Fr Bonnie's Reflections

HOW TO FORGIVE ANY HURT

REFLECTION FOR THE 24th SUNDAY (YEAR A)

                 Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

“Father, I have forgiven, but I will never forget what she did to me; after all, I suffered for her sake; you need to be in my shoes to feel the way it hurts!” This was a response I got from someone I was counseling to let go of a hurting experience. From the reaction, any attentive mind would see that the individual is still hurting, and forgiveness is not just in view. 

Life is a typical journey, but we are never alone. We often travel with people who come into our lives by God’s design, like our parents, siblings, and children, and the ones we choose, like our friends, spouses, and partners. We often go through high and low moments with people. Sometimes they make us happy at other times, they make us sad or even hurt us badly. But how we react to hurt is a choice we should make.

Forgiveness is a familiar theme. We hear about it countless times from parents, teachers, preachers, friends, and other people. But what we have not fully explored is how to forgive. There would be a need for us to learn how to forgive instead of recycling the recurrent theme of forgiveness. The truth is that most people want to forgive, but they lack the know-how!  

The Gospel Reading (Matt. 18:21-35) presents a dependable key to how we can forgive any hurt. The narrative begins with an interface between Jesus and Simon Peter, who wanted to know how many times he could forgive an offender. He even added, “as much as seven times?” It seemed that Peter was in that place of giving up on forgiving someone who has been consistently hurtful. Replying, our Lord said not seven times but seventy-seven times. He was telling Simon Peter not to count when it comes to forgiveness because God does keep count as the book of Psalm (130:3) says: “if you O Lord should keep record of our sins, who would stand?”

Our Lord Jesus goes further to demonstrate how to forgive with a kingdom parable. In the parable, a servant who was unable to repay his master’s loan was about to be sold along with his wife and children, but he cried out,  asking the master to be patient with him as he plans to pay in full. Moved with compassion, the master let him go and forgave him the loan.

Leaving the master’s presence, the servant found a fellow servant who owed him a smaller amount, and he seized and started to choke him while demanding for pay back. He even went further to send him to prison, although the fellow asked him to be patient with him. When the master heard about the servant’s cruel deed, he summoned him and had him tortured until he paid the whole debt.

Lessons from the Forgiving Master

We can find the key to forgive from the master’s reaction when the wicked servant asked him to be patient and give him time to pay in full. The narrative tells us that the master was moved with compassion and let him go.

Compassion is the key! True forgiveness is not possible without compassion. Yes, there is true forgiveness, and it comes from the heart, not from the head. The forgiveness that comes from the head is often political and selfish. It aims at what one would benefit or lose when one forgives. 

The true forgiveness from the heart is compassionate because it identifies with the offender and feels the situation. Without compassion, it would be difficult to let go and twice challenging to heal from a hurtful experience.

Start with Yourself: The “Compassion Way” 

Compassion helps you start from yourself because you need to feel it before you can come to terms with others. Some people are unable to forgive other people because they have not been able to forgive themselves. You cannot possibly give what you do not have. Forgive yourself, and you will be activated to forgive others,

The First Reading (Sirach 27:30-28:7) helps us understand that forgiveness is basically for the benefit of the “forgiver” and not for the “forgiven.” It asks, “can anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” In another place, it says, “forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” 

Our Lord Jesus Christ supports idea while teaching the Lord prayer when he said:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15).

Moving Forward: “Forgive everything or Forfeit all.”

According to a research from John Hopkins medicine, forgiveness contributes a lot to our health and wellbeing. The study direction shows that forgiveness lowers heart attack, high cholesterol, sleeplessness, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and stress. You can attest to the mental and emotional torture you may be experiencing because of the failure to forgive.

At this point, it is essential to re-examine your forgiveness quotient. Remember that the forgiveness you give is more for your liberation than for others. The Gospel Reading gives a picture of what unforgiveness can do from the unforgiving servant; it could seize and choke you. To forgive is to release someone from prison and to discover that you are the prisoner.

When we forgive, we overcome evil with good, as St. Paul tells the Romans (Rom.12:21). We can achieve this through prayer. Our Lord instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us (Matt. 5:44).

There would be no gainful future without forgiveness. This is the time to let go, let God, and heal from those hurts of the past. If you are still pondering the past, know that you cannot change anything that happened in the past. Embrace the present and forge ahead for a glorious future.

Even when you cannot forget the past, try not to remember it with resentment nor to go on recounting it. Let it go!

God bless you as you decide today to forgive!

Fr. Bonnie.

HOW TO PAY THE LOVE DEBT

HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

                                        Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Love is an indispensable subject matter with global relevance. It is difficult not to talk about love even when it hurts by recalling some personal experiences. A 2017 article in havingtime.com, by the blogger Gigi Solo, quotes some research findings that show that 60% of the people in the world, that is, 4.4 billion people feel unloved. This population surprisingly includes people in active relationships and marriages. We can see from the research that most people love-starved.

There are so many talks and claims about love by many people in the world today, but a few individuals understand and try to practice real love. Love is beyond what one says; it is more about what you do selflessly.

In the Second Reading today (Romans 13:8-10), St. Paul gives us a timeless instruction that could give us a rude awakening: “owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Any attentive mind would see and appreciate the profundity of the words of St. Paul in the passage.

The central point in the instruction is that love is a debt we all must pay; in fact, we become debtors when we fail to love. You could recall that a Pharisee with a legal background once approached Jesus to ask, which is the greatest of all the commandment (Matt. 22:34-40). Answering our Lord summarized the entire law and prophets with the love of God and neighbor.

Furthermore, before the passion and death on the cross, Jesus gave a new commandment to his disciples, which says, “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:34).

Paying the Love Debt

If love is a debt we must pay as St. Paul rightly puts it, how do we make the payment, and with what? We generally pay most debts with money, but with regards to love, money cannot completely suffice. The question on how we can pay the debt of love can be put in another way, “how do we love?”

The Gospel Reading today (Matt. 18:15-20) gives us an immensely helpful platform to know how we can pay the debt of love. In the narrative, our Lord highlights what we need to do when someone offends us. Jesus presents four successive steps:

  • Sort it out privately.
  • Invite a third party (two or three persons).
  • Involve the church community.
  • Treat the person as a Gentile or a tax collector.

 We shall examine how we can pay the debt from these steps.

Pay with patience

Patience is a transforming virtue that helps us to endure and wait for the desired outcome. True love cannot be possible without patience. Patience assists us in bearing the hurtful words and actions of others the same way God restrains His anger against us for the sake of His name (Isaiah 48:9).

In life, if you fail to have patience, you may have pains. We pay the debt of love with patience by our endurance in our efforts to reconcile with estranged persons. St. Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:7) that love is patient and kind.  It would take patience to go back and forth to negotiate for reconciliation following the four steps our Lord suggested to us in the Gospel.

Pay with Sacrifice

The best definition of love is the one that relates it to sacrifice; “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Love becomes sacrificial when one is ready to go the extra mile for the benefit of another. Love becomes sacrificial when it is selfless because true love does not insist on its way (1 Cor. 13:5). In life, when we fail to make sacrifices, we may not be satisfied

Pay as to a “Gentile or Tax Collector”

On the face value, treating someone as a Gentile or tax collector might be confusing as many people could misunderstand what our Lord meant. The question we need to ask is, “how did Jesus treat the Gentiles and tax collectors in the course of his earthly ministry?

During the dedication of infant Jesus in the temple, the priest, Simeone, said among other things said that Jesus would be a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory of the people of Israel (Luke 2:32). Furthermore, Jesus had a transforming encounter with all the Gentiles that encountered him in the Gospels. We could name some of them, the Centurion (Matt. 8:5-13), the Syrophoenician woman (Matt. 15:21-28), the woman at the well (John 4: 4-26), the only grateful leper among ten of them (Luke 17:11-19).

Concerning tax collectors, remember that Jesus called one of them to become an apostle, namely, Matthew (9:9-13). Furthermore, he sought out Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, and brought salvation to his house (Luke 19:1-10). Finally, Jesus told the religious bigots of the time that tax collectors and prostitutes would make heaven before them (Matt. 21:31).

Summarily, Jesus gave the Gentiles and tax collectors special attention at every step in his ministry, and every one of them who had an encounter with Jesus experienced profound revitalization. So treating anyone who proves hard to reconcile as a Gentile or tax collector involves giving the person more love and going the extra mile. Remember that love never dies because God is love (1 John 4:8).

Moving Forward to the Next Pandemic!  

I am praying ardently for another pandemic of significant proportions, a special kind of virus. It would not affect the lungs and other respiratory routes. It would not kill anyone, and it would not isolate us from each other. I am talking about a love pandemic!

The love pandemic would affect our hearts, minds, and souls. It would also insulate and bring us together. Our facemask would be divine and would cover us from hatred, bickering, fighting, and hostility. We shall sanitize our hands with forgiveness and reconciliation.

 Let this love pandemic begin now, as we start to pay our debts of love to each other. Let us begin today. Check well, and there must be someone out there who would need your conciliation and love. You may be hurting because of an experience in the past. I want to tell you that you can love again. Remember that love goes the extra mile, and it never ends.

Say it, mean it, and do it, “I love you!” God bless you, and have a blissful weekend and a beautiful week ahead!

Fr. Bonnie.

OVERCOMING SATAN’S OBSTACLES

        TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

               Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military strategist and philosopher who existed around the 5th Century BC. Many historical sources regard him as the author of the classic Chinese work, “The Art of War,” which outlines the strategies and maneuverers one could use to gain victory over an enemy. One of the timeless quotes from Sun Tsu says:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Let us keep this quote in our minds as our reflection progresses.

The Gospel narrative of this Sunday (Matthew 16: 21-27) tells us what happened after Simon declared Jesus as the Christ, which also earned him access to the keys of the kingdom of heaven with the power to bind and to set free. In today’s Gospel, Jesus started to reveal to his disciples the next steps in his mission, which include going to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and to rise on the third day.

Simon Peter, hearing what Jesus said, takes him aside to rebuke him over the plans to go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die. He said, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you”. The reaction of Simon Peter here contradicted his early declaration of Jesus as the Christ. The Gospel of Luke (24:46) says, “it is written that Christ should suffer, die and rise from the dead on the third day.” So, if Jesus is the Christ, he should go through the route of suffering, death, and resurrection on the third day.  

Simon Peter may have thought that he was doing Jesus a great favor by advising him not to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. What Simon did not know was that Satan was using him as a channel to obstruct the salvific mission of Christ. He could have been shocked when our Lord rebuked him,  saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You think not as God does, but as human beings do”.

Learning the Strategies of Satan: Simon Peter’s Experience

Any attentive mind would notice the transition of Simon Peter from the man to whom God revealed the true identity of Jesus as the Christ to the man through whom Satan tried to use as an obstacle to the mission of Jesus Christ. In the first instance, Simon declared as God would, while in the second instance, he made a human utterance.

The first lesson on the strategies of Satan is that Satan often operates through human beings, especially those who are close to us and even the best among them. Notice that Simon just got a new name, Peter, which means rock. He also received the keys and the authority to bind and loose. As he rises to a new level, he is overwhelmed by a new devil.

Looking closely at Peter’s rebuke, we discover that he neglected the best part of what our Lord said, which is the rising on the third day. He was, therefore, forbidding the suffering and death of Jesus without reference to the resurrection. Satan comes to show us what we could go through with the cross and never what we stand to gain after carrying the cross.

In another dimension, Satan would also try to show you what you stand to enjoy at the moment but not what you would suffer eternally from what you would gain now. This revelation remains a great lesson for every one of us to always try to see the entire picture before making our choices and decisions in life.

Recognizing and Rebuking Satan in our Lives

Remember Sun Tzu’s advice that knowing the enemy and knowing yourself would lead you to victory in every battle. This idea applies to the spiritual life. The reflection of last Sunday made us understand who we are, leveraging God’s definition. The challenge today is for us to realize that we have an enemy (1 Peter 5:8) whose plan is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a). Most Christians in the world today think that the idea of Satan is a myth, so they deny that Satan exists. That is the height of satanic manipulation.

Often, most people think that Satan is restricted to operate around weird people and places. That is another error. Satan’s plan is continuously to thwart every excellent and godly plan. The project is to make a good thing to become bad. We see this starting from the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when everything was perfect and right, and the devil comes to tempt Eve through the talking serpent (Genesis 3:1ff).

The devil waited for our Lord Jesus Christ to complete his forty days fasting and prayers before showing up to tempt him (Matthew 4: 1-11). And today, as Jesus plans to go to Jerusalem for the culmination of his earthly ministry Satan shows up through Peter to obstruct him.

You may also have your own story about some obstructions when you are following a good plan or when somethings of immense spiritual values come your way. Often, we fail to connect to the reasons behind some disruptions in our lives. St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2:11) says that we should not be ignorant of the devices of Satan so that he would not take advantage of us.

The biggest lesson we could learn from the response of our Lord is that we can resist and rebuke Satan as soon as he comes to negotiate with us. St. James says, “resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Notice that our Lord Jesus Christ made a firm declaration, “Get behind me, Satan!” It was not a mere suggestion; it was a strong declarative command!

I want to encourage you today to stand firm and stay focused on your goal like our Lord Jesus Christ in those moments of discouragement as you walk through the journey of life. Do not be afraid to take us your cross as our Lord Jesus Christ said in the second section of the Gospel today.

Note that for every cross, there is sufficient grace and a crown at the end of the journey. God will not give you a cross you cannot carry. Did you notice that the cross is a PLUS + sign? Look at it again; it is also a SWORD to defeat Satan. It is as well a PLATFORM that would help us to climb the mountains and cross the valleys of life. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.  

WHO ARE YOU?

VIDEO OF THE HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

WHO ARE YOU? DISCOVERING YOUR TRUE IDENTITY

HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY (YEAR A)

        Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Can you guess the one tangible thing that you possess, which no other person in the world has and which you cannot share with other person, even the closest people in your life? We could share our time, money, and properties with other people. We could also share vital body organs with our loved ones who are sick and in dire need. I know of a lady who donated one of her kidneys to her mom, and she was able to survive the close shave with death.

The thing that we possess, which makes us different from everyone in the world is our fingerprints. There are no two individuals in the world with the same fingerprints. Even hyper-identical twins do not have the same fingerprints; they give us a distinctive identity apart from helping us to feel and hold things.

 Life would be complicated if there were no identities, that is why we have names, and other descriptions attached to our documents. Some identity dependent documents, we are required to provide our gender, height, weight, ethnicity, the color of eyes, and even next of kin.

The Gospel narrative of this Sunday (Matt. 16:13-20) tells us about our Lord’s discussion with his disciples about people’s opinions about his identity as well as their opinion about him. This question and answer session happened in the region of Caesarea Philippi, and we need to ask why?

Caesarea Philippi lies in the Northern region of Israel a few miles from Dan and sits at the foot of Mount Hermon. The area had a reputation for housing many pagan gods, especially the Greek god, Pan, which has the description of half-human and half-goat. Herod the Great named the place after Caesar and attached the name of his son Philip to it, so it became Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus chooses this location to ask the question about his identity for a reason, which we can see from the description above and the answer that Simon gives. According to the disciples, people thought Jesus to be John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. When Jesus inquired about their opinion about his identity Simon proclaimed that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Note that Christ is the anointed one, the messiah.

Because of the accurate answer, Jesus said to Simon, “you are blessed” because it was not flesh nor blood that revealed that to him but his heavenly Father. Consequently, he said that he is to be known as Peter, which means rock and that he would build his Church upon the rock and that the gates of the netherworld would not prevail against it. Furthermore, our Lord made a promise saying: “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.

The gates netherworld, as used in the narrative, refers to the domain of darkness represented here by the Caesarea Philippi area, which housed cultic altars. St. Paul would later tell the Colossian (1:13) that God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

Our Lord’s declaration to Simon Peter marks the spiritual inauguration of the Church, which will become full-blown on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and others who were present in the Upper Room (Acts 2:1ff).

Discovering the “Who” in “You”

Our Lord’s question about his identity in the Gospel today challenges us to turn the same question to ourselves: “who are you?” Put in another way, “how much of you do, you know?” Your definition of you determines how much you can succeed or fail in the journey of life.

We are living in a world where most things are made-up. Making up is not just about facials; most people make-up their lives to project an identity they do not possess to get high flying definitions about themselves from people. You may not be surprised to hear that there are companies whose services involve branding and rebranding their client’s public image, and they are not cheap.

The definition of you is not about your name nor your title. The “who” in “you” is not about your gender, color, nor your ethnicity. Who you are is not determined by your academic qualification or your business expertise and accomplishments. The challenges in your life now do not define who you are; neither do what people are saying represent you.

Your identity comes from who God says who you are. The Gospel narrative informs us that the people have various definitions about the identity of our Lord Jesus Christ. For some people, he was John the Baptist, for others Elijah, and still, others thought he was one of the prophets. However, when Peter identified him as the Christ the Son of the living God, Jesus said that the revelation came from the heavenly Father. Here we understand that our true identity comes from God.

Moving Forward!

Only God has the right to define you, and the further good news is that the Lord had already defined you; you only need to accept and connect to it. Find out who you are in these passages:

  • From the point of structure, you are fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14).
  • In the eyes of God, you are precious and honored (Isaiah 43:4), and you are the apple of His eyes (Zechariah 2:8).
  • In the heart of God, you are loved with an everlasting love (Deut. 31:3), and God’s thoughts for you are for peace, not evil, so that you can have a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • From the fact of version, you are a new creation; the old is gone (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • In terms of transaction, you owe nothing because Jesus paid the price for your life in full on the cross (John 19:30).

As we march into a new week, let us keep our focus on God’s purpose for our lives, which deeply unveils who we are in God’s plan and design. As our Lord Jesus Christ, you are also a son or daughter of the heavenly Father.  Have a blessed week ahead and don’t forget who you are in God and run with it.

Remain blessed!

Fr. Bonnie.

DON’T GIVE UP: THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER

DON’T GIVE UP!

THE POWER OF PERSISTENT PRAYER

HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

                                          Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Do Not Give Up – Duncan Muguku

“Father! How long do I need to pray before getting an answer from God? It makes no sense to me praying for the same thing all the time. It scares me, as things keep getting worse as I pray. I feel that I need to take a break from praying!” This was what someone who came to consult me with over some pressing issues said. My first response was a simple question: “what do you plan to do as an alternative to prayer?” Of course, I did not get an answer!

Some of us may have had the experience of getting a “no” over a request when we expected a resounding “yes.” Those times we feel that we have done our best and put in a lot. It could be those moments in your life when you are remarkably close to success, but you still cannot have it, and you have two options; to boldly give up or to “foolishly” continue to try!

The description above fits the experience of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel narrative today (Matt. 15:21-28). The Gospel tells us that our Lord withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon after addressing the Pharisees and the Scribes who wanted to know why his disciples could not keep the tradition of the elders with regards to washing hands before meals.

Notice here that our Lord went beyond the Jewish boundaries by going over to that Gentile region. Now a woman shows up with a very pressing request; the healing for her daughter tormented by a demon. She may have thought that since our Lord Jesus, a Jew, broke the traditional protocols by crossing to the Gentile region, he could also overcome the inter-tribal barriers between Jews and Gentiles and heal her daughter. The First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah (56:1, 6-7) tells us among other things that foreigners will benefit from the house of God.

The narrative tells us that Jesus did not say a word to her first request, “have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! A demon torments my daughter”. The woman did not give up; she followed Jesus, and his disciples probably repeating the same thing. In fact, the disciples asked Jesus to send her away, but he allowed her and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In response, the woman did homage to the Lord and said, “Lord, help me.” Furthermore, our Lord said, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

One would expect this poor woman to give up at this point Jesus seems to liken her to a dog, but she gives a fantastic reply, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. At this, Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish, and instantly her daughter was healed.

Timeless Lessons from the Canaanite Woman

There are many things we could learn from the faith-filled request of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel narrative today that could help us recharge and rejuvenate our prayer lives.

Reverent Approach: The woman comes to our Lord with profound reverence and respect, and not with an unnecessary outburst of entitlement. Notice that each time she spoke, she referred to Jesus as Lord. St. Paul tells the Romans (10:9), “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” She also called Jesus “Son of David,” which means the Messiah; in other words, the savior. Finally, she worshiped the Lord.  It takes faith to give a true worship (John 4:24).

Persistence and Patience: The Canaanite woman comes with persistent faith in her request for the healing of her daughter but not without patience. Faith is impossible without patience, which involves waiting for God to act (Psalm 37:7). David says I waited patiently for the Lord, He inclined to me and heard my cry (Psalm 40:1). The Book of the Lamentations (3:25) says that God is good to those who wait for Him, the souls that seek Him,

Moving Forward: Faith Does Not Give Up

Life has a lot to do with faith. In the Gospel Reading of last Sunday (Matt. 14:22-33), Jesus called Peter (a Jew) a man of little faith. In the Gospel of this Sunday, an unnamed woman (a Gentile) received the name “woman of great faith.” This tells us that we are either “faith-filled” or “faith-less” as we march through the corridors of life.

One common thing with faith wherever you see it is that it does not give up. We often face a similar experience like the Canaanite woman in our life’s journey when we ask and do not receive, and we feel the pressure to give up and back off.

All winners share one thing in common, and that is persistence; they do not quit. And that is the simple reason quitters do not win. You have gone too far to give up. You have invested so much why do you have to back off?  Do not give up on that dream; do not give up on that plan; do not give up on that prayer. Yes, you have been on it for a long time now, and it does not seem to make sense do not quit; push on to stay in the game.

It often gets worse before it gets better. There would be an end to all these hurdles and challenges. Do not be weary in pushing on against all the odds, St. Paul says that God will answer you in due season if you do not give up (Gal.6:9).

Have a wonderful weekend and a refreshing week ahead; God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie. 

CALM DOWN: FAITH OVER FEAR!

CALM DOWN: FAITH OVER FEAR!

HOMILY FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

                         Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

A recent viral video shows a Nigerian child of about seven years begging his mom not to punish him for a misconduct. The most spectacular point in the video is where the little boy begs his enraged mother to calm down. When the mom asked what he means by asking her to calm down, the boy quickly remarked that she is overtly worked up by his misdeed, but she needs to relax, rest, and give him the last chance. The little boy’s headline reads: “mommy calm down”!

The First Reading today (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a) tells us about Elijah’s encounter with God at the mountain of God that is Horeb. The previous chapter showed how Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and Asherah in a contest when God answered him by the fire from heaven that consumed his portion of the sacrifice, which was the object of their competition.  

As a result of losing in the competition, Elijah slaughtered the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah. Consequently, queen Jezebel, their sponsor, sought to kill Elijah, and he fled, and God directed him to come over to Horeb for a meeting.

While waiting for God to show up, Elijah experienced three phenomenal events that could have indicated the presence of God: the strong and violent wind, a high magnitude earthquake, and fire which was the element God used to answer him the last time he prayed, but God was not in any of these until there was a tiny whispering sound and God showed up.

In this narrative, we could see that God was, in some way, telling the agitated and worried prophet to calm down by showing up to him in the most gentle way, the tiny whispering sound which was almost like silence. Most times, God speaks to us in whispers so we need to be calm to hear God.

Confronting the Storm on the Other Side

The Gospel Reading (Matt. 14:22-33), gives us a very vivid narrative on the experience of a storm in the middle of the sea. After the feeding of the five thousand with the five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus asked his disciples to go over to the other side with a boat while he dismisses the crowds. After that, he goes to the mountain by himself to pray. Meanwhile, his disciples were battling with a wind storm on their way to the other side.

During the fourth watch of the night ( about 3 am according to biblical chronemics), Jesus came to the disciples walking on the seawater as they struggle with the wind storm. The thought of a ghost could have scared them more until our Lord identified himself.

Still, in doubt, Peter asked the Lord to command him to come to him, and Jesus did. Peter started making his way to the Lord as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. But shifting his gaze from the Lord to the storm, he began to sink and called out for help. Jesus helped him out of the water while still standing on the water and queried his doubt and little faith.

Calm Down: Have Faith Over Fear!  

Notice that the narrative begins with the Lord asking his disciples to go over to the other side, which is unnamed. The last event on this side was the healing of the sick and the multiplication of bread and fish. From the last time we checked, this side ended well, with everyone satisfied and happy. Now, a deadly storm confronts the journey to the other, and the disciples were worried and wearied with uncertainty.

Life often presents us with frequent journeys to the other side during which we confront storms of various shapes and sizes. Many people making the trip to the other side are often tossed about by violent situations. The coronavirus pandemic and other dreadful experiences of the moment are significant storms on our journey to the other side.

One common thing with storms is that they often come with an intensity that presents finality, but they do expire with time, especially when God steps in. Notice that when Jesus showed up, the storm died down. Worth mentioning is the fear factor which possesses the mind and alters one’s actions. Notice that fear made the disciples not to recognize Jesus when he showed up; “it is a ghost they said and cried out in fear.” Anxiety could be very destructive and may leave one imagining what is not there. Fear brings distortions to our perception of things. St. Paul tells us that God did not give us the spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).

Let us look at Peter’s version of fear. At first, he dared to ask Jesus to invite him over; “command me to come to you on the water.”  That was a faith-inspired request, but when he received the command and started walking towards Jesus, fear took over his faith, and he started sinking.

From the narrative, we could see that fear stands as false evidence appearing real. The disciples were afraid of both the storm and the imaginary ghost, but nothing still happened to them. The Lord was mindful of them and came to them at their point of need. In the Prophecy of Isaiah (35:4) God said, tell those with fearful hearts, be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.

The disciples needed to calm down and place their faith over their fears. The same situation relates to all of us as we face trials when attempting to get through to the other side of life. In that sickness, calm down. When problems run after you in the family, calm down. In the current situation in your life, calm down. Worry would only weary you. Remember this statement, fear is the conversation you have with yourself over things you cannot change, but faith is a conversation you have with God about the things God alone can change. Calm down; have faith over fear. Remember that you cannot please God without faith (Heb. 11:6).

God Bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.      

THE EXPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS OF THE TRANSFIGURATION. REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

Transfiguration of the Lord,

Fr Bonnie's Reflections

transfiguration 2

“He must have lit up the sky that day on the mountain, what we call the transfiguration. Jesus on the mountaintop unveiled a foretaste of heaven and glory. Light filled him so that the witnesses remarked on a hue of white that was whiter than any shade possible.
It was a sci-fi transportation to another dimension and while Peter, James, and John were still reeling, Moses and Elijah showed up.
It broke the barrier between heaven and earth for Jesus was the one who could belong to both at the same time. A citizen of heaven, a citizen of earth.”-  Sara LoweHealing, Finding Truth Among the Mysteries

Today, we are celebrating the feast of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. The transfiguration tells us about a witnessed change in the personal appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ into a glorified form. From our premise above, it was…

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