Fr Bonnie's Reflections

LIVING BY THE POWERFUL INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Influence as the ability to have an impact on the character of someone is very significant in life. In fact, all the things we do or fail to do come from influences from various things inside and outside of us. Parents influence their children to act in specific ways. Teachers influence their students to adopt certain values or qualities. Friends influence each other in the best or the worst ways (Prov. 27:17). Apart from human influence, there are also influences from things like food, drink, environment, culture, society, and other things.  In short, life is a trajectory of influences, which could be direct or indirect, however, to experience influence from anyone or anything, one needs to be open to it; disposition encourages influence.

Today is the feast of the Pentecost which celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles as they were praying together at the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Before his ascension into heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ instructed them not to leave Jerusalem until they receive the power from above; the Holy Spirit (Act 1:8). Ten days after, the promise was fulfilled. The Pentecost encounter narrative from Acts of the Apostles (2:2-4) says,

And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

To proceed in this reflection, we need to reappraise our understanding about the personality of the Holy Spirit. It is common to hear some people refer to the Holy Spirit as a “thing.” The designation is wrong! The “mighty wind” and “tongues of fire” in the account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost were outwards signs indicating His presence not Him per se. Earlier in the Gospel of Matthew (3:16), the Holy Spirit manifested His presence during the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in the form of a dove, and we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is a dove.

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Divine Trinity. He is eternally one and equal with the Father and the Son. In the beginning, we notice the presence of the Holy Spirit when the Book of Genesis tells us that the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the deep (Gen. 1:2). In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was unknown as a person. Instead, we hear about the Spirit of God (Gen 41:38; Numbers 27:18, Judges 6:34). It was David who gave the full designation, “Holy Spirit,” in his prayer of repentance (Psalm 51:11).

If we can know the Holy Spirit, then he would become relevant for us. During the initial instruction about the Holy Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ promises the apostles that he would ask the Father, and He will give them another advocate, the Spirit of truth which the world cannot receive because it neither SEES him nor KNOWS him (John 14: 16-17). From our Lord’s instruction, we understand the power of knowledge; you cannot receive what you don’t know.

One may ask did the apostles know about the Holy Spirit before the Pentecost encounter? The answer is a big “YES.” Another question would be how? If we go back to the Gospel of John (14:17b), our Lord assures the apostles that they know the Holy Spirit because He (the Holy Spirit) abides with them and will be in them.

To make it more practical, every encounter with Jesus Christ is also an encounter with the Holy Spirit as well as with the Father because they share the same Godhead. We understand this more with our Lord’s reply to Philip when he made the request, “show us the Father” and our Lord says to him, “whoever has seen me has seen the father” (John 14:9). In the same way and by implication, the knowledge of the Son implies knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

If we know the Holy Spirit what impact do, we expect from His outpouring like on the day of Pentecost. Often, we erroneously assume that the encounter with the Holy Spirit must end in speaking in tongues and shouting. We need two things from the Holy Spirit, namely His gifts (1 Cor.12:1-11) and His Fruits (Gal.5:22).

However, for us to have a productive encounter with the Holy Spirit we need to be open to His impactful presence. The first thing we need to do is to disconnect from sin because the Holy Spirit is allergic to sin. Our Lord Jesus tell us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin which has roots in unbelief (John 16:8-9). In the letter of the Galatians (5:16-17), St Paul instructs that we should live (walk) in the Spirit and not in the flesh which is prone to sin. In Romans (8:8), St. Paul maintains that those who live in the flesh cannot please God.

When we make efforts to disconnect from sin, we qualify to climb up to the Upper Room for the new Pentecost encounter. Those who were at the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost received cleansing through their encounter with the risen Lord. We can say that they already have the template of the Holy Spirit in them when the risen Lord breathed on them saying, “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

The Holy Spirit is our teacher, let us listen to Him.

The Holy Spirit is our leader and guide, let us follow Him.

The Holy Spirit is our comforter, let us stay close to Him.

The Holy Spirit is our advocate, let us consult Him.

The Holy Spirit is our help, let us reach out to Him.

The Holy Spirit is God, let us adore and worship Him.

As we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, let us strive proactively to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh. Have an awesome celebration.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

THE TRANSFORMING LESSONS FROM THE PRAYER OF THE HIGH PRIEST HOMILY FOR THE 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

jesus high priest

Once upon a time, two close friends, Larry and Leo decided to embark on an adventure by ship to a particularly beautiful tourist Island. They set out happily and with so much excitement. However, before they could reach the Island, their ship had a terrible mishap, and many of the passengers lost their lives, but they were lucky to swim ashore and found themselves in a strange Island without any trace of life nor human support.

Two days after, the two friends could not get any help and found nothing to eat. Suddenly, Larry remembers that they need to commit their situation to God in prayer and they decide to go to different locations in the Island to pray because they could end up chatting instead of praying if they stay together. Leo started by asking God for food because he was dying of hunger. Instantly, after praying, he saw baskets of different kinds of food, and he settled down to enjoy himself.

Next, he requests for shelter and warm clothes for the cold nights, and there he sees a tent with all provisions he could imagine. The speed at which his prayers got answers surprised him, and after some days he thought about going home to join his family. He prays for a ship that would take him back to his family, and before he could finish he sees a ship approaching the shore, and he didn’t have to wave because the ship was coming for him.

While he was about to enter the ship, he hears a voice asking him if he is leaving anything behind and he says no. The voice comes again asking if there is anything he needs to take from the Island. At this point, he remembered Larry and wanted to go back and look for him, but the voice says to him, “there is no need for that.” The voice further explains to him that when they parted ways to pray, Larry kept asking God to grant his friend’s requests each time he prayed and could not pray for himself. The voice goes on to tell him that Larry’s soul is so precious that God decided to take him to heaven. Finally, the voice says, “go home and learn the lesson about praying for others.

Every Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Gospel Reading takes us the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John which gives us the details about the high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ during the last supper with the apostles at the upper room. John did not say outrightly where this prayer was rendered. However, we can link it to the last supper because of the mention of “the hour has come” (John 17:1). Another indication is the lost one, (John 17:12), namely, Judas Iscariot who left the Upper Room immediately after receiving the body of the Lord (John 13:27).

Today in the Gospel Reading, our Lord Jesus Christ prays to the Father for his disciples and by extension, for all of us. The prayer shows an intensely personal engagement between the Son and the Father for the sake of those whom the Son would be leaving behind to continue the work his started. We shall examine this prayer under three centers of gravity.

  • Divine Unity

Earlier, in one of his teachings, our Lord said that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matt. 12:25). Unity or oneness is essential for the work of evangelization because it gives one voice and one purpose for those involved in the mission. The major problem among Christians from the earlier apostolic times to the contemporary time is disunity which emanates from distrust, hatred, and the absence of love. Our Lord was explicitly praying for divine unity which is different from ungodly unity which happens when people unite to carry out evil. The ideal unity is the one we achieve in Christ who is one with the Father. Oneness in Christ entails selflessness, patience, and sacrificial love.

  • Divine Protection

When our Lord sent the disciples out to preach to all Nations (Matt. 28), he knew that they would have many challenges including the hinderances of the evil one, the devil. In the prayer, our Lord prays earnestly to the Father to protect his disciples from the machinations of the evil one. It is essential that we understand that the protection is not merely from physical harm of the body. It is more about the soul which is the target of the evil whose mission is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

 

  • Divine Sanctification

Earlier in the Gospel of John (4:24), our Lord Jesus Christ said that God is Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in Spirit and truth. In the context of the high priestly prayer, our Lord asks the Father to sanctify his disciples in the truth. When we hear the truth, we often think about the opposite of falsehood, and we are right. In this context, however, we understand the truth in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). To be sanctified in the truth is to be configured to Christ in whom there is no deceit (1 Pet 2:22).

          The Seventh Sunday of Easter invites us to reinvigorate our prayer life and to be more selfless in our prayer after the manner of our Lord Jesus who first prayed for us and obtained graces for us from the Father in advance even before going into his passion and death. Have a great Sunday and remain under the light of divine protection and sanctification.

Fr. Bonnie.

OBEDIENCE IS THE TRUE TEST OF LOVE. HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

 

Love and Obey

The connection most mothers have with their sons especially the first sons is an undeniable fact that often defies exact explanation. Sigmund Freud in his psychoanalytic theory calls it the Oedipus complex which refers to the unrestrained attachment between a female parent and the male child as well as the attachment of the male parent to the female child which he calls Electra complex. Meanwhile, Oedipus in Greek mythology, according to the playwright, Sophocles, was the child who, following the oracle of the gods, killed his father and married his mother.

Once upon a time, there was this God-fearing Nigerian mom living in the USA who had a strong connection with her first son. She would do anything to make him happy even if it meant displeasing the other children. The boy appreciated his mom’s love for him and would often pledge to make her the happiest mom on earth. One day, the teenager comes to his mom with the idea of getting a tattoo on his body. The woman dismissed the idea and almost went on her knees begging her son not to get a tattoo. According to her, getting a tattoo would not be a virtuous thing to do as it could potentially diminish sound Christian morals and make her look irresponsible for allowing that for her son. Anyway, the boy dropped the idea.

Some months later, the boy in our story sends a lengthy message to her mom from his college telling her how he appreciated her concerns about his life and ended up saying that he has his life to live and has decided to get a tattoo on his body and he sends the picture of the tattoo to confirm his assertions. The message breaks the mom completely, and she could not control her tears.  For all her love for her son, she wanted nothing in return but simply obedience and compliance to what she holds very dear to her heart. She wondered if her son truly loved her as he equally claimed in the message. What is love, is it what we profess, or what we do? We shall find out in this reflection.

In the opening session of the Gospel Reading today (John 15:9-17), our Lord Jesus Christ says,

Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commandment and remain in his love

In another place our Lord also says,

Those who love me will keep my word, and my father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23).

Love is not about what we say like the boy in our story; it is about what we do like our Jesus Christ did on the Cross (John 19:30). Love is a verb, that means it is a “doing word,” not just the name of a phenomenon. The message today is about putting love into action not just professing it. In the Second Reading today (John 4:7-10), the apostle tells us to practice love amongst ourselves as a demonstration of our knowledge of God; “whoever is without love does not know God.” We are therefore not free not to love that means we must love, or we lose. Our Lord Jesus Christ made it clear that he is giving us a new commandment that we love one another as he loves us (John 13:34).

We cannot have enough of the message of love because God is love (1 John 4:8). Life is inherently tasteless without love. Our existence is a profound expression of God’s love. When we wander away from the source of love he still waits for us to return like the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:1ff). God loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) that He wants us to remain in His love through our obedience to His words.

The First Reading today (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48), tells us how God the gift of the Holy Spirit was also poured out to the Gentiles represented by Cornelius and his household. Here we have another valuable lesson about love. Love does not have barriers. Love goes beyond race, ethnicity, color, and culture. The invitation to love should not be about our household and friends only. Our Lord Jesus Christ even said that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

As we enter a new week, let us show our love for God by our obedience to His commandments and compliance to His will. Let us also demonstrate our love for each other by the extra step we take in forgiveness, patience, caring and helping each other selflessly. I wish you a love-enriched week ahead. May God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

“WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING”: LEARNING HOW TO DEPEND ON GOD HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

bear fruits

Once upon a time, a man riding an old car ran into the exotic car of another man who happens to be wealthy and affluent. The poor man stopped and fell to the ground to beg the rich man who was busy calling him all sorts of names from being stupid and perpetually sanctioned to poverty to other things. The guy continued to plead for mercy, but the rich guy pays no attention to him, as he reaches out to his phone to call the police.

At the point of attempting to call in the police, the man begs him not to involve the police as he would even be ready to sell his old car to repair the damage. The guy’s suggestion came across as an insult to the rich man, and he interrupts him saying, “do I look like someone who needs anything at all not to mention money from your rickety old car.” He was still talking when a madman who had been watching replies him, “Sir, you need something, and this poor guy can give it to you.” The rich guy turns to the madman and says, “what the hell do I need from this man with an old broken car?” The madman turns and says to him “humility and understanding” and walks away. No one has everything; we are all in need.

One of my most significant takeaways from the study of philosophy is the principle of ontological dependence. The principle states that objects depend on others for existence not just in a casual sense but also in a logical sense. For instance, a child depends on the mother for survival. That means that the mother exists for the sake of the child. However, the mother is not sufficient as she also depends on another reality to exist. The list of a family of dependencies continues until we come to a being who does not depend on anyone to exist, that is our all-sufficient God.

The highpoint of the Gospel of this Sunday (John 15:1-8) is our Lord’s description of himself as the true vine and the indication of several qualities and implications for the branches that relate to the vine. We shall examine some of the relevant contents of the Gospel passage primarily as they relate to our dependence on God.

I am the TRUE vine. Here our Lord Jesus Christ suggests a distinction between the TRUE vine and other false vines or more appropriately, imitations of the true vine. In our lives, we are either true or false. Following the example our Lord Jesus Christ, there is the need for us to be true to our Christian vocation. Only the truth can set us free (John 8:32). Are you TRUE to what you are?

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. Fruit bearing is critical to every vine tree, and the fruits come from the branches. Every one of us is expected to bear not just fruit but also good fruits. In His justice, God cuts away the unfruitful branches and, in His love, He prunes, that is, he removes or cuts away the limitations and hindrances of the branches that are bearing fruits. Are you bearing fruits and what kind of fruit are you bearing?

Remain in me as I remain in you … without me, you can do nothing. There is no stage in the life of a branch that it would not need the parent tree; that means a branch can never be independent except it is no longer a branch. In our relationship with God, we always need that divine connection because our efficiency without divine sufficiency can only lead us to deficiency.

Often, we act like the rich man in our opening story who thinks that material wealth suffices for all our needs. The real wealth is our union with God, and the real poverty is the absence of God in our lives.  The Second Reading today (1 John 3:18-24), tells us that we achieve union with Christ, the true vine, by keeping his commandment which is to love God and our neighbour (Matt. 22:36-40). We need this close link and connection with Jesus Christ every moment and every day of our lives for:

Without him, we shall lack peace (John 14:27)

Without him, we shall lack help (Heb. 13:6)

Without him, we shall lack provision (Phil. 4:19)

Without him, we shall lack joy (Psalm 126:2-3)

Without him, we shall lack hope (Psalm 39:7).

As we march into the fifth week of Easter, may we continue to maintain a strong and enduring attachment with our Lord without whom we can do nothing. Stay connected and retain your blessings.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

SEEKING THE GOOD SHEPHERD MENTALITY REFLECTION FOR THE GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY (FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B) REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PhD

Good shepherd mentality

On Friday, March 23, 2018, LT. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, a French Military Police officer, traded places with a hostage during a police standoff with a gunman at a supermarket in Paris. The following day, March 24, the eve of the Passion Sunday, the officer died because of the injuries he sustained during the gun battle; the hostage survived the attack. The heroic act attracted the attention of Pope Francis who described the heroic action as a desire to protect people following the officer’s understanding of sacrifice as a practising Catholic.

This story resonates with the essential mentality of the good shepherd in the Gospel Reading today (Jn.10:11-18), the laying down of life for the sheep (John 10:11). The Easter season we are celebrating is the fruit of the self-giving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for the forgiveness of our sins (Gal. 1:4). The fundamental difference between the owner of the sheep and a hired hand is that the owner pledges his life for the sheep, but the hired hand runs away in the face of challenges (John 10:12-13).

Col. Arnaud followed the example of Christ by dying so that someone he did not know personally could live. What a powerful way to serve the people with love. Before his passion and death, our Lord Jesus said to his disciples, “there is no greater love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). To be a shepherd, one needs to entirely be at the service of the sheep even to the cost of the shepherd’s life.

When we hear about shepherds, we often think about the priests and religious, and we are right to feel that way. However, all the baptized who share in the royal priesthood of Christ are called to be shepherds at various level. When you are performing your duty as a parent (dad or mom), you are shepherding. When there are students you are leading formally or informally; you are a shepherd. Whenever and wherever people look up to you for anything, you are a shepherd; to whom much is given much is expected (Luke 12:48).

Laying down your life must not always follow the route of Arnaud in our opening story. Life is very precious, laying down your life could mean giving up something that is very precious to you for the benefit of the sheep. It could be dropping your ego to become humble and patient. It could be letting go that anger and resentment when you are derided or even insulted. The vocation to be a shepherd is not jolly ride. Often you don’t get 100% compliance from the sheep; some would often wander away, and the good shepherd seeks out the lost sheep (Luke 15:4)

The problem with some shepherds in our day and age is the hired-hand mentality. This idea has to do with the emphasis on “what is in there for me?” or “what would I benefit from this job?” When we think of shepherding as a job, we focus on benefit, but when we accept it as a vocation, it becomes a service emanating from the love for the sheep.

The sheep, on the other hand, should complement the work of the shepherd; in fact, a good shepherd with bad sheep is a disaster. One of the fundamental obligations of the sheep is to listen and obey the instructions of the good shepherd. In the Gospel of John (10:27) our Lord says, the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me. Often, we blame and berate our shepherds, but we fail to think about our attitude to their vocation and the contribution towards their goals.

Today, we remind ourselves that the Lord is our shepherd, that means He is in control of everything about us, but that depends on the extent we allow Him. God would not force Himself on us. Instead, He is available as our provider and provision (Gen. 22:14), He is our protector and protection (Psalm 91:1ff), He leads us through the right path (Psalm 23:3). For these reasons, we shall not lack (Psalm 23:1) because His goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

As we celebrate the Good Shepherd Sunday, let us remember to pray for shepherds after God’s heart who would receive the unction to function in God’s vineyard. We also pray to become good shepherds and good sheep at any level we find ourselves. Have a great Sunday and a pleasant week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

THE RESURRECTION OF PEACE THROUGH REPENTANCE HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

My peace I give you

Once upon a time, a certain king makes an open request challenging all the artists in his kingdom to compete for a prize on a painting that would correctly represent peace. Many people enrolled, and there were many pictures. The king takes his time to eliminate the submissions until two beautiful paintings were remaining. They were both very outstanding; one shows a lake surrounded by exotic mountains and green vegetation. It looked beautiful and peaceful, and everyone admired it. The second was also magnificent as it showed a quiet mountainside and river, but the sky shows a raging storm and the environment looked troubled.

When it was time for the king to make his choice, it surprised everyone that he settled for the second picture and his son asked him the rationale behind his preference for the second picture that shows a raging storm instead of the first that showed all calmness. Replying the king requested for the painting he asked his son to look at it more closely. When the son did, he discovered a bird settling peacefully in its nest somewhere in a tiny opening on the rocks despite the raging storm. And the king says to his son; peace is not the absence of storm or any other kind of physical disturbances, it is about remaining calm and hopeful amid all those troubles.

As the king in the narrative indicated, peace is not the absence of environmental noise or external disturbances; it is instead an inner calmness that rests on a hopeful future; peace has to do with internal tranquillity even when the whole world seems to be tearing apart. Peace is not what you buy with money; you instead earn it through the right ordering of your inner self. Many poor people have peace, and some so many wealthy people are in “pieces.”

The unsettling experience of the arrest, passion, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ could have left his disciples in great trauma. The scriptures made us understand that the sheep will scatter when they strike the shepherd (Zech. 13:7, Matt. 26:31). We could also recall that before his passion and death our Lord said:

The hour is coming. Indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have PEACE. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33).

For fear of the Jews, the disciples were often staying in secured places (John 20: 19; 26). To confirm that all these indicate absence of peace in their lives, the first statement of our Lord when he appeared to them says, “peace be unto you” (John 20:19); and he would do this at other times he appeared after his resurrection including in the Gospel of today (Luke 24:35-48).

It is interesting to hear Peter in the First Reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19), decry the attitude of those who denied our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release him. The theme of denial here also reminds us of Peter’s denial of our Lord not just once but three times (John 18:15-27). One could begin to wonder, “what differentiates Peter’s denial and that of the people at Gabbatha before Pilate?” And the answer could be found in what each of them did afterwards, for Peter it was repentance (Luke 22:61-62), but for the people especially the high priests and Sadducees, it was renewed efforts to stop the message of the resurrection (Acts 3, 4, and 5).

The theme of repentance followed the testimonies about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. After the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost, the people were cut to their hearts, and they asked, “what shall we do?” And Peter tells them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that their sins will be forgiven, and they will receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 37-38).

There would be no peace without repentance. Repentance means to change one’s mind (Exo. 32:14). To repent of sin means to change one’s mind about committing sin and deciding to do right. Peace is the state of mind not the condition of the environment. For us to have peace we need to change our mind, we need to repent. We need to change our mind on the way we think about others; we need to change our mind in the way we relate to others, we need to change our minds on our attitudes before we can have peace.

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ brought peace to us. It means that we should not be afraid of the “Jews.” The Jews here represent all those challenges that face us in life. The Jews represent all the obstacles on our way to holiness. Jews represent all the mistakes of our past. When our Lord said, “Peace be unto you” he was saying to them the storm is over, the trouble is over. There is nothing that qualifies to stress at this point in your life which the peace of the resurrection cannot overcome. The word of God says that the peace of Christ surpasses all understanding. That means it is a supernatural fruit; actually, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

As we continue to celebrate the resurrection, let us not allow anything nor anyone to take away your “Alleluia.” The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ is your right and heritage as a child of the resurrection. You only need to repent; change your mind, and the glory of God will forever abide with you. May the Peace of the Lord be with you always and have a peaceful week ahead,

Fr. Bonnie.

 

“THE DOOR OF MERCY IS STILL OPEN” A REFLECTION FOR THE DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY (2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

HAVE MERCY ON US

“Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

From December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, the Holy Roman Catholic Church observed the Year of Mercy which featured special prayers and gatherings in various places highlighting the profundity of God’s mercy. During the closing gathering which also featured the ceremony of the closing of the Holy Door of Mercy, Pope Francis announced that the closing of the Holy Door does not entail the closing of the door of reconciliation and God’s mercy. In other words, the door of divine mercy is still open to those who are ready and willing to make a spiritual entrance.

What is divine mercy? One could answer that it means God’s compassion and withdrawal of the punishment we deserve from Him because of our sins. One could also ask why God is merciful? God is merciful because He cannot help but be merciful; it is in His nature. Put in another way mercy is another name for God (Psalm 103:8). The letter to the Hebrews (4:16), tells us that the throne of God consists of grace and mercy. While calling on God after falling into sin, David referred to God as full of mercy and compassion (Psalm 51:1).

There is the need for us to differentiate between forgiveness and mercy before we can appreciate what divine mercy entails. To forgive is to overcome anger or resentment over someone’s failing. Mercy, on the other hand, is more profound than forgiveness, and it means withdrawing all the punishment that is due to an offence. Have you wondered why our Lord Jesus Christ did not add mercy in the Lord’s prayer but only forgiveness (Matt. 6:9-13)? Have you wondered why our Lord had to stop when the blind Bartimaeus called out saying “Jesus Son of David have MERCY on me” (Mark 10: 47). We can see the distinction and as well as the connection between forgiveness and mercy while our Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross. The account of Luke (23:34) tells us that our Lord said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” If forgiveness were enough, then the death of our Lord would have been unnecessary.

Beyond forgiveness, humanity needed the mercy of God, and that was why at 3.pm on that fateful Friday we know as “Good,” our Lord said. “it is finished” (John 19:30); and bowing his head, he died. That was the point humanity received God’s mercy, that means our debt was paid, and our punishment was taken away (Isaiah 53:5). Divine mercy means that though we deserve to receive punishment, our punishment was taken away by God through His Son. The sin was so intense, but God already forgave us (Psalm 86:5), however, the punishment due to our sin was still pending. One of the punishment was that the gate of heaven was shut against humanity and only the mercy of God through His Son could open the gate of heaven for us. John (3:13) tells us that nobody has gone to heaven except the one who came down from heaven and that is our Lord Jesus Christ, whom St. Paul refers to as the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18).

God is the Father of mercy (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and his mercy never ends (Lam. 3:22-23). He is still ready to grant you mercy when you approach His throne of mercy. God’s mercy shows that he wants us to move forward to a better future (Jer. 29:11). The mercy of God indicates God’s love for us (John 3:16). The mercy of God shows that God wants us to have peace as our Lord Jesus Christ indicated when he appeared to the apostles, “peace be unto you” (John 20:21). The mercy of God shows that God wants us back (Jeremiah 15:19).

When we receive God’s mercy, He expects us to extend mercy to others. The mercy of God comes to us and should flow through us. In the Book of Genesis (12:3) God said that He would bless Abraham so that he could be a blessing to others. If God, our Father, is merciful we should be merciful children of our Father. If we expect mercy from God, we should also be ready to grant mercy to others. In the beatitudes, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “blessed are the merciful and they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

As we celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday, let us use the opportunity Christ opened for us through his resurrection from the dead to open our heart for God’s mercy. It is also vital that we extend mercy to those who deserve our punishment in various ways just as we qualify to received God’s punishment but in lieu, receive His mercy.

Have a rewarding Divine Mercy Sunday.

Fr. Bonnie

 

THE EXPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST REFLECTION FOR EASTER SUNDAY (YEAR B) Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

he is risen

He is Lord, He is Lord!
He is risen from the dead and he is Lord!
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

He is King, he is King!
He will draw all nations to him, he is King;
and the time shall be when the world shall sing
that Jesus Christ is King!

He is Life, he is Life!
He has died to set us free and he is Life;
and he calls us all to live evermore,
for Jesus Christ is Life.

Easter is God’s answer to the questions about Good Friday. Easter completes the story of the Good Friday. The story of Easter confirms the power of God; Easter fulfils the declaration of our Lord Jesus Christ, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it” (John 2:19). The Easter narrative makes our Lord Jesus Christ the only person to make an appointment beyond the grave and kept it. The resurrection tells us that God has a vision which nobody, including the devil, can kill. Don’t allow anyone to destroy your vision.

We shall begin the reflection of Easter by talking about death generally and particularly the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. This approach might seem a weird thing to do on Easter day, but it is fitting to speak of the rising in the context of the dying.

One of the best definitions of death sees it as the separation of the three components of the human person; spirit, soul, and body. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, at that point when he paid the price for our sins, his spirit went back to the Father; “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Luke 23:46). On the other hand, his soul went down to Hades to minister to the souls there (1 Pet. 3:19-20). Only the body lies in the tomb. On the day of resurrection (early morning) on the third day, the spirit and soul returned to the body and at that instant, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Son of the Eternal Father rose from the dead; he overpowered all the physical and spiritual restrictions and barriers.

The word resurrection comes from the Greek word “anastasis” which means to “raise up” or “to stand up again.” At the resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ who was once standing but was brought down by death rose up again and never again to go down. By the fact of rising from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished the following:

  • He conquered death and the grave. Death could not stop him; the grave could not hold him; they were all conquered by the power of his resurrection. The perishable became imperishable; the mortal became immortal and St. Paul says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (I Cor. 15: 54-55). In another place he says, “he must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death”. (1 Cor. 15: 25-26).
  • He defeated the devil. The plan of the devil from the time of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was to stop the work of our redemption. When you hear that Herod was killing innocent children, the devil planned to end the vision of God for our salvation. The devil tempted him in the desert to secure a misstep from him, but he couldn’t, and he went away looking for a favorable Several times people picked stones to kill him, but they couldn’t because the hour hadn’t yet come. At Gethsemane, the devil tried to suggest to him to abandon the mission, but he preferred the accomplish the will of his Father. Finally, the devil was defeated. You need to connect to the resurrection power to defeat all the plans of the devil in your life.
  • He secured our forgiveness, faith, and salvation. The First letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians Chapter 15 could be the book of details about the resurrection. Among numerous high points, St. Paul tells us that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). He further says that if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is futile, and we are still living in sin. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which is beyond all doubts as it was confirmed by more than five hundred witnesses, shows that we have been redeemed and saved.
  • He opened the gate of heaven. After the fall of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from the presence of God, the gate of heaven remained locked until the event of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which would open the gate of heaven. According to St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:22-24):

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

This is the season for your rising. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ opens the door for you to rise.

  • From darkness to light
  • From failure to success
  • From sickness to health
  • From enmity to friendliness
  • From nobody to somebody
  • From scarcity to abundance
  • From blindness to sight
  • From the grave to the skies

Alleluia! He is risen! Let us open ourselves to the victorious power of the resurrection from this moment onwards and the difference will amaze us.

Have a wonderful Easter celebration.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE MEANING AND MESSAGE OF GOOD FRIDAY : A REFLECTION FOR THE GOOD FRIDAY. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

it is fiished

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be the joy of those who accused him wrongly, the pain of the scourging and crowning with thorns or the authority of Pilate who condemned him and ordered his crucifixion on the cross? But he was the only innocent person in that tribunal. All the people including Pilate were guilty, and that was why he came to rescue all from the slavery of sin (Gal. 1:4). What do you do when people accuse you falsely and even condemn you for the sake of what is right? If you remain faithful, you will be blessed because your reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5:11-12).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about the cross he carried (John 19:17). The cross represents the weight of our sins and the punishment due to them which he took upon himself (Isaiah 53:4-5). He even asked us to bring all our burden to him, and he would sustain us (1 Pet. 5:7). The cross was heavy, yet he had to carry it. Each time we go back to sin we add more weight to him. We have our crosses to bear, but often we take the wrong cross as not every cross is salvific (1 Pet. 4:15-16).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be the weight of the cross that made our Lord fall three times on the way to Calvary? The fall confirms our fallen human nature which he came to resuscitate. He falls three times and three times he rises and continues the journey. God is always giving us the opportunity to rise after every episode of falling into sin (Isaiah 1:18). The worst fall is the one that does not encourage us to rise and continue the journey of life. Do you give up after falling?

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be the meeting with Mary, the help of Simon of Cyrene, the wiping of his face by Veronica or the encounter with the crying women of Jerusalem? God will always plant consolers and helpers on the most difficult journeys of our lives. They could be there only to look at your face with compassion, to assist you practically or even cry with you. God will always provide (Gen.22:8); they could be people you know, but often, those who would help you most in the tough journey of life could be complete strangers.

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about the stripping of our Lord Jesus Christ of his clothes in the full gaze of the crowd? We came naked and naked we shall return (Job 1:21). We often try to hide from people, but before God, nothing about us is hidden (Heb. 4:13).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about the nailing to the cross? The cross is the new tree that replaced the old tree in the middle of the garden of Eden (Gen.3:3). By the first tree, humanity failed, on the new tree of the cross, humanity would gain redemption. The cross is the place to nail all the curses that are confronting our lives so that they would become blessings (Gal.3:13).

What is “good” about this Friday?

  • Could it be about death on the cross? Yes! On the cross, our Lord said, “it is finished” (John 19:30), and bowed his head and died. It is finished means that the price has been paid in full. It means that the relationship between God and us has been renewed. It means that we are no longer guilty neither are we in debt. It means that our redemption has been accomplished in full, we are no longer liable; no longer debtors.

One of the great messages from the Good Friday ceremony is the power of suffering. Someone once remarked that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” We often run away from suffering, and that is why many people are unsuccessful and unfortunate in life. Suffering is like exercising to get through with a task. The success of a team in a sporting event does not come on the day of the competition. The success goes back to the tough times of practising, the mistakes and retakes, the sleepless nights, and other challenging situations.

Our redemption was not a walk in the park. Why did God allow his Son to come down to us being like us in all things except sin (Heb. 4:15)? Why did God let His Son to suffer and to die to purchase our freedom from sin? That would tell us that our redemption is precious, and our sin was too profound. The suffering you may be going through now cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed soon (1 Cor. 2:9). Stay tuned!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

RE-LIVING THE POWER OF THE PASSION HOMILY FOR THE PALM SUNDAY (YEAR B) Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

PASSION 2

As a child, one of the scariest places I dreaded to go with my parents when I become ill was the hospital. The phobia was not because of the smell of different kinds of medications nor the morgue which most children fear, but the injections which the nurses administered with long needles that go right into the buttocks to deposit the curative liquids. During those times, my parents would encourage me to go with them to the hospital and assure me that there might be no injection (but there would always be) and if there happens to be any, it won’t hurt (but they always hurt).

In my little mind, I thought my parents were heartless and wicked for allowing me to go through such pains. But I was wrong; they were showing their love and care for me because the pain of the injections would bring the gain of good health. Maybe if they spared the pain of the needles, I could have died from some complications; may God bless my mum and rest the soul of my dad.

Today, we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The purpose of the entrance was for our Lord to suffer the mockery of the devil, the brutality of men and even the abandonment of his heavenly Father as St. Paul would tell us, that God did not spare his son but offered him up for us all (Romans 8:32). Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed this on the cross when he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

The triumphant entry into Jerusalem is an ironical narrative with the depth of meanings. “Why did our Lord Jesus make that entry a carnival-like parade; why did he need a donkey and a colt (urgently) at the same time; why all the “noise” about the Son of David and why the Hosanna?”

Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem today was not the first time, but it was at a special time and of a different kind; triumphant. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego joyfully marched into the heart of fire; our Lord joyfully entered the city at the hour close to his suffering and death. He entered triumphantly to disclose the joyful and triumphant end of his journey; he was celebrating the end from the beginning as God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

Jesus Christ, our Lord, was looking at the value and purpose of the journey which would be the triumph over sin and death (1 Cor. 15:53-55; Col.2:15). In life, we often face various kinds of challenging situations and most times we cry and break our heads over what is prevailing in our lives, and we fail to look beyond the present to see what lies ahead of us. The situations we face in our lives should not define us. The passion and death could not define our Lord Jesus Christ because there would be a rising from the dead.

The donkey and the colt represent our sinful souls tied to the tree of sin which reminds us of the tree at the middle of the garden in the book of Genesis where the first sin of disobedience was committed (Gen.3:3). The donkey and colt represent all of us, Adam and Eve, male and female, old and young, we have all sinned, and our Lord is going to suffer and die for us, and it is fitting that we should go with him triumphantly into the Jerusalem to celebrate our freedom in advance.

Hosanna is an Aramaic word which could translate as praise or adoration. It is however not addressed to just anyone but to someone who could deliver or save. That is why they had to link it to “Son of David” which means messiah and messiah means savior. That was why the Blind Bartimaeus could cry and say, “Son of David have mercy on me” (Mark 10:48), in other words, he said. “savior, have mercy on me.”

Today, the door of the Holy week is open for us to march with the Lord to his suffering and death as we look forward to the resurrection. I wouldn’t know what your disposition has been since the beginning of Lent. Would you say, “yes it has been a great experience for me” or would you have regrets?

These few days could make a significant change in your life. The week will become as holy as you make it be. Have a great Palm Sunday and a rewarding Holy Week.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

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