Fr Bonnie's Reflections

THE GOSPEL OF TRUST: ALLOWING GO TO HOLD AND MOLD YOU HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Trust

Once upon a time, a boy was taking a walk with his grandfather through a park, and suddenly they come to a little bridge with a stream beneath meaning to cross over to the other side. Sensing that the little boy would be scared because of the shaky bridge, the grandpa says to the boy “come on! Joe hold my hand!” The boy replies and says to him, “grandpa you hold my hand instead!”. “What’s the difference?” The grandfather cuts in and turning to him the boy says, “well grandpa, there is a big difference. If I hold your hand and something happens, and I slip, I may let go of your hand. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go!” What an expression of trust!

Trust is one word we hear very often from parents, teachers, preachers, politicians, doctors, lawyers and marketers of goods and services. There is so much talk about trust, but we trust only to see ourselves in the trash. I have seen people who say they don’t trust anyone because of one experience or the other. Some people trusted their spouses and got the worst hit in their lives. Family and friends have betrayed some people, and they ask, “who can be trusted?”

Trust Brings Blessings

In the First Reading today (Jeremiah 17:5-8) we hear God making a very profound statement which among other things indicates that curse is on anyone who trusts in human beings, seek strength in the flesh, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. On the contrary, the oracle of the Lord states that blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. The prophecy gives more description of the two individuals. While the person who trust in human beings would be like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, the one who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted beside the waters that enjoy a steady supply of water even in the seasons of drought.

In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 6:17, 20-26), we hear our Lord’s beatitudes where he ascribes “blessedness” to individuals with various spiritual and moral aptitudes. The individuals that are mentioned in the Lord’s enlistment in the beatitudes share one thing in common, and that is “trust in God.”  It takes trust to go through poverty, hunger, weeping, hatred, and insults and still cling unto God.

In life, we always choose as to where we put our trust and where we put your trust determines how far you can go in life. You may have numerous reasons for no servicing the virtue of your trust in your life. It could be because you lost your spouse, child, a close relative or a relationship you cherished. Yes, things happen, and there would always be one challenge or the other, that is life.

In all these things and more, a man called Job still trusted in God and exclaimed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). For this reason, God tells us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and He knows the end of your life from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Your trust could turn things around to blessings.

Moving Forward!

From your human calculation, the pitfalls in your life may be unreasonable. God often allows us to go through the University of adversity, where troubles are teachers and problems are professors. The Book of Proverbs (3:5) advises us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not to lean on our understanding. Your understanding may tell you that you can do it by yourself, that something is wrong with you or that God hates you, your knowledge may tell you that you are incapable! No, God loves you, and you need to trust Him.

As we march into a new week, there is an urgent need for us to revamp the level of your trust in God. Remember, when you stop trusting in God, you start rusting. Have a beautiful and a trust-full week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

VALENTINE AND YOU : DO NOT CELEBRATE A “VALUELESS” VALENTINE. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

Fr Bonnie's Reflections

February 14th remains a notably remarkable date in the world conventionally known as Valentine’s day, St. Valentine’s day or more colloquially Val’s day. On this day most people seek after who would be their “Val” or “lover”. There seem to be so much craze around the world because February is 14th.

This craze had for a long time turned out to be a business opportunity for many to the extent that February 14th just like December 25th has been highly commercialized. Within a period of twenty-four hours most people lose their cool in an effort to ritualize what they cannot grasp it’s attendant reasons and values. Sometimes I sit and ponder if love that I know is seasonal (as some people would say it is the season of love) or February 14th bound.

There is no universally homogenous history of Valentine’s Day. What we…

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PUT OUT INTO THE DEEP: STEPPING AWAY FROM THE SHALLOW LIFE AND FOLLOWING THE LORD. HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Put out into the deep pic

Do you know why some treasures are called precious stones (like a diamond, Sapphire, and Emerald) and precious metals (like gold, silver, and platinum)? They are found underneath the earth and to get them one must dig deep into specific rocks and soils. We consider some animals special because they are rarely seen around our living spaces but deep in the wild. If there is a tree that stands still through all the seasons of the year, know for sure that the roots are deep into the soil.

In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 5:1-11), we learn about the call of Simon Peter and his partners from fishers of fish to fishers of men, and foremost followers of Jesus Christ. The narrative reveals that a crowd was listening to our Lord preaching by the lake of Gennesaret and seeing two boats with the fishermen occupants washing their nets he requested for Peter’s boat as a provisional pulpit for his preaching.

At the end to the preaching, our Lord asked Simon to put into the deep and lower the nets for a catch. He replies and tells our Lord that they worked all night and caught nothing but at his command, he would lower the nets. When they put the nets into the deep, they had a huge catch to the extent that the nets were tearing, and they needed help from their partners.

Simon Peter could not contain the miracle and thus asked Jesus Christ our Lord to depart from him for he is a sinful man, but the Lord’s says to him “do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”. Thereafter Simon Peter and others left everything and followed him.

Laboring Without the Lord is a Shallow Enterprise

The word deep refers to something that extends from the surface reaching down. In another sense, it refers to an extreme, intense, and thorough measure. The opposite of deep is shallow or superficial and when we compare the two words, we discover that deep is mostly positive while shallow falls to the negative side. For example, we can differentiate between a deep conversation and a shallow one.

Life could be deep or shallow depending on the way and manner we live it. A shallow life is a life without the active presence of Christ. The word of God according to the prophet Isaiah (29:13) expresses shallow life very well where it says:

Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.

The prophet Ezekiel (33:31), talks about the shallow people as those who come, sit and hear the word of God but refuse to do them. In the Gospel of Luke (6:48-49), our Lord Jesus Christ uses the image of building a house with a foundation and without foundation to describe a deep-rooted life versus a shallow life in God

From the event at the Lake, Simon Peter and his fishing partners labored through the night with all their tested and trusted fishing skills yet they were unable to catch a single fish. However, when our Lord Jesus Christ appeared the next day and asked them to put their nets into the deep, they had a great catch. With the Lord, we can do more but without him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

We see a similar situation with the encounter Isaiah had in the temple. The encounter with the glory of God in the temple, made Isaiah confess his shallowness just like Simon Peter would say, “depart from me for I am a sinful man”. When the angel touched Isaiah’s lips the charcoal he was renewed and equipped to go on the mission. And when Peter confessed his sinfulness, he was picked to become a disciple of the Lord.

Our life endeavors are meaningful and fulfilling only when we have God and obey His commands just as Simon did in the passage.

Moving Forward: Put Out into the Deep

Why do we stay on the superficial when we could aim deep? How deep you go determines how far you can go for anything in life. In the Gospel, we see Simon Peter and his partners washing their nets after a fruitless effort throughout the night. Washing their nets is a sign of giving up; they were done for the day. However, when Jesus appears, he lets them know that it is not yet over until God says it is over. What they needed to do was to put out into the deep as the Lord commanded them.

There is something more than what you might be seeing or experiencing in your life now and unless you go deeper you may not get higher. Let us also remember that our successes do not depend solely on our efforts but more on God’s presence in our lives and our readiness to follow him like Simon Peter and his companions who left everything and followed him.

Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week ahead. Remember to put out to the deep for a great catch. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

THE IRONY OF GOD’S ACCEPTING LOVE AND HUMAN REJECTION HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

rejection of Jesus

Rejection is a negative attitude of turning someone or something away or refusing to let in. The pain of rejection could frustrate and make someone look worthless. Have you ever experienced rejection that often leads to a total ejection? You may like to know the encounters some notable individuals had with the reality of rejection:

  • Oprah Winfrey was rejected at a TV house because they thought she was unfit for TV. Today she the host of her show and own the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).
  • K. Rowling is the author of the book Harry Potter which was adapted to the epic series “Harry Potter.” The surprising fact is that several publishers rejected the author’s manuscript before Bloomsbury could consider it after twenty years.
  • Michael Jordan, the professional basketball player in the United States, was rejected by his high school basketball team for lack of skill.
  • Warren Buffet who is also known as the “Oracle of Omaha” is one of the top three wealthiest people in the USA. At the age of sixteen, his application to study at Harvard was rejected when he was sure that his business ideas with stock marketing would add value during the interview.
  • His teachers in elementary school rejected the great German-born American physicist and scientist Albert Einstein because he was too dull to learn.

In the Gospel narrative today (Luke 4:31-36), our Lord Jesus Christ visits his home town Nazareth for the first time after the beginning of his ministry around the regions of Galilee. What ought to be a grand reception of their own turned out to be a rejection and even an attempted murder. The examples of people who faced rejection at some points in their lives show that they were striving towards some personal goals, but in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, he was rejected not for his gain but for bringing the good news and salvation to his people.

Going through the narrative intently, we understand that our Lord read the prophecy of Isaiah which contains the manifesto his ministry and concludes by acknowledging the fulfilment of scripture in their hearing. The people were more concerned about who said it than what is said, “the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

In the defective minds of the Nazarenes, the son of the carpenter cannot save them with the good news of liberation and restoration (Luke 4:18). For them, nothing good could come out of their town Nazareth (John 1:46). In their estimation, if there should be anything right, it should not come from the son of Mary, the humble lady without lots of material means.

Our Lord did not spare the people by remarking how their familiarity with his background is a hindrance to their faith and blessings from God. Our Lord’s reprisal infuriated them because they could not stand the truth and they drove him out of the town and tried to hurl him off the cliff, but he walked away through the midst of them.

The Rejection of Jesus is the Rejection of Love

When the people of Nazareth drove Jesus Christ away from their town, they were spiritually ejecting and rejection God who is love (1 John 4:8). Our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s gift of love to us (John 3:16). The rejection was not just about the son of the carpenter or the son of Mary but more of the rejection of God’s invaluable gift to humanity.

In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 12:31; 13:1-13), St. Paul talks about the nature and character of love. Among other things, he mentions that love bears all things, endures all things and love never ends. When the people of Nazareth rejected God’s love through our Lord Jesus Christ, God did not withdraw his love but extended it to the people around Capernaum where our Lord continued his ministry.

Are You Rejecting Jesus Christ?

It would be difficult to hear anyone in the Church answer “yes” to this question consequently; we would likely hear a resounding “no”! But on a deeper level of reflection, we can discover that we reject our Lord Jesus Christ consciously and unconsciously when we fall into sin.

We reject Jesus Christ when we give hatred to others instead of love. We reject Jesus Christ when we close our minds and hearts to the commandments of God. We reject Jesus Christ when we plan and execute evil and fail to do good. If we at this point repeat the question “are you rejecting Jesus Christ? What answer would you give?

Moving Forward!  

The opposite of rejection is acceptance. God is inviting us today to reappraise how we accept and return His unfailing love for us. Furthermore, there is the need for us to examine how we accept the good news through commitment and active participation in the celebration of the Word and the Sacraments.

We need to rise beyond the name “Christians” and thrive to live the Christian life. The Christian life consists of total acceptance and purposeful choice of doing the will of God in season and out of season. The Christian life also involves defending our faith even when we are confronted by trials knowing that He who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb would protect us from the siege of those who fight against us as the First Reading (Jer. 1:4-5,19-19) promises.

Have a beautiful Sunday and a gracious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

  

UNIFIED DIVERSITY AND OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW. HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD.

diversified unity

The story of the building of the tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis (11:1-9) is a negative narrative with some positive lessons. The story starts by indicating that the whole world had one language and the same word. At some point, the inhabitants of the world came together and agreed among themselves to build a city with a tower that would reach up to the heavens.

They were making progress in their work until God decided to come down and hack into their “linguistic software” by multiplying languages among them to confuse them. God said that they are one people with one language and there is nothing they propose to do that would be impossible for them. With the multiplicity of languages, they could no longer coordinate themselves, and they scattered and abandoned the tower project.

The critical elements in the story are one language, one people and possibilities. This illustration of the event at the tower of Babel reflects the message of St. Paul today in the Second Reading (1 Cor. 12:12-30). The apostle used the human body which consists of many parts that work together for the well-being the individual to describe what should obtain in the Christian community; the body of Christ, which includes components working together for the common good.

God is the author of unity as well as diversity, and we characterize God as a trinity of persons subsisting in one God. Differences exist to strengthen unity and unity, in turn, is purpose driven. God is the author of the different shades of humans and animal; it is no one’s choice or fault.

Once upon a time, three cats (black, white, and brown) were excellent friends and neighbors. One day, they argued on who has the superior color. The black cat starts by saying that with its black color it is easier to catch preys in the dark. The white interrupts, saying that white is fabulous and people like it a lot. The brown replies and says I am the best among us, not dark and not white so am the best color of a cat!

When they could not settle, they agreed to seek the opinion of a wise one. The wise one, in turn, decides to tell a story. When God was creating cats, the initial model was in the fire for a long time and came out burnt, that is the black cat. The second did not stay in the fire for a long time, that was the white cat. The last was halfway in the fire, and that was the brown cat.

The wise one continues by saying that God did not discard any of three shades of cats but gave each of them the same life. Finally, he tells them that the best thing they all have is their identity as cats which is more superior than their shades of color.

The Gift of Diversity

St. Paul’s example of diversified unity with the working of the human body perfectly describes what God intends by creating diversity. In the passage, St. Paul pointed out that the parts of the body depend on each other for the full functioning of the individual and when any part of the body is defective the other parts suffer.

God intends unity in our diversity that is why we have male and female, tall and short, black and white, rich and poor and other forms of differences like locations and languages. The diversity we have in the world is a special gift that we are yet to understand and appreciate. In the priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ before his passion and death, he asked, “that they may all be one as we are one. As you, father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (John 17:21).

From these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we understand that unity establishes the presence of God in our lives.  Furthermore, in the Gospel of Matthew (18:20), Jesus maintains that when two or more are united in his name, he will be in their midst.  While diversity is not what we choose, unity is something we voluntarily attend; it is intentional, not accidental.

 Unity and Obedience to the Law

Unity happens when different parts work together for a common purpose. However, working together can only take place when the diversity abides by prescriptions of the law. In the First Reading today (Nehemiah 8:2-4a,5-6, 8-10) the people in the assembly were touched by the instructions from the book of the law because they could see that they were not following the purpose driven unity prescribed by God.

The primary mission of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth was to reunite humanity to God after the friction caused by the sin of disobedience. Today in the Gospel Reading (Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21), our Lord Jesus announced the manifesto of his ministry which summarily talks about returning the lost glory we had in God and bringing us back to Him.

Moving Forward: Advancing the Unity Project in Diversity

God says that our diversity can lead us to unity, but the devil tells us otherwise. The ultimate project of the devil is to counteract whatever God says. If we go back to the Book of Genesis (Genesis 3:2), the devil asked the woman, “did God say you should not eat of the fruit of the garden?”

Disunity is the devil’s plan against the unity that should come from our diversity. It takes the divine knowledge to understand that distinction does not impede a step towards purposeful unity. A beautiful mass is not just about the priest but the harmony that comes from various ministries performing their respective duties. The beauty of a great choir is the harmony of different voices.

Unity does not mean sameness. We don’t need to be identical to have unity. May we on this day take some time to look into our personal lives, families, and communities (secular and religious) to know the best ways to revitalize and resuscitate unity in our diversity.

God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

WHEN YOUR WINE RUNS OUT! HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

wedding at cana

Every wedding ceremony has its peculiar story. There are beautiful ones, and there are humiliating ones like where a bride refused to accept a kiss from the bridegroom. Some are weird, like the viral nudist wedding where the couple and the train appeared unclad at the location. There are others that are just normal without much drama. Couples take the time to prepare extensively for their weddings to make a harvest of good memories that would last for a lifetime, but sometimes the unexpected happens as we would see in this reflection.

The Gospel Reading today (John 2:1-11) tells us about a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Mother Mary was there, and Jesus Christ with his disciples was also a guest. As the ceremony progresses, the wedding feast ran out of wine and Mary approached Jesus his son to complain that they have no wine. Answering, Jesus says to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come”. Turning to the servers, Mary says to them “Do whatever he tells you.”

When Mary left, Jesus asked the servers to fill some six stone jars at the location with water reaching to the brim. Then he asked them to draw some out and take to the headwaiter. The headwaiter tested the water which had become wine and not knowing where it came, confronts the bridegroom for keeping the best wine for the last.

The Gospel narratives conclude with an end note that tells us that the miracle of changing water into wine was the first miracle Jesus Christ performed. He revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him.

An Invitation to Jesus Christ

The Gospel account tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus was at the wedding feast and Jesus was also invited with his disciples. A significant aspect of every wedding preparation is the need to send out invitations to prospective guests, and every wedding feast would be as worthwhile as the people who are invited.

The book of Revelation (3:20) presents a picture of Christ knocking at a door and waiting for the house owner to let him in to dine with the household. When we make God the special guest in the events in our lives, He would, in turn, become the special host who would provide for us in times of need. In the book of Genesis (18:1ff), Abraham invited God to his house and God, in turn, blessed him with the fulfillment of the promise of a son.

They have no Wine!

These were the exact words of Mary to her Son Jesus Christ when the wine at the wedding feast ran out. Mary comes to Jesus at a very critical point. A wedding feast without wine is a disaster. A typical Jewish wedding would last for about five to six days, and they are not fasting days as food and drink would flow through the entire period. When the Gospel said on the third day,  we may think of it as the third day of the wedding ceremony, and that would mean at the middle of the entire wedding event.

Mother Mary was concerned about the impending shame that would fall on the newlywed, and she goes to the son for immediate rescue. Mary’s request to her son shows her in-depth knowledge of her son and his mission on earth. Furthermore, it is a profound expression of her faith in the son’s ability to take care of needs.

In life, we sometimes run out of wine when we see darkness instead of light when life gives us several reasons to give up because of the challenges around us. We run out wine when things seem to be falling apart starting from our families to other areas of our lives. When we run out of wine may we remember that through Mary to Jesus Christ we can have a remedy beyond the normal

Faith Through the Revelation of His Glory

At the heart of the miracle of changing water into wine, our Lord Jesus Christ manifested his glory to his disciples who witnessed the sign. We could say that the miracle at Cana in Galilee is the culmination of a series of manifestations (epiphanies). Happening at the beginning of his ministry, it was very fitting that his closest disciples witness this manifestation for the strengthening of their faith.

More than two thousand years after the miracle at Cana in Galilee, we do not need another changing of water into wine to build and sustain our faith in the salvific power of our Lord Jesus Christ especially when we run out of wine in our lives.

Moving Forward!  

The greatest gift from God to us is Jesus Christ the Emmanuel (God-with-us). God’s presence in our lives like the presence of Jesus Christ at the wedding feast is the greatest miracle in our lives. With our Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate guest in our lives, the prophecy of Isaiah in the First Reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) comes to fulfillment as nations will behold our vindication and we shall have a new name as the new wine at the wedding feast.

As we make progress in the New Year, let us keep our attention on Jesus Christ who has the solution to every lack in our lives, and like his mother, Mary recommended to the servers, may we be ready to obey his words. I wish you a beautiful week ahead and may God bless you always.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE SAVING POWER OF BAPTISM! HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

baptism-of-the-lord

During the baptism of an infant in the Church some time ago, I asked those in attendance if they could remember their social security numbers and they all said yes! I went further to ask if they could recall their birthdays and wedding anniversaries dates and they were all positive. However, when I asked about their baptism dates, nobody could recollect!

If there is a date that should always stick to our minds, it should be the date we became Christians, children of God and members of the Church, in other words, our baptism dates. Baptism, as this reflection would demonstrate, is the gateway to the Christian life, we can also say that without baptism we cannot have Christ in our lives.

The Baptism of the Sinless

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel narrative (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) we learn that our Lord approached John the Baptist at the Jordan River for the latter to baptize him. One may quickly ask, why would Jesus Christ come to John for baptism since his baptism was for repentance?

If we go to the Gospel of Matthew (3:14-15), we will discover that John was unsettled about Jesus coming to him for baptism and wanted the Lord to baptize him instead. However, our Lord tells him that it is proper for him (John) to baptize him to fulfill all righteousness. The righteousness to be fulfilled is about the mission of our Lord Jesus who, though righteous, became sin for us so that through him we can become righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

When our Lord Jesus Christ stepped into the Jordan River, he sanctified the water of baptism. He was not baptized for repentance from sin because he is sinless. He received baptism from John to demonstrate the importance of baptism. In the Gospel passage, we learn that heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the father was heard saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” We shall derive lessons from the events of the baptism of our Lord and relate them to our baptismal life as Christians.

Baptism Opens the Gate of Heaven: The event of the baptism of Jesus Christ would be one of the few times in the Gospels we read about the heaven opening. Here, we have a strong indication that baptism opens the gate of heaven for those who have been washed clean of sin. The book of revelation tells us that nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of God (Rev. 21:27).

Baptism Activates the Presence of the Holy Trinity: The action of the Holy Trinity is evident during the baptism of the Lord. The synoptic Gospels (Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–23) attest to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus Christ in form of a dove and the voice of God the Father proclaiming Jesus Christ as His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. We could also recall that in the great commission, our Lord said to the eleven, “go therefore and make disciple of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

Baptism Saves Us

The saving power of baptism is indisputable. In the words of St. Peter (1Peter 3:21), baptism saves us not just by washing away dirt from the flesh but by an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From this passage, St. Peter reveals to us that baptism renews us inwardly by instilling the voice of God in us namely the good conscience. The primary function of conscience as a moral faculty is to help us to know our moral obligations and to follow them.

Moving Forward: Living the Baptismal Life

When we go back to the concluding words of the great commission, our Lord Jesus Christ challenged the apostles to teach all nations to obey everything he commanded (Matt. 28:20). We understand from that passage that baptism not only brings us to a new life but also urges us to a life of obedience; that means living the baptismal life.

The baptismal life urges us to despise darkness and to walk in the light. St. Peter describes this very well where he says, “but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people to proclaim the mighty act of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). During the celebration of the sacrament of baptism, we could recall that we receive the light of Christ which we symbolized by a lighted candle.

The baptismal life invites us to pay attention to a new life. We are also encouraged to reject sin, the devil, and all his false promises. The baptismal life is a constant reminder to us that whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old order has passed away, and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). As we celebrate the feast of the baptism of the Lord, may we pay attention to the life of regeneration which the sacrament brings into our lives and its saving powers.

Have a fabulous celebration and may God bless you always.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

THE DILIGENT SEARCH FOR THE LORD HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF EPIPHANY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

the-magi

Those who are born in the age of GPS navigation and google map may not appreciate what it means to search for someone in an unfamiliar location. When there were no telephones and instant messaging systems, people travel long distances to search for family, friends, relations, and other potential acquaintances believing that they would be lucky to meet whomsoever they seek. Some get positive outcome while others either miss the people or hear that they passed.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of Epiphany of the Lord. Epiphany means manifestation, and in the context of this feast day, it means the manifestation of the newborn King to the entire world outside the land of Israel through the wise men from the east. From the Gospel narrative today (Matt. 2:1-12), we learn that the magi saw a great star from their location and they could tell that it indicates the birth of the king of the Jews and they followed the lead.

The Epiphany Star and The Journey to The Lord

The magnificent star in the narrative deserves our reflective thoughts. In our day and age, it reminds us of a compass, GPS, or google map navigation. But more than these, it is a divine statement. The wise men discovered the star and could understand what it represents. In their reflective thoughts, they could relate the appearance of the star to the oracle of the prophet Micah (5:2) which says:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.

The star led the wise men to Jerusalem, and suddenly, they could not see it again, and that was why they had to consult with King Herod supposing that he would be aware of the birth of the king of the Jews. King Herod was unwise and foolish. He had no clue about the birth of Jesus Christ because he was not attentive to the signs of the time and lacked the knowledge of the scriptures. King Herod was foolish to ask the wise men to go unaccompanied to search for the newborn king and to come back to tell him so that he could go and do him homage. However, we know he intended to kill the child because he thought that his throne would be under threat.

A very vital event in the journey of the magi to the Lord was when they could no longer see the star. We could notice here that they did not give up in their search.  The disappearance of the star could be a potential reason to give up and to return to their homes. Sometimes in our lives, we feel the absence of some “stars” in our lives. It could be during sickness, grief, affliction, hardship, or when we have struggles of all kinds. Those moments we seem to see more reason to give up than to live up.

The Diligent Search for The Lord

Despite his foolishness and his selfish interest, King Herod asked the wise men secretly to search diligently for the child and to bring word to him when they could find him. The diligent search for the Lord strikes us here more than anything Herod said to the magi. From the statement above, we understand that a search could be diligent, that is active, committed, and thorough or lazy and passive.

Life is synonymous with searching; we are often in the “search mood.” People search for a house, school, job, life partners, happiness, etc. We don’t stop searching even when we find, another search starts. Often what we search for the wrong things, while we gloss over the search for what we need.

The search for the Lord is the ultimate and most enduring search. The Word of God (Isaiah 29:13) says that those who search for the Lord will find Him if they search Him with all their hearts; that is with diligence. Do we not often put our diligent search on the wrong things instead of on the search for the Lord? Life is short, and we can get the best from the Lord if we continue to search for Him with apt diligence in our lives, in others and in the Word of God and the sacraments.

Moving Forward!

What do we do when we find the Lord? Let us go back to the Gospel narrative on what the magi did when they eventually found the newborn king (Matt. 2:11),

And on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary, his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The first action of the magi before the newborn king is adoration and wholehearted worship. It is always pleasing to God when we give him the homage and adoration that is due to Him. The first commandment tells us that we should worship the Lord God alone (Exodus 20:2-6). The Book of Psalms (29:2), says, “ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” There is nothing that pleases God as true worship (John 4:24).

The second action of the magi was the presentation of gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The value of these gifts should not be measured from their market rating but from the hearts that made the donations. When we give God total worship, we invariably make a total donation of ourselves. The gifts of the magi are but an outward sign of their inward self-donation.

When we give ourselves entirely to God, He gets back to us with blessings. The First Reading (Isaiah 60:1-6) told us that light of God manifested upon them and covered them with His glory. The wise men left the presence of the Lord wiser and more enriched. Today, we are making our epiphany experience before the Lord. If we have diligently searched and found him, what do we have as offering to him?

The magi left the comfort of their location to search for the Lord, and they found Him despite the challenges on the way. We need to move from our comfort zones, especially in this New Year so that we can walk the talk and get to encounter the Lord in a new and profound way.

Happy feast of Epiphany and may God manifest His power and might in our lives as we search and find Him. God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie.

FLIP YOUR MIND FOR A NEW YOU! A REFLECTION FOR THE NEW YEAR Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

NEW MIND

Welcome to a new dawn! It is an enormous divine privilege that we could enter the gates of a New Year. God is fulfilling the prayer of David in our lives, “I shall not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 118:17). Reflecting on the past year, we may have regrets about our mistakes and missteps. We may feel pain about some loses and disappointments. However, we have more than enough reasons to thank God, not only for the excellent moments but also for another opportunity we have with the facility of a brand New Year.

One of the scriptures that would regularly feature in most sermons and exaltations for the New Year is the oracle of the Prophet Isaiah (43:19) “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”. The promise is powerful indeed, but the question is, “how could we activate and accommodate this divine promise in our lives?”

The answer to the question lies within us; in fact, it depends on our decisions, choices, and dispositions, yes, our mindset. The mind is a very crucial component of your being; it is the place we build our thoughts that could translate to our actions and inactions. There is so much power in the mind because it moderates our physical, moral, spiritual and emotional well-being. You are therefore as good as your mind. A healthy and active mind leads to a healthy and robust life.

You Are In The Middle Of The Old And The New

The passage that accurately explains this section is from the Prophet Isaiah (43:18), “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.” Do we not spend so much time and energy considering and dwelling on the old? While we may not ultimately do away with some of the things of the past, they are sometimes unproductive, infertile and ineffectual.

There is a need for us to understand that most of the old and failed solutions we have cannot solve new problems for us. Albert Einstein defines insanity as doing the same old thing all the time and expecting a different result. We often recycle our old attitudes and dispositions instead of dropping them entirely for something new. In the Gospel of Matthew (9:17), our Lord Jesus Christ instructs that we should not pour old wine into a new wineskin. Instead, new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.

At some points in our lives, we find ourselves between the old and the new; consequently, we are left with choice-making. The choices we make in life could either help or hinder us. Our choices could open or close the doors of success in our lives. Our choices come from our decisions, and our decisions are products of our thoughts, and our thoughts are formed in our minds.

Flip Your Mind  

Your mind is a battleground, and you win or lose depending on how you fight. What you think is more important than what you are because you are what you think. Your mind can become ineffective when you don’t give it a positive challenge or when you don’t break away from the usual.

Flipping your mind means changing the way you think and consequently your decisions and choices. You are what you thought you should be and if you desire to change your life, you need to change your thought. Flipping your mind in the New Year means changing the way you think and function.

Know yourself: Self-knowledge is the key to success. “Man know thyself,” is as relevant to your life today as it was to those who first heard it from Socrates thousands of years ago. Flip your mind in the New Year from digging around the lives of other people like a “monitoring spirit” to focusing on yourself. Self-knowledge would help you to know your weaknesses, your strengths, and how to become the best version of yourself.

Come out of your comfort zone: Sometimes what makes your mind comfortable can ruin you, but the uncomfortable could transform your life. Flip your mind and stop looking for shortcuts and easy routes remember that out of difficulties heroes emerge. The journey is a significant part of the success story. Without wars, there would be no warriors, and without oppositions, there would be no victories.

Stop snoozing the alarm clock: Why would you set the alarm clock for 6.am only to keep snoozing it till 6:30 am or even 7.am? Snoozing is another name for procrastination. Why would you leave for tomorrow something you could do today? Flip your mind and do things differently with your time in the New Year. Rise and walk the talk. It is not enough to say what you would accomplish in the New Year; it is not enough to make those positive declarations, “my year of superabundance,” “my year of mega promotion,” etc. while you do nothing. God would only help those who walk in wisdom (Prov. 28:26).

Beware of time wasters: Whatever you give your attention takes your attention and runs your life. Would you still spend your productive time looking at people’s pictures, comments, and likes on social media while your life runs out? Some people are even making lots of money from your views, subscriptions, and followings. Flip your mind about social media, flip your mind about television, flip your mind about friends who cannot make you grow, flip your mind about how you use your mobile phones and its distractions.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Grab your phone to check who said what and to who? Well, you need to flip your mind. Your phone did not keep you through the night, God did. Flip your mind, check up on God first before checking up your phone. Spend more time with God in the New Year, and you will see the difference that would make in your life. St. John (15:5) says, cut off from Him you can do nothing!

Have a plan and follow your plan: When you fail to plan you have planned to fail. Planning is very vital for any important step you need to take in life. Learn from your creator He is a master planner (Jer. 29:11). Flip your mind and make a followable plan for the New Year. What are your long- and short-term goals? You can’t do everything (you are not God), start with one thing get it done and dusted and take up another. Do not be afraid of making mistakes; they often sharpen you.

Your best is yet to come: Do not limit yourself, you can go higher than where you are now. You have not concluded your best business contract; you have not sung your best song, you have not done your best dance, you have not presented your best paper, you are yet to write your best speech! Don’t limit yourself, don’t give up. Your best is still loading!

Moving Forward!

The hard but the unassailably only way to make this Year New is to flip your mind. The possibly new reality in the year would be you! If you don’t flip your mind, you will remain the old person of the past year and progress would be miles away from you. Flip your mind, God’s grace is enough for you (2 Cor. 12:9), and He would be with you everywhere you go if you remain strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9). May the awesome blessings of God in the Book of Psalms (91:14-16) abide with you throughout the New Year.

Have a mind flipping New Year. Happy New Year!

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

YOUR FAMILY IS GOD’S HOLY GIFT: HANDLE WITH CARE! HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF HOLY FAMILY (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Family is God's gift

This story would touch your heart. A son takes his old father to a restaurant for an evening dinner. The father being very old and weak, would drop food on his shirt and trousers while eating. Other diners watch in disgust, but his son remains calm and continues to assist him. After the dinner, the son takes his old dad to the bathroom, wipes the food particles, removes the stains, combs his hair and fits his spectacles.

As they come out from the bathroom, the people in the restaurant watch them in silence, unable to understand how the young man could contain the public embarrassment. The son settles the bill and as they walk out of the restaurant an old man calls out to the son and says to him, “don’t you think you have left something behind?” The son replied, “No sir, I haven’t.” The old man replies and exclaims, “Yes, you have! You left a lesson for every son and hope for every father.” The boy replies and says to him “I just switched places with my dad, I was like him as a messy little kid many years ago in this same restaurant.” The restaurant goes into dead silence with obvious lessons learned; we often receive what we give especially to the family.

The family is God’s special gift to us. Ideally, the family began at the moment God thought that it was not good for the man to be alone and proceeded to give him a helper as a partner in the person of Eve (Gen. 2:18-24). Furthermore, the foremost divine blessing upon marriage is fruitfulness, “God blessed them, and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Gen. 1:28). It will be very fitting for us to indicate that fruitfulness is not restricted to childbearing. It also includes bearing good fruits like love that could fill the world and subdue it.

The family is the basic unit of human society, and there is no life without the family. To demonstrate the importance of family, God decided to come to us through the young family of Mary and Joseph where the word took flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Family Is Anything We Make Of It!

The family is a full package that we need to accept with love, faith, and hope. On the average, everything happens in the family, the good, the bad, and the ugly. From the story of Hannah, we learn about the challenge of childlessness. Hannah did not give up as she poured out her tears to God in the temple asking for a son whom she promised that she would give back to God.

In the Gospel today (Luke 2:41-52), Joseph and Mary could not find the boy Jesus among their relations after two days of leaving Jerusalem to their home in Nazareth. It couldn’t have been an easy search for the twelve-year-old Jesus whom they eventually saw in the temple instructing notable teachers.

A family is a place we share love, laugh, express joy. A family is also a place we sometimes cry and mourn especially when a loved one gets sick and dies. Sometimes we experience anger and hurt in the family. I have seen people who regret being members of their respective families. But we don’t choose our families. It is God’s gift to us, and we can only make the best out of it.

In the Second Reading today (Col.3:12-17), St. Paul presents an extensive discourse on some desirable family virtues which includes, holiness, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness and above all love which binds all together under Christ. In his instruction, he called on the different segments that make up the family to work toward integration and progress. Wives are to be subject to their husbands; husbands should love their wives eschewing harshness and children should obey their parents while parents, in turn, should not provoke the children lest they become discouraged.

Moving Forward And Making Your Family Holy

The perfect family is not the family without problems and difficulties. The ideal family is not the one without need; not the affluent. There is no perfect family, but every family could strive to be holy by being attentive to the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Holiness means walking in God’s way which also implies obedience to God by observing His precepts (Joshua 1:7). Obedience to God starts from the love and respect members of the family have for each other. Obedience may not happen without humility which entails selfless service to others; in fact, self-centeredness is antithetical to holiness following the model of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:3-7).

Moving forward in the family cannot happen without love. Love is what we give without expecting a reward; in fact, the reward for love is to love more without conditions. When we genuinely love, we complement each other instead of competing with each other. Love helps us to let go, and let God, love helps us to forgive and to give. When we stop loving in the family, we start losing.

Having a place to go is home, having someone to love is a family and having both is a blessing. Hallowed be your family and may the coming year bring the abundant blessings of Psalm 128 to your home. Happy feast of the Holy Family.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

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