Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time Year A - September 20, 2020

 

Homily of Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year A, 2020 

Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16

 

In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts or his ways our ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are God’s ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts. St. Paul says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God” (1 Corinthians 3:19).

 

Jesus’ parables are said to be earthly stories with heavenly meanings. The parable in today’s Gospel is, definitely, full of heavenly meanings, and goes against the wisdom of this world. In the parable, those who worked all day in the vineyard received the same wage as those who worked for a few hours and those who worked for only one hour. Judging from human wisdom and standards, the landowner acted unfairly by paying all the workers the same amount.

 

However, Jesus did not tell this parable to teach employers how to pay workers. Jesus used the parable to teach us some lessons about the way of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was addressing the political and religious leaders and rulers of his time: the lawyers, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the priests who prided themselves as custodians of the Law, and therefore claimed to have authority to decide who was fit to enter into the Kingdom of God. For them, the Gentiles were God’s forsaken pagans and were damned, and had no share in the Kingdom of God. Jesus used this parable to correct this wrong notion. Jesus used the parable to teach that although the Gentiles received the message of salvation later than the Jews, the Gentiles would have equal share in the Kingdom of God. With this parable, Jesus taught the lawyers, the scribes, the Pharisees, Sadducees and the priests that he came to call sinners to repentance, and those who believed in him would merit the kingdom of God.

 

How does this teaching apply to us? In the second reading, St. Paul call this teaching “the Gospel of Christ.” He tells us to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  The Gospel of Christ is different from the way of the world.

 

The way of the world is the privileged subdue the less privileged.

The way of the world is the strong subdue the weak.

The way of the world is the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

The way of the world is the winner takes it all.

The way of the world is greed and avarice.

The way of the world is exclusion and class.

The way of the world is superiority and dominance.

The way of the world is inequality.

 

We see these ways of the world, outrightly, in political, economic, social, and religious systems within and around us. Sometimes, too, what are presented as assistance or development are only devious means of dominance, controlling, exclusion, subduing, and taking advantage over and against the underprivileged and victims.

 

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is not to lord it over anyone (Matthew 20:26).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is to guard against all kinds of greed (Luke 12:15).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is, “Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant” (Luke 22:26).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is, “Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less” (2 Corinthians 8:15).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is not to be conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:26).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is, “Be willing and generous to share” (1 Timothy 6:18).

The way worthy of the Gospel of Christ is, “Let your life be free from love of money, but be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).

 

We are invited, today, to reject the ways of the world and embrace the way worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Then, our thoughts and ways will be guided by the thoughts and ways of God.

 

Lastly, Jesus says, “The last will be the first, and the first will be the last.” This reminds me of a boxing tournament where the boxer who had only 50 points, knocked out his opponent who had 150 points, within the last twenty seconds of the fight. There are many instances like this. The unemployed men who stood at the market place did not walk away in disappointment. Some remained up till 5:00 PM! Their perseverance, patience, waiting, and hoping did not disappoint them. Therefore, be patient. Persevere. Keep hoping. Keep fighting. Keep trying. Keep praying. Do not give up. Do not walk away in disappointment. You may become a winner within the last twenty seconds. The Landowner will, surely, come and grant your heart’s desire at an unexpected hour. All we need to do is to wait for the Lord! (Isaiah 40:31).

 

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time Year A - September 13, 2020

 

Homily of Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year A, 2020

 

Sirach 27:30-28:7; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Roman 14:7-9; Matthew 17:21-35

 

Two friends, Mike and Nick, were on a journey through a desert and a hill. As they were walking on the sand of the desert Mike tripped over. As he was falling, he held Nick to regain his balance. Unfortunately, Nick lost his balance also and both of them fell. In order to remember where they fell, Nick marked the spot with his staff. Their journey continued. They got to a hill. Nick was unable to climb. Mike supported Nick and both of them climbed over the hill. In order to remember how they made it over the hill Mike marked the spot where they got over the hill with his staff. On their way back, the mark made by Mike on the hill remained very visible. Both men happily remembered how they made it over the hill. Then, they journeyed across the desert and never saw the mark on the sand and never remembered where and how they fell. We pray that the wind of the Holy Spirit blows on us and erase our offenses against one another, just like the desert wind erased the mark on the sand where Mike and Nick fell. Amen.

 

Christianity is the most radical of all religions because of its teaching on forgiveness. No other religion has so much emphasis on forgiveness as in Christianity. Retaliation and revenge are clearly enshrined in the spirituality of some religions and deep in the way of life of many men and women. The first reading says, “Anger and wrath are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” The reading explains how forgiveness is important to our prayer life and our relationship with God: “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself; can he seek pardon for his own sins?” Jesus emphasizes this teaching on forgiveness in Mark 11:25-26, “And when you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive, so that your heavenly Father may also forgive your sins.” In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray to God, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12). The first reading admonishes us, “Remember the last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!”

 

The second reading says, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” If we are the Lord’s, then we will forgive as the Lord teaches and forgive as he forgives. For on the Cross, he prayed, for those who betrayed him, who judged him wrongly, and those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

 

One of the lessons we can draw from the Gospel parable is that we sin against God every day, and many times mortal sins, but he does not treat us according to our sins. Yet, many times we are very unforgiving to one another, even over minor offenses. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus cautions us, “If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you either” (Matthew 6:14-15). St. James further warns us, “For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy” (James 2:12).

 

Sometimes, we ask, “I have forgiven my neighbor, yet I still remember the offense. Does it mean that I have not forgiven my neighbor?” We must not underestimate the power of memory. Some experiences can remain in our memory for a very long, and sometimes forever. However, prayer, time, and goodwill can heal and erase the hurt, even if we still remember the experience. When this happens, the offense may be remembered, but faintly.

We know that forgiveness and healing have taken place:

 

1.   When the offense is no longer vivid in our mind. We have forgotten the details.

2.   When we no longer make reference to the offense to support any kind of claim or reason for our action or actions.

3.   When we are no longer upset when we remember the offense or the offender.

4.   When we, in no way, wish to retaliate or wish ill luck to the offender as punishment for the offense.

5.   When we treat the offender with acceptance, understanding, and kindness.

6.   When we remember the offense, we are grateful for the lesson or lessons we learned from the experience.

7.   When we remember the offense, we acknowledge that we have, also, offended other people many times. We, also, are in need of forgiveness.

Let us conclude with words of advice from St. Paul (Ephesians 4:32), “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” May the wind of the Holy Spirit blow on us, heal our hurts and erase the marks of unforgiveness printed on our hearts. Amen.

 

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary time Year A - September 6, 2020

 

Homily of Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 2020

Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 13:13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

 

The people of Israel’s disloyalty to God resulted to their conquest and captivity by Babylon. While in exile in Babylon, God did not abandon them. St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” God called one of them, Ezekiel, to prophesy to them. In the first reading, God spoke to Ezekiel, “I have appointed [you a] watchman for the house of Israel…” In the same way, God has called each one of us to watch over one another. Priests are called to watch over parishioners. Parishioners, on the other hand, are to watch over the priests.  Family members are called to watch over one another. Children have the responsibility to watch over their parents who watched over them as they grew up. Unfortunately, some children fail in this responsibility. Siblings are called to watch over one another. Neighbors are called to watch over one another. Church members are called to watch over one another. Colleagues are called to watch over one another. We are not called to fight and destroy one another.  

 

There is a story of an old lady in Ireland who had no modern house heating system. She heated her house by burning firewood. The smoke of the fire oozed out of the house chimney every morning. On a particular morning, a neighbor living across from the old lady noticed that there was no smoke coming out of the old lady’s house chimney. The neighbor was surprised that in the Irish cold the old lady was not heating her house that morning. The neighbor imagined that something was not okay. The neighbor went over and knocked on the lady’s door but there was no response. The neighbor called the Emergency. The crew arrived, forced the house door open and found that the lady had fallen. The good news was that she was still alive. She was taken to the hospital where she recovered. Her life was saved by a good and observant neighbor who watched over her, even without her knowing!

 

Civil and religious leaders have the obligation to watch over the citizens. The leaders are not called to neglect, abandon, mistreat, abuse, starve, or devour the citizens.

 

God called Ezekiel to speak his words of truth to his people in order to save them. In the same way, God has called us to speak truth to one another, and save one another. Prophet Ezekiel says, “If you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I shall require from your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.” St. James writes, “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). Therefore, God has not called us to keeping silent in the face of evil, or to rumor mongering, gossiping, slandering and so on.

 

Sincerely watching over one another is an act of love. Telling one another the truth is an act of love. That is why St. Paul in the second reading says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

 

In the Gospel, Jesus, further teaches us another act of love. It is, reconciling with one another. It takes a lot of humility and patience to follow these four stages of reconciliation Jesus commanded. Stage one: Don’t presume, don’t rumor, don’t gossip, don’t grudge, don’t malign or slander. Go to the person and bring up your grievances. If the person refuses to reconcile with you, don’t give up, proceed to stage two: Take someone of influence along, someone he/she may listen to, and go for a second round of reconciliatory talk. If the person still refuses to reconcile with you, don’t give up still, proceed to stage three: Bring up the matter with the church leader, if the person practices his or her faith, or the leader of an organization the person belongs to or identifies with. After these three stages, and if the person still refuses to reconcile with you, then stage four: Accept the person with love; which is to say, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). That was what Jesus did to those who hated him and killed him.

 

To summarize, we are all called to show love to our brothers and sisters, and be our brother’s and sister’s keepers by watching over them; not watching their downfalls and failures; or being blind to their needs. We are called to show love to our brothers and sisters by speaking nothing but the truth to them. We are not to keep silent in the face of evil. We are called to show love to our brothers and sister by the act of reconciliation. May God give us the grace to answer these calls. Amen.

 

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP

 

Fr. Martin Eke, MSP - Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time Year A - September 20, 2020

  Homily of Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year A, 2020  Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Mat...