THIS WEEK’S HOMILY 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

By: Rev. Fr. Ameh Sylvanus

Readings: 1Kings 19:16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62

Theme: Don’t Look Back

  1. There is a Nollywood blockbuster movie released in 1999 that was titled Igodo. In the movie, seven young men where sent by a community into an evil forest to get a knife with which they would cut down a tree that stood as the witness to a curse placed on the community. Before they departed, the Chief priest of the community told them that they were embarking on a perilous journey, hence, no matter what they think they see or hear, they must not look back, for if they do, they will surely die. Indeed, some looked back, and surely, they died.
  2. In sprint races, athletes are told not to look back but ahead at the finish line because if they do, they may lose the race. When a Cheetah is chasing a prey, no matter what happens, no matter the distractions around it, it focuses on d prey and never looks back or sideways; if it does, the prey may escape by just a split second. In our spiritual journey too, Jesus tells us not to look back or sideways, for if we do, we risk losing heaven. Today’s readings all talk about calls to different people to serve God: In Reading 1, Elisha is called to succeed Elijah as prophet; Saint Paul tells us in the Second Reading that God has called and is still calling us to spiritual freedom and a life of holiness and in the gospel, Jesus called some people to be his disciples.
  3. These three dimensions of calls in our readings are the same dimensions of calls that ring out to us even today: (i) We are called to be God’s prophets, witnessing to truth and justice in the world; (ii) We are called to be people who strive to live in holiness and (iii) We are also called to be disciples of Jesus who will carry his message of hope and salvation to people everywhere.
  4. But Jesus tells us in the gospel that his call to us is full of challenges and there are sacrifices to be made, therefore, we must weigh our response carefully. This explains his response, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nets, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” when one man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Thinking carefully about accepting God’s call to us is very important because it is a response that we must never go back on. Once we have said “Yes” to God, we must never look backwards or sideways. We read in Matthew 14:22-32, the event of Jesus walking on the water. When Peter asked if he could come to Jesus, walking on the water too, to confirm if truly it was Jesus, Jesus bade him to. Peter walked on water until, as verse 30 tells us, he began to sink because he looked sideways and, removing his eyes from Jesus, he noticed the waves and became frightened. Every time we take our eyes from Jesus, from our spiritual goal, we stand the risk of sinking, either under sin or under the pressures of life.
  5. Our second reading also says we must never look back to where we have come from on our spiritual journey. God located our eyes in the front of our heads so that to make progress, we look ahead, and not behind. You can never get to your destinations if you keep your focus behind you. There are many believers today who had lived very bad lives in the past, but now, they have chosen to change and serve God. To such people and to all of us, the word of God says, “Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). This means not to go back to the old life of sin left behind, for “everyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creature; old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17). The only time we are permitted to look at our past lives is to learn something on how to avoid past mistakes; other than that, don’t look back! Jesus says in our gospel reading that “Anyone who put his hands on the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.” So, child of God, don’t look back! Very importantly, today, God is calling all of us to be his disciples and to live in holiness. Will we answer promptly like Elisha in the first reading or we will make excuses like the people in the gospel?

TODAY’S MEMORY VERSE

Isaiah 48:11 – For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for why should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

REFLECTION: Sometimes we just have to sacrifice for others, what we desire to have or do, not because they deserve it, but for our own sakes.

LIBERATE RELIGION FROM THE HANDS OF MANIPULATORS – ONAIYEKAN

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has called for the collaboration of all religious leaders to liberate religion from the claws of manipulators who use it for godless and selfish purposes.  He described true Religion as a great asset to any nation, irrespective of the faith belief of individuals; because “it facilitates truth, honesty, solidarity and care for one another”.

Cardinal Onaiyekan made this assertion in his homily at the funeral Mass for Most Rev. Kevin Aje, the late emeritus Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. The ceremony took place recently at the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, Sokoto, Sokoto State. The funeral Mass and burial ceremony was attended by dignitaries from all walks of life, including a high powered delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN); led by its President, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze.

 The Cardinal however warned that religion cannot play its statutory role if it is encumbered and manipulated for political, ethnic and other narrow minded interests. He described these encumbrances as the challenge before humanity, especially “men and women of faith in God”.

His words: “This challenge falls especially upon those of us who claim to be religious leaders. The challenge is to join hands to liberate religion in Nigeria from the grip of those who are holding it hostage, and manipulating its power for selfish and godless interests.

Speaking on the life and times of the deceased, Cardinal Onaiyekan described him as a role model and pioneer in many ways. He noted that the late Bishop Aje was “among the early group of zealous lay apostles who worked with the foreign missionaries, most of the time carrying much of the burden of the day, reaching out directly to the most remote places to bring into the Christian fold people at the grass root levels.”

He continued: “… he was a true man of God, with deep conviction and generous heart. Once he puts his hands on the plough, he never looked back. As a pioneer Nigerian priest in his days, he became an effective role model to many young men who were later to follow his footsteps.”

Cardinal Onaiyekan  outlined the achievements of the deceased as the pioneer indigenous bishop of the diocese of Sokoto stressing: “Carried on the wings of the Holy Spirit and empowered by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, he tended the flock of God in Sokoto for almost 30 years, handing over to his successor a stabilized and forward looking diocese. He described the late Bishop Aje as “a living expression of the Catholic doctrine on religious diversity under one God”.

Source Credit: Catholic News Service of Nigeria

TODAY’S MEMORY VERSE

2 Cor 7:8-9 (GNB) – For even if that letter of mine made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. I could have been sorry when I saw that it made you sad for a while. But now I am happy – not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm.

REFLECTION: There are times when we have to deliberately and consciously cause pain to the people we love, not to hurt them, but to save them and make them better. God does that with us too in a lot of ways and a lot of times.

TODAY’S MEMORY VERSE:

Proverbs 18:13 (GNB) – Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting.

REFLECTION: Oftentimes, people have misunderstandings and run into trouble because their self-centeredness and impatience won’t let them listen to others, as they would rather be listened to. We must know that until we hear others out, we may likely form a wrong opinion of them or of a situation.

PENTECOST SUNDAY, YEAR C by Rev. Fr. Sylvanus Ameh

PENTECOST SUNDAY, YEAR C

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104; Romans 8:8-17; John 14:15-16, 23-26

Theme: The Spirit of Newness

  1. The Church celebrates today, the Feast of Pentecost, on which we recall the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus. It is important to point out here that it is not the coming of the Holy Spirit that made the day ‘Pentecost’. Pentecost was a Jewish feast known as the “Feast of Weeks”, occurring seven weeks (or fifty days) after the Passover. It was a Jewish national holiday that recalls the receiving of the Law by Moses from God as well as thanksgiving for the harvest. Pentecost was one of the three obligatory festivals for all Jewish males from twelve years upwards living in Jerusalem or within a twenty mile radius of Jerusalem to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was also a business time for people of other nationalities who brought wares to sell to the Jews, hence, the multilingual crowd that understood the disciples praying in their different tongues. It was on this day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus; it was on this day that the church was born and publicly manifested.
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  • The coming of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of prophecies and promises. In John 14:16-17, Jesus promised to ask the Father to send the advocate, the Spirit who reveals the truth about God; in Acts 1:8, he also told the disciples that the Holy Spirit will come upon them and they shall receive power to be his witnesses. The Prophet Zechariah made a prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when he declared the word of God saying, “I will fill the descendants of David and the other people of Jerusalem with the Spirit of mercy and the Spirit of prayer” (Zech 12:10), and in Joel 2:28, this prophecy was made: “Afterwards, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters will proclaim my message, your old people will dream dreams, and your young men and women will see visions.”
  • Though the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, the Pentecost experience is not a one-time event.  The Holy Spirit keeps descending on believers as in the case of the people of Samaria (Acts 8:18), as upon Cornelius and his household, together with the other gentiles who were with him (Acts 10:44-45), as upon the converts at Ephesus (Acts 19:6), and as we have also experienced his powerful presence in our own day.
  • Acts 2:2 tells us that on that day, there was a mighty rushing wind, and the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. Scripture often associates the presence of the Spirit with the wind, with air. When Adam was formed from the dust of the earth, he was without life, until God put the breath into him, and he received the spirit of life (Gen 2:7); in like manner, in the vision of dry bones that Ezekiel saw, when the bones came together and were covered with sinews and with flesh, they were not alive. For the spirit of life to come into them, God commanded the prophet to prophesy to the wind to come into them, and they became a living, vast army (Ezek 37:9-10). In John 3:8, Jesus also associated the movement of the Spirit with the movement of the wind.
  • In all of these, that is, the relationship between the wind and the Spirit, we see that the blowing of the wind precedes the coming of the Spirit, and the coming of the Spirit heralds transformation. Thus, wherever the Spirit of the Lord goes, new things happen, changes are brought about, dead/hopeless situations are revived. It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that brought new life, new vigour, new strength and gave new courage to the apostles, that Peter could even address a crowd of thousands of people. The second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us the new life of righteousness since sin brings death, and this same Spirit gives us at the same time, the new life of grace in Christ Jesus. At our baptism, by the workings of the Holy Spirit, we are freed from original sin and made new members of God’s household as his children. Thus, every time, to every place and in every situation that the coming of the Holy Spirit is experienced, something new happens.
  • As we celebrate Pentecost today, we pray that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow upon our lives, our homes, our marriages, our finances, our health, our ministry, our relationship with God, our country and our Church, and that the transforming power of the Holy Spirit may bring about a revival in all the different areas of our lives that needs a new touch. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle in them, the fire of your love.

SUSTAIN THE UNIFYING UNIQUENESS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LAGOS; ARCHBISHOP MARTINS TOLD

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, has been called upon to redouble his efforts at sustaining the uniqueness of the Catholic Church in Lagos as a rallying point for unity and harmony among the various communities living in the city.

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This admonition was given by the emeritus Archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, in his address at the Thanksgiving Mass to mark the 60th Birthday anniversary of Archbishop Martins, held at the Holly Cross Cathedral, in Lagos, recently. The celebration of the Mass was followed by a grand reception in honour of the celebrant at the City Hall, Lagos. Other activities included the unveiling of the Archbishop Martins Youth Development and Empowerment Foundation (AMYDF) and the presentation of two books written by the celebrant; The Grace to Live (compilation of his homilies) and The Voice of A Shepherd.

The ceremony was attended by John Cardinal Onaiyekan of Abuja and Anthony Cardinal Okogie, emeritus Archbishop of Lagos and including a high powered delegation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN); led by its President, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City Archdiocese.

Also in attendance leaders of other Christian denominations, traditional rulers, government functionaries, and other dignitaries from all walks of life. Priests and religious form different parts of the country, Knights of the Church, leaders of various societies and sodality groups and lay faithful of the Church were also in attendance.

Describing Archbishop Martins as a beacon of hope, Cardinal Okogie declared: “Your strides in social, educational, medical, spiritual and pastoral achievements remain testimonies of your great endeavours of spreading the Word of God with every available means.”

Praying to God to renew the zeal and strength of the celebrant as he continues his apostolate, Cardinal Okogie reminded him of the uniqueness of the Church he leads. His words: “ Your Grace, the Church you lead is unique. It is the Church in Nigeria’s commercial capital, a Church in a city of immense political influence in Nigeria. This city will need your guidance. The Church you lead, dear Archbishop Martins, must make the values of the Gospel present in the commercial and political activities of this city.”

He continued: “Lagos is Nigeria’s melting pot. Virtually, every Nigerian ethnic community is rep-resented among its inhabitants. We are all Lagosians in different ways. Lagos is our Mother in different degrees; for example, we are all associated with Lagos and contribute towards making her what she is today, ‘the Centre of Excellence’. Your Grace, this is the city in which you lead a Church, which in the words of the Second Vatican Council, is the “sign and instrument of communion with God, and of unity among men.” Those words spell out the nature and mission of the Church.

The emeritus Archbishop continued: “The Church is a unifier. For this reason, the Church in Lagos must be at the service of unity and harmony among the various ethnic communities living in Lagos. It is therefore important that, as you mark this important milestone in your life, your ministry as Archbishop, represent a ministry of bringing the children of God together irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.”

Going down memory lane on his relationship with the celebrant from his seminary days, Cardinal Okogie expressed satisfaction with his achievements so and prayed that God will continue to guard and guide him in his Episcopal ministry..ar commitment

Cardinal Okogie also used the occasion to remind Christians of the need to remain steadfast in the fight against corruption, tribalism, self-centeredness, kidnapping and many other vices noting that: “ We as Christians would be contradicting our vocation” if we fail in this perspective.