Friday, February 15, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily from 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time year C, Feb. 17, 2019

Homily of Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
It is a fact that every action has its result. Good action brings good result and bad action brings bad result. In the first reading, Jeremiah prophesied to the people of Judah what would happen to them if they continued in their sin of adulatory and trusting in human allies. He, also, prophesied the blessings they would receive from God if they trusted in God:
“Cursed is the one who trust in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.”
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters, that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes; its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”
The people of Judah did not listen to Jeremiah. They continued their sin of adulatory. Their king, Zedekiah, and his officials allied with Egypt; thereby seeking strength in flesh and turning away from the Lord. The result was that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, and carried Judeans into exile. Bad choice begets bad result.
 In the Gospel, Jesus names blessings for those who do what pleases God, and woes for those do who what displeases God:
Blessed (happy, fortunate) are you who are the poor; that is the lowly who walk humbly before God, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry (for righteousness), for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping (in repentance for your sins), for you shall laugh (rejoice). Blessed are you who are denounced and persecuted on the account of your faith in Christ; your reward will be great in heaven.
Woe to those who are ‘rich’ in vices; woe to those who fill and enrich themselves with what belongs to others; woe to those who laugh and derive pleasure from the pain of others; woe to those who are spoken well of and flattered on account of their deceit and hypocrisy. St. Paul, in the second reading, calls those in the ‘woe group’ “most pitiable people of all.”
The first reading and the Gospel bring to mind Deuteronomy 30:15-18: “See, I have today set before you life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the Lord, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances… your God, will bless you… If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey… I tell you today that you will certainly perish…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him.”
The second reading was St. Paul’s caution to some Corinthians who did not believe in the resurrected Christ. Today too, God’s word is mocked, rationalized, rejected, dismissed, and the messengers and believers of the word are persecuted. But for us who are believers, St. Paul encourages us to rise from our sinfulness as Christ rose from the dead, so that we can become as new as firstfruits. We choose life and good and blessing when we rise from our sins.
Nowadays, in the face of our corrupt and violence world, it is difficult to convince many people to remain virtuous. Again, for us believers, the readings and reflection encourage us to continue to persevere in our faith and good work. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). “Happy the just, for it will go well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat. Woe to the wicked! It will go ill with them, with the work of their hands they will be repaid” (Isaiah 3:10-11).
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily from 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time year C, Feb. 10, 2019

Homily of Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
 The first reading is about the call of Isaiah, the second reading about the call of Paul and the Gospel about the call Peter.
The first reading narrates Isaiah’s vision and encounter with the Lord: Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord and his angels. He acknowledged his sinfulness, “Woe to me … For I am a man with unclean lips.” To sanctify Isaiah, one of the angels took an ember from the altar fire and touched Isaiah’s lips saying, “your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” The Lord said, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah replied, “Here I am, … send me.”
Like Isaiah, Paul acknowledged his sinfulness. Paul said, “I persecuted the church of God.” On Paul’s way to Damascus to persecute the Christians, “a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and was blind for three days. When Ananias prayed for him, “Immediately, things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.” Thereafter, he became a chosen instrument of evangelization (Acts 9:1-19).
Peter, like Isaiah and Paul acknowledged his sinfulness. He said, “I am a sinful man.” The Gospel narrated Peter’s experience: “[Jesus] said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’ Simon said in reply, ‘Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.’ … When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’ For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him,and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’”
Isaiah, Paul and Peter, by their own judgement were unworthy to answer God’s call. God called them despite their unworthiness. Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets. Paul was the greatest evangelist; and Peter, became the head of the Church. God may be calling someone to priesthood, or to the religious life, or serve in any of the ministries of the Church. The person may have all kinds of excuses. Someone can even go to the extent of wanting Jesus to depart, and leave him/her alone. Sometimes, we forget that when God calls, he gives the grace. All we need to do is put out into the deep water with faith and lower the nets for a catch. God does the rest.
God’s call is not only to serve in the Church. God calls us to serve him and humanity in various assignments, responsibilities, and professions. We are, also, to accept these calls with faith. God calls us to various areas of life; he wants to make us his chosen instrument; he wants to make us fishers of men and women. All we need to do is to put out into the deep with faith and lower our nets for a catch. God does the rest.
There are several reasons why some people do not respond to God’s call. Some people have a phobia feeling of inadequacy. Their feeling and expression are always “I can’t.” There are people who are afraid of failure. Putting out into the deep is too much a risk. There are people who settle for less or settle for mediocrity. They are unable to put out into the deep because they lack aspiration. They set the bar so low for themselves. There are people who are very comfortable in their comfort zone. Putting out into the deep will disturb their comfort. There are people who are lazy. They lack energy to put out into the deep. There are people who are easily frustrated and discouraged. They are unable to endure and triumph over the hitches and difficulties that go with putting out into the deep. There are people who lack the will power to pursue their vision. They remain at the level of dreams. They are unable to put out into the deep. There are people who are unable to put out into the deep because they live in the world of their ugly past. They must transcend their past for them to move forward and put out into the deep.
Psalm 42:7 says that Deep is calling each one of us to deep. May the angel of the Lord touch us with ember of fire to ignite us. May the light of Christ shine upon us to lead us. May we become God’s chosen instruments. Amen.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily from 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time year C, Feb. 3, 2019

Homily of Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
The first reading tells us about the call of Prophet Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to prophecy to the Jews at a time many political and religious leaders turned away from God, from truth and from justice. Jeremiah prophesied the fall of their city into the hands of the Babylonians. The political and religious leaders not only rejected Jeremiah and his message, they tried to kill him. Chapter 38 of the Book of Jeremiah narrates one of the plots to kill Jeremiah: The princes “took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud. Now Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian, a court official in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the cistern… said to [the king], ‘My lord king, these men have done wrong in all their treatment of Jeremiah, the prophet, throwing him into the cistern. He will starve to death on the spot...’ Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Ethiopian: ‘Take three men with you, and get Jeremiah, the prophet, out of the cistern before he dies.’ Ebed-melech took the men with him,  and they pulled him up by rope out of the cistern” (Jeremiah 38:6-13).

The Gospel reading tells us about the rejection of Jesus. The Jews did not want to hear the message of truth, love, mercy and justice Jesus preached. They disdained him by asking, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph?” Joseph was a carpenter. Carpentry was a trade that was for the hoi poloi (the common people). Then, “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.”

The cruel manner with which the detractors of Prophet Jeremiah and Jesus tried to do away with them, shows the extent of cruelty men and women go to reject truth and justice and silence the messengers of truth and justice. Religious and political histories are awash with several examples. However, on our own part, are we humble enough to accept uncomfortable and bitter truth, or do we reject truth, disdain and destroy the messenger? Also, God calls each one of us, as Jeremiah was called, to be prophets of truth and justice wherever we find ourselves. However, we are warned by the first reading to gird our loins because, often, messengers of truth and justice are resisted and persecuted. Sometimes, they pay the ultimate price. Even at that, we stand on God’s promise, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
The second reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians tells us that prophetic message bears fruit in the hearts of those who are rooted in love. St. Paul explains what love is, and what love is not: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflatedit is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
This spiritual exercise might be helpful. Let us pray with the above passage.
Lord, I pray that:
My impatience be replaced with patience;
My unkindness be replaced with kindness;
My jealousy be replaced with admiration;
My pomposity be replaced with humility;
My inflatedness be replaced with lowliness;
My rudeness be replaced with gentleness;
My selfishness be replaced with selflessness;
My quick-temperedness be replaced with calmness;
My bitterness be replaced with delight;
My resentment be replaced with love.
Grant that:
I may have the courage to accept all truth;
I may have the heart to bear all things;
I may have the faith to believe all things;
I may have the confidence to hope all things;
I may have the strength to endure all things.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily from 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time year C, Jan. 27, 2019

Homily of Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
When the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, they were faced with the reconstruction and the restoration of their temple and city that were destroyed by their captors. Nehemiah was their governor and Ezra was their priest. While the structural reconstruction and restoration was going on, Ezra led the people to a religious restoration. Religious restoration was necessary because the Jews were exposed to the worship of other gods in Babylon which produced a generation that did not properly follow the Covenant between God and their ancestors. A major part of the renewal of the Covenant was the reading of the Book of the Law to the people. The assembly was made up of young and old. Ezra read the word of God to the assembly from morning to midday. When the people heard of the story of God’s relationship with their ancestors, and how they, themselves, had violated the Covenant and disconnected themselves from God, they wept in sorrow and repentance.
In the same way, we, also, need to look back at our journey with God. An honest reflection will help us to see God’s faithfulness, and our unfaithfulness, and our disconnection from him. At the beginning of a new year, a resolve to renew our Covenant with God, reconnect and have a closer relationship with him should be of primary importance.
While the first reading invites us to renew our Covenant with God and reconnect with him, St. Paul, in the second reading invites us to examine our relationship with our fellow human beings, see how far we have disconnected from one another, and reconnect with those we have disconnected from. We cannot reconnect with God while we are disconnected from each other. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).

Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso (Buddhist spiritual leader) says, “We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity.” Division, disunity, tribalism, racism, discrimination, rejection, fighting, killing, segregation, and supremacy disconnect us further and further from one another and cause more and more suffering to many people and entire humanity.

St. Paul continues, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” Individuals, groups, societies, races, nations, countries are gifted differently for the benefit of everyone and all humanity. Unity, justice, acceptance, harmony, understanding, collaboration, sharing, cooperation and peaceful coexistence make God’s gifts bear much fruit for the benefit of everyone and all humanity.
The Gospel calls us to continue Jesus’ mission, that is to bring good tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, bring recovery to the blind, and set the oppressed free. Jesus’ mission will not be possible if we are disconnected from God and if we are disconnected from one another. Jesus’ mission will continue, successfully, if we breakdown all dividing barriers and fill up separating gullies; reconnect with God, and reconnect with one another. Then, we will be able to see the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed, able to reach to them, and able to minister to them.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily from 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time year C, Feb. 17, 2019

Homily of Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C It is a fact that every action has its result. Good action brings good result and bad action...