Saturday, October 19, 2019

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - October 20, 2019. Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary time year C - World Mission Sunday

Homily of Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Sunday, October 20, 2019 is World Mission Sunday. Pope Pius XI instituted World Mission Sunday in 1926 to be an annual day of prayers and expression of support for the Catholic Church missionary vision and character. In his message for World Mission Sunday 2019, Pope Francis re-emphasizes that while the Church is on mission in the world, the missionary mandate of the Church touches each of us personally. The pope states, “I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission… Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love.” He continues, “Today’s rampant secularism, when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history… the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his holy Church… No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation.” Some go to the missions by going; some go to the missions by praying; and some go to the missions by giving. Through these expressions, we all possess the missionary vision and character of the Church.
The Chosen People of God’s mission when they left Egypt was to reach the Promised Land. It was a mission with many challenges and difficulties on the way. The first difficulty was the crossing of the Red Sea. Moses, a great man of prayer, cried to God in prayer. God commanded him, “You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea.” Moses did as he was commanded, “The waters divided and the Israelites went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and left” (Exodus 14:15-23).
After crossing the Red Sea the Israelites continued their journey to the Promised Land. They were to pass through a place called Amalek. The Amalekites were hostile to the Israelites and waged war against them. While the Israelites fought the physical battle with the Amalekites, Moses, a great man of prayer, went to the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hand accompanied by Aaron and Hur to fight the spiritual battle. The first reading states, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight. Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they took a rock and put it under him and he sat on it. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset” when Joshua and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. The events narrated above speaks of the power of prayer, and the importance of persistent and enduring prayer. It speaks also of the importance of spiritual warfare to accompany physical engagements.
Like the Israelites, we will come across ‘Red Seas’ and ‘Amalekites’ on our missions. But like Moses, we are to go to God in prayer with the staff of God. The staff of God is the Eucharistic Celebration, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Bible, the Rosary, the prayer books, and so on. Someone says, “Work hard, but pray harder.” St. Augustine puts it this way, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Pray as though everything depended on God (spiritual warfare). Work as though everything depended on you (physical warfare).
Jesus gave a parable in the Gospel to teach us the importance of persistent and enduring prayer. The widow never gave up appealing to the dishonest judge until she received justice. Jesus assures us, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”
Jesus gave a similar parable in Luke 11:5-8, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”
Sometimes we are discouraged after enduring and persistent prayers and God does not grant our prayers the way we have asked. The readings of today encourage us never to give up but to pray until something happens. However, as people of faith when we see God’s hand in an ‘unanswered prayer’, that becomes prayer answered. “In his will is our peace,” says Dante Alighier in The Divine Comedy.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - October 13, 2019. Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Twenty-Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
The readings of today invite us to reflect on the importance of gratitude. When Naaman bathed in the River Jordan as directed by Elisha, “he was cleansed of his leprosy.” He was grateful to God and returned to Elisha with a gift to express his gratitude. Naaman was Syrian. Syria, then, was considered a pagan territory because they were Baal worshippers. Naaman said to Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.” Ironically, this happened during the last years of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, and their children who led the Israelites to idolatry. While the Chosen People were ungrateful to God by worshipping pagan gods, Naaman the Syrian expressed gratitude to God and proclaimed, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”
In the Gospel, Jesus healed ten lepers. Nine were Jews, and one was a Samaritan. Again, the nine Jews who were healed did not return to Jesus to express gratitude. The Samaritan did. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans as pagans and foreigners. Yet, it was the ‘pagan’ (the foreigner) “who returned [to Jesus] to give thanks to God.” The Jews took their healing for granted. Many times, we take our blessings for granted by not showing appreciation.
There is a saying that ingratitude is the worst of vices. This is because every vice is rooted in ingratitude to God. For example, when I don’t forgive those who offend me, I am ungrateful to God who forgives me all the time. We are invited today to live life of gratitude: gratitude to God and gratitude to fellow human beings. We are invited to limit our complaints, fault finding, whining, and nagging, and to increase our gratefulness, appreciation and thanks.
St Paul urges us, “Give thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus to God the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).  “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The Gospel of today emphasizes the importance of gratitude: “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, ‘Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?’ Then he said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.’” The Psalmist says, “Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me.” Giving gratitude to God is a recognition that all we have is a gift from God (1 Corinthians 4:7).
Jesus spoke harshly to his people due to their ingratitude. He scolded them, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’”
Ingratitude can be very costly. In the Old Testament, the journey of forty days became forty years for the Israelites due to their ingratitude, and the ungrateful generations did not reach the Promised Land.
We can conclude with the following observations:
Expression of gratitude is a prayer in itself that God may give us more opportunities to thank him.
Expression of gratitude encourages, enlivens and empowers. Lack of gratitude discourages and diminishes.
Expression of gratitude is uplifting and promotes healthy environment. Ingratitude is sickening, and creates anxiety, stress, aches and pains.
Expression of gratitude is delightful. Ingratitude is repulsive.
Expression of gratitude brings more blessings. Ingratitude takes away blessings. The second reading says, “If we deny him, he will deny us.” May this not be our portion. Amen.
Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Friday, October 4, 2019

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - October 6, 2019. Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary time year C

Homily of Twenty Seventh-Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Prophet Habakkuk prophesied in Judah about 600 years before Jesus Christ. At that time, there were political decadence and abandonment of worship of Yahweh. The first reading was a section of Habakkuk’s lamentation over the state of affairs in Judah. Habakkuk questioned God about his silence over his and the people’s cry and lamentation: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ But you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strive, and clamorous discord.” Habakkuk 1:4 which is not included in the reading says, “This is why the law is numb and justice never comes, for the wicked surround the just; this is why justice comes forth perverted.”

There are people whose condition is as Judah was, and like Habakkuk, in their grief and desolation, they ask God many questions: “Why me?” “Why this?” “Why that?” “Where are you, God?” “Where are your promises.” And many other questions. Some people argue that it is not proper to ask God questions. If that is the case, then the Scripture is full of improper questions to God. My understanding is that questions addressed to God with faith are prayers in themselves. Improper questions to God are questions asked doubtfully and without faith. God always answers questions to him with faith. When we claim that God is silent, we need to examine our faith. God speaks to us through Prophet Isaiah, “No, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, it is your crimes that separate you from your God. It is your sins that make him hide his face so that he does not hear you” (Isaiah 59:1-2). We can put verse two this way, “Rather, it is your [lack of faith] that separate you from your God. It is your [faithlessness] that make him hide his face so that he does not hear you.”

Because Habakkuk asked with faith, God responded, “Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfilment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. … The just one, because of his faith, shall live.” In other words, God’s plans will surely come to fulfilment. God will not disappoint. Even if he delays, let us trust him faithfully. Our faith will save us.

St. Paul in the second reading encourages us not to lose our faith. He says, “Beloved: I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control… Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us.” In this passage St. Paul spells out some of the fruits of faith, “power, love, and self-control.”

The Gospel: “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.’” It is not surprising that the apostles made this request. They had seen Jesus’ miraculous deeds and the authority in his teaching, which they would have compared to their lack of faith. We are like the apostles; we lack faith. This is seen in our lukewarm or lifeless practice of our Christianity. St. Paul calls our attitude ‘spirit of cowardice.’ St. Paul encourages us to stir and fan our faith into flame.

Yes, our faith in God will be tested as that of the selfless (unprofitable), hardworking, and obedient servant Jesus alluded in the Gospel. He remained faithful and went the extra-mile to do all his master’s will. The victory over this world is our faith (1 John 5:4). St. Paul says in Roman 14:23, “For whatever is not from faith is sin.” And Jesus bade some persons farewell with the following words: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace," to the sinful woman (Luke 7:50). "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering," to the woman healed of hemorrhage (Mark 5:34). "Go, your faith has healed you," to blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52). Jesus encouraged Jarius, “Do not be afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36). May Jesus greet us with such words as above. Amen.

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - October 20, 2019. Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary time year C - World Mission Sunday

Homily of Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C Sunday, October 20, 2019 is World Mission Sunday. Pope Pius XI instituted World ...