The rise and rapid spread of the covid-19 virus was a massive attack on the virtue of hope beyond its siege on health and physical well-being. As a result, we now live in one of the most uncertain periods in our contemporary history. Some of the people we know are no more, and life as we knew it had also been altered whether we realize it or not.
Recently, I had to join a brother priest and his siblings to mourn the demise of his parents, who passed away a few days apart; it has been a very unsettling period for the family. But looking at them during the memorial ceremony appearing strong and bright, I could only think of hope. Yes, they are expectant of a better future; they believe, like in the words of the prophet Nahum, “affliction shall not rise a second time” (Nahum 1:9).
Life without hope is a disaster. St. Paul names hope as one of the three things that endure together with faith and love (1 Cor. 13:13). Our choice of words and disposition at some moments show that life is hope dependant. This way, hope is our support system through the corridors of life.
Furthermore, the virtue of hope functions in sustaining our ride through life’s expectations. In fact, our expectations would be senseless without the leverage of hope. The Advent period is significantly a period of expectation; in fact, it discloses a season of “Great Expectation” of an unusual event in the life of God, namely, divinity becoming human, an event that would change our life forever and for good.
The Days Are Coming
The prophecy of Jeremiah (33:14-16) tells us that the days are coming when God will fulfill the promises He made to the house of Israel and Judah. The promise involves raising a righteous and just shoot from David to bring safety and security for the people.
The prophet addressed a troubled society that is not different from ours in terms of uncertainty, insecurity, and the rampant rise of anarchy and disturbances. Yet, the good news is that beyond the troubling days, glorious days are coming.
Our Lord Jesus Christ presented a more disturbing picture of the days that would precede the coming days of the Son of man in the Gospel of Luke (21:25-28,34-36) when the powers of heaven would be shaken, leading many to fear and dissipation.
Steps to Expectant Hope Activation
Beyond the troubles that confront us now, we focus on the hope that sustains the expectation of great days that are coming. However, hope is an active virtue, so it challenges us to do some things within the timeframe of our expectation, and they include the following:
Prayer and Vigilance: Our Lord Jesus Christ did not just disclose the disruptive nature of the difficult days; he also provided the survival strategy of prayer and vigilance, which would potentially sustain people’s hope in the face of those disastrous times.
We often hear that prayer is the key; that is not wrong, but we may not have heard that prayer is life, in fact, the foundation of Christian life because it provides the platform for the connection we have with God. We are created in God’s image, which means we have access to the divine through prayer.
The life of Jesus Christ on earth was a prayer narrative. He started with prayer and concluded with prayer on the cross. He not only instructed his disciples to pray always (Luke 18:1), they saw him pray (Luke 9:18), and he also taught them how to pray effectively (Luke 11:1).
While prayer is essential, vigilance makes it more effective. Vigilance translates as watchfulness, and it is all about being sensitive in the spirit and especially being careful about the distraction of the evil one.
Jesus told the disciples, “watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41 ). Likewise, St. Paul would advise us not to be ignorant of the devices of the evil one so that he does not take advantage of us ( 2 Cor. 2:11). St. Peter makes it clearer when he says: “be sober but vigilant for your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Love and Holiness
Paul, writing to the Church in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3: 12-4:2), prays that they increase and abound in love for one another; why? So, that their hearts would be strengthened to be blameless in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
From the instruction of St. Paul, we could reaffirm our understanding of the centrality of love. Here we understand that love is the condition without which nothing can happen because God is love (1 John 4:8,17). St. Paul would add that whoever loves fulfills the law (Romans 13:8).
Moving Forward: Sustaining the attitude of Expectant Hope
Hope is not just a virtue; it is also a positive attitude that has the innate capacity to transform our expectations into real celebrations. If we put our hope, for instance, in our navigation systems like google maps to successfully take us from one point to another with perfect timing, how much more we should rely on God to grant us access to the objects of our expectations.
Our hope will not disappoint us even when it does not look like it; let us keep the flame of hope burning. It is not about how it takes but how well it comes. As long as God is within the equation, our hope shall bear fruits. Yes, the Days are coming, and we shall remain HOPEFUL!
God bless you, and have a transforming advent season.
Questions are designed primarily to elicit information or to confirm an existing one. However, questions have the capacity to extract what lies hidden in someone’s mind even when the individual is unwilling to let it out; so, they could be potential traps.
Notice that the first-ever question in the Bible was addressed to eve by the devil (in the guise of a serpent) during the episode preceding the Fall. We could recall the question: “Did God say that you should not eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1).
The second-ever question was addressed to Adam, which says, “where are you?” Note that the question is still relevant to date; God is still asking each of us the same question regarding where we stand between good and evil.
This reflection started with the question phenomenon following the interface between Jesus and Pilate at his arrest and arraignment before the governor (John 18:33b-37). Pilate asked the Lord, “Are you the King of the Jews?” and Jesus answering, asks: “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?
The reaction of Jesus to this question shows that Pilate was seeking to confirm a piece of information he already has about Jesus. Our Lord further states that his Kingdom is not worldly; otherwise, his attendants would not have allowed the Jews to arrest him. At this, Pilate declares, “then you are a king!” Jesus replies, saying: “you say I am a King. For this I was born to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”.
Our Lord’s answer to Pilate’s confirmation of his Kingship leaves us with so many lessons that would provide the foundation and structure for our reflection.
Born to be King
One of the high points of the joyful visit of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the divine oracle that says, “The Lord will give him the throne of Father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke1:32-33).
Next, when the wise men came from the east seeking where Jesus was born, their exact words were these, “where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”.
The two preceding New Testament events confirm the oracle of Isaiah (9:6-7) that says that a child is born to us, and the government will be on his shoulders, and the greatness of His government and peace will have no end. The Wonder Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace who will reign on David’s throne and over his Kingdom forever.
The apparent disputation over the Kingship of Jesus Christ could be because of the “unroyal” nature of his immediate family background. Remember that he was a resident of Nazareth where nothing good could come (John1:46). The truth, however, is that the Kingship of Jesus Christ is not of this world, neither is it attached to any human background or excellence.
King of Truth
While describing the nature of his Kingship to Pilate, our Lord Jesus Christ mentioned that he was born to be King to testify to the truth. In the event of hearing about the truth, Pilate asked, “what is the truth?”
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not answer the question because the answer was obvious. Recall that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), so asking about the truth before the truth made no sense.
Our redemption is a function of the truth, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). The truth represents the life-giving instructions and promises of God, which the devil, the liar (John 8:44), would constantly contradict with seductive arguments. Recall that the Fall of man was on account of the lies of the devil to Eve that they would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit, but that their eyes would open to know good and evil. (Gen. 3:4-5).
Becoming the Reflections of our King
Children are expected to reflect their parents physically, and attitudinally and this follows the law of genetics and reproduction. If you accept the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we should reflect him in our lives and conducts. We should not proclaim a righteous King and sit in abject unrighteousness. We should not proclaim the King and Kingdom of Truth and bask in lies and falsehood.
We are invited today not only to proclaim the Kingship of Jesus Christ with our lips but also to live out the values of the Kingdom as coheir with him (Romans 8:17). So often go through suffering and trials, and we sit and wonder why certain things should happen to us besides being coheir with Christ (Romans 8:17)? The good news is that we shall reign with Lord as much as we suffer with him (2 Tim. 2:12).
More than anything, we need to make Jesus Christ ruling power of our lives, especially in our day and age where we have to contend certain “kings” and “kingdoms” standing in our faces and tempting us with products and services that appeal to our carnal nature in disobedience to the call to holiness and righteousness in the Lord.
God bless you and have a joyful celebration of Christ the Universal King.
Have you ever been on a beautiful vacation? Did you ever go out for an exciting dinner with family and friends or being out to see a blockbuster movie? All these activities share one common phenomenon; they all had an ending point beyond the excitement they created for the recipients while they lasted.
The cemetery evokes a lot of feelings for people. It gives information about burial spots and tells us that life as we know it has an end. Essentially, there are three significant points of every life: the beginning, the middle (our current location), and the end, which we all await.
In the Gospel of this last but one Sunday of the Liturgical Year (Mark 13:24-32), our Lord Jesus Christ takes us on a scary instructional cruise through some events that would mark the end of the world.
From the narrative, we learn that the sun, the source of light and sustenance of earthly life, would be darkened. As a result, the moon would not light, the stars would malfunction, and the other heavenly bodies would lose their grounds.
Following the phenomenal shifts of the solar system, the Son of man would show up with great power and glory, commanding the angels to gather his elect from every corner of the earth and beyond.
This discourse could have been very disturbing for the immediate audience of our Lord Jesus Christ as it has been through various generations. We could recall that St. Paul had to caution the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:1-2) not to be alarmed as if the day were very imminent as some preachers were indicating.
The Distress or Tribulation before the End
Our Lord’s teaching in the Gospel narrative is related to the oracle of Daniel (12:1-3) almost five hundred years earlier, which talks about a time of unsurpassed distress that would lead to the rescue of some to everlasting life while damning others to endless horror and disgrace.
One important factor runs between the predictions of Daniel and Jesus. It would come after a time of great distress or tribulation. Notably, the phenomenon of distress or tribulation in this context means a period of faith trial. The Gospel of Matthew (24:10-13) makes it more apt:
Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase in lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved.
One could be tempted to think that the time of distress or tribulation that will precede the end is yet to come; no, it is here already. An attentive look into our world today shows that we are in the region of distress or tribulation. Are we not experiencing faith betrayal in various forms and shapes? Do we not have false prophets leading most people astray with all sorts of strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:9)?
What about spiritual lawlessness that is evident in human society? Do we not see a lot of coldness in the love of people to things of God, especially among some of the younger generation who rely more on technology’s excellence than on God? Only those who stand firm in their faith conviction would hold on to the end.
This Generation would see the End!
One of the statements of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel says: “this generation will not pass until all these things have taken place”. One can imagine that the generation that received these words initially believed that the Lord was speaking directly to them, and they were not wrong.
One thing we should recall is that God and His words transcend our human timing and scheduling. The Psalmist tells us that in the sight of God, a thousand years is like yesterday come and gone (Psalm 90:4). When Jesus was making that statement, he referred to that generation and all the future generations that would fall into the divine arrange until the actual end of time, known only to God.
Moving Forward: How do we Prepare for the End?
Some time ago, there was a global scare about an imminent end of the world, preceded by “three days darkness.” It was not settling news for many people like the other failed predictions about the end of the world. So people were buying and blessings cartons of candles as preparation to withstand the siege of the darkness.
The real darkness is the life of sin, and the ideal light is Christ, whose presence in our lives would dispel every form of darkness. Therefore, instead of worrying and fretting over the end of the world, we should be more concerned about living righteous lives and ending our lives in righteousness.
Finally, we should aim at meeting God in heaven out of our Love for Him and not out of the fear about what is to come upon the earth at a time and season we do not know. Instead, we should function within the ambiance of what God wants from us: knowing God, loving, and serving him in faith and hope.
God bless you, and have a blessed and fruitful week ahead.
Life runs in the foreground of giving. If you give it a critical thought, you will discover that nothing happens outside the ambiance of giving. Life itself is God’s gift, including creation and salvation, which is also a gift.
God is both a giver and the foundation of giving; in fact, it is in God’s nature to give. So, we notice that the entire bible can be summarized as an account of God’s relentless giving and the events of human ingratitude.
In the liturgy of last Sunday, our Lord Jesus Christ gave an executive summary of all the commandments using the phenomenon of the love of God and neighbor. This Sunday, the Readings present the act of giving as a practical expression of love. First, of course, two important elements of love, namely: giving and forgiving!
The First Reading (1 Kings 17: 10-16) tells us about Elijah’s encounter with the widow of Zarephath. The prophet had earlier pronounced famine in the Lord of Israel according to the counsel of God, and he was led to reside by the brook of Cherith where birds fed him, and he drank from the brook.
As the famine intensified, the brook dried up, and Elijah had to leave for Zarephath according to the word of God. So, at Zarephath, the unnamed widow showed up, and Elijah requested a bit of bread in addition to a small cup of water he had asked earlier.
The widow could afford a small cup of water, but she reportedly had nothing baked but only a handful of flour and a little oil which she was gathering sticks to make for herself and her son as their last meal before death.
Elijah encouraged her not to be afraid but to go and make a little cake for him and then prepare for herself and her son. But he added these words from the Lord God of Israel, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” And it was so for a year.
In the Gospel of Mark (12:38-44), we hear about another unnamed widow who gave two small coins worth a few cents at the treasury in the temple. The offering was private, but Jesus called the attention of his disciples, indicating that while the rich people were making large donations, the widows gave more than all of them as she put in all she had, in fact, her entire livelihood.
The Giving Power of the Widows
One of the lies some people believe is that you need to have enough before you can give. The two widows in the First Reading and the Gospel serve as dispellers of that myth. They both share the same poverty line, and both gave the last thing they had.
The outstanding charity act of the two widows could only be possible on the strength of the power of love and faith in God. Wherever you find love, faith is next door. It is impossible to love without faith because love bears all things, believes all, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7).
Significantly, nobody is too poor to give. Giving comes from the heart and only finds expression in the hands. Nobody would have expected the widows to go to the point of releasing what served as their last material sustenance. They could do that because they believed that God and others should come first before any concerns of theirs
The flip side of the widows in the narratives are men and women in our day and age who believe that blessings are measurable from the much one could accumulate, not the much you can give to others. There is also resident in the lives of many people, the fear of becoming poor by giving. Ironically the poorest people are those who only have money and nothing else.
We still come back to the question that formed our topic for this reflection. Why do givers never lack? There are many answers from the scriptures. Our Lord Jesus Christ mentioned that you would receive gifts; a full measure pressed down and running over would be poured into your lap if you give (Luke 6:38). St. Paul answers this question by saying that God supplies seed to the Sower and bread for food and supplies and multiplies their seed for sowing and would increase the harvest of their righteousness (2 Cor.9:10).
Today’s big lesson is that we should not relent in giving or wait to have more than enough before giving. That time may never come because you may never feel like you have had enough.
Be rest assured of these words of St. Paul as you make a decision today to reactivate your disposition to give: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8)
As you step out from this reflection, make a functional resolution to give to others; even a smile to someone having a bad day could potentially make a big difference. God gave us Jesus, and Jesus gave his life to us as a ransom. So what are you ready to give?
God bless you, and have a blessed week ahead!
Is there any beneficial thing you can do without love in this life? If you think deeply about this question, you will discover that life is not possible without love. So, the greatest discovery anyone can make is to obtain and sustain love.
In the Book of Deuteronomy (6:2-6), we hear Moses instructing the people of Israel on operationalizing the fear of the Lord through the observance of his statutes and commandments. Moses further mentioned that the observance of the law would, in turn, generate long life and prosperity for the people.
But there is something else that Moses mentioned that serves as the foreground for our reflection. He says: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”.
This latter part of the instruction of Moses turned out to be one of the most important transgenerational prayers of the Jewish religion (also known as the Shema), which demands faith in the sole Lordship of God.
Notice that the Shema, in addition to the element of faith, discloses another driving force behind the observance of the statutes and commandments, and that is love: “you shall love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”
The Greatest Commandment
In the Gospel of Mark (12:28b-34), we hear that a scribe approached Jesus and asked an ambiguous question, “which is the first of all the commandments?” The question is ambiguous because the people re-adapted the ten commandments into 613 prescriptions of dos and don’ts, so the scribe wanted Jesus to pick one out of the lot.
The answer of our Lord Jesus takes us back to the Mosaic prescription in the Book of Deuteronomy and gives an updated perspective on the phenomenon of love. Jesus says:
The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord, our God, is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev. 19:18).
To give an executive summary of our Lord’s answer to the scribe, we could say that there are two commandments; the first is love and the second is also love. Therefore love is the greatest commandment and to love is to fulfill the law as all the commandments are summed up in the law of love (Romans 13:8-10).
Love Settles Everything
The narrative on the question of the greatest commandment is one of the few instances where Jesus had a happy ending encounter with the authorities. In fact, there was a remarkable agreement between Jesus, the scribe, and other people that nothing comes after love.
After summarizing the commandments with love, the scribe responded and said, “well-said teacher,” as he went on to rephrase and agreed to all that Jesus had said. He added that expressing love is worth more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. Notice that nobody dared to ask him any more questions after the instruction on love, and the reason is obvious, love answers all things, and nothing comes after love.
Life without love is a joke. But there would be the need for us to understand that love is not about our fondness or feelings towards persons and things we like. What we often call love is not true love. What do you understand by love?
One of the functional indications of love is that it leads to obedience. Our Lord Jesus said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandment” (John 14:15). St. John would also say, “this is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 1:6). Here, we understand that obedience is a clear testimony of the presence of love.
Love is respectful of the knowledge of God. St. John tells us that whoever does not love does not know God because God is love (1 John 4:8). The only reason to love is because of God, and that is reasonable enough. When we love, we participate in God’s boundless energy, and there is nothing as powerful as divine love.
Love gives and forgives. The best way to understand the love of neighbor is through the facilities of giving and forgiving. Note that giving and forgiving in the foreground of love do not seek a reward or recognition. On the contrary, this is what makes love sacrificial and, therefore, selfless.
Love endures. Wherever it exists, love has no end, and it does not give up. St. Paul tells s that three things last, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13). This is so because everything depends on love to exist. Love endures because it is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4).
At this point, we need to ask ourselves how we can incarnate these principles of love on the two fundamental relationships that are open to us, namely our relationship with God and our neighbors. Remember that love obeys, love accepts and knows God, love gives and forgives, and love endures forever.
God bless you
Imagine yourself in a room that is completely dark without the least flicker of light. Then, imagine staying in that room for years, constantly groping in the dark as you navigate your way around to find food and to do other needs. If you can entertain that imagination, then you are close to sharing the experience of visually challenged people.
Most people consider blindness as the worst among the other impairments in our human experience. But, of course, the curiosity that goes with seeing is very powerful as it gives us visual information on how to act or react to our external stimulus. So, which would you choose if you have just one option: blindness or deafness?
The “Interruption” of the blind Bartimaeus
The Gospel of Mark (10:46-52) gives us an interesting narrative about Bartimaeus, a blind man. Earlier in the same Gospel (Mark 8:22-25), people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to heal him. We could recall that Jesus took the man outside the village and healed him after rubbing saliva on his eyes and touching them twice.
The story of the blind Bartimaeus comes with some peculiarities. He was sitting by the roadside begging as Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem through Jericho. Suddenly, he could hear a crowd approaching, and his inquiry confirmed that Jesus was passing and instantly acted in a way that would leave us with so many lessons.
The first thing he did was to call upon the name of the Lord, which is a biblical principle. The prophet Joel and St. Paul both affirm that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).
Furthermore, he chooses to use the name that identifies the mission of Christ. So, he says, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Son of David is the functional description of the Messiah or Anointed One. So, Bartimaeus was saying, “Christ the Savior, have pity on me!”
The crowd hushed Bartimaeus to be silent, but the narrative says that he shouted even more. So quick lesson, do not allow anyone or any situation to shut you up. Keep calling and do not give up or grow weary, for you will get an answer in due time if you do not despair (Galatian 6:9).
The persistence of Bartimaeus made Jesus stop and invite him over. Now, the crowd asking him to shut up turned around to encourage him to meet the Lord. Notice that people would change their views when your story changes; it is human, don’t worry about it.
Furthermore, Bartimaeus had first to throw aside his cloak, and springing up, he goes to meet the Lord. The cloak here represents all the things that constitute comfort zones in our lives. It could be a position, rank, or any material platform. You may not encounter the Lord unless you step away from your comfort zone, as your comfort zone may not be your conquer zone!
The Lord asked Bartimaeus to state clearly what he wanted, and he said, “I want to see .” The answer shows that he was not born blind, and he was not seeking alms because he was also a beggar. Here we learn how to be specific and clear in our requests to God. You can predict what followed next; Bartimaeus got his sight back and followed Jesus along the way.
Moving Forward: Adopting the Faith Pattern of the Blind Bartimaeus
Bartimaeus was blind, but he saw Jesus before that historic meeting that restored his sight. How did he see Jesus? By his steadfast faith. He only needed to hear that Jesus was passing that way, and everything changed for him. St. Paul would tell us that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), and in another place, he says that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
Pay attention to the fundamentals of divine restoration we see in the story of Bartimaeus; if you care to receive the same in your life, they include hearing, believing, confessing, and then receiving. St. Paul would say:
The word is near you on your lips, and in your heart; if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and is saved. (Romans 10:8-10).
Going back to our point of departure, the blind Bartimaeus saw Jesus with the eye of faith though he could not see him with the physical eye. On the contrary, the hushing crowd showed blindness in their faith as they could not see what the blind man saw, namely, the saving power of the Son of David who was passing. Bartimaeus couldn’t have been the only blind person on that street, but he was the only one that saw the Son of David, and he had mercy on him as he requested.
Did you know that Jesus is still passing by you daily? How much of the Lord do you see in the people and events around you? You could be sitting on the roadside of life like Bartimaeus, hoping to get help, but would you be able to recognize the real help when He comes?
Challenge your faith today, rise from your comfort zone and meet the Lord who would surely deliver you from your spiritual blindness and give you a transformed life and new sight!
God bless you!
Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Why do people engage in competitions? There could be many answers, but at the base of all the possible reasons is the desire to establish greatness in contrast to others. There seems to be something in our defective human nature that pushes us to display greatness over others. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes would call it the “war of all against all” (Bellum omnium contra omnes).
Earlier in the Gospel of Mark (9:34-36), the twelve apostles were shamefully struggling over the greatest status among them. Instructing them on their senseless struggle, Jesus brought a child in their midst and said: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me but the One who sent Me.”
It seemed that the apostles did not understand the significance of welcoming Jesus in the manner of receiving a child in his name. So, in the Gospel of Mark (10:35-45), we see the two brothers, James and John coming to Jesus to make an ambitious request: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
The problem with the request of James and John
We need to acknowledge James and John for their desire to experience the glory of the Lord beyond his suffering and death. However, their approach to the glory was faulty. They thought that sharing in the Lord’s glory would happen by struggling to get visible positions at his sides. In other words, they were seeking access to the Lord’s glory through political appointment.
Responding to their bold request, Jesus made it clear in the first place that they did not know what they were asking. Therefore, we pause here to ask ourselves if we also understand some of the requests we make to God, especially when we become desperate to receive certain things; “thy will be done” remains the best petition you can make to God after the manner of Jesus (Luke 22:42).
Furthermore, the acceptance of the two brothers to drink the cup and be baptized with the baptism of the Lord could have been a hasty one. Often, we become too excited about an end that we do not take time to reflect on the process. The word of God says that whoever wants to serve the Lord must prepare for an ordeal (Sirach 2:1).
Our Lord’s response to the main question of sitting on his right and left sides is very instructive. He says that the allotment of the positions is the sole function of God. In order words, promotion comes from God, not from the east or the west. God alone brings down one and exalts another (Psalm 75:6-7).
How to be truly great
On the theme of greatness, our Lord says that whoever wants to be great should be the SERVANT, and anyone who wants to be first must be the SLAVE OF ALL.
Our Lord’s teaching appears to be unrealizable at face value. How would a servant turn around to become great, and how would a slave transform to get the first position? Before and after the time of Jesus, servanthood and slavery were the lowest levels of engagement, so great people were served not the other way.
The disciples would later get a clearer picture of what Jesus was saying during the last supper when he stooped to wash their feet and later encouraged them to wash each other feet as he did (John 13:5 &14).
From the narrative, Jesus indicated that true greatness does not come from ideological struggle, as we see in our society today with the strategies of politicians. Instead, in the divine structure, you rise by helping others through committed and selfless service.
We can connect with the servant-slave disposition to our Lord Jesus Christ, who took the form of a slave and served by giving his life as an offering for sin. And through his service, he justified many and bore their guilt (Isaiah 53:10-11).
True greatness is not measurable by your position but by the strength and extent of your selfless service to others. If you are too ashamed to serve, then you may not have the true ability to sustain greatness, which could be why you are not rising.
Humility remains the essential key to the foreground of selfless service, which leads to divinely orchestrated greatness. Mother Theresa remains an outstanding contemporary example of excellence through humble service. When she was crisscrossing the length and breadth of Calcutta, Mother Theresa was not thinking of sitting at high positions; she only wanted to sit the poor in the positions of support.
Do not aspire to be great for the sake of visibility , rather serve with intentional humility and commitment, and God will surely create a dependable position for you. Any position that comes from the struggle to outsmart others would also vanish the way it showed up. So instead of competing for positions, work to be the best version of yourself, and good positions will look for you.
God bless you.
One of the easiest questions you could ask that would also produce a predictable answer is, “who wants to go to heaven?” But, of course, everyone would want to end up in heaven even without thinking about it.
Many people believe that heaven is a divine facility available to everyone after the journey of life, which is okay. Indeed, a consolatory way of referring to the dead is to say that the individual has gone to be with the Lord.
Beyond the sentiments about heaven as our eternal home, we need to ask this question, “are all the dead we know in heaven?” Could there be some people we know who have been excluded? This could be hard to imagine but necessary for our reflection because heaven is not an award one gets after a beautiful funeral. Instead, it is an eternal reward for our obedience to God while on earth.
In the Gospel of Mark (10:17-30), we read about an unnamed man who ran up to Jesus and, kneeling before him, asked an amazing question “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” His posture and the urgency of approach to Jesus showed that he was concerned.
Answering, Jesus inquired about his status with the commandments regarding killing, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, defrauding, and honoring one’s parents, and he was in good standing.
But something happened. Jesus looked intently at him with love as if he was searching for something within him, and then he said to him, “you lack one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me”. At this statement, the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
When the man left, Jesus used the incident as an instructive platform for his disciples. He says, “how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
The Sins of the Rich Man
On the face value, we may presume that the man’s problem was his wealth or riches; no! The rich can also be pious and go to heaven. We have instances of very rich men who were lovers of God like Abraham, David, Job, and others. The man’s problem was his relationship with his riches; his possessions possessed him to a choking point.
On a closer look at the narrative, we could see that the man had lots of missteps. He refused to share with others (charity), and he turned down the invitation to follow Jesus (discipleship). Finally, he walks away from the presence of Jesus, which amounts to walking away from the source of sustenance. Remember that Jesus said, “cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The “One Thing”
I enjoyed reading the book “The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results” by Garry Keller with Jay Papasan. The book’s basic intent is to demonstrate that success requires just one thing, and successful people are those able to discover their “one thing!”
We have seen the many pitfalls of the rich man, but we can put it all together as one thing, “the inability to let go.” It would be surprising to notice that the rich man observed all the major commandments, yet something was missing; “inability to give to others.” He was not offending anyone, but he was not helping anyone either.
Immediately, we must make a distinction between religious observance and spiritual practice. St. James was referring to this disposition when he insisted that faith without good works is dead. This way, James raised a challenge, “show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you, my faith” (James 2:17-18).
The narrative says that man’s face fell at the words of the Lord instructing him to go and sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. We understand here that the man’s major problem is that he lacks the courage to let go because that was what Jesus asked him to do.
One would imagine that the man knew that he had that problem in his life; maybe he has been struggling with it for a long time; in fact, the way and manner he ran up to Jesus shows the disquiet in him. Perhaps he wanted Jesus to exclude charity from the preconditions for inheriting the kingdom of heaven, but he was mistaken!
Like the rich man in the parable, most of us could be excellent in many things with our religious observances, but we could be lacking one important and decisive thing.
So, at this point, we need to be intentional to ask ourselves this personal question, “what is my one thing?” It may be that you need to let go of that hurt, forgive, and make peace. Could it be that you need to be humble and let go of your pride?
There could still be some representations of the rich religious man with tiny spirituality among us with the attitude of failing to share what we have with others. Winston Churchill is famous for saying, “you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
Can we challenge ourselves today to do what the rich man could not do by reaching out to at least one person that needs our help this time? Just like in the case of the rich man, your failure to let go and give could be a disadvantage to someone who may need your support.
Beyond the numerous things you may be doing well in life, there could be “one thing” you need to make your way to heaven; discover and focus on your “one thing!”
God bless you.
Can you guess what stands as the primary cause of marriage problems and disintegration in our day and age? To make the question easier for you, it is not infidelity, neither it is money nor property issues.
Marriages fail because of the absence of God in the marital equation. It takes the profound presence of God to love for the interest of those who may argue that marriages crumple because there is no love. True love cannot exist without God. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Marriage is a divine institution, so it cannot have sustenance outside of God, the author of marriage. Marriage exists as the crowning of creation, as we can see from two important instances in the Book of Genesis.
The first instance (Gen. 1:27-28) tells us that God created humanity (male and female) in His image, the image of Three Persons in One God. Furthermore, God pronounced the blessings of fruitfulness and increase on them, which we did not see when God created the other creatures.
The second instance (Gen.2:18-24) details the creation of marital union in the creative process. We learn here that God said: “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Hence, His decision to make a suitable partner (helper) for the man. However, there was none suitable among the animals God brought to the man to name
Consequently, God made the man sleep and taking one of his ribs, God fashioned a woman, and when the man saw the new creature, he said: “this one, at last, is the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called woman for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.
The account ended with an important note that shows God’s basic intent for marriage: “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”
In the Gospel of Mark (10:2-16), we see the Pharisees coming to Jesus to put him on the spot with a divorce question, “is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife.” They referred to the law of Moses that permitted a bill of divorce and dismissal to state that it is allowed.
Answering, Jesus takes them to God’s original plan for marriage before the law of Moses, which came because of their hardness of heart. Thankfully, Jesus quotes the first marriage instruction: “God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Returning to God’s Original Plan
There is little doubt that marriage as a divine institution faces many challenges both from within and outside the marital walls. For example, the Institute for Family Studies reports that for every 1,000 marriages, there are up to 14.9 divorce cases. While this finding of 2019 shows a decline from previous years, there is a corresponding finding that the rate of marriage engagements also declined, so it is significant.
On a deeper analysis, any marriage that fails to recognize and celebrate the presence of God would eventually run into deep waters. When God has no stable place in the marital union, people become unfaithful, selfish, dishonest, hostile, and even wicked and brutal.
Going back to God’s original plan about marriage should be the most potent way to overcome the distractions and distortions that confront the marriage institution in our society.
In the original divine plan, marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. So, any diversion from that foreground would amount to normalizing immorality to use the words of Matthew Kelly in the Book, “The world is messy.” Therefore, revamping the marriage institution we need to do the following:
Prayer: Notice that the first time the word “bless” was mentioned in the bible was over the man and the woman; in other words, over marriage; “And God blessed them” (Gen. 1:28). This idea tells us that marriage needs constant blessings, and this can only happen through prayer.
Love, as a sacrifice, not as feeling: One of the misfortunes of our day is the misunderstanding we have about love. Love is not how you feel but what you do selflessly for another person. Love is sacrificial giving. St. Paul would tell us (1 Cor.13:4-8) that love endures all things because it does not seek for its good, and love never ends as feelings do.
Marriage is a vocation and a precious divine gift that expresses the unity of the trinity Persons in one God. Therefore, the excitement in marriage should go beyond the external beauty and comfort to the awareness of the presence of God through prayer and sacrificial love.
Undoubtedly, our world will stand or fall on the strength of the quality of the relationships that exist in marriages. However, we would need to understand that marriage is not a bed of roses. That is why couples pledge to remain committed in good times and in bad times. Trials in marriage should not be a reason to quit; it could be an invitation to pray and love more.
God bless you.
We live in a world that is broadly segmented into groups. Psychologists would take the idea further to what they refer to as “us vs. them” mentality, which refers to the notion of perceiving oneself as a member of a group that is better than an alternate group based on some distinguishing factors like religion, gender, culture, nationality, ideology, and others.
The creation story in the Book of Genesis (1:26-27) tells us that God created humankind, in other words, one human race and not races as we have fragmented our world today. Furthermore, God gave man dominion over all he created, which means stewardship, but man turned it into domination, that is, forceful control.
We see the manifestation of forceful control in the way we handle our environment and the hostility we show to each other in our living spaces. We see this happening with the growing barriers we set against ourselves in the foregrounds of our natural differences like color, culture, and geographical location
“Stop them” Attitude
The Book of Numbers (11:25-29) tells us an interesting story. Earlier, God had asked Moses to appoint seventy elders to assist him as officers (Numbers 11:16). Then, on the inauguration day, God took some spirit from Moses and put it on the seventy elders, and they started to prophesy.
Two men who were in the list of the seventy elders, Eldad and Medad, could not show up for the meeting for undisclosed reasons, but they were seen prophesying at the same time as the sixty-eight who were present at the tent of meeting.
An unnamed young man reported the episode to Moses, immediately Joshua, who happens to be Moses’ aide, suggested that Moses stop them. But Moses cautioned Joshua not to be jealous of him and added that he wished that all the people were prophets.
Both the young man who reported the event and Joshua felt that the physical exclusion of the two elders from the group should be a disadvantage for them to gain access to the divine facility of prophecy. For that reason, they needed to be stopped.
Sometimes, we attempt to think for God or even tell God what to think when it should be the other way—stopping the elders from prophesying amounts to redirecting the work of God or telling God how to function.
We are often not far from the “stop them attitude” when we erroneously presume that we have exclusive access to God’s mind than anyone else. Some people would even support their preconceived rights over God’s plans by quoting the scripture that says: “Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).
“Not one of us” Attitude
The Gospel of Mark (9:38-43,45,47-48), among other things, tells us about the “not one of us” Attitude of the disciples of Jesus against someone they saw driving out demons using the name of Jesus Christ. They had tried to stop the individual, but Jesus rebuked them, saying that whoever is using his name would not be again him.
In the narrative, we see the disciples exhibiting the “us vs. them” mentality, which creates unjustifiable barriers between insiders and outsiders. They wanted to have an exclusive right to use the name of Jesus Christ to pray in the region and beyond.
Sometimes we falsely think that we would lose our relevance when people reflect on what we do in the name of God. Jesus did not bring a gospel that would be managed just by a select few. The disciples would soon discover their folly when Jesus will ask them to make disciples of all nations and be witnesses not only in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria but also to the ends of the world (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).
One of the greatest discoveries we could make in our day and age is to realize that “each of us” is “one of us.” Therefore, the name of Jesus Christ should bring us together and not divide us. It is unfortunate that in our day and age, people are still trying to stop others from using the name of Jesus Christ through some attitudes that send people running away from the faith.
Moving Forward: Attitude Change
Moving forward, one truth we should learn and accept is that we all share one basic substance: our humanness. Other distinguishing characteristics we raise among ourselves are mere accidents. At birth, we are born the same way. Did you notice that there are no differences in the sound of babies’ cries all over the world? Likewise, death is the same all over the world.
It makes no sense to set up barriers and hindering others because our human judgment tells us that they are not one of us. Remember that God is not interested in how we look but what we say and do, and He can use anyone, anytime, and anywhere.
Notice that the person who saw the two elders prophesying did not report the content of their prophecy, but he is more concerned about their presence in the group. The disciples were not worried by demons that the individual expelled by using the name of Jesus, but they were interested in who was using the name of Jesus to expel demons.
Finally, we need an attitude change in the way we relate to others, especially in our service of God; in fact, the attitude of excluding other shows our ignorance. We are all servants of God, so there is no need to act like God takes orders from us. So, as our Lord Jesus Christ instructed in the Gospel narrative, we need to cut away anything that would cause us to stop others or prevent them from having access to God.
God bless you.