: The Temptation of Jesus Christ

Our world is like a battlefield for the survival of the fittest. Most times, there are unprecedented tribulations or temptations that we encounter in life, which are being occasioned by the evil ones in an attempt to thwart our future plans or goals. Sometimes, these temptations come in an attractive as well as clandestine or deceitful forms, but in the real sense, they are very harmful.

Meanwhile, today is the first Sunday of Lent in the Church: a period of 40 days of prayer, fasting, penance, mortification and almsgiving, which commemorates the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert. It is a period of penitential preparation for Easter, which begins on the “Ash Wednesday” and ends at the evening of “Holy Thursday”.

In the Gospel, Jesus Christ went into desert experience (moment of prayer, penance & mortification) for 40 days, so as to prepare Himself for His Ministry (Salus animarum – Salvation of Souls) and to restore the dignity of humanity that was lost through the temptation and fall of Adam. The Devil tempted Him with palatable things in order to make Him fail and lose focus of His mission. First, the devil asked Him: “If you are the son of God change the stone into bread.” Then Jesus replied: “scripture says, man shall not live by bread alone except by the word that comes out from the mouth of God” (Luke 4:3-4).

Meanwhile, bread or food as we know, is what satisfies one’s hunger or thirst, or what stimulates or nourishes one’s body, mind or soul. However, Jesus Christ is not really talking about physical bread or food per se, rather He is using it in a metaphorical sense. In other words, the bread or food being used here could be viewed in a generic sense; it could be physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychological, social, or any kind of food. This implies that, anything we cannot do without, or anything that we love so much, that thing automatically becomes our food. Now, the question is, which kind of food do we love most or allow to dominate our minds?

In the second temptation: “the devil showed Jesus Christ all the kingdoms, powers and the splendour of the world and said: ‘I will give them to you … If you worship me, they shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered, Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him” (Luke 4:5-8). Certainly, Jesus Christ did not want to compromise with the standard of the world, nor to allow material things (wealth) or positions of honour (power) to distract or prevent Him from worshipping God sincerely and faithfully. “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul” (Matthew 16:26)?

In the third temptation, the devil realized that Jesus Christ always made reference to the scripture in order to back His words and actions, he decided to use the same scripture to tempt Him. “Then the devil led Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple, and said: ‘if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: God has given His angels orders over you, to guard you, they will carry you in their arms so that you will not strike your foot on the stone.’ But Jesus answered, ‘Scripture says: do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:9-12).

Here, Jesus Christ did not want to give the people sensations or to prove Himself by performing wonders in order for people to believe in Him.  But He made reference to the scripture: “You must not make senseless experiments with the power of God(Deuteronomy 6:16). Jesus saw quite clearly that if He produced sensations He could be a nine days’ wonder: but He also saw that sensationalism would never last. Can we Christians especially ministers of the gospel emulate this?

As Christians, we should be careful and vigilant, and also be mindful of those that preach only about prosperity, and deny suffering as part of authentic witnessing of the gospel. For many fake pastors (modern occultists) or religious pundits always use the scripture to deceive or brainwash their congregation. They do a lot of abracadabra during evangelization in order to prove the omnipotence of God, and to gain people’s admiration. Be conscious of them, anyone can read the scripture and proclaim it, but only those that are guided by the Holy Spirit accept suffering as a way of gaining salvation. For true Christians live by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Although Jesus Christ was very hungry after 40 days fasting, yet He refused to perform a miracle the devil requested of Him, because His main food is to always listen to His Father and to do ONLY what He wants Him to do (John 4:34). He does not do miracles for vainglory or show off, rather He does miracles as the Holy Spirit directs Him so as to glorify His Father in Heaven. He was firm and focused on His mission. Hence, obedience to the voice of God and not man should always take precedence in our daily endeavours.

In the first reading, Moses recalled how God harkened to their prayers and delivered the Israelites from the excruciating tortures of the Egyptians when they cried to Him for help. He told them to always show gratitude to God for His love, care and protection. Similarly, we are called this Lenten period, to always acknowledge God for the wondrous deeds (redemption) He wrought for us through Jesus Christ.

Moreover, one of the ways to do this is to journey with Jesus Christ in the desert this period of Lent; through prayer, fasting, penance, mortification and almsgiving, which are ways of assessing and reviving our fidelity to God (1 Chronicles 7:14) despite all temptations, so as to prepare ourselves for the renewal of our Covenant with God during Easter. However, if we deny ourselves our material needs; like food, drinks, clothes, money, etc., yet our lives do not change positively in our relationship with both God and our neighbour, what it means is that we just succeeded in starving ourselves and not fasted.

Finally, as Christians, we should not compromise with the standard of the world, nor allow power, authority, fame, wealth, food, etc., which are the underlying factors that make people succumb to the devil’s temptations, to distract us from worshipping God sincerely and faithfully. Nevertheless, when we put our trust in God via His Words, and always ask for His divine assistance (Holy Spirit), just as St. Paul averred in the second reading, then God will always deliver, empower, and protect us from the tricks that the evil ones employ in order to make us disobey Him, and lose focus of our mission or goal in life.

PRAYER:

May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, grant you the grace and discernment in order to always overcome temptations in your life to the glory of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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remove the log in your eyes first
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 8TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C.

First Reading: Sirach 27:4-7; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Gospel: Luke 6: 39-45.

THEME: CHRIST ENJOINS US TO ALWAYS EXAMINE OUR CONSCIENCES INSTEAD OF OTHERS’.

remove the log in your eyes first

In our society today, many people always want to be applauded for whatever action they take, whether good or bad, and no one likes to be blamed for any reason whatsoever. Besides, to openly admit that we are wrong whenever we err, which seems not to be a value in our culture, is a very difficult thing to do. We often have the propensity to blaming others for whatever goes wrong, but excluding ourselves from the blame. On the other hand, we always want to correct or instruct people on the right thing to do, but our actions often betray our words.

In the Gospel, Jesus Christ puts the question before us: “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Luke 6:41)? We can easily see the little faults of others, but do not notice our own atrocious acts. Oftentimes, we the preachers (religious and civil leaders) sanctimoniously criticize the evils bedeviling our society, as well as point accusing fingers at people and institutions who supposed to be responsible for whatever problem that is at stake. We can easily ask people to go to confession, to forgive, to be just, but most times, we don’t do them. So, the only idea is that if only others could change their evil ways our society would become a better place.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ instructs us on the need to look inwards into ourselves (introspection or self-examination), because according to Him, the bigger problems of the world as well as the starting point of the solutions to all problem lie within us; since our actions speak louder than our words. In other words, as far as the human problem is concerned, at any giving time and place, the heavier matter lies with us, and not others. The other person who is not us may be part of the problem, but what he or she may have contributed could be qualified as just a speck of the percentage of the whole problem. Compared to the speck in the eyes of the other, what is in our eyes is a log. That is why He further says: “…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:42).

Moreover, looking inward implies: focusing on what lies inside our hearts and minds from where come our own actions, desires, thoughts, feelings, judgments and our perceptions. This is because, according to Ben Sirach in the first reading, what we say and do testify to who we are. What we say, especially about another person, says much more about us than about the other. It reveals our thoughts and values, our attitude and disposition, our motivation and preferences, our way of perceiving and judging.

Undoubtedly, every human person makes mistakes, and no one is perfect. As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ is not saying that we should not condemn evil in our society, but we need to admit our own mistakes first (introspection) before we point accusing finger on someone else’s. To take the plank out of our own eyes first before we can see clearly to remove the speck in our sister’s or brother’s eyes. So, let us stop the habit of blaming or castigating people for our mistakes or societal problems, rather we should always look inwards to see where we might have contributed to the problems in one way or the other, and then accept our weaknesses and pray to God for forgiveness and wisdom to become better persons. If everyone can adopt this habit of self-examination or introspection, then our society would become a peaceable and habitable place.

Finally, St. Paul reminds us in the second reading of the glorious future and the new life that awaits us once we persevere and become steadfast in the Lord. For Jesus Christ has overturned and overcome condemnation and death and opened for us the door of His mercy and love. So, we need to be compassionate, merciful and loving, and not be too judgmental whenever we see things going wrong. Therefore, if we desire a solution or a change, transformation or revolution, the first thing to do is to begin with ourselves. When we get rid of our logs, addressing the speck will be a very easy task.

May the Holy Spirit give us the grace to always examine our consciences properly, love others sincerely and be less judgmental, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Happy Valentine's Day 💗
My Homilies, Theological Reflections

BRIEF REFLECTION ON VALENTINE’S DAY CELEBRATION!

Happy Valentine's Day 💗

Today February 14, is the Christian feast day of St. Valentine and the traditional day for sending a romantic card or gift, especially anonymously to somebody you love. Though it is not associated with erotic or promiscuous activities demonstrated by our contemporary youths. But a day we commemorate the sacrificial love of St. Valentine, who because of his love for the union of couples that loved themselves in Roman empire, was killed by Emperor Claudius II after placing an embargo on marriage in order for his soldiers to concentrate well in battle.

HISTORY OF VALENTINE’S DAY

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

Meanwhile, the history of Valentine’s Day which occurs every February 14, and the story of its patron saint is somehow vague. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

1) One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he placed embargo on marriage for young men. Valentine, seeing the injustice therein disobeyed the Emperor’s decree and continued to perform marriage rites secretly for young lovers. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, the Emperor ordered that he be put to death.

2) Still others insist that it was Saint Valentine of Terni, a Bishop, who was the true namesake of the holiday. He, too, was beheaded by Claudius II outside Rome.

3) Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.

4) According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and most importantly, a romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

THE ORIGIN OF VALENTINE’S DAY: A PAGAN FESTIVAL IN FEBRUARY

Some believe that Valentine’s Day is being celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, which probably occurred around 270 A.D., while others claim that the Christian Church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Just as other pagan celebrations were replaced with Christian celebration, Lupercalia celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Before the festival begins, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide.

Interestingly, the Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Finally, as we recall the sacrifices St. Valentine made to save marriages and families in imitation of ONE SACRIFICIAL LOVE that brought us salvation, may you always make efforts to imitate CHRIST in any little way today by showing love to people around you. Also may you receive uncountable blessings and healing mercies from God’s Throne of Grace and Mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace and Love of Christ be with you…

❤️ HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! ❤️

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

Put your trust in God
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C.

First Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-8; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Gospel: Luke 6: 17, 20-26.

THEME: ALWAYS TRUST IN GOD IN ORDER TO SAVE YOUR SOUL

Put your trust in God

In our contemporary society, many people always want to associate themselves with prominent, wealthy and reputable personalities. Perhaps, for their lives to be influenced positively and for them to be accorded respect and honour. Unfortunately, in an attempt to gain the approval of those personalities whom they feel that can help them change their destiny for good, they would go about sabotaging, gossiping, as well as backbiting others. Sometimes, most of them put their whole trust in those personalities as if without them they won’t be able to actualize their goals in life.

On the other hand, some wealthy people put their trust, not on their fellow human beings, rather on their own wisdom and earthly possessions. They consider themselves to be self-sufficient and do not see the need for God’s assistance; not to talk of putting their trust in Him. Hence, they develop a sense of superiority complex and disdain everyone around them. Are you among those persons?

In the First Reading, Prophet Jeremiah, while addressing the people of Judah who had apostatized, foretold the dire consequences of trusting in human allies when they should have trusted in God who has the absolute power and authority over their lives: ”Thus says the LORD, Cursed are those who trust in human beings and depend on human strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5-6). On the contrary, he further said: Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose confidence are in the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).  

Similarly, the Gospel also presents us with both a blessed (Beatitudes) and an accursed (Woes) ways of life; that is, the opposite ways of looking at life. The beatitudes here are directed to the poor, the hungry, those who are weeping, and those hated by the world. These people are blessed not because of their excruciating situation but because, despite their situation, they still have their focus on God. Meanwhile, to be poor in spirit means, to put your trust, not in your own ability, nor human beings nor earthly possession, but in God for His guidance and assistance. Just as the scripture says, “Trust wholeheartedly in God and do not rely on what you think you know, acknowledge Him in all you do…” (Proverbs 3:5). 

Moreover, the accursed are addressed to the rich, those with no pity who continually exploit the poor for their own advantage, those who are filled now, those who laugh now, and those whom the world speak well of now. Jesus Christ is not saying here that it is wrong to have earthly possessions, but it becomes a curse when we trust more in them than in God, just like the “Rich Fool” who did not include God in his plans for the future (Luke 12:16-21). Also when we fail to make our wealth available for the good of others, just like the “Rich Man” who couldn’t give his food to the poor Lazarus while on earth (Luke 16:19-31).

In the Second Reading, St. Paul elucidated why we must detach our hearts from earthly possessions: this world is but a fleeting moment. But our full and final life will come only after this one is over. If our life ends only in this world when we die, then it means that the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ are in vain. But Christ made it clear when He said: “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). He also said: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise that person up on the last day” (John 6:44).

Therefore, if we set our hearts and bend our whole energies to obtain the things which the world values, we may get them, but that is all we will ever get. In the expressive modern phrase, literally, we have had it! But if on the other hand we set our hearts and bend all our energies to be completely faithful to God and true to Jesus Christ, we will surely bear spiritual fruits through our constant care of the destitute, the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, the social outcast and indeed, the poor. We may run into all kinds of trouble, and may by the world’s standards look unhappy, but much of our payment is still to come; and it will be joy eternal.

Finally, we are called to put our whole trust in God who has absolute power and authority over our lives instead of in human beings or in earthly possessions. If we solely attach ourselves to people or to our wealth and allow our values and principles to be guided by earthly riches, which are ephemeral, then our soul shall perish at the end of our earthly sojourn. But, when we patiently put our entire trust in God despite the tribulations or vicissitudes of life, then God will surely intervene in our life situation, and at the end our soul will live forever. For those who put their trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever (Psalms 125:1).

May the Holy Spirit give you the grace to make the right choice in life by utterly putting your trust in God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

The miraculous draught
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C.

First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8, 17-19; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Gospel: Luke 5: 1-11.

THEME: THE GRACE OF GOD WILL SUSTAIN YOU!

The miraculous catch of fishes by Peter and his companions

When I was growing up, especially during my secular education at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, I had a lot of remarkable experiences, which put me on the edge ahead of my peers. I also had a very strong desire to become a great man with many innovative achievements. At some point, in my 3rd year, when I assumed the position of a Taskforce Chairman, Student Union Government, and subsequently, in my 5th year when I became the Chief of Keggite Club International, I was carried away by a life of waywardness due to youthful exuberance.  

However, when God called me to the priesthood, which I never dreamt of becoming, I was shocked to the bone marrow, because I found myself UNWORTHY to be called into such sacred ministry. I wanted to run away from it by trying to get married in 2008, but the disturbance was too much for me. Consequently, when I encountered the Power of God, my life was transformed, then the Almighty God gave me this message: I am not calling you to partake in my Salvific Mission because you are righteous, but there are great potentials I deposited in you before your birth which I want to use in the world.” At this point, I succumbed, resigned from my reputable job and entered the seminary.  

In the First Reading, when God called Prophet Isaiah, he saw himself as unworthy servant for the work of God, and thus exclaimed: “Woe is me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5)! He was aware of his frailty and unworthiness and was frightened by the mission that was to be entrusted to him. But his uncleanness did not stop God from calling him, rather God purified and empowered him for His prophetic mission. Hence, he responded: ”Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8). This shows that God is capable of purifying people to make them fit to transmit His message. He does not call the qualified but qualifies the called (Romans 8:30).

Similarly, in the Gospel, Peter and his companions were frustrated after toiling all nights, but could not catch any single fish despite their prowess in fishing. But as soon as they encountered Jesus Christ (Power of God), with faith and obedience to His commands, they caught many fishes to the extent that their boats began to sink, and their nets were breaking.

Astonishingly, Peter exclaimed immediately he experienced such miraculous achievement, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). But Jesus Christ, reassured Peter and said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:10). Remarkably, Peter’s sinfulness did not hinder him from becoming God’s instrument, rather Jesus Christ purified and empowered him for His prophetic mission of drawing strayed souls back to God.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul confessed his unworthiness and unfit to be called an Apostle after recalling how he once persecuted the Church of God. However, God still called him, purified and empowered him for His prophetic mission. Subsequently, he made great exploits in his missionary journeys more than others, not by his own human efforts, but by the special Grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10). This implies that, our achievements in life cannot be realised solely by our own personal efforts without the grace of God.

Meanwhile, the three different ministers of God (Isaiah, Peter and Paul) in today’s readings were called differently, but their responses were the same; one of total surrender, one of humility, one of unworthiness and one of responsibility. Their deep sense of unworthiness allowed God Himself to work with them, which paved the way for the grace of divine call to be effective in their lives. Their sinful nature did not make God to change His mind, rather what was necessary was their responses and readiness to change.

Furthermore, the fact remains that willingness to render service to God and to humanity is what God wants from us. The awareness, “I am Unworthy”, is indispensable for the Lord to continue His work of salvation in us, and through us, for the miraculous draught of fishes to occur, for the mystery of the Kingdom of God to embrace us, for the Holy Spirit to work in us with the Power of the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We only need to ask ourselves whether we are responding to His call or ignoring it. Just as God is ready ‘to remove our wickedness and purge our sins’ through the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist, we must be ready to leave everything hindering us from heeding His call.

Finally, we observed in today’s readings that God does not require one’s capabilities or qualifications before calling the person or entrusting him or her with any responsibility. What He wants is one’s availability and readiness to obey His commands, then He gives the person His grace. Furthermore, until Jesus Christ intervened, the fishermen were trying to do it on their own, but caught nothing. The moment Jesus Christ stepped in, miracle ensued.

Therefore, we must always surrender our worries, challenges as well as predicaments to Jesus Christ in prayers (1 Peter 5:7) in order for us to experience miraculous achievements or breakthroughs instead of struggling to solve them only with our human efforts, even if we are experts or have the resources (Zechariah 4:6). Only the grace of God or the presence of Jesus Christ (Power of God) can solve any difficult situation in our lives, our human efforts are limited. So, we might have been working tirelessly to achieve success, or to solve any difficult problem, or to stop any vice, but to no avail, I assure us today, when we allow Jesus Christ to step into the situation and put our trust in Him, He will definitely save us.

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be made manifest in your life so as to enable you to achieve great success, and also to partake in the prophetic mission of drawing strayed souls back to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

The Character of a True Prophet
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C.

First Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:1-13; Gospel: Luke 4: 21-30.

A TRUE PROPHET IS A LOVING AND CARING PERSON

Test of true prophet

The Almighty God created humanity out of love. When humanity had fallen due her disobedience, God did not abandon her, rather He did everything possible to reconcile her back to Himself. In the past, He used many people as His spokesmen or prophets in order to carry out this mission. But these prophets were rejected and despised by the people He loved and wanted to save from eternal damnation. Nevertheless, God never turned His back on humanity because of their hostile reactions, rather He continued to show her love.

The First Reading highlights the call of Prophet Jeremiah who was one of the spokesmen chosen by God to proclaim His words to the nations. Initially, this task unnerved Jeremiah, but God encouraged and reassured him that He would be with him despite the hostile reactions of the people: “Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD(Jeremiah 1:18-19).

Meanwhile, last Sunday, the Jews listened to the Word of God with maximum attention and reverence, and thus were deeply touched, enlightened, empowered, and filled with great joy. But in today’s Gospel, we have a different scenario. When Jesus preached the Word of God to His own people, His Words caused a strong reaction as they were listening to Him: some were positively fascinated, while others, due to overfamiliarity, despised and rejected Him, and even tried to kill Him. Being surprised at their lack of faith, Jesus told them that, “… a prophet is not honoured in his own country” (Luke 4:24). In spite of that, Jesus Christ never declined from showing them love.

Unfortunately, due to overfamiliarity, jealousy, prejudice, pride etc; many have lost their God given opportunities which they would have benefited from talented people very close to them. Some even try to pull such persons down through castigation, backbiting, gossips, conspiracy, etc, because they know them very well. This is one of the reasons why things go wrong in the society, because those who would have impacted positively for the growth and development of that particular society are being ignored, rejected and despised. Hence, no much success would be recorded.

Undoubtedly, our world today prefers lies rather than truth, because truth is always bitter to accept, swallow and digest. The moment you speak truth, you lose your popularity. One of the consequences of speaking the truth is rejection. Consequently, many people shy away from speaking the truth and against the evil bedeviling our society for fear of being maligned, rejected or even killed, thereby allowing injustices to prevail.  

Moreover, by the virtue of our baptism, we have become priests, kings and prophets. As prophets, we are called to courageously proclaim the Word of God and speak against the ills of our society as well as the injustices meted out on innocent people without being afraid of whose ox is gored. However, according to St. Paul in the Second Reading, this gift of prophecy can rightly be exercised through love. If one has the gifts of oratory, healing, wisdom, or to pull down mountains, but does not love his or her fellow human being, then that gift is of no value at all. Every gift we have comes from God (James 1:17), so that we can use them charitably for the good of others. For a true prophet is a loving and caring person.

Therefore, we must stand up and speak out for truth, justice and right. As Christians, we cannot but speak the truth always, for God is truth. Telling lies in order to please people implies that we prefer to follow the devil, the father of lies. Certainly, people will fight against us for proclaiming and living the life of Christ, but they will never prevail, because the Almighty God has made us ‘pillars of iron, fortified cities, wall of brass, and He is always with us. For one with God is majority (Romans 8:31).

Finally, there are some people whom God might have placed in our lives to help us, do we reject or despise them because we are close to them or because we see them as enemies? Definitely, in our daily lives as Christians, there will always be moments of trial, misunderstanding and rejection especially by those very close to us. Nevertheless, we should not allow their shenanigans to discourage us, rather we must always have Faith in God and continue to show them love just like St. Paul averred in the second reading. For God loves and cares for us so much, and gave us His only begotten son in order to save us from eternal damnation. He has never denied us His blessings and mercies, but continues to forgive us all the time even when we continue sin against Him. So, we are called to always show kindness and mercy to our fellow human beings.

May the Almighty God protect you from the hands of those who plot evil against you, and give you the grace to always be patient in your challenges and also to proclaim His message to all with care and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

The Efficacious Power of the Word of God
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C.

First Reading: Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Gospel: Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21.

The Efficacious Power of the Word of God
The Power of God’s Word

THEME: THE POWER OF GOD HAS SET YOU FREE!

Words are the most effective weapon of a human person, and the most influential tools in communication. Both written and spoken words are very efficacious. Whatever we write or say has the ability to influence people to a greater extent, either positively or negatively. We can use words to heal, comfort, inspire or build others; on the contrary, we can also use it to instigate fear or hatred; to destroy or tear people down. So, if the words of human beings are very effective like this, how much more the Words spoken by the God Almighty?

In the First reading, Ezra, the priest of God, played a major role in the restoration of the people of Judah who had come back from exile. He assembled all of them, and thus proclaimed the Word of God to them. They listened to the Word of God from early morning till midday with maximum attention and reverence, and thus were deeply touched, enlightened, empowered, and filled with great joy. They felt the Power of the Word of God, and some of them wept profusely immediately they heard about the tremendous works God had done for them in the past out of love, although their ancestors later disobeyed His commands. But Ezra encouraged them to rejoice and not mourn, for joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus Christ, filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the Word of God with authority to a great assembly, which was written about Him by prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” As people listened with maximum attention, He declared to them: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:18-19). He proved that He is the Word made flesh by demonstrating clearly and practically that everything written is being fulfilled.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13), He is the Power of God which created the whole universe, and brought everything into existence (John 1:1-3). According to Him, It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). And as the psalmist says, “He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction(Psalm 107:20).

This implies that, whenever the Word of God is being proclaimed, the Power of the Holy Spirit takes absolute preeminence. This is also evident when St. Peter preached the Word of God to the congregation, and as they were listening, immediately, the Holy Spirit fell on them (Acts 10:44). Hence, the Word of God is the most powerful weapon that has the ability to liberate, heal, transform, create, and restore any bad situation in the universe; human words are limited.

Undoubtedly, whenever we listen to the Word of God with faith and maximum concentration, we always gain spiritual nourishment, as well as transformation, liberation and healing taking place inside us. Thus, we receive spiritual gifts or talents which will enable us to continue spreading the gospel of Christ anywhere we find ourselves (Matthew 28:19-20). If we allow the Word of God which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) to take root in us, then we would begin to understand that all of us Christians, irrespective of our individual gifts or calling, tribe or race, are one body and one Spirit, and are called for the same purpose, just as St. Paul enunciated in the Second reading.

Therefore, when we abide in the LORD and allow His Words to dwell in us, then we can ask anything we want from God and He will definitely grant it to us (John 15:7). That is when we truly become God’s instrument of peace, love, justice, equity and fairness in our society. We begin to liberate people who are oppressed, bring enlightenment to people by freeing them from enslavement and ignorance with the truth of the gospel, and also heal them from every form of psychological, emotional and spiritual maladies. For when they know the truth, they shall be set free (John 8:32).

Finally, in as much as our human words are very effective in human or societal development, though they are limited, but God’s Words are more powerful, because they are eternal. When our words agree with God’s word, there would be divine restoration, healing, breakthrough, love, peace, etc. in our lives. So, as Christians, we are called to always listen to the Word of God with maximum attention and reverence. Also, to use the Word of God, through our words, to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… to build and not destroy, to heal and not to inflict pains.

Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may help you and your entire family to always be attentive to His Words, set you free from any difficult situation in your life, fortify you by the Power of His Words so as to become His instrument of liberation and transformation in the world; through Jesus Christ, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Jesus Christ turned water into wine
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C.

First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Gospel: John 2:1-11

THEME: THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL BEAUTIFY AND CELEBRATE YOU THIS YEAR 2022

Jesus Christ turned water into wine
Jesus Christ turned water into wine

A joyful celebration is one of the activities or phenomena that many people always long to experience in life. This is because, most times, it enhances conviviality and harmony among them, which also tend to increase their sense of well-being, regardless of socio-economic factors. Moreover, some people celebrate their anniversaries, memorials, feasts, or achievements regularly, while others who have been passing through moments of excruciating challenges, sufferings, disappointments, etc., but hopeful for the day of restoration and breakthrough, yearn for such joyous opportunities when the chapter of their own life will be opened.

In the First Reading, through Prophet Isaiah God gave a message of hope and consolation to all those (God’s Children) who have been passing through moments of excruciating challenges, and promised to restore their land to glory: “… for your sake I will not rest, until your vindication shines out like the dawn, and your salvation like a burning torch…; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married” (Isaiah 62:1-4).

This promise of glorious restoration came to limelight in today’s Gospel, when Jesus Christ performed His first miracle at Cana after His Baptism by turning water into wine.  Meanwhile, when her mother, Blessed Virgin Mary, noticed that the wine of the celebrants had finished, she interceded immediately: “They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:3-5).

Since the hour of His supreme self-manifestation had not yet come, Jesus Christ was reluctant to manifest His power. But, because of the loving compulsion of His mother, He consented to her plea in order to save the couple from unnecessary embarrassment. It would have been a great shame for the couple and for the family to send the guests away without wine, since in Palestine, any marriage feast without wine is no marriage feast at all. Meanwhile, the old wine which had finished symbolizes the Old Law (excruciating moments) and the new wine symbolizes the abundance of the grace that comes through Jesus Christ (joyous moments).

Moreover, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary shows her solicitude for human beings in their moments of challenges and needs. Out of loving concern for human beings, she brings their needs and predicaments within the radius of Christ’s saving power. This gesture is a mysterious indication of her unique maternal role in the entire economy of Christian grace; that she can never abandon her children in time of difficulties. As a mother, she places herself between her Son and humanity in the reality of their sufferings and needs. This implies that the presence of Jesus Christ and Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives will always engender divine favour, peace and joyous celebrations, and also save us from shame.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us that: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good(1 Corinthians 12:4-7). So, by the virtue of our Baptism, we have become children of God and members of the Church (Christ’s Bride), who have been nourished with Spiritual gifts, and commissioned to radiate joy of the Holy Spirit in the world, through our God-given gifts or talents. For Christianity is all about bringing joy and happiness into people’s lives. That is, touching the lives of people positively so as to alleviate their sufferings, in such a way that through our actions, people may always have reasons to celebrate joyfully to the glory of God.

Finally, after the Baptism of Jesus Christ, He began His public ministry (Salvific work) by bringing joy and happiness in the lives of the couple in a wedding feast at Cana, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her mother.

Therefore, let us always do the following:

  1. To always listen to the voice of God through the scriptures and obey His commands, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary said: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
  2. To emulate Jesus’ actions by using our gifts or talents for the common good.
  3. To always seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives especially when we are in difficulties by praying our Rosary daily. For Jesus Christ will never refuse any request made by her mother.
  4. To always emulate Mary’s compassionate and intercessory Spirit by showing people our concerns especially when they are in difficulties, and always pray for them.
  5. To always touch the lives of people positively by showing them real love. For whenever people glorify God because of the kindness and true love we have shown to them, the Holy Spirit who empowered us to bring joy and happiness into their lives, will continue to beautify, sanctify and celebrate us.

Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may deliver you and your entire family from excruciating experiences and shame, and grant you all divine restoration, breakthrough, open door, mega blessings and spiritual upliftment, so that you may always have moments of joyous celebrations all the days of your lives in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ
My Homilies

HOMILY OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD.

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Gospel: Luke 3:15-16; 21-22

THEME: WE ARE INITIATED TO BEAR AUTHENTIC WITNESS FOR CHRIST IN THE WORLD!

The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ
Baptism of the Lord

Traditionally, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord officially marks the End of the Christmas Season, which then ushers the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, that is, Christ’s acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God’s servant, and also the beginning of the Ordinary Time of the Church’s liturgical year and calendar. This feast is the second Epiphany, God revealing Himself to sinners in the person of Christ, whereby God, through the Holy Spirit declared the Identity of the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit as His Beloved Son. It is can also be referred to as “Theophany”, that is, manifestation of God, the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and the wondrous manifestation of the august mystery of the most Holy Trinity.

In some African cultures, for anyone to be accepted, enrolled or allowed to participate in any group, he or she must undergo Initiation Ceremonies (Rite of Passage) such as; Circumcision, Child-naming, Purification, etc., so as to be reborn into a new role. Similarly, before anyone becomes a full member of the Christian community, he or she must undergo an Initiation Ceremony, such as; Baptism and Confirmation, which imprint indelible marks (sacramental characters) to the recipients. Through these ceremonies, the person receives an Ontological Identity as a Son or Daughter of a particular community.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Baptism is a sacrament that cleanses us from original sin, make us Christians, children of God and members of the Church. It is a Sacrament of Initiation that purifies us from all our sins, rescues us from the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13-14) and brings us to the dignity of adopted children of God (Romans 8:15). It is the sacrament of salvation and the gateway to all other sacraments. Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are empowered by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Holy Eucharist. Thus, this is an invitation to participate in the fulness of the life of God through charity, forgiveness, humility, obedience, fidelity, etc.

Moreover, Baptism establishes a new relationship between us and God, incorporates us into Christ, and initiates us into Community of believers. Thus, it confers on our Souls a Permanent Character (Ontological Identity), designating permanent relationship with Christ and His Church. Of course, Baptism, together with Confirmation and Holy Orders (priestly ordination) are the only sacraments that imprint indelible spiritual marks (sacramental characters) on the receivers. Hence, through baptism, we become a new creation, old things pass away, everything becomes new (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is a precious gift that comes from God’s gracious love and not as a result of what we have done.

Also, by the virtue of our baptism, we become priests, kings and prophets so as to continue in the work of creation and the salvific work in the world as soldiers of Christ. That is why before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He commissioned His disciples with this Great Mandate: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Hence, we are commissioned to bear authentic witness for Christ in the world.

Meanwhile, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 597 B.C., the Judeans went into exile where they suffered grievously and wallowed in darkness. At some point, they began to query the faithfulness and omnipotence of their God who had allowed His people to suffer defeat in the hand of a pagan nation. However, in the FIRST READING, God revived their drooping spirits through prophet Isaiah; assuring them that their years of suffering, slavery and darkness have come to an end. Although He allowed them to be captured by their enemies due to their disobedience, but will soon redeem them and bring them back home, so that their souls may live. But in order to experience the fullness of God’s glory, He invites them to fill up every valley and level every mountain on their way, that is, repentance.

Surprisingly, in the GOSPEL, before His public ministry, Jesus Christ who had NO SIN, yet came to receive John’s Baptism of repentance, why? First, He did that so as to identify Himself with all sinners, take their sins upon Himself, do penance for them and thus expiate their sins with His Blood. By so doing, He sanctified the water of Baptism for the purification of the souls of those that would come to Him through it, so that they can be forgiven and thus renewed. For during baptism, we die with Christ and rise with Him in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Furthermore, the second reason was, for John (His Precursor) to recognize Him as the Messiah and thus present Him to his audience as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). For John the Baptist did not know whom the Messiah was, but had been given a sign by which he would recognize Him: “I myself did not know Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33).

Moreover, the third reason was, for the scriptures to be fulfilled, because immediately John recognized Christ, he wanted to dissuade Him and said: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to Him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:14-17).

In the SECOND READING, St. Paul urges us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, which tend to send us into spiritual exiles, but to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world. Since through Baptism we have received New Life (Ontological Identity) in Christ, we participate in His death and resurrection, and have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to become partners with Christ in His redemptive mission. So, in order to be truly part of Christ’s life, St. Paul enjoins us (Ambassadors of Christ) to keep to the demands of our baptism, that is, living a life filled with love, humility, patience, justice, perseverance, prayer, righteousness, kindness, forgiveness, hospitality, generosity, etc., so as to renew the face of the earth.

Finally, since out of His Love for humanity, Jesus Christ bore witness to the Father through Water (His Baptism) and Blood (His Death), and the Holy Spirit testifies this truth, and also delivered us from the powers of darkness, therefore, let us with faith, reciprocate this Love of God by bearing authentic witness for Christ in our families, communities, and in the world at large. This can be actualized through our repentance (sacrament of reconciliation), and by practically extending our love and charity to others; by so doing, they may emulate us and be drawn to Christ.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ
My Homilies

HOMILY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD.

First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3; 5-6; Gospel Matthew 2:1-12.

THEME: THE GLORIOUS SPLENDOR OF GOD ALMIGHTY IS ALWAYS WITH YOU!

Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ
The Manifestation of God to the Gentiles

God is ubiquitous as well as multidimensional, but He freely manifests or reveals His Glorious Splendor to anyone who seeks Him sincerely, and also guides the person throughout his or her endeavors.

Meanwhile, in order to keep the hope of the Israel’s exilic returnees alive, prophet Isaiah in the FIRST READING envisioned the splendor of the future Jerusalem, which the Special Radiance of God 🔥✨💥 will illuminate, and all the nations will come to share in it, bearing their gifts. That the gloom of sadness and despair which enveloped the derelict Jerusalem during their exile will give way to a heavenly brightness, for God will dwell within it once more. So that the gentiles would forsake their idols and partake in that light. The light of the world that shines in darkness and dispels it (John 8:12; 1:5). This light mostly comes through the Word of God (Jesus Christ – Revelation 19:13). Just as the scripture says, “The entrance of the Word of God brings light(Psalm 119:130).

Gloriously, the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled in today’s Feast of Epiphany (manifestation or appearance of a Special thing or a Person). It is the Feast that commemorates the manifestation of God to all humanity through the Gentiles without limitation. God Manifested Himself to the Gentiles through the Magi (Wise Men/ Astrologers). These Magi who were named Mechoir, Caspar and Balthazar were the learned scientists from Persia, India and Arabia respectively, who superstitiously believed that each person has a star, and the person’s fate is being governed by that star (horoscopes). This is not true, it is only God that controls people’s destiny (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

However, God used the Magi’s superstition to teach them the truth, and in response to the Spirit of God, their lives were transformed. This revelation to the Gentiles implies that God can use any means to reveal Himself to anyone He chooses. Also, we should not monopolize God, like the Jews who believed that the Messiah is for them only, and not for others, thinking that we have it all and no other people or persons have the knowledge of God.

Furthermore, in the GOSPEL, the Magi (Astrologers) wouldn’t have experienced the Full Splendor of the Divine Light 💥 (New Born King) only with their human knowledge, predictions or superstitions if they had not consulted the Scriptures, which finally led them to Christ. This implies that our talents, culture, and academic qualifications alone are limited, and cannot truly help us to experience Divine Revelation/ Manifestation, until we allow the Light of the Holy Spirit to guide us through the Scriptures. For the Word of God is Power (Romans 1:16), which has the ability to transform us and push away the frontiers of ignorance and darkness in our lives.

Unfortunately, instead of seeing jubilant people, rather the Magi found suspicion, indifference and hatred in the reigning King (Herod) – a hatred which later culminated to the Massacre of Holy Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18). Among the religious leaders they found knowledge of their past history, but utter indifference as regards the present and the future. These leaders knew the birth place of the Messiah, that is, Bethlehem, but refused to admit the truth. Subsequently, in some years later, they tried to stifle the propagation of the good news brought by Jesus Christ; refusing to admit Him as the Messiah. This is what happens when we are over ambitious.

Moreover, some of our leaders today are like Herod who doesn’t want rivals on his way. They see talented persons as threats and thus, using subtle techniques to discredit or subdue them, yet smile before them. Some of them are sadists, they are always angry and embittered when they see people around them progressing. Some go to the extent of committing murder either directly (physical killing) or indirectly (character assassination) so as to ensure that they get rid of their rivals or someone they feel that is shining or progressing more than them. Just Imagine!

Nevertheless, there are no powers or plans of the evil one that will be able to stop the destiny (star) of anyone that is being guided by God Almighty; for no weapon formed against the person will be able to prosper (Isaiah 54:17). So, if God is for us, no man, woman, powers or forces can be against us, or stop us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives (Romans 8:31). Even if they try to stop us, God will still outsmart them the way He tricked Herod and his household in today’s Gospel. For the scripture says, “they shall plan and gather to attack you, but their plans will be scattered” (Deuteronomy 28:7; Isaiah 54:15).

So brethren, are you one of those standing as Herod in people’s lives? Are you blocking someone’s progress directly or indirectly? Are you denying someone his or her right because you are in authority? God Almighty is watching... Someone’s Destiny (Star ✨⭐) can be delayed, but cannot be denied. It must surely shine 💥 to the Glory of God. Since God’s Glory has shone upon us, no man born of a woman can stop our destiny which has been ordered by God (Isaiah 60:1-3; 44:24-26; Revelation 3:7-10).

Finally, God manifested Himself to the Magi through the Star, but today He manifests Himself to us through His WORDS and SACRAMENTS, especially in the HOLY EUCHARIST. So let us always adore and worship Him with our talents, gifts, resources and most importantly, with our lives forever. For the glorious splendor of God Almighty is always with us!

May the Glory of God guide you and dispel the darkness in your hearts, and protect you and your family from the plans of the evil ones, and may the glorious splendor of God Almighty help you to shine like bright star 💥 and fulfil your destiny triumphantly, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
My Homilies

SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

1st Reading: Numbers 6: 22-27; 2nd Reading: Galatians 4:4-7; Gospel: Luke 2:16-21.

THEME: THROUGH VIRGIN MARY, HUMANITY GAINED HER REDEMPTION!

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Mary, Mother of God

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. With Great Joy I welcome you all to New Year 2022. A year of Grace, Mercy, Favour, Miracle, Deliverance, Breakthrough, Restoration, Healing, Spiritual Upliftment, and Success in the name of Jesus Christ.

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary. The divine motherhood is the highest summit of all the gifts of grace which she has received from the heavenly Father, the gift towards which all the others are destined. Mary’s entire life and holiness are projected towards the incomparable mission of allowing the realization of the mystery of the incarnation, the divine Word made flesh in her most pure womb. She is the gateway to the mystery of God and the key to the understanding of God, Christ, and the Church.

Meanwhile, the classical doctrine on the Missio Dei (The mission of God) as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another “movement”: The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit sending the Church into the world. And this was made possible through the role played by the Blessed Virgin Mary in her acceptance to be the Theotokos (Mother of God or God’s Carrier), that, when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world, through her (Galatians 4:4).

Moreover, Mary was brought into an intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity. As far as missionary thinking was concerned, this linking with the doctrine of the Trinity constituted an important innovation. Besides, her relationship with the Three Divine Persons is entirely unique and eternally different from that of any other human being. She was the daughter of God the Father, Mother of Jesus Christ, and true spouse of the Holy Spirit. Next to Christ, she supplies the most accurate image of the Holy Spirit.

Certainly, to see Mary in her relationship to the Trinity we must first turn to the dogma of her Immaculate Conception (Mary’s spiritual birth and baptism); which states that from the first moment of her existence Mary was preserved from the taint of original sin due to the foreseen merits of Christ. 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. For God prepared Mary in her conception that He might one day be born of her in time. 

In a certain way, the Blessed Virgin Mary unites and mirrors within herself the central truths of faith. Almost like a railway junction where many lines converge and where connections are established, she is the mirror reflecting the core truths of faith, the meeting point for a great many fundamental Christian doctrines. That is why in Vatican II, precisely – Lumen Gentium; Chapter 8, no. 53, the Church puts down in writing the tremendous and indispensable role Mary played in redemption. She calls her the “temple of the Holy Spirit”. Though her role in redemption was to be a purely human one, acting on behalf of mankind. It is a matter of great importance because every grace, virtue and supernatural gift, which Christ merited, is given to us by Mary and the Holy Spirit.

If through faith the Blessed Virgin Mary became the bearer of the Son given to her by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, while preserving her virginity intact, in that same faith she discovered and accepted the other dimension of motherhood revealed by Jesus Christ during His messianic mission. Hence, from Mary the Church also learns her own motherhood: she recognizes the maternal dimension of her vocation, which is essentially bound to her sacramental nature, in “contemplating Mary’s mysterious sanctity, imitating her charity and faithfully fulfilling the Father’s will.”

Furthermore, if the Church is the sign and instrument of intimate union with God, she is so by reason of her motherhood, because, receiving life from the Spirit, she “generates” sons and daughters of the human race to a new life in Christ. For, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary is at the service of the mystery of the Incarnation, so the Church is always at the service of the mystery of adoption to sonship through grace.

Consequently, through her “burning charity”, which sought to achieve, in union with Christ, the restoration of “supernatural life to souls,” Mary entered, in a way all her own, into the one mediation “between divinity and humanity.” Not only as our Mediatrix, but also as a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that Salvific Power which is meant to help humanity in her misfortunes, to free her from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon her life.

This also lends credence to the statement made by St. John Paul II 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, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, for individuals and for communities, for peoples and nations and, in a sense, for all humanity. She is already the eschatological fulfilment of the Church and the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin, and so they raise their eyes to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as a model of the virtues, in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission.

PRAYER:

As we begin the year 2022 today, I pray for divine intervention upon those who are looking for Job Opportunities, Traveling Visas or Passports, Promotion in offices, business growth and expansion (1Chronicles 4:10), life Partners (Proverbs. 18:22), Pregnant Women, Seeking the fruit of the Womb (Psalm 127:3), Sick (Ulcer, Diabetes, Hepatitis, Cancer, those who couldn’t conceive due to Blocked Fallopian Tubes, Mensural Flow problems, infertility, Fibroid, etc.), families under bondages, siege, living in disunity, living in abject poverty (destitute, eking for life…), living in fear, those that lack faith in God, weak in prayer and righteousness, that the Holy Spirit will shatter and level every Goliath or mountain in their lives and families…in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I also decree, let there be an inundation of the Power of God upon everyone under the sound of my voice now and may there be a miracle of Divine interconnectedness in your families so that you may experience the stupendous Power of the Holy Ghost this year 2022 for Divine Transformation, Restoration, Liberation, Mega Anointing and Spiritual Upliftment in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I declare Divine Mercies, Blessings, Open Doors, Healings, Deliverance, Miracles, Breakthroughs, Promotions, Divine Gifts (Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Piety, Counsel, Fortitude and Fear of God). I pray for the Spirit of Holiness and Purity, Prayer, Humility, Obedience, Self-control, and an increase in Faith so that this year 2022 and beyond, people may begin to see Jesus Christ and Blessed Virgin Mary in your Character, attitude/ behaviour and utterances to the glory of God, in name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Happy New Year
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
My Homilies

Homily of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year C

First Reading: 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Gospel: Luke 2:41-52

THEME: FAITH, SACRIFICIAL LOVE, RESPECT AND UNDERSTANDING SUSTAIN OUR FAMILIES.

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
The Holy Family

The Family is a Divine Institution, not man made! It is the most fundamental community in human society in which couples are called to give themselves in mutual love and respect. It is also the first place where children learn about, both human and moral values, and the social virtues which every society needs. Virtually, all aspects of daily life are being taught in this basic community by parents to children on an informal level. That is why the scripture says, “Train children in the right way, and when they become old, they will not stray(Proverbs 22:6). Just as the foundation of every building is very important for its durability, same with that of the family.

Furthermore, one important aspect of creating this family community is the task of teaching the children. Parents always remain the primary educators of their children, both in theory and in fact (practice). The primary ‘lessons’ they teach are: how to pray, to be disciplined and to have reverence for God. Also how to be a truly human person: one who is free, able to make choices with a properly informed conscience; one able to love, care, forgive, respect, trust, apologize, appreciate, take responsibility, and serve others.

Certainly, when the children are trained properly in this manner, then the society becomes peaceable and habitable. For such are the examples they have learnt from their parents. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others, that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children (Familiaris Consortio, Pope JohnPaul II, Nov. 22, 1981, no. 36). 

Unfortunately, our society is in a despicable situation simply because, the foundations of some families are very faulty. Many families do not give their children good parental upbringing, and that is why when they grow up, they become wicked, disobedient, proud, traitors, and begin to constitute nuisance in the society. Of course, if the family’s foundation is not rooted in love, peace, unity, respect, fear of God, patience, mutual understanding, etc (Galatians 5:22-33), then there is bound to be hatred, acrimony, jealousy, suspicion, rash judgment, etc (Galatians 5:19-21).

The FIRST READING presents Hannah to us; a very humble, obedient and prayerful woman, whose faith in God was so strong that nothing could ever deter her from believing God’s promises for a child. At the appointed time, after fervent prayers, God blessed her with a child – Samuel. Meanwhile, Hannah refrained from making their annual pilgrimage possibly out of a desire to prolong the time she would nurse the child and give him good parental upbringing before presenting him to God as she promised. But she never took any decision on her own without a mutual agreement with her husband, Elkanah who always had reverence for God. No wonder Samuel grew up with the fear of God, respectful, responsible and obedient.

In the GOSPEL, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us by the Church as a model for our families. That we call them “The Holy Family” does not mean that they didn’t have problems. They did have, rather they resolved it within themselves and not publicly. They also performed their respective roles diligently.

Certainly, the 3 Model Characters in this Holy Family lived exemplary lives. For instance, Joseph (Father) who was told about Mary’s pregnancy without his knowledge, being a reputable man of faith and someone that has reverence for God, he did not want to disgrace her publicly, but obeyed the instructions given to him by the Angel (Matthew 1:18-25). Even when Herod wanted to kill the Child Jesus, out of Love, he took absolute care of Him and Mary (Matthew 2:13-15). Also, he patiently and humbly worked at his carpenter’s bench so as to provide the necessities of life for his wife Mary and for the child Jesus. Can our Fathers love their wives like this?

Virgin Mary (Mother) was a very humble, patient, caring, lovely, selfless, respectful, obedient and prayerful woman, always compassionate, observant and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When she noticed that wine had finished at Wedding in Canaan, she interceded immediately so as to save the couples from unnecessary embarrassment (John 2:1-5). These virtues were the weapons she used to conquer the world, which are worthy of emulation! Can our mothers be compassionate and observant in the family like her?

Jesus (Son) stayed back in the Temple after Passover to converse with the Scholars and to teach them, as part of His mission in the world, but as soon as His parents who had been searching for Him came around, He followed them immediately and was obedient to their instructions all His days (Luke 2:43-52). He later grew up as a responsible, humble, obedient, respectful, caring, lovely, patient, compassionate and merciful personality. Can our children always emulate Him and be obedient to their parents like Him?

Meanwhile, for any family to live in Peace, there should be SACRIFICIAL LOVE, RESPECT and UNDERSTANDING. This implies that, one of the partners should be “BLIND” to some extent on certain issues concerning the family. By that I mean, he or she should overlook certain things in order for peace to reign, otherwise there would be misunderstanding and quarrels. The Husband should love his wife sincerely and treat her with gentleness, as Christ does for her bride (Ephesians 5:25). Also, the wife should be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22), and the children should be obedient and supportive to their parents (Sirach 3:1-18)

Moreover, in order for Sacrificial Love, Respect and Understanding to be eminent and be sustained, these should be put into consideration: Praying Together, Tolerance, Forgiveness, Patience, Endurance, Trust, and Frequent use of Magic Words (I am sorry, please, excuse me, thank you, forgive me, I am grateful, etc). For it takes courage and personal integrity to teach children the truth: that people are more important than things; that human life has infinite value unconnected with wealth, beauty, intelligence, ability, etc.; that all people are equal; that they are lovable and loved; that they are called to chastity and holiness; that the ability to pray is the greatest gift they can have. Education is not just for human success; it must include the truths of our faith.

Finally, parents for their part, have the responsibility to train, care and nurture their children in every aspect of their lives, especially to teach them to be prayerful, to be disciplined and to have reverence for God. Also how to be a truly human person, able to make positive choices with a properly informed conscience; one able to love, care, forgive, respect, trust, apologize, take responsibility, and serve others. If parents fail to give their children good parental upbringing while they are growing, they may be indirectly contributing to the decadence of our society.

May the Almighty God through the anointing Power of the Holy Spirit, bring divine healing, breakthrough, restoration, everlasting joy, peace and love in your family, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Jesus Christ born in a manger.
My Homilies

Homily of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

1st Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7; 52: 7-10; 2nd Reading: Titus 2:11-24; Hebrews 1:1-6; Gospel: Luke 2:1-14; John 1:1-18.

THEME: OUR LONGAWAITED MESSIAH IS HERE WITH US!

Jesus Christ born in a manger.
Nativity of Jesus Christ

Life seems to be meaningful when after experiencing a long period of suffering, one’s hopeful expectancy of relief comes to fruition. Moreover, many women undergo terrible painful experiences during pregnancy, especially during delivery (pangs of birth) when they usually cry uncontrollably, but hopeful for a sign of relief. This relief occurs as soon as they hear the cry of their child; only then, would their tears metamorphose into joy. For the scripture says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).”

Meanwhile, through the disobedience of Adam, the relationship between divinity and humanity was marred, humanity became wounded and her source of life which accrued from divine was truncated. Consequently, sickness, suffering and death entered into the world, and humanity wallowed in darkness. However, due to God’s love for humanity, and in order to restore humanity back to her original state, He continued to send His prophets so as to bridge the gap that separated humanity from Him, but all their efforts could not salvage or restore humanity’s fall. Thus, God promised to send a Messiah into the world to redeem humanity.

In the FIRST READING, prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of that Messiah: “For to us a child is born…, and His name will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).” He gave hope to the Israelites who were passing through excruciating experiences while in exile; that those who had been suffering or walking in darkness for a long time as a result of the Fall of Adam, have now been illuminated. This good news of salvation which was not yet fulfilled as at that time, brought immense joy and happiness to the Israelites as they longed to see the Messiah.

Consequently, at the fullness of time, God sent His only begotten Son – Jesus Christ (divine light) to redeem humanity from darkness. Through the Power of the Holy Spirit eternity is born in time (aeternitas in tempore nascitur), the infinite becomes finite and the omnipotent becomes a weak child. God took the form of a slave, became man and born of the Virgin Mary in a manger, and dwelt among us. Hence, through the incarnation, a marriage between humanity and divinity is being established. This is the greatest, mightiest and far reaching event which ever took place in human history.

Joyously, today being Christmas, we commemorate such great/ wondrous event: The Infinite Mercy and Unconditional Love of God. For God so love the world and gave His divine Son (Jesus Christ) as a precious gift to humanity so that the self-giving of God may be the model and motive of all our gifts to others, especially the gift of oneself (John. 3:16).  His birth brings good news to the poor, healing for the broken-hearted, deliverance to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to prisoners and favour to all (Luke 4:18-19). This calls for an exultant praise, and gratitude to God (Psalm 136:1-4).

Since Christ has brought divine joy and happiness into our lives, and shared His stupendous blessings which no human can give us, then how do we reciprocate this act of Unconditional Love of God for us? In the SECOND READING, St. Paul urges us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, but to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world. These can concretely be actualized when we extend the Peace, Joy and Love of Christ to others. For Love invites a return of love.

Finally, as we welcome our Redeemer – “the Light of the World” (John 8:12) into our hearts this Christmas, let us not be talking about love only, rather we should endeavor to ”DO” the following:

  1. To search for those that are eking for life and put smiles on their faces, especially this Yuletide and beyond through our kindness and generosity.   
  2. To render assistance to those looking for job opportunities; we may offer them job if we can, or give them connections if we know any.
  3. To go to confession (Sacrament of reconciliation).
  4. To reconcile with those that have hurt us in one way or the other, and apologize to those we might have offended.
  5. To ensure that justice, equity, tolerance and fairness thrive in our homes and society.

Therefore, I pray that by the Power of the Holy Spirit, you and your family may be liberated from the forces of darkness, and may the Joy, Peace, Prosperity of the New Born King envelope you and your entire family, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Merry Christmas Logo
Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!
GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.
My Homilies

Homily of 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

1st Reading: Micah 5:1-4; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10; Gospel: Luke 1:39-45.

THEME: GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.

GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.
Call to Sacrificial Love

The ways of God are certainly not our ways and His mercy surpasses all human understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yes, God does not choose people based on their class, positions of honour or popularity in order to fulfil His divine plans, rather He chooses the poor, lowly, weak, humble, or those that are always ready to selflessly sacrifice their comforts so as to save others.

In the FIRST READING, through Prophet Micah, God promised to send a Messiah (Saviour) to the world who would redeem humanity. Though, He wouldn’t come from a great city like Jerusalem or from a rich powerful family, but from a small, unknown, poor and insignificant tribe of Judah – Bethlehem. Meanwhile, many Prophets of the Old Testament had references to the coming Messiah, but Micah’s prophecy was one of the clearest, for he was precise on the birth place of the Messiah, which really helped the Magi to know the exact town the Messiah would be born.   

In the GOSPEL, the prophecy of Micah came to limelight when Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit revealed to her and to the unborn child in her womb that her visitor and cousin was to be the Messiah’s Mother. Hence, filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit immediately the Virgin Mary greeted her, Elizabeth was inspired to proclaim the dignity, the special position given to Mary in God’s plan for our redemption: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this been granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? … Blessed is she who believed that the things spoken to her from the Lord would find their fulfilment (Luke 1:42-45).”  

The SECOND READING reminds us today, the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, of the real meaning of the incarnation. It shows the deep sacrificial love, humility and obedience of Jesus Christ – the Messiah, who truly knows why God chose Him, and offered Himself to come into the world in order to save humanity from her precarious conditions. Undoubtedly, to be chosen by God so often means both crown of joy and cross of sorrow. The piercing truth is that God does not choose a person for ease, comfort and selfish joy, but chooses someone in order to use him or her for a serious task that will require the person’s commitments and devotions (Isaiah 49:5-6).

Finally, from the readings of today, it is obvious that God works in mysterious ways that are beyond human comprehension. He does not actually choose people that are popular, influential  or rather those that feel that they are powerful in the society in order to carry out His mission, rather He chooses those that are humble, obedient, and are willing to sacrifice themselves selflessly for the sake of others, for special and great tasks. For Love is Sacrifice. To love is to sacrifice one’s own convenience, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others. Where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity.”

Although, we may be insignificant in the eyes of people in the world, perhaps because we do not belong to high class (bourgeoisie) personalities or rich powerful family, but once we sincerely and humbly love God and our fellow human beings, then God may use us at the appointed time to carry out big tasks, which may make us famous in the world, just like Bethlehem. Therefore, since Christ sacrificed His life for our sake, let us endeavor to sacrifice ourselves for others, and be the saviour of many families who are passing through difficult challenges in this Yuletide.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

THEME: BEING COMPASSIONATE: A SHORTCUT FOR GAINING DIVINE JOY AND PEACE.
My Homilies

Homily of 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18; 2nd Reading: Philippians 4:4-7; Gospel: Luke 3:10-18.

THEME: BEING COMPASSIONATE: A SHORTCUT FOR GAINING DIVINE JOY AND PEACE.

THEME: BEING COMPASSIONATE: A SHORTCUT FOR GAINING DIVINE JOY AND PEACE.
Rejoice in the Lord!

Naturally, many people like to associate, or rather, engage themselves with things that they feel would always bring inner joy, happiness, peace, as well as solace into their lives. Some of these things are wealth, fame, beauty, intelligence, position, drugs, etc. But most times, the joy, peace and happiness they experience afterwards seem to be momentary; operating on the altar of temporality. So, if all these mentioned above do not give inner and lasting joy to our souls, then what can we do in order to experience it?

In the Gospel, John the Baptist elucidated the prerequisites for gaining inner and lasting joy, peace and happiness into our souls: being compassionate to those in need by giving them the basic necessities of life (food, cloth, shelter, etc.); being contented with what we have and not to defraud people in order to enrich ourselves; not to intimidate others either directly or indirectly because we are superior to them; not to accuse others falsely because we want to gain favour; not to be arrogant, proud or selfish, rather, to be kind, charitable and humble in everything we do.

Certainly, only when we truly repent (frequent sacrament of reconciliation) from our wrong doings by refraining from anything that would mar our relationship with God, or jeopardize the life of others; touching the lives of others positively by putting smiles on their faces, especially in this Yuletide; and then, wrapping ourselves with the clothes of humility and meekness, then we shall obtain divine joy, happiness and peace of God, which surpass all understanding . Since before God, the right attitude is one of humility and meekness, because one no longer counts on one’s own strength, but relies solely on God. For the Joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Meanwhile, the Church celebrates Gaudete Sunday (Joyous Sunday) today, a special day in which we are reminded of the joy in Christ’s redeeming work among us, which we are about to commemorate in few days to come, precisely on the Christmas day. When we prepare ourselves properly for that day, then we shall truly experience the inner joy and peace promised to those who welcome Christ in their hearts. For in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy (Psalms 16:11).

Finally, it is very important to note that, wealth, fashion, beauty, intelligence, fame, positions, etc., do not actually give one inner and lasting joy, peace and happiness. But the only condition for us to experience them is to love our fellow human beings sincerely by constantly alleviating their problems daily.

So, we are called to rejoice this Sunday by spreading the joy of Christ’s coming to the ends of the earth through love, charity, justice, righteousness, tolerance, patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc, with the help of the Holy Spirit. For being compassionate to people is the only short way to gaining inner (divine) joy and peace. When we do these, then with joy, we shall draw spiritual nourishments from the Lord’s well of salvation (Isaiah 12:5) in this forthcoming Yuletide, which will help us gain eternal life when our earthly life expire.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

LET US REPAIR OUR DEPLORABLE SPIRITUAL ROADS.
My Homilies

Homily of 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

1st Reading: Baruch 5:1-9; 2nd Reading: 1 Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Gospel: Luke 3:1-6.

THEME: LET US REPAIR OUR DEPLORABLE SPIRITUAL ROADS.

LET US REPAIR OUR DEPLORABLE SPIRITUAL ROADS.
Repairing our Deplorable Roads

In our contemporary society, many rich people especially our leaders do not like to travel by land (road transportation), even within their own locality due to insecurity or the deplorable state of most of the roads. They rather travel by air (flight transportation), because it makes them feel secure, peaceable and comfortable. Also, they prefer it because it helps to fasten their journey.

Regrettably, some of our roads are very horrible. Those that travel on them regularly encounter a lot of discomforts accruing from incessant delays at the military checkpoints, numerous potholes, banditry, kidnapping, etc., Some of these roads seem to be abandoned, and each year they would continue to dilapidate. Most times, the contract may have been awarded to a contractor, but it is either the contractor used inferior materials (asphalts, bitumen, etc.) for the project so as to have more gains, or that he squandered the money for the project and absconded; or the contract was totally ignored (not awarded) by our leaders, perhaps because they usually travel with flights and seldom ply the roads.  

However, if any important dignitary (president, minister, governor, etc.) would come for an official visit in that locality, the contractor or ministry of works would wake up from their slumber and fix the roads overnight, so as to impress their august visitor, and possibly to gain  cheap popularity. What an astute and proactive measures! So, if this kind of earthly preparation or impression is obtainable, then why is it that we are not enthusiastic in fixing our dilapidated spiritual roads for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?

In the FIRST READING, Baruch, a friend and secretary of prophet Jeremiah, made a prophecy of the glorious future and merciful intervention of God in favour of humanity. He gave hope and encouragements to the exiled Jews who were under Babylonian captivity. He told them that their days of sorrows and afflictions are over, and that the peace and glory of God shall be made manifest in their lives once they accept His righteousness (justice & fidelity). For this reason, they should repair all deplorable roads, fill up the valleys and level every mountainous path on their way, so that they may, with joy, embrace God’s light, mercy and righteousness and then work safely in His glory.

The GOSPEL presents St. John the Baptist (Precursor of Christ) as the fulfillment of what Prophet Isaiah foretold concerning the expected Messiah: “A voice cries out, prepare the way for the LORD, make a straight highway in the desert for our God. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall become level. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Undoubtedly, what John strongly emphasized here, is the need for us to rebuild our deplorable roads, and make the crooked paths straight and level, in preparation for the coming of our Supreme King – Jesus Christ.  However, these are not really physical roads, but spiritual roads – that is, the potholes and crookedness in the lives of people. They are people’s sins of pride, greed, hatred, selfishness, victimization, corruption, wickedness, injustice, etc., which should be filled with bitumen or asphalts of humility, love, generosity, righteousness, honesty, forgiveness, justice, equity, fairness, etc.

In the SECOND READING, St. Paul was deeply touched by the good works and the supports rendered to him by the Philippians in the spread of the gospel. Hence, he prayed that they may continue to abound more in love, with knowledge and all discernment, so that they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ. Also, they may attain Christian perfection, which should be the desire of every true Christian. This perfection means a continual growth in love of God and of neighbor and deeper knowledge of God in order to grow in union with Him.

Moreover, the prerequisite for us to experience the fullness of God’s glory in our lives is when we return to Him through repentance and forgiveness. Therefore, we are called to purify ourselves via genuine repentance (Isaiah 1:18-20) in order for us to see the salvation of God, which comes with peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This will make the way smooth and easy for Jesus Christ to come and be born anew into our lives, so that, people will begin to see Him in our character and utterances. Meanwhile, this repentance is not really a change of one’s religion; from Christianity to Islam or vice versa, but a complete change of heart to love others sincerely, which is a proof of our love for God.

Finally, since Christ will definitely come one day, though no one knows the hour, each person must appear before Him to be judged at the moment of death, and that moment will decide for us how His second coming will affect us. So, to make sure of a happy death, that is, of a successful judgment, there is but one guarantee and it is to lead a successful, a true, Christian life that is void of crooked paths, potholes and mountains.   

PRAYER:

May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, grant you forgiveness of all your sins and grant you the grace to make way for the coming of the Lord and repair all your deplorable spiritual roads that hinder your access to His divine love; also for you to love your fellow human beings sincerely, so that at the end, you shall reign with Christ in His Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

ADVENT: A CALL FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION
My Homilies

Homily of 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16; 2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Gospel: Luke 21:25-28; 34-36.

ADVENT SEASON: A CALL FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION.

ADVENT: A CALL FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION
Advent Season

Challenges, misfortunes, turbulence and difficulties are the most unavoidable parts of life journey. Some of these catastrophes, though terrific, tend to test our courage, strengths, weaknesses, and faith. However, most times, we may stumble upon obstacles that will come between the paths that we are destined to take.

Moreover, some of these obstacles can be blessings in disguise, only that we do not realize that at the time due to fear of unprecedented tribulations, or that we may not be able to actualize our dreams before we die. Since no one knows when he or she will die or when our world will come to an end, but the scripture makes us to realise that it will definitely come one day. Even while some people are still alive, and the disturbances in the universe and perhaps more still, the realisation of their unpreparedness for the judgement will cause some of them to die out of fear.

Meanwhile, today, being the First Sunday of Advent is the ecclesiastical new year day in the Catholic Church. It is the beginning of the Church’s annual liturgical cycle of feasts with a period of four weeks preparation for Christmas. It is also a period of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and His return at the Parousia.

In the FIRST READING, through Prophet Jeremiah, God promised to restore the Israelites who were suffering terribly under Babylonian captivity due to their obstinacy. He promised to send a “righteous branch” from Davidic dynasty, who will establish peace and justice in the world. This promise of divine restoration also extends to all those who are currently suffering from diverse challenges. That their predicaments will soon come to an end by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

In the GOSPEL, we see Jesus Christ as that righteous branch, the Son of David and the Prince of Peace, who out of love came into the world to bring salvation to humanity. He is the fulfilment of the aforementioned prophecy in the first reading. Through His disciples, He presents us with the imminent terrific revelations that will precede the end of the world, which are very phenomenal. These may come in form of wars, tumult, international conflicts and natural disasters with cosmic terrors.

However, in order not to live in fear, Jesus Christ assures us of divine restoration in spite of the catastrophes or tempestuous situations of our contemporary society. He further gives us words of encouragement, that we should not be afraid, because those impending cataclysms are indications that our divine restoration is close at hand.

But, the question is, can we be able to face these calamities confidently and courageously? The answer is Yes!; only when we have genuine love for God and our fellow human beings, just as St. Paul enunciated in the SECOND READING, then we shall remain unperturbed amidst any unprecedented tribulation, and thus be ready for the Parousia – the great day of judgment. For the scripture says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18)”, and also, “love covers multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”

Therefore, in order to be worthy to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for humanity in this yuletide, the Church enjoins us through the readings of today and that of the three coming Sundays, to prepare ourselves spiritually so as to welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts and share in His divinity. Also, that we may be found worthy and acceptable in His Kingdom when our earthly life expires, and confidently stand before His throne on the last day.

Finally, through the incarnation, God has made available to all humanity an eternal home of peace and happiness, there we shall be free from sin, catastrophes, troubles, earthly limitations, etc. But, we need to prepare ourselves spiritually (loving God & our fellow human beings in sincerity, doing charity to the needy, going to Sacramental Confessions regularly, forgiving our offenders and even our enemies), which is the prerequisite for entering our eternal home on the last day.

PRAYER:

I pray that the Holy Spirit may increase your faith, hope and love, and grant you spiritual strength and power, so that without fear of any imminent tribulation, you may love God and your fellow human beings sincerely; that when Christ finally comes at the Parousia, you will be accepted by Him, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Kingship of Christ
My Homilies

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

1st Reading: Daniel 7:13-14; 2nd Reading: Revelation 1:5-8; Gospel: John 18:33-37.

THEME: CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY: A KINGDOM OF LOVE AND HUMBLE SERVICE.

Kingship of Christ. He is seated on the throne in Heaven where the angels are offering Him praise with trumpet and incense.
Jesus Christ is the King of kings

Historically speaking, many kings or leaders have risen in this world with their respective kingdoms. These kings reigned with all their mighty power, and became so powerful that just their mere spoken words could cause mayhem in the society.

For instance, kings like Pharaoh, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, Ahab and Jezebel, Antiochus Epiphanes, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin and so on, were among the notable kings or leaders that reigned in the past. These kings or leaders were proud, autocratic, brutal, inhumane, and thus, committed many unjust and abominable acts, which made them to be feared by many people and nations. During their earthly reigns, they commanded so much authority that their instructions were strictly enforced in a manner that they would never be disobeyed by anyone, but attracted so much severe consequences whenever anyone violated or breached them, to the extent of subjecting the defaulters or victims to painful or excruciating deaths.

Unfortunately, these kings or leaders thought that they would reign forever. It did not cross their minds that one day, they would meet their waterloo and their kingdoms would collapse; neither did they remember that death awaits every human person living under the face of the earth. Surprisingly, when they died, their kingdoms also died and faded away with them, and could only be remembered as memories as the occasions arise.

In the FIRST READING, Prophet Daniel received a divine revelation of the rise and fall of different kings that had reigned on earth, and the subsequent enthronement of the King of kings, who was given dominion and Glory; that all peoples, nations and languages should adore and serve Him. The one whose dominion is everlasting, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom can never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14).

In today’s GOSPEL, Pilate became astonished when he heard of the chief priests’ accusation about Jesus’ claim to be King, and their demand for His crucifixion. He was also dismayed when Jesus Christ stated categorically that His Kingship is not of this world’s type, which thrives in violence and tyranny, but a heavenly type that fosters love and peace. He also declared the real nature of His mission in the world, which is to bear witness to the truth and everyone who is of the truth listens to His voice (John 18:36-37). These statements made it impossible for Pilate to comprehend and marry the situations presented before him by the Jews.

Moreover, as a governor Pilate was a failure, he was indicted three times due to his bad records. He seemed to have begun with a complete contempt and lack of sympathy for the Jews, and was too proud to involve himself in what he regarded as Jewish squabbles and superstitions. Hence, the Jews blackmailed him into assenting to the death of Christ, because his previous mistakes had made it impossible for him both to defy the Jews and to keep his position.

Undoubtedly, it is imperative to note that, most kings are always afraid to witness anybody that comes up to challenge their kingship, more so, to claim to be the new king, even when the current king is still alive. For when kings’ wrath is stirred by fear for their crowns, it is a great and inextinguishable wrath.

This was evident during the horrible tragedy in Bethlehem, when Herod the Great massacred the innocent children because he heard that a new king was born (Matthew 2:16-18). Even in our contemporary society, many leaders who are overambitious and power conscious, can even go extra mile to annihilate anyone they see as their rival; either directly or indirectly.

However, our Lord Jesus Christ – the King of kings and the Lord of lords, came into this world, not in the manner of the earthly kings mentioned above, but as a compassionate and humble servant who actually came to demonstrate the kind of Kingship that pleases the Almighty God. A King that rules with love, peace, humility, obedience, truth, holiness, mercy, justice, equity and fairness. A spiritual Kingdom which begins here on earth (the Church) but has its completion and perfection in heaven.

Moreover, because the Jews had a prolonged domination and oppression by successive foreign powers, they anticipated a political messiah who would forcefully revolt against their oppressors. That was why they misunderstood the word “kingdom” to mean only earthly authority that can dominate, subjugate and victimize any oppositions. But for Jesus Christ, kingdom means “humble service.” No wonder, despite being the King of kings, yet, He obediently humbled Himself even unto death in order to gain salvation for humankind. Now, He reigns supreme forever and ever, and at the mention of His name, every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord (Philippians 2:6-11).

The SECOND READING gives us a clear description of the true identity of Jesus Christ:  “The Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:8).” He loves us and has freed us from the bondage of sins by His blood, and has made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father. He established His messianic Kingdom, in which we, His subjects, are given the power and the privilege of serving God with true service. Behold, He will return in glory and majesty to demand a reckoning from each one, and every eye will see Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Consequently, each person will have to stand before His tribunal one day to give account of his or her works on earth.

Finally, Christ exhibited the nature of humility even when He is fully aware that He is King and very powerful, and that an utterance of His Word can challenge any human kingship. But, amidst all these He remained calm as well as became an advocate of service to humankind.

Therefore as Christians, let us reflect on these simple but pertinent questions:

  1. Can we emulate Christ’s style of Kingship by becoming humble servants to our subjects instead of being tyrannical or inhumane in our leadership positions or dispositions?
  2. Can we consistently and sincerely foster justice, equity and fairness in our society?
  3. Can we promote other people’s good works, especially those that are talented in a particular field instead of being jealous or indignant when they are progressing more than us?
  4. Can we humbly acknowledge those higher than us in one way or the other instead of assassinating their character directly or indirectly?  
  5. Since death awaits us one day, can we daily demonstrate genuine love to our fellow human beings by being merciful and compassionate to them?

Therefore, may the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, grant you the spirit of humility, selfless service to humanity, and increase your faith and love for God and your fellow human beings, so that at the end, you shall reign with Christ in His Kingdom, this is my prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Homily of 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Daniel 12:1-3; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Gospel: Mark 13:24-32.

THEME: WITH LOVE, WE SHALL FACE THE END-TIME REALITIES!

Jesus Christ coming in glory with His Angel ridding on white horses in the cloud
Jesus Christ coming in glory with His Angel

The book of Ecclesiastes made us to understand that there is time for everything under heaven. “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).” Since there was a time the world was created, then, it implies that it must surely come to an end one day, even its inhabitants, though unknown to humanity. In spite of these biblical insights, many people are still ignorant of these end-time realities, while some are afraid of their occurrences, and others do not even believe in them.

Meanwhile, as we draw closer to the end of the liturgical year, the Church presents us with readings that hinge on apocalyptic theology (end-time realities) or eschatological crisis. This calls for a deeper reflection, genuine repentance and patience in our trials and tribulations, so that that terrible day would not invade us like a thief or meet us unprepared. However, the readings are not meant to terrify us, but for us to be alert, awake and ready at all times, since we do not know when such mysterious cataclysm would occur, and the day or hour when our earthly life would expire is also unknown to us.

The FIRST READING brings to limelight, a glimpse of that apocalyptic theology, which highlights the triumph of God’s goodness and power over the evil of the tyrant kings, as well as His imminent triumph over the evil of this world. When that time comes, many who had died shall awake, the righteous and faithful ones (elect) will be saved and share in the joy of everlasting life in the Kingdom of God, while the wicked will be subjected to eternal disgrace and damnation.

Besides, this biblical passage was written in the second century, about 166 BC, with the purpose of encouraging the Jews to remain faithful to God despite the harsh persecutions they were facing that period through their savage persecutor, Antiochus Epiphanes.

Furthermore, in the GOSPEL, Jesus Christ also made reference to the apocalyptic imagery of the Old Testament in order to describe the events that will precede the end of the world. According to Him, there will be an unprecedented cataclysm: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and powers in the heavens will be shaken (Mark 13:24-25).” That should be enough to terrify even the courageous hearts.

Nevertheless, this eschatological theology is to be understood not only in a future goal, but as a reality which has already begun with true historical coming of Christ. It is the basis for Christian hope and perseverance, and we should understand these readings within the context of the calamities we are facing currently. Nonetheless, if we love God sincerely, and our fellow human beings as well, then no matter any calamity that may befall us, we shall not be terrified, because, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).”

The SECOND READING reminds us of how the Levitical priests of the Old covenant offered daily powerless sacrifices for sin, but Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant has offered the perfect sacrifice once and for all, with His own body and blood, and is now seated in heaven, waiting for the fulfilment of all scriptural prophecies, whereby His enemies will be made His footstool (Hebrews 10:13).

Finally, since our earthly life is ephemeral, are we ready to witness the eschatological crisis? When the trumpet sounds now, what shall be our fate? Can we confidently stand before God’s throne? Should we be found worthy as part of the elect or those doomed to perdition? As true Christians (those who love God & fellow human beings sincerely), we should not be afraid of death or the cataclysms that engender death, for Jesus Christ has conquered death,  and His death has given meaning to our own death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57); ipso facto, in Him, death is a gain (Philippians 1:21).

Certainly, creation made us mere mortals, but only death brings us to be with our Immortal God. Hence, every human person must have to answer this call one day, and be committed to the mother earth, in as much as Christ has died and resurrected to life, then when we die, we too shall have and share life with Him.

Therefore, as we draw closer to the end-time and await the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us persevere with the following:

  1. Constant Prayer life (Luke 18:1-5, Isaiah 62:6-8, Mark 14:37-39).
  2. Constant Studying of the Word of God (2Timothy 2:15, John 6:63).
  3. Constant Sacrament of Reconciliation – Confession (2Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:8-10).
  4. Forgiving others their offences (Matthew 6:14-15).
  5. Constant reception of Holy Communion (John 6:51).
  6. Charity Work (Galatians 6:9-10; Matthew 25:31-45).

I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to continue being steadfast in the Lord so that with love, you may be able to face the end-time realities, and on the last day, you shall be welcomed into His Heavenly Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

Selfles Sacrifice of Jesus Christ
My Homilies

Homily of 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: 1 Kings 17:10-16; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28; Gospel: Mark 12:38-44

THEME: KENOTIC SACRIFICE: A GATEWAY TO HEAVENLY SANCTUARY.

Jesus Christ Sacrificed His life to save humanity
Jesus Christ offered Himself up as a Holocaust for our Salvation.

The true measure of a human person is not in his acquisitions (wealth, academic qualification or positions of honour), but in his character (distinctive qualities). Hence, honesty, sincerity, faithfulness and generosity, are the hallmarks of an authentic or reputable personality. Unfortunately, dishonesty, fraudulence, hypocrisy, unfaithfulness and stinginess seem to have become the norms in our contemporary society. Many people especially Christians, lack these distinctive and essential qualities in their lives; they even find it difficult to sacrifice anything for the sake of others, instead, they try to defraud others in order to enrich themselves.

In the FIRST READING, due to the generosity and willingness of the poor widow of Zarephath, who sacrificed all she had in order to satisfy Prophet Elijah when dire poverty stared on her face, God rewarded her. She believed in the prophetic utterance of Elijah: “the jar of meal shall not be emptied nor shall the jug of oil fail, until the day when the Lord sends rain to the earth (1 kings 17:14).” Hence, she, her son and entire household were spared from famine which ravaged the entire Israel.

Similarly, in the GOSPEL, while watching the crowd as they put money into the treasury, Jesus Christ observed many rich people who donated large sum of money, and also a poor widow who put in two coppers coins. Astonishingly, He said to His disciples: “Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living (Mark 12:44).” Despite the fact that the rich offered more than the poor widow, yet Christ affirmed her generosity and willingness, because she offered all she had in order to enrich God’s treasury.

Meanwhile, a common trait unites the two widows in both the first and the gospel readings of today. Both of them were poor, but they generously gave all their material possessions in order to enrich others, and thus, depended on divine providence for the following day’s needs. This is contrary to what we see in our current society. For many people are money conscious; always seeking after what they will gain, and not what they can contribute for the growth of others or their society. Even when they try to contribute, they would like it to be pronounced, or they would like to create public awareness, so that, everybody would hear it and applaud them (Matthew 6:1-8).

Undoubtedly, Jesus Christ is always watching our hearts daily, to know the motives behind our conducts (honest or hypocritical); the words we speak (hurtful or consoling); the sacrifices we make (generous or stingy); as well as the opinions we express (sincere or deceitful). Whether we perform them with pure motivesfor the love of God and the good of others, or they stem from ulterior motivesvain glory, selfish interest, self-aggrandizement, showoff, etc.

Moreover, the act of giving comprises of two types: quantitative and qualitative. When we give, there should be some elements of our self in what we give, which makes it more valuable and sacrificial. For real giving must be sacrificial. The amount of the gift does not matter so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts. In other words, whatever we give out, either to God or to human beings, must not be what we no longer need, but denying ourselves what we value so much. However, our generosity must be done willingly and cheerfully, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Furthermore, Jesus Christ warned us not to imitate the selfish and hypocritical attitudes of the sanctimonious scribes mentioned in the gospel, who often like to be greeted obsequiously; always craving for top positions of honour, and exploiting the vulnerable widows in the society. This is evident in our contemporary society, where many fake pastors who sanctimoniously claim to be prayer warriors, defraud their congregations especially the poor among them. According to Jesus, any external piety without a proper internal disposition of heart, is hypocritical, and thus condemnable.

Also, the SECOND READING juxtaposes between the sacrifices made by the High priests of the old order and that which was made by Jesus Christ, the true High Priest. The former, which was the Levitical sacrifices designed to purify the means of earthly worship, that is, physical tabernacle, used the blood of animals from the abundance of many animals to offer sacrifices annually. However, the latter is superior over the former, not like the earthly sanctuary, but God’s own heavenly sanctuary.

So, Christ’s sacrificial offering brought about the cosmic redemption that purified the whole universe, seen and unseen. He did not use any earthly victim or from any of His abundance like the High priests of the old order, who used the blood of animals to offer sacrifices, but He used everything He had; His own body and blood. Thus, Christ made a Kenotic sacrifice (self-emptying) of Himself, once and for all in order to save humanity.

Finally, God has done a great thing for us. Due to the love He has for us, He offered his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ as a sacrifice in order to save us. So, the type of offering He demands from us is a kenotic sacrifice, which comes from the heart willingly. Just like Abraham, who wholeheartedly demonstrated his love for God when he wanted to sacrifice his son, Isaac at God’s command (Genesis 22), same goes to Abel’s sacrificial offerings to God (Genesis 4). Therefore, whatever we do, if it does not stem from love, and with the sole aim of salvaging others, then we shall not get any reward, even if we pull the crowd to applaud us.  

Conclusively, today’s readings enjoin us to be mindful of the followings:

  1. Christian charity demands that we deny ourselves some of our basic needs so as to enrich the poor, not only when we have abundant resources, but also when we have only the bare essentials for ourselves; while relying on divine providence.
  2. Since out of love, Christ sacrificed His life for our sake, then we too should always be ready to risk or sacrifice our lives in order to save others. For thus says the Lord: “Greater Love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”
  3. We should not always seek for what we can gain from others, rather what we can give. However, our generosity should be done willingly and cheerfully in order to attract God’s reward, for God loves a cheerful giver, and givers never lack.
  4. We should always see our position as a privilege to render selfless services to all. Instead of using it to compound people’s problems, we should rather use it to alleviate their poor conditions.
  5. We should strive to be honest, sincere, and faithful in our dealings with others, knowing fully well that, Christ is always watching our hearts daily, to know the motives behind our conducts.

Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the spirit of generosity, sacrifice and selflessness, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Solemnity of All Saints

1st Reading: Revelation 7:2-4; 9-14; 2nd Reading: 1 John 3:1-3; Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO EMULATE THE SAINTS

The Saints of God in Heaven are rejoicing.
The Saints of God in Heaven.

Light houses do not ring bells to call attention to their shining, rather they just radiate their illuminances. Since action speaks louder than voice, then it is better to live a saintly life than to talk about it (Matthew 5:16). However, we can be influenced positively or negatively depending on who we emulate (Hebrews 13:7; Proverbs 27:17). Hence, the Church celebrates today, those who lived exemplary lives worthy of emulation. Their heroism in being righteous and as ideals in practicing Christian virtues.

Meanwhile, the FIRST READING highlights the visions of the sealing of God’s elect. The 144, 000 people sealed here are not numbers to be taken literally as only those that will enter heaven, but a symbolic number which represents a multitude of the redeemed who constitute the perfect Israel. For the Israelites: 7 signifies a perfect number, 4 for the earth, 12 for Israel and 1,000 for a great number.  This gives us an anticipated glimpse into the eschatological redemption in heaven. The two visions portray, first; the militant Church on earth (living Saints) and second; the triumphant Church in Heaven (glorified Saints – both canonized & uncanonized), those who have cleansed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. How? What actually did they do in order to gain entrance to the throne of God?

In the GOSPEL, Christ enunciated the prerequisites for gaining entrance to God’s heavenly throne. These include: those who bore many trials and troubles of life patiently, as part of God’s plan for their sanctification, and accepted most of their challenges as their own share of suffering in following Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Also, those who have their blessed state of eternal happiness because, they carried out what is recommended in the Beatitudes.

For instance, the poor in spirit are those who do not depend on their ability, but solely rely on God for help; the mourners are those who bear much earthly pains and griefs; the hunger for righteousness are those anxious to serve God truly; the merciful are those who are companionate, kind and forgives their offenders easily; the pure in heart are those who love God sincerely and always ask for forgiveness whenever they make mistakes; the peacemakers are those who foster love among people by settling disputes; those persecuted for righteousness are the very ones that suffer for their uprightness, and those falsely accused, but they do not revenge.

Moreover, as Christians, we may not suffer the same martyrdom like the saints, but may encounter it in subtle ways through severe oppositions or persecutions occasioned by sociopolitical, economic and religious pressures in our contemporary society. For the Psalmist says: “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord delivers them all (Psalm 34:19). Jesus Christ affirmed this, when He told His disciples: “In the world, you will suffer many persecutions, but be courageous, I have conquered the world (John 16:33).” However, no matter how turbulent our challenges may be, God is still in control and is always with us (Matthew 1:23; 28:20).

Finally, the greatest proof of God’s love for us is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we all have been made God’s children. Therefore, since God wants everyone to be saved, and has adopted us as His children, then we should have hope in Him, just as St. John said in the SECOND READING. Hence, we need to live a life worthy of our calling, enduring all our tribulations patiently, just like the glorified saints did while they were here on earth. If we purify ourselves through righteous living, then we shall surely triumph in the end by the power of the Holy Spirit, for our victory is a divine certainty (1 John 5:4).

May the Almighty God, empower you so as to live a life worthy of your calling, enduring all your tribulations patiently, so that at the end, you may be crowned a Saint in Heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Homily of 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 6:2-6; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28; Gospel: Mark 12:28-34

THEME: TO LOVE IS TO SACRIFICE OUR LIVES FOR GOD AND OTHERS.

The Love of God and neighbours are the greatest proof of our fidelity to God's Commandments.
Love is the greatest commandment

In our cotemporary world, many people are always longing for peace, tranquility, prosperity, happiness and God’s blessings in their lives. They always want to be loved and cared for, and also to acquire the best in the world. However, some of them fail to unlock the gate which paves way for such stupendous blessings from God, even when they know it.

In the FIRST READING, Moses explored the meaning of God’s commandment which should be obeyed, in order to gain divine blessings. He told the Israelites to always remember God (One Eternal and Supreme Being), who out of His infinite love and mercy, saved them from bondage in Egypt. He exhorted them with the great SHEMA. Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).” He urged them to remain faithful to Him, have reverence for Him and not apostatize.

Meanwhile, this Shema is the Jewish confession of faith, which, together with appropriate prayers, forms an integral part of their morning and evening services; with a call to learn, to study and to observe God’s commandments. It is the bedrock of deuteronomic theology in which love is almost synonymous with obedience to God’s will, which paves the way for prosperity (physical & Spiritual), but disobedience to God’s will leads to curse and death.

In the GOSPEL, in response to the scribe’s cunning question, Jesus quoted the SHEMA as the greatest and the first of the commandments, and the second is: “You shall love your neighbour (God’s Creature) as yourself (Mark 12:31).” These underscore the basic inner dispositions of the disciples. Besides, to know and understand God’s commandments like the scribe, which are the prerequisite for gaining divine blessings and subsequently, eternal life; are not enough. But practicing them out of love, with great reverence and obedience gives us full access to divine blessings and eternal life. Yes, we should obey God out of love, and not necessarily for fear of eternal damnation.

Moreover, to have reverence for God means to place oneself in front of Him in attitude of self-giving and trust, and of acceptance of His divine will. This confronts us with great urgency, and demands a personal response, which is faith in God as well as reciprocating the love He has showered upon us, by giving us His beloved Son Jesus Christ, who, out of love, sacrificed His life in order to redeem humankind. To love Him also means to accept His gifts, share in His plan for humanity, that is, salvation of souls (salus animarum), and to become instruments of His genuine Love for humanity.

The SECOND READING highlights how Jesus Christ, the Superior High Priest, out of love and obedience to God, humbly and patiently sacrificed His life, and bore His sufferings in order to save humanity. His sacrificial death on the cross has obtained once and for all, an everlasting freedom for all mankind. Moreover, His priesthood (new order), which is heavenly, eternal and spiritual in nature, is being contrasted with that of the Aaron’s priesthood (old order), which was earthly, temporal and carnal. His self-offering for our sins is not to be repeated, unlike the old order where the high priests offered daily or yearly sacrifices for their sins and for the people, but His sacrifice has been made perfect forever.  

As a proof of God’s Love for us, Christ died for us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). So, anyone who claims to love, sacrifices of his or her time, energy, resources, etc, should be the basis for such love. Remove the sacrifices, then there is no love, and where there is no love, there is no Christianity. These will definitely pave way for God’s blessings, prosperity and finally eternal life.

Finally, since Christ has suffered for us out of love, we too should emulate His footsteps and reciprocate that love, by obeying God’s commandments which hinge on: love of God and love of neighbour. In fact, the proof of our love for God is the love we show to our fellow human beings. For we cannot claim to love God whom we have not seen while we hate our fellow human beings, it is not true (1 John 4:20). Loving our neighbor means to sacrifice our life for their wellbeing, and to always forgive them when they offend us. These are what pave the way for stupendous blessings from God and eternal life at the end.

Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to Love Him and your fellow human beings sincerely, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

My Homilies

Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 5:1-6; Gospel: Mark 10:46-52

THEME: CHRIST, OUR ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST HEALS OUR SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS.

Poor governance, marginalization, nepotism, tribalism, and downplay of justice, equity and fairness, have been the major factors that stimulate community feuds, insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and violence resulting in gruesome killings and destruction of properties in our society today. These have engendered incessant deterioration of affairs in many parts of the world, feeling of estrangement, hopelessness, discouragement and serious tension in the atmosphere. Consequently, many people have been wondering why these prevalent cataclysms persist, and also why God allows our society to remain in quagmire without any intervention. The answer is very clear: we are spiritually blind.

In the FIRST READING, due to the triviality of God’s instructions given by the prophets, the Israelites were captured by their enemies (brutal leaders), and were sent to exile where they suffered grievously. They became spiritually blind and thus, wandered away from God’s marvelous light into darkness for a long period of time because of their sins. When their situation aggravated, they cried bitterly and entreated the LORD to have mercy on them. Subsequently, out of His infinite mercy and love, God later answered their prayers, and through prophet Jeremiah, promised to restore them; that is, the blind, lame, downtrodden etc., back from hopelessness and slavery (blindness) to freedom (sight).

Certainly, this is the same predicament that is bedeviling our contemporary society. When any nation trivializes God’s instructions, He steps aside and allows them to wallow in darkness (spiritual blindness). This is evident in the book of Psalms: “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes (Psalms 81:11-14).” Undoubtedly, we all have neglected God’s instructions, and have become spiritually blind; that is why He allows our enemies to subjugate us. However, if we can humble ourselves and entreat the LORD like the Israelites, then our restoration would come speedily.

In today’s GOSPEL, the promise made by God for the restoration of Israel in the first reading, has been fulfilled in the healing of Bartimaeus (blind beggar). He had been in that hopeless situation for a very long time, waiting eagerly for divine intervention. When he heard that Jesus Christ was passing by, he did not want to miss that opportunity, even when people discouraged him. Hence, he cried out immediately: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” When Jesus asked him what he wanted, his response was, “Master, let me see again” (Mark 10:51). Through his faith, he was miraculously healed, and instantly, he regained his sight through Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12).

Obviously, Bartimaeus here symbolizes the deplorable situation of humanity; especially those who lack faith in God; those that are sinfully malodorous, or those suffering grievously, but are sincerely longing for liberation. Sometimes, like Bartimaeus, there could be obstacles (societal problems) which may tend to frustrate us in our life journey. We usually encounter a lot of discouragements accruing from poor governance, marginalization, injustice, unemployment, hardship, sickness, wrong advice etc., especially from people that are very close to us, who may even want us to remain in perpetual agony.

Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged by such dissuasions, rather we should continue to make persistent efforts like Bartimaeus, who had strong faith and trust in the gracious mercy and healing power of Jesus Christ (Holy Eucharist), and never allowed himself to be silenced or discouraged by the crowd. Consequently, his perseverance and open confession earned for him the miraculous restoration of his sight. So we should have faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ who has the power to deliver us from such deplorable conditions, that is, our spiritual blindness, in order for us to see clearly and to love sincerely. For whenever we fail to love God and our fellow human being sincerely, then we are spiritually blind.

Fortunately, as elucidated in the SECOND READING, God has given us an eternal High Priest in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who offered once and for all, His own body on the cross as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all humankind. Since sin breaks the relationship which exists between God and man, and creates a barrier between them, hence, Christ’s sacrifice restores that relationship and removes that barrier (Hebrews 9:11-28).

Moreover, Jesus Christ, having gone through the experiences of humankind and understands humanity in all its strength and weakness, He is always sympathetic with her. That was why towards the end of His public ministry, He instituted the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist as a sacramental expression of His paschal mystery. The priesthood is not an office which someone takes upon himself; it is a privilege and a glory to which he is called. This ministry of God among men is neither a job nor a career but a calling (Hebrews 5:4).

Therefore, an ordained priest is appointed on behalf of people to deal with the things concerning God, especially to offer sacrifices to God and to shepherd people’s souls. He acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi Capitis). His three primary duties (munera) which are modeled by Christ Himself, are: (1) To Teach (munus docendi), based on Christ’s role as a Prophet; (2) To sanctify (munus sanctificandi), based on Christ’s role as a Priest; and (3) To Govern (munus regendi), based on Christ’s role as a King. Hence, through these duties, the priest heals people from spiritual blindness when he prays for them; preaches the gospel to them; baptizes them; celebrates the Holy Eucharist; absorbs their sins at the confessional; unites couples in marriage, and anoints the sick among them.

Finally, we should always give thanks to the Almighty God who has given us victory in Christ Jesus, the eternal High Priest, who is able to heal our spiritual wounds and restore us from hopelessness and slavery to freedom (1 Cor. 15:57; Rom. 8:11). So, we need to avoid the occasions of sin, which tend to subject us to deplorable conditions. Even when we sin, we shouldn’t hesitate to meet a priest for confession and absolution. Also not to create more obstacles for those in difficulties, but to render our help to them. To forgive those that have offended us since we have received healing from God. However, we cannot achieve this on our own effort, but through the help of the Holy Spirit. For when the Holy Spirit heals us from spiritual blindness, then we will be able to see clearly to understand what it means to follow Christ faithfully.

Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may heal you from your spiritual weakness or blindness, and then shade His divine light up you, so that you may see His wondrous deeds clearly in order to Love Him and your fellow human being sincerely, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My Homilies

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 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th 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 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jesus and Little Children
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!

Jesus and Little Children
Childlike attitude

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.

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HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th 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.

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HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th 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.

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HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  6. Homily of 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  7. Homily of 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  8. Homily of 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  9. Homily of 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
  10. Homily of 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
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.

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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.

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HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th 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.

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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.

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HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C The Almighty God Loves and Cares for you…

TRUE LOVE IS SACRIFICE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Today, Jesus Christ gives us a New Commandment of Love. Does it mean that people were not required to love before His time? Certainly, the Jews had two commandments of love of God and of neighbour. So how is the commandments given by Jesus new? True love is to sacrifice one’s own comforts, energy, time, resources and talents for the sake of others; being merciful and compassionate, as well as giving a listening ear to the poor, weak, depressed, etc. For where there is no sacrifice, there is no love, and where there is no love, then there is no Christianity. Please Tap the link below 👇 to read and understand more…* https://frbenokala.com/2022/05/14/homily-of-5th-sunday-of-easter-year-c/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/rev-fr-benjamin-okala/message
  1. HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
  2. HOMILY OF 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C (GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY)
  3. Homily of 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
  4. Homily of 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
  5. Homily of 29th 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.

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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.

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My Homilies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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I am the Bread of Life
My Homilies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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