Saturday, November 16, 2019

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - November 17, 2019. Homily for the 33nd Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
The Church’s Liturgical Year ends next Sunday with the celebration of the solemnity of Our Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. As of last Sunday, the readings of this Sunday invite us to continue our reflection on the Christian understanding of the end of our earthly life.
In the first reading, Prophet Malachi re-emphasized some themes that run through the entire Scripture; first, that those who lived wicked lives while on earth would not go unpunished. Prophet Malachi put it in a very gruesome way, “the day that is coming will set them on fire…” Second, for those who lived righteous lives, “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Many people do not believe that there is life after death, or there are judgement and reward at the end of earthly life. I consider it foolishness to disregard these themes that run through the entire Scripture. Ordinarily, we believe that our actions have rewards or consequences. It is foolishness, also, to exclude what follows at the end of our earthly life from this principle.  For us who believe the Scripture, since we look towards meeting God at the end of life, and seeing him as he truly is, let us make the effort to live life that will lead us to him.
In the second reading, some Thessalonians misunderstood the meaning of the second coming of Christ. They took the “coming soon of Christ” literally, and for that reason felt that there was no need to work. Since “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” they were conducting themselves in disorderly ways. St. Paul warned them, “If anyone was unwilling to work, neither should he eat.” Therefore, we believers, while on earth, are to fight good fight, run good race, keep the faith, and wait for the crown of righteousness the Righteous Judge will award us on that day. Not only to us, “but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
In the Gospel, Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem; “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  This prophesy took place in 70 A.D. The temple represents each one of us and the world. The meaning of the words of Jesus is that at some point in time every life has an end. When we hear about the end of the world, our immediate expectation, however, is not to look forward to the day when the world will come to an end. Our attention, always, need to be on the end of everyone’s life which, as we know, can be at any moment. The important questions are:  Are we fighting good fight? Are we running good race? Are we keeping the faith? St. Paul writes, “So then, each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
Jesus warned us in the Gospel about the emergence of false prophets and fake pastors who would use the various disasters and afflictions that occur to people and in places as weapons to frighten and terrorize people. Jesus says, “See that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them….” Nowadays, false prophets and fake pastors are everywhere deceiving, cheating, abusing, extorting and stealing from those who have not heeded Jesus’ warning. Jesus encourages us that afflictions, disasters, and persecution should lead to our giving testimony. Jesus says in the Gospel, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” For those who persevere, trials are channels of salvation.
Unfortunately, some people are reluctant to reflect about death or make some necessary preparations concerning their death. A reality that faces us is that everyone will die, sooner or later. Some people may live a long life. Some people may live a short life. No one is sure what awaits him or her. Therefore, getting oneself ready for this inevitability cannot be over emphasized. Are there records to be made straight? Are there information to be shared? Are there property or money to be allocated? Are there arrangements to be made? Are there issues to be attended to or be resolved? And so on. Physical preparation is, equally, very important so that at the end of one’s life, those left behind are not left in the dark.
The Lord says to each one of us, “‘Behold, I am coming like a thief.’ Blessed is the one who watches and keeps his clothes ready, so that he may not go naked and people see him exposed” (Revelation 16:15).
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - November 10, 2019. Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
The first and second books of Maccabees recorded the resistance of the Jews against the pagan and tyrant King Antiochus of Syria IV (175-163 B.C.). King Antiochus who ruled Palestine at that time cruelly persecuted the Jews in his effort to abolish Jewish religion and establish Greek culture and religion. “The king sent letters by messenger to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah, ordering them to follow customs foreign to their land; to prohibit burnt offerings, sacrifices, and libations in the sanctuary, to profane the sabbaths and feast days, to desecrate the sanctuary and the sacred ministers, to build pagan altars and temples and shrines, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, to leave their sons uncircumcised, and to defile themselves with every kind of impurity and abomination; so that they might forget the law and change all its ordinances. Whoever refused to act according to the command of the king was to be put to death” (1 Maccabees 1:44-50). The first reading is an example of the persecution. Pork was a forbidden food by the Law of Moses. To eat pork meant abandoning the Jewish faith. The Jewish family in the first reading chose to die rather than abandon their faith.
The Church history is full of innumerable persecutions and martyrdoms; which made Tertullian to say, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” There are all kinds of persecution of Christians in many parts of the world. Various types of martyrdoms are happening every day. There are places people are killed because they are Christians. There are places people are denied rights and privileges because they are Christians. There are places anti-Christian policies are enforced to discourage the practice of Christianity. Jesus assures us, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11). We are required to pray for God’s sustenance and protection on the Christian brothers and sisters who are going through violent persecution in various parts of the world. We pray that their faith may not fail.
All forms of hateful attacks on the Catholic Church have become a common phenomenon nowadays. The steadfastness of the family members in the first reading should encourage every Catholic Christian. Many of us may not be put to death because we are Christians, but we are called to stand by the truth even if taken a truthful stand brings us suffering. It is better to experience temporary inconvenience or temporary suffering for standing by the truth or speaking the truth than forever live with the regret and guilt of lying, or the regret and guilt of keeping silent in the face of evil.
The Church’s year ends in the next two weeks. From the Monday of the 31st Week, through readings of Mass and Liturgy of Hours, and by the celebrations of the feast of All Saints and All Souls, the Church draws our attention to the last two Articles of Faith in the Apostles Creed, “I believe in the Resurrection of the Body” (Article 11), and “I believe in life everlasting” (Article 12). “We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day” (CCC 989). “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and entrance into everlasting life” (CCC 1020). The fourth brother in the first reading proclaims before his martyrdom, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; …”
The Sadducees exaggerated their question about the seven brothers who died childless having married the same wife. Even if that was the case, God would judge each of the seven brothers according to how he lived with the woman. Therefore, we are not to live our lives like the Sadducees of the time of Jesus who did not believe in resurrection, and men and women of our time who are atheists and those who do not look forward to life everlasting. In our thoughts, actions, and words, let us bear in mind the four last things, death, judgement, heaven and hell.
As we continue our journey of faith to heaven, we pray with St. Paul as in the second reading: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage [our] hearts and strengthen [us] in every good deed and word… May [we] be delivered from perverse and wicked people… The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen [us] and guard [us] from the evil one… May the Lord direct [our] hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.” Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, November 1, 2019

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - November 3, 2019. Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Concerning each one of us, St. Paul writes in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing.” He also writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, we are not hopeless. In Psalm 130:3-4, the word of God assures us, “If you, Lord, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.” Indeed, with God is forgiveness; which is why the first reading says, “But you have mercy on all… and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. … Therefore, you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of their sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!” God speaks to us through Prophet Ezekiel, “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who die…. Turn back and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32). Instead of keeping account of repentant’s sins, Psalm 23:6 says that indeed, God’s goodness and mercy continue to pursue us all the days of our life.
St. Paul in the second reading cautions us to cast out all fears in our relationship with the Lord. He says, “We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed …” Pope Francis says, “Mercy is the first attribute of God. God does not want anyone lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins.” The Pope, also, says, “The name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of; we are not condemned to sink into quicksand.”
St. Paul states in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. Pope Francis re-echoes this point in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, 2015, where he writes, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy…. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.” We see Jesus as the face of God’s mercy in Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel. Jesus showed mercy on him and forgave him his many sins.
Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus is a fulfillment of words of the Scripture:
Matthew 18:3-4, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and a wealthy man became childlike, climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. Zacchaeus’ childlikeness earned him salvation.
Jeremiah 29:13-14, “When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me … and I will change your lot…” Zacchaeus’ desire and effort to see Jesus earned him salvation. He “was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy.” Zacchaeus’ experience must not be taken literarily. “The crowd” and Zacchaeus’ “short in stature” represent Zacchaeus’ sins that prevented him from seeing Jesus. Zacchaeus running ahead represents his running away from his past sinful life; and his climbing a sycamore tree represents his climbing to repentance. By these, the words of Jeremiah came to fulfillment; Jesus changed his lot.
We may have ‘crowd’ and ‘short statures’ in form of our sins, weaknesses, relationships, worldly cares, excuses, and so on that block us from a closer encounter with Jesus and from salvation. Zacchaeus teaches us to ‘run’ and ‘climb.’
Zacchaeus, also, teaches us that set-backs, failures, and all kinds of life trials must not discourage us. We are not to give up or walk away when ‘short statures’ and ‘crowd’ stand in our way. We are to ‘run’ and ‘climb.’
The crowd not only stood in the way of Zacchaeus, they grumbled when they found out that they could not stop Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was not discouraged. He stood his ground. Therefore, like Zacchaeus, we must not only ‘run’ and ‘climb,’ we must also ‘stand’ our ground.
When Zacchaeus encountered Jesus, the face of God’s mercy, his lot changed and salvation came to his house. May we have the same testimony as Zacchaeus, amen. “The name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of; we are not condemned to sink into quicksand.” On our part, however, we must ‘run,’ ‘climb,’ and ‘stand.’
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - November 17, 2019. Homily for the 33nd Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C The Church’s Liturgical Year ends next Sunday with the celebration of the solemn...