FOR GOD AND FOR HUMANITY (13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A)

By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16; Psalm 89; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42

Under the kingship of Ahab, by the influence of his wife Jezebel, Israel turned to paganism by worshipping Baal, though there were a handful of people who remained faithful to the One, True God. It was during this time that the prophet Elijah ministered. His successor, Elisha, began his ministry also during the reign of Ahab. This was a difficult time for the prophets of God such that many of them had to hide to stay safe (cf. 1 Kgs 18:4). Even Elijah too fled from Jezebel in his days. And as it was for Elijah, so it was for Elisha too, that he had to move away from the capital city, away from Ahab and Jezebel. It was during such movements that he encountered the woman of Shunem we read about in today’s first reading. And as we read, anytime he passed by that place, the woman will welcome him to her home and offer him food.

The Shunamite woman who took care of Elisha and Gehazi his servant did not initially know he was a prophet. As far as she was concerned, she was helping two travellers who needed refreshment. It was only much later that she perceived he was a prophet and afterwards, she convinced her husband to make him a chalet to rest in. So in the first instance, her charity was done for humanity’s sake, out of her milk of human kindness; when she realized he was a prophet, she set up a room for him for God’s sake as her way of supporting his prophetic ministry as a man of God. For her kindness, both for God and for humanity, God rewarded her with her deepest heart desire: a child!

In the gospel reading, Jesus confirms this truth of God graciously rewarding those who show kindness to others, especially in support of those who do God’s work. And so Jesus says “He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward…And whoever gives to one of these little ones a cup of cold water because he is a disciple…shall not lose his reward.” It is important to note here that in showing kindness to God’s servants, we encourage them to continue in God’s work; therefore, by such support, the work of God is continued and sustained. Supporting the work of God can come in various ways such as praying for God’s ministers, complimenting and encouraging them, promoting the apostolates they engage in, offering material and financial support, giving expert advice, volunteering our time and resources in doing one or two things that will make serving and worshipping God easier and so many other ways we can think of.

Someone may ask the question, “So what is a prophet’s reward? What is a righteous man’s reward?” This is not any specific thing, neither is it something that come directly from the man of God. Simply, the reward Jesus talks about implies that God will bless us for our acts of kindness shown to anyone either for God’s sake or for humanity’s sake. And the reward could be anything, especially what is our heart’s greatest desire. In today’s first reading for instance, it was a child for the childless Shunamite couple; in the days of Elijah, it was food for the widow of Zarephath who shared bread with him (1 Kgs 17:16); in your own case, it can be anything you are looking up to God for. So, child of God, today, God’s word invites us to be kind to people and to commit to supporting his work on earth, and as Jesus assures, we shall surely be blessed for our kindness. We pray for the grace of a generous heart. Amen.  

US Congressman calls for sending special envoy to protect Nigerian Christians

The United States should send a special envoy to Nigeria to help coordinate the protection of the Christian population and prevent further destabilization in the area, said former Rep. Frank Wolf on Thursday, June 25.

Wolf was speaking during a press briefing on the ongoing violence facing Christians in the country, which was hosted by the organization In Defense of Christians. The former congressman served 17 terms representing Virgina’s 10th congressional district and has worked extensively on issues of human rights, genocide, and religious freedom.

“An implosion of Nigeria will destabilize the surrounding countries,” said Wolf. He described the Nigerian people as “crying out for help,” and said that the “current policy and actions of the American embassy in Nigeria have failed” to protect vulnerable groups.

Islamic extremists, Wolf said, have killed more people in Nigeria than ISIS did in the Middle East, yet there is far less attention on the plight of Nigerian Christians.

A special envoy in the Lake Chad region, which is located in northeastern Nigeria, would serve as a way to “coordinate the response to the crisis,” and work with allies to better protect the people of the region. 

Bishop Matthew H. Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto was also a panelist at the briefing. He said that the situation in Nigeria stems from a culture that has devalued Christianity and no longer cares about faith. 

As the geopolitical and economic landscapes have shifted, the bishop said, space has been made for the growth of militant extremist groups. 

“This is the vacuum that [extremists] are exploiting–mainly, a west that is in retreat, as far as Christianity and Christian values are concerned, a west in which diplomats and businesspeople are far from being interested in matters of faith, especially when it comes to Christianity,” said Kukah. 

The Nigerian government has given “quite a lot of oxygen to Islamic extremists by the nature of […] the political appointments that have been made,” said Kukah, in what he called a “blatant show of nepotism and favoritism.”

In Nigeria, for the first time in the country’s history, Kukah explained, the president and all security chiefs are Muslim, and suggested this could contribute to the lack of direct action against the growing religious violence. “We get a feeling that if you lift the veil, you can understand,” he said.  

Kukah rejected the idea that the extremist groups are imported to Nigeria from outside of the country and therefore are beyond the control of the government. 

“If they are coming from outside, how do we as Christians explain when the Minister for Internal Affairs is a Muslim? When the Director General of Customs is a Muslim? When the Director General of Immigration is a Muslim,” he asked. 

“Somebody must be aware of what is going on,” said Kukah.

In Nigeria, Kukah said, the Christian population is further impeded by what he called an “almost total media absence.” There is no Christian radio station or media house, he said, meaning that it is hard for Christians to share their stories. 

In February, Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told CNA that Nigeria was one of the countries of highest concern when it came to violations of religious freedom. 

Brownback said he is concerned the situation in Nigeria will spread to nearby countries if nothing is done to crack down on religious persecution. 

“There’s a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria, and we’re afraid it is going to spread a great deal in that region,” he told CNA. “It is one that’s really popped up on my radar screens — in the last couple of years, but particularly this past year.” 

Brownback expressed frustration that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to protect religious groups. 

“I think we’ve got to prod the [Nigerian President Muhammadu] Buhari government more. They can do more,” he said. “They’re not bringing these people to justice that are killing religious adherents. They don’t seem to have the sense of urgency to act.”

Source: Catholic News Agency

The New Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary

With the addition of three new titles/invocations to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this is how the Litany now looks like. In this post, the new titles have been inserted in their proper places, as directed by the Holy Father. They have also been highlighted (in bold, block letters) for easy identification.

V. Lord, have mercy; R. Lord have mercy
R. Christ have mercy. R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord have mercy. R. Lord have mercy V. Christ hear us. R. Christ graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, pray for us

Mother of Christ, pray for us
Mother of the Church
MOTHER OF MERCY
Mother of divine grace,
MOTHER OF HOPE
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,

Virgin most prudent, pray for us
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,

Mirror of justice, pray for us
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
COMFORT OF MIGRANTS
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,

Queen of Angels, pray for us
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy rosary,
Queen of peace, pray for us

V. Pray for us, O holy mother of God, R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Let us pray Grant we beseech you, O Lord, that we your servants, may enjoy perpetual light of mind and body. And by the glorious intercession of the Virgin Mary to help us, may we be delivered from present sorrows and possess eternal joys. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

BY ONE MAN’S ACT (HOMILY FOR 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A)

By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 69; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33

One day, a man embarked on a journey with his family. A few weeks earlier, he had noticed that one of his car tyres was bad. Rather than replacing the bad tyre, he told himself he would manage it for some time. When it came to the time for that journey, he saw the tyre again; again, he told himself he would do something about it when they return. On that fateful journey, he ran into a pothole on the highway, the tyre busted, the car somersaulted severally, rammed into other vehicles and caused a major multiple crash. He lost his entire family, as he alone survived. Several other people also died, and many more were left with various degrees of injuries.

Once, there was a priest who was a Catholic school principal and who noticed a poor but intelligent boy did not resume back to school for a particular term. Upon enquiry, he found out the boy dropped out of school because his parents could not afford his fees. Not only did he stop coming to that school, he stopped going to school completely. It was that bad. The priest then took it upon himself to bring the boy back and train him through school. The boy grew up to become a wealthy and influential person in the society and he set up a fund to educate poor but intelligent children. He credits this decision to the action of that one priest who trained him in school.

In life, there are many instances where one person’s decision can either yield a ripple effect of positivity or catastrophe. Sometimes, as in the case especially of families, the effect of one person’s action can even linger on and affect many succeeding generations. There are times when even the act may have been long forgotten, but the effect(s) are still being felt. In some other cases, very many people are affected all at one time by the effect of one person’s decision or action. Therefore, by one man’s act, a lot of good or a lot of evil can be produced and reproduced. This is the kind of thing we read of in the second reading of today’s Mass.

In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul shows us the powerful effects that can result from one man’s act, and how far such effects can go. Citing the instances of Adam and Jesus respectively, he said “sin came into the world through one man and death came through sin” and “if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom 5:12, 15). Further down that passage, he adds: “for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (vs 19). Notice how Saint Paul says that by Jesus’ obedience many will be made righteous, implying that the effects of Christ’s obedience unto death did not achieve a once-and-for-all effect, but one that is continuous.

An important and major lesson for us to learn from this reading is that most of our actions are oftentimes intertwined with a number of other factors to produce a web of cause and effects. Even as individuals, our singular actions have the capacity to either build or destroy, gather or scatter, yield evil or yield good results. This is more so for those who have positions of public authority. As a political office holder or as a senior civil servant, as a school head or a classroom teacher, as a father or a mother in the home, as a medical personnel or even a trader, every of our action can produce gargantuan results beyond our imagination. It may not mean anything to you, especially where and when you stand to make some personal but selfish gain, but the effect it may have on others around you or even an entire community may be beyond words, plus or minus.

By one man’s act, humanity was plunged into sin; by one man’s act, humanity received grace for righteousness. By your own act, how will others and society be affected? Always therefore ask yourself this question: This decision I’m about to make, this action I’m about to take, how will it affect others? Let this be a guiding principle for you, else, by your act as one man or one woman, generational damage may be done. Rather strive to be like Christ, that by your act as one man or one woman, those around you and society at large may be positively impacted. We pray that God may give us the grace to always do the right things. Amen

News: POPE FRANCIS ADDS THREE NEW TITLES TO LITANY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

 Pope Francis has approved the inclusion of three additional invocations in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Litany of Loreto.  In a June 20 letter to the presidents of bishops’ conferences, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Liturgy and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said the invocations “Mater misericordiae,” (Mother of Mercy) “Mater spei,” (Mother of Hope) and “Solacium migrantium” (Comfort of migrants) should be inserted in the Marian litany.

In his letter, Cardinal Sarah noted where each invocation should be added, using the Latin formulations. “Mater misericordiae,” which means, “Mother of mercy,” should be placed after “Mater Ecclesiae” (Mother of the Church). “Mater spei,” which means “Mother of hope,” should follow “Mater divinae gratiae” (Mother of Divine Grace) and “Solacium migrantium,” which means “Comfort of migrants,” should follow “Refugium peccatorum” (Refuge of sinners).

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Litany of Loreto, has been an approved prayer for the intercession of Mary by the Church since the late 16th century, with its usage recorded even prior.

ONE BREAD, ONE CHURCH, ONE LIFE (HOMILY FOR CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY, YEAR A)

By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; John 6:51-58

Theme: One Bread, One Church, One Life

  • The Church celebrates today, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This celebration is about the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the very life-giving force of the Church, for, removed from the Church, she has no life. The Holy Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, present on the altar, under the appearances of bread and wine, and offered to God for the living and the dead (cf. Petty Catechism).
  • That the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist is changed in substance into the true body and blood of Jesus Christ is not in doubt to us. We believe this on the strength of the teachings of Jesus himself as contained in the Holy Scriptures. Jesus said to his disciples that the bread he shall give to them is his flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51) and when, during the last supper, he took bread and gave to his apostles, he said “This is my body…” and with the cup of wine, he said, “This is my blood…” (Mk 14:22, 24). Note that Jesus was very definite and clear in what he said: This is my body; This is my blood. Jesus did not say the bread and wine represents or symbolizes his body and blood respectively, but that categorically, they are his body and his blood.
  • Today’s solemnity presents us with many lessons for our Christian life because it is not only about the Eucharist, but also about the community that celebrates it. Out of these we shall take two.
  • The second reading tells us that our participation in the bread of the Eucharist is a participation in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16). And because there is one bread in which we all partake, the many members of the Christian community are one body, for though we are many, we are one body in Christ (1 Cor. 10:17). This means that the Holy Eucharist is a meal of unity which binds us all as brothers and sisters in Christ. We must see in the Eucharist therefore, a reason why we must shun all forms of divisiveness and live together in harmony. Because the bread of the Eucharist is not divided, the church, which is the body of Christ in which the Eucharist is celebrated, cannot be divided. Hence, as there is one bread, so is there one church; and as there is one church, so should the members of the church be one. It will be an aberration therefore, to take part in the one body of Christ when we are agents of division and confusion of any kind in any community where we are.
  • The Holy Eucharist is also a meal of holiness. To partake in the meal of the body and blood of Christ, we must always come clean. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-31, scripture says to eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ, we must examine ourselves so that we do not come to the table of the Lord unworthily. This is what the church means by being “in the state of grace.” This consciousness should help us at all times, make the effort to stay away from sin and the occasions of sin, for “whoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor. 11:29). As we supposedly know, to live in sin is to die to grace and without the grace of God, we shall die the death of eternal damnation. Thus, by our participation in the body and blood of Christ, not only do we receive life directly on account of it as Jesus tells us in the gospel reading, we also keep our souls alive to the grace of God.
  • On this solemnity of the body and blood of Christ, we pray that by our sharing in the Eucharistic banquet in which Jesus gives himself wholly to us, we may come to the full realization of our common brotherhood and also to the knowledge of the grace and gift of life which is opened to us at the table of the Lord. Amen