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LOVE OF GOD

God Loves and Cares for us beyond our widest imagination. He demonstrated His Love for humanity by sending His Son, Jesus Christ into the world who selflessly sacrificed His life for the salvation of our souls.

Call to Discipleship. Jesus Christ sitting on a rock and preaching to the Crowd.

HOMILY OF 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

TRUE DISCIPLESHIP: A CALL TO FREEDOM FROM WORLDLY ATTACHMENTS

1st Reading: 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21; 2nd Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Gospel: Luke 9: 51-62

Our existence in this world is a Divine call. For none of us chose to come into this world on his or her own accord, rather God chose us and sent us into the world for different purposes. However, this call by God has implications, conditions, as well as consequences. It is a call to total commitment, self-abandonment, and freedom from slavery, which prevent us from actualizing our ultimate goal in life.

In the first reading, when Elijah called Elisha to follow him, he went and sacrificed all his oxen immediately, and used his farming implements as fuel to boil them and then bade farewell to his family. This immediate response shows his renunciation of his previous occupation or life for his new vocation as Elijah’s disciple. What a resolute decision and response!

In a similar way, Jesus Christ always chooses His disciples by Himself and not them choosing Him. He made this clear to His disciples, when He said: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out bear fruit, fruit that will last(John 15:16). Meanwhile, in today’s Gospel, a man approached Him and requested to follow Him wherever He goes. However, Christ’s response to him: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head(Luke 9:58) seemed to have rejected the man’s humble request. Not at all. Christ simply wanted him to know the implications of discipleship. For the scripture says: “My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes(Sirach 2:1-2).

On the other hand, Jesus Christ called two other men to follow Him, but they started giving excuses. One said: “let me go and bury my father”, and the other said, “let me bid farewell to my family.” In his response, Christ told them to drop whatever other agenda they had, which enslave them and make them earthbound, and then follow Him to proclaim the Kingdom of God. That is exactly what His first disciples did when they were called; they left everything and followed Him immediately (Luke 5:11). For anyone who starts to plough and is looking back is not worthy of the Kingdom of God. This implies that, following Jesus Christ does not admit of any excuses or double standard life (sycophancy, deceit, hypocrisy, dubiety, cunning, insincerity, etc.).

Moreover, it is worthy of note that, when Jesus Christ calls people to follow Him, He wants them to leave all other relationships and attachments behind, and then cling to Him without any reservation like Elisha in the first reading. It is a call to total abandonment of self, and detachment from worldliness, which also requires resolute decisions, focus and absolute dedication. This detachment from earthly possessions and family enables the disciple to be free to serve God sincerely and wholeheartedly. For Christ made it categorically clear to His disciples, that a call to discipleship is a call to self-denial and total abandonment to the will of God (John 6:38; Mark 8:34).

By the virtue of our baptism, we have been set free from the dominion of darkness which enslaved us, and thus become sons and daughters of God, as well as, the disciples of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13-14). Just like the early disciples of Jesus, we did not choose Him, no, He chose us. In other words, we are Christians not because we wanted to be Christians, but only because Jesus made us so by His own deliberate choice. His reasons for choosing us are known to Him alone. So, we must follow Him completely with all our hearts. To place our very selves and all our possessions at His disposal, to do with us as He pleases.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that if we are to enjoy this freedom that Christ has won for us, we need to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit. For many of us have the desire to serve God, and to offer our lives to Him. But, at times, our attachment to sinful habits or attitudes, to possessions and relationships, hinders us from following Him more closely. That is why St. Paul urges us to work in the spirit so that we would not live double standard life or gratify the desires of the flesh: Adultery, fornication, masturbation, homosexuality, lesbianism, idolatry, envy, jealousy, unforgiveness, greed, etc., which tend to enslave us (Galatians 5:16).

Finally, our call to Christian life is a call or journey undertaken to follow Christ more closely and total dedication to God’s will. Also, not to live or act in a way that compromises our call to discipleship, or that contradicts our Christian faith. We also need to burn the yoke of slavery to sin and worldly things, and in its place take up the yoke of Christ to find true freedom and joy.

Although, answering this divine call may be cumbersome, or saturated with rejections, persecutions, hatred, conspiracies, etc., accruing from wicked people around us. However, instead of calling fire from heaven to consume them, like James and John in the today’s gospel, Christ asks us to ignore their shenanigans, and still show them genuine love. Our decisions to give up our inheritance or abandon our promising career trajectory in order to follow Christ, may sound preposterous. But, Jesus Christ promised us that; “everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life(Matthew 19:29).

PRAYER:

May the Power of the Holy Spirit guide you in making resolute decisions that will contribute to the promotion of the Kingdom of God, deliver you and your family from the forces of darkness and worldly attachments; and may you find joy in serving the LORD and loving Him above all things, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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The Potrait of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS

THE HEART OF CHRIST RADIATES LIFE AND LOVE!

1st Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16; 2nd Reading: Romans 5:5- 11; Gospel: Luke 15:3-7

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. It is one of the most widely practiced and well known Catholic Devotions in the world.  This heart of Jesus Christ Symbolizes God’s infinite mercy, abundant and passionate love for humanity.

WHY DOES THE CHURCH CELEBRATE THIS FEAST?

We know that the heart is the seat of Love and where there is love there is life and health. Only a pure heart can love genuinely and unconditionally, and once you’re connected to that heart that is pure, life is being transferred or infused in you and you will be transformed. Jesus Christ is a Man with a Pure, Compassionate, Kind, Humble and Merciful Heart, Slow to Anger and abounding in Love. That is why He tells us in Matthew 11:28, to come to Him, those who are overburdened with heavy load in their hearts, that He will give them rest. Because He has come that we might have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10).

Meanwhile, in the first reading, through Prophet Ezekiel, God promised to seek out for His sheep; and to rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. Gloriously, this promise is being fulfilled in today’s Gospel, through Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd, who goes in search of the lost sheep, and, after finding it, rejoices with His neighbours. Certainly, it was because of the genuine Love He has for humanity that He decided to come as human in order to redeem her from her precarious and sinful state. Thus, Jesus reveals His compassionate love towards those who go astray, in order to reconcile them back to the Almighty God, who is the Source of Life, so that they might have life in fullness and live forever.

Moreover, He did this by shedding His precious Blood on the Cross and His Sacred Heart was pierced with a spear, and thus Blood and Water gushed out. Consequently, when He was raised up high on the Cross, He gave Himself for humanity with a Sacrificial Love; ratified by His precious Blood and Water pouring out from His pierced Heart, which is the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments. So, that won over to the open Heart of our Saviour Jesus Christ, we might with Joy draw water from the well of Salvation (Isaiah 12:5).

Therefore, we need to make frantic efforts daily in order to be connected to this heart. For instance, a magnet has the ability to attract any metallic object and can transfer its properties to that metal when it is being attached to it for some time. Subsequently, that metal would become a temporal magnet and thus begins to attract other metallic objects. So also, if we faithfully attach ourselves to Jesus Christ on a daily basis through the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Penance, and allow Him to dwell in our hearts, then His attributes of purity, compassion, kindness, humility, merciful heart, slowness in anger and unconditional love will definitely be infused or transferred into our hearts. When this transformation takes place in our hearts, we will be able to transform the lives of those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Finally, since God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, just as St. Paul explains in the second reading, I enjoin you all today, to imitate that Heart that is Sacred, Pure and Lovely, so that you may have life in abundance and live forever.

PRAYER:

Say: Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be to the Father … O Most Sacred Heart 💘 ❤ of Jesus Christ, I place all my trust in you, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners, and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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The Sacrifice of the Holy Mass

SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, YEAR C

THEME: THE HOLY EUCHARIST: OUR SACRIFICIAL LAMB.

1st Reading: Genesis 14:18-20; 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Gospel: Luke 9:11-17

Sacrifice is something one gives up, usually for the sake of a better cause. It is the offering of material possessions, animals or even humans, especially by a priest to a deity, as an act of propitiation or worship or thanksgiving. Moreover, it is a gift that a Priest offers to God as a sign that those offering belong to Him. The outward offering of the gift signifies the inward offering of the heart or consecration of one’s life to God. It is also an act of “giving” because one is thankful of what one has already received. Hence, thanksgiving is more than a verbal expression of gratitude.

Meanwhile, today the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Holy Eucharist or Holy Mass), which symbolizes and actualizes the sacrifice of the new Covenant so as to atone for our sins once and for all. It is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He instituted to perpetuate His redeeming sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until His return in glory. Thus, Christ entrusted to His Church this memorial of His death and resurrection, which is at the very heart of our Catholic faith, and the source and summit of the whole Christian life. The depth of its mystery is without limit, because it is the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem of the Church’s activities.

Furthermore, the Holy Eucharist is the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. Certainly, Jesus Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist (Holy Mass) offered by the Priest; for through the Power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine would be transformed (Transubstantiation) into the real body and blood of Christ. The priest and the victim are the same; only the manner of offering is different.

Besides, the sacrifice of the Cross (in a bloody manner) and the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist (in an unbloody manner) are one and the same sacrifice. During the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of His body (the Church). The lives of the faithful, their praises, offerings, sufferings, and prayers, are united to those of Christ.

In the first reading, Melchizedek, a Priest of the Most High God, offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in form of bread and wine for the victory granted Abraham, who then gave him a tenth of everything (tithe) in return, which shows the superiority of his priesthood that is eternal like that of Christ. This is a figure of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (Holy Eucharist).

Unfortunately, so many Christians have been taught only to “share of their abundance.” This is a very shallow interpretation of giving. Sharing is not giving, because people share from their surpluses, that is, what they do not need. Such people will give only after they are satiated; and as we know, the human condition is encumbered with plethora of challenges; always feel in need.

However, true thanksgiving is an act of self-giving, which is made manifest by works. Tithing is a response, not a catalyst. Giving is a sacrifice, esteeming the other’s needs more needful than our own. For true giving requires sacrifice. A sacrifice of thanksgiving is not truly a sacrifice if it comes without any effort or expense. A worthy sacrifice of thanksgiving acceptable to God always comes with a costly prize. If it costs us nothing, it is not a sacrifice. That is why the Word of God speaks of the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 107:22).

Moreover, there is an undeniable correlation between the sacrifice of thanksgiving and the paying of vows. For King David said: “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD in the presence of all His people” (Psalm 116:17-18). Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God. That’s the reason why St. Paul enjoins us to become living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1). For only through sacrifice can we become worthy to live in the presence of God and enjoy eternal life.

In the Gospel, Jesus Christ took the offerings (bread and fish) brought by His disciples, gazed up to heaven in thanksgiving to God, and blessed and multiplied them to feed the hungry multitude and also healed those who were sick. Thus, He satisfied and nourished both the physical and spiritual yearnings of the crowd who gathered to listen to His teachings. This is exactly what happens to us during the Holy Eucharist. We offer God our gifts of thanksgiving, and thus receive divine nourishment.

Meanwhile, all the essential aspects of humanity: body and Soul, can only be alive to function effectively if they receive their proper nourishments. For instance, the food of the body is Physical (ephemeral): bread or meat, and water or wine. On the other hand, the food of the Soul is Spiritual (eternal): Body and Blood of Christ (John 6:35). These help to boost our energy levels (physically and spiritually) to work efficiently. When we are starved, we become weak, sick and can even die without food. This implies that, for any aspect of our being to be alive, we must always nourish it with its proper food.

Undoubtedly, the Holy Eucharist is the medicine of immortality as well as a powerful divine nourishment for our souls, which when one eats and drinks, will no longer hunger nor thirsts nor die spiritually, but lives eternally (John 6:51). It also helps to detoxify our whole being whenever we worthily receive it in faith, that is, after genuine repentance (Sacramental Confessions). Thus, only then can we experience Christ’s healing touch. Unfortunately, many people are not only physically sick, but spiritually, emotionally, psychologically sick and dead, because they hardly go to Healing Centre (Confession) before receiving the Holy Eucharist. It is just like eating a healthy or nutritious food with a poisonous plate.

In the second reading, St. Paul reemphasized the true meaning of the Holy Eucharist, which was directly revealed to him by Jesus Christ Himself. At the Eucharistic Celebration, we become partakers in the One Bread (1 Corinthians 10:17), sharing in Christ’s Divine Nature. Through the anamnesis of His death and resurrection, we all become united in Christ. We who receive the Body and Blood of Christ worthily, partake of the eternal life He has gained for us.

Finally, out of love, Jesus Christ left us the Holy Eucharist as a visible sacrifice, in order to represent continually that which was once accomplished on the Cross, and to apply the fruits of it to our souls. Many Saints had strong recourse to the Holy Eucharist, which really sustained them in their life journey. Thus, they offered their lives as living sacrifices to God in response to His Divine Love, and at the end, gained eternal life. Therefore, let us emulate them by offering ourselves as living sacrifices acceptable to God, and for the good of humanity. In as much as we struggle for the physical food to keep our body moving, may we also worthily seek and desire more of the spiritual food which leads to eternal life.

PRAYER:

May the Holy Eucharist heal every maladies challenging your life, and whatever is dead in your life, may it be restored back to life, and enable you to make sacrifices for the good of others and to the glory of God, 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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Holy Trinity

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, YEAR C

THEME: THE HOLY TRINITY: A LOVE COMMUNITY

1st Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31; 2nd Reading: Romans 5:1-5; Gospel: John 16:12-15.

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Doctrine of the Trinity (TRINITAS), which was first used in Christian Theology by Tertullian (AD 160–220) signifies the central and quintessential dogma of the Christian religion. It is the fundamental beliefs and the most sublime in all of Christianity. It holds that: “there is One Eternal God who exists in three Divine Persons – Father (Creator), and the Son (Redeemer) and the Holy Spirit (Sanctifier).” These three Divine Persons live in perfect unity and communion with each other, which is bond by LOVE.

Meanwhile, our knowledge of God as humans is limited due to the mystery of His Divine nature. As a matter of fact, no one has ever seen God, but through faith many people believe in the existence of One God. However, the notion of three Divine Persons (hypostasis in Greek) in One God is a profound mystery that is beyond human comprehension. Nevertheless, we can only deduce this nature of God through the revelations we get from Jesus Christ, through the scriptures. Although the relationship of the TRINITY is a mystery, but we can make references through these Biblical quotations (please tap on the Bible verses to view): Gen. 1:26, Gen. 2:7, John 10:30, Luke 1:35, John 1:1, John 14:23, John 14:9-11, Matt. 28:18-20, 2Cor.13:14, etc.

However, many people do not see the importance and significance in their lives, or in the world. Moreover, the real crux of the matter for some persons in the early Christianity was this: how can Christians witness the presence of God, which they experience in Jesus the Christ, and still maintain their belief in God as one? Since Christianity is firmly rooted in Judaism and is a monotheistic religion and not a polytheistic religion, the struggle has always been to articulate the faith that Jesus is the Christ (anointed one) of God and at the same time to maintain that there is only one God.

Surprisingly, the incomprehensibility in the notion of the Trinity engendered heretical assumptions by some Christian bishops, Priests and theologians like Arius (256-336 AD): “that Jesus Christ is not God and not of the same Substance with the Father; and the Holy Spirit is of lower rank than the Father and the Son.” For them, it would appear as if there are 3 different Gods that have operated in different eras in the history of humanity. Consequently, the COUNCILS OF NICAEA (325AD) and CONSTANTINOPLE (381AD) were convoked in order to resolve and affirm the natures of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit respectively. Hence, these brought forth the definition and formulation of the Doctrine of the Nicene Creed (or Apostles Creed) which we profess in the Church today.

THE IMPORTANCE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLY TRINITY TO HUMANITY.

The Trinitarian God has been working together as one God throughout the history of the world. However, in the scriptures, one may observe that the Old Testament seems to be the era of the Father, early first century AD of the New Testament seems to be the era of the Son, and after Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, also from the Apostolic era to our contemporary era seems to be the era of the Holy Spirit.

Certainly, this was made possible due to the Love that exists among the triune God. For out Love, God never allowed humanity to perish after the fall of Adam, rather He sent His only begotten Son to reconcile humanity back to His friendship. So that, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, and thus, is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then keeps His commands, will be saved (Matthew 28:19). This is the wisdom of God which He has hidden from the mind of humanity as enunciated in the first reading. For Juicy fruits flow from docility to wisdom’s instruction on genuine love. No wonder St. Irenaeus opined that Jesus and Holy Spirit (Word & Wisdom) are the two Hands of God working in creation process.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ also gave His disciples a glimpse of the relationship that exists among the trinity when he told Philip: “…to see me is to have seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in me (John.14:9-10).” Also, “I and my father are one(John. 10:30). He further affirmed this in today’s gospel: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but will speak whatever He hears, and will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you(John 16:13-15).

Undoubtedly, it is the Holy Trinity that fortifies and consoles us whenever we are suffering or passing through difficulties in life. For St. Paul averred this in the second reading, that “through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us(Romans 5:1-5).

As human beings, we come from different backgrounds and cultures, with different temperaments and opinions, and belong to various groups by birth or affinity. These differences, in human considerations alone, give rise to rivalry, jealousy, competitiveness, discord and conflict. But as Christians, we are called to take the Holy Trinity as the model for our interpersonal relationships.

Our differences, instead of being a cause of division, become a richness to be accepted, encouraged and celebrated. Our varying gifts become charisms to be used in collaboration with others, for the good of all. For what makes us the children of God according to St. Paul is the Spirit of God in us (Romans 8:16), which binds us in Love and Communion with one another; just as the TRINITY are bond by LOVE and live as United Family or in Perfect Communion with one another.

Finally, the trinity is the unity and communion of the Triune Godhead as three distinct yet interdependent persons. A community of love that extends God’s love to humanity. So, when the doctrine of the Trinity says that one God exists in three Persons, it means that God is a Community of three Persons in a relationship of love. The Father loves the Son in communion with the Holy Spirit. The Son loves the Father in communion with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Therefore, although we have different faces, characters, nations, but we are all created in the image and likeness of one eternal God. Our calling is for a purpose: to be in Communion with God, living in peace and unity with one another, and then bearing good fruits that will foster good community living, which is bond by LOVE.

PRAYER:

May the Love that bond the Holy Trinity together envelope and bind you and family, 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.

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Doves 🕊 with the letters Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the Faithful

HOMILY OF THE PENTECOST SUNDAY, YEAR C

THEME: THE HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERS US TO DO GOOD.

(1st Reading: Acts 2:1-11; 2nd Reading: Romans 8:8-17; Gospel: John 14:15-16, 23-26)

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Today, the Holy Mother Church celebrates in a very special way the Pentecost Sunday; the decent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Blessed Virgin Mary! It is a celebration in honour of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Most Blessed Trinity; one in being with the Father and the Son, and equal to them in every respect.

Meanwhile, on the day Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, He promised to send His disciples the Comforter, the Power 💥 of the Most High God, who will be with them till the end of time (Acts 1:8). Consequently, that promise which Jesus made to the disciples just as in today’s Gospel: “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you… But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you(John 14:18, 26), is being fulfilled today in our lives.

This is a memorial day that the Church was born in order to continue the salvific mission and to courageously bear witness to the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Moreover, the actual birth of the Church was on Calvary, while Jesus Christ hung on the Cross, in fulfilment of His prophecy: “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself(John 12:32). But, Pentecost Sunday marks the day that the Church was first introduced to the world, that is, the first public outing of the Church.

Today, there is a major renewal of interest in the Holy Spirit and spiritual charisms. In the first reading, the disciples were inundated by the Power of the Holy Spirit, which engendered mutual love, forgiveness, peace, generosity and unity in diversity among many people of diverse cultures present, without any discrimination or confusion that was witnessed at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Unfortunately, many gifts of the Holy Spirit are restricted to spectacular, extraordinary and momentary phenomena which often become a cause of rivalry, conflict and division.

Undoubtedly, the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in us may not manifest unless we are, first of all, aware of that presence and that action, and secondly, we make ourselves available for their manifestation in us. For wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is Liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). So, how do we recognize His presence and be sure that we are truly led by Him? Certainly, the litmus tests are: only when we love (sacrifice) sincerely, forgive no matter the offence, instigate unity in our community, show compassion, detach ourselves from earthly possessions as well exhibit other fruits of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise we should pray and invite Him to possess us.

The second reading describes a consequence of the presence of the Spirit. Each of us has been given gifts by the same Spirit and they must not be a source of competition, but must rather be put at the service of unity. The Holy Spirit is the new law, the force that leads us to do good, which pulls down barriers, and wherever it enters it destroys sin. He will never tell us that everything in our journey of life will be smooth and without hitch at all.… No, that is the deceptive voice of the evil spirit. For life is not a bed of roses, but imbued with plethora of challenges.

As the scripture says: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him(Romans 8:15-17).

However, the Holy Spirit helps us to navigate through the vicissitudes of life unscathed. As a matter of fact, He corrects and guides us along the way, and never leaves us lying on the ground even when we sin or offend God. Rather, He takes us by the hand, comforts us and constantly encourages us (Proverbs 24:16). He makes us weep for our sins; pushes us to frequent confessions, genuine repentance and change of heart; that is, to fight against our lies, deceptions, hatred, rivalry, disunity, wickedness, etc., even when that calls for hard work, interior struggle and sacrifice.

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit pushes us to love and to always do what is pleasing in the sight of God in accordance with the scriptures. Certainly, charisms that build up faith and unity in the Christian community, and lead to greater understanding, forgiveness and service, are true signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is sent for a purpose: to remind the disciples of the teachings of Jesus Christ and to instruct them further; to invest the apostles with the authority to forgive sins (John 20:22-23); to build up the faith and unity of the Christian community through various gifts of the Spirit, rejuvenates the Church and teaches her to be an open house of unity without walls of division. Hence, as Christians, who are now the present disciples of Christ and the embodiments or temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), we are now charged with the responsibility of propagating the Power of God beyond the frontiers of the earth through love, peace, kindness, unity, forgiveness, generosity, etc.

PRAYER:

Therefore, as the heavily dew🔥 (Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, Holy Fear) falls on the disciples today, may the Power 💥 of the Most High God penetrate your inmost heart and reinvigorate, strengthen and fortify you and your entire family so as to produce more Fruits 🍇🍓🍅 of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, generosity, self-control, modesty and chastity), 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.

HAPPY FEAST OF PENTECOST!!!

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ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN UNITE US TOGETHER IN TRUTH!

HOMILY OF 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THEME: ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN UNITE US TOGETHER IN TRUTH!

(1st Reading: Acts 17:55-60; 2nd Reading: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-20; Gospel: John 1:20-26)

In our contemporary society, most times, to express what one sees as the “truth” could be detrimental, especially when it threatens long-standing norms. For instance, if you tell the truth that conflicts with political or religious ideologies and principles, conventional and professional opinions, you will be marginalized, rejected, attacked, ridiculed and criticized even by members of your own religion or those with vested interests in the opinion you uphold; or you may be killed, despite guarantees of freedom of speech which is stipulated in our country’s constitution. Sequel to these undeniable facts, many people seldom speak the truth for fear of being rejected or even killed, thereby allowing things to go wrong. But should we compromise the truth so as to avoid criticisms or persecutions?

In the first reading, Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, courageously highlighted the historical truth of the scriptures concerning Jesus Christ, and thus confronted the Jews for obnoxiously killing the ancient prophets as well as their resistance of the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. These statements infuriated the Jews, which led to his killing.

Surprisingly, while they were stoning him, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them(Acts 7:59-60). What a compassionate request! This was exactly what Jesus Christ did during His Crucifixion! Of course, the Holy Spirit was instrumental to this extraordinary reaction, otherwise Stephen would have cursed or prayed for God’s vengeance upon his enemies.

Undoubtedly, trials and tribulations are sufferings resulting from oppressions or persecutions. They are basic elements that make up the negative valence of affective phenomena. Most times, they can help one to grow to the full stature of maturity or perfection. Unfortunately, many people think that those who are always encumbered with a lot of tribulations are accursed. It is not always the case!

As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ said to His disciples: “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations. But be courageous; I have conquered the world(John 16:33). However, the kind of tribulations that are meritorious are the very ones we suffer for the sake of love of Christ. For our sufferings and struggles of this present life, even torture and death to our bodies, are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us (Romans 8:18).

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world for the redemption of the whole human race without any discrimination or segregation. His aim was to reconcile and unite every person to God, so that there would be one family of God, or sheepfold with one Shepherd. He wanted unity and love for His followers so much, and that was the reason why in today’s Gospel, He prayed seriously for His disciples as well as those who would believe in Him through their words. The climax of this Priestly Prayer comes as He prays that all believers may be one as He and the Father are one:  “May they become perfectly one so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me(John 17:23).

Unfortunately, the disunity among Christians has been a veritable scandal, because it was not willed by Jesus Christ. Although the Universal Church established “ecumenism” to promote dialogue with Christians of other denominations, which is aimed at progressively narrowing the divisions among Christians until we become one again, in accordance with the intention and prayer of Jesus Christ for His followers. Yet, there seems to be more divisions, hatred, acrimony, rejection of truth and also persecutions among Christians. The evidence is clear; “many Christians lack the Holy Spirit, and do not care to invite Him to take control of their endeavours.” For the Holy Spirit engenders brotherly love, peace, patience, faith, hope, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, justice, equity, fairness, unity, trust, etc.

In the second reading, Jesus Christ stated categorically: “I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he or she has done.” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates(Revelation 22: 12-14).

Therefore, since all our actions will be judged accordingly on the last day, then we should strive daily towards fulfilling our LORD’s wish and prayer of unity and love among believers anywhere we find ourselves. Also, ensuring that we have cordial relationships with God and our fellow human beings; and by promoting justice, equity, fairness, love, peace, unity, forgiveness, etc. in our society. However, we can only succeed when we constantly seek the intervention of the Holy Spirit in all our endeavours.

Finally, since Jesus Christ earnestly desires the unity and love of all believers, then we should strive daily to make it a reality through our constant prayers, words and positive attitudes towards others, even our enemies (Luke 6:27). As Christians, we cannot but speak the truth always, for God is truth, and truth is life. Compromising the truth in order to please people implies that we prefer to follow the devil, the father of lies.

Though people may attack us for proclaiming and upholding the truth, but once we trust in God Almighty, He will surely vindicate us through the Power of the Holy Spirit. So, let us not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which we were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). For only Him can unite us together in truth, peace, harmony and love.

PRAYER:

May the Power of the Holy Spirit penetrate your innermost heart so that you can courageously proclaim the truth at all times, and always live in unity, peace, harmony and love with one another, and at the end of your life, may you gain eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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True Love is Sacrifice empowered by the Holy Spirit

HOMILY OF 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

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

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

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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Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd caring for His Sheep

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

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

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

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
remove the log in your eyes first

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

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

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

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 💗

BRIEF REFLECTION ON VALENTINE’S DAY CELEBRATION!

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.

The Character of a True Prophet

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

A TRUE PROPHET IS A LOVING AND CARING PERSON

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

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 Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ

THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

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

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

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.

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.

Homily of 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

THEME: GOD CHOSE US FOR HUMBLE AND SACRIFICIAL TASKS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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

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

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

In our contemporary 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.

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Jesus and Little Children

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

THEME: CHILDLIKE ATTITUDE IN MARRIAGE: A GATEWAY TO GOD’S KINGDOM!

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

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

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

THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO HUMBLY SERVE ALL WITH A CHILDLIKE SPIRIT!

1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; 2nd Reading: James 3:16-4:3; Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

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.

The Dynamics of Life Journey!

 

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

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

THEME: GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN OUR SUFFERINGS.

1st Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9; 2nd Reading: James 2:14-18; Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

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

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

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

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

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.

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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