HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)/ FATHER’S DAY
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Once upon a time, I sat watching some kids having a conversation about their daddies. One said that his dad could drive any big truck. The second replied, saying that driving a big vehicle is nothing compared to a train which his dad could drive. The third child could not hold his peace as he claims that his dad could navigate a big ship. The fourth child challenged his peers as he places his father in the air as a pilot.
In their midst, however, was a fifth child who could not say a word. I was puzzled by his unusual silence, which I took to be a sign of modesty. But I discovered later that his father passed when he was a baby. He was in the right company, right place, but the topic was not right for him because he had no dad.
Daddy’s are often the first heroes for most children. Maybe I had the same idea that my dad was the strongest man in the world, and he could do anything and that no one, including death, can defeat him. But that was wrong, our daddies are mere humans subject to weaknesses and failures, and they are not all-powerful as we thought as kids. But most dads are great; most of us would attest to this fact.
Understanding the Real Essence of Fatherhood
It is an overly sweet coincidence that we are reflecting on God as a caring Father on Father’s Day. There would be the need for us to explore the real essence of fatherhood; in other words, we shall be looking at what father’s do that would make them deserve the name. To achieve this, we shall use the fatherhood of God as a perfect example.
Before we go on with the essence of fatherhood, there would be a need for us to understand what fatherhood entails. Who is a father, and what are the functions of a father?
The Hebrew rendering of the word “father” is “abba,” which shows a close relationship that involves profound care. So, a father is not just someone who had a child with a woman, but one who is intentionally and proactively involved in the integral growth and development of the child.
The idea of God as “abba,” in other words, daddy, is the sense that our Lord Jesus Christ used the word during his agony in the garden (Mark 14:36), as well as St. Paul when he was talking about the Spirit of adoption to sonship that helps us call God “abba” (Romans 8:15).
The scripture is replete with indicators of God as Father. The Book of Deuteronomy (32:6) calls Him the Father, who creates, forms, and protects. Isaiah (63:16) says God is our Father and redeemer. The Book of Psalms (103:13) calls God a compassionate Father, and Psalm (68:5) calls Him the father of the fatherless and judge for the widow. We all could remember that our Lord Jesus always referred to God as Father, and in the prayer, he taught his disciples he enjoined them to approach him as “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9).
Caretaking: The Hallmark of “Abbahood”
We are conversant with the word “caretaker,” which refers to someone who has a relationship of care over something, someone, or some people. By functionality, a caretaker could also be called a father. In the Book of Genesis (45:8), Joseph told his brothers that God brought him to Egypt and made him the Father of Pharaoh by being the caretaker of his household and the entire land of Egypt.
Fatherhood would be preposterous without care. In the First Reading today (Jeremiah 20:10-13), prophets recounts God’s protective care as a loving Father against the intrigues of his enemies and persecutors.
In the Gospel today (Matt: 10:26-33), our Lord Jesus reveals the profound nature of God’s daddy-care over us. He tells us not to be afraid because He would take care of the essential part of our being, namely our souls. Our Lord says that everything about us is personally known to God as he knows the end of everything from the beginning (Is. 46:10). He knows the number of hairs on our heads.
Moving Forward: Every Father should “CARE.”
Fathers are timeless and precious. A world without fathers is unimaginable. We appreciate all fathers today. When we take a look into the sacred scriptures, we see that most great friends of God were fathers starting from Abraham through whom God raised a holy nation for himself.
Like we established earlier, merely fathering a child does not qualify anyone to be a father. Every father must be a daddy in the biblical sense of “abba,” which entails giving care. So, every father to qualify as one should be able to CARE. We are using the word CARE here as an acronym, and it means the following:
Compassionate: Without compassion, a father would not be able to maintain a connection with his child or children. Every father should be as compassionate as God.
Availability: God is not only able but also very much available. At large, fathers fall short of an essential duty. You cannot underestimate the power of being present.
Responsibility: If you look closely, you can see that the word responsibility is a combination of two words, “response and ability.” So it means the ability to respond to the needs of the family, which is not limited to physical needs.
Encouraging: Every father should provide the facility of encouragement for the family. Fathers encourage by teaching, especially with good examples from their lives.
We thank God for the gift of fatherhood as we renew our faith and trust in His failing care over us. As we celebrate Father’s day and congratulate our fathers, we also urge them to pay attention to the demands of an ideal father, the one they give CARE.
God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.
A REFLECTION ON THE ONE BREAD AND ONE CUP
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
In 1263 something unusual happened in a Church in Bolsena, Italy. A visiting German Priest, Fr. Peter of Prague was celebrating Mass in the Church of St. Christina when the host started to bleed blood during the consecration. The Pope at the time, Urban IV, was living in the nearby city of Orvieto due to the civil war in Rome. Following the direction of the Pope, the consecrated host and the soaked alter covering were moved to the Cathedral Church in Orvieto, where they are to date.
During the following year, 1264, Pope Urban IV instituted the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ to honor the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist through the Papal Bull (public decree) “Transiturus de hoc mundo.” He also encouraged St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the famous and timeless song “Pange lingua…Tantum Ergo” at that period, which venerates our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
Understanding “Holy Communion”
If you pay closer attention to the speech syllabification of the word “communion,” you will discover that it appears to be a combination of two words, “come” and “union” the same way “community” would sound like the combination of the words, “come” and “unity.”
One of the “other names” (aliases) of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is, “Holy Communion.” Though widely used by many Catholics and other Christians, there would be the need to explore the transforming meaning, power, and effect of Holy Communion the leveraging St. Paul’s instruction on the One Bread and One Cup in the Second Reading today (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
We receive Holy Communion during the Eucharistic celebration, but beyond that, what we gather to do during the ceremony is also “Holy Communion.” We can, therefore, say that in the Holy Eucharist, what we eat, and drink is the same thing we do when we gather, that is, Holy Communion.
Our Lord Jesus Christ laid the foundation of Holy Communion when among other things in the Gospel Reading today, he said: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:56). The reality of Holy Communion becomes clearer here as we get united with the Lord when we partake in the Holy Eucharist.
We could also recall that Jesus said that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink (John 6:55). The idea of real food and real drink supports our belief in transubstantiation, which is the change of the substance of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ while retaining the appearances of bread and wine during the celebration. We have here, a mystery and a miracle!
United with Christ and Others in the One Bread and One Cup
Nutritionists and dietitians tell us that we become what we eat when they advise people to eat healthy food to live healthy lives. This idea has relevance in our participation in the Holy Eucharist. When we eat the body of Jesus Christ and drink his blood, we become one with him in the same way natural food is assimilated into our bodies after ingestion.
Furthermore, we understand that the Eucharistic celebration is not a private affair, even when a priest celebrates Mass by himself. It is a gathering of the community of God’s people sharing from one Table, one Bread, and One Cup at the instance of one Lord. At every celebration of the Holy Eucharist, there is a spiritual interaction between heaven and earth, and this brings about the Holy Communion.
One of the ways you can justify the closeness between two individuals or more is when they eat from the plate (eating and dining together); it becomes even closer when they drink from the same cup.
Moving Forward: Giving the Lord “A Resident Permit”
The Holy Eucharist we receive can only produce the deserving effects in our lives if we open our hearts to the Lord, giving him what I would call “a deserving resident permit,” as he has promised to reside in those who eat his body and drink his blood.
We could recall that when Judas received the Lord, the presence of evil in his mind could not allow him to provide this resident permit. Consequently, a contrary thing happened to him: he excluded himself from the Lord and the Eucharistic community.
How Judas ended his life tells us that it is not all about receiving the Lord in the Eucharist than it is to be united with Him and with others after receiving. In the Gospel of John (15:5), our Lord Jesus Christ said, “cut off from me, you can do nothing.” He thus challenges us to be open to union with him and others, as we intentionally participate in the One Bread and One Cup
As we eat and dine with and from the Lord in the Holy Communion, let us continue to form bonds of unity despite our beautiful diversity. As we go through the gruesome period in our history with the coronavirus pandemic, let us not sacrifice our Holy Communion with one another on the altar of social distancing. May we also have a renewed approach to the Lord in the Holy Eucharist as most of us have missed this Holy Communion with the Lord and with one another for the period of the quarantine. God bless you.
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
One reality that has eluded complete human comprehension and clarity is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is the language all Christians speak. It states that there is One God who subsists in three co-equal, co-eternal, and con-substantial Divine Persons. Put in another way; God is One (in Essence) and Three in Persons; does that make logical or mathematical sense? No! The Holy Trinity is a mystery that surpasses human understanding.
While the Bible did not use the word Trinity, however, we have lots of passages that indicate the reality of Three Divine Persons in One God. When God said, “let us make human beings in our image after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). He was not referring to angels because they are creatures and cannot create. God, the Father, was referring to God, the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We see the same invitation during the building of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:7) when God the Father said: “come let us go down and confuse their language.”
Understanding Divinity’s Creative Plan for Humanity
On this day, we shall be focusing on the timeless lessons we could learn from the doctrine of the Holy Trinity instead of recycling the usual arguments for the tenability of the fact that there are three persons in one God. The Holy Trinity does not need our rational arguments and proofs to exist.
What lessons can we possibly learn from the Holy Trinity? There would be a need for us to revisit a vital information from the Book of Genesis (1:26-27 NAB):
Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God, he created them; male and female, he created them.
The central point of the passage relates that the Godhead, consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, made human beings (humankind) in the image and likeness of God. The question we need to ask is, “what is this image and likeness of God?”
Image refers to the representation of a thing like one’s picture, and likeness refers to resemblance or similarity. Putting these together, we understand that God created human beings to resemble or reflect God. The image and likeness of God that human beings reflect is the Trinity, which also means unity in diversity.
Individually, we reflect God by having three components: spirit, soul, and body. We could remember that God fashioned man from the dust of the earth (body), breathed on him (spirit), and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). In his concluding words to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:23), St. Paul asked God to preserve their spirit, soul, and body at the coming of the Lord.
Collectively as human beings, God created us to reflect the diversity of the Trinity while maintaining the unity of our shared humanity. Essentially God created one race: namely, humans consisting of males and females of all colors big and small; rich and poor. All the multiplicity of races we have in the world today are distortions that are not part of God’s plan.
Timeless Lessons from the Holy Trinity to Humanity
In the Godhead, there are three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Here, we see a community of persons who share one Essence. We have so much to learn from the diversified unity that exists in the Holy Trinity.
Collaboration, not Competition: Despite their distinct personalities, the three persons of the Holy Trinity are eternally collaborating. We could also recall their respective roles during the Baptism of the Lord. We can do better and achieve more when we work together than when we indulge in useless competition. From the Trinity, we learn to help and not to hinder.
Unity in diversity: They are three distinct persons, yet they are One in Essence. We are different individuals from various backgrounds, ideas, and dispositions. However, we are united in one Christian community. Our diversity should be at the service of a functional unity because, as St. Paul would say in Christ, our diversities give way to unity (Gal.3:28).
Equality: In the Godhead, there is absolute equality, given the fact that they share one Essence. Within our human experience, we all share in one humanity. However, some people keep creating unjustifiable barriers of inequality on the foreground of discrimination about gender, color, class, and others. God created us with diversity as a gift, and we should appreciate it. Nobody chose to be white or black; you don’t choose your parents, nor did you choose your color. Discrimination is not only a sin against our common humanity; it is also like blaming God for creating someone different from oneself.
Moving Forward: We can Breathe and Be Together
At the time of the writing of this prose, the United States of America is heated up by protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Police officer, Derek Chauvin. The deceased was restrained on the ground by the officer who knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes as he cried out, “I can’t breathe.” The unsympathetic officer and his colleagues watch as the young man passed.
The death of George Floyd and similar acts of killing are sins against our common humanity that should reflect the Holy Trinity. Nobody has the right to take a human life in or outside the womb. Life is a precious gift from God and should not be violated.
My dear friends, we can breathe and be together like the Holy Trinity by pulling down the unjustifiable walls and barriers we build around us to the exclusion of others. The Covid-19 pandemic should have taught us a life-time lesson that we are connected and interdependent. Can’t we see that what touches one of us affects all us!
Today, I plead that we breathe and be together like the Holy Trinity. Let us remember that our kneels are useful for prayer, not for killing.
Have a beautiful celebration of the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and may God bless you!
REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Some time ago, I came across a riddle where a man was asked if he would save his mom or his wife if both were to be in danger of drowning in a river at the same time, and he could only save one person. It was tough for the man to answer because both persons appear to have equal importance to him.
In life, we often relate to people according to the level of importance we attach to them. As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, we need to reflect on the person and the importance of the Holy Spirit. Put more directly, “is the Holy Spirit important in our lives are His roles, indispensable?” The following questions are key for us: who is the Holy Spirit, what are the functions of the Holy Spirit, and how does the work of the Holy Spirit affect our lives?
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is not a “thing” that is why we are talking about “who” in this segment. There are some misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit as a “thing” to the extent that some people use the pronoun “it” to describe the Holy Spirit due to some manifestation of His presence in the form of fire, dove, wind, force, etc.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, in fact, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity who shares One Essence with the Father and the Son; that means the Holy Spirit is God (2 Cor. 5:5). As God, the Holy Spirit is Omnipotent (Micha 3:8), He is Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7), and Omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10) and Eternal (Hebrew 9:14).
As a person, the Holy Spirit could teach (John 14:26), He advocates (John 16:7), He convicts (John 16:8), and He helps (Romans 8:26), among other things.
What are the Functions of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Holy Trinity, has been active from the moment God disclosed Himself. The following are the specialized functions of the Holy Spirit
The Creator Spirit
The Book of Genesis (1:2) tells us that before God started the work of creation, the Spirit was hovering over the face of the deep. Psalm (104:30) says, “You send forth your Spirit, and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
The Holy Spirit brings life as the breath of God. After molding man from the dust of the earth, God breathed on Him the breath of life, and he became a living being (Gen. 2:7). The Book of Job (33:4) says that the Spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty brought me to life.
Here, we understand that the Holy Spirit is responsible for the creation of life, not just human life but life in general. Remember, He was actively hovering before creation started.
The Permanent Abiding Presence
In the Gospel of John (14:16), our Lord Jesus Christ promised his disciples that he would ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to be with them forever. This is one of the great benefits of the coming of Lord Jesus Christ. Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, He was not abiding permanently in the lives of people.
Now we can understand why our Lord Jesus Christ asked his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem until they receive the promise of the Father; the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). Without the Holy Spirit, the Christian life would be impossible and impracticable
The Giver of Gifts
One of the core characteristics of God the Holy Spirit is His giving attitude, just like God the Father (John 3:16) and the Son (Matt. 20:28). The prophet Isaiah (11:2), and St. Paul (1 Cor. 12:1-11; Galatians 5:22) tell us about the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. St. James (1:17) tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God above.
Signs of the Presence of the Holy Spirit in our Lives
The account of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost day in the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-11) shows some manifestations like the wind, the tongues of fire, and the speaking in tongues. One could ask, “are these the only signs that indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit?”
Other enduring signs indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit apart from the physical presence of fire and wind or speaking in tongues. We need to recall that the Holy Spirit is coming to be with us forever, and there are dependable indicators of His presence:
Joy and Thankfulness
Joy is different from happiness. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22) that is not dependent on external or changeable factors. In Luke (10:21), our Lord Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and gave thanks to God the Father for revealing to mere children what is hidden from the rich and the learned. The in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit moves us to be thankful to God.
Submission to God and Witnessing
One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to lead us. It follows then that anyone who is moved by the Holy Spirit submits to God. Submission to God brings about witnessing. Our Lord Jesus made this clear in his fare message to Apostles that when the Holy Spirit has come upon them, they will become his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In Romans (8:16), St. Paul tells us that the Spirit Himself and our Spirit bear witness that we are the children of God.
Life of Prayer
Prayer is the only way we can communicate to God, and since God is Spirit, our prayers must move through the wavelength of the Spirit. The Gospel of John (4:24) tells us that the true worshippers of God are those who worship Him in Spirit and truth, and that is the kind of worship that pleases him. Furthermore, St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray when we are helpless. He gives us the right utterances and dispositions for prayer.
Moving Forward to Receiving the Power from on High
Every feast of Pentecost offers us a new opportunity to receive fresh unction from on high. The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is, therefore, not a one-time event. Our lives should be an on-going Pentecost experience since the Holy Spirit remains at work in the world, bringing renewal and transformation.
We need a New Pentecost in the world today, especially now that people are becoming hopeless and nearly helpless. We need a dependable guide to lead us out of darkness, and we need the excellent teacher to reveal the entire truth to us. We need the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit the embolden us in the face of the fears and uncertainties of our time. Let us come with intense desire, faith, humility, and sinless to make this rejuvenating encounter.
May the anointing power of the Holy Spirit bring deep-seated regeneration and rejuvenation to our lives.
God bless you.