Fr Bonnie's Reflections

LENT AND THE DRIVE TO REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR B). Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

repent and believe

February 14, 2018, would remain a sad memory for the students, teachers, and parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Parkland, Florida. An active shooting event by a former student, Nikolaus Cruz claims the lives of 17 students and leaving others with various degrees of injury. It was sad watching students run for their safety as the suspect sprays bullets with the intention to kill on a holy and joyous day just before the end of the school day.

As investigations trail the dastardly act, many people are speculating and recommending possible factors that could prompt a 19-year-old boy to commit such a heinous crime. Whatever would finally emerge as the reason behind the destructive act, one thing remains basic; something moved him. Put in another way; something drove him into the active shooting that claimed lives and maimed many others physically and emotionally.

Before performing any act, we are often moved or driven by something. The law of causality in philosophy states that whatever moves is moved by another that means nothing happens without a reason or basic motivation. The beginning of the Gospel Reading of this First Sunday of Lent (Mark 1:12-15) tells us that the Holy Spirit drove Jesus Christ into the desert and he remained there for forty days, tempted by Satan. During the Baptism of our Lord, we learn that the heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16). The same Holy Spirit drove (moved) him into the desert for the forty-day period of trial.

After the forty days of fasting and prayers, our Lord Jesus Christ was again moved by the Holy Spirit from the desert into the regions of Galilee to preach. In Luke (4:18), he declares that the Spirit of God is upon him and in the Gospel of today he says: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel”.  If we pay attention to what he says, we could discover two important instructions, “repent” and “believe in the Gospel.” Before we look into these, it will fit for us to discover the driving force in our lives. Are you driven by the Holy Spirit, another person’s desire or your bodily desire which is at war with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-22)?

Repentance and belief in the Gospel are decisions we are invited to take but we cannot just decide without the proper motivation, and there cannot be proper motivation except we understand without the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The word of God tells us that the Holy Spirit, is our Helper (John 14:26; Romans 8:26) and He would convict us of sin because of our unbelief (John 16:8-9). The Holy Spirit cannot also force Himself upon us; we need to be open to and ask for His presence in our lives (Luke 11:13).

We all need repentance in our lives, put in another way, each of us has something to repent from though some of us think that they are righteous and do not have any need nor room for repentance. To repent, we need to be humble as true repentance is impossible without humility. This period of Lent is good enough for us to examine our lives and not the lives of others as most of us do. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to remove the plank in our eyes so that we can see very well before we could remove the speck in our neighbor’s eyes (Matt. 7:5). Take some time and x-ray your life there should be an area of repentance in your life; this is the time to relent and repent. True repentance invites us to fast from sin and to resist the devil (James 4:7).

To believe, we need to unfreeze our minds from our false convictions and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us (John 14:26; Neh.9:20). Often, we rationalize and negotiate the word of God to favor us and our desires. To believe in the Gospel entails dropping our will to accept and do the will of God through His words. May the season of Lent help us to open our minds to listen to the word of God and receive the message in a more personal way. May each day in the forty days of the Lenten period take us closer to God as we repent and believe.

Have a blessed Sunday and more glorious day of Lent.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

WHEN YOU GIVE ALMS… WHEN YOU PRAY… AND WHEN YOU FAST! EXPLORING THE DON’TS AND DOS OF THE LENTEN PILLARS. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

lent give pray fast
 
The earth as we know it runs on seasons. At this point, some people are experiencing freezing weather in some parts of the earth while others are complaining of excruciating hot weather condition. While some people are covering their bodies to their faces to quell the chilling effects of cold, people in other places are considering the idea of discarding even their inner clothes because of the heat. We are born into seasons, and we live and die in seasons.
 
The reflection of on the seasons that characterize our material world leads us to consider the liturgical seasons of the Church which also points to some significant spiritual activities. The Ash Wednesday stands as the great door that leads us to the Lenten season. The season of Lent is forty days when we are invited to retreat, reflect, and redirect our lives from our estrangement from God due to sin to a more reconciliatory relationship with Him.
 
The First Reading (Joel 2:12-18), tells us to return to God with our whole heart, fasting, weeping, and mourning. In the Second Reading (2 Cor. 5:20-6:2), St. Paul invites us to be reconciled to God at this acceptable time. In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18) our Lord Jesus Christ gives us some practical steps on how we can pull through the Lenten season. He also gives us the best practices with regards to almsgiving, prayers, and fasting (abstinence) which are known as the pillars of the Lenten period.
 
It is very instructive to notice that in the Gospel, our Lord starts by informing us what we should not do before telling us what to do. We shall examine these in the order they appear in the Gospel narrative.
 
• When you give alms…
Our Lord begins the instructions with almsgiving, and the reason is understandable. Giving is one the ways we reflect God as God is the eternal giver. The letter of St. James (1:17) tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God in whom there is no shadow of change. Success in life is not measured by how much we have but how much we give. When we give, especially those who cannot give us (Luke 6:30-35), we reflect and represent God because God gives us more than we can repay.
 
Coming to the practice of the almsgiving proper, our Lord instructs that when we give alms, we should not sound our trumpets. Why? The reason is that there is the selfish drive in us that looks for appreciation and applause from people. We often wish to be highlighted in the news, we love likes and praise comments. Our Lord is asking us to deny ourselves of that publicity in our almsgiving so that our reward would come from God who repays to every sincere giver (Luke 6:38).
 
• When you pray…
Our Lord Jesus Christ instructs us not to pray like the hypocrites who love to pray in the synagogues and street corners so that people could see them. Here we understand the desire for public approval coming in with regards to prayer which should be our conversation with God. There is a difference between praying to God and praying to people. It is unfortunate that most people pray to receive attention and endorsement. Praying to people is a waste of time and energy because such prayers do nothing apart from getting their attention. (Praying to people is different from praying for them).
 
Our Lord invites us to make our private prayers a constant dialogue with God (Luke 18:1). Furthermore, he instructs that using many words and phrases do not determine the efficacy of our prayers. What our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us is that our prayers should be heartfelt not brilliant.
 
 
• When you fast…
Fasting is an essential spiritual exercise that we need to understand and appreciate more. To fast means to deny ourselves of not just food but any other bodily or material gratification. Fasting goes with abstinence which means keeping away from something. When we fast, we suppress the body so that the Spirit would rise. St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Galatians (5: 16-17), to live by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. He goes further to tell us that the desires of the flesh oppose the desires of the Spirit.
In the narrative, our Lord tells us that we should not make a public show of our fasting by pulling long faces and announcing it to everyone. We could liken our fasting to some of the private and harmless things we do which we do not go about announcing to everyone. Our fasting should be kept between God and us because it is a matter between Him and us.
 
A more practical approach to the spiritual exercise of fasting is to focus on those unbridled desires we have. Fasting from food is perfect but there are other things you can fast from that could also be helpful. Moreso, there is a difference between spiritual fasting and other forms of fasting like medical fasting or physical fitness fasting. Of what value would it be to fast from food while quarreling and using foul language. We can fast from social media; we can fast from gossips, we can fast from anger and so many things.
 
As we receive the ash today, we learn that we are nothing before God. The Church tells us that we are dust and to dust, we shall return. The best we can make out of this season is to pay attention to the word of God, repent of our sins and live a more committed spiritual life. We have tried the life of sin enough, now is a new season. Let us also remember that the ash we receive today is not an automatic sin cleanser. It should instead be for us a physical pointer to our inner renewal.
 
Have a rewarding season of Lent and may the end of the season bring about your renewal and rising to glory with the Lord. Remember the right dispositions when you give alms, when you pray, and when you fast.
May God bless your Lenten journey.
Fr. Bonnie

WHEN YOU GIVE ALMS… WHEN YOU PRAY… AND WHEN YOU FAST! EXPLORING THE DON’TS AND DOS OF THE LENTEN PILLARS Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

 

lent give pray fast

The earth as we know it runs on seasons. At this point, some people are experiencing freezing weather in some parts of the earth while others are complaining of excruciating hot weather condition. While some people are covering their bodies to their faces to quell the chilling effects of cold, people in other places are considering the idea of discarding even their inner clothes because of the heat. We are born into seasons, and we live and die in seasons.

The reflection of on the seasons that characterize our material world leads us to consider the liturgical seasons of the Church which also points to some significant spiritual activities. The Ash Wednesday stands as the great door that leads us to the Lenten season. The season of Lent is forty days when we are invited to retreat, reflect, and redirect our lives from our estrangement from God due to sin to a more reconciliatory relationship with Him.

The First Reading (Joel 2:12-18), tells us to return to God with our whole heart, fasting, weeping, and mourning. In the Second Reading (2 Cor. 5:20-6:2), St. Paul invites us to be reconciled to God at this acceptable time. In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18) our Lord Jesus Christ gives us some practical steps on how we can pull through the Lenten season. He also gives us the best practices with regards to almsgiving, prayers, and fasting (abstinence) which are known as the pillars of the Lenten period.

It is very instructive to notice that in the Gospel, our Lord starts by informing us what we should not do before telling us what to do. We shall examine these in the order they appear in the Gospel narrative.

  • When you give alms…

Our Lord begins the instructions with almsgiving, and the reason is understandable. Giving is one the ways we reflect God as God is the eternal giver. The letter of St. James (1:17) tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from God in whom there is no shadow of change. Success in life is not measured by how much we have but how much we give. When we give, especially those who cannot give us (Luke 6:30-35), we reflect and represent God because God gives us more than we can repay.

Coming to the practice of the almsgiving proper, our Lord instructs that when we give alms, we should not sound our trumpets. Why? The reason is that there is the selfish drive in us that looks for appreciation and applause from people. We often wish to be highlighted in the news, we love likes and praise comments. Our Lord is asking us to deny ourselves of that publicity in our almsgiving so that our reward would come from God who repays to every sincere giver (Luke 6:38).

  • When you pray…

Our Lord Jesus Christ instructs us not to pray like the hypocrites who love to pray in the synagogues and street corners so that people could see them. Here we understand the desire for public approval coming in with regards to prayer which should be our conversation with God. There is a difference between praying to God and praying to people. It is unfortunate that most people pray to receive attention and endorsement. Praying to people is a waste of time and energy because such prayers do nothing apart from getting their attention. (Praying to people is different from praying for them).

Our Lord invites us to make our private prayers a constant dialogue with God (Luke 18:1). Furthermore, he instructs that using many words and phrases do not determine the efficacy of our prayers. What our Lord Jesus Christ is telling us is that our prayers should be heartfelt not brilliant.

  • When you fast…

Fasting is an essential spiritual exercise that we need to understand and appreciate more. To fast means to deny ourselves of not just food but any other bodily or material gratification. Fasting goes with abstinence which means keeping away from something. When we fast, we suppress the body so that the Spirit would rise. St. Paul tells us in the letter to the Galatians (5: 16-17), to live by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. He goes further to tell us that the desires of the flesh oppose the desires of the Spirit.

In the narrative, our Lord tells us that we should not make a public show of our fasting by pulling long faces and announcing it to everyone.  We could liken our fasting to some of the private and harmless things we do which we do not go about announcing to everyone. Our fasting should be kept between God and us because it is a matter between Him and us.

A more practical approach to the spiritual exercise of fasting is to focus on those unbridled desires we have. Fasting from food is perfect but there are other things you can fast from that could also be helpful. Moreso, there is a difference between spiritual fasting and other forms of fasting like medical fasting or physical fitness fasting. Of what value would it be to fast from food while quarreling and using foul language. We can fast from social media; we can fast from gossips, we can fast from anger and so many things.

As we receive the ash today, we learn that we are nothing before God. The Church tells us that we are dust and to dust, we shall return. The best we can make out of this season is to pay attention to the word of God, repent of our sins and live a more committed spiritual life. We have tried the life of sin enough, now is a new season. Let us also remember that the ash we receive today is not an automatic sin cleanser. It should instead be for us a physical pointer to our inner renewal.

Have a rewarding season of Lent and may the end of the season bring about your renewal and rising to glory with the Lord. Remember the right dispositions when you give alms, when you pray, and when you fast.

May God bless your Lenten journey.

Fr. Bonnie

AVAILABILITY IS THE KEY! HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

AVAILABILITY 1

“Have you ever traveled a long distance to buy something that is of great importance to you only to hear that it is no longer available?” Have you ever been to an office hoping to meet someone who could help you with something that you desire so much only to hear that the person is not available and may not still be available for a long time? “Have you ever agreed to have an important telephone conversation with someone, and calling at the agreed time you hear that the person is not available?” Availability is essential in life, in fact, it is one of the critical determinants of successes and failures.

Availability is traceable to the verb “avail” which means “profit” or “advantage.” From the descriptions, availability would mean to be profitable or advantageous. It is also closely related to obtainability, handiness, readiness, accessibility, and active presence. In the Gospel narrative today (Mark 1:40-45), we learn about a leper who comes to our Lord Jesus Christ and paying homage to him by kneeling begs him saying, “if you wish (will), you can make me clean.” Moved with PITY, our Lord stretches out his hand and touching him says to him, “I will do it, be clean.” Immediately, leprosy leaves him, and he becomes clean.

We shall examine this narrative in line with availability which this reflection sees as the key to our relationship with God, our healing, and our salvation. To understand the importance of availability which we have defined earlier, it will be helpful to us to make some biblical references that point to the fact of availability and unavailability before identifying its role in the healing of the leper and its potential role in our healing and cleansing.

  • The event at the garden of Eden (Genesis 3) is an indication humanity’s unavailability to God brought about by the sin of disobedience. We notice that the moral unavailability led Adam and Eve to physical unavailability as they struggle to hide when they heard God in the garden.
  • Abraham represents a typical case of availability to God right from the time of his call (Gen. 12:1ff) through the difficult seasons of his life, he remained available to God.
  • Samuel made himself available both physically and spiritually from the time of his call (1 Samuel 3:1ff).
  • David made himself available to God through his steadfast trust in God in every situation that faced him. Most of the passages of the psalms are expressive of his total dependence or availability to God.
  • In the Book of Isaiah (6:1ff) we read about the vision of the prophet in the temple and how he made himself available when God said, “who shall I send and who will go for us?” And he responds, “Here am I send me.”
  • During the call of the first disciples in the Gospel of Luke (5:1-11), we learn that the fishermen left everything and followed our Lord. In other words, they made themselves available to him.

In the Gospel narrative today, we hear the story of an unnamed man, a leper, who approaches our Lord Jesus Christ for healing. The First Reading (Lev.13:1-2, 44-46) gives us the background information about the life of an average leper. That passage summarizes that a leper is set apart from the regular people by the declaration of a priest as he or she remains unclean as long leprosy remains on the skin. The leper in the Gospel Reading made himself available to our Lord Jesus Christ by breaking the socio-religious protocols of the time. His availability to our Lord Jesus Christ was not only physical, but it was also spiritual. His availability to our Lord discloses:

  • His humility: He kneels and begs our Lord. St. James (4:6), says that God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble. St. Peter (1 Pet.5:6), advice that we should humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God and in time he will raise us up.
  • His faithfulness: The leper says to our Lord, you can make me clean if you wish. He was not in doubt about the healing power of the Lord. He was only asking for his time and wish. Without faith, we cannot please God. (Heb. 11:6). Faith consists in believing that God CAN.

We are the new “lepers” because we all need healing and cleansing physically, morally, and spiritually. We all have the invitation from our Lord Jesus Christ to come to him (Matt. 11:28); to make ourselves available and we will have PITY on us. In the Old Testament, the priest needs to confirm the skin disease and declare someone unclean or clean. Today, we have the privilege of the sacrament of reconciliation where the priest would examine not the natural skin but the spiritual skin and pronounce us clean after examining us. One good thing is that everyone leaves the priest pronounced healed and cleansed.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten period, the Church is inviting us to make ourselves available for cleansing like the leper in the Gospel. God is willing, and He can make us clean again. Let us not miss the opportunity of making ourselves available for the cleansing power of God for our physical, moral, and spiritual leprosy.  Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead and remember to make yourself available. God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie

 

 

 

THE HOUR DIVINE HEALING HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

healing of the mother-in-law

Once upon a time, an elderly woman gets an invitation to visit her daughter who lives in a neighboring town to spend some time with her family. The woman could not wait as she gets herself ready for the trip. She thought about her grandchildren and their “sweet troubles” around her which she cherishes with great maternal love. She also remembers their kitchen which also serves as preservation grilled fish and visualizes how a sizeable bag of fish would always accompany her home at the end of her visit.

Arriving at her daughter’s marital home, the woman could notice a lot of changes. Her daughter and the children behave differently as she notices some form of decency. In the kitchen, she could see a fewer number of fish by the fireplace. Her grandchildren switched role with her as she listens to them tell her stories mainly about a man from Galilee called Jesus Christ, who is the promised Messiah and how he is doing a lot of teaching and healing works. It was at this point that her daughter reveals to her that her husband had abandoned his fishing trade and followed the new preacher in town and that explains why he has not been home for few days.

The entire episode was overwhelming for the woman, and the thought of not getting enough fish bothered her slightly. However, she was happy that her son-in-law, who could scarcely leave his fishing trade to attend any religious activities, is now in the forefront with the new preacher in town, “that would be more than bags of fish,” she thought.

The next day, however, turned out to be an unhappy one. The woman suddenly took ill with a very severe fever in the middle of making dinner for the family. All the available medications failed. Suddenly, her son-in-law appeared with Jesus Christ the great preacher and healer and did you know what happened when Jesus Christ entered? The Gospel of Mark (1:31) says: “He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them”.

Today, I wish to connect sickness to the absence of what should be present. It indicates a lack of an essential quality that should instead be present. For Simon’s mother-in-law in the Gospel of today (Mark 1:29-39), it was the absence of good health, for Job in the First Reading (Job 7:1-4, 6-7), it was the absence of the good life he had earlier following the series of predicaments that trailed his life. For you, it may be the absence of joy, success, job, a good relationship, dependable marriage, a good home, financial favors, and ultimately the lack of God which is the most significant sickness.

In the Gospel narrative, we could imagine what it was before the visit of our Lord Jesus Christ to Simon’s house. The woman was in great pain and the people around her could have also been uneasy as she was not getting better. But when our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer, and master of every sickness, arrives, the fever could not stay again. The story about the healing opened the door for all others who were sick to receive their healing.

It was the healing of the mother-in-law of Simon and other people in the Gospel narrative. Today, it is about your healing. Even the most physically healthy among has a sickness. Today, God invites us to examine our lives and make our sicknesses available to Him because He is our healer (Ex. 15:26). No sickness is beyond God’s healing power:

  • Exodus (23:25), tell us to worship the Lord our God, and He would bless our food and drink and take away our sicknesses.
  • Jeremiah (30:17), tells us that God will restore our health and heal our wounds.
  • 1 Peter (2:4), says that by the wounds of Christ we are healed.
  • Jeremiah (33:6), says that God will heal us and let us enjoy abundant peace and security.

May God help us to identify our sickness and present them to Him so that with the psalmist we could proclaim, “praise the Lord, who heals the broken-hearted.” Have a beautiful Sunday and may you experience divine visitation for healing in the coming days.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE VOICE OF AUTHORITY VERSUS OTHER VOICES. HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

AUTHORITY OF GOD'S WORDS

An armed robber stops a vehicle on the freeway, shows his gun to the passengers and begins to search them one after another. After dispossessing them of all their valuables, he enters his car and zooms off. A few minutes later a policeman, in his uniform, appears on the same freeway, stops the same vehicle, shows his ID to the passengers, and begins to search all of them while asking some questions and taking notes. Now the question, “what is the difference between the armed robber and the policeman?”

To the above scenario and the question, answers may vary. To my mind, the difference between the armed robber and the policeman is explainable by the difference between power and authority. The Armed robber was able to stop the vehicle and to ravage the passengers through the power of the gun. The policeman, on the other hand, was able to stop the car and to search the passengers leveraging on the authority conferred on him by the government as a law enforcement agent which his uniform and identity card confirmed.

Today, the more significant chunk of the narrative from the First Reading (Deut. 18:15-20) and the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:21b-28) tell us about authority. Authority has to do with the legitimate power one has to carry out an activity. We could then understand power merely as the ability to act without a legal right. Authority is usually accorded to the recipient for instance in a genuinely democratic election, while power is often self-assumed for example in despotic military rulership.

From the narratives of the First Reading and the Gospel, authority is linked to prophecy. Why? The answer would become more evident when we understand whom a prophet is. The word prophet comes from the Greek “prophetes” which means a spokesman or if you like one who speaks for another. Prophecy, therefore, entails speaking for another person and for one to speak for another person, the individual needs an authority. This explanation settles the confusion among many people that assume that a prophet is only able to see the future. The prophet could speak about the past, the present or the future but always following God’s direction and authority.

In the First Reading, God promised to raise a prophet after Moses who would speak to the people in a way and manner that would yield more results. We could take that prophet to be Joshua because he was the immediate successor of Moses. However, the personality of that prophet could be found more profoundly in our Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel Reading today makes it very clear.

In the Gospel Reading, we learn that our Lord Jesus Christ taught with authority in the Synagogue to the amazement of the people because he taught them with authority. Whose authority? We can answer this question appropriately by making some biblical references.

  • 10: 1. Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority.
  • Matthew 11:27. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
  • John 3:35. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
  • 28:18. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Next, in our reflection is the distinction between the voice of authority and the other voices we hear in our society today. We are living in a world that is reeling with a lot of voices. Today, we have a lot of so-called “prophetic voices” that excel in deception while gathering worldly fame and financial fortunes for themselves. There are also many people speaking for themselves and not for God.  In the First Reading, God warned Moses thus:

But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle I have not commanded him to speak or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.

In the Gospel narrative, we also learn that an unclean spirit (a demon) living in a man heard and acknowledged the voice of authority of our Lord Jesus Christ before the man was set free from the demon. If demons could listen to and accept the voice of authority what about us? We all are like the man with the unclean spirit, and we should acknowledge that at every level in our lives there is a devil that could be blocking our ears and hearts from hearing and accepting the voice of authority and we need deliverance from all of them.

God is speaking to us now through His words, are we ready to hear and accept the voice of authority or are we still listening to other distracting voices around us? The voice of the world, selfishness, anger, immodesty, jealousy, irreligion, and other things that give rooms to demons in our lives? In the Second Reading today (1 Cor.7:32-35), St. Paul urges us to be the ideal virgin or unmarried woman who is anxious about the things of God. What are you concerned about in your life at the moment?

As we march into a new week let us continue to ask God for the grace to assist us to listen always to the voice of authority that would help us to gain everlasting life. Have a lovely Sunday and great days ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

THE NINEVEH EXPERIENCE AND THE URGENCY OF OUR REPENTANCE. HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

NINEVEH REPENTANCE

Once upon a time during my early boyhood, with all the adventures that accompanied it, I broke my dad’s favorite drinking glass cup. It was not an accident; it was my carelessness because my mum warned me twice while I was doing the dishes to be careful as I was doing an “Olympic swimming demonstration” with the cup and other cups I termed contestant in the “sport” taking place in the dishwashing bowl.

When the drinking glass dropped from my hands to the floor, my mum echoed “I warned you, your dad would soon come back from work, be ready for his punishment. My dad’s penalties were usually nerved straining, and I dared them. I could neither eat nor drink, and it seemed he was taking his time to come back. When he finally arrived and saw how pale and fearful, I was looking he sensed that something was not okay, and when my mum reported the episode to him, he smiled and asked me to be careful next time. He let me go without any punishment because he could sense my remorse and penitence.

The story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh is not strange to us. Initially, Jonah wanted to evade the divine mission to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. However, events would bring him back to the city of Nineveh and the narrative today tells us that he entered the great city, which would take a three-day journey, to preach repentance. Just on the first day, the people accepted the word of God and repented, from the king to the least person in the city.

There is a note of urgency in the three Readings of this Sunday. In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 7:29-31), St. Paul tells us about the need to become more austere with the things we have and refrain from various indulgent behaviors because the world in its present form is passing away. In the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:14-20), John the Baptist continues the message by calling for urgent repentance because of the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Still, in the Gospel narrative, we learn about the urgency of the call to discipleship which involves leaving everything to follow Jesus Christ.

The message today invites us to answer the urgent call to repentance. Repentance should be an on-going exercise in our lives. Every day provides an opportunity for us to become the better version of ourselves. Today, our lives represent the city of Nineveh. The word of God is the Jonah that is walking through the length and breath of our lives inviting us to drop the old ways and to adopt the new life. The instruction of St. Paul in the Second Reading urges us not to be complacent but to live for a positive change.

The message of this Sunday is part of the New Year reality which involves the courage to drop our old ways of life and to change like the people of Nineveh. Often it is not easy to leave the former way of life (Isaiah 43:18), but it is after all gainful when we do so; that is the route to the new reality (Isaiah 43:19).

There is nobody among us that do not need repentance. The word of God says that if we say we have no sin we lie, and the truth is not in us (1 John1:8). Our returning to God, which is repentance anyway, is an urgent activity. Isaiah (55:6-7) tells us to seek God when we can find him and to call Him when He is still near.

As we march into a new week and deeper into the New Year, there is the need for us to look inward to dictate the areas of repentance in our lives. Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

WE ARE THE NEW “SAMUEL”; GOD IS CALLING US! HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

…you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing Peter 3:9.

During my formation to the priesthood, I had one of my six weeks pastoral experiences with an elderly priest who has a hilarious way of calling people around him for assistance. He would clear his throat and ask: “onye nonso?”, which means “who is nearby?” Consequently, anyone within earshot would emerge to help him with an errand which often consisted of giving him the television remote around the corner, or to hand him a book just beside him.

During the first week of my stay with him, I discovered that I was the only one running the errand for him because I would always rush to him when he calls out: “onye nonso” (who is nearby). It dawned on me in the subsequent weeks that whenever the priest clears his throat, the young people who had been staying with him would quickly run away. The idea was to avoid his call for a nearby person because the errands are mostly annoying like he once called and asked me to search for his keys meanwhile he was sitting on them and turning off the television he was watching.

The First Reading today (1 Sam 3:3b-10,19), tells us about the call of Samuel at a very critical time in the history of the people of Israel when they sinned and lost divine communication. We could recall that Samuel was dedicated to the service of God as his mother Hannah promised when she came to Shiloh to pray for the fruit of the womb after years of bareness. Samuel thus represents God’s answer to the prayer of Hannah.

It is important to note that the call of Samuel came while he was sleeping in the temple where the ark of God was. In life, where you choose to determine what happens your way. Samuel decided to stay close to God, and that was why God could reach out to him. God would always reach out to those who are nearby. In the manner of the elderly priest in our opening story, God was asking, “onye nonso” (who is nearby?); and Samuel was the closest.

The story of the call of Samuel is also our own story. God is continually calling us through His words to come out of the darkness and enter his marvelous light (1Pet. 2:9). God calls us to himself through the sacraments. Through baptism, we are called to become children of God and members of the Church. In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we are called into union with Christ through our partaking in his body and blood (John 6:56). And in the sacrament of Holy Anointing, we are called out from infirmity to wholeness and restoration (Jer. 30:17).

The sacrament of confirmation calls us into the legion of the faithful soldiers of Christ, while in the sacrament of penance we are called to repentance and eternal life. In the sacrament of Holy Orders, we are called to become ministers of the word and the sacraments while the in sacrament of the Holy Matrimony married couples are invited to dedicate themselves to love and service for the rest of their lives while being open to procreation and training of the children God may give to them.

Today, in our day and age we have many voices calling for our attention and the question we should ask ourselves is “whom do we answer?” We are the new “Samuels” of our time, how often do we respond to God’s call. Usually, we give excuses why we should not answer the call of God inviting us to repentance, faith, charity, and hope in God. We often prefer to answer the call to social, political, and cultural lives to the detriment of our spiritual lives.

In the Second Reading (1 Cor.6:13c-15a, 17-20), St. Paul brings our attention to the call to immorality which many people tend to answer and defy the body which should be for Christ. The reality is that there is a conflict between the flesh and the spirit. St. Paul writing to the Galatians (5:16ff) tells us to live by the spirit and not to gratify the desires (call) of the flesh because the flesh is opposed to the spirit and the spirit is opposed to the flesh.

In the Gospel Reading (John 1: 35-42), Andrew and another disciple of John decided to follow our Lord Jesus Christ when John pointed out that he is the lamb of God. That decision was an answer to a divine call. Andrew extends the call by introducing his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. The invitation today is not only to answer the call but also to bring others along to come and see the Lord and what he could do in our lives.

Today, we are all invited to be attentive to the divine call at various points in our lives. God is still calling us in our minds and hearts, in our families in our daily preoccupations, in our communities, and other engagements. Let us like Samuel be ready to say, “Speak Lord for servant is listening.” Have a great day and a glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

EPIPHANY: THE JOURNEY TO DIVINE MANIFESTATION. HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF EPIPHANY. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Wise Men seek Jesus

God is always manifesting Himself to us in various ways. Abraham encountered God through the divine invitation that took him away from his father’s house to an unknown destination (Gen.12:1). Moses met God at the burning bush, and he also experienced the presence of God alongside the people of Israel with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21). Elijah had diverse experiences of divine manifestation including the still wind at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:12-13).

There are other examples of divine manifestation through the vision of angels, for instance, Abraham (Gen.18:1ff), Gideon (Judges 6:11), the mother of Samson (Judges 13:2ff), Isaiah (Is. 6:1ff), Zachariah (Luke 1:11ff), and the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26ff), to mention but these. The peculiarity of the feast of Epiphany is that God decided to manifest (show) Himself to the whole world in His Son, Jesus Christ, the word that became flesh (John 1:14) through the visit of the Wise Men. This outlook confirms the letter to the Hebrews which tells us that in times past God spoke to us through the prophets in this time He talked to us through His Son (Heb.1:1-2).

The event of the Epiphany of the Lord leaves us with a lot of lessons. Some critical questions would help us in this reflection. “Why did God choose to show His son to Wise Men from the East?” “Why was their journey such a tedious one?” “What is the significance of the visit?” “How does the visit affect our individual lives?”

The first set of people to receive the message of the birth of Jesus Christ were the shepherds who were also Israelites (Luke 2:8ff). God chose to reveal His Son to the whole world through the Wise Men from the East. The Wise Men represents all of us who are invited to come and see the revealed glory of God which the First Reading (Isaiah 60:1-6) narrates to us. To reach to the newborn King, the Wise Men had to follow the magnificent star.

The star represents the word of God which serves as the lamp for our steps and light for our feet (Psalm 119:105). From the Gospel Narrative (Matt. 2:1-12), we learn that the Magi saw a star that distinguishes itself from other stars. There are numerous stars (words and voices) around us today, but the word of God remains the unique and special star, and following the word of God would lead us to God and life eternal.

Following the star, nay, the word of God is not usually a jolly ride. Often, we encounter and face some hindering Herods on the way who make false promises to us. It takes passionate commitment, faith, and attention to the divine direction to get to the end of our journey like the Wise Men. In life, whoever you listen to determines what becomes of you. The Wise Men in the Epiphany narrative chose to listen to the voice of God instead of the voice of Herod. We could want to listen to the numerous Herods around us or pay due attention to the voice of God.

The journey of the Wise Men reflects our journey of faith to encounter God. The star appears when we are reborn in baptism to direct us towards a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. On our journey of faith, there are sometimes when our star seems to go down and out of sight like in the experience of the Wise Men. Those moments represent low spiritual moments. Like the Wise Men, we should not be discouraged either by our thoughts nor the people around us.

Our journey of faith represents the ultimate search for God, which is also the search for eternal life. We need to follow the word of God like the star. We need to remain committed, focused, and faithful. Ultimately, we need to make a unique offering following the adoration of Jesus Christ. The narrative tells us that the Wise Men gave offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gifts represent a total donation of ourselves to God; that is the body, mind, and soul. When we give all to God, He blesses us with more than what we offer.

As we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, let us remember that we are the new Wise Men and Women of our day and age still searching for Jesus Christ. The word of God tells us that those who seek the Lord would find Him (Jer. 29:13).  The New Year would become a gracious one for us if we focus on seeking after God first and all other things would be added unto us (Matt. 6:33). Have a joyful celebration and remain in God’s love.

Fr. Bonnie.

THE NEW YEAR, NEW ATTITUDE, NEW ALTITUDE, NEW YOU! A REFLECTION FOR THE NEW YEAR Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

new year new attitude

This may not be your first New Year, and it will not (deo volente) be your last! Every New Year comes with great expectations, and we make positive utterances as we enter the New Year and anticipate wonderful things to happen in our lives. There are prayerful wishes for open doors, fresh beginnings, divine victory, an immense success, divine expansion, and other supplicatory statements.

After a long period of introspection, I have come to understand that we consistently forget a very important thing in our New Year prayers and wishes and that is the attention to a renewed life. We want new things to happen in our lives, but only very few us want to develop new dispositions and renewed lives. We want new things to happen in our lives when we are still moving about with our      old selves.

There is a new version of yourself that is hidden somewhere, and there is every need for you to let it out. You can let out the new version of yourself when you decide to quit the old self. You cannot expect something new when you are still living with the old disposition and the old way of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ urged us to put new wine into an old wineskin Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22).

The New Year can become a great blessing for you if you change the way you live your life. You cannot expect a different result from old ways of doing things. Something must change in you before you climb to a new reality. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul tells them to cast off the works of darkness because the night is far gone (Romans 13:12).

Somewhere I read that attitude is everything. My reflection affirms this claim. Attitude has to do with a way of thinking and doing things. Your attitude determines your altitude in life. This New Year should offer us an opportunity to reflect on our attitude towards life. Often, we do not believe that we need improvement in our way of acting and reacting. The following practical steps could be helpful to us:

  • Talk less and do more productive things.
  • Give more attention to your family.
  • Cut down on Some friendships could be draining and time-consuming.
  • Create more time for God; you cannot do without Him. Pray always and never lose heart (Luke 18:1).
  • Develop a more positive mental attitude with life.
  • Forgive and let go; to not allow hurtful thoughts to preoccupy your mind.
  • God has given you life, and you must take care of it. Live a healthy life, eat well, and avoid harmful habits that would affect your life.
  • Avoid and cut down on time wasters like television, social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, snapchat, etc), internet, and unfruitful visits.
  • Owe nobody nothing except love (Romans 13:8).

Have a prosperous and blessed New Year.

Fr. Bonnie.

 

 

 

 

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