Friday, March 27, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - March 29, 2020. Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent year A

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Lent of Year A 2020
The first reading was Ezekiel’s prophecy to the people of Israel while they were in exile in Babylon. They had resigned to hopeless that they would never be free, and would never return to their homeland. Ezekiel was one of the prophets God sent to give hope to the people. The images Ezekiel used to describe the people’s situation, as we see in the reading, are death and grave. Ezekiel then prophesied spirit, life, and restoration. Ezekiel prophesied, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them… I will put my spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you upon your land…” This prophecy was fulfilled in about 597BC when King Cyrus of Persia released the people of Israel to return to their land (Ezra 1:1-11). The king decreed, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.” … “In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.”
In the Gospel, Lazarus was dead and was four days in the grave. He was brought back to life by Jesus. It was a hopeless case before Jesus arrived. When Jesus was told that Lazarus was ill he did not proceed immediately to visit Lazarus. It took him four days before he arrived at the home of Mary and Martha. Jesus ordered, “Take away the stone.” He commanded, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus came out with hand and foot tied with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. Finally, Jesus ordered, “Untie him and let him go.”
The Israelites were seventy years in Babylon before they got their freedom. Lazarus was four days in the grave before Jesus brought him back to life. This means that sometimes, difficult times can last for a while. Sometimes, it takes a while before God answers our prayers. Therefore, during difficult times, we are encouraged to persevere in prayer. Jesus promises in Matthew 24:13, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
The Israelites never believed that there was hope for them to return to their home land. But when it was God’s time, it came very fast and easy, and with unexpected blessings. The people of Israel did not fight for their freedom, and they left Babylon with so much gold and silver to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Also, in the Gospel, nobody believed that Lazarus would live again after being dead for four days, but Jesus brought him back to life. There is nothing God cannot do, even in the most hopeless cases. Therefore, let us take courage faithfully. God has the final say. God speaks to us through Prophet Ezekiel, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them.”
A very difficult question is often asked, “Why do innocent people go through trials?” Jesus’ words answer this question. About Lazarus Jesus said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified.” And Jesus said to Martha, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” Last Sunday, Jesus said about the blind man, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:3). In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” St. Paul adds, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, and who are called to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These words of Jesus and St. Paul give inner light and strength to faithful and spiritual persons. Non-spiritual persons are incapable of comprehending the spiritual meanings of the words.
The Israelites were under the yoke of slavery in Babylon. Lazarus was dead and in the grave covered by a stone. He was bound hand and foot, and his face wrapped in a cloth. We may have our kind of yoke enslaving us; we may be experiencing the sting of death and feeling like being in the grave; we may be feeling like we are weighed down by a large stone; we may be feeling like tied by hand and foot; we may be feeling like our face is wrapped in a cloth. As St. Paul prayed in the second reading, may the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead give life to our mortal bodies, break our yokes, raise us up from our graves, remove the stones weighing upon us, untie us and set us free. Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, March 20, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - March 22, 2020. Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent year A

Homily of Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A
In the first reading, Samuel, in a way, was blind as to who God was going to choose to replace Saul as the king of Israel. God guided him until he anointed David. If not by God’s guidance, Samuel would have made a wrong choice. I believe that this passage teaches us a few lessons. (1) Appearance can be deceptive. Initial impressions and thoughts are not always right. We must not make judgements and conclusions, quickly based in appearance, initial impressions, and thoughts. Sometimes, there is more than meets the eye. Sometimes, what we see is the tip of the iceberg. What is on the surface can be illusive.  It is important to spend quality time in discernment and prayer before decisions are made. It is important to listen attentively to God and follow his guidance. However, spending quality time in discernment and prayer before decisions are made does not encourage prolonged indecision and procrastination.  (2) Samuel did not depend on what was presented to him. He made inquiry: ‘“Are these all the sons you have?’ Jesse replied, ‘There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he arrives here.”’ We must not be afraid or reluctant or mesmerized or carried away to ask valid questions which may help us to a better understanding and help to unravel the truth. My dad, God rest his soul, used to tell me, "Son, do not call a mirage a river until you get to it.” (3) Someone says, “Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.” David was the last key in a bunch of eight keys that opened the lock. (4) Jesse never imagined that the youngest of his sons could be considered for such an exulted position. Let us not underestimate what God can do through anyone or in the life of anyone. (5) Samuel reminds us that our Omniscient God knows what is in the heart of each one of us. We can deceive our fellow human beings but we cannot deceive God. (6) No one can claim with certitude what is a person’s heart. Therefore, we must be careful to claim to know what people are thinking or what people are going to do. One may end up with wrong and unfair judgements.
We pray for those who by the nature of their call or work have to make judgements on others that they may be open to the wisdom and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We, pray, too for all of us that we may cooperate with promptings of the Holy Spirit who directs us to the right way during our various valleys of decision.
In the Gospel we see the physical blind man healed by Jesus and spiritual blind Jews who refused to see God’s wonderful work in Jesus, and do not recognize that Jesus came from God. The blind man who received his sight recognized Jesus as Lord and prophet, and worshipped him. The Jews, on the other hand, were unrepentant and did not believe in Jesus. They remained spiritually blind.
While physical blindness is when a person is unable to see due to the corruption of the eye by some disease or deformity, spiritual blindness is when a person, due the corruption of the mind, loses sight of the truth. The person is spiritually in darkness.
Sometimes, we are spiritually blind to right judgement and focus our attention on appearance alone as Samuel did. Sometimes, we are spiritually blind to the truth and wonderful work of God in others like the Jews. Sometimes we are spiritually blind to God’s presence and new possibilities like the Jews.
In one way or another, all of us have some degree of spiritual blindness. In this fourth week of Lent, St. Paul encourages us in the second reading to wake up from blindness and darkness and receive the light of Christ. St. Paul encourages us to “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
We pray for all spiritually blind religious and civil rulers, leaders, and guides whose spiritual blindness has brought suffering and death to our world. May they be delivered from their blindness. Amen.
Jesus, you are the light of the world. Each of us is burdened by all kinds of blindness. Heal us as you healed the blind man in the Gospel. May your word come true in us, “Neither [us] nor [our] parents have sinned; it is so that the work of God might be made visible through [us].” Thank you Jesus because we believe that by your power, the work of God will be made visible through us and in us. Amen and Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - March 15, 2020. Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent year A

Homily of Third Sunday of Lent of Year A 2020
In the first reading, the Israelites journeying in the desert thirsted for water. In their difficulty, they did not cry to God. Rather, they grumbled against Moses. Sometimes, our life’s journey can be without ‘water’ like the Israelites in the desert. Do we do the same? Grumble against one another, blame one another and fight one another; instead of coming together, reasoning together, and praying together for God’s intervention, guidance and direction? When the people grumbled, nothing happened. But when Moses cried to God, something happened. God does not respond to our grumbling. He responds to our prayers.
God directed Moses to strike the rock with the miracle staff in his hand. He did, and water flowed from the rock for the people.  The solution was in Moses’ hand but he did not know it. The solution to our problem may be right before us. We need to always pray for God’s divine guidance and direction.
Many times, God brings solutions through unexpected and unlikely means. Probably, the expectation of the people was a rain fall or find a cistern anywhere nearby for them to have some water.  Rather, God made water flow from rock. Our God is a God of surprises.
St. Paul encourages us in the second reading that we will never be disappointed if we have unshaken faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Such faith and hope bring about the outpouring of God’s love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Such outpouring by the Holy Spirit is empowering and uplifting, and makes us radiate with joy no matter the extent of the problem. It makes us not to be consumed by the hard times we are going through. With such faith and hope, there is no space for grumbling. Rather, we look up to our faithful God.
In the Gospel, the Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. At the well she met Jesus. The woman was wounded in many ways. She carried racial wound. We read: “Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’” She immediately voiced out her racial wound, “‘How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.” At that time, the Jews despised the Samaritans and claimed superiority over them. But Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman in order to break down the racial gully between the Jews and the Gentiles.
Another wound the Samaritan woman carried was that she had had five husbands and was at that moment cohabiting with a man. We do not know her past life with the five men, but we can conclude that it would have been very tough for her. One husband is tough enough, how much more five!
From all indications, the Samaritan woman was a frustrated, disappointed, unstable, isolated, dejected, and humiliated person. Her wounded and depressed life can be seen in her actions. She came to draw water alone, and at noon, at an hour she would meet no body. People, usually, fetch water in the morning and in the evening, hardly in the middle of the day. It was also strange, at that time, for a woman to go anywhere all alone, not in a company of other women. Although the woman came to draw water, Jesus saw that she needed healing and salvation much more than ordinary water.
The Samaritan woman was healed, liberated, and transformed. Her deliverance had immediate effect. The isolated and depressed woman radiated with joy. She became a witness and an evangelizer. As we read, she left her jar and hurried into the town and testified her experience to her people. Many followed her to see Jesus, and began to believe in him. On their invitation, Jesus stayed two days with them preaching to them. “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.’”   
There are many people who are dried up like Israelites in the desert, or depressed like the Samaritan woman. As we celebrate this Eucharist, we are at the well and Jesus is meeting us. Prophet Isaiah 12:3 assures us, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” As water flowed from the rock in the desert, so also God’s graces flow from this sanctuary as we celebrate this Eucharist. Isaiah 55:1 invites us, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” Psalm 34:18-21 assures us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all. He watches over all their bones; not one of them shall be broken.” Psalm 147: 3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds their wounds.”  May God heal our brokenness and wounds. May our testimonies of answered prayers bring many to rejoice with us and in turn believe in the saving power of God. Amen.
Fr Martin Eke, MSP

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - March 29, 2020. Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent year A

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Lent of Year A 2020 The first reading was Ezekiel’s prophecy to the people of Israel while they were in exil...