Friday, May 17, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter- May 19, 2019

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C

The readings today draw our attention to the virtues that help us to live a good Christian life. The virtues are faith, hope and love. Let us locate the virtues in the three readings:

First reading: Paul and Barnabas “strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’ They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.”

Second reading: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.’ The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I will make all things new.’” The reading is an invitation to hope and to look forward to the blessings God has in stock for his faithful ones.

Gospel: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Faith, hope and love are called Theological Virtues because they are “gifts infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life” (CCC 1813).Without faith, hope and love we are incapable of living out the other virtues: wisdom, courage, justice and self-control. These are called Cardinal Virtues. The measure in which we receive faith, hope and love from God is the measure we practice our Christianity. Good input brings about good productivity. Low input brings about low productivity. Bad input brings about bad productivity. Whereby there is not input at all, there is zero productivity. Our Christian witnessing follows the same rule.

Paul and Barnabas spoke the words we read in the first reading to strengthen the disciples who were persecuted because they were Christians. Our faith in God is tested by difficulties and hardships. Paul and Barnabas speak the same words of encouragement to us: “Persevere in the faith.” The Lord speaks to us in Hebrews 10:38, “My just one shall live by faith and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.” May we not draw back. Amen.

For those whose hope in God remains unshaken in times of trials and hardships, God promises in the second reading to wipe every tear from their eyes, and make all things new. St. Paul teaches us the power of hope in Romans 5:2-5, “We boast in the hope of the glory of God… We even boast of our affliction, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.”

Jesus says in the Gospel, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We can only know that we have received God’s love that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit when we show that love to others.  St. Paul writes, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you [may be] rooted and grounded in love…” (Ephesians 3:17). And in 1 Corinthians 13:8 & 13, he writes, “Love never fails… So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Jesus challenges us with these words, “As I have loved you, so you should love one another.” Jesus’ love is sacrificial, which resulted in his death on the Cross. Jesus’ invitation means that some of us will be called to pay the supreme sacrifice for love of neighbor. This is a reality we need to bear in mind, and pray for the grace to accept the call if God wills it so.  But all of us are called to die to self for the benefit of others since Jesus died on the Cross for the salvation of all.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter- May 12, 2019

Homily of Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The first reading narrates the experience of two great shepherds in the early Church, Paul and Barnabas. At that time, their work of evangelization was very successful. “Many Jews and worshippers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas… When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.” The Jews, further, “incited the women of prominence who were worshippers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.” Even now, some shepherds have the same experience rejection and expulsion. Let such shepherds be strengthened by the experience of Paul and Barnabas, and also follow the footsteps of Paul and Barnabas when it becomes necessary. “So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” This is important because, sometimes, some shepherds, unwisely, think that shaking off dust from their feet and going somewhere else is a sign of weakness and a sign of accepting defeat. Jesus says, “When they persecute you in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel till the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23). Let shepherds be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit and be guided by the word of God.

It is helpful to pay a little more attention to this line in the first reading, “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.” Jealousy is an unhappy feeling of wanting to have what someone else has. It is a feeling of resentment against a rival or against a person enjoying success or advantage. Jealousy is a dangerous spiritual disease. It soaks up joy and peace, and leaves whomever it possesses downcast. It blinds whom it possesses from seeing the beautiful work of God. It poisons the mind and body, and weaponizes whom it possesses to inflict harm on its target. It is Satan’s dangerous weapon of destruction and murder. Let us flee from this spiritual disease.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says in the Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” Jesus speaks to us every day through the Gospels. His words are Spirit and life (John 6:63). If we listen to his voice, and do what his words say, we will remain in his protection and not perish. The Evil One speaks to us too. His voice opposes and contradicts the voice of Jesus. He is jealous of Jesus. His voice aims at taking us out of Jesus’ hand that we may perish. St. James advises us, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).

As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, let us call to mind Pope Francis’ appeal in 2013 to priests and the faithful. To priests he says,
"This is what I am asking you, be shepherds with the smell of sheep, so that people can sense the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but is also a fisher of men."
"A good priest anoints his people with the oil of gladness, by preaching the Gospel with unction, that is with the soothing, comforting words of God."
"If people leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news, then the priest has clearly done his job well."
To the faithful he says,
"Be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart."

Prayer for Priests by St. Therese of Lisieux
O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them
and shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit
and may the souls to whom they minister
be their joy and consolation here and in heaven
their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, May 3, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter- May 5, 2019

Homily of Third Sunday of Easter Year C
We see a new Peter in the first reading. He used to be fearful and impetuous. Transformed by the power of Christ’s resurrection, he stood, boldly, before the Sanhedrin and stated, “We must obey God rather than men.” The reading continues, “The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”

There are times we face our own ‘Sanhedrin,’ that is trials, anxieties, worries, and difficulties of life. There are times the Evil One tempts us either to discourage us from doing the good things God wants us to do or lure us to commit sin. There are times situations challenge us to defend our beliefs, doctrines and practices as Christians and as Catholics. There are times our prayer life is negatively affected by the weakness of our body. At these times, Peter and the other apostles encourage us to obey God rather than ‘men.’ The Lord enjoins us, “Remain faithful to me until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelations 2:10).

Jesus did not count it against his disciples who deserted him during his passion. After his resurrection he appeared and revealed himself to them wherever they were. Today’s Gospel is one of the appearances and revelations of Jesus to them. We have hope, therefore, that although we desert him by our sins, he does not give up on us. He continues to appear and reveal himself to us. May we be able to recognize him as John, the disciple Jesus loved, did. John recognized Jesus and said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

In the Gospel, when Jesus was crucified, died and buried, Peter believing that his discipleship with Jesus was over, decided to return to his fishing profession. Some of the disciples went with him. Since returning to fishing was not what they were supposed to do, they caught nothing throughout the night. Jesus appeared and instructed them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” “So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.” The experience of Peter and the other apostles in the Gospel of today reminds us that we toil in vain without Jesus. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” In Matthew 19:26 Jesus says, “[W]ith God all things are possible.”

The last part of today’s Gospel speaks to me in a special way. As a priest, Jesus wants me to know him more, love him more and follow him more. That is the only way I can, properly, “feed [his] lambs,” “tend [his] sheep,” and “feed [his] sheep.” As a priest, I have literally stretched out my hands to be led by Jesus wherever he wants me to go and to direct me to do whatever he wants me to do; even if it is where I would rather not like to go and what I would rather not like to do. Jesus says to me, “Follow me.” I understand from the first reading that the most important quality for this followership is obedience to God rather than to myself, the world and the Evil One. As a priest, it is no longer my will but the will of the One who called me. All I need to do is to trust and obey. I pray with the words of St. Paul that I may be worthy of the call I have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Let us pray:

O Lord, grant that I may see what you want me to see
That I may hear what you want me to hear
That I may speak what you want me to speak
That I may be where you want me to be
That I may do what you want me to do
That I may be who you want me to be
For your will is my peace. Amen.
Fr. Marti Eke, MSP

Friday, April 26, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter- April 21, 2019

Homily of Divine Mercy Sunday Year C
In the first reading, we see the effect of the power of Christ’s resurrection in Peter. He was so transformed that, as we have read, “they even carried the sick out into the street and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least, his shadow might fall on the one or another… [and] they were all cured.” Peter’s transformation was in such a way that his shadow came not from day light but from the light of the Risen Christ.

The same light of the Risen Christ that shone on Peter shines on each one of us. Each of us is supposed to produce shadows of unity, peace, love, joy, understanding, reconciliation, healing, harmony, encouragement, justice, and mercy. Our shadow, in this regard, is the positive and life giving impact on others as a result of the light of Christ we receive. If our presence is not life giving, then we are in the dark; which is to say, we do not receive the light of Christ.

We read in the Gospel that Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared. He argued with the apostles and insisted, “Unless I see the mark of his nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas longed for his own personal experience of Jesus. Jesus’ next appearance was to satisfy Thomas’ longing. When he experienced Jesus, his doubt was healed, and he made what I consider to be the greatest confession of faith in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God.” Thomas confessed who Jesus was for him. This is unlike other confessions of faith in the Gospels that seem to be mere descriptions of Jesus. For instance, Peter confessed in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Nathaniel confessed in John 1:49, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” John the Baptist confessed in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) confessed in John 21:7, “It is the Lord.” Let Jesus, and nothing else, be our only Lord and God. It is not what people say about Jesus that matters. What matters is who Jesus is to oneself; that is one's personal relationship with Jesus.

Because of Thomas’ longing, he was privileged to be the only one who put his hand into the side of Jesus pierced by a lance. Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side…” Thomas’ longing earned him putting his hand into the source from which divine mercy flows. It came to pass as Thomas desired. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). We pray that we may desire to experience Jesus as Thomas did. May the words of God be fulfilled in us, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

We are more privileged than Thomas because in the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity. May we realize that truly it is Jesus, our Lord and God, we receive. May the blood and water that flow from Jesus’ side cleanse and sanctify us, and conform us to his image (Romans 8:29).

Jesus appeared to his disciples and blessed them saying, “Peace be with you.” May Jesus bless us with peace, the peace that drives out all fears and anxieties, the peace the world cannot give. May we have the same experience as St. John, as recounted in today’s second reading, “He touched me with his hand and said, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives…”

"For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world…. Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world." Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, April 19, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Easter Sunday - April 21, 2019

Homily of Easter Sunday Year C
Easter date is not fixed as that of Christmas. The Catholic Church has determined the date of Easter since 325 AD. In that year, the Council of Nicaea established that Easter be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon (when night and day are of equal length). This is worked out by ecclesial geographers.

Easter is the greatest Christian celebration. Easter season is from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday.
Jesus conquered death by rising from the dead. His resurrection is the hope of our own resurrection. We acknowledge this when we pray the Preface 1 of the Mass of the Dead: “in death, life is changed and not ended.” St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching, empty too your faith.” It is for this reason that we proclaim, “Dying, you destroyed our death; rising, you restored our life; Lord Jesus come in glory.” Jesus says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (John 6:40).

At his crucifixion and death, the mission of Jesus appeared to have ended up in a failure. Then, suddenly, as we read in the Gospel, “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.” An angel of the Lord removed the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 28:2). Jesus was freed from the darkness of the tomb. Jesus’ mission came alive again. Long before his passion, Jesus prophesied, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Pope Francis re-echoes Jesus’ words in his Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, “He is alive and wants you to be alive.”

Nature celebrates Easter too. The cold winter is gone. The weather is warm and nice. Life is back to vegetation after the scourge of winter. Green leaves are back on grass, shrubs and trees.

Easter means rising from death and tomb to new life in Christ. St. Paul tells us in the second reading, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Jesus rose from death and from his tomb with a glorious body. Easter, therefore, means rising from inglorious (sin, shame, and loss of honor) to glorious (newness, dignity, and honor).

Last night, we blessed the Paschal candle and lit it from the flame of the sacred fire. The light of the Paschal candle represents the light of Christ who dispels all darkness and lights up the world. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Easter means surrendering every cloud of darkness hovering over us to the light of Christ in order to walk in the light of life.

Let us pray with St. Paul, “I want to know him and experience the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10-11).  To experience the power of his resurrection means to turn from fear to courage, from anxiety to confidence, and from weakness to power. We may be weighed down by different kinds of stones that keep us in tombs. It may appear as if our mission has failed. But it is by the power of his resurrection that we seek above our failures, think above our failures and rise above our failures.

To know Jesus and experience the power of his resurrection makes us Easter people. As Easter people, we do not stay in hiding. We are to go out to preach and witness our experience of the life and light of Christ to others. As Easter people, we are bearers of the life and light of Christ which we must share with others. Happy and Spirit-filled Easter to you all!
Fr Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, April 12, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 6th Sunday of Lent year C, Palm Sunday - April 14, 2019

Homily of Palm Sunday Year C
Palm Sunday, also referred to as Passion Sunday, is the sixth and last Sunday of Lent. It marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, days before he was crucified.
Almost all Jewish prophets had prophesied the coming of the messiah who was to redeem Israel from their oppressors. At the time of Jesus, Israel was governed by the Romans. Jesus’ disciples were convinced that Jesus was a political messiah who would lead a rebellion against the Roman colonial rule and drive out the Romans. On arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, he was given a rousing and heroic welcome: “As he rode along, many people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of Mount Olives, the multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: Blessed is the kind who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.’” I don’t think that the people would have given Jesus the rousing and heroic welcome if they knew he was not a political messiah. A few days later, the same crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I guess that the people were frustrated and disappointed that Jesus did not fulfill their expectation.

There are some lessons we can learn from today’s celebration.

As we read in the Gospel, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a colt (a young donkey). Jesus chose to enter into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a horse. He identified himself with a donkey which is a beast of burden, thereby fulfilling Isaiah 53:54, “He took up our pain and bore our suffering.” Like the donkey, Jesus carries our pains and sufferings.

At that time, horse was the means of transportation for the rich, the high and the mighty, while donkey was the means of transportation for the poor. By riding on a donkey, Jesus identified himself with the poor and the lowly. Jesus teaches us to do the same. He wants us to identify with those who are burdened: the needy, the sick and the suffering. By riding on a donkey, Jesus teaches us the importance of detachment and humility. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus says, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

The palm leaves we carry and bless today is a reenactment of the event of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying ‘Hosanna…’” (John 12:12-13). It is interesting to know that in some cultures, in times of crisis or misunderstanding, carrying or presenting of palm leaves is a symbol or a gesture of peace. It means an invitation to peace and reconciliation. Therefore, the palm leaves we carry today is also celebrating Jesus as the King of Peace. Blessed palm is not to be thrown around or discarded as trash. It is kept reverently until next year when it is returned to the church to be burned and the ash is put on our forehead on Ash Wednesday.

Today’s celebration becomes even more meaningful if Jesus makes a triumphal entry into our lives. Let not such entry be short lived, or end up in him being crucified again due to our sins. The Lord says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelations 3:20).

Lastly, St. Andrew of Crete writes, “Let us imitate those who have gone out to meet him, not scattering olive branches or garments or palms in his path, but spreading ourselves before him as best as we can with humility of soul and upright purpose … It is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet…”

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, April 5, 2019

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent year C, April 7, 2019

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Lent Year C
As we draw nearer to the Holy Week, the readings of today encourage us to confront and free ourselves from whatever keeps us in sin and bondage, so as to welcome new things God is doing.
The first reading is Isaiah’s prophecy to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. God was going to do a new thing: to liberate them and return them to their own land. God was going to use Cyrus, king of Persia, who had conquered Babylon to fulfill his plan. Isaiah prophesied God’s plan. “See, I am doing something new!” The immediacy of God’s plan is reflected in these words, “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”  Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled as it is written in Ezra 1:2-4, “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Those among you who belong to any part of his people, may their God be with them! Let them go up to Jerusalem in Judah to build the house of the Lord the God of Israel, that is, the God who is in Jerusalem. Let all those who have survived, in whatever place they may have lived, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, together with voluntary offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’”
Jesus Christ is the new King Cyrus who has overpowered the Evil One (Nebuchadnezzar) and has set us free. Therefore, we are not to “remember the former things, nor consider things of the old,” but to embrace the freedom of new life in Christ. It is in the spirit of such freedom that St. Paul declares in the second reading, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him… Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit towards the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
I consider that this Sunday’s readings and reflection are a continuation of the theme of last Sunday’s readings and reflection, that is, rise from sin; rise from bondage; rise from enslavement, rise from the events of the past; rise from things of long ago; rise from what lies behind. Go forward to freedom; go forward to something new; go forward to what lies ahead; go forward to new life in Christ. Last Sunday, we read from 2 Corinthians 5: 17, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: old things have passed away, behold, new things have come.”
The Scribes and the Pharisees had judged and condemned the woman caught in adultery. They were ready to stone her to death. People may accuse, judge, condemn, and want to throw stones. People may write off. One should not let oneself get drowned and submerged in such negativities. One should not give up on oneself. One should not condemn oneself. St. Paul says, "There is, now, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus" (Roman 8:1).  Let us be still before the Lord and wait for his new plan for us, because he has the last say.
The Gospel says, “Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.” What was Jesus writing? I imagine that Jesus was writing down a new plan for the woman. The Scribes and the Pharisees read the new plan as Jesus was writing and walked away in disappointment. When he finished writing, he read it out to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” May God’s plan for us be very legible in such a way that our detractors can see it and walk away. Amen.
Isaiah prophesied to the Jews as we read in the first reading: “Thus says the Lord, who opens a way in the sea… I am doing something new… In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers…I put water in the desert and river in the wasteland for my chosen to drink…” Today, this prophecy is for us. May this prophecy be fulfilled in all those in dire need of God’s intervention in their 'babylons' and 'condemnations.' Amen.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter- May 19, 2019

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C The readings today draw our attention to the virtues that help us to live a good Christian life. The...