Fr Bonnie's Reflections

YOU SHALL LIVE AGAIN HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

John 14:19 Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but ...

Who understands what it feels like to be dead? The question may sound weird because the fact of dying is not what many people like to discuss; everyone wants to keep up with life no matter how hard it appears. The bitter truth is that we are heading towards the direction of death. However, St. Paul has this to say, “for we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

As we are getting closer to the celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Readings are pointing us to the events that reflect the mission of the Christ on earth. Last Sunday, he opened the eyes of a man born blind (John 9), and the liturgy of the word of this Sunday tells us about God’s gift of life after death.

In the First Reading (Ezekiel 37:12-14), the oracle of the prophet tells us about God’s promise that He will open the graves of His people, have them rise from the dead, and put His Spirit in them so that they may live. In the Second Reading (Romans 8:8-11), the apostle Paul tells us that about the Spirit of Christ that brings our dead body into life.

The Gospel Reading (John 11:1-45) tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ raised his friend Lazarus to life after four days in the tomb. In the long narrative, we discover that our Lord delayed coming to see Lazarus for two days when he heard that he was sick. When he eventually showed up, Lazarus had died. Meeting up with the Lord, Martha, and Mary at different times  said, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

At some seasons of your life, you may have wished that God showed up earlier. It could be during the time of sickness, bereavement, unemployment, marriage, or relationship problems. With the current coronavirus pandemic, there is a wide outcry for divine intervention and immediate remedying of the situation. Like Martha and Mary, one could hear the same desperation from Christians around the world for God to come down quickly and clear the mess. One thing Martha and Mary and couldn’t realize was that there is no time that the Lord is absent. David refers to God as the ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Admittedly, the Lord is always with us; He is Emmanuel.

When Martha and Mary said, “Lord, if you had been here, Lazarus would not have died,” they were implying that the Lord shouldn’t have delayed in coming when he heard about the sickness of Lazarus. God’s delay is not a denial, and God’s time is different from ours; it is the best. Our Lord Jesus Christ showed up at a time when all hope was lost. If he had come when Lazarus was sick, it wouldn’t have been different from other miracles of healing he performed.

God Knows and Feels your Pain

The Gospel narrative tells us that when Jesus saw the tears of Mary and the mournful disposition of the people around, he wept. Why did Jesus weep, he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead anyway? Jesus wept to show us that he knows and feels our pains. The Psalmist says that God is near to the broken-hearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Moving Forward: You shall Live Again

There are various ways we can understand death beyond the usual cessation of breath. Death could be spiritual, moral, or mental. The image of the dry bone in the Prophecy of Ezekiel shows the spiritual, moral, and mental retardations in our lives that needed the reviving power of God’s Spirit.

Our world today needs extensive spiritual and moral revival and awakening. There are lots of dead situations and conditions around us. There are dead faith, hope, and prayer lives; there are dead relationships; there are dead moral lives, and there are dead or stagnant projects and doors of progress. We need to connect our lives to the revival of the dry bones in the First Reading and the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel Reading so that we can live again.

God is not only available, but he is also able to turn things around for us in this dreadful season when we seem to be mortified by a tiny but destructive virus with a crown. Just like the stone that was covering the tomb was moved to open the grave, we need to move all the barriers in our lives especially sin to open our hearts and to give access to the Lord for our revival.

Furthermore, we need to jump out like Lazarus when we hear the Lord calling us to come out. We need to Jump out to enable us to enjoy the next spiritual facility, which is liberation, just as our Lord instructed those who rolled out the tomb to untie Lazarus and to let him go (John 11:44).

As we continue to march and endure the pains of the season, may we remain confident and humble to recognize that the Lord is closer to us now than ever and that in due time he will raise us if we do not give up (1 Peter 5:6).

Have a blissful Sunday and a glorious week ahead.

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie

 

THE LENTEN JOURNEY FROM BLINDNESS TO SIGHT HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Image result for JESUS CURES THE BLIND

During the World Sight Day of October 12, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a presentation that indicated about 253 million people in the world as having visual impairments, out of which 36 million are confirmed blind. Blindness is an impairment that anyone with the functional facilities of sight would inadequately imagine.

Tommy Edison from the United States America was born blind despite the impairment, Tommy had grown to become phenomenal with his unusual activities as a Youtuber, radio presenter, and amazingly, a film critic with incredible film reviews. Tommy’s life and work show that blindness is not a hindrance to one’s achievements in life; in fact, being born blind is different from becoming blind to the purpose of life, and all the gifts of God.

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent, which traditionally goes by the designation “Laetare Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday.” It may seem weird to hear about the invitation to rejoice when the Lenten journey is still on-going; in other words, we are still in the woods!  However, we can understand this invitation as it relates to the Entrance Antiphon and Readings today.

In the First Reading (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7,10-13a), we learn about the anointing of David as king of Israel after God’s rejection of Saul following his acts of disobedience. The Second Reading (Eph. 5:8-14) tells us about the light of Christ that would dispel the darkness in our lives, and the Gospel tells us about the events surrounding our Lord’s healing of the man born blind.

When one looks closely at the Readings, one will discover that we do not have the usual Lenten themes like fasting, sin, temptation, repentance, and reconciliation. Instead, we confront joyful events like anointing and divine deliverance. Even the responsorial psalm recalls the 23rd psalm that assures us of God’s shepherding love over us his sheep. This Sunday tells us about the things God will do for us when we have done what He had asked us to do.

Focusing on the Gospel Reading today, we learn about a man that was born blind. Notice that the blind man’s condition turned out to be a subject of analysis for the disciples of Jesus Christ. Majorly, they asked who was responsible for his blindness, the man, or his parents. Like the disciples, we often think that every ailment is an effect of some prior evil deed. Our Lord clarifies that the man’s condition was neither his fault nor those of the parents but that the works of God might be made visible through his impairment. We need to see more than with the human eyes to understand how one’s disability can display the works of God.

Next, our Lord goes on to cure the man, and he does so in a very different way. Spiting on the ground, he makes a paste with the saliva, which he smeared on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. We do not know how he could have made it to the Pool Siloam from that point.  It is, however, possible that someone may have offered to take him to the pool, and that tells us that we need one another in our journey from blindness to sight.

Confronting the Real Blindness

The Neighbors and other people who knew the man as a blind beggar were shocked to see him moving with full physical sight. Often God blesses us to amaze people around us. The cured man’s neighbors could not contain his new status as they report his healing to the Pharisees because it was on a sabbath day, and the Pharisees put him on the spot to answer series questions about his healing and who healed him. They even invited his parents to testify that he was born blind.

Notice that the desire to verify the healing and the personality of Jesus Christ prevented the man’s neighbors and the Pharisees to acknowledge God for bringing such a cure to a man born blind. Notice also the man’s conviction and witnessing to Jesus Christ amid the quizzing. He declared that Jesus Christ is a prophet (John 9:17), a righteous man (John 9:30-33), and meeting Jesus again after his eviction from the temple area he declared his faith in Jesus Christ, called him Lord and worshipped him (John 9:38).

An insightful look at the Gospel narrative shows that the man who was considered blind from birth had a profound spiritual sight. In contrast, the Pharisees and his uncharitable neighbors who had physical sight were spiritually blind. The oracle of the Prophet Jeremiah denounced such people as foolish who have eyes but cannot see and ears that do not hear (Jer. 5:21). It takes one with a spiritual sight to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and to worship him. It takes one with a spiritual sight to stand firm and defend the works of Jesus as coming from God.

Moving Forward: “Lord Open our Eyes!”

During the time of the prophet Elisha the Arameans came to attack him because he would always reveal the warfare plan of their king to the king of Israel. Waking up one morning, Elisha’s servant saw a vast number of armed soldiers surrounding them, and he was overwhelmed. But Elisha assured him that those with them outnumber the warring soldiers.

While still not believing, Elisha prayed, “O Lord open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17). When his eyes opened, he saw fiery chariots and horses. When the Arameans advanced, Elisha prayed, and they became blind and confused to the extent that they were led by the hand into Samaria and into the hands of the king of Israel who fed them and sent them back to their king as Elisha directed after restoring their sight.

If the only thing we see is flesh, then there is a need for us to pray for spiritual sight earnestly. We need to have our eyes open spiritually, especially at this point in our human history, when we are going through severe health turbulence with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. There is no doubt that God is speaking to humanity with the current situation, and one would doubt if people are seeing what is happening from the spiritual point of view.

We could also recall what happened during the reign of king Belshazzar in Babylon. He was hosting a banquet for a thousand of his nobles, and when he became drunk, he ordered the vessels his father Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and used them to drink wine. Suddenly a human hand appeared on the wall and wrote “Mene, Tekel, and Peres.” When none of his wise men could interpret the writing, his mother suggested Daniel, who had the spiritual sight to see, and he explained that writing indicated the end of the reign of Belshazzar, and that same night he died (Daniel 5:1-28).

As we continue the Lenten journey, may we focus on the Lord, who has the power to deliver us from the blindness of our day and age caused by our over-dependence on materialism and excessive focus on worldly pleasure. May we become increasingly conscious and intentional about having our spiritual eyes open to see what God wants us to see to that we can live our lives in obedience to Him.

God bless you and stay safe in Christ, Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

THE POWER OF WATER: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

Reblogged based on popular demand!

Fr Bonnie's Reflections

Image

Once upon a time, on a hot sunny afternoon, a crow (a specie of bird) was seen flying around in search of water to quench her thirst. For a very long time, she was unable to find water and she became weak and frustrated but she did not give up. Suddenly, she saw a jug of water within a neighborhood. She was excited! She flew straight down to see if there was water inside. Behold She saw some water inside the jug!

The next thing was to get some water from the jug, but there was a problem! The neck of the jug was so narrow and the water level was also very low, making it impossible for the crow’s peak to get to the water. In her frustration, she tried to push the jug down in view of spilling out water, but the jug was too heavy for her…

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THE MOUNTAIN OF TRANSFIGURATION AND THE LENTEN CALL FOR CHANGE HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Transfiguration of the Lord

The Lenten period is typically a journey of faith. Last Sunday, our Lord Jesus Christ conquered the three-fold temptations of the devil in the desert, and today we see our Lord at the peak of the mountain where he had an experience of transfiguration in the presence of three of his apostles. Why is the theme of transfiguration very important for our reflection during this season of Lent, and why is it coming immediately after the narrative of our Lord triumph over the devil’s temptations?

The First Reading (Gen. 12:1-4a) tells us about the call of Abram. God asked him to leave his kinsfolk and his father’s house to a land He will show him. God also added promises of making him a great nation and blessing him. The reading ended by saying that “Abram went as the Lord directed him.” In the Second Reading (2 Tim.1:8b-10), St. Paul tells us that God has saved us and called us to be holy.

The Gospel today tells us that Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain, and before them, he was transfigured. Transfiguration means a change in figure. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, his face shone like the Sun and his clothes became as white as light. Our Lord’s change in his figure was so overwhelming for the three apostles to the extent that Peter exclaimed:

Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make tree tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

Transfiguration and the Journey towards Change

Heraclitus, an ancient philosopher, said that nobody could step in the same river twice; hence change is a constant in life. When God called Abram out from his kinsfolk and his father’s house, he was inviting him to embrace a move that would transform his life and the lives of his descendants. When our Lord Jesus Christ asked Peter, James, and John to come up with him to the mountain, he was asking them to come and experience a location and physical change.

The Lenten season will become worthless if we do not go through the process of change. Notice that in the narrative, the transfiguration did not happen until our Lord Jesus Christ and the three apostles reached the peak of the mountain, and our Lord committed himself to prayers. Here we notice that the transfiguration happened at the right place and moment; during the time of prayers.

The Lenten period invites us to change our positions from the familiar grounds to the place of prayer and divine encounter. Leaving one’s kinsfolks and father’s house to an indefinite location is not easy; neither is it easy to climb a huge mountain. These are indications that the Lenten period takes us through a process that would finally bring us to an encounter of God’s glory.

Notice also that our Lord was transfigured while encountering God in prayer. Jesus did not take the three disciples to the mountain for the fun of it; it was a journey into prayers. “Pray without ceasing,” our Lord would often admonish (Luke 18:1), and St. Paul would also give the Thessalonians the same instruction (I Thess. 5:17).

Our Lord’s transfiguration further tells us that our prayers should not change God (He is unchangeable) but they are for our transformation. Jesus was transfigured while he was praying; our prayers should be able to change something about us.

Moving Forward: “It is good that we are here!”

The best place to be is in God’s transforming presence. Can anyone of us repeat this honest confession of Peter this Lenten season? Do you feel that the Lenten season is taking a lot away from you? Are you fasting and fighting? Are you at peace with the demands of the season, by abstaining from sin and committing your life to prayers?

Let us follow the Lord to climb the Lenten mountain, and by his grace, we shall reach the peak and receive the desirable transfiguration from our disfigurement of sin (Isaiah 1:6). As we march into the second week of Lent, may we pay attention to God’s call that would take us to the location of divine encounter for total transfiguration. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

WHEN THE TEMPTER COMES? HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Jesus and the tempter

Once upon a time, little Jimmy went to the refrigerator and cut a slice of cake against the instructions of his mom. When his mom asked him why he disobeyed, he replied and said, “mom it wasn’t me. I can tell you what happened. I minded my business and my eyes kept going to the refrigerator. Then my leg moved there, my hand opened the refrigerator and cut the cake and gave my mouth”.

“Have you ever been tempted to do or say something bad?” That is the first question. The second question is, “have you ever done something bad following a temptation?” An honest introspection would show that we are liable to temptations and we could also fall into certain sins depending on the decision we make when we face temptations.

The First Sunday of Lent tells us about the reality of temptation with the narratives of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the three-fold temptations of our Lord Jesus Christ in the desert. These are not mere stories but profound transforming lessons in our daily confrontation with temptations.

The First Reading (2:7-9; 3:1-7) tells us about the entrance of the tempter (the devil) in the lovely and compelling story of Adam and Eve. The narrative shows us that the devil had already defected from being an angel in heaven and had become an opposition to God (Isaiah 14:12-15).

The First Reading tells us that the devil (taking the form of the serpent) was the most cunning of all the animals that God made. The serpent comes to the woman to ask a very tricky question, “did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” Notice here that the devil comes with a puzzling question that puts one in doubt about the right course to follow. Remember the times you have a lot of questions going through your mind.

When Eve answers and says that God’s instruction says that they could eat of any of the fruits but not the one in the middle of the garden which would bring about their death if they should eat of it. The answer the serpent gives would be a great lesson for us. It begins by contradicting God’s instruction, “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”  Here the devil was implying the God lied to them.

Notice here that the devil comes with a lie and believing the devil’s lie makes one his victim. From this interaction, we notice that temptation happens when the devil presents a false proposal with a promise. In the Gospel of John (8:44), our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that the devil is the father lies and a murderer from the beginning who cannot stand with the truth. Summarily, Adam and Eve sinned because they accepted the lies and false promises of the devil.

The Gospel tells us about the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice here that the devil comes to our Lord Jesus Christ after forty days of fasting and prayers. One would think that such a long period of holy encounter would keep the devil away. The devil comes at the height of your spiritual progress to destroy your entire spiritual exercise.

The account of the experiences of our Lord Jesus shows that the devil would always negotiate with one’s ego, needs, presumption, and false promises during temptation. Pay attention to the three allurements

  • If you are the Son of God (appeal to his ego) command that these stones become loaves of bread (appeal to his needs).
  • If you are the Son of God (appeal to his ego) throw yourself down for it is written He will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands, they will support you lest you dash your foot against a stone (appeal to presumption)
  • All these I shall give you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me (false promises).

Notice that the devil knows the power of the word of God and makes extensive use of the scriptures to tempt our Lord. One fact we should know is that the devil does not force us to sin but uses lies to engage our minds to give in to sin. The way we respond determines what we get.

Our Lord Jesus Christ responds to the devil by making vital references to the Word of God that disproves the various postulations of the devil. Observe also that the devil did not argue but at each time comes with a new temptation. The devil will always devise a new tactic. St. Paul tells us not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11).

We have a depth of lessons to learn from the Fall of our first parents and the Triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ. The devil comes with contradictions to what God says, lies, and false promises. To withstand the temptations of the devil, we need to stand firm on what God says we should do. Furthermore, we need to stand on the truth in the Gospel of John (8:32) our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that when we come to know the truth, it will set us free.

As we march into the Lenten season, there would be the need for us to pay attention to the temptations that come our way in various forms and shapes. Temptations will leverage our ego, our needs, presumptions and the false promises of the devil. Let us also pay attention to the movements of our minds. We are as weak or strong as our thoughts. We could see LENT as an acronym which would mean: Leave Every Negative Thought!

Have a blessed season of Lent, and may God give you the grace to overcome all the temptations that may come your way. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

LOVE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS IS A WASTED LOVE! HOMILY FOR THE 7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

LOVE AND FORGIVENESS LANDSCAPE

Once upon a time, there were two close friends, love, and forgiveness. They were so close and had a mutual understanding. One day they came across two other individuals, jealousy and ego, who wanted to become friends with them. Forgiveness was not very comfortable with their attitude, but love asked that they give them time to know them more

Soon, it became clear that ego and jealousy didn’t have any good thought for love and forgiveness as they could no longer function together; love would now go one way with jealousy and forgiveness would take another route with ego.

Love missed forgiveness, but jealousy would allow them to get back together. On the other hand, forgiveness could not function without love, but ego would discourage a rethink to get back to love. One day another old and wise friend called trust came looking for love and forgiveness and seeing the damage jealousy and ego was causing, trust used his strong powers to chase them away from love and forgiveness, and they reunited once more. They thus realized that they could not do without each other.

The Entailment of Love

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the world is love. Most times, people confuse love with fondness or the feeling of excitement. Love is beyond how you feel. It is more about what you do. Love shows itself in the action of the lover toward the loved one.

We have some biblical examples indicating the actionable character of love. The Gospel of John (3:16) tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Here we see the expression of love in the act of giving.

Furthermore, towards the end of his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ had this to say, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Here again, we see the expression of love in the act of laying down one’s life. One common factor in the two examples is that love is sacrificial, and to make a sacrifice, one needs to give up something of great value.

The First Reading today (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18) tells us about God’s first instruction about loving others. Notice that God begins the directive by asking the people to reflect His holiness. He further instructs them not to bear hatred in their heart, take revenge, nor bear grudges against others.

From this instruction, we understand that true love does not entertain unholy and sinful dispositions like hatred, anger, revenge, and ill-feeling towards people. St. Paul makes this clearer in his First Letter to the Corinthians (13:4-7) where he says, among other things:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

True Love Activates Forgiveness

In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 5:38-48), which is a continuation of the sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus Christ makes a practical reappraisal of the entailment of love using forgiveness as a measure. In the sermon, our Lord overrules the conventional “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” with the noble attitude of non-resistance and non-retaliation.

On the concept of love, which in the Jewish tradition was restricted to one’s neighbors (insiders), and excluded enemies (outsiders), our Lord recommends love for all even to the so-called enemies and persecutors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord Jesus Christ answered the question, “who is my neighbor?”

Moving Forward with Forgiveness  

The question that could follow our Lord’s recommendation above is, “how can we love our enemies?” The answer is also straightforward, forgive them! For one to be your enemy means that there is an offense against you, and the best gift you can give to an enemy is love not hatred as the First Reading tells us. Mother Teresa once said that if we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.

It may sound weird and complicated for many of us to accept the invitation to forgive those who have wronged us badly. But that is the authentic Christian approach which our Lord Jesus not only taught but also practiced while hanging on the cross when he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Forgiveness would not change what happened in the past, but it does enlarge the future and leaves a liberating positive impact. An author once said that to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you. Loving and forgiving help us to reproduce God in our lives. Often people will hurt us, make us mad, and even make a mess out of our lives. It takes a firm Christian disposition to love again. Pay attention to the following in every fight:

  • The first to apologize is the bravest.
  • The first to forgive is the strongest.
  • The first to forget is the happiest.

God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

MAKE A CHOICE, BUT THE RIGHT ONE! HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Good Choice, Bad Choice Road Sign with blue sky and clouds.

Once upon a time in an ancient kingdom, there lived a semi-barbaric king who believed so much in the power of choice. For everything, he would ask his subjects to make a choice and any decision anyone made became his or her reward. For instance, if you wanted money, he would put money in one of his clenched fists and ask you to choose.

At some point, he extended the idea of choice-making to men found guilty of severe crimes in the kingdom. He would ask his guards to bring the offender to the public square and the person would choose between two identical locked doors; behind one is a fierce tiger and behind the other a beautiful lady. If one opened the door with the tiger, that would be the death of course but if one is lucky to open the door with the beautiful lady, he would be married to her instantly at the public square.

One fateful day, the princess and the only daughter of the king met a very handsome young man while taking a walk with some maidens outside the palace. One thing led to the other, and they fell in love. Every day, the princess would sneak out of the palace to see the young man at their secret meeting place.

After some time of their love life, the king discovered and had the young man arrested and put in prison. The king judged the relationship as disrespect and crime to the throne because ordinary folks like the young man were not supposed to have a close relationship with royalties like the princess.

Soon, it became clear to the princess that his father would bring the young man to the public square to choose between the two doors. She made contacts with the guards about which door the tiger would be kept for that day and with that information he assured the young man that she would help him, he needed only to look at her at the public square to know the hand she would raise; that is right or left indicating the right door or the left door.

On that very day, the guards brought the young man out and asked to walk to any of the doors he would choose. Turning to bow to the king as the law demanded, he saw the princess raising her right hand, then he turns and walks up to the right door. On reaching the door, he stopped and said to himself, “she loves me so much that she wants me to live but I will be married to another lady, not her I should die rather.” Afterward, he went to the left door and opened it!

Guess what? The left door had a beautiful lady. The princess had said to herself, “I love him so much and won’t stand to see him marry another lady, I will direct him to the tiger and afterward, I will poison myself and die.” The young man’s final choice saved his life and he lived to see that the princess had a different option for him than what he thought.

Your Life is Your Choice

Life is all about making choices and we are as good or as bad as our choices because every choice count. The First Reading today (Sirach 15:15-20) invites us to choose between keeping the commandment of God to gain salvation or leaving it for damnation. The writer further tells us that we have options between fire and water, life and death, good and evil.

At creation, God put into humans the moral “software” of freedom. The book of Genesis has this to say:

The Lord God gave the man this order; you are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree, you shall not eat; when you eat from it, you shall die (Gen 2:16-17).

Now, we understand that God was fair about the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve. They had an option to choose between good and evil from eating the fruit and refraining from eating it. Notice that when the serpent comes to tempt Eve, it began by asking if they have a choice, “Did God really say you shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). In answer, Eve recalls that God gave them the freedom to choose but they had to make the right choice, or they would die.

Moving Forward: The Choice to Do What the Lord Says

In the Gospel Reading today (Matt. 5:17-37), our Lord Jesus Christ continues the narrative about choice-making by restating the importance of making the right choice through obedience to the commandments and teaching others to do the same.

In a more detailed discourse, our Lord makes a distinction and an opportunity to choose between what was said to their ancestors and what he says to them. Our Lord’s reappraisal of the commandments shows that in making our choices, little things we conceive in our minds count. For instance, we choose against killing by stopping anger, and we choose against adultery by regulating the lustfulness in the hearts.

Let us try to be more intentional about our choices as they could help or hinder us in the long run because our choices have their respective consequences. While making choices consider them in the following questions:

  • Would they make God happy?
  • Would they add value to the lives of other people?
  • Would they save your soul?

As we enter the new week, keep in mind that you always need to make a choice but make it the right choice. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

THE GOSPEL OF SALT AND LIGHT HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

salt and light

A world Without Salt and Light?

Who can imagine a world without salt and light? Such a world would be tasteless, dark, and utterly weird. Salt and light are two essential valuables we need every day, either directly or indirectly. We also use salt to add taste to food, the preservation of food and for healing. There are other uses of salt, for instance, cleaning, melting of snow and other things; in fact, there are about fifty-five smart uses of salt inside and outside the home.

Light, on the other hand, may not need so much explication with regards to its importance. First, nobody will be able to read this reflection without the foreground of natural or artificial light. Primarily, we use light to see, we get vitamin D from the sun and it helps plants to grow and produce the food we need. Through the sunlight, we harvest solar energy which could be useful for a variety of things. In short, we depend on light to live meaningfully on earth.

The First Reading today (Isaiah 58:7-10) tells us that our love, mercy, and compassion, especially to the poor, would make our light to break forth like the dawn. Furthermore, we shall experience divine healing and vindication while the glory of God would surround us bringing answers and solutions to our problems. The responsorial psalm lends support to the oracle of the prophet when it says: “the just man is a light in darkness to the upright.”

In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 5:13-16), our Lord Jesus Christ brings the phenomenon of salt and light together to describe the vital and functional characteristics of a true Christian. Let us go through some of those lines again for clarity:

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste with what can it be seasoned? You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

It is very clear from the Gospel narrative that our Lord is asking us to become a positive influence in the world like salt and light. From the excerpt above our Lord asked: “But if salt loses its taste with what can it be seasoned?” In other words, when salt loses its taste-giving value, what would help it to regain its flavor since salt has to give taste? The answer he gives is that it would be good for nothing.

Moving Forward: On Becoming Salt and Light of the World Around Us

At this point in this reflection, it has become vital for us to begin to consider ourselves the salt and light of our families, workplaces, associations, church community and the society we live.

We become salt by bringing the flavor of truth to the world that is made bland by lies and dishonesty. Our Lord Jesus Christ says: “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). We become salt by bringing healing to those who are wounded and hurting after the manner of God who “heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). We become salt by helping to cleanse the world of moral and spiritual decay.

We become light of the world, on the other hand, by dispelling the darkness of doubt and bringing clarity to everything. We are living in a world beclouded by uncertainty, confusion and unclarity. Our Lord says in the Gospel that we should not hide but stand out to shine, “A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

We become light to a sad world by bringing joy and hope. We become light to the world by bringing hope to the hopeless. We become the light of the world by proclaiming peace and the good news to the troubled in our midst.

The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi gives us an excellent summary of how we can become the Salt and Light of the world:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let your love increase
Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
Walls of pride and prejudice shall cease
When we are your instruments of peace. (Refrain)

Where there is hatred, we will show his love
Where there is injury, we will never judge
Where there is striving, we will speak his peace
To the millions crying for release,
We will be his instruments of peace

 

(Refrain)

 

Where there is blindness, we will pray for sight
Where there is darkness, we will shine his light
Where there is sadness, we will bear their grief
To the millions crying for relief,
We will be your instruments of peace.

 

God bless you and have a beautiful week ahead.

 

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

THE REAL FACTS ABOUT THE PRESENTATION? HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

presentation pic

There is a common knowledge that says, “first impression matters or counts.” To a considerable extent, this assertion holds because we are very sentient beings and by nature, we desire to know even the smallest details from visual, sound, and tactile cues when we meet people for the first time.

Some people contend the idea that subsequent impressions count when they can disapprove of the first impression. However, some still argue that one may need to have all the conditions and persons involved in the first impression to change the narrative using subsequent impressions.

Weighing in on this debate, Author Dobrin would say that “first impressions matter but the substance has the final word.” The substance of any reality is that which lies beneath the thing which is different from what is perceived physically with the senses.

Imagine the impression of people around and within the temple area seeing the humble family of Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the temple to present him to God with their pair of turtle doves. And coming from Nazareth “where nothing good could come” (John 1:46) did not give them a lofty impression from the people either.

Beneath the external impressions lies the real substance of the one coming into the temple. In other words, the King of Glory was entering the temple, but it needed the in-depth discernment of two individuals, Simeon the priest and Anna the prophetess to understand what the people could not comprehend.

The Real Facts about Simeon and Anna

Simeon gives us the ideal characteristics and functions of a priest. The Gospel narrative says he was righteous, devout, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Simeon came into the temple in Spirit at that moment the parents of Jesus brought him to the temple (Luke 2:27). Furthermore, we learn that he blessed (praised) God and blessed them (Luke 2:28-34).

On the other hand, there was in the temple at that same hour the eighty-four years old Anna, a prophetess, and a widow for many years. She had devoted her life to God in worship, prayer and fasting every day and rarely left the temple. Encountering the presentation of the Lord, she gave thanks to God and proclaimed the good news of redemption to all she met.

Simeon (the priest) and Anna (the prophetess) represent the priestly and prophetic offices which together align with the kingly office represented by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, the new-born King to make up the three offices of Christ as priest, prophet, and king. Notably, we all share in these offices through our baptism (1 Peter 2:9).

Purification of the Temple

According to the Jewish law of the time, a woman remains unclean after the birth of her son for forty days before coming to the temple for purification (Leviticus 12:1-5). So, ideally, the presentation of Jesus Christ in the temple also meant the purification of Mary according to the law as it is now forty days after the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the case of Mary, there was no need for purification because there was no pollution in her. The entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple was to purify the temple just as the entry to the Jordan river for the baptism of John was to sanctify the water of baptism.

When the Holy One entered the temple, he purified the temple, cleansing as it were the stain of the blood of the animals used in the past for sacrifice while preparing to be the pure lamb for the sacrifice that would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Presentation means Offering

The word presentation comes from the Latin word praesentare, which means “to place before” put in another way; it means to offer. So, whenever we make a presentation, we are offering something.

What the parents of Jesus Christ did today in the temple was to offer our Lord Jesus Christ to God. A more profound way of looking at it would be to see it as offering back to God His excellent gift to us (John 3:16). Here, we recall the story of Hannah the wife of Elkanah who asked for the gift of a son with the promise of offering him back to God which she did with her husband (1 Sam.24-28).

In the Holy Mass, we continue this exchange of offering between heaven and earth. During the offertory, we present the bread and wine (God’s gifts to us), and in the Holy Eucharist, we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so generous that He gives back to us whatever we give to Him and He does so in amazing and spiritually rewarding ways.

Moving Forward: What are you Presenting to God Today?

All our thoughts, words, and actions are presentations to ourselves and our immediate environment. When we make presentations, we offer what we have and that means we disclose ourselves to the entity before us. Our presentations could harm or safe, help or hinder. Therefore, we need to be careful about what we present.

The parents of Jesus presented him to the temple; in other words, they introduced him to the sacred path. It is no wonder then that the next time we would hear about Jesus, he was found in the temple amid teachers listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).

Where you present your child determines to a great extent what goes into the formation of the child. Parents should be careful about what they present to their children. If a child receives aggression, anger, fighting, and other destructive attitudes, the child will grow that way. It is essential for us, as the bible says, to teach a child the way he or she should go and when the child grows, he or she will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

Have a blessed Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.   

   

LESSONS FROM THE EARLY MINISTRY OF JESUS CHRIST HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Jesus by the sea of Galilee

Everything our Lord Jesus Christ ever did or said had a purpose underneath. So, we can say that with his ministry, nothing was said or done for no reason. Today, the Gospel Reading (Matt. 4:12-23) gives us the narrative about the beginning of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with deep introspective lenses, we could see that all the actions and words used have relevance to his central mission.

Our reflection this Sunday would take us through the main highlights at the inception of our Lord’s ministry, and these would leave us with transforming lessons.

The Power of Location

The Gospel begins by telling us about our Lord’s relocation from Nazareth to the upper northern city of Capernaum by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This movement fulfills the oracle of the prophet Isaiah which we read in the First Reading (Isaiah 8:23-9:3). The region of Zebulun and Naphtali and in indeed the then Galilee was not the abode of the rich and the learned. Unlike big cities like Jerusalem and Jericho, one would see here the ordinary people, fishermen, and people of low class.

It was God’s plan for the preaching of the Gospel to start with the poor and ordinary people just like the birth of Jesus was first revealed to poor shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). God is always identifying with the lowly and lifting them (Luke 1:52).

The ministry of our Lord thus started from the far north and ended in the south, where he was crucified and died on the cross. Now, there is a need for us to know that for every divine orchestrated activity, there is always a divine location. Put in another way, there is a divine ground for fruitfulness and striving. If we go back to the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis (37,39, 40,41), we will discover that God planed the prosperity of Joseph but it has to take place in Egypt and circumstances took him to Egypt just like the death of John pushed our Lord to withdraw to Galilee from Nazareth.

The Ministry of the Word, Light, and Repentance

In the Gospel of John (1:1-5), we read the following:

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

If we go further in the Gospel of John (1:14), we shall see where he concludes by saying that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

Here we have a testimonial of the person and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ identified as the Word made flesh. From the Gospel outline of the public ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, we understand that he began preaching the word of God which brings the light to dispel the darkness beclouding the people and leading them to repentance.

Note well that our Lord Jesus Christ did not start performing miracles and healing people of their physical sicknesses. He began by preaching to instruct the human soul that has been down with the illness of the soul, which is sin.

With the reign of sin, everything became dark because there was no light; darkness does not exist when there is light. So, those sitting in darkness are those living in sin and who need the light repentance powered by the Word of God. Our Lord Jesus testifies about himself saying, “I am the light of the world anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness” (John 8:12). Walking in darkness means walking in sin but walking in the light means repentance.

Collaborative Ministry

To advance the full length of his ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ goes out to the seaside of Galilee to get fishermen who would, in turn, help to fish people into the community of believers through prayers and preaching.

By calling the first four disciples, our Lord Jesus Christ indicates to us that his ministry is collaborative; in other words, it is not the prerogative of just one individual but the action of individuals working together.

Our Lord goes further to demonstrate the importance of collaborative ministry when he sent the twelve apostles out in pairs to the places he was to visit with the mandate to preach and pray over the people (Mark 6:7-3). The same he also did with seventy-two other disciples.

In the apostolic times you, we discover that the apostles excelled using the facility of collaboration. Peter worked with John; Paul worked with Silas, Timothy, Titus, and others. Collaborative ministry reflects the heart of the trinitarian functionality.

Ministry of Healing

Healing is a significant aspect of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, his missionary portfolio includes the duty of healing. In several places, the Gospels tell us that our Lord Jesus Christ brought healing to many people with different ailments (Mark 6:56).

However, the most significant healing he brought was the healing of our transgressions and sins through his passion and death, “But He was wounded[a] for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him And by His stripes[c] we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5).

Moving Forward!

 There is a need for all of us to open our minds to learn these exceptional lessons from the early ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is especially very instructive for those in ministry to pay attention to a location, not for gain but redemptive value for those in need of God’s liberation. We need to be where God needs us to be not where we want to go.

The Word of God should come first in our ministry, which should be collaborative in the manner of our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles. It is very fitting that Pope Francis is has instituted this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year for us to reflect on the power and potency of the word of God in our individual lives and our families.

We encounter God when we read the bible; in fact, one could say that God did hide in the Bible and as much as we read the Bible, we continually discover Him in new and beautiful ways.

Have a blissful Sunday and a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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