Fr Bonnie's Reflections

DISCOVER YOUR PURPOSE REFLECTION FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Your Purpose Is At Risk Of Being Pointless

Once upon a time, a rich man takes his only son to a wise monk to ask about the child’s purpose in life. Unlike other kids, the man had noticed that his son is always recollected and loves to stay calm by himself. In fact, his entire lifestyle runs contrary to the plans the man has for him when he grows. While waiting in line to see the monk, the boy wanders away.

When it was their turn to meet with the wise monk, the man could not see his son. Searching around with the monk’s help, they finally found him in the temple area by himself praying.

Turning to the man, the monk asked, “why did you bring him?” “I want to know his life purpose because I have plans for him to succeed me in my business as a great merchant”! The man answered. The monk smiled and said, “well, you can see he has a different purpose. I see a great wise monk, not a great merchant”. To cut the story short, the young boy grew to become one of the greatest monks in Tibet’s history.

There is a quick lesson for parents who choose professions for their kids while paying little or no attention to what God has designed for them. You could choose a diaper for your child as a baby, but you cannot choose the purpose of his or her life.

In the First Book of Samuel (3:3b-10,19), we read about the call of the young Samuel to God’s service, which turns out to be the purpose of his life. We could recall that his mother, Hannah, prayed tearfully to God to bless her with a son. She also promised that she would bring the boy to the Lord.

That sounded like a deal, right? When God blessed her with a son, Samuel, she also fulfilled her part of the agreement by bringing the boy to Shiloh to assist Eli, the priest. However, God had a higher purpose for Samuel to be a judge, priest, and prophet, as the events that followed showed.

Do I have a Purpose in Life? How do I Discover it?

Futurologists, psychics, palm readers, visionaries, and others are making a living out of many people seeking to know their purpose in life. Unfortunately, purpose is not something you pick from anywhere or from anyone; it is something you discover within you. Let us put it in another way; God created you with a purpose. But the question remains, “how do you discover your purpose?”

Discover yourself

Who are you? Often, we answer this question by mentioning our names and titles. That may be conventionally right, but there is something about you beyond your name and title. A woman went for a job interview, and she was asked, “who are you?”; answering, she gives this shocking reply, “I am a child of God, who is fearfully and wonderfully made, but my name is …” The more surprising part is that she got the job.

We cannot fully define ourselves outside of God. Remember God’s words to Jeremiah, “Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you” (Jer. 1:5).  Often, some of us erroneously think that we are nowhere in the plan of God. No! God has a purposeful plan for you; there is a future for you and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Listen, you are not an accident; you are here for something, you are unique, you are special, and you are valuable.

Discover your Passion: What is the direction of your passion? I do not mean the wrong things that engage you. Your passion often points to your purpose. They include those valuable things you love to do with enthusiasm and joy. Remember, in our opening story, the young boy was passionate about prayer and solitude, and from those, the monk could identify his purpose.

Discover your Valuable Network: Porter Gale says that “your network is your net worth.” This statement is true about life, generally. Network here refers to the people you interact with and who influence your life in various ways. The Book of Proverbs (27:17) says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Some people do not discover their purpose in life because of the type of people in their network. Imagine what could have become of Samuel if he did not have Eli in his network, who taught him how to respond to God’s call.

Discover the Power of Prayer: Prayer is our sure connection to God. When you do not have clarity about your purpose, talk to God, not to some mediums that would lead you away to some superstitions about your life’s purpose. Psalm (57:2) says, “I cry to God the Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me .” The Book of Job (42:2) says that God can do all things, and no purpose of God can be thwarted.

Moving Forward!

Your purpose in life is not just about a profession that would help you make a living. It is more of doing God’s will, which is a significant way of realizing our purpose in life. Yes, God created us to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and stick with will all the days of our lives.

For the above reasons, St. Paul encourages us in the First Letter to the Corinthians (6:13c-15a, 17-20) to live morally good lives because we are temples of the Holy Spirit and owned by God. There would be a need for us to adopt Samuel’s style by constantly paying attention to what God has to say to us. We should be able to declare daily, “speak Lord for your servant is listening.” And like the two disciples of John in the Gospel of John (1:35-42), we should be intentional to follow our Lord Jesus and stay with him when we finally find him.

God bless you, and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE POWER OF THE CLEANSING WATER: REFLECTION FOR THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Person Cleaning Hands under Water

Life without water is unimaginable. Every living thing depends on water to survive. Science tells us that the average adult human body is about 60% of water. Notice also that we can stay a long time without food but not without water because dehydration could complicate the functioning of the brain due to a severe drop in blood pressure, which could lead to death.

The Japanese pseudo-scientist and author, Dr. Masaru Emoto, demonstrated that human consciousness and words could change the molecular structure of water through a verified experiment. The details are in his New York Times Best Seller book, “The Hidden Messages in Water.” Sadhguru, the Indian Yogi and author, claims that water has memory and could remember whatever you say or do to it.  

Beyond all the scientific information, there is something about water and God that we need to understand and appreciate. If we go back to the Book of Genesis (1:1-2), we discover that water was already in place when God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the water. When God wanted to destroy the world (Genesis 7), he used water and saved Noah’s family with the ark floating on the same water.

Moses, who became the human hand God used to liberate Israel from Egypt’s bondage through the red sea, was rescued from water (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses also struck the rock to release water for the people to quench their thirst, though God asked him to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:1-11).

The Gospels tell us that the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ started around the waterside area of Galilee. The first disciples were fishermen who were making their living from the water region. The first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). Do not forget that Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm on the sea (Matthew 14:22-32)

All these Old and New Testament instances support the fact that water occupies a central place in God’s relationship with humanity. One could ask why water and an answer could be why not since we may not have a more satisfying one.

The Water of Baptism

The Gospel of Mark (1:7-11) introduces the ministry of our Lord Jesus with his baptism by John in the Jordan River. John’s baptism was that of repentance, and one could legitimately wonder why Jesus (the sinless one) had to join the long line of sinners waiting to be washed clean of sin through John’s baptism.

Four reasons come to mind as to why our Lord Jesus Christ decided to receive the baptism of John:

A Proof of the Necessity of Baptism

Baptism initiates us to the Christian life. Of course, the Christian life is not possible without baptism. The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ shows that we need that cleansing from sin. St. Peter (1 Peter 3:21) says that baptism saves us not only by the washing away of dirt from the flesh but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Sanctification of the Water of Baptism

As soon as our Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless one, entered the Jordan River, he sanctified the water of baptism. We could attest to the sanctification when our Lord Jesus Christ stepped out of the water, and the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the voice of the Father said, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” God the Father and the Holy Spirit come together to confirm and sanctity the water of baptism at the instance of Jesus, God the Son.

The Baptism of John the Baptizer

In the account of the baptism of the Lord, according to Matthew (3:13-17), John said that he should be receiving baptism from Jesus, not the other way round. But Jesus asked him to go on to fulfill all righteousness. John’s request was fulfilled because he desired to be baptized by Jesus. So being in the same water of baptism and making the request completed his baptism.

The Inauguration of the Lord’s Ministry

Notice that immediately after the baptism of Jesus Christ, the same Spirit present at Jordan river led him to the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights in preparation for his public ministry. Here we see the inaugural position of baptism in the Christian life and ministry.

Moving Forward!

One important event in the context of the Lord’s baptism was the opening of the heavens when our Lord Jesus Christ emerged from the water. The message here is that baptism opens the gates of heaven for us, but we should intentionally walk into it by how we conduct our lives.

But how do we conduct our lives? We do so by living the baptismal life. We see the baptismal life in the baptismal promises, including rejecting sin and Satan with all his works and empty promises. On the other hand, is the promise to believe steadfastly in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The celebration of the Lord’s baptism should recall the significance of the cleansing power of the water of baptism. He should, therefore, conduct our lives like those who have been renewed. St. Paul tells us that those in Christ are a new creation; old things have passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). This instruction is also very pertinent as we surf through the New Year with the invitation to a new life.

God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

HOW TO SEARCH AND FIND GOD REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF EPIPHANY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

A Bible for the Magi | Biblica - The International Bible Society

Bill is one of those adventurous little kids in the Sunday School class. One Sunday, the teacher tried to let the kids understand that God is everywhere, so she mentioned that God could be found everywhere in their homes, even under their beds. Getting home that day, Bill decided to search for God under his bed. It was a bit dark, so he got his dad’s flashlight, and going under the bed, he started the ultimate search for God.

The search was so desperate that it got his parents’ attention, who saw how he moved things around in the room. His father asked, “Bill, what are you searching for? Did you lose anything?” Bill pulled out from under the bed and said, “my Sunday School teacher got to be kidding. She said that I could find God under my bed, but God is not there.

Thanks to Bill for the courage to search for God under his bed; though he could not find God physically, God was still with him during the search. Life is filled with narratives of searching. If you pay attention to your activities during the day, you will discover that you spend most time searching. It could be your keys, watch, phone, clothing, and footwear. People search the internet for information, news, entertainment, and other things. When we go out shopping, what we do is to search for items to buy.

How to Search and Find God

The story of the journey of the wise men (magi) from the East is central to the Christmas narrative because it links us to events after the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ by the angels to the shepherds.

The wise men could have shown up the same night Jesus was born. They saw a magnificent star and could understand that it signifies a King’s birth, and leaving their location and their trade, they came looking for the birthplace of this unusual King with one intentions, to worship him.

Coming to the land of Judea, they had the feeling that at least the King would know about the birth of this great King, but they were mistaken. Herod did not know and was not happy that a King was born. He felt insecure and asked the wise men to seek out where the child is and get words to him to that he could go and pay homage. We know he was lying.

When the wise men left, the star they saw earlier reappeared and led them to the place where the child was born, and seeing the child, they prostrated themselves and did him homage. They also gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, when they were leaving, they followed a different route, as they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

Lessons on how to Search and find God

There are many lessons we could learn from the narrative of the visit of the wise men. However, we shall devote our attention to the theme of searching for God. How can we search and find God in our day and age, especially in our world’s slippery foregrounds filled with so many distractions?

The Desire to Search for God

The word desire is stronger than it sounds. It means an intense craving or longing for something or someone. Another way to render desire is hunger for something or someone. When one desires something, the individual could go any length to have it. There are, however, positive and negatives desires.

The intense hunger to see the King made the wise men abandon everything, their family, and friends to search for the Lord. Our Lord Jesus Christ said in one of his instructions, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). Isaiah says, “my soul longs for you, my spirit diligently seeks you” (Isaiah 26:9).

Faith and Commitment in the Search

The wise men were faith-full and committed in their search for God. To see a star and follow it can only be an act of faith, and set out to search for the King, not minding the distance, was an uncommon act of commitment. Jeremiah (29:13) says, you will search for me, and you will find me if you search me with all your heart.

St. Paul says, “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Notice that the wise men did not give up when the star disappeared; they stayed in the game of searching for the ultimate. Often, in the journey of life, we go through a situation that forces us to walk away when there seems to be no reason to keep trying. Notice that the star reappeared and led them to the place. Faith does relent; it endures to the end.

The Search to Worship

Many people have various reasons for coming to see God. The majority of us come to God because we have problems, and we seek solutions. The wise men were not searching for the new-born King because of the challenges in their businesses or families. According to them, “we have come to do him homage, in order words, they came to worship him.” And when they finally saw the child prostrated themselves before him in adoration.

Sincerely, why do you search or come to God? Worship is particularly important to God. One of God’s grave instructions to the people of Israel was to worship only the Lord God and serve Him alone (Deuteronomy 6:13). In the Book of Exodus (23:25), God asked the people to worship the Lord God, and He will bless their bread and water.

Notice also that the wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Lord. In worship, we offer ourselves completely to God. God is not interested in our material gifts but in offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, pure, pleasing, and acceptable to Him (Romans 12:1).

Moving Forward!

Wise men and women are constantly searching for God with a strong desire to find Him with deep faith, commitment, and adoration. Let us resolve to power our search for God not for miracles but to have a personal touch and relationship with Him.

More practically, we can search for the Lord and find him in the word of God. The Book of Psalms (119:105) says your Word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my feet. We can search for the Lord and find him in the sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist. John (6:56) says, “whoever eats my body and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” We can search and find the Lord in the people around us. “Whatever you do to the least of my brother and sisters, you do unto me” (Matt. 25:40).

As you search for the Lord, may you find Him, and may you be blessed.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE MAKING OF A NEW YOU: A New Year Reflection Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

New - Overview, News & Competitors | ZoomInfo.com

What makes the Year New? Look around; the things around you have not changed from what they were in the previous year. Think about it; we live in the same houses, driving the same cars, having the same family and friends; we could still have the same job and other things. So, nothing changed around us. Could the newness of the year be reduced to merely the change of our date and time? No!

The ideal New Year should be a profound personal transition, not just the change of time and date because those two are constantly changing. Most people enlist various things they would like to achieve at every beginning of the year, but they often end up just having a list of unaccomplished tasks.

The blessings of the New Year would not come from what you say you would do. They would not come from what you write in your notes. They would emerge from what you do. The characters you display, your attitudes, and habits would become the fruits of the new you. The New Year is just the new you; yes! The latest version of you.

Generating the “New You” in the “New Year!”

I have heard and seen people make declarations and resolutions at the beginning of each year, but they end up worse than they were in the previous years; why? The reason is not far-fetched. We do not start from within us. We are often preoccupied with what we want to achieve out there, especially to win people’s admiration, while neglecting our needed inner housekeeping. Let us look at some highpoints that go into the making of  the “New You” in the New Year.

Keep the Useful Things

Not everything about the past year was bad. The experience of the covid-19 pandemic made most people resent the year 2020 completely. Some people feel that there was nothing good in the past year, while some prefer to say that the only good thing about the year 2020 was that it ended. That’s is false and irrational.

There are many good things an active mind would have learned from the past year. We had profound lessons from the virus. Did we not rediscover the power of home during the lockdown and the truth of the statement that there is no place like home? Did we not discover that the world needs God more than anything? What about our resilience and our revamped survival disposition? We emerged from 2020 stronger than ever. With that strength, we shall face the challenges of the coming years, and we shall win!

So, keep all the useful things you had in the previous year. Remember that it was not completely bad; at least you have your life as many people could not make it even a few hours to the new year.

Discard the Useless Old Things

If you are sincere, at least to yourself, you would agree that there are useless things that need to go in your life. They may be attitudes, habits, and even friends that keep you stagnated in a comfort zone. By the way, listen, “your comfort zone may not be your conquer zone.” 

Take some time to examine yourself very well. Self-understanding is an important key to better living. How much of yourself do you know? If you can tell yourself the truth about yourself, you will understand that certain things you do are simply ruining your life while you have the illusion that you are happy. In life, do not force anything or anybody for favors; do your best and leave the rest to God!

Keep the old and unproductive things away from your life. In Isaiah’s prophecy (43:18), God advised us to forget past things and not consider them anymore. Do not bring your bad attitudes and habit into the “New You” in the New Year. In Matthew’s Gospel (9:17), Jesus advised against putting new wine into old wineskin as the skin would burst and the wine lost!

Discard those past hurts, forgive the past, let go, live, laugh, and love.

Start New Things

To start something new, one needs to disconnect from one’s present attachment to another reality. Let us take a clue from the story of Abraham. When God wanted to begin a new project with him, God asked him to disconnect from his father’s house and his homeland and head towards another land (Genesis 12:1-2). Abraham’s blessing could only come when he disconnects from his homeland. Joseph had to disconnect from his family to receive his blessings in Egypt, which benefited his family.

To start something new, you need to be purposeful and committed. There may not be a rising if you do not detach from something below. Please think of the airplane that flies; it must separate from the ground following aerodynamics’ principles, particularly the lift, weight, drag, and thrust elements. You can also be on a supersonic speed to make for a “New You” if you decide to disconnect from so many unnecessary things and people in your life.

To start something new, you need to change your mindset. A changed life is nothing short of a changed mindset. Okay, let us put it in another way, your life can only change when you change your mindset; “your mindset sets the miles of your life.” Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result; that is a sick mindset right there.

To start something new, you need to work on some of the major defaults of human nature. 

Laziness: It starts from the mind. Laziness happens when you give yourself excuses for not doing what you are supposed to do. 

Procrastination: This is one of the consequences of laziness. You leave what you need to do now to a later time, and you may never do them.

Distraction: This is a growing problem in the world today. Many people are mentally sick because of social and conventional media distractions through their phones and television. The mobile phone is has become the god of distraction.

Comparison: In this journey called life, do not measure your success with what is going on in other people’s lives. Hold on to what makes you different. The Psalmist says: “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Wait for your due season; it would come if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Moving Forward! 

Life is never on the reverse. Do not expect things to go back to the way they used to be. Rise and embrace the new beginning. Please, take these final words seriously: “From now on, I will always prepare, I will pray constantly, and I will persist.”

God bless you and have an amazing New Year with a “New you.”

Fr. Bonnie.

HOW TO BE A FAMILYReflection for Holy Family FeastRev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Once upon a time, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards decided to adopt a girl to be a company to their only daughter Marissa since they could not have another child. Though their daughter initially accepted the idea, when the girl, who is about their daughter’s age, showed up, something unexpected happened.


Marissa was no longer excited when she discovered that her soon-to-be sister had a different skin color from hers, and she was looking a little bit untidy. She despised her and was very unwilling to welcome her to stay in her room.


The efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards to make Marissa accept Jane as a sister met severe opposition. One day, Marissa was so mad at Jane for using her musical instruments, and when the parents instructed that she should be kind to her sister, she yelled back, saying, “Jane is not my sister and would never be one!” Hearing that, Jane ran to a corner to cry.


Marissa was still yelling when her parents looked at each other and started crying at the same. She was confused to see them holding each other and crying. Her mom mustered the courage to say, “Marissa, we wanted to tell you this all the time.” “What?” Marissa said impatiently, “your dad and I had a hard time having a child,” Mrs. Edward started. “We visited so many doctors and specialists without success. They all concluded that we could not have a child. We desperately wanted to have a child of our own, and so we adopted you from an orphanage when you were just three weeks, and we loved you like nothing till date”.


Marissa was speechless. She could not believe that he was adopted, recalling how Mr. and Mrs. Edwards have loved and treated her like their biological child. Marissa burst into tears and ran to look for Jane. Seeing Jane, she hugged her, saying, “I am so sorry for discriminating against you. Now I know that we do not have to be related to be family. I love you, my sister. For your information, I was also adopted, I just realized that today”.


We could learn from the story that we do not need to be biologically related to be a family. Family in God’s design and plan is beyond human blood. There is a higher dimension of connection that brings people together to a unified bond. Family is not just a collective noun; it is a progressive action among individuals having a common purpose.


The Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the Prototype Family
Family is a divine gift that reflects God’s very nature, a family of three divine persons. God was thinking about family when He saw that it was not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). God was thinking about family when He said, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).


When God decided to redeem humanity from the sin of the first human family, He came through the family of Joseph and Mary. Mary was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and not through the biological contribution of Joseph, yet Joseph, who comes from the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David, becomes the Father of Jesus. Like in the opening story, we do not need to be related by blood to become family. The Holy Family teaches us that family goes beyond blood relationship.


Friendship: The best family is where people share friendship. Friendship is foundational for the sustenance of any relationship, including marriages. People who marry their friends fare better than those who just married a man or woman.


F.A.M.I.L.Y makes a Family
The family stands here as an acronym with great relevance and meaning that would potentially enrich our minds and transform our relationships.


God values friendship, and that was why he could call Abraham his friend (Isaiah 41:8). In John’s Gospel (15:15), Jesus called the disciples friends because he told them everything he heard from the Father. Here, we understand that friendship entails knowing and understanding each other very well. You can be friendly, but not friends with a stranger.


Acceptance: Family is where people should be accepted and not shamefully judged. All fingers are not equal, and we see this very clearly in the family. W should not reject people because of their weaknesses, but they should be encouraged just like we do when a child learns how to walk with all the rising and falling.


Thinks about how God still opens His hand of acceptance despite our failures and mistakes, as we can see in the divine invitation of Isaiah (1:18). Family cannot function well when there is no acceptance. George Orwell says that happiness can exist only in acceptance.


Mercy: Family is not always sweet; there are times when we feel hurt, offended, and trashed. How do you react to these? Fight back or begin a war? The worst part of family wars is that they often never end until mercy takes a seat.


Mercy is a step ahead of forgiveness. It means being able to let go of the past and give help for the future. We all are living on account of God’s mercy, and our Lord Jesus Christ encouraged us to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).


Interaction: The primary meaning of interaction is the exchange of action. In the family context, we think of gainful and positive communication that helps build and not destroy. Positive interaction would include helpful directions, encouragement, and constructive instructions, while negative interaction includes gossiping, blaming, shaming, and rash judgment. Positive interaction builds a family.


Love: Love is the heart of the family. Where true love exists, it is sacrificial, not transactional (John 15:13). One of the sins against love is loving because of what you would gain by loving or to love when it is convenient. Family cannot be effective without true love. Remember that love is not what you say; it is what you do.


Yield: To yield is to give another person a chance or an opportunity to do something or to have one’s way. St. Paul advised in the Letter to the Roman (12:10) that we yield to one another. Sometimes you need to yield to let peace reign. When you are wrong, apologize, but when you are right, keep quiet.


Moving Forward: Make Family Work
Family is what we make it to be. Everything about family depends on the contribution of every member of the family. St. Paul took the time to explore everyone’s functions in the family in the Letter to the Colossians (3:12-21). When everyone is at their best in wherever we find ourselves, we could build a family that reflects God’s purpose for family.


Your family could rise again. Do not allow the challenges surrounding your family the snatch away the blessings of God. Family is a good thing, so we should be careful about the devil’s destructive antics (2 Cor 2:11). The easiest way the devil could destroy the world is to destroy every family. Do not allow the destruction to start from yours. Save the family; save the world. God bless you.
Fr. Bonnie.

THE TWO PILLARS OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY:A Christmas Reflection Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Nativity Scene Fine Art Jigsaw Puzzles

The greatest story ever told is not the Midsummer Night’s Dream comedy of William Shakespeare; it is not the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet nor the tragicomedy of the Merchant of Venice. The greatest story ever told, which has no comparison and would never have any, is the story of the incarnation; God coming down to us, taking our human flesh, and dwelling with us (John 1:14).

Many Christians today do not have the proper insight and understanding of the Christmas story, so we have unfortunately allowed many unconnected accessories to come into the holy celebration.

Christmas is now a highly commercialized “commodity” as people give greater attention to the triangular-shaped trees and exotic bright lights than to the celebrant, Jesus Christ. Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist nation (70% of the population), has the tallest artificial Christmas tree globally, which is about 72.1 meters tall (236 feet 6.58 in). If you ask if the Christmas tree has a dependable representation and homage to Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, the answer would be in the negative.

What should we celebrate at Christmas?

There should always be a reason for any celebration we undertake. The funny thing is that most people celebrate for the wrong reasons. For instance, how many people celebrate their birthdays by thankfully reflecting on the purpose of their lives on earth?

At Christmas, we do not just celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but more profoundly, we celebrate God’s unfathomable love and humility. Let us take a more decisive look at the two essential pillars in the context of the celebration of Christmas.

Christmas celebrates God’s love:

God’s love for us is immeasurably profound. Jeremiah (31:3) tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love. And in the Gospel of John (3:16), we read that familiar but resonant statement that God loved the world so much that he gave us His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him would not die but have eternal life.

There would be a need for us to take a little time to reflect on God’s gift of love to us. Imagine that you decide to give out the best thing you have to someone; I mean something irreplaceable; what would you give? On the platform of love, God gave us Himself, in the person of the Son, so that we can live because we were dead to sin (Ephesians 2:5).

At Christmas, we celebrate the love of God made flesh. God’s love is no longer a mere scriptural text or message. It is now a fact of lived experience. Love is born for us, and this birth marks the beginning of a new era for humanity.

The love of God brought light into the world. The first light at creation (Gen. 1:3) departed when Adam and Eve sinned. Now, we have the light back. The prophet Isaiah said, “Those who are walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a great light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).” Light brings life, warmth, sight, and hope. Now we understand what it means when we talk about Christmas light; Christ, the light of the world, is the true light of Christmas.

Christmas Celebrates God’s humility

It often makes me emotional to talk about God’s humility, which is another reference point for us at Christmas. God humbled himself to the extent that the creator could be in the womb of one of His creatures and be born from the same womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Divinity took the birth route of humanity.

At Christmas, we celebrate the humility of God when He had to depend on us for provision, though he is our eternal provider (Philippians 4:19). At Christmas, we celebrate God’s humility by making Himself vulnerable to the point that he needed human protection from murderers like Herod. However, He is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). At Christmas, we celebrate God’s humility by allowing one of us, Joseph, to lead him to safety in Egypt though He is the shepherd that leads us along the right paths and through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23: 3-4)

Responding to the Christmas Message Amid the Covid-19

I was recently talking about the love of God to a lady who lost her husband and her mom to the covid-19 virus. Turning to me in tears, the lady asked me where God’s love was hiding when the virus claimed the lives of the two most important people in her life? Of course, I did not answer her because nothing could have made sense to her at that grieving moment.

We are celebrating Christmas with face masks, though we did not imagine this at the inception of the year. Many people could be mad at God for the sudden disappearance of what we use to know as normal. Some people feel that the Christmas celebration does not worth the stress this time because we may not do things the way we used to do them. If you have these or similar thoughts, you need to know that it could have been worse. Yes! We complain just because we are still living, not that we are better than the millions who are cooling off in the cemetery.

If you are alive on this day, you should have it as an obligation to thank God. The ravaging effect of the virus does not mean that God loves us less. Even amid what is happening, we could still attest to God’s love. God says in the Book of Jeremiah (29: 11) that he has great plans for a future and a hope for us.  There is hope for us with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas; light cannot be born, and we remain in darkness; no; We shall rise and shine!

Moving forward with the Pillars of Christmas Story

There would be the need for us to respond to the two pillars of Christmas, namely, God’s love and humility. Love St. Paul says, conquers all things (1 Cor. 13:7). We respond to God’s love by giving love a chance in our lives. And we could do this by being generous with what we have just as we continually receive from God. We also respond by our intentional humility like the newborn King, who was so humble as to take our human form without counting his equality with God (Phil. 2:6-9).

May, the love of God, which surpasses all things, including the challenges around us, grant us renewed strength and energy as we set to launch into the new year. Merry Christmas and remember to love and be humble as not to stumble. Keep Christ in the Christmas! God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.    

THE KEYS TO PROMISE KEEPING HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

God's Promise Kept | D&H Publishing Co.

The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was once traveling in a stagecoach with a military officer for an official visit. While on the way, the officer pulled out a bottle of whiskey and invited the president to take a sip. But the president declined the offer. And the journey continued peacefully.

On their way back, the officer from Kentucky pulled out a pack of cigars and asked Mr. Lincoln to join him to smoke. At this point, the president looked at the kindhearted officer and smiled. Then he says, “I will join you to smoke, but I would first tell you a story”.

The officer was eager to hear the president’s story. Lincoln related to the officer how when he was about nine years old, his mom called him to her sickbed and revealed to him that her doctor said she would not recover from her illness. He further recalled how his mom asked him to promise her that he would never drink liquor nor smoke in his life, and he promised.

Turning to the officer, Abraham Lincoln asked, “would you advise me to keep the promise I made to my mom or break it for the sake of the company we are having now?” The officer who happens to be a colonel was shocked and encouraged him to keep to that precious promise he made long ago to his mom. Of course history tells us that Lincoln never drank alchohol nor smoked.

A promise is a verbal or written declaration of one’s intention to follow a certain line of action or conduct. It is often easy to make promises, tempting to believe them, but often challenging to keep them. If you scan through your life, you might recall some promises you made which you never fulfilled. They could be something you declared that you would do but never did. They could be secrets you agreed to keep, but you later revealed. It takes something more than words to make and keep a promise; we shall return to that reality.

The Book of Second Samuel (2 Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16) tells us about the promise God made to David after God rejected his offer to build a house for the Lord. Among other things, God promised to raise an heir from his loin whose kingdom shall be firm and would endure forever.

In the Gospel of Luke (1:26-38), the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to announce God’s gracious choice of her to become the mother of a son whom she would call Jesus. Furthermore, God promised through the angel that the child shall be great and would be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give him the throne of David, his father, and he will rule over the house of Israel forever. An active review of the angel’s message would easily remind us of the promise God made to David between 490 to 1,000 years earlier.

The Keys to Promise Keeping

The activities of God in the scripture have both inspirational and teaching powers. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ encouraged us to learn from him (Matt. 11:29). There are two prominent keys in every divine fulfilment of promises and we shall learn from these to power our relationship with God and others.

(1) Commitment: Abraham Lincoln is credited with the statement that says, “commitment transforms a promise into a reality”. Here we understand that the fulfilment of a  promise would not be possible unless one commits to it. But what is commitment?

Commitment is often confused with interest in something or someone. Interest is not as stable as commitment, that is why we often hear about people losing their interests. Commitment  involves devotion and  dedication. God is the author of commitment and we see a lot of instances in the scriptures. The Book of Numbers (23:19) tells us that God is not a man that he should lie,or the son of man that he should change His mind.

(2) Loyalty: Loyalty is more than a word, it is a desirable act that involves trustful allegiance and fidelity. In fact another way to describe a loyal person is to say that the individual is faithful to a course or an agreement.

A loyal person does not change even when situations change; therefore, the loyal person is consistent and constant. Loyalty is a characteristic of God. The Book of Deuteronomy (7:9) tells us that God is faithful and keeps his covenant, and Psalm (33:4) says that the Lord is upright and all his works are done in faithfulness.

Moving Forward: Responding to God’s kept Promises

The feast of the birth of Jesus Christ, just like the Easter event, is the celebration of the fulfilment of God’s promise.The Book of Joshua (21:45) tells us that not a single one of the good promises of the Lord to Israel was left unfulfilled; everything spoken came true.

The challenge we have now is how to respond to the fulfilled promises of God in our lives. We should quickly know that such a response would be of immense benefit  to us and the best way to respond would be by our active commitment and loyalty to God. Psalm (18:25) says with the loyal God shows himself loyal and with the blameless, he shows himself blameless.

Our commitment and loyalty to God should begin in the relationship we share among ourselves. How far do you go with keeping the promises? Are you just a promise maker and not a promise keeper? Can you be trusted with a secret. Are you committed and loyal to the Christian life. Can God boast about you commitment and loyalty like in the case of  Job?

As we come to the end of the Advent season and enter the Christmas season let us try to make the soon coming King super happy by our profound resolve to keep our baptismal promises of renouncing the devil and all his empty promises that could lead us to destruction. We are also invited to place our trust in the triune God who promised not to leave nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6)

God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

                                  

OWN AND KEEP YOUR JOY HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Once upon a time, a military general who did not believe in God learned about the sudden conversion of his only daughter to Christianity, and he was incredibly sad about it. Calling on her, he gave her three days to renounce her new faith. After three days, she showed up before her dad, but she did not show signs in the direction of leaving her Christian faith. The general was angry and ordered his men to put her in prison without food and water for two days.

After two days in prison, the general was surprised to see her radiating with smiles. He was confused but still asked if she was ready to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ. The lady replied and said, “I would never renounce my faith because I have never known the kind of joy I experienced in the past two days in prison without food and drink. I am ready to go back to prison to experience more of that joy with Jesus Christ”.

The general was shocked and curiously asked her to tell him about Jesus Christ and this joy that filled her for two days without food and drink; She did. The good news you need to know is that the general later converted to Christianity.

Happiness vs. Joy

There is a significant difference between happiness and joy. We need to understand this distinction before we launch deeper into the reflection. The major difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is conditional, while joy is unconditional.

Happiness could temporarily excite the body and the mind, but joy endures even in the face of tribulations. Joy is a facility of the Spirit (Gal.5:22). In response to Elizabeth’s greetings, the Blessed Virgin Mary said my soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47). In the Gospel of Luke (10:21), we read that Jesus rejoiced in the spirit and praised the Father.

Today we come to terms with the theme of joy. In the First Reading (Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11), the speaker in the narrative says, among other things, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” In the Second Reading (1Thess. 5:16-24), St. Paul tells his listeners to rejoice always with prayers and thanksgiving in all circumstances.

In the Gospel of John (John 1:6-8, 19-28), the writer uses the image of light to describe the testimony of John the Baptist about the coming of the Messiah. We learn from the passage that John is not the light, but he came to testify to the light, and that is Jesus Christ. The image of light promises joy to those who are sitting in the sad corners of darkness.

Rejoice, You Deserve it

People often talk about natural and fundamental human rights like the right to life, property, and liberty. There are rights in the spiritual plane, and one of them is the right to be joyful. You deserve joy in your life. And nothing and nobody has the right to take away your joy.

There are many joy killers in and around us. For brevity, we shall look at a few of them in this reflection. One of them could be your past. They include but are not reduced to your past mistakes and bad choices. They could have been stupid and even had multiple bad consequences. You need to know that there is nothing about the past you can change; it is gone! Often, we get fixated about the past that we lose the joy we can get from the present time. Snap out of your past and own your joy now.

Another factor that impacts our joy is our attention to what people say and how they feel about us. One truth you need to know and accept is that you cannot please everybody; do not even try. You often must displease people to please God to have your joy coming. Your excellence will bring more attacks to you, but do not be discouraged; people talk about important people, so do not be disturbed when they include you.

Another factor that disrupts our joy is our consistent worrying. Some people worry about nearly everything on earth. But worrying would never change anything; rather, it would complicate issues. The worst form of worrying happens when we imagine and worry about things that would never exist.

Moving Forward: Own and Keep Your Joy  

Nothing could have taken away your joy if you did not permit it. Own and keep your joy. Do not hand over your joy to your past. The prophet Isaiah (43:18) says, do not remember the former things or consider old things.

Let nobody, and not even your family take away the joy of the Lord in your life. Our Lord Jesus Christ says (Matt. 10:13) that a man’s enemies will be members of his household. Allow God to take handle those worrisome situations. In Matthew (6:34), our Lord Jesus Christ encourages us not to worry about tomorrow as tomorrow will worry about itself and today has enough trouble already.

Joy is not a choice; it is the consequence of our choices about things we allow or let go of our lives. Own and keep your joy and remember, as the Nehemiah (8:10) advised the people, the joy of the Lord is your strength. It is about time you need to rebuild your walls of joy in your life; you deserve it. God bless you and have a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

HOW TO PRE-PARE NOT TO PRE-FAIL REFLECTION FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Once upon a time, a king observed that his kingdom was becoming very filthy. He sent his messengers to instruct the people to keep their homes and surroundings clean every day, but the response was inadequate. Hence, the king thought about doing something different about the kingdom’s uncleanliness.

The next day, he sent a message throughout the kingdom, demanding a private audience with each family chief from all the families in the kingdom. The king made each of the heads vow not to reveal the meeting’s content to anyone, even their immediate family members.

Few days after the meeting, the entire kingdom suddenly transforms into a perfect haven. One could see every household cleaning, repairing, and even decorating their houses. The same thing happened to the roads leading to various homes. The kingdom was never that clean. Still, nobody knew what the king said to each of the family chiefs.

One day the king’s only daughter summoned the courage to ask the king to share with her what he said to each of the family chiefs that suddenly transformed the kingdom. The king opened up and said, “I had to tell each of them to clean up their surroundings as I would be coming to eat and stay a night with them, and I will come with a special gift. I also said to each not mind if others are doing the same thing that I will surely come to them”.

The king’s daughter marveled at her father’s wisdom by making every household comply with the directive of cleanliness, thinking that they were preparing for the king’s coming to their homes. But the king’s daughter asked, “what about the gift you promised? Who would get it?” Replying, the king said, “I did not name any gift, but all of them already have it.” “What is it?” the king’s daughter asked, and the king said, “cleanliness, that is what they have been lacking, and they now have it by their conscientious preparation for my coming.

Preparation is the greatest gift anyone can give to oneself. Life is all about preparation, and by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. The word prepare comes from two Latin words, “prae” (before) and “parare” (make-ready). We understand from this Latin root that to prepare means “to make ready before.”

One can find the best examples of preparation in God. Notice that before God created animals, He prepared where they would live. Before making the first human being, God planted a beautiful garden and even gave it a name; Eden (Genesis 2:8), which means delight. God will never do anything without preparing the foreground; in fact, we can say that preparation is a significant characteristic of God.

The Readings of the Second Sunday of Advent have one standard message: the desirability of preparation in the context of our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11) anticipates the comforting coming of the messiah while challenging the people to prepare by filling the lacks, and removing the obstacles, and being upright in their lives. In the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:1-8), the prophet John the Baptist, quoting the prophet Isaiah’s oracle, invites the people to prepare by renouncing their sins and accepting repentance. St. Peter adds in the Second Reading (2 Peter 3:8-14) that we should prepare by conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion.

Understanding the three types of preparation

Physical preparation

We are very conversant with physical preparation because it involves our physical senses. We are often serious with physical preparation for the wrong reasons, like trying to impress, win favors, or get validated by people. While physical preparation is essential, it should not be our ultimate preparation; for instance, the preparation for the births of Jesus Christ should not be all about Christmas trees, lights, jingle bell, and other external decorations. Physical availability also involves making ourselves available at the right time.   

Mental preparation

The human mind lies at the border between the spirit and the body. The Book of Provers (23:7) says that as a man thinks so is, he. St. Paul writing to the Romans (12:2), says, “do not conform yourself to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind to discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Physical preparation without mental preparation would look like driving without direction—mental preparation functions in giving vitality to our willpower, a sense of purpose, and readiness to function. Mental preparation helps us to form a dependable mindset and remember that your mindset determines the miles you go in life.

Spiritual preparation

The whole essence of preparation is to make us get ready for the coming of the Lord. Physical and mental preparations can only take us so far. Spiritual preparation is the ultimate form of preparation; for this reason, St. Paul says: “live in the spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16)  

The Prophecy of Isaiah (40: 1-5,9-11) gives us three dependable ways to undertake spiritual preparation:

(1) Filling the valleys. A valley is a low land between two high lands. Spiritually it shows that something is lacking. Spiritual preparation here entails bringing back the values that we have lost in our lives. These include but are not restricted to our lack of faith, hope, trust, patience, and ultimately our lack of love for God and others.

(II) Levelling the mountains and hills. Mountains and hills are elevated landscapes. In this context, they appear to be obstacles. Leveling the mountains and hills entails removing the obstacles on our spiritual terrains. They include but are not reduced to an excessive attachment to material things or worldliness and defective mindsets.

(III) Smoothening the rugged plain. Something is rugged when it ceases to be straight. The two essential things you need to make straight are your relationship with God and others and your prayer life.

Moving Forward!

The message today is clear; we either prepare or we pre-fail. What remains to be said is the primary key we need to unlock these three areas of preparation. That key is discipline. Discipline is the aptitude and consistency in complying with specific rules and expectations. Without discipline, preparation would be incomplete or even impossible. Furthermore, without discipline, we would continuously go back to our former ways and habits.

Now we know better. Our needful physical, mental, and spiritual preparations could be attained when we fit into the mold of discipline and the time to start is now because the Lord is coming near,   and every heart needs to prepare him a room. God bless you. Have a blessed weekend and a more glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie

HOW TO WAIT AND WATCH REFLECTION FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

The story of the Chinese bamboo trees would be immensely helpful for our reflection. Once upon a time, a farmer heard about Chinese bamboos and how they could make anyone rich. So, selling some of his properties, he went in search of the seeds. He found a seller in a distant town. After the transaction, the seller leaves the farmer these words before: “always water, wait, and watch!”

The farmer was delighted to tell his family and friends about the bamboo seeds when he returned. He shared how he would soon become rich when the seeds germinate and grow into tall bamboo trees. Everyone was happy for him and looked out for the magic.

Every day, the farmer goes to the farm watering the seeds. He did that for an entire year, but there was no sign of sprouting. He thought about it, but he remembered the seller’s words, “always water, wait, and watch!”

For the second and third year, there were no signs. The farmer’s family and friend became disappointed in him as he would still go out every day to water the seeds even when he could not see any sign. The fourth year was the same. But in the fifth year, something happened! He noticed some sprouting around the field.

In the following weeks, the stems were coming up in geometric proportions, and in just six weeks, there were bamboo trees everywhere towering up to ninety feet in height. It was then that the farmer realized that for all the five years he was watering the seeds, the roots were developing underground, and when they were strong enough, the bamboos sprouted and bloomed. The seller’s instruction worked: “always water, wait, and watch.”

Today, we enter the Advent period and a new trimester in the Church’s liturgical calendar. The Advent is a period of waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of the Lord we await is symbolic because he would be born in our hearts (the new Bethlehem). Furthermore, we also await his Second coming, which would be at an unnamed time and season.

We are in the season of watering, waiting, and watching and the readings today give us those indications. The Book of Isaiah (63:16b-17,19b; 64:2-7) describes the people’s intense longing for the intervention of God, who is referred to as Lord, Father, and Redeemer. St. Paul in First Corinthians (1:3-9) tells his listeners to wait for our Lord Jesus Christ’s revelation. Finally, the Gospel (Mark 13:33-37) takes up the theme of watchfulness or alertness.

The Principles of Watering, Waiting and Watching for the Lord

Watering involves praying. Notice that it is difficult for living things to survive without water. What water is to life is what prayer is to the Christian life. Any Christian that does not pray is like a fish that cannot swim.

Waiting is not something most people like to do, but life comes with waiting. It could be painful to wait and more painful to wait for something you cannot see or feel. Imagine the frustration that could have overwhelmed the farmer as he waited five whole years to see the first sign of sprouting from the seeds he planted.

Most people feel frustrated, disappointed while waiting on God. It could be your story too. Often, we think that God is too busy to attend to us. Sometimes we even assume that God is no longer mindful of us. “I have prayed and waited for a long time, and I cannot continue,” some people often say. It takes faith to wait. Faith helps us to be trustful and hopeful without searching for a sign or evidence while doing so (Hebrew 11:1).

Watering and waiting without being watchful defeats the whole purpose of our relationship with God. Being watchful requires patience. It takes patience to keep alert and watch even when there are no positive signs, like in the farmer’s case in our opening story.

The Obstacle to Watering, Waiting and Watching

The major obstacle that hinders our disposition to watering, waiting, and watching is the misfortune of distraction. Anything that takes your attention from a desirable goal or value is a distraction. Distraction often starts from ourselves. We can become a distraction to ourselves through our choices and the things we allow into our lives. Family and friends could also become objects of distraction and other things around us that may be helpful in some material ways.

Your distraction might be during your prayer times when your mind begins to run around the entire world instead of focusing on God. Your distraction may be distrust and hopelessness when you ought to be trustful and hope on God. Your distraction may be impatience when you need to rely on God’s timing.

Moving Forward!

Often, some people wonder why they should wait on God. It could be your burden too. We should wait on God because God’s worth the wait. Next, we stand to gain when we wait on the Lord. Isaiah says that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). So, waiting on the Lord revitalizes and renews us.

Furthermore, we ought to wait for the Lord because He is bringing something bigger and better. I would not know exactly where you are now in your life; maybe you are fed with your current situation, and you want to quit. Please, before you log out, try to look up!

There is power in watering, waiting, and watching. St. James (5:7) tells us to be patient until the coming of the Lord just as the farmer waits for the crops to receive the early and latter rains to germinate and flourish. This is the same way you will thrive if you would keep watering, waiting, and watching.

God bless you; have a blessed weekend and a joyful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

                                   

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