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MERCY OF GOD

God is so merciful and compassionate. He is not looking at the magnitude of our sins, but how humble we are to repent from them, and then come to His throne of mercy to say we are sorry. 

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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HOMILY OF 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRAYER:

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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First Sunday of Advent: The Temptation of Jesus Christ

HOMILY OF 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRAYER:

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

Peace of Christ be with you…

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

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remove the log in your eyes first

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.

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.

The Dynamics of Life Journey!

 

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

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