Fr Bonnie's Reflections

WHY ARE YOU TERRIFIED? SAILING WITH THE SAVIOR IN THE STORMY SEA! REFLECTION FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

JESUS CALMS THE STORM - Anglican Children Ministry Nigeria

                                              

The safety of every sailing boat has a lot to do with the mastery of the sailor. However, when the elements unleash their severe sides, like in the case of windstorms, even the best sailor would be helpless and could need some form of assistance to get through.

Can you imagine sailing in a boat, and right there in the middle of the sea, comes a strong windstorm with no form of assistance in view?

The above captures the experience of the disciples of Jesus Christ while crossing over to the other side of the sea of Galilee (Gerasene) after the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:35-41). The surprising thing is that Jesus was in the boat with them, and he was even sleeping while the storm was raging.

The disciples could have tried to handle the boat amid the storm, but they could not. So, coming to Jesus and waking him up, they asked if he does not care that they were perishing because he was sleeping and not freaking out like them.

Our Lord Jesus rising from that “sleep,” rebuked the wind, saying: “Quiet, be still!” Immediately the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. And turning to the disciples, he asked, “why are you terrified! Do you not yet have faith?” In amazement, the disciples exclaim, “Who then is this whom the wind and sea obey?”

Lessons from the Storm and the Sleep of Jesus  

Jesus and his disciples were heading to the town of Gerasene, on the other side, when the windstorm stuck halfway. The mission was to liberate a man possessed by a legion of demons. 

On the way to accomplish this mission, the storm showed up. The quick lesson is that whenever there is an important mission, expect an opposing storm. Next, the disciples heard lots of parables about faith which concluded with the mustard seed analogy. Now, the storm is serving to take their faith on a test drive. Quick lesson, you must defend your faith through trials.

There are many questions about the sleep of Jesus. Could it be that he was a deep sleeper that he did not notice the storm? No, instead, we learn from various accounts that Jesus kept awake most times praying. Recall that during the Gethsemane experience, Jesus said to Peter and others, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Matt. 26:40).

On the other hand, the sleep of Jesus was not that he cared less about what was going on. Jesus was sleeping to demonstrate to his disciples the right posture they need to take when a storm arises in their lives. Sleeping through the storm shows faith and trust in the God who is the Lord of the storm.

A further lesson. Despite their lack of faith, the disciples teach us the need to run to the Lord when we face any storm in our lives. However, the approach should be faith-inspired and submission to God’s unfailing power to save.

Jesus in the boat: An image of a Father in the Family

The narrative of Jesus in the stormy boat comes on a Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day, and we can find some enriching connections. The presence of Jesus in the boat describes one of the functions of a father, namely is availability 

There is nothing as comforting as the physical presence of a father in the family. In our career-driven human society, some people erroneously think that taking care of the family is about providing money and other provisions.

Presence is essential for bonding and progress in the family; absent fathers are a disaster to child upbringing. On the strength of presence, the father can confront the variety of storms that may face the family. Imagine if Jesus were not with the disciples in the boat, the disciples would have perished.

Notice that in the parable, Jesus first rebuked the storm before cautioning the disciples. We see here another important lesson for fathers when something is attacking from the outside. Often some overlook the issue and start criticizing the members of the family. The father should protect the family but would not forget to give reasonable caution.

A father is beyond the capability of having a child. Fatherhood is not a name; it is a functional vocation that includes profound care, guidance, and protection. So, you do not need to have a child to become a father. Any man who excels in those capabilities is a father, and those who fail do not merit the name; I am sorry.  

Moving Forward! 

There is no life without a storm. A storm could be those things you do not wish happen in your life, but you see them coming anyways. Life is full of storms; however, we shall not be like the disciples by being terrified, which would not solve anything.

The right attitude is to approach the Lord, who is always with you, and relax like Jesus to get enough sleep because the Lord of the storm is there. You need to sleep for God to be awake for you. Psalm (127:1b) says, “unless the Lord watches over the city in vain do watchmen keep vigil.”  

God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie

DISCOVERING THE UNHIDDEN TREASURE:REFLECTION FOR FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Chalice, Wine, Prayer, Mass, Communion, Religion

Once a beggar met a wise man who told him that he is richer than all the rich men in the land put together. “How?” he asked, the wise replies and said, “go and wash your begging plate with ashes in the river and take it to the merchants in town and hear what they would tell you.”

The poor beggar acted immediately and got amazing offers from the merchants because the plate was raw gold though unknown to him. Thus, for many years, the man was begging with a great treasure in his hands; he was starving amid plenty.

The word treasure refers to something of great worth or value which is usually hidden or secured. Treasures are not usually found on the surface; one needs to search profusely to find a treasure. So, it sounds somehow to talk about “unhidden treasure,”; but the truth is that some great treasures are not hidden, which is why they are not regarded as treasures.   

Anyone conversant with the Gospels could recall that Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38). But when you ask people to name the good things Jesus did, a majority would mention curing the sick, raising the dead, feeding a multitude, and changing water to wine. Few, if any, would remember the gift of his body and blood.

We received two treasures from our Lord Jesus Christ; His body and blood, real food and drink (John 6:55), and the Holy Spirit he gave to be with us forever ( John 14:16). These treasures are meant to assist us in our journey towards our eternal salvation.

The Unhidden Treasure: The Eucharist

We could understand and appreciate the body and blood of Jesus Christ as an unhidden treasure if we go back to what happened during the last supper.

The Gospels and the testimony of St. Paul tell us that while they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, he gave it to the disciples saying: “Take and eat this is my body.” He does the same with the wine, saying: “take and drink this is the blood of the covenant.” (Matt.26:26-29; Mark 14:22-26; Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25).

The accounts of St. Luke and St. Paul give us further information that helps us to validate the reality of the body and blood of Jesus Christ as a treasure. This is where our Lord says, “do this in remembrance of me.” St. Paul puts it clearly, “for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).

Utilizing the Eucharistic Treasure.

The pandemic and the lockdown experience opened the eyes of some people to many things, including the necessity and power of the reception of the body and blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Recall the extended Eucharistic fast and the recommendation of spiritual communion from the Livestream masses. I remember how one parishioner would call and beg to sneak into the Church to have a piece to quench the hunger for the Lord in the Eucharist. I wish that desire continues as the Church doors are opening wider every day and the virus gradually leaves us for good.

We tend to get complacent and lose respect and value when are used to certain things and people in our lives. Incidentally, we see this happening in our relationship with the treasure of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. So Jesus comes down to us in a very touchable and breakable form that we often take His real presence for granted.

Moving Forward!

Our Lord did not give us his body and blood as an optional menu but as essential spiritual food. Recall that he says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in you” (John 6:53).

The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ aid us in our spiritual journey, giving us spiritual strength and growth. And above all, we receive eternal life as our Lord promised us in the Gospel of John (6:54), where he says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”

As we celebrate the feast of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us continually remind ourselves about the treasure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Thus, we receive not just the bread and wine, but the body and blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the entirety of Christ.

We have a treasure and a privilege of access to an unhidden treasure, the Holy Eucharist. May God give us the grace to appreciate and value the treasure we have.

“O sacrament Most Holy O Sacrament Divine, All Praise and Thanksgiving be every moment Thine. Amen.  

Have a beautiful celebration!

Fr. Bonnie.

THE QUESTION ONLY GOD COULD ANSWER! REFLECTION ON THE HOLY TRINITY. Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - Teaching Catholic Kids

Apart from the absence of snakes, there are two important things about Ireland that any active mind could recall, and they are St. Patrick and the three-leaf clover shamrock plant. Incidentally, there is a popular story that links St. Patrick to the shamrock.

One Irish folklore about St. Patrick says that he used the shamrock to describe the Trinity to the pagan while telling them about the Christian faith around the Fourth Century AD. Notably, the shamrock leaf has three distinct parts.

Looking closely at the shamrock, one could build a mental picture of how St. Patrick could have described the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit using the three leaves helmed into one leaf.

While the shamrock tries to give a mental image about the Trinity, it does not fully explore the depth of the Holy Trinity, which remains a mystery beyond human comprehension.

The Holy Trinity doctrine states that One God exists as three co-equal, co-eternal, and con-substantial Divine Persons. Thus, God is one in essence and nature but three in persons. That means there is one God, not three Gods, and at the same time, there are three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Note that this is no confusion; it is a mystery.

The major limitation of the shamrock analogy is that, unlike the Trinity, each of the parts of the shamrock is not fully a shamrock. In the Trinity, the Father is fully God (Phil.1:2), just as the Son (Titus 2:13), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4), yet there are not three Gods but One God, one essence, will, and power.

There is no human analogy that could give us a perfect and indisputable explanation about the Holy Trinity. Nevertheless, many Christian thinkers and theologians have tried and ended at the level of trials.

We believe that only God can sufficiently answer the question about being One and Three at the same time. Therefore, we are left with the invitation to accept this truth of our Christian vocation with faith and to model our lives after the Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity and Christianity.

Regardless of their faith practices and styles, Christians all over the world speak one language, namely, the Holy Trinity. Acceptance of the mystery of the Trinity is the precondition of becoming a Christian. Christianity without the Holy Trinity is frivolity.

Our creation as humankind comes from the action of the Holy Trinity. Recall that God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen.1:26). Notice that the Christian life starts with the baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity as our Lord Jesus directed in his closing instructions to the disciples (Matt. 28:19), “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The problems we have in the world today come from our inability to reflect the Hoy Trinity in our lives. If we are created in the image and likeness of God, which is diversified unity, we need to adopt that Trinitarian model in all aspects of our lives.

The Signs of the Presence of the Holy Trinity

Community: The word community is not just a name; it is more of an invitation to act: Come + Unite = community. The Trinity is a community of three persons in One God.

The Trinity challenges us to come and unite and not to Come and Divide. The sense of community helps us understand that diversity is a gift and that co-existence is a functional divine provision.

Responsibility: The word responsibility means the ability to respond to some expectations or duty. Each person of the Trinity has a dedicated function. The scriptures give us insights into the ability of the various person of the Trinity to respond to their roles.

The just and merciful God the Father convoked creation, the redeemer God the Son brought our salvation, while the Helper, God the Holy Spirit, sanctifies us with divine gifts and fruits.

Collaboration: You must have heard that no man is an island; that means you would always need others. The same principle applies to the Persons of the Trinity. Therefore, there is an eternal collaboration in the Trinity. That is why you hear God the Father say, “let us” (Gen. 1:26, 11:7).

Moving Forward

Celebrating the Holy Trinity is beyond looking for arguments to prove that there are Three Persons in One God. Proof or no proof would not change the reality of the Trinity. Instead, we should focus more on the lessons we could learn: the sense of community, being responsible in our Christian faith, and being ready and willing to work with others.

Have a beautiful week, and God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie

THE HELPER YOUDIDN’T KNOW YOU HAVE! REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Pentecost, Holy Spirit, Christianity, Christian, Church

No matter how strong and self-sufficing you might appear, you would, at some demanding moments, seek someone’s help or assistance. Help is a facility we constantly need. God seems to have given us two hands, one to help others and the other to help ourselves.

Adam, the first human on earth, was at that point of need. Recall that God pitied him and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18). Thus, the primary purpose of creating Eve was to be a help to Adam. So, we can say that the first recorded human need was for a helper.

David looked up the hills in the peak of his trials and asked, “from where does my help come? He goes on to answer, “my help comes from the Lord who made the heaven and the earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2). Again, in Psalm (46:1), he says that God is an ever-present help in trouble.

Re-introducing the Holy Spirit.

We have taken some time to explore the subject of help because it directly relates to the Holy Spirit we celebrate on Pentecost Sunday. First, it is important to reaffirm that the Holy Spirit is not a thing or a type of elemental Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, the third person of the Trinity. That means the Holy Spirit is God.

Unfortunately, most people have not fully explored the personality, power, and purpose of the Holy Spirit. And this confirms the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that “the world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:17).

We come to know that Holy Spirit more intimately through the words of Jesus Christ at the end of his earthly mission. Jesus began by letting his disciples know that he would send another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them forever (John 14:16).

The Greek rendering of the word advocate is paraclete, and it means one who speaks for another, a counselor, or more functionally a helper. Thus, when Jesus mentioned another advocate, he suggested another helper whose actions would aid us on earth just as he (our Lord) advocates for us before the Father in heaven (1John 2:1).

The Helper in our Christian Journey

The Christian life is impossible and impracticable without the help of the Holy Spirit. You could recall that our Lord Jesus Christ told the disciples not to depart Jerusalem until they receive Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Here we notice that the disciples would need the Holy Spirit’s help before they could function in the work of evangelizing the world.

The Holy Spirit Helps us to Pray.

Prayer is the channel through which we communicate, build, and maintain a relationship with God. Since God is Spirit, our prayer to Him must be spiritually animated. For this reason, St. Paul advised the Ephesians to pray always in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18).

To pray in the Spirit, we need the Holy Spirit. The Letter to the Romans (8:26) tells us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness when we do not know what to pray for and the best manner to channel our prayers. Any prayer said outside the ambiance of the Holy Spirit is just a lips service (Matt. 15:8).

The Holy Spirit Helps us to live right.

There are two ways to live: in the flesh or the Spirit. To live, as used here, means to dwell in the flesh or the Spirit. Here we recall the instruction of St. Paul to the Galatians (5:16) that says, “live in the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The Letter to the Romans (8:7-8) says, “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law and cannot. And those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Hear this; righteousness does not mean always praying and looking calm. Righteousness is a way of life that involves constantly making the right choices in our words and actions. Righteousness does not just happen; the Holy Spirit helps us to make the right choices because He knows the mind of God.

The Holy Spirit helps us to learn.

Good students are products of good teachers. Thus, an important pedagogical function of the Holy Spirit as a teacher is to guide us to the truth (John 16:13). Another is to give us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (Isaiah 11:2). In fact, Jesus said: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26).

Moving Forward!

Life without the Helper, the Holy Spirit is a disaster. The Holy Spirit is the Helper we need in this journey called life. So often, we keep some things in our homes that we do not use. Some people are struggling through life trying to change certain realities using their physical and mental strength when they only need the supportive presence of the Helper.

The Holy Spirit would not break into our lives to help us; we need to invite Him. You could recall that the disciples provided the platform before the Holy Spirit showed up on the day of Pentecost. First, they were together in one place (Acts 1:1ff). Unity is one of the preconditions for the coming of the Holy. The second precondition is prayer, and it follows the first. Being together in prayer is a great attraction for the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the great Helper, let us continue to be attentive, docile, and accepting of his promptings and presence in our lives. May the power of the Holy Spirit abide with you always, and may God bless you.  

Fr. Bonnie

DEVELOPING AN ASCENSION MINDSET REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF ASCENSION Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Ascension Day 2021 | Planet EU

To ascend means to rise, go upward, or fly. It is always a beautiful thing to ascend. However, there are many interesting stories about sudden and funny reactions of people flying in an airplane, using an elevator or escalator for the first time. While many people enjoy flying, others dread the idea of being airlifted because of the fear of height, also known as acrophobia.

The Reality of the Ascension

The narrative of the ascension tells us that Jesus mounted to heaven after giving some valedictory instructions to the disciples. This was an extraordinary real-time event and not a figment of imagination.

Our Lord made it clear that he would ascend to heaven before it even happened. In John (16:28), Jesus said, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” On the resurrection day, he said to the zealous Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17a). 

One of the important places any pilgrim to Jerusalem would love to see is the spot of the ascension located at Mount Olives. One could see there the chapel of ascension that houses the enclosure with the largely affirmed footprint of Jesus Christ before his ascension into heaven.

The footprint of Jesus at the site of the ascension is incredibly significant. Here, we understand that though our Lord is ascended to heaven, he is still here very much around. Remember he says, “I will be with you till the end of time. (Matt. 28:20).

Ascension as an important bridge

The primary function of a bridge is to connect two separate or parallel locations; hence a bridge serves as a meeting point. The ascension is the bridge that reconnected heaven and earth. Heaven was shut after the sin of Adam and Eve, and the ascension reopened the gateway to heaven. The Gospel of John (3:13) says: “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”

The Fulfilment of the Promise of the Lord

On the strength of the ascension, the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit became a reality. Recall that Jesus said, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocatewill not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7). So, the ascension is a precondition for the Pentecost event, which fulfilled the Lord’s promise.

Developing an Ascension Mindset

Every action in life is a product of a mindset. The ascension mindset entails thinking in the upward direction in terms of success, achievement, and excellence. Your mindset determines the miles you cover in life.

From our reflection thus far, we understand that our Lord Jesus Christ had the ascension mindset even before it happened. In fact, he commanded it into existence. For instance, he says, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17b)

Your mindset has a lot to do with how you succeed or fail in life. St. Paul challenged the Colossians that as resurrected people, they should set their minds on the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Col.3:1). To the Romans, he says, “be transformed by the renewal of your minds to do what is the will of God; what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Moving Forward!

As members of the body of Christ, we are all beneficiaries of the Lord’s ascension. We cannot have an ascended Lord while living a descended life. Therefore, as partakers of the ascension menu, we are invited to ascend from failure to favor, from setbacks to success. We need to rise from shame to fame and from fear to faith. This is the day and hour. You only need to set your mind to it with total dependence on God, and you shall succeed.

By the way, we must pray for the birthplace of our ascended Lord and the regions around Israel this time that God may grant lasting peace to those areas beset by constant violence and the destruction of lives and properties.

God bless you and remain ascendable.

Fr. Bonnie.

LOVE IS A MOTHER REFLECTION FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER (MOTHER’S DAY) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Acronym Collector by Greg Atkinson

Did you know that every mother has a scar? For every childbirth, a mother receives a scar. Did you also know that every true love has a scar? Love is not often as sweet as it sounds or as bright as the color. Think about our Lord and the scars of love on his body. Thomas desired to see the scars of love, not the wounds from the nails and spear.

Love is not as common as people use it in our day and age. Most people mistake love as a feeling, fondness, or attraction. However, love is not ho w you feel or what you say. Love is what you do selflessly for another. You can love deeply without words.

The First Letter of John (1 John 4:7-10) tells us more about God and love. It says, among other things, that “everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. 

In the Gospel of John (15:9-17), our Lord Jesus Christ gives us a practical instruction about love as he states that love’s important duty is to keep the commandments. We could recall that during the last supper, Jesus gave a new commandment to the disciples to love one another as he loves them, and by that act, people will come to know and accept them as his disciples (John 13:34).

How is Love a Mother? 

The reality of love as a mother opens the maternal side of God because God is love (1 Jn 4:8). We are familiar with God’s paternal spectrum from various scriptures, including the Lord’s prayer that call’s God “Our Father in Heaven” (Matt. 6:9).

God’s tender nurturance, mostly in the similitude of a nursing woman or a mother bird, shows the maternal side of God. Isaiah (66:13) says, “as a woman comforts her child, so would God comfort His people.” Recall that God asked, “can a woman forget the child at her breast and have no compassion for the child she has borne? (Isaiah 49:15). David says that he will hide under God’s wings until the disaster passes (Psalm 57:1). And Psalm (91:4) says, “He will cover you with His feathers and hide you under His wings.”

Celebrating Motherhood Equals Celebrating Love

The heart of every mother should be a foreground of love. Notice that God decided to send His only Son for our redemption; God chose a woman who later became the human Mother of Jesus Christ, God the Son. 

The word that became flesh is love; therefore, Mary carried love in her womb until love was born for us. We cannot fault this logic. Therefore, if Christ Jesus is God in essence, and God is love (1 John 4:8), it means that Jesus Christ is love. 

The Blessed Virgin Mary: A Meeting Point of Motherhood and Love

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect example of motherhood. There is no biblical figure that trumps her record as the mother of love. So, in the Blessed Virgin Mary, love meets motherhood in a profound dimension and leaves us with these great lessons.

Tender-Loving-Care: Any woman that lacks these interrelated attributes cannot qualify to be a mother. By the way, you do not need to have a child to be a mother. Motherhood is beyond childbirth. Many wonderful mothers never married nor had kids. Mary’s tender loving care runs from the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem through the time the child Jesus was missing to the foot of the cross.

Understanding heart: An ideal mother understands. Mary had a very deep understanding of God and people. Her encounter with the messenger from God and the visit to her cousin Elizabeth are examples.

Prayerful Intercessor: A prayerless mother is a discordant note to the melody of motherhood. The intercession of Mary at the wedding at Cana in Galilee led to the first miracle of Jesus Christ. Prayerful intercession should be a better alternative to idle talks and gossips.

Unshaken Faith in God: One of the inspired statements of Elizabeth to Mary during her visit is, “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord will be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Nobody is as powerful as a woman of faith who believes in God even when the odds are high.

Moving Forward

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we remind ourselves that the power of a mother’s love is greater than any force on earth. The world would become a numb place without mothers and the love they bring. Mothers do a lot, we expect so much from them, but we give them little appreciation and attention.

All over the world, there are tombs and monuments for unknown soldiers to celebrate the gallantry of unidentified heroes who gave everything they had to defend their various nations, especially in the world wars. 

In the same spirit, Mother’s Day should also celebrate the unknown mothers. Those mothers the world has forgotten but whose selfless tender loving care brought uncommon transformations. We celebrate mothers who loved deeply even to the cost of their lives, and we recommend them to God for eternal reward.

The words of our Lord Jesus at his expiration on the cross remain relevant to us this day, “Behold thy mother!” (John 19:27). At the point of death, our Lord still had the strength to encourage us to pay attention to mothers because of what they represent in life’s journey.

Happy Mother’s Day to all women who love with tenderness and show maternal care. May God bless you all!

Fr. Bonnie.

KEYS TO FRUITFUL DIVINE CONNECTION REFLECTION FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Without Me You Can Do Nothing - YouTube

Did you know that “life is impossible without connection!” Indeed, nothing exists without some connections to other realities. In other words, each reality on earth depends on another to function effectively, so nothing subsists on its own.

The human body could function on the strength of the connectedness of the various parts. Plants could stand because of the connection their roots have with the ground. Today, we depend so much on internet connection. A world without the internet is unimaginable.

Most success stories in life have links to some of the direct or indirect connections we make with people through networking. Connection is a powerful factor in human relations, especially when it is genuine.

In the Gospel of John (15:1-8), Jesus gives the divine angle to connection using the relationship between a vine and its branch. He says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing”.

Beyond the material connections lies the divine connection. Life itself would be impossible without God. God is the ultimate connection that can exist alone, and without God, all connections fail. In the passage, Jesus says, “anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.”

The Keys and Fruits of Divine Connection

For every connection, there is a key. The same pattern applies to divine connection. The First Letter of John (1 Jn.3:18-24) says, among other things, that God’s commandment includes believing in His Son Jesus Christ and loving one another.

Here we note that the keys to divine connection are faith and love. Faith moves you to believe in God against all odds and even when it does not make sense (Hebrew 11:1ff). Love challenges you to trustful giving of your heart, soul, and mind to God.

In the Gospel passage, our Lord mentioned that the Father takes away every branch that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does bear fruit He prunes so that it bears more fruit; we have a lot to learn from here.

Accepting the Father’s Pruning!

Fruit-bearing is evidence of a productive connection. Our Lord further says that a branch needs pruning to bear more fruits. Pruning means cutting away the unwanted and wasteful areas of the branch, and the reason is to allow it to produce more fruit.

Bringing the message home, every Christian represents a branch attached to the vine, our Lord Jesus. Every branch stands as an expression of the productivity of the vine. Notice that the fruits grow on the branches, not in the vine stem itself. Christ is looking up to us to bring forth fruits.

The Father prunes the branches that are bearing fruits so that they could deliver more fruits. Pruning is not always a pleasant experience as it involves cutting away unnecessary parts though they may appear healthy and beautiful.

We often go through our respective pruning experiences with some of the things we encounter in life. It takes patience, understanding, and faith to accept those pruning processes that could involve a loss, disappointment, or some other painful experiences.

The good news is that God the Father is the one doing the pruning, and he prunes with profound care and love because He wants the best fruits to come out of us. The letter to the Hebrews (12:6) says that God chastises the one He loves and scourges the one he receives. It is indeed better to be pruned than to be cut off as a branch.

Moving Forward!

We are all parts of this great vine, and we have to support each other as we develop and bear fruits. It is not uncommon to see strong branches of trees supporting weaker ones until they become strong enough to strive. We need to do this as we all stay connected to the true vine.

Let us remain committed to our vocation and strive always to be true branches of the true vine. We achieve this through our faithful prayers and intentional love, and obedience to the directives of the Lord.

As we march through the new week, may God’s grace abide with us to remain intimately connected to the true vine every day of our lives.

Have a blessed week.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE STONE REJECTED BY THE BUILDERS IS OUR GOOD SHEPHERD REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTER Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

PPT - Joseph and The Stone that the Builders Rejected PowerPoint  Presentation - ID:3244743

Have you ever been rejected for any reason at all? I once heard the story of a man whose mom abandoned as a baby in a plastic bag left in a corner of a public park. Luckily, someone rescued him after two days of exposure to the weather conditions. He only learned about his story of rejection and rescue when the woman who adopted him was dying.

Rejection could be a very painful experience that involves abandonment, denial of benefits, or the feeling of being unwanted. The Acts of the Apostles (4:8-12) relates Peter’s testimony about the power of the risen Lord in the healing of a disabled person.

Peter let the authorities and the elders know that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the stone they, the builders rejected, that has become the cornerstone as it is written in the book of Psalm (118:22-23). How was Jesus Christ rejected? In every way, from his infancy up to his death on the cross.

We could recall that after Herod learned about the new-born King, he was troubled and called for the massacre of all the kids in the region from two years down (Matt.2:16). Jesus was rejected in his hometown Nazareth; in fact, they tried to kill him (Luke 4:16-30).

For economic reasons, the city of Gadarene rejected Jesus after the cure of a demoniac. Remember also that the disciples abandoned him after his arrest (Mark 14:50). Jesus even predicted that the Son of man would endure many sufferings and be rejected by that generation.

Dealing with Rejection in Life

If people could reject Jesus at various points during his earthly life, what would make you think that anything could save you from rejection in the world? You may not plan for it, but it could come in a relationship you cherish, in your job, your neighborhood, and even in your faith community or church.

Rejection is unavoidable, so praying against it is senseless. What is important is how to deal with it, and we can find the perfect example of dealing with rejection from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not Reject Yourself: Self-rejection is the worst kind of rejection; in fact, it is a bad choice. Sometimes we allow people to define us when we adopt their feelings and perceptions about us. Nobody has a right to define you but God, who formed your being and knows you more than anyone else.

Understand that people will reject you because they cannot be like you nor withstand what you carry. Recall that the major people who rejected Jesus were the authorities of the time, the political and social builders who could not compete with the excellence in the Lord.

Furthermore, people will reject you because of their ignorance; if they know better, they will act better. Imagine, the “builders” of the time did not recognize that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone; hence they rejected him. Every building depends on the cornerstone for alignment and good structure. Remember that Jesus said, “Cut off from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Do not lose your Purpose: Your purpose explains why you are here on earth. God created everyone with a purpose that means your life is not an accident or mere chance. Rejection does not destroy your purpose; in fact, it could even reveal it. Some rejections turn out to be elevations.

Going back to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, we discover that the rejections he faced did not diminish his purpose, leading us to redemption as the Good Shepherd. Often in life, we lose our focus because of what people are saying or doing to us.

Most people could not attain their laudable goals and aspirations because they paid attention to people instead of focusing on their purpose. Our Lord Jesus Christ paid attention to what the Father desires, not what the people want. He says, “my food is to do the will of my Father and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34); that is purpose right there.

Moving Forward:

If God has not rejected you, it does not matter if the whole world rejects you; you will still be fine. Psalm 27:10 says: “Father and mother may abandon you, but the Lord will take you up.” God will never forget you because your name is written on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:15-16).

The challenge now is to follow the Good Shepherd, not the politically correct shepherds of our world today who will reject and abandon us when danger comes. In the Gospel of John (10: 11-18), Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep with strong ownership dedication to the point of death, and that is what he accomplished for us on the cross. We belong to the Good Shepherd, and he loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and will never reject us.

God bless you and have a glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

WHY ARE YOU TROUBLED? REFLECTION FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

EASTER THURSDAY READINGS AND REFLECTION: "PEACE BE WITH YOU...WHY ARE YOU  TROUBLED?" (Lk 24:35–48).

In the history of your life, one of the important pieces of advice you may receive from your parents, teachers, and others could be, “stay out of trouble.” But you soon discover as you go through life that as much as you try to stay out of trouble, it sometimes comes looking out for you. And the trouble with trouble is that it never comes alone.

The arrest, passion, and death of Jesus Christ happened like a swift storm leaving the disciples confused, distraught, and troubled. The various versions of the news of the resurrection could have made the matter more troubling.

The Gospel of Luke (24:35-48) relates how two disciples who encountered the resurrected Lord on their way to Emmaus were recounting their experience to others when Jesus appeared among them. What happened afterward leaves us with profound lessons for our Christian life and hope.

First, Jesus says, “Peace be with you!” But they were still startled and terrified and thought that they saw a ghost. Knowing the state of their minds, the Lord asked: “why are you troubled?” In other words, Jesus was asking them, “can you give me reasons for being troubled? I am here with peace!”

If the disciples were attentive, they could have remembered the words of the  Lord in the Gospel of John (16:16ff), where he says, “little while you will no longer see me and a little while you will see me.” They should have also recalled these words: “very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 16:20). Great and memorable promises.

Overcoming the Closed Mind

The disciples were troubled and terrified because their minds were closed. Our actions and reactions in life depend on how we set our minds to things around us. When the mind is closed, nothing gainful happens; instead, we are troubled.  

Their closed minds could not allow them to remember the words of the Lord. Jesus had to open their minds to understand the Scriptures. Notice here that we need to open our minds to understand the Scriptures, and there is a difference between knowing and understanding the Scriptures.   

Why Are You Troubled?

Life without troubles does not exist; in fact, life is full of troubles. In the Gospel of John (16:33), Jesus said, in the world, you will have troubles. You may not stop them, but he promised that you get through all of them because he has overcome. David was not guessing in Psalm (34:19) when he says that many are the troubles of the righteous, but God delivers him from all of them.  

Some of the troubles you go through in life are necessary. They could even help to bring out the best version of you. Remember that without Joseph’s troubles at Shechem, he would not have made it to Egypt to become the prime minister and adviser of Pharaoh (Genesis 37 & 40). The troubles of the pit and the prison may lead to the glory at the palace.

Like the disciples, we are often troubled about things that are no longer there. We need to open our minds and rise beyond the ghost-seeing mentality that distorts the reality around us. We need to see the risen Lord and not a ghost.

You need to understand that your condition is not your conclusion. There could be troubles, but they are not forever. Do not allow the troubles around you to disorganize your life, get you locked in, and rob you of that peace you deserve. The good news from the visit of the Lord to the disciples today is that wish of peace, and you know what? You would need that peace this hour, and nothing should stop it, not even the troubles around you.

We pray that the peace of the Lord, which the world cannot give (John 14:27), reign in our heart today and always. Amen.

Shalom.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE POWER AND ELEMENTS OF DIVINE MERCY REFLECTION FOR DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Divine Mercy Sunday | Our Lady of the Mountains

Once upon a Holy Saturday afternoon, I visited a police detention facility in my country, also known as a police cell. I went to share some moments of reflection with the inmates on the passion of Christ and the hope of liberation leveraging their confinement and the odds they face.

While interacting with some police officers after praying for the inmates, I understood that some of them were detained because they could not pay the fine options. Surprisingly most of the fines were below $30 per inmate. Instantly, I asked one of the officers if paying the fine would liberate anyone that benefits immediately, and he affirmed.

By the grace of God, I had some money with me, and I was able to pay the fines of four of them who had been detained for more than six months. Furthermore, I added something extra to help them get food and transport to their homes when they leave the detention. Thanks to God!

Forgiveness and Mercy

My story reflects what mercy stands for, and which also makes it different from forgiveness. Forgiveness is all about letting go of a hurt or some other thing that happened in the past. Often, forgiveness comes after pleading, repentance, or the promise to do better in the future.

On the other hand, mercy involves letting go and showing compassion, and giving some benefits to someone who does not deserve them. In this case, the beneficiary may not have asked for it. We can say that mercy starts where forgiveness stops.

From the description above, we understand that mercy is a product to grace; without grace, mercy would not be possible. The Letter to the Hebrews (4:16) says we approach the throne of grace to obtain mercy.  

The Power of Divine Mercy   

Today, we thoughtfully reflect on God’s mercy and, specifically, the Divine Mercy. Mercy is one of the major attributes of God. The Book of the Lamentations (3:22-23) tells us that God’s steadfast love never ceases and His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. St. Paul remarks (Eph.2:4) that God is rich in mercy because of the great love He has for us.

What happened on the Cross on Good Friday is the Divine Mercy! Yes, we did not deserve it, and we did not even ask for it. God’s graceful love uncovered the paying of the debt for our sins on the Cross.

Those words on the Cross, “it is finished” before Jesus expired, confirmed the Divine Mercy. Today, we look back at Good Friday’s events, and we joyfully celebrate God’s mercy which we did not merit.

The Elements of Divine Mercy

John’s Gospel (20:19-31) tells us about two important Divine Mercy products: Peace and the Holy Spirit. The narrative tells us that eight days after the resurrection, the disciples gathered in a locked room in fear of the Jews.

The Jews were not after them. It was the fear of their past deeds (Mark 14:50). What they did not realize was that when Jesus said, “it is finished,” they were also included. Instead of searching to see the resurrected Lord, they preferred to lock themselves in, which also meant locking their hearts, as we see in the story of Thomas, who was doubting the resurrection of the Lord.

Suddenly Jesus appeared to them and said to them twice, “peace be with you”. Here we understand that they lacked peace. Even the locked door (their comfort zone) could not give them peace. The simple fact here is that they lacked peace. Furthermore, the risen Lord breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit.” Notice that these two facilities could only come to them after the event of the Cross: the paying of the debt.

Moving Forward: Be Merciful!

How can we actively respond to the awesome gift of the Divine Mercy? Praying is good, but that is not enough. In the Gospel of Luke (6:36), Jesus instructs, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” St. James (2:13) says that judgment is without mercy to one who has not shown mercy, and in the Second Book of Samuel (22:26), we hear that with the merciful God shows Himself merciful and with the blameless God shows himself blameless.

We freely received mercy from God, and in the same way, we should freely give mercy a chance. Our world would become messy without mercy as there would be no peace; mercy comes before peace. The Book of Acts (4:32-35) tells us that the community of believers was of one heart and mind because they had peace and the Holy Spirit through the same gift of Divine Mercy.

Let us take up the mercy challenge today in honor of the Divine Mercy. Look around you and beyond; you could find someone who could benefit from your act of mercy. It could be anyone known or unknown to you. Divine Mercy is a facility that is open to everyone, just as your mercy could add value to anyone. Remember that blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matt. 5:7). So, whatever you do to others would come back to you. Try mercy today!

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday, and may God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

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