Thursday, May 19, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C - May 22, 2022

Homily of Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C, 2022

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Revelation:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29

From its very beginning to the present, the Catholic Church convokes and holds various types of councils, synods, assemblies, and meetings to discuss important matters that affect the wellbeing of the Church and humanity and make necessary decisions for going forward. The Council of Jerusalem, in the first reading, is the first of such Church gatherings. The reading tells us why the Council was convoked and held, and its outcome.

The Christian communities of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia were made up of Jewish and Gentile converts. The communities were in peace until some over-zealous preachers from Judea came over and contradicted Paul and Barnabas by instructing, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” The dissension caused by this made the apostles and elders to meet in Jerusalem. After the meeting, the Council sent the following mandate to the Christian communities, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriages.” The Council was not interested in mosaic circumcision of the foreskin, but spiritual circumcision of the heart and mind. The spiritual circumcision addressed by the Council can be summarized in the following words: refrain from idolatry and from sexual immorality. These were the major problems plaguing the Christian communities at that time.

This message is very relevant to us today, because as St. Paul writes in Romans 1:25, many people nowadays “exchange the truth about God for a lie, and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator.” Idolatry is the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God. A question that can help us in self-examination is, “How much attention do we pay to ourselves and worldly things, and how much attention do we pay to spiritual life and relationship with God? If we pay more attention to ourselves and worldly things than to God, we are, therefore, committing idolatry.

The high rate of sexual immorality in our world is a great concern. We know all kinds of sexual sins beleaguering our society and causing great harm to our society’s sexual sacredness, sanity, and morality. Unfortunately, it appears our world seems to be at the mercy and spell of forces against sexual sacredness, sanity and morality. Let us not be among those under the spell of sexual evil forces. Parents and guardians have greater responsibility nowadays to guide their children to the right direction since young people are under siege from peer pressure, media, and ideologies that promote sexual recklessness and freedom.

Men from Judea came with their teaching which caused dissension, upset and disturbed the peace of mind of the Christian communities. There may be “men from Judea” in your life at the moment, causing dissension, upsetting and disturbing your peace of mind. Jesus knows this and he says to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is the inner peace which makes us calm and strong in the face of “men from Judea’s” discord, stress, dissension, upset, and disturbances. We pray with St. Francesca Xavier Cabrini, “Lord, fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit and give your peace to my soul that I may be free from all needless anxiety and worry.” Amen.

On the other hand, let us not be “men from Judea” in other people’s life. Rather, let us strive to become channels of God’s peace by our words and actions. Let us pray with St. Paul, “Let the peace of Christ rule in [our] hearts, since as members of one body [we] were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15).

We conclude with praying the last part of the second reading (Revelation 21:23): O God, at the end of our earthly journey, admit us into the new holy city of Jerusalem, where there is no need of sun shine and moon light, for your glory gives light, and the Lamb is the lamp. Amen. 

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C - May 15, 2022

Homily of Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C, 2022

Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145:8-13; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35

Today’s readings 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 others 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 no 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. St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

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” (John 13:35). 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.

With so much fears and anxieties within and around us, we bless ourselves and one another with these words of Jesus in today’s gospel (John 14:27), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” Amen.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C - May 8, 2022

Homily of Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C, 2022

Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100:1-2, 3,5; Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 14:23

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 of 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 drains up joy and peace, and leaves whomever it possesses downcast. It causes spiritual blindness to whom it possesses, and prevents the person from seeing God’s beautiful work in other people. 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 today’s 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 Scripture. If we listen to the Scripture and do what the Scripture says, we will receive eternal life and not perish. The Evil One speaks to us too and tries to lead us astray. We pray for the grace not to listen to the Evil One but listen to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. 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).

We also pray for the grace of good and attentive listening. Good and attentive listening means setting aside our own agendas, pay attention, hear and take in what is being said. We may not like what we are hearing. But it is important to listen since God does not appear physically to speak to us. Many times, God speaks to us through our fellow human beings. But often, our own agendas block our listening. Listening has become increasingly a difficult task for men and women of our generation due to so much noise and distractions. Philosopher Epictetus says, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” We pray for good and attentive listening between the priests and the faithful.

As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, let us call to mind Pope Francis’ appeal to priests and the faithful in 2013. 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 Pope Francis says, "Be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart." Indeed, it is very important that the faithful pray for the priests because it is a more difficult task to care for the spiritual needs of the faithful.

Finally, priests are not the only shepherds. Everyone is a shepherd wherever the person has a responsibility. Let us all imitate Jesus and be good shepherds in our various responsibilities.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, April 22, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Second Sunday of Easter Year C - April 24, 2022

Homily of Second Sunday of Easter Year C, 2022 (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 19:11-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31

In 2000, St. Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina, and made the second Sunday of Easter to be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  St. Faustina was a Polish nun gifted with mystical visions, messages and revelations from the Risen Jesus. This is a rare instance when a private revelation is authenticated to the degree that it becomes a Sunday celebration by the Universal Church.

The feast situates well following Easter Sunday to show that the events of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the redemption of humanity were out of God’s gratuitous mercy. God’s mercy is gratuitous because humanity did nothing to merit it. 

The author of the Book of Revelation was commanded as we read in the second reading, “Write down what you see” (Revelation 1:11). That was St. Faustina’s experience. She wrote down the revelations that she received. She writes in her diary, “Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All God’s works are crowned with mercy” (Diary 301). God is so merciful and ever forgiving that he does not judge us according to our sins. Psalm 130:3 prays, “If you, Lord, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.” God forgives no matter the depth of one’s sin and guilt. The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 gives us a good idea of the depth of God’s forgiveness. His banner over us is love (Song of Solomon 2:4).

We proclaim God’s mercy, not only in words but also in deeds. God’s mercy continues in our world through us if we become instruments of his mercy by works of charity. Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Yes, when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit prisoners, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor, we are treating others as if they were Christ in disguise.

The image of the Divine Mercy of Jesus showing two rays, one reddish (symbolizing blood) and the other whitish (symbolizing water), with the inrcription “Jesus, I trust in you” at the bottom, is one of St. Faustina’s visions. The image takes us back to the passion, crucifixion and death of Jesus.  When the soldier pierced the side of Jesus, “immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:34). Jesus said during the Last Supper, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). St. Faustina writes in her diary, that the water makes souls righteous, and blood is the life of souls (Diary 299).

Jesus invites us as he invited Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27). Thomas put his finger into the source of divine mercy and was healed of his doubt. In our prayers and as we celebrate the Eucharist, may we receive our own healing. May we receive our healing and deliverance as the people in the first reading: “A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured” (Acts 5:16).

The faith of the people is amazing. “Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them” (Acts 5:15). If the shadow of Peter had such power, imagine how much more is the Body and Blood of Jesus! May we give testimonies of our own miraculous healings and deliverances. Amen.

St. Faustina's Prayer for Healing: 

"Jesus may Your pure and healthy blood circulate in my ailing organism, and may Your pure and healthy body transform my weak body, and may a healthy and vigorous life throb within me, if it is truly Your holy will" (Diary 1089).

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

(Divine Mercy Chaplet)

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Easter Vigil Year C - April 16, 2022

 

Holy Saturday Easter Vigil concludes the Triduum, the Sacred Paschal Mystery celebration which began on Holy Thursday. Two major events take place during the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. We begin the ceremony with keeping vigil for the Lord who is in the tomb, and conclude with rejoicing in the Lord’s resurrection.

Before the advent of electricity, gas lights, kerosene lights, flash lights and so on, people who kept vigil made fire, sat around it and told stories. We do the same while keeping vigil for the Lord’s resurrection. We started with the ceremony of lighting the Holy Fire. The Holy Fire is lit while the entire place is in darkness to commemorate God’s creation of light on the earth which was without form or shape and enveloped in darkness. “Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated light from darkness” (Genesis 1:2-5). The ceremony of the Holy Fire and the Pascal Candle light is our prayer that God’s Holy Fire burns again in our dark world and dispels all forces of darkness; and that the light of Christ will light our way. We sing in the Exultet, “This is the night that the pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin;” and the Paschal Candle light “overcomes the darkness of this night.”

The Old and New Testament readings we have read remind us of our salvation history. Our salvation history goes back to the creation of the world, the fall of our first parents, the prophecies about Jesus, his coming, his passion, his death and now his resurrection.

We processed into the dark church building with lighted candles and followed the Paschal Candle. This a powerful symbol that we are followers of the Risen Lord who says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Soon, in this celebration, we will renew our baptismal promises in which we will renounce Satan and all his works. All these make us partakers in the Sacred Pascal Mystery. These deep and profound spiritual expressions are for our spiritual transformation; and may our Lenten journey, the Triduum, and the Easter celebrations bring us the spiritual transformation.

Our world is enveloped in the darkness of wars, violence, death, refugee crises, bad government, insecurity, fear, poverty, sickness, suffering, godlessness, human made and natural disasters, and so on. May the light of Christ penetrate into the hearts of perpetrators of evils in our world and bring them to repentance. Amen.

Our celebration continues in the morning when we will gather again to celebrate the Risen Lord.

Happy Easter!

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, April 15, 2022

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Good Friday Year C - April 15, 2022

Homily of Good Friday, 2022

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42

What is good about Good Friday when it was such a gloomy day the innocent Son of God, Jesus Christ, was tortured and brutally executed by his crucifixion on the Cross? It is called ‘good’ because Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and death are for our salvation, and therefore, for our good. As we pray, “By dying, he destroyed our death, and by rising he restored our life” (cf 2 Timothy 1:10). It is the only day of the year the Eucharist is not celebrated. This is because Good Friday’s ceremony is itself a commemoration of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Church theologians and spiritual fathers and mothers have discussed extensively some questions concerning Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and death. “Why did Jesus have to suffer as brutally as he did to accomplish our salvation?” “Could not our salvation be achieved some other way?” My understanding from the discourse of theologians and spiritual fathers and mothers is that Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and death is God’s plan for humanity’s salvation. This God’s plan is a mystery beyond human being’s full comprehension and clear explanation. The psalmist says, “Our God is in heaven and does whatever he wills” (Psalm 113:3). Jesus, in his human nature did not, even, fully grasp his crucifixion which prompted him to cry out to God while hanging on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Later in his divine nature he cautioned the two men on their way to Emmaus, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26).

Many times, we condemn those God used to bring about Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and death. For example, Judas who betrayed him; the soldiers who arrested him, tortured him and crucified him; the disciples who deserted him; the Jews who accused him falsely and insisted that he must die; Pilate who sentenced him to death and so on. How could our salvation have been possible without all these people? Every one of them played a part in God’s salvation plan for us. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28).

One of the lessons Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection teach us is that our difficulties and sufferings may be God’s plan for something good and great to come our way. We hear it often said that difficulties and failures are stepping stones to success.

The entire 40 days of the Lenten Season reached its climax today, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Today has been a day of fasting, prayer, and meditation on the agony and suffering of Christ. We prayed the Stations of the Cross earlier. The Passion narrative according to St. John’s Gospel, we have just read, connects us back to the fourteen Stations of the Cross.

We identify with the Passion of Christ as we all carry our various crosses. No doubt, many of us carrying all kinds of shapes and weights of crosses. Many of us have falling several times under the weight of their crosses. Many of us are feeling as if they are hanging on a cross and crying “My God, my God; why have you abandoned me.” Many of us are feeling like being offered vinegar to drink for their thirst. As we venerate the crucifix, we pray with Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

When the Israelites sinned and were attacked by ferocious snakes, God did not abandon them. He directed Moses to mold a bronze serpent and place it on a pole, so that “anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed” (Numbers 21:9). Jesus promises us, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John12:32). “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).

By venerating the crucifix today, we pray to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C - May 22, 2022

Homily of Sixth Sunday of Easter Year C, 2022 Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Revelation:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29 From its...