There is a famous story about a young man of seventeen years whose life could serve as an odyssey; yes, a long adventurous journey. He was the beloved of his father not only because he was the youngest of all, but he was also upright.
The young man had older brothers who disliked him for a variety of reasons which included his dream of a future greatness above them and the love of their father towards him. One day, they had an opportunity to kill him in the woods and end his potential fame but later decided to sell him off to some merchants who were on a business trip to a distant land.
In the distant land, things went from bad to good and from good to bad and again from bad to good and finally to excellent. He later became a great man, a renowned Prime Minister in the palace of Pharaoh of Egypt. Of course, we are talking about Joseph the dreamer (Genesis. 37ff).
There is one lesson we could learn from the story of Joseph; he was never afraid, and the reason is that: “GOD’S GOT HIS BACK.” The Bible gives us several references about the abiding presence of God in the life of Joseph. The following passages tell us that “God was with him and he prospered”: Genesis 39: 2, 3, 21, 23.
Way back in my younger years as a soccer player, we had a “BACKMAN.” The Backman was our amateur way of describing one of those playing the center full-back. The primary duty of the Backman is to build defences against the attacks of the opposing team; he’s got the back of the team.
We also notice that top government officials and prominent individuals often have security men standing behind them when they step out. The security designates work as “Backmen” against possible physical attacks.
Among all the “Backmen” we can think of there is none as formidable and enduring as God Himself. The key message we have today is that “God has our backs” against all possible physical and spiritual oppositions there could be in life.
The First Reading of today (Jeremiah 20:10-13) opens the discussion by describing to us how God rescues the life of the poor from the power of the wicked. The victim in the passage suffers in the hands of friends who turn out to become persecutors. They devise various means to bring the victim down. However, he tells us this: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.” Put in another way; God’s got the back of the victimized.
In the Gospel Reading today (Matthew 10:26-33), our Lord Jesus Christ tells the twelve not to be afraid. Fear is an emotion that could wrap and wrinkle us when we allow it to rule us. There are reasons why we should fear, but our fear should not replace our faith. Faith tells us to accept facts without proofs (Heb.11:1). Faith tells us to come to God believing that He can do all things even the impossible ones (Mark 11:22).
If we take a closer look at the Gospel Reading, we could see that we have a kind of contradictory instruction: “not to fear and to fear.” Let us look at the passage again and make a little sense out it.
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”
Some people naturally assume that the one who can destroy the body and the soul in hell is the devil. If that is the case, then we should fear the devil. The passage refers to God. He is the “One” who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Gehenna). The soul faces destruction when it does not enjoy eternity with God (John 15:5). God is the author of our being, and He takes the final decision about us.
You may be passing through tough moments in your life; do not be afraid, God has your back. Are you struggling with so many things? Is your life going to the brink? Do not be frightened! God’s got your back. Your relationship or marriage may appear to be in a trouble mode, do not be afraid, God has your back. You may be suffering from betrayal from those you trust; your friends may be turning into enemies; do not be scared. God has your back.
The word of God says in Book of Psalms (30:5): “For His anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning”. Here we learn that every ugly situation would eventually give way to God’s glorious blessings. The tribulation might be many, but God will deliver us from them all (Psalm 34:19).
God is so detailed in His care over you that He knows the number of hairs on your head. You are not alone in your challenges; God knows your issues, He has your back and like the response to the Psalm today says, “He would answer you in His great love.”
Good parents look out for their children, provide for them, and protect them. God does more than good parents. God has comprehensive care over you even before your conception in the wombs of your mother (Jeremiah 1:5). God lacks nothing, and He can do all things without limitations. God has your back:
As we march into a new week, let us strive to erase our fears, bring forth our faith and God will show us His faithfulness. In all circumstances, remember that He’s got your back! Have a great day!
Food and drink are very essential for the physical functioning of the human being. The food and drink we take give us nutrients like vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. These are in turn helps in the building and reconstruction of our body tissues, organs, and the release of energy.
Without food and drink, our body metabolism slows down, the immune system is affected, and we become vulnerable to various kinds of diseases that could predispose us to death. Apart from eating, another concern is what we eat; “WE ARE WHAT WE EAT.” There is thus a strong relationship between what we eat and how we appear physically. Malnutrition could also have a mental consequence.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which our Lord himself gives the appellation: “REAL FOOD AND REAL DRINK” (John 6:55). Why did our Lord Jesus Christ give us his body and blood to eat and to drink? How does this “Holy meal” affect our lives?
Rekindling our understanding of the Eucharist
The Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night before he was betrayed and arrested.
Before the institution proper, our Lord made statements pointing to the power and reality of the Eucharist. The Gospel John (6:53-59) says:
So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.
Our Lord Jesus institutes the Holy Eucharist before he enters the passion that led to his death and eventually his resurrection. We could recall that the first sin of Adam and Eve came because of eating the wrong thing which brought death. Similarly, our Lord intends to give us eternal life through right eating; namely, his Body and Blood.
The Synoptic Gospels and the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians agree that our Lord took bread and after giving thanks (blessing it), he tells the apostles to take and eat his body. He also took a cup filled with wine, and after giving thanks (blessing it), he gave them to drink his blood. He added that they should do what he did in his memory. (Matt. 26:26-28, Mk.14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25).
The key learning about the Holy Eucharist is that in the sacrament, we receive the totality of Jesus Christ. We thus receive not only the incarnated Jesus Christ but also the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that we maintain that in the Holy Eucharist we receive the TRUE BODY AND BLOOD, SOUL, AND DIVINITY of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the FULL PACKAGE of Jesus Christ. Even in the tiniest piece of consecrated bread contains the whole of Jesus Christ.
In the Holy Eucharist, we also receive the Holy Trinity; hence we not only receive the totality of Jesus Christ, but we also receive the entirety of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We understand that we receive the Holy Trinity in the Holy Eucharist from our knowledge that the three divine persons share one essence. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the divinity of Jesus Christ which he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
If you pay attention to the words of consecration, you will discover the action of the Holy Trinity in the action of TRANSUBSTANTIATION which means the change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ while still retaining the physical qualities of bread and wine. The preface prayer (IV), for instance, runs thus:
Therefore, O Lord, (God the Father) we pray: may this same Holy Spirit (God the Holy Spirit) graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the Body + and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (God the Son) for the celebration of this great mystery, which he himself left us as an eternal covenant. (The words in brackets are mine).
We shall use the rest of the space in this reflection to examine how the Holy Eucharist can become more meaningful for us as we make a daily encounter with this most wondrous sacrament that forms the source and summit of the Church’s life and ministry.
Rekindling a worthy reception
The first thing we should know is what the Centurion taught us in the Gospel of Matthew (8:8) “I am not worthy to receive you under my roof.” It should amaze us that God has given us the privilege to be his host; to have him under the roof of our mortal mouths.
If we can prepare and put our houses in perfect shape when someone very distinguished is coming for a visit to us, we are even more challenged to make a more detailed preparation to have the totality of Jesus Christ in us; his body, blood, soul, and divinity.
To rekindle a worthy reception, we need to prepare our souls by eliminating all known sins. This means that we need to avail ourselves the opportunity of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. Why it is important that we cleanse ourselves of sins before we approach the Holy Eucharist, we are not expected to repeat the mistake of Judas Iscariot who received in an unworthy manner, and the devil entered him (John 13:27). Our disposition would determine the efficacy of the Holy Eucharist in our lives.
Rekindling our awareness of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is consistently present in the Holy Eucharist; we are only unaware of his presence. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is not what we can verify physically because it is substantial. One of the Eucharistic miracles at Lanciano, Italy, in the eight century AD, tells us about the physical change of the bread and wine to real flesh and blood when a Basilian Monk was celebrating the Holy Eucharist and was doubtful of the Real Presence.
We do not need to see like Thomas, the apostle before believing and accept the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. When we recognize his Real Presence, we can transcend to another level which involves prayerful communication with him both at the raising of the body and the cup, when we receive him during communion, and when we adore him; the three most remarkable moments of our Eucharistic experience.
Rekindling our Communion with Jesus Christ and with one another
Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:56). The statement above forms the basis of our description of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as communion.
We become what we eat! By participating in the Holy Eucharist, we enter communion with Jesus Christ whose body and blood, soul, and divinity we receive. This communion should also predispose us to communion with one another and thus realize the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father: “The glory you have given me I have given, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:22).
Our reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ should not only bring us closer to him but should also create a community of love amongst us. We cannot be partaking from the same table while living in anger and resentment with one another. We have one table, one sacrifice, one Lord and one community of love.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us take some time to re-examine our understanding and appreciation of the wonderful privilege we have in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
Have a transforming celebration of “Corpus et Sanguinis Christi.”
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in the foreground of our Christian faith. We can thus say that without the Holy Trinity, Christianity would be vanity. The doctrine simply states that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In other words, God is ONE in essence and THREE in persons.This doctrine, however, is not as simple as stated.
We need to know from the outset that anyone who professes Christianity but does not accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity lives in perversity. The Holy Trinity is the language all Christians speak and understand; it is our meeting point.
The doctrine of the Trinity, which is also a mystery, has been under severe debate from the time God revealed His identity as a community of three persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We may not waste our time with the crossroads of ideas and debates in this reflection; we shall thus proceed to understand the Trinity with our rather limited human insight.
We shall begin by going through some passages in the Bible that point to the diversity of persons in one God. It is also pertinent to establish that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity grew out of the Bible. Our study will begin with the book of Genesis and run through other parts of the Old and New Testaments.
The Holy Trinity Identified in the Old Testament
< >Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Firstly, we need to understand that the word “beginning” as used here points to God. Revelation (21:6) says: “God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.”
From the original Hebrew text, the name “God” translates as “Elohim” which is the plural noun of “Eloah.” God (Elohim), in the sense of the passage, indicates the fullness of Godhead, that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The participation of the community of persons will become clearer in the next passage we shall examine.
<>Genesis 1:26a. “Then God said, Let US make mankind in OUR image, and in OUR likeness.”
Here we connect the plurality of persons in one God. God the Father was referring to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God was not referring to angels because they are creatures and do not bear the image and likeness of God as we do. In fact, God could have also said: “let us make persons like us!”
<>Genesis 11:7. “Come, let us go down and confuse their language, so they will not understand each other.”
Here we see an action by the community of persons in the Holy Trinity during the time the people of Shinar were building the tower of Babel. God the Father was again referring to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
<>Genesis 18: 1-2. “The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw THREE MEN standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them and bowed down to the ground. He said, my LORD if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.”
The passage above is one of the aptest descriptions of the Holy Trinity. Here we learn that the LORD appeared to Abraham and he looked up and saw THREE MEN. Furthermore, when greeting the supposed THREE MEN, he said, my LORD not my LORDS.
<>Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is ONE Lord.” In Hebrew, the revealed name of God is YAHWEH (I AM). The name is so holy that people are not allowed to mention it anyhow (in vain). The word “Lord” is thus used in place of “Yahweh” in most passages in the Old Testament including the one above.
With regards to the Holy Trinity, the passage above mentions that the “Lord our God is ONE Lord.” In Hebrew as in English, “ONE” could refer to number (yachid), or unity (echad).
In the passage above, the description is about unity (echad). The same usage is what we see in Genesis (2:24) “ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become ONE flesh.
<>Isaiah 6:8a. “And I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?”
In the vision of Isaiah, God the Father spoke about a mission which He shares with the Son and the Holy Spirit. That explains the “US?”
The Holy Trinity Identified in the New Testament
The New Testament gives us a more vivid presentation of the reality of the Holy Trinity. Though many people accepted that God the Father is God, some people doubt the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Creeds we recite in the Church (Apostles and Nicene) came as a definitive statement to demonstrate the reality and faith in the three Persons in one God.
<>John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Earlier, we understood “beginning” as referring to God. Hence, we could say: “In God was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John (1:14) went further to explain this “Word” thus:
”And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son full of grace and truth.”
Here, John gives a proof that shows that Jesus Christ is God.
<>Matthew 3:16-17. “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
At the site of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have a representation of the Holy Trinity.As our Lord Jesus Christ emerges from the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and God the Father declares him His beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.
<>John 14:9b-10a,16. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,(the Holy Spirit) to be with you forever.
Our Lord here demonstrated the unity and equality he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit whom he identified as another advocate after him. The reality of the Holy Trinity is evident here.
<>2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
This short Pauline greeting is a concise expression of the Trinity of persons in one God.
Identifying With The Holy Trinity In Our Lives.
As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, let us pray that for unity and mutuality in our relationships, and our communities Have a laudable Trinity Sunday and a graceful week ahead. May the Grace of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit abide with you now and forever. Amen.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Understanding the person, mission and work of the Holy Spirit is one of the great challenges that has been confronting Christianity from the apostolic times to our day and age. We, therefore, need to understand whom the Holy Spirit is, and leveraging on that, we can move further to appreciate His mission and work in our lives.
The First thing we need to know is that the Holy Spirit is a person and not a thing! The Bible presented us with some symbolic images that indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit; they are just symbolic manifestations. We have some examples like mighty wind and fire (Acts 2:2-3). During the baptism of our Lord, the Holy Spirit also came in form of a dove (Matt.3:16).
The Holy Spirit is God; the third person of the Trinity. Oftentimes most people think that the Holy Spirit is only a New Testament reality. But the Holy Spirit has been working and we could locate His action from the moment of creation. The Book of Genesis tells us that “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2).
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was not identified as a distinct person from God the Father. Often, He is called the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2; 6:3; Ezekiel 37:1, Neh. 9:30). He is also called the breath of God (Gen. 2:7; Job 32:8; 33:4). Furthermore, He is called Good Spirit (Neh. 9:20). Above all, David identified and called Him the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 51:11).
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon people at needful times but His presence was not permanent; in other words, He did not dwell in people. For instance, Joseph had the spirit of God (Gen.41:38), at the instance of Moses, the Holy Spirit came down on the seventy elders and they prophesied once and never again (Num. 11:25-26). During the time of Moses, the Spirit of God came down on a man called Bezalel and gave him intelligence and knowledge of every kind of craft.
The Judges were men and women who worked under the impact of the Holy Spirit. Among them were Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (11:29), Samson (Judges 13:25). The prophets were also in touch with the Spirit like Balaam (Numbers 24:2), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9, 13-15), Isaiah (Isaiah 48:16-17), Daniel (Daniel 4:8-9) and others.
Before starting his public ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ declared the word of God which says “the Spirit of God is upon me!”. (Luke 4:18) The Spirit did not only come upon him like He did in the Old Testament, but He also remained with him. John the Baptist confirmed this in the Gospel of John (1:33) where he says:
I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit DESCEND and REMAIN is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
From the foregoing reflection, we can see that the difference between the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New Testament is that in the former, the presence was not permanent but in the latter (New Testament) the Holy Spirit comes to stay. We could confirm this from the words of our Lord in the Gospel of John (14:16) where he says:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[Holy Spirit] to be with you FOREVER.
I believe that we are privileged to be among the beneficiaries of the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit. It now makes more sense why our Lord asked the apostles and few others including the Blessed Virgin Mary not to leave Jerusalem until they receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. The power is meant to stir up the Holy Spirit he already gave to them in during one of his post-resurrection visits (John 20:21-22) when he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
The apostles needed the Holy Spirit to empower them to begin to function effectively. What happened on the day of Pentecost was a commissioning ceremony. It is one thing to be named for something and another thing to be confirmed and commissioned to act.
By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were strengthened, they spoke in strange tongues, they became bold to speak in public and were no longer “afraid of the Jews”. When the Holy Spirit is lacking in our lives, we become afraid of the Jews. The Jews stand for all the variety of oppositions in our lives. The Jews here stand for all the odd experiences that make us hide and shy away from witnessing to God.
Today is also our own Pentecost. The Church is the new Upper Room. On this Upper Room, heaven will meet the earth. On this Upper Room, gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, piety, courage, fortitude and fear of God are available for us. On this Upper Room, we have baskets of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
It is very important for us to remember that before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and others were together in ONE ACCORD. Even when they spoke in different tongues there was mutual understanding unlike what at the tower of Babel where they spoke one tongue but lacked understanding. The Holy Spirit cannot come where people are not in one accord; disunity displaces the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Today we ask the Holy Spirit:
May this Pentecost celebration bring amazing transformation and graces upon your life. Have a great week ahead.
“While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to WAIT there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5).
Waiting is one exercise that could be draining, physically and emotionally. However, life is all about waiting. In fact, we just have to wait and be patient in waiting (Psalm 37:7). Today, the First Reading (Acts 1:12-14) tells us that after the ascension of our Lord into heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and “were CONSTANTLY devoting themselves to PRAYER” (vs. 14). We can see clearly that the gap between the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit was a time of WAITING which was also filled with “CONSTANT PRAYER.”
Prayer could be defined as our communication and connection with God. This communication and connection would become more efficient when we make our prayer constant (Luke 18:1;1Thess.5:17). Like most people would say, we become better at something when we do it repeatedly. The same dynamic applies to praying.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost not just because it was a promise, but more immediate, because of the prayers that stormed the heavens from the Upper Room where Mary and the apostles gathered together in one accord (Acts 2:1-2).
Before something would come from heaven something must leave the earth. The prayers at the Upper Room in Jerusalem opened the Upper Room of heaven for the Holy Spirit to pour forth on the apostles. This demonstrates a strong and effective communication between earth and heaven which brought forth the promise of the father; namely, the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel Reading (John 17:1-11), our Lord Jesus Christ renders what we know as the High Priestly prayer. He prays heartfully and intensely. His prayer is not only for us but also about us. The passage began by telling us that after Jesus had spoken THESE WORDS, he looked up to heaven and prayed.
One would be curious to ask, “which words.” The answer could be found in preceding Chapter (John 16). An attentive look at the Chapter tell us more about the promise of another advocate; the Holy Spirit whose coming would complete and confirm the work of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord takes the route of prayer to match his words with action. We learn from the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ the need for us to pray and remain in prayers. Prayer is the only tool we can use to communicate and connect with God. When we stop praying we lose our communication and connection with God.
As we look forward to the Pentecost, we are invited to climb to the Upper Room of prayer and raise our voices to God who would not delay in answering us even when it lingers (Heb.10:37). The Holy Spirit will not force his way into our lives; the prayerful disposition of our Lord encourages us today to invite the Holy Spirit to come into our lives.
As we march into this week that will lead us to the Pentecost. Let us continue to storm the heavens with our constant prayers as we await the outpouring and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Have a wonderful week as you keep up the communication and connection with God in prayer.
Going up or ascending could be fun for instance flying in an airplane for those who do not have an issue with height. “To ascend” means to rise or move to a higher point, degree or rank. To make a transition from a lower level to a higher level. There is usually a great feeling of elation and promotion that goes with moving up or going up as opposed to moving down or going down. While moving up or going up is associated with success, great accomplishment, and other positive things, moving down or going down is associated with failure, degradation, and hopelessness.
Today is a very important and remarkable day for us as we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. The Ascension is an inevitable bus stop on the highway of our redemption. Without the Ascension, the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ would not…
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Once upon a time, something happened in a remote rural community in West Africa. The community had a rule that prohibits anyone from going to the farm on the fourth market day. One early morning, on a fourth market day, a middle-aged man came to the village square announcing that he saw a young man coming out from the farm.
People from the community gathered immediately and apprehended the young man. Without allowing him to say anything, a decision was made to kill him by burying him alive to placate the gods who might be angry with the community. The boy’s plea of innocence failed on deaf ears as nobody cared to hear him out.
Meanwhile, a large wild bird was in a tree watching what was going on. As the people were digging a grave to bury the young man, the bird began to shriek and to fly about furiously, but nobody paid attention to it. At that point, a man in the crowd, who was considered a lunatic in the community, started shouting and asking the people to pay attention to the bird but nobody took him seriously.
However, something very dramatic happened, and that shocked everyone! The man who accused the young man was standing under a coconut tree when suddenly a large coconut disengaged from its place and hit him on the head, and he felled down and died instantly. It was at that point that the people looked up and saw that the wild bird used it sharp peak to disengage the coconut fruit that hit the man on the head.
The people could not continue the unholy interment as they became apprehensive and decided to hear the young out. According to him, the dead man came to him very early in the morning and begged him to help him drop a piece of wood to a location beside the community farmland to enable him to take it to the farm next day.
While they were coming back after dropping the piece of wood, he asked him to hold a farming tool for him, and when they came close to the village, the man raised the alarm announcing that the young man was coming from the farm. Upon further inquiry, the young man disclosed that the dead man wanted him to sell a piece of land to him, but he refused as it was the only one he inherited from his father.
Following his narrative, the young man identified the bird on the coconut tree as the same bird he saw on a tree when he came to drop the piece of wood for the man. It was at that point that the people understood that the bird and the mad man came to speak for the boy’s innocence and even saved him from mob judgment and condemnation. They were for the young man handy “advocates.”
The word advocate originates from the Greek “parakletos” which means someone who publicly pleads, support, or counsels another person. Put in another way; an advocate is a spokesperson. An advocate helps and promotes another person especially from a situation that is deplorable in the eye of the public.
In the Gospel Reading today (John 14:15-21) our Lord says: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows him.”
From this statement, we understand that another “advocate” is an indication that there is a first advocate. The First advocate is Jesus Christ our Lord. The apostle John (1 John 2:1) writes:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father; Jesus Christ the righteous.
We might be curious to know why we need another advocate; does it mean that the work of the first advocate is not enough? Here we acknowledge the division of labor among the Three Persons of the Trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We know that the Father Creates, the Son saves, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies. It is important to note that when each of the Persons is at work, the others are present. Let us leave this teaching to the Trinity Sunday.
“Another Advocate” the Holy Spirit comes to stay with us and like our Lord said, His presence would be forever. Does it mean that the Holy Spirit has not been there? He has been there and has been at work (Genesis 1:2) but unknown to the world as a person.
The Holy Spirit is another advocate. The work of the Holy Spirit includes: teaching us (Luke 12:11-12), guiding us (John 16:13), counseling us (John 14:26), empowering us (Acts 1:8) and also speaking for us especially when we lack words (Romans 8:26).
Our Lord Jesus Christ is our advocate before the court of heaven as he pleads for us at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8:34). The Holy Spirit is the advocate that helps us in our faith journey here on earth; He helps us in our battle with the world. The advocate helps us to give fitting worship to God (John 4:24). Without this advocate in our lives, the work of the first advocate would not make sense. In fact, the coming of the other advocate; the Holy Spirit, confirms and concludes the salvific work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why the Pentecost ends our Easter celebration.
The Liturgy of the word today takes our attention to the second advocate. We are invited to focus on the person, power, and position of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we draw nearer to the celebration of the feast of Pentecost.
In the Gospel we read, our Lord said that the world could not accept him because it neither sees nor knows him. The word of God says that my people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Lack of the deep knowledge and appreciation of the Holy Spirit is killing our world today. When the Holy Spirit; the other advocate, is absent from our lives, we suffer from the destructive patterns of our accuser; the devil (Rev. 12:10).
As we walk through the Sixth Sunday of Easter and get closer to the celebration of the feast of Pentecost, let us continue to pray for the impactful and transforming presence of the other advocate in our lives. May the Holy Spirit continue to be your advocate in all the situations in your lives. Amen.
What you choose in life determine a lot about your future; that is why we must choose wisely Furthermore, there must always be a reason or reasons for every choice we make in life. We could make choices among alternatives, people or events could choose us among others; and God chooses us in accordance to His will and design (John 15:16).
Today we are reflecting on divine choice and its implications for our lives. The Second Reading (1 Pet.2:4-9) among other things says:
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
God is too gracious to us. Our life as humans is all thanks to God’s kindness and love. God could have made us ants, trees, or any other phenomenon. However, it pleased Him to allow us to have a share in His image and likeness (Gen.1:27). This is a divine choice.
Beyond this privilege, God wants us to be united with Him forever after this life, and that explains the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to repair the relationship between God and us and to show us the way to eternal life (10:10b).
God calls and chooses (Matt. 22:14). This divine choice is what St. Peter tries to explain in that part of the Second Reading we presented above. God did not choose us because we are qualified, but He intends to qualify us through this choice leveraging on our cooperation. God chose us to become His own and to deliver us from darkness to light; from death to life; from nowhere to somewhere; from nobody to somebody.
God’s choice for us is not an end itself, but a means towards an end. We have instances where the chosen of God misuses the choice; King Saul is a very dependable example of a choice that went bad (1 Sam. 15: 11ff).
Let us reflect on St. Peter’s exhortation on divine choice which directly recalls the oracle of Isaiah (43:20b-21). Peter began by saying that we are a chosen race. One would ask which race? We know that race is descriptive of people with common characteristics which differentiates them from other people.
By race, we do not mean people who are differentiated by color or other physical characteristics. We understand race here as pointing to individuals who bear the mark of Christ. Furthermore, and more significantly, it refers to those who are on the heavenly journey (race). Yes! We are running a race, and we are specially chosen for this race as St. Paul confirms in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor.9:24).
To run a race, we need to be on track; if you like the right way. In the Gospel Reading today, our Lord said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. From these three phenomena, we see clearly the enabling elements for the race.
Those chosen for the race need to run through a way. There are indeed many ways in our world today, but there is only one way; also, known as THE WAY. Our Lord made it clear that he is THE WAY (John 14:6). The way is the new life in Christ; the route to eternal life which is, however, narrow (Matt. 7:14) We could recall that the post-resurrection disciples of Jesus Christ were accused and persecuted for following the WAY (Acts 22:4; 24:14). Running the race as chosen people means following the Way, namely our Lord Jesus Christ. The Way leads to two other important realities; the truth and the life.
Our Lord also declared that he is the truth. In the dialogue with Pilate, Jesus Christ told him that he came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37-38). The truth is one essential element that the world does not want to hear because it often convicts and chastises. In a world running currently on the wheels of political correctness, the truth is suffering while lies are becoming daily norms.
We need the truth as well as those who will speak the truth in season and out of season. We need the truth as well as truth speaker in our families, in our communities, in the church, and in the world. The greatest truth is that God loves us and desires our salvation if we but believe in Him and live uprightly.
Finally, our Lord Jesus Christ declares himself the Life. There are various walks of life, and people head towards different directions in life. There is the material life and the spiritual life. It is very unfortunate that in our world today many lives are materially driven, and few have the spiritual orientation.
Many people are more attentive to the nourishment of their bodies to the nourishment of their souls. We obey our physicians to the letter when we receive medical advice, but we tend to disregard the prescriptions for our souls especially the ones that tell us to go and sin no more (John 8:11) and to bear good fruits (Gal. 5:22-23).
Today, we have the invitation as the chosen ones to run the race on the Way of Truth and Life. God is ready to provide us with grace for the race. Like the seven deacons in the First Reading today (Acts 6:1-7), we have the encouragement to become servants in this race which is not all that rosy. He who has called us is faithful and would not fail the people He has chosen for Himself (2 Tim.2:13).
As you continue on this race, keep your eye on the prize (Phil 3:14) and God’s grace will remain sufficient for you. As our Lord advised in the Gospel Reading, do not let your hearts be troubled; run the race by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
Have a grace-full Sunday and as a chosen one on the way to the truth and the life may your strength increase.
The Fulanis of the northern region of Nigeria are known for their dexterity in cattle rearing. In fact, it is a well-known tribal characteristic that most male children learn the art from a very tender age. A little boy could lead a herd consisting of many cattle with minimum supervision; he only needs to make some audible sounds and use a long cane intermittently, and the herd would be moving in the desired direction.
Once upon a time, a Fulani man took two of his sons out to the field to teach them how to control and lead a herd of cattle. He began by teaching them how to lead one cattle. According to his instruction, if someone can monitor and drive one cattle the individual would be able to lead a herd of cattle no matter how numerous they could be.
During the lesson, one of his sons took an interest in running after some grasshoppers in the field, and his father would call his attention, but he would get distracted after some time. The lessons over, the man asked his sons to demonstrate what he taught them. The one who as paying attention went first and did exactly what the father taught. The cattle obeyed his instructions and did not resist him.
When the one who was distracted went to lead the animal, he got all the possible resistant from the cattle. He took his time to flog it several times, but it refused to move. He went further to pull the cattle by the rope around its neck and instead of following the boy, the cattle dragged him along to the extent that he felled and it continued to drag him until his father rescued him. It was evident that the kid was distracted during the time his father was giving them instructions; hence he used the wrong method and instead of leading the cattle the animal led him on by dragging him along.
During his recent Apostolic Visit to Egypt, Pope Francis gave a heart-warming instruction to priests and religious in what he termed “the seven daily temptations”:
A very attentive reflection on this list of temptations leaves nobody in doubt that the Pope was talking about shepherds who have the duty of taking care of various flocks and the demands of being good shepherds.
It is also important to note here that anyone who has control over anyone or anything, secular or religious, is a shepherd. So, our reflection is inclusive of everyone, priests, religious, parents, teachers, mentors, bosses, and indeed everyone whose position or function places him or her above others.
The First Reading today (Acts 2:14a, 36-41) gives us some essential qualities of a good leader; if you like a good shepherd personified in the Apostle of Peter. Firstly, he led others in proclaiming the truth and bearing witness. He sets the pace in the right direction. In the passage, we could also see that after his speech, the people were led to repentance and baptism. Three thousand souls accepted Christ on that day.
A good shepherd leads the flock to the right places; to the region of life and light. The Responsorial Psalm (23) among other things says: “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.” A good shepherd is selfless and dedicated. He or she does not leverage on constant complaints like the Pope mentioned in the list of temptations.
The work of leading involves sacrifice and selflessness. Our Lord Jesus Christ tell us that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). This means seeking for the good of others rather than for oneself. It means going the extra mile. In doing this, a good shepherd does not compare himself or herself to others; doing so could also lead to envy and jealousy as the Pope mentioned.
Often we try to measure our success by looking at the success of others. Our tasks and duties are different; we might have the same mission but different visions. In life, you can only be whom God has designed you to be. You cannot be you and be another person at the same time. Be content with yourself (Hebrew 13:5).
One powerful element we can acknowledge in the Gospel today (John 10: 1-10) with our Lord’s identification of himself as the gate for the sheep is the protective compassion that runs through his words. Now a gate is an immobile facility; it is always there every time; day and night. The gate serves a facility for security and protection. As the door, he is always available to receive and to protect. The Psalmist (121:4) says: “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
The docility (openness) that is characteristic of a door discourages all forms of the hardness of heart like in the case of Pharaoh as the Pope indicated in the list of temptations. It is the good shepherd’s docility that endears him to the sheep and makes them follow him when they hear his voice. The hardness of heart is a clear indication of the absence of love. Shepherding without love is like building without foundation. Love conquers and endures all things; love is eternal, and God is love (1 Cor. 13: 7; 1 John 4:8).
The good shepherd knows the sheep and also knows where to take them. Knowledge is power. He knows where the green pastures are and he leads the sheep to that location. The Pope mentioned that one of the temptations we face is walking without direction and destination even as people are following us.
Knowing the direction and the destination are two important navigational tools of a good shepherd. Though the path may not be smooth, he still leads them on; the psalmist calls it “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). The little boy in our story was unable to lead the cattle because he lacked the needed knowledge and ended up being led; that is what we mean by “sheeping” the shepherd.
Today, there are numerous instances of “sheeping” the shepherd. Sheeping, the shepherd, happens when we fail to uphold the truth and fairness. “Sheeping” the leader involves giving orders to the leader of detecting the pace of leadership. “Sheeping” the shepherd happens when the sheep loses confidence and trust in the Shepherd.
There is no gainsaying the fact that many places in our world are infected by bad shepherds. We discover this situation in the rising rate of bad leadership in various families, communities, towns, religious and secular institutions, and in many nations.
Another side of this is the prevalence of bad sheep starting from our homes, communities, institutions and indeed everywhere. In most cases, these sheep are perpetually incorrigible and are determined to “sheep” the shepherd instead of being “shepherded” by the shepherd. Today children give orders to their parents while teachers obey their students. Some people in most places run both the Church and the priests (pastors).
There is a need for both the shepherd and the sheep to take their respective positions and function according. Let the shepherd lead with knowledge and total dedication and let the sheep pay attention and follow; it takes the two to make things right.
I wish to conclude with Pope Francis’ words to all shepherds during his visit to Egypt: “May you be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony.”
Have a glorious Good Shepherd Sunday and remain a good sheep/shepherd.
Once upon a time, two young men set out on a long journey to consult a wise man in a certain town very far from where they live; it was a two-day journey by foot. The two young men had planned to see the sage to get answers to the hardship and difficulties in their lives; they wanted to know how they could succeed in life and do away with hardships.
Early morning on the second day of their journey they came across an old man along the same road who was walking slowly with a heavy load on his head. One of them suggested that they help the old man but the other bluntly refused and mentioned that helping the old man would delay their journey. The one who suggested the assistance went ahead to help the old man with his load while his friend wished him good luck and hurried into the town to search for the sage.
The old man asked the young man where they were going and the reason for their visit. The young man told him that they heard about one wise man and they have come to consult with him about the hardship and difficulties they were experiencing. The old man told the young man that he knew the whereabout of the wise man and offered to take him to the place through a shorter route by a bush path.
In few minutes, they came to a house in the middle of the forest, and the old man asked the young man to come along with him into the house without doors. As they entered the house, the old man said to the young man “welcome to my house I am the one you seek!”. The young man was shocked by the news and could only stare at him.
The old man told his visitor that his hardship and difficulties were lifted from him that moment he lifted the load from his head and carried it to his house. Hence, he would prosper greatly in all his plans. When he inquired about his friend, the old man told him that it will take his friend twenty-one days to find the route to his house and since he is not the patient and attentive type he would never get there. The young man later left and became a very wealthy and successful man. His friend came back after a fruitless search for the wise man only to be told story about what happened when he departed in a hurry and without consideration for the old man who turned out to be the wise man.
We could connect with the story above when sometimes we frantically search for things not realizing that they are just within our reach; that is the result of ignorance. Ignorance is a virus that can diminish us without sparing a bit of us. Knowledge is key to many things; no wonder the oracle of Hosea made it clear that my people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). And our Lord Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem because of the people’s ignorance (Luke 19:41-42).
The Gospel Reading today (Luke 24:13-35)) tells us about one of the post-resurrection pilgrimages and the destination was Emmaus, which means warm spring. Two disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ left Jerusalem in utter despair and were going to Emmaus for a reason we do not know. The arrest, passion, and death of our Lord Jesus Christ brought about the scattering of the disciples (Mark 14:50). The resurrection was supposed to bring them together, but the multiplicity of stories about the empty tomb, appearances of angels at the tomb including the rumor that the disciples came to take the body away while the soldiers were sleeping (Matt. 28:13) brought so much confusion and disquiet.
The two disciples could have left Jerusalem (the city of peace) because peace eluded them. The set out on a pilgrimage to Emmaus (warm spring) to see if they could get some inner warmth. On their way, they kept reflecting on the event of the time; the variety of stories concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Suddenly our Lord appeared in their midst in the form of a co-traveller to Emmaus and asked them what they were talking about, and they were surprised to learn that he was perhaps the only visitor to Jerusalem who was ignorant of the current story about Jesus Christ. More like someone visiting the USA at the peak of the presidential campaigns and election and claiming not to know what’s on the news.
By the time our appearing Lord opened the scriptures to them and began to tell them about the Messiah and his salvific mission they became speechless and began to understand how foolish and ignorant they were. At first, they blamed the “co-traveller” for his ignorance about the events of the time, but after the exposition, our Lord accosted them for their foolishness and ignorance of the scriptures which according to St. Jerome is ignorance of Christ.
After the heart-warming sermon on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples could not but indulge in the company of our Lord to the extent that they did not allow him to go as they earnestly pleaded “stay with us!” That evening while they were at the table our Lord broke the bread and gave them, and instantly their eyes opened, and they recognized him, but he immediately disappeared out of their sight.
The journey to Emmaus leaves us with a lot of crucial lessons. It is a journey from fear to faith, a journey from despair to peace, a journey from a cold heart to a warm heart, a journey from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge, journey from nowhere to somewhere, a journey from foolishness to wisdom.
The Resurrection of Faith.
The two disciples represent the two prominent dispositions in our life: doubt (fear) and faith. Before the Emmaus encounter, they were filled with doubts as they were recounting the disconnected stories about the resurrection from various witnesses. In their doubts, their minds were closed from remembering and reflecting on the scriptures. Our Lord’s appearance to them was to transform their fear into faith. The word of God tells us that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).
We are like these disciples. We often forget the promises of God and prefer to remember and magnify the problems around us. We often forget what God says He would do in every situation and only remember what our situation is doing to us. We often remember that we are passing through the valley of the shadow of death and forget that God says that he would be with us; with his crook and staff, He would comfort us (Psalm 23:4). We often drop the shield of faith (Eph.6:16 ) in our battle as the soldiers of Christ.
The Resurrection of Opened Eyes.
At the beginning of the Gospel narrative, we learn that the eyes of the two disciples were prevented (closed) from recognizing our Lord when he joined them on the pilgrimage to Emmaus. Often, we fail to recognize the Lord in our lives because of our spiritual blindness which could be because of sin or our lack of faith. One of the young men in our opening story was unable to recognize the wise man they seek because of his impatience and lack of the milk of kindness.
Fast forwarding to the post-dinner breaking of bread, we learn that the eyes of the disciples opened. It is important to note here that they had to hear the word of God first before their eyes opened during the breaking of bread. Today we have two locations that would bring about the opening of our eyes. We are called to the liturgy of the word of God first and then to participate actively in the liturgy of the Eucharist where we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection of Burning Hearts.
There is a very significant difference between the HEAD and the HEART. The head is the seat of reason while the heart is the seat of faith which connects us with God. Before the encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, the two disciples were operating on the platform of reason. Their discussion was an entire exercise in rationalization. They were trying to be logical in their reasoning forgetting that with God, logic has no relevance. The resurrection is not a product of reason but an element of faith.
During the scripture exposition that our Lord made with them and for them, their hearts were burning, but they could not attend to that. It was at the point when their eyes opened that the remembered how their hearts were burning when the Lord was explaining the scriptures to them.
We are challenged to allow our hearts to burn for the Lord not our heads like the Athenians who rejected Paul’s preaching about the resurrection because it made no logical sense for them (Acts 17:18–34). The problem with our world today is that people would like everything to be logical and reasonable before they could be accepted. But our Christian vocation tells us to believe first even when we do not have a reasonable evidence (Heb.11:1).
As we continue to reflect on the message of today, let us rise to our Emmaus pilgrimage. Emmaus stands for a profound encounter of faith. Emmaus stands for a more in-depth understanding of the word of God that would open our eyes and burn our hearts for the Lord. Emmaus represents the presence of God in our lives as He stays with us to renew us and make us better and believing children of his.
Have an Emmaus Sunday and more graces in the coming week.