Thursday, January 21, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary time Year B - January 24, 2021

Homily of Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B, 2021

 Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29:31; Mark 1:14-20

 The story of Prophet Jonah, his mission in Nineveh, and the repentance of the people of Nineveh was a prophecy to the people of Israel when they returned from the Babylonian captivity. It was an example of the type of repentance that God required of the people of Israel. God used a non-Jewish people as an example for the Israelites. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, an unfriendly country to Israel. This seems to give an insight as to why Jonah resisted God’s call to go to Nineveh to prophecy to them. However, he was forced to go by the means of the fish that swallowed him and dropped him off the coast of Nineveh. And when the people of Nineveh repented and God cancelled the threat of destroying them, Jonah was angry. It appears that Jonah wanted to see the enemies of Israel destroyed. He did not understand God’s plan. Surely, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Like Jonah, sometimes, we resist God’s will and prefer our own will. Later, Jesus made reference to the story of Jonah and the Ninevites while denouncing the Jews, “At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here” (Matthew 12:41).

 In the first reading Jonah announced to the people of Nineveh, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” The reading continues, “When the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” A way of applying the message of this reading is, there are people who must change their way of life or they ruin themselves. For such people, the change is necessary immediately or they are ruined. St. Paul warns in the second reading, “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.” The first reading shows us how great God’s mercy is. God forgave the people of Nineveh as soon as they believed in him and turned from their evil way. In the same way, God erases our sinful past when we repent, believe in him, and turn to him. God rescues us from the bondage of our ugly past as soon as we believe in him, turn to him and surrender.

 St. Paul warns in the second reading, “From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully.” This warning to the Corinthians was because at that time followers of Christ thought that the second coming of Christ was imminent. St. Paul taught the Corinthians that since “the time is running out” and “the world in its present form is passing away,” nothing else should matter to anyone except “adherence to the Lord without distraction” (1 Corinthians 7:35).

 This reading speaks to us in a special way. Each person’s world is passing away. It may be sooner or later. Since no one is sure, we are warned to prepare to meet our God any time he calls us. Jesus says in the Gospel, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This is a reality that poverty, riches, or any condition must not distract us.

 The Gospel of today is St. Mark’s account of the call of Simon, Andrew, James and John. These men were fishermen. When Jesus called them, they left everything and followed him. Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). We, therefore, pray that more men and women may “abandon their nets,” “their father Zebedee in the boat along with hired men” and become “fishers of men and women.”

 Finally, in the same manner, we are all invited to detach ourselves from the things that may become obstacles to answering God’s call and doing God’s will.

 Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary time Year B - January 17, 2021

Homily of Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year, B 2021

 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40, 2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42

 The first reading tells us the story of the call of young Samuel. The second reading reminds us of the essence of holiness of life. The Gospel is about the call of three disciples of Jesus. It is not a mere coincidence that the theme of our celebration and reflection, after the Christmas Season, is God’s call to us to discipleship. We received so much from the Advent and Christmas Seasons. Now, in the Ordinary Time of the Church’s calendar, is the time to put the graces we received during the Advent and Christmas Seasons into action.

 In the first reading, we see that God did not give up calling Samuel until Samuel answered him. In the same way, God does not give up on us. He continues to send his Spirit to minister to our hearts. We pray for the grace to respond positively to God’s call as Samuel did. Samuel, finally, replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” The reading concludes, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” When we respond positively to God’s call, we will receive the same blessing Samuel received. We will grow in the Lord; and the Lord will be with us; and will not permit any word of ours to be without effect. What an intimate relationship with God!

 The second reading calls us to holiness of life. In the reading, St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit, which have been purchased at a price. This is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. St. Paul invites us to refrain from sins of the flesh but glorify God in our bodies. In 1 Corinthians 3:23, St. Paul reminds us, “You are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” This union with Christ is broken when union with a human being through fornication is committed. By the act of fornication, the union becomes with the two fornicators and no longer with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:16). If we are no longer in union with Christ, it means we are no longer temples of the Holy Spirit. Such a broken relationship with God is what St. Paul challenges us to avoid.

 The sequence of events in the Gospel of today is very striking. John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God to Andrew and another disciple of his. The two left John and became disciples of Jesus. Later, Andrew “found his own brother, Simon, and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’…  Then he brought him to Jesus.” John de Baptist and Andrew teach us to show Jesus to others and bring them to Jesus. We can do this by our words and actions.

 I imagine that Simon must have, proudly, attributed what he became – the leader of the apostles and the first pope - to his brother, Andrew, who took him to Jesus. Won’t it be great if someone attributes his or her blessings to your help? There are instances where people deny help to those in need in order to prevent their success. The Gospel reading shows us that John was not afraid to lose his two disciples, and so was not reluctant to show Jesus to them. John declared, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). And, Andrew eagerly found his brother and brought him to Jesus; for him to have a share of the treasure (Messiah) he had discovered.

 Someone writes:

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

When we give of ourselves, nothing is truly lost.

When one candle lights another, its light is not diminished.

In fact, the light given off together is greater than the light of one.”

 A candle diminishes and disappears as it burns. That is how our life is. Every day, we diminish like a burning candle. It’s only a matter of time, we will disappear, and our light goes out. So, let us pass on our light and light up other human candles before we disappear and our light goes out.

 To conclude, as God calls us to various vocations, responsibilities, and to repentance, many other voices from the world and the Evil One call us too. The voices from the world and the Evil One are usually voices of discouragement. These voices discourage us from hearing God or listening to him and answering him. We pray for the grace to hear God’s call and the grace to respond like Samuel, “Speak, your servant is listening.” 

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Baptism of the Lord Year B- January 10, 2021

Homily of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year B, 2021

 Isaiah 55:1-11; Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11

 Last Sunday was the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Epiphany means the revelation of Jesus to the world. The revelation continues, today, with the Baptism of Jesus.

 As we see in today’s Gospel, God himself and the Holy Spirit are the witnesses to Jesus’ revelation. God makes a public declaration about Jesus, not through any prophet, not through any angel, not through the shepherds, not through the Magi, not through Simeon and Anna, not through John the Baptist, but by himself and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel says, “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” This declaration by God is the greatest disclosure or revelation of Jesus. St. John urges us in the second reading, “If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater. Now he has testified on behalf of his son” (1 John 5:9).

Catholic catechism teaches that Baptism is a Sacrament through which we are cleansed from original sin; we become followers of Christ, children of God, and members of the Church. We may ask, if Baptism cleanses us from original sin, why, then, was it necessary that Jesus was baptized although he was sinless? Maximus of Turin explains, “Christ is baptized, not that he may be sanctified in the waters, but that he himself may sanctify the waters… For when the Savior is washed, then already for our Baptism all water is cleansed and the fount purified… Christ therefore takes the lead in Baptism, so that Christian people may follow after him with confidence.”

By his Baptism, Jesus incarnates himself into humanity. He fulfils all requirements of identifying with sinners. According to St. Athanasius, “He became what we are, so that he might make us what he is.” We, therefore, become recipients of his incarnation by our own Baptism. Hence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1272, teaches, “Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.”

Today’s celebration reminds us of the importance of our own Baptism. As mortal beings, we may not achieve the state of purity that the Sacrament of Baptism granted us when we were baptized. However, we are invited to strive to follow after Jesus, strive to be configured to him, in order to become beloved of God and well pleased to God. We can do this by keeping the baptismal promises we made, or that were made on our behalf during our Baptism (for many who were baptized as infants). The baptismal promises are to reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises, and to believe in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and in the Church.

Keeping our baptismal promises helps us to maintain the Christian dignity which the white garment we were clothed during our Baptism signifies. Keeping our baptismal promises helps us to walk as children of the light which the candle that was lit during our Baptism signifies. During Baptism, the minister touches our ears and mouth and prays, “May the Lord soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” If this prayer bears fruit in us, then we are beloved of God and well pleased to him.

Unfortunately, many Catholics and many Christians fail to understand the spiritual meanings of Baptism. Some take it lightly as a christening, which is a church ceremony of giving a baby a name. This ignorance results to many people’s lack of commitment to keeping baptismal promises. Failure in keeping baptismal promises means failure in configuring to Christ, failure in following after him, failure in belonging to him, and failure in pursuing Christian dignity. Therefore, the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is an invitation to us to rediscover the importance of our own Baptism to our journey of faith, and to see that our Baptism bears the fruit of salvation. That is the only way we become beloved of God.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Epiphany Year B- January 3, 2021

Homily of the Solemnity of Epiphany of the Lord Year B, 2021

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 32-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphania; meaning revelation or manifestation. Before the arrival of the Magi (also called the wise men), it was only the shepherds and those the shepherds told who knew about the birth of Jesus. As we have read in today’s Gospel, it was the Magi who announced the birth of Jesus to King Herod and his officials. From then, the news became public. This is one of the reasons why the visit of the Magi is called Epiphany; meaning the disclosure or revelation of the Lord.

The Gospel reading informs us that the Magi came from the East. Suggestions have been made that the East was probably within the region of the present day Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Turkey. It has also been suggested that the Magi were probably astronomers who observed stars and other celestial bodies. They saw a spectacular star which they, rightly, interpreted to signify the birth of a great king.

The Magi brought gifts to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts, further, revealed who Jesus is: gold symbolizes Jesus as king; frankincense symbolizes Jesus our priest; and myrrh symbolizes Jesus’ death.

The Magi were non-Jews. Indeed, their visit was God’s plan that the birth of Jesus was, also, revealed to non-Jews. The Magi, no doubt, returned to the East with the news of the birth of Jesus, hence revealing Jesus to non-Jewish world as well.

It was not only the Magi that saw the spectacular star. Some people saw it, admired it, but it meant nothing to them. Some people saw the star, knew that the star signified something special but did nothing about it. Only the Magi, after seeing the star, followed the star until it stopped over the place Jesus was born. The Magi’s journey took them months, and they traveled through hills, deserts, and rivers. Not even Herod could stop their mission. This means that the level of perseverance and passion determine the level of success. The Magi teach us that determination and perseverance must accompany our blessed vision. Let nothing discourage us from following and reaching the ‘star’ God sets before us.

How can we participate in the mystery of Epiphany? This celebration is a prayer that we may experience in our life a new revelation and manifestation of Jesus the “Bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16). We pray that the presence and the power of Jesus manifest in our decisions, our plans, our desires, our darkness, and our afflictions. We pray that the Spirit of Jesus opens the eyes of our minds and hearts, and reveals to us, his little children, things hidden from the wise and the learned (Matthew 11:25).

The Magi brought gifts to Jesus. What are our gifts to Jesus? This question reminds us of Micah 6:6-8, “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” We can infer that “to do justice” is gold, “to love mercy” is frankincense, and “to walk humbly with God” is myrrh. These spiritual gifts make us stewards of God’s grace and co-partners of Christ Jesus, as St. Paul challenges us in the second reading (Ephesians 3:2, 6).

The birth of Jesus made the angels to sing, and the shepherds to rejoice, and the Magi to come all the way from the East; but it made King Herod to become deeply troubled. Immediately, he planned to kill Jesus. Jesus was not to be an earthly king who would have taken over Herod’s kingdom. Herod represents the worst and extreme cases of jealousy and envy. ‘Herods’ are those who are deeply saddened by truth or other people’s progress; and who do all they can to destroy truth and innocent lives.

Lastly, the Magi did not return to Herod as Herod requested. They listened to God’s warning and departed by another way. We are invited to pray for the gift of good judgement in order to make good choices, and in order to depart by God’s way, and not the way of Herod which is the way of the Evil One.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Holy Family Sunday Year B- December 27, 2020

HOMILY OF THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH YEAR B, 2020

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40

The celebration of today’s feast is of utmost importance to all of us because we all belong to families; and the family is the first and the greatest institution God created. Unfortunately, we are passing through a difficult time whereby many families are fractured and hurting in one way or another. Our difficult situation is compounded by an increase in the number of disordered families. Since families are the foundations and the constituents of societies, more disordered families mean more disordered societies. Therefore, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is a model for all families.

Being a holy family does not mean that everything was well and smooth for them. It was a lowly family with many ups and downs. Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s pregnancy brought a troubling situation for both Mary and Joseph. They, however, accepted the situation when each of them was ministered to by the angel of the Lord. Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). As for Joseph, “When [he] awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded, and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son” (Matthew 1:24-25).

 Mary gave birth to Jesus in a very difficult circumstance. After a long journey on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, a distance of about 100 miles (161 kilometers), there was no inn to lodge in. They went to a shed in a farm where Mary gave birth to Jesus. It was not recorded that any nurse or midwife was available to help. We can only imagine how tough it was for the two of them all alone.

 As we read in the Gospel of today, at the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Mary was told that a sword would pierce her heart. Her first experience of a sword piercing her heart was when the family fled to Egypt to save Jesus from being murdered by Herod. A sword pierced her heart when Jesus got separated from her and Joseph after the feast of Passover in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple after searching for him for three days. Finally, a sword pierced Mary’s heart when she witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and death. In all the ups and downs, Mary and Joseph remained together. The Gospel of today concludes, Jesus “grew under them and became strong, filled with wisdom; and God’s favor rested upon him” (Luke 2:40).

 We have so much to learn from the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that can help us to keep our families from falling apart. Pope Paul VI describes the Holy Family as a school of Nazareth where we learn true science of life and the higher wisdom of divine truth.

 The first reading reminds us that, “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority over her [children].” Unfortunately, many parents have handed over this God given authority to their children. The reverse has become the case; whereby many children have authority over their parents, and able to control and manipulate their parents as they wish.

 The first reading enumerates various blessings received by children who honor their parents, and who take care of their parents in their old age. However, Sirach 3:16 mentions curses upon children who disrespect their parents, and who abandon their parents in their old age: “Those who neglect their father are like blasphemers; those who provoke their mother are accursed by their Creator”. On the other hand, the second reading challenges bad and abusive parents not to maltreat their children, so that they may not become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).

 There is no perfect family. Turning on one another and violence to one another make matters worse. For this reason, the second reading encourages us on how to cope with family imperfections to avoid disorderliness, breakdowns, and disintegrations. The reading says, “Put on … heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. … And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, … And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, … with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:12-17). I would like to add that it is also important that family members pray together; because, “A family that prays together stays together.”

 May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph pray for our families and society to be saved from disorderliness, breakdowns and disintegrations. Amen.

 Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B- December 20, 2020

Homily of Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B, 2020

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Have you ever concluded what you considered an excellent plan, made all necessary arrangements, and when you were about to execute the plan, you were stopped by an authority, or by an incident? Different people respond or react in different ways. Some people get very upset and disobedient. In their disobedience they go ahead with their plan.  Some people get very upset; they do not go ahead with their plan; but they refuse to cooperate with other plans. Some people feel disappointed; but are very willing to proceed with alternative plans.

In the first reading, David had a wonderful plan of building a temple for the Lord. Although Prophet Nathan had given David an approval, the Lord did not approve David to build the temple. The Lord’s plan was that the temple would be built by David’s heir. David accepted the Lord’s plan. However, David went ahead to make preparations for building the temple. He procured all the materials needed for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 22).

Mary, in the Gospel, was engaged to Joseph and was already living with Joseph’s family. Before Mary could move into Joseph’s house as his wife, the angel brought her the message that she was to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. Though troubled, Mary accepted God’s plan and said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

David and Mary teach us how not to insist on our plan and will when all signs and signals show that God has other plans instead of ours. We may not be privileged as Mary to experience the appearance of an angel to deliver God’s message to us. God speaks to us through his Word, through experiences, and through our fellow human beings. God did not send an angel to David but Prophet Nathan, a human being.  It is, therefore, important to read and listen to God’s Word, pray and reflect on God’s Word, and accept God’s Word. It is important to see God’s presence in experiences and discern what God is saying through the experiences. It is important to listen to good and wise counsels. We pray, as Jesus prayed while he was on the cross, “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). For nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).

David’s words to prophet Nathan is quite striking, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent!” (2 Samuel 7:2). Indeed, many people, many families, many institutions, many places, and so on are living in houses of cedar but have moved God to dwell in a tent. This is to say that God is given little or no consideration in their activities and plans. No wonder we have so much chaos within and around us.

In the Gospel, Mary accepted the Holy Spirit to come upon her and the power of the Most-High to overshadow her, and she became a dwelling place for God. We are, now, in the last week of Advent and a few days to Christmas; we pray that the Holy Spirit comes upon us and the power of the Most-High overshadows us to enable us to become house of cedar for God. Then, God becomes first in our considerations and plans.

Through the candle of love we lit today, may we love God who loves us first (1 John 4:19). The first Christmas happened because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). We appreciate and reciprocate God's love for us when we share God's love with fellow human beings. By so doing, Christmas is properly celebrated.

 Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary time Year B - January 24, 2021

Homily of Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B, 2021  Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29:31; Mark 1:14-20  The story of P...