1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT: WHILE WE ARE WAITING…

1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

Theme: While we are waiting…

Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent, New Year day for the church, as it marks the beginning of a new liturgical calendar. Advent is the season during which we not only prepare to celebrate the commemoration of the first coming of Jesus to the world, we also actually prepare ourselves for His second coming at the end of time. Actually, we can talk about three comings of Christ: 1st in the incarnation (when he came into the world as a man), 2nd in the parousia (when he shall come again as judge of the world) and 3rd in the everyday lives of believers, especially as He comes to us in the Sacraments of the Church. Advent therefore, recalls the 1st coming of Jesus Christ, reminds us of his 2nd coming and urges us to use our today to prepare for His future coming.

Today’s readings speak to us about the 2nd and 3rd comings of Jesus. While the prophet Isaiah (1st Reading) and Jesus (Gospel) speak to us in future tenses, St. Paul (2nd Reading) talks to us about our NOW. From these three readings, we shall pay attention to using the NOW to prepare for the future. Jesus tells us that his 2nd coming in glory shall be sudden and shall take many people unawares. The reason why he tells us this is so that we can be prepared and not be caught off guard. As the saying goes, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” So today’s readings tell us what to be doing in the now, while we are waiting for the second coming of Jesus.

  • While we are waiting for this 2nd coming of Jesus, Isaiah tells us that we must be people of peace, for his coming shall bring an era of peaceful reign and put an end to wars and conflicts.
  • While we are waiting, we must destroy the weapons of warfare (destruction) and take up the weapons of work (building peaceful coexistence). We must remove strife, quareling, fighting and violence from amongst us and enthrone friendship, peace and love.
  • While we are waiting, we must cast off the works of darkness as St. Paul says, and put on the works of light. We must destroy the habits of lying, gossiping, cheating, stealing, laziness, pornography, and so on, which are all works of darkness.
  • St. Paul says while we are waiting, we must do away with quarrelling, jealousy, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and all works of the flesh.
  • Jesus too tells us today, that while we are waiting, we must always stay ready because his coming will be unannounced.
  • While we are waiting, Jesus also says that each of us must be personally prepared, because the holiness of one person cannot be shared with another. That is why two people will be together, one will be taken and the other left.
  • While we are waiting for the 2nd coming of Jesus, today’s readings encourage us to prepare for that day by living good lives here and now, for it is how we live our lives now that shall determine how we spend eternity.

Many of us have already started making preparations for Christmas, come December 25th, but how are we preparing our souls for when Jesus shall come for us? May we do our best so that when Jesus finally comes again, we may be among those who are taken, and not among those who are left. Amen

34TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (CHRIST THE KING): THE SAVIOUR KING

34TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING)

By: Rev. Fr. Ameh Sylvanus

Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43

Theme: The Saviour King

  1. Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King, a feast which celebrates the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus Christ over the whole universe, of all things, “visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities…” (Col 1:16). This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in his encyclical, Quas Primas, issued to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicea (325AD), which, among other things, condemned the heresy of Arianism (Arianism denies the divinity of Jesus).  Quas Primas was the Pope’s response to the increasing secularism and nationalism in the world, which he identified as a major cause of the conflicts in the world. In the opening paragraph of this encyclical, the Holy Father noted that the many “evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics…” He hoped therefore, that with the institution of the Feast of Christ the King,
  2. Christians will let Christ reign in their hearts, minds, wills and bodies
  3. Leaders of the nations of the world would see the need to respect Christ and submit to his guidance
  4. Nations would realize and respect the Church’s right to freedom and her immunity from the State.

All three readings of today’s Mass speak about kingship. The first reading recounts the choice of David as king of Israel and the second reading affirms the sovereignty of Jesus over all peoples and things, declaring that Jesus reigns in heaven, on earth and under the earth and even the forces of darkness are in subjection to him. In the gospel reading, the Kingship of Jesus was given as the crime for which he was executed and right from the throne of the cross, he granted a repentant criminal visa free entry into his kingdom.

What lessons can we draw from today’s readings and the Feast we celebrate? How do they speak directly to us? Is this feast, established 94 years ago, still relevant for Christians of today? For the purpose of our reflection, we shall consider only two lessons which are contrasts, one to the other.

Saint Paul tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and he is first in all things – he is before all things, he is the beginning, the first born of all creation, the first born from the dead, and the head of the body, the Church – and all these, so that he might be pre-eminent. The concept of kingship naturally implies being the head, being the first, being paramount. Jesus himself says he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13). If we are declaring today that Jesus is our king, then we are in other words saying that Jesus is our head, Jesus is first in our lives and we shall hold Jesus paramount in all of our affairs. This is not something we declare simply by word of mouth, but more by our way of life. The world ought to see and know that indeed, it is Jesus who is reigning in our lives, in our homes, in our schools, in our work places, in our shops and everywhere. The second reading tells us that there is great gain in having Jesus as our Head and King, for when we do, there is deliverance from the reign of darkness in all that pertains to us, there is redemption and the forgiveness of sins, and very importantly, the blood of his cross shall release peace unto us. So as Christians and more so as Catholics who today celebrate the universal Kingship of Jesus, let us ask ourselves if Jesus is still the reigning King in our lives; let us ask ourselves if he is still the Head of our families; let us ask ourselves if we still put him first in all that we do; let us ask ourselves if we still have space for God or we have kicked him out of our lives.

In 1925, Pope Pius XI was worried that the world was increasingly becoming secular, that people were excluding God from their lives and families. Today, we most probably have more “Christians” in the world than there were back in 1925, but the rise in the number of Christians has not brought about a decline in the growth of secularism. If anything, the world appears to be even more unchristian. This is because many people in the church are simply comfortable with the appellation of “Christian” but do nothing to show the world what it truly means to be one. Many Christians today have thrown God out of their lives and belittled sacred things, persons and spaces, and one consequence of all these is that the world sees less, the need for God in their lives. But the hard truth which shall confront us if we continue in this attitude is that we shall come to the realization of what Jesus says in John 15:5 – “without me, you can do nothing.” Our second lesson therefore is that if by our way of life, we exclude Jesus from our lives or we deny him space in our lives such that he is not the one sitting on the throne of our hearts, of our families, of our schools, of our Church, of our work and business places, then we stand the risk of losing not just the blessings that come with his presence, but our very souls.

It is a sad thing to see that in the world today, we are getting more and more comfortable with talking and doing things about every other thing except about God. Churches do not talk about God as much as they should anymore; many sermons spewing from the pulpits today are nothing but motivational and financial speeches. More painfully is that families which are supposed to be the foundation of sound moral lives do not talk about God anymore; parents do not teach their children the truths of scripture anymore. In the name of not wanting to stress their children, parents indulge them in everything they should ordinarily keep them away from. Videos on bible stories have been replaced by Africa Magic and Zee World and Telemundo and such children grow not having any real relationship with Jesus. How then can you tell them when they have grown that Jesus is meant to be their king? But the word of God enjoins us not to be conformed to the standards of this world (Rom 12:2) and that we ought to train children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6). And when some of such parents are confronted with the implications of what they are doing, they will say “that is what the children like” and they do not want any headache from any child. Parents, hear me and hear me well: It is either your children give you HEADache today or they will give you HEARTache tomorrow. So, choose your ache wisely!

In the gospel reading, one thief accepted Jesus as king and got visa free entry to heaven; another rejected Jesus as king and ended up eternally condemned. Again, we ask ourselves today: Who is the king in my life? Who is the king in my home? Who is the king in our Church? It is either we accept Jesus as our king, live our lives accordingly and be saved or we reject him as our king, live our lives accordingly and be damned. But like Moses said to the people of Israel, today, you have a choice between life and death and I admonish you to choose life. Choose Jesus as your King and it shall be well with you and yours. Amen

THIS WEEK’S HOMILY: PREPARING FOR THE END

33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: Malachi 4:1-2; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

Theme: Preparing for the End

Both the civil and liturgical years are gradually drawing to a close. The liturgical year actually ends next week and as we move towards the end, the Church reminds us of our ultimate end also. In today’s readings, emphasis is placed on the end of time and how we ought to behave while waiting for our individual ends.

Today’s first reading thus tells us that at the end of time, God shall destroy all evil doers but console the righteous. In the second reading, we are admonished and encouraged to go on doing our daily tasks with diligence, because the time of the end is unknown,  and it is indeed, in living our lives well and doing our tasks diligently that we adequately prepare ourselves for when our end shall come. In the gospel reading, though speaking in reference to the Temple and to Jerusalem, Jesus teaches us that even those things people place great value on, things for which many lose their souls will all come to an end, just as the Temple on which the Jews placed great value was destroyed.

All these remind us of Ecclesiastes 3:1 which tells us that “For everything under the sun, there is a time and a season.” The implication of all these is that nothing lasts forever, therefore, we must choose our priorities wisely as we live our lives daily. We must also never forget that at the end of time, there shall be rewards, but when that time shall come for each one of us is unknown to us. This is the reason why, as Saint Paul tells us in the second reading, we must go about our daily lives in faithfulness to God. As Jesus says, “the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mat 24:44)

Today, therefore, let us ask ourselves: What are those things that I place great value on, and how are they affecting my relationship with God? Bearing in mind that how we live our lives here shall determine our eternal reward, how are we using the time that God has given us in this world? How diligent and faithful are we to the things of God? Most importantly, how are we preparing for our end and eternity? According to how we have lived and prepared in this life shall we be rewarded in eternity. As scripture says, when that time comes, some shall awake to everlasting life and some shall awake to everlasting shame and disgrace. Whether we awake to everlasting life or to everlasting shame depends largely on how we prepare for that end time. Hence, let us always keep in mind the admonition of the Psalmist, “O that today you will listen to his voice, harden not your hearts” (Psa 95:7-8). May the grace of God always be with us, that we may never lose sight of our eternal goal. Amen

ARCHBISHOP KAIGAMA OF ABUJA TO BE INSTALLED DECEMBER 5

Fr. Sylvanus Ameh

Following Pope Francis’ acceptance of the resignation of John Cardinal Onaiyekan as the Local Ordinary of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja on November 9th, 2019, the Archdiocese is set to have a new Ordinary, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, whose installation will take place on December 5th, 2019.

This announcement was made today by the Chancellor of the Archdiocese, Very Rev. Fr. Sebastian Musa in a letter addressed to “The Clergy, Religious and Lay faithful” of the Archdiocese. Archbishop Kaigama, who was the Archbishop of Jos Archdiocese, who announced the Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on March 11th, 2019.

The installation ceremony is scheduled to hold at the Cathedral of the 12 Apostles, Karsana District (Kubwa) of Abuja.

THIS WEEK’S HOMILY: AFTER DEATH, THEN WHAT?

32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

Theme: After death, then what?

There are basically two reasons why people ask questions. The first is for the purpose of learning something new to improve, and the second is to put someone on the spot and show his/her ignorance and/or foolishness. In the gospel reading of today’s Mass, the second reading was behind the question of the Sadducees to Jesus on marriage and the afterlife. Though they asked a question on the resurrection of the dead, the Bible says they do not believe in it.

To support their question, the Sadducees referred to the text of Deuteronomy 25:5-6: “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” Following the prescripts of this text, their question may sound logical. Their method calls us to caution as to the usage of scriptures, for very many people are using the Word of God as basis to support their evil doings. This was what the devil also did when he tempted Jesus. To answer their question however, Jesus, like he did in refuting the temptations of satan, referred also to scriptures and drew their attention to the text of Exodus 3:6: “And the Lord said, “I am the God of your father-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” This should make us question ourselves regarding how much of scriptures we know.

The answer of Jesus leaves us with the lesson that many things, though necessary and good in themselves, are not the ultimate, and they are also fleeting. Jesus says in the afterlife, there is no need for marriage as there will be no need for procreation because there, people do not die. Eternal life, whether in heaven or in hell, is forever. In the gospel reading, seven brothers were mentioned to have died; in the first reading, seven brothers also died, though we read only the death of four and before their death, the second and fourth brothers talked about their hope for another life.

From these readings, it is clear that the basic thrust of the Word of God for today is to remind us that there is a life after this one. The end of this life is not really the end, but the beginning of another life. That is why Scripture says for the righteous, life is changed, not ended (Wis 3:1-4). It is important for us to keep in mind that how our eternal life will be depends on how we live this one. To live gloriously like angels in eternity, we must live presently like saints in this life. If we live a good life here, we shall live a happy life in eternity; conversely, if we live a bad life here on earth, we shall spend eternity in torment and pain and misery and sorrow.

We are therefore challenged today, to prepare ourselves well for that life which never ends. We must keep in mind that the glories of this world are only illusions that do not endure unto eternity. Many of the things people lose their souls for and go to hell are things that they met in this world and will leave behind in this world when death comes. The brothers in the first reading understood this very well, which was why they refused the offers of the king for which he wanted them to trade their souls. Here, the words of Jesus come to mind: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” (Mk 8:36). Dear friends, let us then always keep in mind that this life shall come to an end one day, and after death, there will be judgment and reward (Heb 9:27). May God help us then, to live our lives well in such a manner that we are not distracted by the things of this world as to lose our souls in the process. Amen.

THIS WEEK’S HOMILY: DUST FOR GLORY

31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C

By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus Ameh

Readings: Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

Theme: Dust for Glory

Imagine the complexity of the world and all of creation. What is the source of the sun’s light? How does it generate so much heat? How did mountains come into existence? How does water come out of rocks to form streams and rivers? Imagine also the complexity of animals: how and why did God create some animals so big and others so tiny? How do some birds have wings and fly but some others have wings but cannot fly? Imagine too, the complexity of the human person, how different organs connect with each other and work in sync and how all are controlled by the brain. Yet, scripture says all of these are like a grain of sand, like a speck of dust before God.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word speak to us of the bigness of God and the smallness of man; yet, in his bigness, God is interested in and takes care of mankind (Psa 8:3-4). The first reading says God loves all things that exist, and we can add that because we were made in His image and likeness, He loves us more. It is therefore on account of this love that He forgives our faults and gives us several opportunities to repent. The first reading says about God: “…you can do all things, and you overlook men’s sins, that they may repent” (Wis 11:23). This truth about God is clearly demonstrated in the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus in the gospel reading. Even in his bigness, Jesus took notice of Zacchaeus and offered him the opportunity to change, to repent, and Zacchaeus grabbed it.

Of special interest for our reflection are the things Zacchaeus did to win the attention and mercy of God. Scripture says Zacchaeus recognized his limitation of height and made effort to catch a glimpse of Jesus by running ahead of the crowd and climbing on a tree. Secondly, he acknowledged his limitation of sinfulness and offered up his wealth as restitution for his sin in order to receive the mercy of God. By these acts, Zacchaeus showed his realization of the fact that both his very life and his riches are but dust in the sight of God; he showed too, his realization of the fact that to behold the glory of God in his life, he would have to let go of this dust; in other words, he had to trade the dust for glory.

The life and actions of Zacchaeus leaves us an example and great lessons for our Christian journey and in our search for God. Many a time, many Christians cling tightly to the blessings of God that they forget the God of the blessings; many hold on to the dust of life that they miss the glory of God; many fail to make effort to savour the sweetness of God. As much as God can easily make provisions for us, as much as God can easily grant pardon for our sins, as much as God can easily reveal His glory to us, He expects us to make some efforts, to show repentance, to trade our dust for His glory. God will not give us His glory until we give him our dust; God will not come to dine in our lives until we make the effort to invite Him. He lets us know that He is just an invitation away, but He shall not force His entry (cf. Rev. 3:20). So today, let us ponder on the big question: What will I give to behold the glory of God? Let go of your dust, and you shall see the glory of God. May God grant us the grace of true humility and repentance and the courage to detach ourselves from material possessions that distract us from beholding the glory of God. Amen